Top 5 Life Lessons: From the Lives of the Characters of the Irish Traveller Series

Book 2 of the Irish Traveller SeriesI sigh as I sit down to blog. Everyone who knows me well, knows that I think working with my website isn’t nearly as fun as working on a book (like those of the Irish Traveller Series). Yet, I want to reach out to everyone and catch up.These days, I have been spending a large amount of my time editing, plotting, and actually spending a wee bit of time with my family and friends. Over the last eighteen months, I have put thousands of hours into ten different projects. I’m finally coming to the end of my manic writing schedule. Next up is the release of Always a Wanderer, Book 2 of  the Irish Traveller Series.In these many hours, I have ended up putting my characters through some crazy scenarios and they (and I have) learned some critical lessons; none more so than Helena O’Driscoll and Graham Kelly, the hero and heroine of Always a Wanderer and Once a GypsyI thought it was high time that I shared their whoppers and I hope that these hard-learned lessons can help you as much as they helped Helena and Graham. Here goes:

  1. Learn to say “No.”

This seems obvious, but often as women we are taught to please others or to make sure that everyone around us is comfortable and happy.Screw that. It’s okay to put yourself first. You need to be happy, the rest will follow.Yeah, I said a bad-ish word on my blog. Which leads to my second learning lesson:

  1. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.Irish Traveller Series-Book One

Not everyone is going to like you. Which kind of stems off of lesson one, but this is slightly different. Even if you try and please people, there will be some who hate your guts and would wish for you to eat worms.I’ve had to really come to terms with this one. I want people to like me. I still want to make everyone around me happy. I’m a huge jokester… but I won’t win everyone over. AND THAT’S OKAY.If someone doesn’t like something you have written, said, done, or joked about, then the problem is a larger statement on that person than it is on you.Stemming from this, you can find tremendous empowerment in the ability to…

  1. Let s*** go.

(Not gonna lie, almost cussing is kinda fun. I guess I’m really enjoying this whole Don’t be afraid to be yourself thing.)We all have moments in our lives that are rough. Some are worse than others, but with time we must learn and push ourselves to walk away from things that aren’t helping us. Maybe you have a toxic friendship, a job that is making you miserable, or you made a mistake. Regardless of your battle, forgive, forget and move on.There is great power in forgiving the unforgiveable, but the greatest power it gives is to you. If you forgive those who have wronged you, or have made mistakes that concern you, if you give forgiveness, you will free yourself. It’s amazing.Lastly, but probably the most important lesson Helena and Graham have learned is:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This is just as important in life as it has been in my writing. I have had to get many hands on deck. I’ve enlisted friends, family members, and fans to help—and I couldn’t be more thankful.This lesson has varying levels, and that’s perfectly normal. Sometimes we just need an hour without kids. Ask for help. Sometimes you need helping lifting or cleaning or exercising or whatever. Ask for help. Sometimes things are much darker and emotionally draining, you’ve lost a friend, a relationship, a parent, a spouse… Whatever it is. Ask for help.You will be shocked at the outpouring of support you will receive if you just reach out. People are incredible, if you allow them to be.I could keep going about what my characters have learned, but those lessons are by far the most important.Over the last year, what lessons have you walked away with? I’d love to hear. J While many of you are on my newsletter/street team (if you are not, you can sign up for the Street Team or the Newsletter by clicking on your choice location), I know that I have missed some who would love to be included. I hope to see you there.Also, I have some cool stuff coming up in the coming weeks. (Anyone want to win a trip to an all-expense paid trip to a guest ranch in Montana?) And again, Always a Wanderer will be hitting shelves on June 27, 2017! So stay tuned!

Just Keep Swimming: Finding Passion and Motivation

Along with the release of Smoke and Ashes my life has been humming along in the background, busier than ever. In the many events, signings, travels, and interviews I’ve been involved with lately, I had loads of wonderful questions, but one really great one… a question about my that has stuck with me over the weeks and helped me to objectively evaluate all life's exquisite motion.

The question was simple: What motivates you to keep pushing forward?

At the time it was just a question about writing and in that case the answer was simple. I write because I’m drawn to it. It is my passion. It is just as Life Lesson Passionmuch a part of me as the air I breathe. There are days in which I don’t write, in which life steps into the way and blocks me from my passion. Those are the days I feel lost, adrift in a world that is moving fast, changing, and evolving under my fingertips. In a way, writing is the way to experience the changes, the evolution of life and feelings, and the way to process all the information that barrages my thoughts and actions.I’ve been writing forever. Since I was a child. I didn’t know I was destined to be a writer. I had MANY moments in time in which people pushed me away from writing, even though I had a strength for it (ask me about being falsely accused of plagiarism in high school, but be ready for an earful). So when it came time to decide where I wanted to focus my attention in adulthood, writing wasn’t an option. In my very sheltered and rural world I felt I had only two viable options: 1) Teaching (which would have been great, but I have the patience of a lion trying to peel a banana—a HUGE thank you to all of you out there who have become teachers. NO seriously. Thank you.) or 2) Going into the health care field (this I tried, turns out I also have terrible patience for undeserved whining—yes, please tell me how bad that sliver feels while I’m sitting with a sick child or an elderly woman with two broken hips who is so tough that she refuses her pain meds… please, I dare you).Eventually I became a mom, focusing on the family and the needs that went along with being an island. I was a safe haven. I supported others around me as they followed their passions and found their callings in life. And I looked at my own, I reflected, I thought of the toughest moments of my short-ish life and analyzed my soul.I’m adventurous by nature, one of those people who will try anything once—even when fear tries to hold me hostage. Writing was like that. I knew I liked it. It made me feel something beyond being an island. It made me dig at those sore spots, the ones that everyone has—those moments in time that you make the wrong choice, or embarrassed yourself, or made yourself act in a way that was for the sake of others rather than for yourself… there are a thousand of them. And I drew off them. I drew off my fears. I drew off my past failures. And I set pen to paper. Literally. The first novel I tried to write was five pages on a yellow legal pad. I gave up. I was afraid. I was afraid I didn’t have talent. Heck, I hadn’t taken a creative writing course since high school. I was too old and too young to have such frivolous ideas of writing a book. I mean do you know the odds of being published? (That was before I knew anything about the world of Amazon.) No one I knew had the freedom to be a writer—except journalists. And well, frankly I didn’t know any of them either.passion2All I knew was that I needed to keep pushing. So I started out small. Writing little, unpaid pieces for a small, local startup magazine (which is now not a small magazine, rather a magazine with world-wide circulation and one heck of an editor).These little things empowered me to finally start and finish my first real novel. It was terrible. (I looked at it the other day and saw some redeemable qualities… a few random gems in a dump of words.)  I sent it in to publishers and received the almost obligatory rejections that all first-time writers get.  After a few months. I saw it for the massive sinkhole it was. I cried. I picked myself up. I joined a writers group. I finally recognized that I had an obsession a passion for the creative process, and I was going to dive in head first.Fast forward a few years… There has been ample struggle. There is always the fear of rejection. There is always the fear of being judged for your passion (someone refused to come to an event I was hosting recently because as a ‘romance’ author I wasn’t a good example for their child).  Needless to say, there continues to be struggles. The battles change from where they started at the beginning, but day-to-day you must fight. You must dig deep and often sacrifice for your calling. When people try to strip you of your passion, or marginalize it, you must have the strength to carry your head high and let their acidic words drip from you without letting them leave you with too much of a scar (I’d love to tell you to simply let them roll off, but the truth is that we’re human. No matter how old you are, male or female, rich or poor, words will always carry the vitriolic power to leave a mark.)When you look back and are asked what motivates you the answer must always be simple: it must be the power inside you. It must be the passionate fire that burns away the negative and even in the darkest moments lights your path.Wherever your passion lies, hold on to it with both hands. Passion is power. And power will always lead to success (often not the kind that you were seeking, but the kind of success that rests in the heart).

Smoke and Ashes Launch & Benefit Raffle

I’m thrilled to announce that I will be hosting a benefit for the Missoula YWCA through the Smoke and Ashes Launch & Benefit Raffle. My novel, Smoke and Ashes, delves into a relationship in which the heroine feels trapped in an unhealthy and abusive relationship. I felt a special need to raise awareness and funds for this organization because not only have my character’s lives been affected by domestic violence but mine has as well. This is my chance to make a difference in the lives that are still in jeopardy.YWCA-Transparent-LogoMany of my friends and family members have also benefited from the YWCA—finding housing, jobs, and the support they needed to leave abusive relationships...and make sure they and their children are safe.All money raised will go directly to the Missoula YWCA. YWCA Missoula is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.They will provide services that will change lives (including transitional housing, emergency housing, and rapid re-housing), services that will help end domestic and sexual violence (through emergency shelter, services for children, support groups, and sexual assault services), and transform our community (through GUTS—Girls Using Their Strengths), summer outdoor adventure camps, after-school groups, and community action projects).Domestic violence is a silent epidemic. Women all over the United States, in all socioeconomic brackets, are suffering.By donating today, you will be helping women break the cycle of abuse and find a place where they, along with their children, can start fresh.You can change a life. To donate to the YWCA directly, click: Missoula YWCA.Smoke and Ashes_thumbnailSmoke and Ashes will land on store shelves on April 19, 2016! It will be available at all booksellers.I’ve started to receive donations for the Smoke and Ashes Launch & Benefit Raffle. The raffle tickets will be offered at all Missoula book signing events: April 23 @Barnes and Noble from 1-3 p.m., April 30 @Hastings from 1-3 p.m., and the final day (in which I shall pick winners) is May 7 @Fact and Fiction from 11-1 p.m. I would love to see you there! (I will also be signing at several RT events in Las Vegas.)Feel free to check out the event's page on Facebook!Raffle items include books, promotional materials, wine and spirits, household goods, Baskin Robbins gift cards, a variety of awesome prizes! Thanks to Janie Crouch (a Harlequin author from Germany) we even have donations coming from across the world! J Cash donations have started to arrive including Rocky Mountain Dental Lab and Kohl’s of Missoula (who has stepped up and donated $500 for the event—thank you Kohl’s)!If you’d like to donate items to the raffle, you can contact me directly: DanicaWinters (AT sign) DanicaWinters (Dot) net.  (Sorry for the wonky spelling of the email address, but I get A LOT of spammers.) You can also get directly to me by tweeting me @DanicaWinters.ALL donations are welcome.This is your chance to make a difference.*If you or someone you know needs help escaping domestic violence, you can call the Domestic Violence hotline (1-800-799-7233) or check out the DV website:

Quick Update on 5/15/2016:

Thank you to all of you who came out and supported the Smoke and Ashes Launch and Benefit Raffle. Together we helped raise $1200 for the Missoula YWCA. I couldn't be more proud that we came together to empower women and their families within my local community.I look forward to doing something like this again!