October 31, 2015

A Fall Stroll

   It's a beautiful October here, with warm days and cool nights, and after running a few morning errands, I took a walk with my camera to enjoy the weather and my neighborhood. I live in an established area where many of the houses were built in the early 1920s and in between the big, older homes are houses from the 1950s and here and there a newer home. Sometimes I like to imagine what the neighborhood must have looked like when the first wave of homes were built, when there were lakes before the shopping centers and when every house had a wide yard. That is exactly what inspired my book, The Matter With Margaret where Margie Hobart goes to bed in the year 2000 and wakes up in the same place, in her home, in 1920. I imagined how she would have coped with ringer washing machines and very different gender roles than today.

   On my walk I not only let my mind time travel a bit I also enjoyed the diversity of the homes and the October decorations. I kept my own decorating simple this year just putting out my skeletal rat and his spider friend in the wreath.

     In my neighborhood there are many smaller homes with young families and a few Halloween decorations to delight young trick-or-treaters.

Happy little ghosts

Do you dare to enter?

Simple and sweet

Then there are the more serious decorators who have fashioned large webs.
 Pretty and scary.

A family a few blocks away from me gets quite serious every year, boarding up their windows and taking their hearse out to park on the lawn.

The skeletons look almost alive!

Don't text and drive!

Imagine what these windows must look like from the inside.

All around is autumn. The leaves are underfoot on lawns that are still green.

But the flowers are beginning to bid farewell. 

Thank you for stopping by to share a few minutes of your time. I wish you all a very happy Halloween!

October 25, 2015

Back From the Future

     This week there were two things that made me think about time. First, we passed the date that Emmett Brown traveled into the future and then today I heard the new Adele song, Hello. It's a song about a remembered love. These things got me thinking less about the future and more about the past. I thought about being happy.

"Hello from the other side
I must've called a thousand times
To tell you I'm sorry, for everything that I've done
But when I call you never seem to be home...

It’s no secret
that the both of us
are running out of time…”

     I am a hopeless romantic. Without an encompassing and unconditional love my life feels empty, like a lost ship floating on a sea of bleakness. Without real love in my life I feel alone and hollow. Some people don’t need anyone in their lives to have every minute feel complete, or maybe they simply have come to the decision that they can live without someone else. I never could. As long as I can remember I believed that out there somewhere was that perfect companion, that soul I was meant to find again and again across all of time. I am very fortunate that I did find that person. This week I thought about what my life might have been like had I not.

     I fell in love many times in my youth. Sometimes I was in love and others, perhaps, merely with the notion of falling in love. I suppose if you want something badly enough you might do that. Maybe you fall in love with the desire to be a great singer and so you pursue that love with all of your heart. Maybe, sometimes, it is less about the singing itself and more about the love of it. I wonder. So I admit, there were times I fell in love with wanting to find true love. However it is a poor replacement.
    I thought about where I might be had I stayed there, simply being in love with love and not actually in love. I'm certain I would not have been happy. Eventually, the reality would have set in - the fact that I was fooling myself. That in itself says to me that I could never have been happy. Worse yet, what if I had really found that special someone I needed in my life and let them slip away, or worse, had driven them away? How can someone tell what the future will bring? How would I know, until now, years later, that I had let something precious slip away? Where then would I be today?

     Would I feel as if I wanted to pick up the phone and reach back across the past and try to grasp again what I had let slip through my fingers once, long ago? How heartbreaking and vulnerable must someone feel who finds themselves caught up in such a situation? I am fortunate that today I am not feeling that way.

     It wasn’t always easy. First I had to know, in my heart, that those first tries at love were not genuine or strong enough. I had to decide when love was too faint, on my part, or a partner's. Maybe the strongest loves are not so easily let go. Maybe if they did indeed slip away they were always meant to and to reach back is only surrendering to loss, but not the loss of real love.
     Today I don’t need to answer that. I am happy. It might not always be fireworks and frantic moments of young passion stolen away in hidden places because it was forbidden. It has been, and I smile that it’s still there to be enjoyed. Now it is something greater. Now my love is the love that did not slip away. It was not tossed aside in an angry moment of frustration. It has survived life’s sometimes heartbreaking losses, personal differences and the irresponsible mistakes of youth. It has withstood worries over money and late night impassioned discussions, the arduous task of raising children and of demanding careers. None of those things were ever stronger than my love. Not one was a pry bar strong enough to end what I really need in my life. Today I am glad for that because today I can look up across the table and find the familiar eyes of my lover, my companion and my best friend. All of the years and minutes and seconds until we found one another and all of the time we have spent together has only made it more perfect. Far better than wanting to be in love, I am in love, and you can be damn sure that in this moment I’m glad that I am not clinging to the loss of it with any regrets.

Thank you for coming.

October 17, 2015

The Review – Who Knew?

      I recently got an email from a novice author who asked where I “bought” my book reviews and might I get all the wonderful folks who have reviewed my novels to review her book and give her four or five stars. I had to laugh. I decided to take the high road and just figure she didn’t understand how book reviews work in today’s world. Admittedly, until I was published on review-able book sites I didn’t know exactly how they worked or the value of them myself. I’m sure there are lots of different ways that authors gather reviews, and it is possible to sign up with review services, but that’s not how I work. I got to thinking that, since I didn’t know before getting published, maybe others would like to know for themselves.
      I don’t buy reviews, either by paying a service or individuals or by giving away books. The way I figure it, how would I know then if the reviews really came from the heart? I’d rather have an honest review from a reader who didn’t care for my style than a phony opinion. When I get a new reader, who buys one of my novels to enjoy, they are forking over their hard earned cash based on honest opinions. I sleep better at night. Purchased reviews are also a violation of many review site policies, with understandable reason.
      I also learn through reviews. They provide me with the perfect opportunity to know what my readers like and what they don't like. For example, if they find they identify with one of my characters then I know I have described that person clearly. If not, maybe I haven't written enough life into that character. Reviews help make me a better writer.
      Do I ever ask for reviews? You betcha! Reviews sell books, and many other services. I use them myself for lots of online shopping. If I read a list of opinions that say something isn’t worth the price or doesn’t fit my needs, I move on. Good reviews are invaluable for everyone. This same rule applies to my novels.

      Writing professionally is a business, like any other. I love writing, I really do, so, it makes perfect sense that I love being able to do it professionally. When a reader takes a few minutes, after reading one of my novels, to share their opinion and feelings, they are writing the words that make it possible for me to write more myself. Every person who reads any of my novels up until the end, and then posts a review, not only has been kind enough to pay for the book, but has also donated something equally valuable, their precious time, to share their thoughts. These are the things that make every single one of my readers precious to me and also every single review.
      I have had readers tell me that they never know what to say in a review. Writing a review is simply an opinion and everyone has some kind of an opinion. Writing something as short and to the point as, for example, “I couldn’t put the book down,” or “I really like one of the characters,” is great. In just a few words it says the book was enjoyable and to a prospective reader is a selling point. To me it means another sale and another possible fan. Personally I sometimes have trouble finding books I enjoy. The opinion of every person who has taken time to write an honest review helps me as a reader find a good novel. In all the world there’s nothing like a book I love to read. When a few words on a review steer me in that direction then that review is worth a lot to me and to the author as well.
      I am fortunate that there have been many people who have taken their time to share their opinions about my books. On a statistic based service like Amazon, more reviews mean that my books appear in more advertising and as suggestions to folks who like historical fiction or enjoy books about the Old West etc. Each review is more valuable than you can imagine.
      So, to every reader who has given me those few moments to speak their hearts and minds I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your words keep me writing. They aren’t just compliments that are simply spoken, they are solid support and a huge part of what gets and keeps my novels on virtual shelves. To me that makes them invaluable.

      Thank you very much for visiting! Have a great week! 

October 10, 2015

The Football Philosophy

  I am befuddled. This isn't the first time. I do get this way on occasion, but now I have been befuddled anew. It's football season, especially in my house. I'm not really a fan but I don’t mind and I don’t feel like a football widow. I enjoy the cooler temperatures and a few hours enjoying my knitting or a good book with a game going in the background. This weekend, however, I began contemplating a very tricky football question.
  On any given Sunday, as they say, professional football games begin here on the east coast at one o’clock. There are several games simultaneously. They run until late afternoon or longer, depending on how many new rules they introduce about reviewing every play to check the ruling on the field. When these one o’clock games are over a new round begins at four o’clock. This round of games is played until prime time.
  At eight in the evening another game begins. The hype is a bit bigger for this game and they even have an opening song. A very meticulously made-up Carrie Underwood, amid flashing strobe lights and elaborate film editing, sings a song about the impending Sunday night game. I‘m not sure that she has been the same performer that has done this for years, perhaps not, since they make these girls all look the same with the perfectly coiffed blond hair and air brushed make-up. It's possible that there have been several Sunday Night Football singers. The song she sings is adapted to include some information about the teams that are about to play. They add some clever lyrics about how many games they have won and lost, that type of thing, with the chorus hook line being, “I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday night”.
  I find this curious. Waiting all day? Hold on! There’s been football on all day already. While you were watching football all day you waited all day for more football? One might argue that the Sunday night game is the big game or perhaps has more important teams, however it gets rotated through the teams, so as a mildly interested observer I don’t get it.
   Let me get this right. There are games all day Sunday, and of course the one Carrie Underwood was really waiting for on Sunday night and then the following day there is Monday night football. Now on Monday everyone had to leave their television sets and go to work. I’m sure a bunch of folks would have preferred to stay home for more football, but could not. And besides, there were no games all day. Why then wouldn’t they be waiting even more, all day, for Monday night? It would even work in the song. Sort of. I wonder.
  Several days later there is Thursday night football. Whoa. Now those football loving fans have waited three days for football. Almost a whole week, especially if you missed Sunday’s and Monday’s games. Then wouldn’t it be: I’ve been waiting almost all week for Thursday night? Or maybe, since they can change the words for each team anyway, Carrie, or a look-alike, might sing: I’ve been waiting all day Tuesday, and Wednesday and then all day Thursday for Thursday night. This would generate more words, more hype and the opportunity for an even more elaborate light show and a few more dance steps. There would also be the greater feeling of anticipation. That’s important, I think, since a big part of being a football fan is apparently that wonderful feeling of waiting.
  Oops, they are challenging the ruling on the field and I need to be quiet a minute so we can hear them decide if the referee was right or not, while waiting for more football, of course.

Thank you for your visit!

October 3, 2015

The Life of the Party

   After a weekend enjoying my husband’s high school reunion, combined with the weather beginning to cool and the store shelves being filled for Halloween, my mind has traveled back to a time when we threw big parties. We did entertain at other times of the year, but our biggest party production was always Halloween. The tradition went back many years.

   In the early eighties we lived across the street from some busy bachelors and since we had food, and sometimes beer, they gravitated towards our house on the weekends. Some of them played guitar with my husband and so we had live music to accompany our gatherings. We discovered Trivial Pursuit and some text-driven computer games like Zork where we had to puzzle our way through a virtual world without graphics, armed only with our wits and imagination. There were late nights and plenty of teasing and friendly banter. And then there was Halloween.

   Since we had the bigger house and yard we planned our party to not only include our own friends but also the longtime friends of the bachelors who had grown up in the neighborhood. We decided to collect a couple of bucks from everyone who attended and put it into a pot to award as a prize for the best costume. With enough bodies there was a tidy sum and of course there were the ever desirable bragging rights.
   We planned and plotted and designed invitations and scratched our heads for what to wear to the big party. We had taken in a tall friend who was down on his luck, and although he was hesitant to wear a “silly” costume we put our foot down and insisted anyone who lived with us was required to have fun at Halloween.

   That first party was one I will never forget. The characters who attended included Carmen Miranda, with a tall headdress of artfully arranged plastic fruit and a solid fellow who covered himself in blue eye shadow and wore a knit hat and a white beard and arrived as Papa Smurf. When a friend we did not know arrived at the door wearing a blood covered apron and carrying a huge plastic meat cleaver, our young children were hesitant to let him in. In his free hand he carried a six pack of cold beer. Bloody or not he was quick admitted. One couple fashioned a Flintmobile from huge rolls of cardboard with a faux fur rooftop and they walked over, feet emerging from beneath, to attend as Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Their vehicle was big enough for two and had to be passed by party goers over our tall fence. That couple took first prize. That year my husband and I and our tall house guest dressed as the Addams Family. I fashioned a dress that was so snug around the ankles I understood why Morticia could only shuffle femininely. I had to sew in a zipper so that I could get up the stairs to the bathroom. We posed on the lawn late that night for our Halloween portrait. As hosts of the party we disqualified ourselves from the competition but at a local bar a few nights later the three of us won the best costume prize.

Raggedy Ann and Andy

 Samara from The Ring

Pai Mei from Kill Bill

   A year or two later, some of the bachelors moved to a larger house and we were able to be guests at their place for the annual celebration, which made us eligible to compete for the prize. Selecting a Halloween costume is tricky business. It's best if it is timely and original enough so that you are the only one dressed as that particular character. That year I made large, black fig-shaped outfits, with arm and leg holes, and filled them with stuffing. We also wore black tights and bright red socks over our shoes. We had snug, fitted hats, reminiscent of leather bomber hats, with antenna, huge sunglasses, Hawaiian shirts and holsters. Have you guessed it yet? We were "Miami Lice". We were not just the only Miami Lice at the party, we took first place. I felt about as attractive as a cockroach, but we had a blast.

   Over the years our annual tradition continued, and we would spend 365 days looking for ideas for the perfect costume. Our plans got more elaborate, eventually including fog machines and strobe lights, stuffed gorilla suits and a live band. Dave Marshall and the Mojo Band got into the fun and played one year as The Soggy Bottom Boys from the film O, Brother, Where Art Thou?, even learning a song from the film. We had Janis Joplin and Spiderman, devils and angels and even Mae West. 

 The Soggy Bottom Boys

 Janis Joplin

Jessica and Roger Rabbit

   Some of the partiers would perform with the band, including my youngest daughter. She had grown up during our parties and that year came as Jessica Rabbit with her husband, Bob, as Roger Rabbit.
For days after our gatherings I would get calls from the folks who had attended, thanking us and expressing the warmth and enjoyment they had felt at the party. Friends who had been strangers met one another and became friends on their own. I was always told that a good time was enjoyed by all.

   And so, in the afterglow of the wonderful high school reunion I think about what it is that makes a great party. Is it the food? That’s certainly a big factor. Lousy food or worse, no food, can mean cranky guests and people who leave early just to go somewhere where they can eat. Bad music? A band that is too loud or plays only one style of music drowns out conversation and tires the ear. Location? A room that is too small, or outdoors in uncomfortable weather, can make people prickly too. Some things have to be just right. Good food, decent booze, the right music for your guests and comfortable surroundings are all important. But there’s one factor that is the most important of all. The people. When you have a group of friends or family or folks that are gathering for any reason, you need people who have the same agenda. They have to come to have fun. Fun for themselves and fun for each other. When the attitude is great, the people are friendly and welcoming. When that happens each one walks away with a smile. When the hour grows late and goodbyes must be said, everyone feels that good memories of the gathering will go on and on. That’s a great party and I remember each and every one I have ever held or attended. It’s not so hard, if your attitude is just right.
Thank you for visiting and have a happy Halloween!