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Saturday, November 08, 2014

A Grasshopper Without Regrets



There two kinds of people in the world as we all know - ants and grasshoppers. I wonder if it is possible to change from one to the other or if those qualities are so innate as to be immutable?

Of course, all of us have some characteristics of each but most of us lean distinctly one way or the other. I have always listed far to the grasshopper side. Like one of my heroines, Scarlett O'Hara, I've always been able to tell myself, "I'll worry about that tomorrow".

My mother-in-law, whom I loved dearly, was an ant to the nth degree. I can remember sitting on the bank of the creek beside the yard on a lovely sunny summer day when she came out to see me.

"How can you sit here doing nothing when you have dirty dishes in your sink?" she asked disapprovingly.

"I'm not doing nothing....I'm watching the minnows and the crawdads and the dragonflies and enjoying the warmth of the sun.....and I can do it because all those things will be gone soon but the dishes will still be there whenever I go in."

She and my father-in-law denied themselves when they retired...trips and furniture and a new car - because they put everything back for their "old age". And yes, they got old and they ended up in a nursing home because of my father-in-law's illness....and soon, all their savings was gone. They still ended up on Medicaid, only a few month's later, when their own money was used up. I figure when my times comes, I'll just be on Medicaid from the git-go.

When she was in that nursing home, she told me once - "I wish I'd been more like you and worried less and enjoyed life more."

But she couldn't change her nature anymore than I can.

People like me, grasshoppers, shouldn't even be trusted with credit cards. It's too easy for us to convince ourselves that we need that vacation for our peace of mind, whether we can afford it or not. Or that the spare bedroom would be PERFECT if only it had that puffy pink comforter from Ebay on the bed and what I spend on Amazon, I don't even count because, well, books.....

Grasshoppers are self-indulgent. I am addicted to smoking but I never do as one friend does...she buys four cartons every month when she gets paid and she rations herself to make sure they last until she will be able to buy more. Me, I smoke with abandon - "smok'em if you got'em!" I assume if I run out, I'll either think of a way to get more or I'll just do without. Rationing is not in the realm of my possibility.

Both of my husband's were grasshoppers, like me. Because of it, we careened around the country from Indiana to Illinois to South Carolina to Texas and several more points in between. When we had money, we lived high and when we didn't, we pulled in our horns and survived. Our lifestyle was what my father always called - "chicken today and feathers tomorrow". If you ask me now, if I thought the chickens were worth the feathers, I'd say yes.

I never thought about the future in my working life. I can't even remember how many jobs I've ever had - bartender, waitress, secretary, legal assistant, real estate salesperson, insurance underwriter, chicken house mother. I've soldered and punch-pressed and taped and cut hoses and orientated in all kinds of factories. I've worked with cops and robbers and bikers and boozers and druggies and musicians. I worked with deadbeats and devout Christians, rich people and poor people and blacks and whites and latinos and learned from and enjoyed all of them.

When I finally went to work at City Hall and then followed my boss to the Sheriff's Department, I stuck because I loved the work and the people. When I got fired by the new Sheriff, I went to the Prosecutor's office and it turned out that I'd, almost accidentally, worked at enough government jobs to earn a pension from the Public Employee's Retirement Fund. Meanwhile, many of my peers who stayed at positions they hated for "security" found out that security isn't always a dependable thing. I actually ended up better off financially than many of them.

I make just enough money being retired to survive if I'm careful....but I'm not good at being careful. When I first get paid, I'm generous-hearted with what I have. I tear through the aisles of the grocery like I have unlimited funds. A big fat steak? Yes! And chocolate ice cream and Starbucks coffee pods and real butter and cheese and fruit. If I run out of money before I run out of month, oh, well, chicken today and feathers tomorrow!

I write the same way I live. No plan, no outline, no particular genre....just plunge in and see what happens. Sometimes, I'm as excited to find out how it all comes out as any reader could be. I say what I think and I'm not concerned about offending people. I've always been that way about my political writing and now I'm the same with fiction and taking on taboo subjects.

So, here I am at 68 - the ultimate grasshopper - and no regrets.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Flashback - Young Rafe


Rafe was a source of ongoing fascination to his fellow students at Princeton. They envied many things about him. They agreed he was probably a genius, winning awards and carrying an A average, seemingly without even having to try. He was an outstanding athlete, no doubt about that, setting records in both baseball and football. And, handsome? Well, handsome was an understatement. It might describe his lean body and the lazily graceful way he moved. The black hair that curled around his collar, one lock invariably falling onto his forehead. The high cheekbones and unrevealing black eyes and the rare gleaming smile but it didn’t include the air of sensuous magnetism that was an elemental part of his persona.

On the other hand, Rafe didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs He didn’t confide in anyone. He never came to any of their parties and no one was ever invited to his room. Did he ever get lonely, they wondered? They thought there was no one on campus who he considered a friend. He picked up lots of girls in his ice blue Corvette but sex wasn’t the same as fellowship and wasn’t fellowship a big part of what college life was all about?

One evening, one of the Witherspoon residents, Kirk Stephens, came to his room.

“I’m here to ask a favor,” he said nervously when Rafe opened the door. “Can I come in?”

Rafe opened the door wider and motioned for Kirk to enter. He took the chair by the desk, one booted foot casually crossed over his knee, while Kirk sat on the bed.

Kirk noticed there were no posters on the walls, no dirty clothes on the floor, the desk was neat and the bed was made. In other words, it was nothing like a typical dorm room.

“What’s the favor?”

“Well, some of the other guys on the team bet me $50 that I couldn’t get you to answer a personal question about yourself.”

Rafe looked at him curiously. “Like what?”

“Like anything! Have you ever been in love? What makes you anxious?  Do you have a best friend?”

“Why does anyone care?”

“Jesus, Rafe, don’t you realize what a mystery man you are? Even the sportswriters call you “the enigmatic Rafe Vincennes” because you won’t give them interviews even though the rest of us would crawl on our hands and knees to be featured on the sports page. You joke around with us at practice but you never hang out after. You have women falling all over you but you never go out with the same one twice. It drives us all nuts trying to figure you out!”

Rafe’s impassive dark gaze fastened on Kirk, then his white smile drifted across his face.

“I’ve never been in love. I don’t have a best friend. I don’t get anxious.”

He stood up and that was it. The interview was over. All Kirk’s mates agreed: he didn’t earn the $50.  


Thursday, October 09, 2014

New Book - Speed, Sex and Retribution - 8th in the Rafe Vincennes series


Oh, my goodness, I am glad to finally get this one published! I was in the middle of it during my Mom's last illness (Alzheimer's) and finally, her death. Taking care of my sweet, courageous little mother as she disappeared into dementia was a time when creativity was in rather short supply. I would plink around on the book for a while but my brain seemed to be working in a kind of creaking first gear. Mom called me constantly and then didn't remember what she wanted me for, so that even finishing a paragraph started to seem overwhelming. I'm not whining. I'd do it many times over for the woman who was my rock for the first 50 years of my life.

It's just that as the book dragged on, it started to feel that I'd been working on it forever. I was grateful it was a Rafe book because Rafe is my best writing companion. I know him so well, I didn't have to think about what he'd do in any situation, I just knew.

After Mom's died, it took me a while to get back in the groove. I made changes to the house to put my own stamp on it. I gave away over 1,000 dolls and 200 teapots and replaced them with a few pieces of art I loved. There were Mom's financial affairs to be taken care of. And grieving to be done.

After months, I was finally able to give Speed, Sex and Retribution my full attention again but I was eager to finish this book and to start over with something fresh and new. Bless Rafe's heart, he came through for me as he always does.

In this volume, Rafe still races in NASCAR but his father begins a new venture at the other end of the garage property with the building of the Vincennes Stud Farm, where he hopes the stallions, Swift Reckoning and Rolling Fog, father foals as successful in thoroughbred racing as Vincennes Team Racing has been in NASCAR.

Rhiannon is still making movies and the Vincennes kids are growing up. Rafe still follows his wayward ways and his siblings still call on him to be the family Enforcer, thanks to his lethal skill set.

Speed, Sex and Retribution has been published now. It is available at Amazon and Smashwords

My work in progress is about three boys who grew up in a family of Irish Travelers, a fascinating subset of American life.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Ah, A Naked Jamie...The Outlander

Well, we finally got to see a naked Jamie (and Claire too, if anyone cares). After weeks of arousal, we finally had satisfaction. I loved it because it was so real. Although there was an obvious attraction between Claire and Jamie, they had to hurriedly get married to make Claire a Scot to keep her from the evil Black Jack Randall. Naturally, they were both nervous, especially knowing  the other ribald Highlanders were waiting in the Inn below so they would be prepared to swear that
 the marriage had been consummated.

Jamie talked and talked, telling her tales of his life and family. Claire drank and drank until gradually, they began to feel more relaxed. When they finally did the deed, it being Jamie's first time, it was about what you'd expect. Wham Bam, Thank you, Ma'am - so that when he asked her if she liked it, she was sort of like, "well, um, it was okay." He was disappointed but not surprised because his fellows Highlanders had warned him that most women didn't care for sex.

The second time, Claire took matters into her own hands, so to speak, and I suppose, Jamie was feeling slightly less urgent, the first rush of lust having been depleted. She taught him that women can, in fact, be the assertive partner at times. And when she performed oral sex on him, it was obvious he thought he'd died and gone to heaven.

By the third time, they were comfortable with one another and they simply enjoyed what was growing between them, a friendship as well as a sexual partnership.

Anyway, it was not the usual masterful male and ditzy female scenario, thank God.

And then there was one more episode and it was over for six freaking months!

I haven't watched a television series for so long, I hardly remember what it used to be like but it doesn't seem as if you only got to see six shows before a six month hiatus.

Now, Jamie will be hanging in a window with a gun while Black Jack holds Claire with a knife to her breast.....for half a year and fans will all be suffering from Outlander withdrawal.

Some things I've learned from the Outlander.

- Kilts are oh so sexy.

- Anything said with a Scottish burr sounds more charming (this is true of an Irish brogue as well)

- Thank heavens, bum rolls for women went out of style.

- Scotland has some of the most gorgeous scenery of anywhere in the world.

- The casting was outstanding for this series and Sam Heughn is the perfect Jamie Fraser. (I worried about this before the show started. If Jamie hadn't been right, that would have been the end for me.)

So now, I'm re-reading the Outlander series to stay in touch during the program's sabbatical.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ingrid Sundberg's Color Thesaurus

I am sharing Ingrid Sundberg's Color Thesaurus this week because I found it so wonderful. I'm pretty sure anyone who is reading this loves words as I do. I imagine sometimes I could swim happily in a pool of them - some cold, some hot, some joyful, some sad, some wistful, some eager. I don't think of individual words as a static collection of letters but rather, almost living things, with different personalities and tempos and moods....and none more so than the words that represent colors.

So here, for your reading pleasure, I present:

The Color Thesaurus

I love to collect words. Making word lists can help to find the voice of my story, dig into the emotion of a scene, or create variety.
One of my on-going word collections is of colors. I love to stop in the paint section of a hardware store and find new names for red or white or yellow.  Having a variety of color names at my fingertips helps me to create specificity in my writing. I can paint a more evocative image in my reader’s mind if I describe a character’s hair as the color of rust or carrot-squash, rather than red.
So for fun, I created this color thesaurus for your reference. Of course, there are plenty more color names  in the world, so, this is just to get you started.
Fill your stories with a rainbow of images!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Speak To Me Not of Genre


Of all the things you have to do to publish a book, choosing a genre is the hardest part. In fact, the very word strikes fear into my heart.

My books are a little bit of a lot of things but not enough of any one thing to call it that. They contain romance (quite non-traditional) and a bit of paranormal and a tad of mystery and some adventure, all sort of thrown together in a genre stew.

I cannot seem to conform enough to slot myself into any of the genre labels. My second book was meant to be a romance. I was determined to follow the guidelines and produce something salable. I'd watched my former student, Liz Flaherty, do it extremely well. She writes great books and gets them published. Damn, I taught her a few little things. Now I'd learn from her. But it didn't work.

Sticks and Carrots turned out to be a romance in the end but only after it wandered far from the acceptable bounds of romance publisher rules.

Another former student I'm in touch with recently told me that he's been publishing erotica. "They practically sell themselves," he said. It's for sure none of my books would ever earn a PG rating. They sometimes deal with taboo subjects and they are quite graphic but they aren't single-minded enough to be considered erotica, not like 50 Shades of Gray in which the sex was the whole point.

My heroes are never quite heroes. They aren't saved by love. They aren't redeemed by honor or patriotism which makes their lawlessness acceptable. And they aren't vampires or werewolves.

I have written eight books in the Rafe Vincennes series. A fan once told me, "there is nobody else in fiction like Rafe." I took that as compliment. But when an editor once asked me what other character I'd liken Rafe to, I gave him the same answer.

"Hmmm," he responded, "that's a problem."

Yes, for me, genre is a problem.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Adding Number 5



I have a Pinterest board entitled "Jimmie, Kimi, Johnny, David". I don't expect anyone else to follow it. It's for my own personal enjoyment. It features pictures of my favorite men.

1) Jimmie Johnson -  six-time NASCAR champion. If I had a young son and was asked to choose who I would want his role model to be, it would be Jimmie. He's handsome, a loving family man, an admirable representative of NASCAR, a passionate competitor on the track and a fitness buff. Jimmie is the whole package.

2) Kimi Raikkonen - Champion in Formula One racing, currently driving for Ferrari. Kimi is the opposite of Jimmie. His nickname is the Iceman. He dislikes the press and is frequently either uncooperative or profane. Kimi walks to the beat of his own drummer and doesn't much care if his behavior offends others. His fans love his independent spirit.

3) Johnny Depp - Johnny is beautiful and unconventional. He loves quirky roles that make his looks beside the point - the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, Willie Wonka, Tonto in The Lone Ranger. He is hardly ever a hero in the traditional sense of the word. As Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean, for instance, his character is dishonest and sometimes cowardly. He's a drinker and a carouser. Yet somehow, he comes through in the end with wits and deeds of derring-do.

4) David Garrett - a virtuoso violinist, David has got to be the sexiest musician on earth and this is coming from an old rock and roller who, heretofore, paid no attention to classical music. My musical choices were along the lines of Rod Stewart and AC-DC, the Beatles and the Stones and ZZ Top but David has carried me along to places I never visited before.

And now, I guess, I'm going to have to change the title of my Board to add 5) - Sam Heughn, who plays Jamie Fraser in the Outlander series on Starz. I honestly expected to be disappointed with this series, believing as I did that the producers couldn't possibly find an actor who could do justice to Jamie, who is at the top of my favorite fictional characters....but they did. Sam is a perfect Jamie. He's courageous and tough, yet also sensitive when needs be. He smart and funny and sexy. He can be a macho man while also giving his wife, Claire, absolute respect.

(Incidentally, one of my favorite men used to be Mel Gibson (the Lethal Weapon movies some of the few I've watched more than once) until he went so maniacally right-wing, he turned me off but I may have to go back and re-visit Braveheart now that the Outlander has caused a new fascination with Scotland.)

These are my five - two racers, two actors, one musician, all talented, but ranging from outgoing to anti-social, conventional to non-conformist, all mesmerizing in their own me, at least.