Weekend Update: Friends, Family, & Freedom

Wild winds that wrap around the oaks like long fingers, shaking the remaining acorns to the ground, low hanging clouds nipping at the mountain ridges, making those jagged tips disappear into the mists, and rain. Glorious rain. (In California, we do the happy dance when rain arrives.)

Friday sees a stormy start with the tink-tink-tink of rain outside. Even though it’s cool, I take my mug of coffee out to the terrace to inhale those fabulous earthy scents and say good morning to the hordes of turkeys that coo and gobble-squak, greeting one another after what I imagine was a scary night sleeping in the trees (lightening!). I wonder–do they have an opinion about the rain? Do they do their own version of a happy dance? Trade war stories of close calls with lightening?

It really feels like autumn now, at least for this small slice of time.

Besides being a full work day (almost done with the current manuscript’s third draft. woo!), I squeeze in an early afternoon tea with my dad and a late lunch with mom. Gotta fit the family in–I’m so grateful to have them in my life. As an only child, my parents are also my best buddies so the occasional tea and lunch with them does the heart good.

Saturday I wake to sunshine and get the day started right–with coffee, a jog through the puddles with my pup, then off to face an open, eager laptop. Work day for me. Soon dad texts me pictures of a hot air balloon festival happening nearby. Apparently he stepped out on his wife’s ranch and voila–balloons soaring in the sky.

 

After my writing day is done, I help out a friend and fabulous human being who has just returned from India where she works with Voices4Freedom to free slaves. Then, once the children (yes, children) are freed from slavery, they begin their education at one of the schools she and her team started with Schools4Freedom. Incredible work. I happily help her out with the V4F website while I eat homemade banana nut bread, drink hot tea, and give GRATITUDE for my freedom and for the food on my table.

Saturday evening I’m excited and tremendously proud to watch a new Hallmark movie directed by one of my pals, Christie, called A Wish For Christmas. Love these holiday romances–warm and happy. I’ve come to look forward to Christie’s new film each year. She and I studied at Playhouse West together and I enjoy her sensibilities as a storyteller/filmmaker. As an added bonus, one of her daughters is in the movie and is a darling addition.

Over the weekend I also have a great time looking over yearbook photos from 8th grade that a friend and classmate shared on Facebook. Very fun! What a great group to to have been part of. I have such fond memories from that time–lots of smiles in the photos which serve to punctuate those memories. (Funny, I forgot that my buddy Bart and I were voted “Best Smile.”)

Sunday is another full workday and I leap over the finish line of that third draft, earning an adult beverage. Wine here I come, then time to dive into a friend and fellow novelist’s debut book (a techno-thriller) and snuggle in for a cool night.

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

xo Isla

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Weekend Update: Leaves & Loves

Last week, I was invited by a great publication to do an interview on what it means to be a romance writer who also supports equal rights for women (commonly labeled as a feminist). Sure! Love to! I’m honored!

On Saturday I started in on my responses and found myself fired up. As an autumn storm brought heaving gusts of wind that spun the gold, green, and brown leaves through the sky, I dove in and didn’t come up for air for hours.

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Finally I surfaced, took stock of the fallen limbs, the smattering of raindrops on the deck, and was struck with a a bone-deep love for the fact that I’m a woman, a romance writer, and a woman who celebrates other women. What a time to be a woman. Truly.

Important issues in our culture that have been hiding in the shadows for decades–centuries!–are coming to light. Women are coming together, holding hands, and championing one another through difficult discussions (like sexual assault). Now, for clarity, I’m not talking about political affiliations; what it means to be a woman in our culture in this day and age, goes beyond the presidential election. I’m speaking simply about my own gratitude to be a woman surrounded by really awesome women doing really awesome things with their lives. (I love men too, but that’s another topic.) 🙂

On Sunday, the leaves continued to drift and spin and scatter, tree limbs kept falling on the deck, making me think a bird was trying to fly through the french doors, and the rain drizzled enough to coat everything–including my favorite heart-shaped grape leaves–with a nice dampness, but not enough to make true, foot-stomping puddles. I read over my interview responses, tweaked and refined a bit, then got to work on my current book, listening to the occasional gong from the wind-chimes.

 

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The final moments of the weekend were rewarded with a glass of red wine and some homemade “kitchen sink” ramen–so satisfying on a cold evening. (Okay, maybe a cool evening. Yes, this is California in October, not New York in March.)

I hope everyone has a marvelous week!

xo Isla

PS- I’ll post a link to the article once it’s published!

 

 

 

Cheers To You, Autumn

Autumn equinox brings the balance of day and night, light and dark. And here in the mountains of California, the first crisp day of Autumn brought a cool morning that required a thick, fully zipped sweatshirt in order to sit out on the terrace and sip coffee; the morning routine. (I wore pants too, but that may or may not have gone without saying.) It was as if Mother Nature decided to give us a proper sampling of the weather that was to come. And we are so grateful for the break in the heat–even though I do cherish warmth.

Saturday was a work day for me as last week we had a fun family visitor in town (Auntie Connie!) and I lost a couple days. I’m nearing the finish line of a second draft for a new book and am enjoying dipping into the story as the season changes around me, readying for those shorter days and longer nights.

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Wine + California Sunset 

Saturday evening I celebrated the productive day with a glass of wine out on the terrace to enjoy the sunset, followed by a big bowl of popcorn (with the usual parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper) and a “brief” binge viewing (3 episodes) of Longmire on Netflix. I’m almost through the season and ready for the new episodes–a terrific show. I enjoy the pacing, the characters, the turbulent emotions just under the stoic surface with a strong spine of care and duty in the core.

Sunday saw another burst of warmth which took me by surprise. I was so ready for sweater season! It was a long, hot, fiery summer, and autumn is a very welcome change around here. Still I hunkered down, read a little, wrote a little, enjoyed homemade pizza made by my fabulous mother, and tried to nap given that I feel a cold trying to come my way, but I was too busy adoring my snuggling puppy to get any real sleep. 🙂

I’m ready for this week, ready for the harvest of that which has been planted in prior seasons, and ready to hunker down and see these characters that are in my heart through to the finish of their story.

Much love to all,

Isla

 

Hot and Smokey Summer

Some months stand out in our lives, and for me, this will be one of those months. As July comes to a close (phew!), I will say that I’m quite happy for the fresh start of August. I love warmth–hate to feel that to-the-bone chill–and usually adore the hot summer months. But the extreme drought in California has tipped that perspective in a different direction.

We have evacuated from our home twice this month due to nearby fires. After last summer, we know the adrenaline-pumping drill and had time (well, 30 minutes in one instance) to put our pets in their travel crates (first step ALWAYS), race around the house and gather up goods like computers, clothes, and toiletries while listening to the scanner for updates. For anyone who has ever been through a home evacuation due to a fire–my heart is with you. For us, it’s a mix of terror and total gratitude that we even have the time to evacuate in the first place, and a whole lot of praying to the Gods to protect our home, our neighborhood, our wild animals that surround us in the woods.

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After evacuating, we spent many long hours waiting. Gigi felt the worry.

My heart breaks into a million tiny shards when a family of deer watch me load my car in preparation to leave. I want everyone to climb in the car with us–the deer, the squirrels, the turkeys, the birds. Everyone is confused by the panicked rush, the planes sweeping and diving overhead and dropping retardant, the call of sirens. As we leave, we see neighbors packing their cars, watering their yards to help guard, and under the red glow that hovers, it makes for an eerie departure.

Thanks to the amazing work of superheroes (firefighters), we were able to return to our home both times. HOME!! When I say I want to wrap my arms around my home and hug it, I mean it in the most desperate of ways. The next morning, while filled with gratitude and exhaustion, we sat outside on the terrace as is our routine, and smiled generously as the turkeys and deer tramped by, the birds called from the trees. Everyone was HOME.

Also this month, my step grandfather–the gritty and spirited motorcycle racing legend, Doug Wilson–passed away. Well over 200 people attended his memorial–and even the local auto parts stores closed in order for the employees to attend. Amazing. I didn’t last as long as I would’ve liked–I’m a massively weepy weenie when it comes to public shows of immense pride, honor, respect, and kindness. (I don’t even need to know the person to become a puddle.)

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The Doug Wilson T-Shirt

To add some fun and delight to the mix of the month, one of my best buds Dara came for her annual visit. We trekked to the lake for lunch a couple of times, watched little baby ducks swim with their mother, and lounged, chatted, ate delicious food, and drank delicious adult beverages in the evening on the terrace. A marvelous week all around–and so good to have a best girl-pal to laugh and lounge with.

Every day this month–even when emotionally exhausted or while Dara was visiting–I spent at least a handful of hours working on the current book. I’m nearing done with it–and I have to say that it’s been such an emotionally charged month for me (I won’t even mention politics–wait I just did–but it certainly factors in), that I imagine some of that emotion seeped into the manuscript. Because my job requires me to express emotional honesty, this month has given me new boosts of soul-deep gratitude for my family, for my home, my friends, and for the incredible work of brave men and women who fight fires and keep us safe.

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Happy smiles and smokey skies
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We love our terrace–complete with puppy pool to keep us cool.

Happy (almost) August, everyone.

xo Isla

Villa Blue ~ Now Available Pre-Order!

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I’m so excited to announce that Villa Blue, a new contemporary romance, is now available for a special pre-order price of $.99! I adored living on the fictional island of Parpadeo Island while I wrote the book, and I fell in love with the independent, introverted painter and the casual, adventurous business man. I hope you enjoy their story too. 🙂

xo Isla

Ivy Van Noten is a reclusive impressionist painter living in the greenhouse of an aging estate, Villa Blue, on an island off the coast of California. Two things matter most to Ivy—living her dreams as an artist and living at Villa Blue. She paints everyday from her perch high above the harbor, believes in hard work not muses, and is happy with everything exactly as it is. Except for one little detail: she’s got a serious case of artist’s block.
Comfortable wherever he is in the world, adventurous businessman Aiden James heads to Villa Blue under the prospect of acquiring the estate made popular during the Golden Era of Hollywood. But what he finds is an artist who captivates him in ways that wander well past the casual flings he’s accustomed to.
With an upcoming show that will either mean Ivy can continue living her dreams or dip into full-on failure, she’s fiercely focused on finding her way. And with Aiden beside her, holding her hand through adventures she’d never dream of doing on her own, the colors of her world begin to brighten, the snarling source of the block begins to loosen, and her heart discovers what it truly means to be in love.

 

A Weekend of Work & (Fast) Walks

It’s hot, stuffy hot, and raining ash. Animals–the deer and turkeys, birds and squirrels, raccoons and bears–are desperate for food and water. Our lovely, wonderful mountains of California are having a tough time and my heart breaks for the people who lost their homes to one of several fires over the weekend.

Red sunrise over smoke-rimmed mountains
Red sunrise over smoke-rimmed mountains

So while it would be easy to complain that the air is dreadful and dangerous, the heat instantly exhausting, I’d rather just be grateful to be in my favorite place on the planet: home.

Friends, neighbors, husbands, wives, and kids of friends go off to fight the fire and we’re so very grateful, knowing that they’re doing their best to save lives and homes.

As I’m sending love from my happy place–home in front of my computer writing with my puppy snuggled next to me–I’m glad to be productive. It’s been a weekend of work and super-duper quick walks so that puppy doesn’t go absolutely bananas. We both need our exercise but we get it in five minute treks given that the air is thick with falling ash.

Office manager hard at work
Office manager hard at work
Happy girl
Happy girl

This afternoon, we’ll pour cold micheladas and toast to the people of this amazing state working hard to keep us safe.

xo Isla