Monday, August 24, 2015

Turning 40 isn't the end of the world!

www.danicafavorite.com
Even the lichen was excited about my birthday!
Over the weekend, I celebrated my 40th birthday. As I've mentioned to people that I'm hitting the big 4-0, it's been interesting to see their responses. Most people think that I'm depressed over this milestone birthday, and they offer all of this encouraging wisdom about age being just a number, etc. But here's the thing: I'm not depressed! To me, it's just a cool milestone number, and I want to celebrate.

For me, the road to 40 has been long and hard. But I've learned a lot of great lessons as I've taken that road, and I'm excited to use that knowledge as I continue life's journey. I spent my birthday doing a lot of great things to take care of myself, and one of those things was that I took a hike. I'd hoped to do a longer, more significant hike, but I slept in instead. My body needed that sleep, so I'm not complaining. I had a lovely day.

I recorded a video on my hike, reflecting on those lessons. The biggest lesson I learned, and the one I want most to share with you, is that no matter what your dream is, it's not too late to go for it. We have a lot of reasons excuses why we don't go for it, but you know, there will never be the perfect time, the perfect opportunity. Life is always going to get in the way, which is why, if there is a dream on your heart, then you need to take the steps toward that dream.


Turning 40 isn't the end of the world. But let's be honest. There are ages at which some of our goals become less and less possible. If I really wanted to become an Iron Woman Ultra Marathon Whatever, I could probably still do it at 40. Just so you know I haven't totally lost my mind, that is not one of my goals. :) There will be an age at which it isn't possible. And here is where I sit at 40: I do not want the possibility to remain dormant inside me. All the things I've been wanting to do with my life- I'm doing them. Maybe not at the level I'd like to be doing them, but I'm taking the steps, even if they're just baby steps.

So that's my encouragement for you: Whatever it is that you want to be doing with your life, whatever goals you have that you haven't reached, move in that direction. God put those dreams inside you for a reason. Don't look back with the regret of never having tried.

And if you want help reaching your dreams, I'd love for you to attend my retreat, Nourishing the Writer's Spirit. We're going to be spending a lot of time looking at nourishing ourselves so that we can follow our dreams. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

RUDC Scavenger Hunt!


One of the main goals of Reading Until Dawn Con is to give our readers a chance to get silly and have fun with our authors. We've got a full schedule of games planned for October... but we thought it would be great to get the party started a little early. That's right... some of us Featured Authors and Bloggers are getting a head start on the fun times and hosting a SCAVENGER HUNT! Authors and bloggers will be posting their logo/game graphics from August 17th through the 21st, and Reading Until Dawn Con will accept entry emails through August 25th. Since the Scavenger Hunt IS a game, there has to be a prize, right?? One grand prize winner will win DINNER WITH OUR EMCEE, DARYNDA JONES at Reading Until Dawn Con!! That's right, just you and Darynda, chilling out and chatting over a meal, our treat. We'll also have four runner up winners, who'll each receive special book and swag packs from a few of the Featured Authors. So... who's ready to start playing?? If you haven't registered for Reading Until Dawn Con, now's the time to get that done, so you're ready to enter to win a meal with Darynda! Good luck, everyone... and happy hunting!


Scavenger Hunt Details:

There are twenty (20) logo/game graphics hidden on 20 of the feature author and bloggers websites. A schedule is posted at Reading Until Dawn Con, so you can see who will have their graphic up on which dates. All you have to do to play, is check out the website and/or blog posts of each of the authors or bloggers on their scheduled date. Keep track of who has which graphic, then once you have all 20, just email your list, along with the name/address you used when you registered for Reading Until Dawn Con, to ReadingUntilDawnCon @gmail.com with the following information
Are you registered for Reading Until Dawn Con this October in Denver, Colorado? If not, why not?! Join us for fun, games, snacks and possibly pants-optional dancing.
REGISTRATION is now open! Come party with the authors who keep you up all night.
Be sure to keep up with all things Reading Until Dawn, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Up All Night Reading Challenge | Pinterest | Tumblr | RSVP at the Facebook Event.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Animal update! Lots and lots of CHICKENS!!

www.danicafavorite.com
Chickens pecking at hail
Everyone wants to know about the chickens!

When we bought our new home, the previous owners had chickens, ducks, and geese. We asked them to re-home the geese, but they didn't. We also got some ducks and bantam chickens from my brother, who is moving to a place where he can't have them. So now we have 6 geese, 4 ducks, and 23 chickens. Sadly, two of the chickens we had when we moved here were killed by a fox shortly after we moved here.

So, we say goodbye to our beloved Gwennie Poo Poo and Lacy, and we also had to let our precious Grant go to doggie heaven. Which makes us very sad, but we have more than enough to keep us busy. Hubby is building us a chicken chateau, and all the birds will be very happy soon.

For more detailed info on the chickens, you can visit my flock page on my website.


Monday, August 17, 2015

5 reasons why you (yes you!) need a retreat!

Part of my heart for hosting my own retreat is that as I talk to other writers about their writing and their writing lives, I keep hearing a common theme: they all need a retreat for one reason or another. I see so many people who need a break. Writers wear so many hats, and have the most overfilled, overloaded plates of everyone I know, and yet, we just keep piling it higher, or grabbing a bigger plate. What we're not doing is stopping to take a time out to assess what's really important to us. And I believe that taking the time for a retreat, and investing in yourself, is the best way to do that. So here are the top five reasons why you need a retreat:

1. You need a retreat if you are at, or close to, burnout.

Ha! That's not me! It's easy to be in denial, but the truth is, many of us are a lot closer to burnout than we think. Most writers are going at a breakneck pace. In the current writing environment, it seems like there are so many things changing, adapting, and requiring our constant attention. I am increasingly disheartened to see so many of my writer friends either walking away from their writing careers, struggling where they used to find ease, or living in a state of utter exhaustion. Taking the time for a retreat gives you the rest you need to restore those burned out places.

2. You need a retreat to take time for yourself.


One of the things I love about my writer friends is that they are such givers. I was just on the phone with one of my really good writing friends, and what I love about her is that she has the biggest heart of anyone I know. I have seen her in places where she is absolutely running on empty and she still finds room to give to anyone who asks her. However, when it comes to taking time for herself, she feels like she's being selfish. But here's the thing: if she does not take care of herself, she's going to end up so utterly depleted that she makes herself sick or worse. When you take time for yourself, you refill the well so there is something for you to keep giving. There is a reason the airlines tell you to put on your oxygen mask first!

3. You need a retreat to refill the creative well.

Taking care of your own personal well is just one of the wells that can run empty. The creative well is one of the other wells you have that needs to be replenished. Again, when you're constantly pouring out, you need the time and space to refill. Going away to a place and situation outside your normal world and routine gives you the opportunity to access new creative materials and stretch your brain so you have even more to draw from!

4. You need a retreat to give you the space to take care of yourself. 

Even though we set the intention of doing better to take care of ourselves, to refill the well, to do all the things we want to do with our creative practice, most of the time, we don't do it. Something always comes up. The afternoon you were going to go write, your kid decides to start throwing up. True story. Nothing makes vomit happen faster in my house than having plans to go write (or having a clean house, but that doesn't happen as often). But when you've made reservations, paid money, and are all set to go on a retreat, you don't have the choice but to go, unless you want to all that to go to waste. If you don't have specific plans and something at stake, it's easy to forgo taking care of yourself in favor of other seemingly pressing matters at home. A retreat gives you the structure to force you into doing what you need to do for you.

5. You need a retreat because you don't need another writer's conference.

Let me be clear and say that I am not against writer's conferences. I've been to dozens of writing conferences, and I've gotten so much out of them. I absolutely love writer's conferences, and there are so many that are really good. I am very much in favor of writer's conferences. However. I believe that most writers already know what they need to know to be a good writer. I'm not saying we don't need to improve, because I think everyone has room to grow. Sometimes, though, what we need more than learning HOW to write is that we need to learn to BELIEVE in our abilities as writers. To care for the parts of us that will sustain us through our writing careers. We need time and space to process the things we've learned at writer's conferences. But if you're anything like me, you get home directly from a conference and have to dive right in to family life- without processing what you just learned at the conference. A retreat gives you the time and space you need to process what you've learned at a writer's conference, from a writing book, or any other thing you've done to improve your writing.

Ultimately, though, you need a retreat because you need to invest in you. Writers, you need to know that who you are and what you are doing when you put words on the page is valuable. 

Obviously, I'm biased in favor of people signing up for my retreat. Mostly because I have a lot of cool stuff planned that I believe will help us all avoid burnout, and give us the care we need to move forward in what I know is complete and total awesomeness. But you know, even if you just make a plan to get away on a little retreat of your own, you're still going to get a great benefit.  Don't put off taking time for yourself. You deserve to have the time and space you need to take care of yourself.

Sign up for the retreat before 9/4/15 to get the special Early Bird Pricing!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Following my dreams and bringing you closer to your goals!

The dream house is pretty big, but I'm up to something even bigger! You see, I've always had a lot of big dreams in life, not just for me, but because I've always wanted to help people. I can remember writing in my journal at age 13 about a tough situation I was going through and saying, "I don't know why I'm going through this, except that maybe it will give me the strength to help others so they don't have to." And that's been a theme running through my life.

My dream home in the mountains isn't just about me wanting to live in the mountains. The truth is, I have ulterior motives. Once upon a time, a long time ago, I thought it would be cool to have my very own retreat center, where I would host retreats and teach people about a variety of things. I'd also have guest teachers and other fun things to give people rest and rejuvenation. I remember one time, calling my pastor and leaving this super long message about how I wanted to help with retreats at the church and all these great plans I had. He never called me back, and I never got the opportunity to help with church retreats. At the time, I figured I must not be ready for such a big challenge.

Time went on, and the dream never left me. I even fell in love with a number of retreat centers for sale. Of course, at a million dollars, hubby was not eager to support the endeavor. :) I told my friend Camy Tang about my dream, and she said, "why don't you just start your own retreats at other places and when you build a successful track record, you can get a loan to build your own retreat center?" I thought about it, but I never managed to get it together. But the desire never left me.

So what does this have to do with you and your dreams? I think, in a lot of ways, we all have the same things holding us back. I doubted myself in a lot of areas, and I used them as excuses to not move forward on something that had been calling me for a long time. Often, we look at the practical things, like with my house,  and see how it's virtually impossible, so we don't even try.




Which is why, as I am following so many of my other dreams, I've decided to take the big step in following this one as well. I have created a retreat for writers. I'm taking the advice I've received and starting small, but my goal is to grow so that eventually, tucked on my beautiful mountain property, there will be a place for other writers to come and find respite. But for now, we'll be hanging out at a hotel, and there, you will be able to find rest.

I specifically created this retreat based on my experiences at retreats, but also based on what we as writers need. I saw other writers struggling in their careers, and I understood that pain. It took me twelve years to get published, and it wasn't for lack of skill as a writer. I see so many perfectly talented writers who can't get ahead, and it's a shame, because their work deserves to be read by others.

So why, then, if talent isn't the issue, are so many people not succeeding as writers? It's like there's an invisible switch inside them that seems to be turned to the "off" position. I know, because I had that problem. And I also learned to re-set that switch. Which is what I want to help others do.

Honestly, I think we get caught up so much in the business of writing that we forget the joy of writing. We forget the love we have for the written word as we find ourselves torn between the artistic side of writing and the business side of writing. We are overwhelmed by the expectations, deadlines, pressures, goals, edits, and marketing. And what we need is space to play. To relax. To rejuvenate.

But here's the thing... we all say, "yes, that sounds good, and I totally need that." But we never make the time for it to happen. Instead, we promise ourselves we'll take better care of ourselves, and then we never do. I created this space so you can keep that promise to yourself. I created this space to keep my promises to myself.


The retreat is called Nourishing the Writer's Spirit, because your writer's spirit deserves to be nourished. It needs to be nourished. And as we nourish your spirit, you'll discover the dreams buried inside you, and find the strength to move forward on them.

I believe every writer needs to have the time and space to nourish themselves. Which is why I think every writer needs to come! If you're in a place where you feel depleted, or are struggling with where you're at in your writing career, you especially need to give yourself this gift.

You can find registration info here:
http://danicafavorite.com/retreat


I'd also really appreciate it if you shared information about the retreat with other writers you know. We spend so much time learning about craft and career, but we don't take the time to learn about something equally important- nourishing ourselves. I'm also happy to come to your group and talk about these topics.

Whatever your goal or dream with your writing is, I know you can do it! And I've love to help you get there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Our house story... aka the path to a dream


www.danicafavorite.com
My new back yard!
Now that I'm catching up on my blog, people are probably wondering, okay, so what happened with the house? You found a house, lost it, and now you mention living in a new house. Well, I am here with answers! :)

Though part of my desire is to satisfy random curiosity, there's also the piece that wants you to know this house thing isn't just about me. It's about having faith, trusting God, and fully believing that whatever crazy season you're in, God will see you through.

And, because this is extremely important to the story, I'm taking you back to the very beginning...

In the beginning, there was this guy and this girl. They were dating and would go for drives in the mountains. On their drives, they would talk about how they dreamed of having a home in the mountains someday. In case you're wondering, that couple was me and my hubby. We got married, and as sometimes happens when two people get married, the practicalities of life kept us from having our dream home in the mountains. But we never let go of the dream. And, every now and again, we'd go for a drive in the mountains, and say... "wouldn't it be awesome to live here?"

Fast forward a few years, more like 15, and something super cool happened in my life. I achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a published author (yay me!). Unfortunately, the thing people don't tell you about your dreams coming true is that it's dangerous business. Because, as I found out, achieving your dreams is kind of addictive. Once you get one thing you've always wanted, you start wondering about all the other things you've always wanted, and you think that it's actually possible to get those things too.

And so, in the time since I sold my first book, I started doing a lot of things I always said I wanted to do, but never did. I went to England. I started taking dance lessons. If it was ever a dream, I started pursuing it. Which leads me to the dream house. Being the practical sort of person I am, I decided to make a plan. Last October, I said to hubby, "I think we should look at our plan of moving to the mountains someday. Let's start making it happen. I think it'll take us a couple of years, but we can make it work." Hubby said, "I agree. But I think we should do it at the end of the school year." I thought he was off his rocker, but figured if he was going to get to work on the goal, I'd support him.

HA!

Let's just put that out there again. HA!

Because I am a planner, and I like researching things TO DEATH, I began looking at mountain homes. I wanted to see what we could afford, what was out there, what met our requirements, etc. Basically, I learned exactly what I had figured. It would take a couple of years for us to afford what we wanted. And then, I found THE HOUSE. The price was right, the location was good, and most importantly, the house had everything we wanted in a house. I am not kidding when I say we were not ready to sell our house or buy a new house. But I could not stop thinking about it.

Finally, one night, I couldn't sleep, so I woke hubby up, and I told him that we had to look into the house. He said okay. I'm pretty sure he just said that to get me to shut up so he could go back to sleep, but we're going to pretend that he thought it was the best idea ever. Over the next few days, I convinced him we should look into it, and we did. Now, remember back to my saying it would take a couple of years to get what we wanted? Part of that was because our house was not ready to sell. We had tons of projects that we needed to get done. Things that would make or break our sale. But once we saw the other house, we were in love, and we were going to do whatever it took to get it done. We worked hard, and we really found our faith stretched as we trusted God and moved boldly forward.

One of these days, I'll go back and count all the small miracles that happened along the way. It seemed like something would come up daily to help us in an unexpectedly beautiful way. We were days from our house hitting the market, and then it happened... we lost the bid on the new house. The agony and heartbreak in those days... Wow! For us, part of why it was so hard is that I wasn't kidding on the money issue, either. There were literally no houses on the market in our price range. To get what we wanted, we needed way more money.

But we had this belief, deep down, that this was what we were meant to do. Why would we set on this path and have doors open so wide and so many crazy miracles happen for it to all blow up like that? One of the things we hadn't been comfortable with was that our realtor initially was going to price our house low so it would sell fast. We decided to sell our house, but at a higher price, because we didn't need it to sell right away. Maybe then, another house would show up on the market. So we listed our house.

Our house sold in five days, had multiple offers, and we got above asking price. The crazy thing is, before we even made the decision to sell our house, I'd written down a goal of how much I'd like to sell our house for, and this number was above that number!

The only trouble was, we had nowhere to go. I scoured house listings, and nothing new was popping up. Our realtor suggested we change our requirements, and we were like, um, no. Finally, we decided that since we weren't finding our dream home, we'd build our dream home. Which meant buying land, building, all that stuff. Which meant renting something in the meantime. The rental market here is insane. No one would do less than a one year lease, and anything even semi-comparable to what we'd had cost twice what we paid in mortgage. Worse, every place we called on was already rented within hours of the listing popping up. Finally, we found a place. It wasn't perfect, but we could at least live with it. The day after we signed the lease, we got a phone call that would change everything.

A couple had called our realtor to see if she would list their house for sale. Our realtor walked in the door and knew immediately she'd found our house. We looked at the house, and yup, we wanted it. Fortunately we were within the time frame to break our lease, so we got out of the lease with no penalty. Unfortunately, we were two weeks away from closing on the sale of our old house. We talked to our lender and the sellers, and worked out that we could close in three weeks. Which meant we'd be homeless for a week. The sellers were super nice and let us store our pod unit on the property and let us store things in the barn as well. We also rented a storage unit.

www.danicafavorite.com
The first load of junk we took out of the house
Now, you'd think things would go smoothly from there... um, no. Our hotel was not as promised, but it was good enough, so we stayed there. Our hotel caught on fire one day, but was fortunately still liveable. And then, the day of closing on the new house, our mortgage broker called us up and asked for documentation on some random thing that if he'd asked for at the beginning of the process, we could have given him. But since we were living in a hotel, it was a little more difficult. And so, we did not close on time. We closed late the next day, but it was enough to throw our entire plan into a tailspin.

Someday, I will find pictures that show how bad it actually was. Although I think we may have been too stressed to take pictures. The previous owners left so much junk and trash in our house that we couldn't move in as planned. Of course, we had movers scheduled and couldn't change that, so as people were moving stuff into our house, I was shoveling crap out, and my friend was vacuuming behind me. The poor moving guys were just baffled, and it took everything I had not to just break down and cry. Except I couldn't because we had too much to do.

And so here we are... in our new mountain home. I would like to say that moving in is the end of the story. But I would be a total liar. Because the new house, while it is wonderful in many ways, is not so wonderful in a lot of other ways. The new house, glorious as it is, is about 1,000 square feet smaller than our old house. We have five fewer rooms and two fewer bathrooms. That may not sound terrible, but to a woman who is homicidal if she does not have her space, it's basically a few levels short of hell. At least until I look out the window and remind myself of what an incredible place I get to live in.

www.danicafavorite.com
Construction of the addition
The plan from the beginning was to build on immediately. We began that project, and like all things related to this house, it hasn't been as easy as you'd think. Pretty much everything in this place is in a state of disrepair. It seems like a million other things keep popping up to interfere with the actual building process. The money is not how we thought it would be, and I'm not going to lie- it's been a challenge. You would not believe how easy it is to spend ten thousand dollars! I'm not saying these things to complain. In fact, as I look at the challenges we face, and I see how far we've come despite all of the other challenges, I know it's going to be okay.

Seriously... every day, I find a new challenge or find one of the challenges we've been living with to be SO. FREAKING. HARD. and I take a deep breath, look out at our gorgeous land, and I think, this is it!! I live in the mountains. Even though I still lay awake some nights because of creepy crawlies in the house keeping me up, or because I have all the crazy stuff we still have to do running in my head, I'll be honest... I am living my dream and I couldn't be happier.

www.danicafavorite.com
One of our ponds. I am SO happy we have ponds!
Okay, fine, I would totally be happier if our construction was done, or even if I could take a bath in my own house! But really, I am so happy. I am so grateful.

Which leads us to the question... was not getting the other house a good thing for us? As much as I really would love to live in less of a project, this house is a much better situation for us. It's closer to town, has more land, and the land is much prettier and has more cool features. Also, we've met some of our neighbors, and they're great people! My daughter says that this place feels more like home, and she wakes up every morning feeling happy that we live in such a wonderful place.

We achieved our dream of living in the mountains, but we have not arrived. I was joking with my father in law the other day that it will take us a lifetime to finish all of the projects we have to do at this house. The longer we live here, the more ideas I have, and the more things I want to do. And of course, when I talk about projects I want to do, what I really mean is projects I want my husband to do.

But seriously, I need you to know how happy I am. Not because our life is perfect. Because trust me, it's not. I have been stretched and grown past what I thought was my breaking point, and then back again. I am exhausted beyond belief, and I sometimes joke that I have moving PTSD. Except we're still living it. Which doesn't sound like a very happy life, except that in the midst of everything, I know that I am where I belong. I look out my window and I see a million things to be happy about. I close my eyes and I know that I can do all things because God is there, strengthening me. I learned a lot about who my real friends are. The ones who spent time helping me, supporting me, and encouraging me. I also know the ones who say they'll be there, then come up with excuses that are just thinly veiled lies, and I would have respected them a lot more had they just said they had more important things to do. I'm learning a lot about myself. I'm learning a lot about God. I'm watching my children take on responsibilities that they never would have done otherwise. I see them living a renewed childhood. I could probably write an entire book on how amazing this journey has been for us, and maybe I will.

For now though, I want you to know this. Whatever your dream is, go for it. I won't lie to you and say it will be easy. Everything will not go your way. You will have crazy miracles enabling your dream, and you will have wild unexpected setbacks that make you think you were crazy to have thought you could do it at all. But keep at it. Keep moving forward. You see, there was nothing wrong with my life when I embarked on this journey. I remember sitting in my old house, sobbing, because I truly loved that house, and at one point in my life, that was my dream house. I just knew that I was meant for something bigger. And I trusted that. I trusted my dream, and I trusted God.

If you're thinking of following your dream, I'll be there, cheering you on. And when you fall down, I'll be there to help you up. Because your dream is worth it. You are worth it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book News!

While I was off being my crazy self, I had a new book release! I'm hoping that you've already bought it, read it, and loved it, but just in case, my second book, The Lawman's Redemption, came out in July. This is where I put on my shameless promotion hat and ask you to buy the book, post lots of reviews, and encourage other people to buy it!

About the book:
Lawman on a Mission 

Former deputy Will Lawson is fighting to regain his reputation—and Mary Stone is his only lead to the bandit who framed him. Now that he's tracked Mary to Leadville, Colorado, Will needs the proud beauty to reveal her past. Instead, his efforts spark a mighty inconvenient attraction…

Mary's only real crime is that she once believed an outlaw's lies. Still, she fears disclosing the truth to Will may land her in jail—and leave her young siblings without protection. Now she must choose between honesty and safeguarding her family. And if Will does clear his own name, can he convince the woman he loves to share it?