Friday, September 13, 2013

Irrational Fears

I never did go to my reunion. I've always hated mingling, cocktail parties or any situation where I might have to spend hours standing around talking to people I barely know. I love talking one on one, but throw me into a group setting and I panic. Probably comes from my wallflower days at high school dances. Just one of my irrational fears.

However, my husband is much more social and loves talking so I signed him up on a web site for information about his high school reunion. Guess who responded? His old high school sweetheart, who is now divorced. She tells him she knows he has children and says she would like to meet his wife. I explain to my husband that this is her way of finding out if he's still married and ask him not to respond, hoping she'll get the message and go away. But no. She writes back again. So he responds telling her about his wife, children and grandchildren. I am hoping that she will then recognize the impropriety of a single woman trying to keep up an ongoing correspondence with a married man.

Wrong again. This time she reminds him about the time he took her to the prom. With my husband's permission, I write her telling her since I know their history together, I find it painful for her to try and walk him down memory lane. She then writes me a long epistle telling me that their relationship was many years ago (No shit Sherlock, even I can count) and I have children and grandchildren with him, while she loves children, she only has one. If she was going for the sympathy vote here, she seriously overestimated my empathy. All I could think of was, if she was only pregnant once, she probably didn't have a belly. Then she says that first love is just first love. I wanted to scream "exactly." Love you never forget and tend to idealize over time. Except if like mine, your first love was a jerk that you thank your lucky stars every day that you had the good sense not to marry. But I digress.

The point is, I am fully aware that the odds of my husband, who has been totally faithful and is painfully honest, of ever renewing a romance with old flame on the basis of a few emails are extremely slim. Therefore I have no reason to be jealous.  However, feelings are not like bubbles, they don't go away when you pop them.

Why is it that people think, if they tell you that your fears are ungrounded or irrational, that you won't be afraid anymore? Afraid of flying? Simply tell them that planes are safer than cars. Voila, they hop on the next plane. What mother who puts her child on the bus to school for the first time doesn't hold her breath until he walks back in the door. She will spend those hours in fear that the bus will be in an accident, get lost on the way to school, the child will get off on the wrong stop and be lost, or that the other children will hurt him in some way. While none of that is likely to happen, the fear remains.

I confess that I love my husband so much that the thought of him remembering and thinking about another woman makes my stomach hurt, however harmless. Irrational? Of course. Still, when she said she wouldn't write anymore, I simply wrote back thank you.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Friends and Reunions

Recently I have been thinking about friends. I have one of the milestone high school reunions coming up this year. I won't tell you which one, but the fact that I have grandchildren should put you in the ballpark. I know that there will be people there who have been friends since childhood, maybe even kindergarten and I wonder what that feels like.

Even before I met my husband, my family moved around. So when he joined the Air Force and for the next twenty years we moved on the average of every three years, I didn't find it devastating or even unusual. We considered it an adventure, new people, new places to see, new experiences. It was an exciting life and I don't regret one minute.

We made many friends along the way, but only for short periods of time, eventually losing touch or growing apart as the miles separated us. We kept in touch with our extended family as much as possible, but we weren't a part of the their everyday lives.

It wasn't until, we started traveling as a couple that we noticed that most people our age travel in packs of either friends they've know forever, or family. Ten years ago in order to be situated close to all our grandchildren, we settled in this small rural town where everybody knows everybody including their parents, grandparents and siblings. While I still don't always fit in and often get lost when they talk of events or relationships in the past, I can be thankful they can't tease me about my antics as a teenager. They only know me as I am today.

As I've become older, I've become more and more of an introvert. I love time alone with my husband and don't particularly enjoy socializing or talking on the phone. However, every once in a while I wonder what it would be like to have that one special friend who has known me forever and loves me anyway.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

If I Love to Write, Then Why Don't I?

I don't have writer's block so much as writer's apathy. I have three writing  projects started, one chapter of a sequel to The Crystal's Curse, three chapters to a new YA novel and ten chapters to my third mystery featuring Valerie Peterson and the hunky Delgado. What I seem to lack is motivation. Since I'm the farthest along on the mystery, that's the one I pull up first. I read the last chapter I've written and then stare at the page. Suddenly, I need a drink or something to eat. The last time when I told myself I would walk around and think about it, I wandered outside and began pulling weeds. Of course, by the time, I came back in, I was sweaty and dirty and needed a shower and then a nap. No writing got done that day. Believe me when I tell you that in my wildest dreams I never saw myself preferring to pull weeds over writing.

So I have to ask myself why? Make no mistake, writing is work. storylines and words don't just swirl around in my head begging to be written. Even when I write an outline, I rarely follow it, so I don't always know what happens next. Even when I do, I often find it difficult to get from where I am in the story to where it needs to go next. The transitions from one plot point to another can be difficult. Still, it's work that I normally enjoy and gives me great satisfaction, usually much more than yard work.

Maybe that's the problem.When I started writing, it was a lark, something to do in my spare time. I didn't really expect to be able to write a book. Then when I did, I wanted to do better the next time, so I read books, joined a writers group, and went to conferences. Somewhere along the line instead of being fun, it began to feel like work. Now that's how I think of it, something I should do rather than something I get to do. So from now on I'll find time to write, right after I watch the French Open Tennis finals and then read that new book by Nora Roberts

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I hate Mother's Day

 I was going to say that I always hated Mother's Day, but I realized that wasn't true. When I was a new mom, I needed that once a year card to reassure me that what I was doing was noticed and worthwhile. Especially from the man who had given me this precious gift and was able to sleep through the night and then go off to play with his friends. Okay, so he really went to work, but when I was confined to the house for several hours each day without adult companionship, it felt like he had the better deal. And later I have to say there's nothing like being given a handmade card or gift from a sweet little face glowing with pride and love.

It's only after the kids were grown that I learned to hate the day. It's so commercial and frankly embarrassing. All the tributes to mothers everywhere leave me feeling slightly nauseous and somehow guilty. I wasn't a perfect mother, but I loved my kids from the moment they were conceived. I'm very proud of the way they have turned out. They don't owe me anything, certainly not gratitude. Let me just state for the record that I know I'm missing some female genes, the ones that cause women to love shopping, handicrafts and crying. I rarely cry and never seek out opportunities to do so. It leaves me blotchy and exhausted.

My complaint is that the retail industry has created a day where everyone feels obligated to phone home or buy sappy cards to prove that they love their mothers, whether or not they really do. Mothers then feel slighted or neglected if any of her children fail to do so.

 I am giving my children permission this year to ignore the day altogether. All of them have shown their love and made me a part of their lives all year, and if they hadn't, one lousy card or phone call isn't going to make up for it.

Oh, by the way, if you forget my birthday, I'll hunt you down and slap you with the kind of guilt, only a mother can wield.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I Don't Want To BeThe Grownup. I Want My Mommy

Lately, my mom has been in and out of the hospital. After a difficult month, she is now in a rehab facility trying to get back some strength. At eighty-six, it's not easy, but she is doing remarkably well. Much to her relief, I've taken over her finances. I spent several hours changing the address on bills so they would come directly to me and then spent four frustrating hours trying to straighten out her checkbook, only to find out there was nothing wrong with it. The check book didn't jive with the bank because she forgot to tell me that she has a couple of bills that are automatically deducted from her account. Often her explanations are confusing because she can't always come up with the right words.

She took care of my father during his lengthy battle with Alzheimer's. However, since his death nearly ten years ago, my mom began relying on me to give her advice and help her make decisions. This role reversal is not only difficult, but heart wrenching. It's bad enough to watch as the years have taken their toll. Her back is bent and she walks with a cane. Her beautiful face is creased and her skin is thin and fragile and heals very slowly, if at all. The slightest pressure causes agony, bruising and sometimes scars. Still, even the physical changes aren't at difficult to accept as watching her loss of confidence in herself.

She was my rock. As a teenager, I fought her tooth and nail. We rarely agreed, yet I valued her opinion (not that I ever let her know that.). She taught me that as a woman I could do or be anything I wanted to be. She loved my father, but even having been raised in an era when many women considered themselves reliant on and sometimes subservient to men, my parents operated as a unit, with equal say in all decisions. They fought as passionately as they loved.

Now she hesitates to make a decision without consulting me. Thankfully, most of the time her mind is clear, even when she tells me that her insurance is paid by her credit card when it is really paid directly from her checking account. She knows what she means.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Who needs a Platform

According to the experts, every new writer needs a platform. From what I've read, I'd sum up a platform as defining the writer's expertise. Or in other words, what qualifies you to write this story. I can see why that would be important for a non-fiction writer. If I'm going to take advise from someone or lend credibility to their point of view, I'd certainly want to know their background in the subject. As a fiction writer, coming up with a platform is a little more difficult.

 If you're a veteran writing war stories, a history professor who writes historical romance, or a mystery writer with experience as a lawyer, policeman or coroner, the theory is that people will be more likely to buy your books. However, what do you do if you write science fiction or fantasy?

Frankly, as a reader,I don't care about an author's expertise and rarely read the back of the book jacket when perusing the bookstore. All I care about is how well they write. With the availability of the Internet any author can research all the facts he or she needs to make the plot believable. Some of my favorite authors have never been anything but writers. Additionally, a list of awards for poetry or short stories won't convince me someone can write a novel. I look for a great jacket synopsis and a riveting first chapter. If I get to the end of the story and can't wait to read more, I'll research and buy every thing the author has ever written. If I get bored half way through, I'll avoid that author, even if they have a list of best selling novels to their credit.

In my opinion, the only reason for a fiction writer to struggle writing a platform is to sell your manuscript to a publisher. They are the only ones who care.

Just in case not every reader agrees with me, I was a Director of Human Resources for a Las Vegas strip hotel just like my heroine in Double Down and Jealousy.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Unbelievable Characters

Authors create characters sometimes based on people they've known and sometimes out of their imagination. During the course of the story the reader learns not only what they look like, but some of their background, likes, dislikes and motivations. It drives me crazy when I get to the end of the book and I have to ask myself why that character chose an illogical course of action.

I just finished reading a romantic suspense by a popular author. One of the main characters was a totally selfish woman who slept with her sister's boyfriend,stole other women's husbands and was so totally focused on her career as TV personality that she staged a kidnapping just to up her ratings. When another women is killed, her only concern is how it will affect her. Okay, I buy all that. Then somewhere near the end the author throws in that years ago the woman became pregnant, went somewhere to have the baby and gave it away because a child would be a detriment to her career. I have to ask myself, why didn't she have an abortion? It's not like this woman valued life. Someone obsessed with her physical ability to attract men wouldn't go through nine months of pregnancy. The author gives us no reason, no explanation for this.

The only thing I can come up with is that the author threw it in to make the story go where she wanted. It isn't the first time I've noticed an author sacrifice the believability of a character for the plot line.  Isn't this something the story editor should catch?

Authors, if you have one of your characters do something alien to the motivations you've created, at least give us a plausible reason, some temporary change of heart or possibly a fragment of back story to explain their actions.

Monday, January 7, 2013

More Information Than I Need

I read a lot, three or four books a week. I like the escapism of fiction. I enjoy learning about other places and things as long as it's woven into the story line. I've noticed recently that more and more authors are filling pages by telling me everything they've researched on a particular topic, or describing in detail a place that has no particular relevance to the story.

Now if I'm reading science fiction or fantasy and the author has created a whole new world, then the description is necessary. However, if I'm reading a mystery, I don't need to know what the police station or autopsy room look like other than in general terms as the characters move about. I don't need  to know exactly how the autopsy is conducted or the detailed scientific analysis that went in to determining the information derived from those procedures. Tell me the outcomes and skip the long mind numbing scientific explanations.

I also don't need a history lesson on the buildings or city the characters are in unless it's important to the story.  More and more I find myself skipping several pages of irrelevant information just to get back to the action.

It's got me wondering whether it's me. Have I've just gotten impatient as I've grown older or have readers changed, insisting that every book have something of substance in them to be worth their time?