Monthly Archives: September 2013

Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp

BLING’S THE THING…and don’t forget the hats….  

It's all about the hats!

It’s all about the hats!

Girlfriends, girlfriends, girlfriends….Life in this busy retirement community would fall flat without girlfriends. Come to think of it, life anywhere would fall flat without our women friends. When you need a trusted listener, who do you call? When you want cohorts for a shopping trip, who do you call?  Even when you simply want to share time over a cup of coffee, who do you call?  You call your girlfriends. Of course. The more the merrier.

Earlier this week, the Girlfriends group where I live reached the magic number of 200 members. A party was in order!  A party to bling up our name badges–including mine–which had just arrived in the mail. To add to the fun, we were supposed to wear vintage hats.  Prizes in different categories would be awarded. Add a few bottles of wine, a little nosh, and away we go. It’s party time.

As you might guess, I have been so nose-deep with the publishing of Hopefully Ever After, writing this blog and writing new stories, that I’m barely able to keep track of all the goings-on in my community. However, my girlfriends didn’t let me forget about the bling party. But as for hats? Fugeddaboutit!  At least for me. But some of the ladies really looked wonderful. In fact, we could have opened a vintage haberdashery 🙂

Girlfriends' group 002

Robyn and Marsha in their beautiful chapeaux

And there were stories–touching stories–behind the beauty of the hats. Several belonged to moms who had passed away. I found it so lovely that daughters held onto a particular hat of their mother’s. What significance did they hold? Mostly the attachment elicited general memories of mom wearing and loving a specific hat. On the right, above, the smaller hat is from the ’50 with a net that goes down over the forehead like a close fitting veil. My friend, Marsha, lamented that she grew up too late for her mom’s hat to be in fashion. So she wears it now.

A particular hat caught my eye because it came with a “snood” attached in the back which is used to hold long hair in a bun-type arrangement on the neck. Carolyn, a new friend of mine, is the gal wearing the gorgeous black chapeau and certainly did it more justice than my photos did:

Girlfriends' group 004Girlfriends' group 005

The head gear certainly garnered attention, but I can’t forget about the blinging of the name tags. My friend, Chris, who’s also in our book club, took pity on my inability to use a glue gun and decorated my name tag for me. I stood over her shoulder, watching. She’s good, but I heard her say “ouch” a time or two. So, thank you very much, Chris.

Girlfriends' group 009

 

 

My nametag is now officially blinged.
My nametag is now officially blinged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might have read another blog I’d written about the girlfriend’s group. We had fun that night, too, seeing how we could follow a leader and learn how to drum, not with sticks, but with our hands on drums we held between our knees. Who knew I’d discover rhythm?  So although I’d never before belonged to any group without a “noble” purpose like raising money for a worthy cause, I must admit that once in awhile it’s good to just have fun. I think I’ll stick around and enjoy girl-time with my friends.

I bet we all have friends going back decades who are very dear to us. I know I do. But they’re not next door anymore. Not even in the next state! I’m lucky to have found women who are openhearted and fun. Most important, they want to make new friends in their new home. If you’ve got a group of girlfriends–large group or tiny, from years past or present–please share your stories right here. Girlfriends rock!

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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P.S.  I hope you’ll be on the look-out for HOPEFULLY EVER AFTER It will be available for ebooks on Thursday, October 3rd and in print at about the same time, maybe a bit later.

 

Available October 3rd
Available October 3rd

 

 

Starting Over ~ Fingers on the Keyboard

CHOICES, CHOICES…hands on keyboard

“I wish I’d started earlier.”

That is the lament of many authors, usually women, whose writing careers started beyond the first flush of youth…hmmm…let’s say, beyond the first flush of marriage, motherhood and other careers. This is the lament of those who had never really considered professional writing as a career until later in life.

I clearly remember several conversations with my own mother when I was a teen and thinking about the future. College was definitely on the agenda. But careers?  “Teacher, nurse or bookkeeper,” she’d said. She was not the bad guy. Her attitude was simply a sign of the times.  Four years after I graduated, my cousin Ilene started a pre-law major. So much for me being on the cusp. I’d chosen teaching and was starting my first job when Ilene began her legal journey.       nurse_cap1.gif, cuter

So, I became a teacher on the grammar school level, and soon developed Sunday night stomach-aches at the thought of Monday morning. I was a good teacher, and the kids were happy and learning, but I could not bear the thought of spending the following 25 years stressed on Sunday nights. I was definitely miscast for this important role.  But to have become a writer instead? Never thought of it. Even though I was an avid reader and my own teachers had encouraged my written work. Anyway, what kind of career was writing? No salary. Nothing to count on. I guess either the undeniable “itch” to write just wasn’t there yet or I’d never allowed it to develop.

Instead, I adapted my teaching skills to adult education and flourished. Loved it, loved it, loved it! The programs I ran helped disadvantaged adults get their GED’s, learn computer and other office skills, and successfully interview for jobs. I was doing good deeds all day long! Could any job be more rewarding? In fact, I so enjoyed seeing the these women flourish, that I felt guilty taking a salary. When I mentioned this unease to my rabbi, he just laughed, patted me on the shoulder and told me to keep on with it. So I did. And anytime I had the writing itch–which was becoming more often–I took a yellow legal pad and wrote at night and on weekends.

We make decisions every day. Some are so automatic, they barely qualify as a decision. Should I have tuna or turkey for lunch? Chocolate or file0001694764223vanilla?  On the other hand, we often make decisions with greater consequences, ones which require long thought because of those consequences. My car is old and needs repairs. Should I buy a new one? Should we relocate for the sake of a new job opportunity? The family is growing. Should we buy a bigger house?  Sometimes our decisions are gut wrenching ones which put our emotions in overdrive: Do we need a nursing home for our elderly mom?

Fortunately, most decisions are not life-and-death ones, yet some have a huge impact on our lives. In an alternate universe, I would have begun writing seriously as a young woman. The advantage of more time cannot be overstated. Time is needed to develop excellent craft skills in order to provide a reading experience so engrossing, that a reader exclaims, “I couldn’t put that book down! Finished it at 2 a.m.”  This is the reaction all authors aim for. But that kind of writing doesn’t happen overnight. The apprenticeship doesn’t pay the bills, either. So I’ll pretend that in my alternate writing universe, that money doesn’t matter 🙂

I take comfort in the fact that James Michener didn’t write a word before he was forty years old. Why? According to him, he didn’t have anything worthwhile to say!  Imagine that. Now there are libraries in his name at the University of Texas and Colorado. I guess he made up for his “late” start.

I admire Janet Evanovich. She didn’t start her terrific and hugely successful Stephanie Plum series until she was past fifty. She’d written other works–romance novels under a pen name–before bringing Stephanie, the bounty hunter, to life in One for the Money. I really identify with her timeline!

In the end, however, I have to believe that for everything, there is a season. Whether it’s the season for raising children, maintaining a secure day job to pay bills or writing full time. When I measure my writing journey, all my experiences seem to fit in. I loved doing those “good deeds” with my students while having the energy to be a weekend writer. Maybe my earlier years were not wasted after all. Everything is working out just fine.

Are there decisions you would change in your life?  Leave a comment and we’ll share with each other.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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P. S.  For the curious –  here’s a picture of the cover of my very first book, published in 2001:

Debut novel - very exciting time :)

Debut novel – very exciting time 🙂

 

Starting Over ~ A Book Club Evening

IN THE SPOTLIGHT–                

From my own book shelves, authors Emily Giffin, Bridget Asher, Barbara O'Neal

From my own book shelves, authors Emily Giffin, Bridget Asher, Barbara O’Neal

“I just love this type of book!”

When I heard those words at my book club Tuesday night, my heart sang. I felt myself smile. The woman was talking about MY kind of book. The kind I read and write. The type that appeals to women, explores family relationships, and provides an emotional ride based on a what-if reality. What if your child isn’t on the school bus at the end of the day?  What if you discover your husband has been having an affair? What if you find out you and your husband can’t have children?  What if a couple decides not to have children but one of them changes their mind? (Baby Proof by Emily Giffin).  What would you do in these situations? You can safely find out in the pages of a book as you struggle along with the characters who are facing these issues.

I love the James Bond stories. But, c’mon. Half the fun of James and his ladies is the eye candy. As for the plot – we  ride in the most nifty cars escaping the bad guys. It’s a hoot to watch, but then we go back to our everyday issues in our ordinary world.

Except sometimes a woman’s ordinary world is rocked, and that is the premise for the genre I’ve been talking about here: Women’s Fiction. In these novels, we follow the female protagonist’s journey through rocky waters as she navigates to her next plateau. Sometimes, a love interest might surprise her. ( Open House by Elizabeth Berg). She might be surrounded by a “cast of thousands,” — relatives, neighbors, co-workers — but it’s basically her story.

More from my shelves: authors Kathryn Shay, Barbara Delinsky and Elizabeth Berg.

More from my shelves: authors Kathryn Shay, Barbara Delinsky and Elizabeth Berg.

On Tuesday evening, I had a special interest in the book club discussion. The group–about twenty participants–had read Family Interrupted. My novel.  Disclaimer: the choice was not my idea. A few months ago, a new book list was being developed and boom! It was included. On the other hand, I didn’t nix the suggestion. As the proverbial fly on the wall, I thought I’d get some insights and discover how readers truly reacted both to the story itself and to the writing. Maybe I’d learn lessons I could apply to my next book.

Well, the fly-on-the-wall idea worked for about the first fifteen minutes. I kept my mouth shut, didn’t make eye contact with anyone, and actually wondered for how much longer I could play the part of a robot. It’s really hard trying to avoid eye contact for that long especially when sitting in a big square formation with people to the right, left and across.

I had wanted to disappear, have the gals to forget I was in the room and just listen as they talked about book. What a dumb idea that was! First of all, it didn’t work. After fifteen minutes, I joined the conversation. We were talking about family issues, after all, and I have opinions, too. I’m used to participating every month. Second of all – and this is more important – I sensed that these readers wanted me involved. This seemed logical to me. After all, how many times would a real, live author be present at these meetings? How many times would these readers be able to ask questions directly to the author of a book they’d just read?

So away we went. Some of the discussion followed the questions I’d provided at the back of the book. Why did the characters do this or that? Questions were raised about the story couple’s marriage. Readers wanted to know how I came up with the idea. And one admitted, “You made me grab for tissues several times!” Good. An author wants to tap into a reader’s emotions, wants the reader to care about the characters.

The question that came from me, the one  I always love to ask is, “What do you think happens after the book ends?” We actually talked about a sequel which amazed me because I’d never had that in mind! As an author who worries about everything, and who knows the issues I had to confront when writing the book, I asked a question that no one else considered important at all. “Did the verb tenses work? Did you get confused as time flashed back and then back again?” Verb tenses ate my lunch as I wrote the book (which is one reason I hire an editor). And yet,  here in front of my eyes, these gals laughed at me.

So I learned once more that a good story wins every time. And that I worry too much. I don’t think, however, that I’ll ever stop.

This one's also on my shelf! And in my e-reader.

This one’s also on my shelf! And in my e-reader.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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P.S.  I’ll be sending out a newsletter on October 3rd.  If you’d like to get it–right into your in-box–you can sign up for it here on the website.

 

 

Starting Over ~ Home Sweet Home

TIME ZONES…            Linda at front door

My five week sojourn up north is over, and I’m happy to be back home with fingers on the keyboard. Hopefully, my brain is engaged as well. My visit to family and friends was a change of pace and often a delight, but it was not a vacation in the traditional sense of the word. No hotels. No maids. No wait staff.   Here are some excerpts from real life, and you can judge for yourself:

My four-year old grandson and I are playing Uno. I’m down to my last card and call, Uno!  He looks at me, twinkle in his eye, grin on his face and says, “Fifteen kisses if you show me the card.” We both know how this goes. I open my arms and relish his slight weight against me, his little boy kisses on my cheek and his high laughter in my ears. He is delicious. I must have put in about twenty hours of Uno.

“Let me help with the dishes,” I say to my daughter-in-law. She waves me away. “I’m fine. I’m fine.”  She’s confident, capable and a delight. A wonderful mom to my grandchildren. But she doesn’t need my help–so I spend more time with the kids, and everyone is happy. Including me! I think my d-i-l is very clever  🙂  At the same time, my son is with his dad inspecting the outside of the house. They work together because that’s what fathers and sons do. This young couple, whom I love so much, are following in their parents’ footsteps. Marriage, babies, noise and family. And their doors are wide open to grandparents. Amen.

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Happy grandparents with their Florida and New England kiddos. All in one place. Yay!

“The house is quiet,” says my empty-nester cousin who’s my age. My northern friends says the same thing. “The kids visit, but maybe we’ll buy something smaller.”  I nod. Empty bedrooms cost money to heat and cool. The houses we lived in have so many stairs….  Hadn’t my golfer guy and I moved to Florida and something smaller? We listen to an update on their children’s doings — college graduations, marriages, new careers– albeit sometimes stalled careers, but new beginnings for the younger generation. And I think…Wait a minute! We’re all experiencing new beginnings, new experiences. The adventure continues for my friends and me as well.

We visit my mother-in-law two or three times a week. She is 95 years old and cannot be left alone. An aide lives with her. The aide is very competent but she’s not family. We settle for competent. Always petite, my mother-in-law is now a shadow of her former self. With little strength, she walks with mincing steps to the bathroom. Then she points at my golfer guy. “That’s my son!” Right. And she knows her daughter. But she needs a lot of coaching to identify her grandchildren and other relatives in photos which are kept handy. Like her vitality, her memory is a thing of the past. Mostly, she recalls her own mother.

My sojourn north lasted a month. I crossed many time zones–sometimes all in one day–while never leaving the east coast.

I’m ready to stay home for awhile.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed meeting the authors and learning about the anthology CELEBRATE! in the blog series I posted in August. Looking forward to seeing you next time at Starting Over.

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WE HAVE A WINNER!  The winner of the August contest is: Sharon!  Sharon will be receiving a $25 gift certificate and a boxed set of books. I appreciate every visitor to the blog. Thank you, Sharon, for participating.

NEW CONTEST IN OCTOBER TO CELEBRATE THE RELEASE OF TWO NEW BOOKS.  STAY TUNED…

Available October 3rd

Available October 3rd

 

Celebrate copy

Available October 17th

 

 

 

Starting Over ~ CELEBRATE!

Hi everyone – I just got back from vacation and discovered that I screwed up the schedule and never published the following blog so you’d know I’d be away until today. The blog was originally supposed to appear on August 29th. Oy.  I am so sorry. I thought I’d figured everything out and was so organized…  So now, if you’ll indulge me, I’d appreciate catching up.  As a little extra today, here comes the cover reveal–you are the very first to see this. It’s not even been on Facebook yet!

The front cover

The front cover

We’d recently talked about first lines of famous books. I introduced you to four author friends who are joining me in releasing an anthology of stories based on holidays. The book is coming out in mid-October. You’ve gotten a taste of everyone’s story except mine! So here’s what I had prepared for August 29th:

CELEBRATE! — A five story anthology plus a novella about holidays we celebrate throughout the year. All written by award-winning authors of On Fire Fiction.fw2

The month has flown by, and today is the last of the posts about holidays, short stories and the anthology CELEBRATE! of which I’m so proud to be a part. True confession: this is my very first time contributing to a group project. In the past, I just didn’t have the opportunity. But now, as an indie pubbed author, I’ve got the freedom to create opportunities simply by finding other writers who might be interested, and then–just doing it!

If you’re familiar with my work, you know that my romance novels contain lots of families. It seems I enjoy working with “a cast of thousands” rather than with a lone hero and heroine. But the families in my books are hurting and must struggle to find their happy endings. I find this set-up strange because I grew up in a very solid and happy family. So maybe I want everyone to have what I had. My short story is no different. Two lonely adults with two recalcitrant kids are challenged to find their way to love and laughter.

I chose to combine MOTHER’S DAY and FATHER’S DAY as my holidays to celebrate. It’s tough to separate them when the theme of the story is second chances for everyone–the adults and their children. Although this story has never been published before, it has been seen by other eyes. I entered the shorter version into a national short story contest when I first wrote it some years ago, and it placed in the top ten entries out of almost 2000. That achievement gave me the confidence to keep writing, to keep trying for a professional career. And here I am!

STORY TITLE:  Man of the House   

FIRST LINES:  This can’t be good news. The readout on Nancy Wyatt’s desk phone said Pulitzer Middle School, and her stomach knotted as tightly as a fishing line around bait.

Uh-oh. Doesn’t every mom’s stomach hurt when her kid’s school calls in the middle of the day? Poor Nancy. What’s in store for her after she picks up that receiver.

I hope this peaked your interest as a first line. Maybe not in the class of “Call me Ishmael,” but in its own class of contemporary fiction.  As a reminder, my women’s fiction novel, FAMILY INTERRUPTED is available at all the usual places that sell electronic books. But it’s also available in paperback at Amazon or CreateSpace.  Here’s a pic of me holding it in my hot little hands.:

 

The PRINT edition is here!

The PRINT edition is here!

I still get a kick out of seeing it!

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of blogs about the authors of CELEBRATE!  And I hope you add the book to your collection.

Announcement:  I’ll be on vacation next week. Hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over on Thursday, September 12th.  Thanks for being loyal visitors. I appreciate each and every one of you!

Thanks for letting me share the background of this story a little later than I had in mind. Next Tuesday, we’ll be back to regular blogs about Starting Over.

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CONTINUING THE AUGUST CONTEST AND WILL POST A WINNER ON TUESDAY. JUST MAKE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED. THE PRIZES ARE A CHOICE OF ONE THE SELECTIONS BELOW AS WELL AS A $25 GIFT CERTIFICATE TO AMAZON OR BN. YOUR CHOICE 🙂

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book packageUnsuitablyPerfect_zps11428b3b