Starting Over ~ Friends and Writers Celebrate!

“That’s what friends are for…”   Celebrate copy

Can you hear Dionne Warwick’s voice in your head?  In good times, in bad times…at all times, and at all ages and stages of life, I find myself making new friends while maintaining the old. New folks enter into our lives at work or in our neighborhood, in a classroom or when pursuing a common dream. In my case, in pursuit of the writing dream.

I received “the call” in May 2000. A phone call from an editor with an offer to buy my manuscript, Love, Money and Amanda Shaw, which turned out to be my very first published work.  After talking to me about the manuscript, my new editor’s next big question was, “Are you attending Romance Writers of America’s conference in Washington D.C. this summer?”  This particular conference is the big kahuna of conferences for those of us pursuing a professional career in the romance genre.

“I hadn’t planned on it,” I replied, “but I will now!”  When I hung up the phone, I bought a ticket–in fact, two tickets–to D.C. Mike wanted to go, and my son drove down from NY to meet us at the hotel. A great idea. He kept my dh busy the entire time I was busy.

One year earlier, author Debra Salonen received the call from the same

Deb Salonen Yoga, anyone?

Deb Salonen
Yoga, anyone?

publisher, in fact, from the same editor who’d made an offer to buy her manuscript. Debra accepted, and this conference was Deb’s first one, too. We both wrote for the Harlequin Superromance line and met each other in person through our mutual editor. I have a picture of us together that summer under which I wrote: Debra Salonen, a new friend who also writes for Superromance. She’s 2 books ahead of me! 

BLMPhotoLinda

Barbara McMahon

From that conference and others, I met Barbara McMahon, Karen Sandler and Rogenna Brewer – all creating stories not only for the Superromance line, but for other Harlequin imprints as well. We reconnected regularly at other RWA events. Some of us also joined Novelists, Inc. and attended their conferences, too. We talked business and had a lot of fun while doing it. And then came the Internet. Whee! Nothing can separate us now.

Karen Sandler

Karen Sandler

Rogenna Brewer

Rogenna Brewer

 

 

 

 

After more than ten years of friendship, it seemed natural for us to dive into some projects together when we decided to Indie authors. Now we write and publish books on our own. And thus, the Celebrate! anthology was born. I knew it would be a pleasure to work with these gals. And it was. Here’s what you need to know about this anthology:

TODAY is the release day!

Celebrate! Five heartwarming stories celebrating the sweet gift of romance on Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas with five of your favorite authors: Linda Barrett, Rogenna Brewer, Barbara McMahon, Karen Sandler and Debra Salonen.

Celebrate! is available for $2.99 at all venues where electronic books are sold: Amazon, BN, Kobo, Smashwords.

These women have become more than simply writing friends. They have become friends of the heart. And I think that’s the secret for staving off loneliness throughout life. If your heart is open, new friends are invited in.

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

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OCTOBER CONTEST:  Two winners in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Post a comment and your name will be entered into a drawing for two of the books shown below and a $25 gift certificate to either Amazon or BN.  Your choice!

[Authors Jean Brashear, Dee Davis and Day Leclaire are other friends I’ve made through the years. We’re all part of On Fire Fiction, a group of award winning authors who’ve come together to support each other–the way friends do! I’m happy to offer their books as prizes here.]

Texas Danger, Brashear

 

 

 

 

 

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ARe DEBRA SALONEN 7-1

 

 

 

 

 

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Starting Over ~ Speaking and Listening

With a microphone in hand…

Available October 3rd

Available October 3rd

I’ve had a busy month since the release of HOPEFULLY EVER AFTER on October 3rd.  In addition to my usual writing and on-line activities such as this blog and Facebook posts, I was part of several programs in the Tampa area which focused on breast cancer and other diseases that tend to “run in the family.”

Most people dread public speaking. They list it right up there with death, divorce and relocating homes. The thought of being in the spotlight and being coherent in front of a filled auditorium makes their heart race and their sweat glands work overtime.  Fortunately, I am not one of these people.  My heart rate may go up a notch, but that’s just excitement.

I credit my teaching background where I considered myself “on stage” whether in a room with children or adults. I also credit my mom, who dreaded making professional presentations on her job, but did it anyway. She managed her fear by being prepared. She practiced in the house behind closed doors. Except when she wanted a little critique from my dad or me.  I don’t think she memorized every word, but became so familiar with the material that she created her own comfort zone. Despite her prep techniques and the number of presentations she made, however, she never loved doing it.

I can’t say the same!  Although butterflies dance in my stomach beforehand, I become energized around the crowd. I learned from my mom, however, to be prepared. And I practice the same way she did. The difference between us comes from personality. She was much more introverted and appreciated my dad being “the mayor of the block.”

Each event I attended was different. One was sponsored by a hospital to honor breast cancer survivors — a big crowd showed up. Another was a panel discussion on hereditary genetics with a mid-sized audience.  A third was an intimate gathering of a cancer support group. I have yet to appear at another scheduled event where I’ll be telling my story and reading from the memoir at a community center. Interesting observation – the only time my husband was asked questions was at the support group. I guess intimacy builds trust more quickly.

A radiologist preceded me to the mic at the survivor event. I’m glad she did because she confirmed what I’d already suspected:  implants for cosmetic purposes and implants for mastectomies are placed in the body very differently. One of her PowerPoint slides showed a cancerous mass next to an implant. I have an implant. So that mass stole my breath away until I realized that the amount of breast tissue surrounding the implant was large. I suspected this patient had not had a mastectomy. During a mastectomy, almost every speck of tissue is removed. I raised my hand to ask her to clarify and was told that this woman had had breast implants put in for cosmetic reasons. I breathed again. Sometimes, it’s wonderful to be right! I thanked the radiologist profusely and when it was my turn, I almost danced to the mic, eager to provide hope to other women.

Mom would have been proud.

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

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HEADS UP!  This week five authors, including moi, are releasing Celebrate_BackCELEBRATE!  Five stories, five holidays in one volume. Watch for the announcements here and on Facebook, Twitter and all social media. It’s also one of the books you can choose this month for the contest.

OCTOBER CONTEST!  We’ll have two winners this month to celebrate the release of Hopefully Ever After. Post a comment and your name will be entered into a drawing for two of the books below plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Your choice!

DeeDavis_MatchMadeinManhatten_200px

 

 

 

 

 

ARe DEBRA SALONEN 7-1

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate copy

 

 

 

 

 

Texas Danger, Brashear

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Over ~ Act II

If not now, when?       OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

I’ve let lapse my subscriptions to many of the glossy women’s magazines that I devoured as a young working mom. Their targeted customer is the me I used to be, not the me I am today. The current me has more years behind her, more experience with life’s challenges, and presides over an empty nest. Nope. I am not their targeted reader. There is a magazine I subscribe to, however, that seems to realize women of a certain age have a lot going for them, including the courage to change the habits of a lifetime.

Second Acts is a column in MORE magazine that I look forward to reading each month. It’s about women in mid-life, going after what they want–usually career related–at a moment when they realize two things: 1) time is limited and,  2) they’ve been unhappy, depressed, or just unsatisfied in how they earn a living which, of course, affects other aspects of daily life. If they want to grab the brass ring labeled “happy,” they’d better take action now!  Some have spouses, others do not. Some have financial substance, others do not. None have acted on a whim. Once they’d made their decision to go after what they really wanted, they planned for it. Step by step. They put their plan into motion and worked harder than they’d ever worked before. The search for job satisfaction is very tempting. And risky. It often requires a huge career change, financial uncertainty, and handling the incredulity of family and friends who usually believe their gal has lost her mind. In short, such a big change is not for the faint-of-heart.

file000422875241In the current issue of this magazine, for example, an economist becomes a restauranteur. In another issue, necessity was the mother of invention and a steam floor cleaner was born in Korea, eliminating the need for scrubbing floors on hands and knees. The inventor? A working woman who took out a 100K mortgage against her home to create a prototype. Others have gone from the medical field to photography, and from advertising executive to cheese maker. Dreams beckoned and lured. Dreams plus hard work plus passion equal a dream job. Maybe a dream life.

Not all second acts are related to careers. Some people’s passions are personal and satisfied by finally taking action on them. I clearly remember one story from years ago, about a woman who’d always wanted to play the bagpipes. She learned. And practiced at 4 a.m. in her basement when everyone else was sleeping. I don’t remember the aftermath, but I’d like to think she used her talents in her community perhaps at parades, weddings or funerals.

Act II is about making changes. Sometimes it’s related how we look –  hairstyle, body fitness or cosmetics. These personal changes might follow a significant life event, such as a divorce or a “big” birthday. Or it might happen because you look in the mirror one day and realize the woman staring back at you is not quite the one you used to see. The woman in the mirror needs some freshening up!

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I buy more make-up now than I ever did years ago. Not because I apply it heavily, but because I apply it, period!  A dash of lipstick will no longer do. I’ve discovered I like playing with color palettes- eye shadow, lipstick, nail polish. I like chatting with the gals behind the Clinique counter at Macy’s. I’ve learned to trust their opinion. I don’t buy a lot–and they don’t really push–I just think they like their job: make-up artists sharing their knowledge and tricks with everyday women. After we figured out the right shade of foundation and blush, I enjoyed experimenting with other stuff. I’ve become pretty good at it now. More important, I’m having fun. And I think that’s what Act II is all about.

Grab that brass ring, ladies! Have a little fun. If not now, when?

One more thing –  If you missed this on Facebook, here’s the link to an article about me that ran in a Tampa regional paper to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month for them. I was interviewed at home, and the reporter had to condense a lot of information. I think she did a pretty good job.

http://www.observernews.net/thisweek/front_page/4504-Romance_author_tells_the_story_of_her_battle_with_breast_cancer.html

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

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Newsletter Note: If you’ve signed up for my newsletter, you should have received it last Thursday, October 3rd. If you didn’t, please let me know. If you’d like to receive it, you can sign up here on the website. It’s an easy way to keep up with my writing news, and I promise not to clog your In-box. The newsletter comes out four or five times a year at most.

OCTOBER CONTEST:  We’ll have TWO winners this month! Post a comment and your name will be entered into a drawing for two of the books below plus a gift card to BN or Amazon. Your choice! All books from authors of On Fire Fiction!

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ARe DEBRA SALONEN 7-1

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp

I AM NOT JULIA CHILD!

 

But on Sunday, I wished I were. Last time I struggled to make pecan pie. This time it was crepes. Crepes!

Two months have passed since the last neighborhood dine-in where several people host a dinner for eight or ten followed by all participants having dessert together. Everyone is expected to contribute something to either the main meal or dessert. Assignments are made by the “committee.” Very fair. But here’s my question:  Why, oh, why do I get the assignments that challenge my sanity?

Last night’s dinner had a French theme. I could have provided an hors d’oeuvre of assorted French cheeses–Brie comes immediately to mind–and fruit. Grapes, kiwi, raspberries…But non-non, I got crepes. Made from scratch. With nutella, chocolate sauce, sliced bananas and whipped cream. So let’s take this piece by piece.

A recipe was provided for the crepe. Eggs, flour, milk, salt, oil. Everything processed in a blender. So far, so good. Then came the actual “pour 1/4 cup of batter into pan, tilting to coat surface. Turn once until golden.” Friends, when the blender is filled with batter, you can’t really read the amounts on the side of the glass. So, I estimated. I poured a little oil into my non-stick 8 inch skillet and then poured some batter. Oops.

Pour, tilt, flip, Oy!

Pour, tilt, flip, Oy!

Did I say a little oil. Non, non, my friends. Too much oil! Now I realized what “brush with oil” meant. I hurriedly searched for a basting brush while the first crepe became “golden”  on one side. When I thought it was done, I took two spatulas and turned this poor little pancake over. A minute later, I slid it onto a plate. This prototype crepe had ragged edges, “golden” was questionable with all the shades of brown, and the thickness was uneven.  In essence, the crepe looked awful. In fact, it looked like another word that starts with c-r–.

My stress immediate jolted skywards. Fifty people would be looking at these crepes later on, eager to culminate their French style meal with the quintessential French dessert. Oy. Trying again, I poured off a little oil into a small dish and dipped in the ends of my non-stick brush before brushing the bottom of the pan. This time I poured a bit more batter and tilted, tilted and tilted that pan, cursing under my breath the entire time. With each crepe, I wished Julia were in my kitchen, at my stove, relieving my stress. Since I couldn’t have Julia, however,  I turned to music.

I hit random play on my CD player and immediately  BARBRA, NEIL, BILLY, ELTON and Susan Boyle had me dancing and moving, spatulas in hand. Instant stress relief!  As I continued to estimate and pour and tilt and “turn once until golden,” I began thinking the crepes looked pretty good. I stacked them, paper towel in between, until I

Crepes 002

had enough batter left in the blender for just one more crepe. Images of TV chefs deftly handling their pans filled my mind. Wasn’t I supposed to be a French chef? My crepes deserved a grand finale.

I looked up at my kitchen’s the high ceilings. I looked at the 8 inch pan. I brushed it with oil, poured the last of the mix, waited a minute and carried it to middle of the room. I hefted the pan a couple times to get the feel of it, glanced once more at the ceiling, then at the pan and…I tossed that sucker straight up. Then watched it come down and land.

Perfect!!  I’m taking a bow. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I never could have done it without Julia at my side. With confidence returned, I attacked the chocolate sauce.  But that’s another story.  Maybe next time… Crepes 004

As always, thank you so much for stopping by.  A heartfelt thanks to those of you who’ve picked up a copy of HOPEFULLY EVER AFTER. If you haven’t gotten it yet, I hope you’ll consider it. And I certainly hope to see all of you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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OCTOBER CONTEST:  To celebrate the release of Hopefully Ever After, I’m awarding prized to two people. Gift certificates for $25 and two books from the choices below. All books have been recently released from the authors of On Fire Fiction. Just post a comment and your name will automatically be entered for October’s drawing.

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ARe DEBRA SALONEN 7-1

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Over ~ HOPEFULLY EVER AFTER is AVAILABLE TODAY!

Playing favorites…

Available October 3rd

Available October 3rd

As parents, we don’t play favorites among our children. Each one is unique. Each one is special with both sweet and exasperating ways. Therefore, each one is a favorite. I have  three sons, and I used to tell  David that he was absolutely my favorite middle child 🙂

As authors, we usually don’t have a favorite book among our body of work. Readers ask that question all the time. We might have certain warm memories about writing a particular story. One story may have been more fun to write than another. But the work is always challenging and the usual–and honest–answer to that question is to say that our favorite book is whichever story we’re working on currently. We’re excited, our minds are engaged in the current story, so our work-in-progress is a truthful answer. Certainly, if you write enough books, a few will stand out. The debut novel holds a special place in our hearts because it’s the first. It holds a unique status as the bridge between wannabe and professional writer status. More than likely, however, it will not be the best book in the author’s repertoire.

Among my own fifteen books, a few claimed my heart. In The House on the Beach, Laura McCloud went on with her life–and found love–after fighting a bout of breast cancer. Naturally, she mimicked my own medical experience at that time. Another story that claimed my heart was The Soldier and the Rose, a book set in my own hometown of Brooklyn, New York right at the start of WWII. I loved revisiting not only the setting, but the sensibilities of the time–attitudes, foods, fashion–the energy of people trying to make it through the war and afterwards, no matter what.

As touching and emotional as those stories were for me, they were merely a prelude to the emotional frenzy of writing HOPEFULLY EVER AFTER: Breast Cancer, Life and Me.  This book is non-fiction. It is a memoir. A true story of surviving cancer twice. This is not fiction based on truth, but true on every page. This is not a  story “as told to” another person where truth might get lost in translation with imprecise language. The events I write about really happened to me.

I wish they hadn’t. I wish I was an innocent instead of being an innocent victim. I wish I had no personal knowledge and had nothing to contribute to the national conversation about breast cancer. But I don’t have that luxury, not if I want to consider myself a human being of substance. So, I sat at the computer and began to write.

You’ll love the ending. Heck, I love the ending! After all, I lived to tell the tale. So, I invite you to take this journey with me. After a lot of turmoil, I landed in a soft place. You’ll like it there. I promise.

Before talking about the new contest, I want to thank everyone who visits the blog or follows me on Facebook for all your support and good wishes. I appreciate every one of you, and I hope you know that I wish you only the best in return. As Spock would say, “Live long and prosper!”  And as always, I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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NEW CONTEST:  To celebrate this month’s release of Hopefully Ever After: Breast Cancer, Life and Me, I’m awarding two $25 gift certificates to two lucky people. Your choice of Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Plus books. Choose two from the group below which were released very recently from the authors of On Fire Fiction:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate copy

 

 

 

 

 

ARe DEBRA SALONEN 7-1

 

 

 

 

 

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Starting Over ~ Speaking about Breast Cancer…

HERE COMES OCTOBER…  Br Ca Blog icon 1

This year the month of October is especially busy for me. Not only am I promoting two new books, but it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I’m scheduled to speak to several groups. Some are interested in learning more about this cancer in general. Others are specifically interested in the genetic connection and how this disease is passed down from generation to generation in some families. We’ve spoken here about my own experience with breast cancer.

Today, however, I thought it would be fun to let you know what went on behind the scenes before I made my first presentation this past Sunday.  Hadassah luncheon 010You might say it was a last minute frenzy…at least for me. After thanking the audience–about sixty people–for having me as their guest, I shared with them the same story I’m sharing with you now:

I had written and revised  my talk over several weeks and thought I was ready for prime time. But on the day before the presentation, a friend approached me and said, “Tell me your joke.”

“Excuse me?  What are you talking about?”

“If you’re making a speech,” he said, “you need to start with a joke. That’s the rule.”

I stared at him hard. “Do I look like Tina Fey? I don’t write jokes, just books.”

“Oh-h-h,” he said. “Then I wish you very good luck. You’ll need it.”  And he walked away.

Did I want to hear this?  But when I got home, I made a bee-line for my writing cave. This is the place where brilliant thoughts are supposed to rain down like manna from heaven. I sat at the computer, fingers on the keyboard and waited for brilliance. And I waited. And waited until I was so frustrated, I was ready to tear my hair out.

Tear my hair out?

“Idiot!” I said to myself. “You’ve already done that twice. And you didn’t like it. The third time is not going to be a charm.”

My hands were back on the keyboard. And my brain was flickering. I decided that breast cancer is like politics. A very lopsided subject. First it’s left. Then it’s right. God  knows, there’s no middle.  And like politicians, the ta-tas can’t be trusted. Now you see them. Then you don’t. They take off to fight some battles, and when they return, you notice that their territory might be a bit different, but still recognizable.

Next I decided not to worry about making any jokes. I knew that if I just put my breast foot forward, I’d be all right.

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And that was exactly what I told that first audience before thanking them for letting me get this off my chest…such as it is.

My original talk followed this introduction, and for me, was a huge relief.

Hadassah luncheon 006

 

What I learned from this is that comedy is harder than tragedy, and that Tina Fey can sleep easy. She has nothing to worry about from me!

Happily, I was also able to distribute pamphlets on inherited breast cancer which were provided by FORCE – Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. This is the only non-profit foundation in the country whose mission is solely to educate and raise fund for the research of inherited breast and ovarian cancer.

FORCE LOGO

FORCE LOGO

As always, thank so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over–which is this Thursday. REALEASE DAY for Hopefully Every After. A new contest will begin on Thursday, so please be sure to visit 🙂

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Look for Hopefully Ever After on October 3rd!

Available October 3rd

Available October 3rd

 

 

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.

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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