Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Grow Old Along with Me. . .

“Just because there’s snow on the roof, it doesn’t mean the fire’s gone out in the hearth.”
“Why in the world do you write romance with over-the-hill characters?”

I can think of only three books in which I’ve included “young love”. Nothing wrong with that--we’ve all been there. However, young doesn’t stay young, but we home love doesn’t disappear, too. So I often write characters who fall in love when they’re past the “romantic fantasy” stage of life-or maybe for the second time. Why? Let me count the reasons.

Not all readers are 18. Many women who read romance can identify with the struggles of falling and staying in love in spite of the odds only in memory. But when they put down the book and look in the mirror, they know the characters aren’t “them” any longer. The story was fun while it lasted, but now it’s over. Is the reader “over”, too? She/he hopes not.

Enter the character pushing 30, over 40, or even a senior citizen. She has a few miles on her, and she knows what love means--and what it doesn’t mean. She can appreciate a man for who and what he is--not his good looks and money. The physical intimacy is nice, but the year-to-year companionship may be even better. She’s done with the fantasy of “when I grow up” and ready for the reality of “my life now”.

So, yes, I often write--maybe even prefer to write--older characters. They’re real. They live in the real world, not the one they think exists somewhere out there. They have a lot to teach the younger generation because they’ve lived in another one. They’re more comfortable with themselves, more accepting of other people’s foibles, and less apt to take chances just for the sake of taking chances.

In Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? and its sequel, Finding Papa’s Shining Star, Alan has fought more battles than just the one in the trenches in France which left him permanently blind. Lenore is still fighting her circumstances and her fear. 

In The Showboat Affair (written as Gwyneth Greer), Jean and Nick are willing to take a second chance on love, even though it means they sometimes feel they’re running for their lives.

In Ruthann’s War, currently under contract to The Wild Rose Press and awaiting edits, Ruthann meets a man 22 years her senior and finds a love to last two lifetimes.

In The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, Penelope has been around the block once and is determined to stay parked--until Sam turns up. He hasn’t just been around the block but rather to hell and back.

There’s a tenderness between older lovers not found in younger ones rushing to live a lifetime in a moment. And that’s what appeals to me and, I think, to others of my generation and perhaps younger. In the words of a song popular while I was growing up, a “little tenderness” makes real life worth living.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Where do your characters live?

Small towns charm me which is why I set most of my stories there. I’ve even drawn out “plans” showing how the town would look, usually with a “square” and a courthouse in the middle. There’s something cozy about a town square with life bustling around it. Life seems less frantic. People move at a slower pace. The old store fronts beckon in ways just not duplicated in a modern mall.

While I didn’t grow up in a “small” town, my hometown had a friendly feel to it back in the day. That was after the war when people were still getting back to normal after four long hard years. Downtown was the place to be, to shop, to browse, to just breathe. Small shops, a couple of larger department stores (one with a wonderful bargain basement), banks, office buildings, hotels with coffee shops, a newspaper building, and even an old two-room house belonging to the architect who designed the courthouse and in which he still lived. It’s at the local museum now, but I passed it many times.

The town in which I went to college had a square. Over time it faded away, but imaginative, civic-minded folks brought it back. Now I head for it daily each time I visit.

When I travel, I prefer routes which take me through small towns rather than a busy interstate. Too many are simply collections of empty buildings, but I try to imagine what they looked like when people populated the narrow streets. Many small towns, of course, have learned to capitalize on their history and have turned their squares into tourist meccas. Those are the best.

So when I get a story idea, I immediately envision the characters living in a small town or, at the very least, not a big city.

Amaryllis AR is home to Penelope Pembroke as she plunges headlong through the idiosyncrasies  and intrigues of its folks. From the saloon/bordello-turned feed store-turned moonshine/drug hub to the old school reputed to house its share of ghosts, life in Amaryllis is never dull. The population(a huge 5,492!) pulls together to keep the town afloat after the main business exits, leaving economic mayhem in its wake.

Dreamland AR calls a newly-widowed Trixie Blake back to her roots and the building left to her by her grandfather. Was he the grand old man of the town or as big a gangster as Al Capone? Often seen in the tiny town before his dirty deeds caught up with him, Al’s cigar smoke still wafts through the Quimby Building.  (And that may not be all he left behind!)



Are you a small-town or big city writer?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Go-er or Stay-er?

The primary reason I have a laptop instead of a desktop computer is so I can take it with me wherever I go. Sometimes I actually travel for the purpose of writing--other times it’s just something I do while I’m traveling.

One of the best jaunts I ever made was to a cabin on a creek with NO internet! I was trying to complete two projects, so it was easy to schedule dedicated hours to both. Sometimes I drive to a nearby lake and write until the laptop battery dies. Sometimes I visit a local sandwich shop with deep easy chairs, put up my feet, and tap away. 

I’m always leary of flying with my laptop. Seeing it disappear into the scanner is a scary proposition. I’m not necessarily distrustful by nature, but let’s just say I hide my cash in several different places in my purse when it has to be out of my sight. One hears stories. . .

My favorite trips are by car, of course. Independent of all restrictions, I take what I like--packed as I like it--and never worry about getting where I’m going with all my possessions. At least once a year I visit the town where I went to college. Every morning I go down on the Square to the wonderful Jupiter House, a coffee shop extraordinaire. I claim my spot on a stool at a wooden table, order hot chocolate from a friendly barista who remembers me from year to year, soak up the energy surrounding me in the form of people of all ages and walks of life, and write undisturbed and undistracted for at least two hours. (That’s when I have to go move the car to comply with the parking restrictions downtown!)

Last April I got a sudden urge to go to Branson MO again, so I made reservations for several shows and other activities and took off. About five o’clock every afternoon, I returned to the hotel, gathered up my laptop and notes, and migrated to the indoor pool area. The atmosphere was good for a couple of hours of dedicated writing.

Last but not least, in November I spent about 10 days at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs AR. Talk about uninterrupted writing time! Turned out I was the only writer “in residence”--so I had no choice but to write!

The main thing I’ve learned by ‘writing on the go’ is that two hours of concentrated writing beats six of hit-and-miss composition. This summer I’m taking a short writing break except for blogging, but in October the lappy (Penelope by name--doesn’t everyone name their laptops?) and I will start traveling again. I’m already envisioning writing in new and different places.

If you're taking a break this summer--or if you're on the go--you might enjoy the following:  


 Check out my Amazon Author Page for links to these 
and other clean reads!


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Top 5 Distractions in My (Writing) Life

Distractions--we all gotta live with ‘em!

I keep all kinds of lists of blog ideas, and today one of them jumped out at me:

What are your top 5 distractions?
How do you deal with them?

It’s for sure we all have them, especially when we’re trying to write. I used to say, back in the day when I was raising two boys, that they could disappear for hours. But just let me get on the phone (or close the bathroom door), and they came out of the woodwork like cockroaches! Murphy’s Law.

Distraction #1: Now, with an (almost) empty nest, Murphy’s Law still comes into play. I keep my granddaughters (ages 9 and 6) a few days a week during the summers and pick them up from school on a regular basis during the school year. By and large, they entertain themselves, although I do read to them throughout the day and do small art projects or science experiments. But just let me sit down to the computer to schedule promotion, compose a blog, or answer email, and they materialize beside me like smoke curls from a chimney, sure, silent, and imploring.

“Mimi, I need. . .”
“Mimi, will you. . .”
“Mimi, I want to cuddle.”
“Mimi, I’m hungry.”

And, of course, I stop whatever I’m doing and take care of their needs, because that’s what Mimi’s do.

Distraction #2: Skype
because, of course, when someone pops up and says ‘hello’, what can you do but say hello back? Of course, I enjoy chatting.

Distraction #3:  Real life
the electrician, the plumber, and twice-yearly AC/Heat check, the termite inspector, the haircut appointment, the necessity to buy groceries. And when they all seem to come within a two-week period, I’m pulling my hair!

Distraction #4:  Checking email
 which leads to checking Facebook although I’ve already posted for the day. I keep saying I’m going to make a schedule and stick to it, but. . .

And finally, the biggest distraction of all:  myself! I can be diligently researching information for something I’m writing and end up going far afield.  The solution for this is going somewhere else to write, because I won’t get on the internet at a cafĂ©, etc. But then I people-watch, so I’m distracted by that, too.

So--we all have distractions, and sometimes we deal with them better than at other times. Sometimes we just give up. Sometimes we welcome them. Sometimes. . .

What is your grizzly-bear distraction?

Of course, if you'd like a more pleasant distraction, try out my summer short read at Solstice Publishing--it's guaranteed to distract and be done with--only 15K words--and you can't beat the $1.99 price!


In a moment of loss and crushing despair, she struck a deceptive bargain with her husband to protect his name as he built his Texas empire. Years later, when he was gone in a hail of bullets, it came back to haunt her in ways she never imagined. Now she must strip away the hatred which has festered over a lifetime before it destroys her. But will the truth, reborn like the Phoenix, sever the carefully forged bonds between herself and her children?  Susanna feels fenced in and ripe for slaughter like the longhorns beyond her window. Damn you, Nathan Kingsley! Damn you for what you did! Damn you for dying and leaving me with the mess you made!