Sunday, June 20, 2021

Reentering Life

The effects of the pandemic are far-reaching, even if you've never come close to the actual illness itself. People have changed the way they work, the way they live, and all of it was unscripted. We figured it out as we went. 

My work as a writer helped me be a step ahead of the rest of the work force, since I was used to working from home, by myself, and communicating via computer and phone. But for a lot of Americans, that scenario became, overnight, the way business was done. Zoom meetings replaced actual face-to-face contact. People gradually began to lose social skills. 

Thankfully, a large percentage of America is now vaccinated, and the infection rate has slowed to a crawl. America is now reopening, a little at a time. I took advantage of this rebirth by doing something I hadn't been able to do in over a year. 

I went to the movies. 

I didn't quite know what to expect. It was a much anticipated movie and, even though it was a Friday matinee, I thought there would be a crowd of folks clamoring for a seat. But it seems Covid has made everyone cautious. Only about a third of the seats ended up being occupied, and we sat a respectable distance from one another. Covid has changed the way we interact with one another. 

As a romance writer, I can't help but wonder if this shift in the way we respond to each other will affect story lines in the next couple of years. Even without a mask, we're still guarded. Will it crop up in our creative endeavors as well? 

What do you think?

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Book Boyfriends

Every female reader of romance novels has at one time or another, developed a crush on one of the dashing heroes in the books they pick up. Do you remember your heart pounding over one of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton brothers? How about Jamie Fraser in Outlander? Or, if you're like me and go way back, how about Nicholas Stafford from Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor?

It's one thing to develop a crush on the hero when you're reading the book–that means the author has done her job well. But it's quite another thing when the author develops the crush on the hero she's writing about. 

Here's my tale...

For the last several years I've been ghostwriting a series of books for someone else. I turn in the story and it gets published under another name. I hold no rights to it and can never claim I had anything to do with it. This has been a nice setup so far. I get paid for my work up front, and I don't have to spend any of that money promoting the book, or take time away from my writing to try to push sales of said book. For my latest endeavor, I needed to develop a hero who had survived the Civil War. 

My first idea was to have my hero be a spy for the newly-formed Pinkerton Agency. However, every able-bodied man in his 20s or 30s would have been expected to fight unless he had some kind of disability. What kind of disability could I create for the man to keep him from the battlefield so he could do his spy business, but also would have appeal to the ladies? After pondering this for several days, I invented Eye-Patch Guy. Since I'd worn an eye patch as a child as a cure for amblyopia, I was drawn to my invented hero. Which got me to thinking about other men over the years who wore eye patches. Sammy Davis, Jr. came to mind, as did Dan Crenshaw, now serving in Congress. Yes, men with eye-patches were sexy, at least to me. The more I thought about creating this man's story and then giving him away, the more I realized I couldn't do so. 

What to do? 

I couldn't abandon Eye-Patch Guy. So, I created another Civil War hero for my ghostwriting tale, and he's coming along nicely. I'm holding on to the one who makes my heart flutter. I'll write his story and publish it under my own name. Whether I get paid for writing it is not important at this point. What is important is I'll be able to point to him with pride. 

Once I give him a name other than Eye-Patch Guy. And come up with a heroine worthy of him. 

Any ideas?

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Stepping Back In Time

Part of my fascination with historical fiction is so I can take trips to historical American destinations and claim I'm doing "business" rather than just goofing off. Such was the case last week, on Memorial Day. While most Americans were gathered round the grill or waving flags at a parade honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, I was honoring our past by visiting one of only two remaining covered bridges in North Carolina.


The Pisgah Bridge was built in 1911 by J. J. Welch. Cost to build this chunk of Americana was a whopping $40. It is 54 feet in length and is a one-lane bridge. I tried to ignore the graffiti that mars the walls of the bridge and focus on the design instead. 

It spans a lovely little river, and there's a scenic trail that goes from one side of the river to the other, via a foot bridge. This gem from the past is only about an hour from my home, yet it took me three years to get here. Worth every mile. Now, when my hero or heroine need to cross a wooden bridge, I'll remember the sound my feet made as I walked from one side to the other. 

I'll be able to describe the muddiness of the water and the silence of the surrounding forest. (I'll leave out the high-pitched screams of the children who were also at the bridge.)

The other bridge is part of the Appalachian Trail, on the far western side of the state. I'll have to get to it someday. Right now, the little Pisgah Bridge is enough. 

How about you? Where do you go to search for inspiration?

Sunday, May 30, 2021

What's In a Name?

 Recently, I decided to dust off a manuscript that's been languishing under the proverbial bed for years and redo it. I blame Covid for giving me too much time to think about things. This is the story that started me on my writing path but which never saw the light of day, despite being written and rewritten numerous times. 

Part of my redo is to rename my main characters. No one knows anymore, or cares if they do, that Mary Jane used to be a code name for marijuana. 

And the hero's name needs to change also, since basing your characters on real persons can be filled with all kinds of landmines that are better avoided. He can still be from the same era, just not bear the name of a famous person.

So, new names are in the works. Along with a new title for the story. What, you might ask, am I keeping from the old manuscript? 

That's yet to be determined, other than the basic premise,  Time travel has always held an appeal for me. It's a good way to combine my love of history with my enjoyment of contemporary situations. And, after the crazy year we've all been through, it'll be fun to bounce back and forth from the past to the present, and figure out which is the more harrowing. 

As Rachel Maddow is fond of saying, watch this space.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Is It Just Me?

 Finally, during the latter part of the week, our temps here in the Sandhills have turned seasonal. It seems like summer has taken its sweet old time getting here. My office is set up in my Carolina Room, which is mostly comprised of windows. So while I add another chapter to my ghostwriting story, my eyes seem to be straying to the outdoors more and more often. 

I keep telling myself I need to put 1,000 words at a minimum on the page before I can get into my shorts and head out to my swing where I can breathe in the warm air and feel the sun on my skin. But these days, when the sky is Carolina blue and the open window carries the scent of freshly mown grass, those 1,000 words are hard to come by. 

Each writer has his or her own method for getting words from their head to the page, and no two people are alike, just as no two stories are alike. Usually, my method is by daily word count, but some days are harder than others. Those are the days I pray for rain, so I'm not tempted to head out of doors before my goal is reached. It must be the time of year. Keeping my head down and my eyes on the keyboard must be a seasonal thing. Right? 

Or is it just me?

Sunday, May 16, 2021


 Regardless of what CDC says, I'm reluctant to give up my mask or get on a plane, even being fully vaccinated against Covid. So, when a friend invited me to join her at a local B&B I jumped at the opportunity. 

For two days and nights, I let someone else cook breakfast for me. I roamed through the historic district of one of the small towns near my house, entering shops I'd driven by many times but never wandered into. I took care of a few chores that I'd been putting off, since I knew my friend would be busy for a couple hours each day. Best of all, I got to spend some quality time with my friend, who is always rushed when she does come to town and we can barely carve out some time for a quick lunch. Oh, and I found an autographed copy of a new book by my favorite author in the local bookstore. Who could ask for anything more? 

So, if you're starting to stick your toe into the real world again, but want to take baby steps, I highly recommend a staycation. It will do your psyche a world of good. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Fine Fiction or Smut?

I recently read on Facebook a conversation one of my writing buddies recently had with an acquaintance. My friend, who I'll call Ramona, is one feisty lady who has had a long career as an author and who is known for her sharp wit. When the woman found out Ramona wrote romance, she rolled her eyes and told Ramona the woman's mother used to read that smut. Then, realizing she may have offended Ramona, the woman tried to walk back her statement. 

Ramona was having none of it. 

After finding out Ramona had over 130 books already in print and more at a publisher, waiting to be released, the woman muttered something about how nice it must be. Ramona replied that most days it was nice, except when she ran across someone who referred to her work as smut. 

Ramona's final comment in the telling of this story was to say she'd forget the woman tomorrow, but had no doubt the woman would always remember her. 

You have to develop a thick skin if you're going to be a writer. I've been to events where the romance writers are placed in the back of the room while "true" fiction writers get center stage. Romance writers are the lifeblood of the publishing world, but industry respect doesn't necessarily follow. 

Yet, we persist. Especially in this age of Covid, hugs are few and far between, and a good romantic story about two people finding love feels much like a hug. The story line wraps you in warmth as you quickly turn the pages and you think about the story long after you've set the book down. 

So, does that qualify as fine fiction? If it makes you stop and think about the characters and how they develop over time? If the story brings to life the setting, so you can smell the freshly cut grass of the suburbs or feel the sand between your toes at the beach? If you cry along with the characters at the loss of a life, or your heart starts pumping wildly during a harrowing scene? 

Is that fine fiction? Or is it merely smut? 

You be the judge.