Pansy time

As August wans,  cooler temperatures hint at fall and herald pansy season here in my garden. Soon, nurseries and big box home store garden centers will feature flat after flat after flat of these surprisingly hardy flowers that tolerate so well the mild winters typical of this region. so many yellow pansies

Yellow ones are my favorite, but there are plenty of white, blue, deep violet, and many mixes so everyone can select a favorite.

Pansies were the inspiration for my latest novel, Yellow Pansies in a Blue Cobalt Jar. And now, wherever I travel for plots and refreshment, I grab pics of yellow ones. Once I started looking for them, I found them everywhere.

According to the Language of Flowers popular during  Victorian days, Pansies symbolized loving thoughts and attraction. The main character of that story, Boomer Rhose Guerin, found encouragement and hope as she pushed through family crises to hold on to her marriage, yet pursue her own identity.

In a few short weeks, you’ll know where to find me—yes, busy in my garden and planters adding happy pansies!

 

Remembering a poem fondly

All is so clear in hindsight, isn’t it? I wrote short stories and poetry throughout grammar and high school without recognizing writing would be the constant joy of my life. While additional paths criss-crossed my journey, I’ve just uncovered some dog-eared, early published materials … and it’s like meeting my younger self.

Seeing the magazine cover from the issue that held my first poems, the small payment check received fifty years ago, the gracious letter from the Editor-in-Chief, Sylvie Schuman, acknowledging my contribution is like reviewing a standalone journal. Every word of that letter places me back exactly to the time I first opened the envelope and read her message. And she said magic words any author lives for: “I shall be happy to see more of your creative work in the future.” It took my breath away. Of course I sent another and it too was published. Yes, I was ecstatic. 0306161632~2_resized

There was even a fan letter from Beth Johnson written on the softest blue onion skin stationery so popular with girls of the ’60s:

You probably think this is very strange having me writing to you when you don’t even know me. But I just wanted to write a little note to tell you how much I love your poem, ‘Apart from love.’ It is really beautiful. 0306161634~2_resized

Wow! I’d love to meet up with Beth somehow after all this time. Beth, if you’re out there, please let me know. How I would have loved to have encouraged my younger self’s writing life and hint at the publishing adventures that awaited. Perhaps there’s a story-line here.

Feeling grateful for the perspective of time and sending encouragement to anyone who simply cannot resist putting words to paper!

Book Club selection

The thrill of the work, the writing, planning, drafting, revision … is in a reader’s reaction to the story. When my publisher releases it to the public I anxiously await feedback and reviews. Did the story move my readers; give them something to ponder, or wonder about; provide some new little piece of information my research enabled me to share?

Today I received affirmation of my work in the happy faces of a book club in Warrenton, North Carolina. To see their joy sharing the stories read over the course of a year moves me. This pic encourages me to wrestle through more plots and move forward with whatever work in progress piece I’m working on. It’s like a beautiful Christmas present for me that I can share with readers! And I’m so grateful! Ahhhh, the writing life.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to readers everywhere!

Researching vintage and loving it!

My current work in progress, Loving Vintage, has renewed my quest for exploring vintage articles and made me more appreciative of period clothing. Heroine Annie Savone knows all about vintage clothing and selects only the finest for the shop she manages. She had a lot to teach me. My research is rich with vintage shops here in the Raleigh, North Carolina area and I’m making a point of visiting each one. I’d love to share these shops as I come across them.

The most recent is Two Birds, a darling little shop in Neuse that’s packed with artfully, curated pieces of interest. There’s much to be said about how the items in a shop are arranged. If the articles are just thrown  Two birds shop together they appear like clutter. When items are thoughtfully assembled, you can definitely feel the pull of a grouping … and consequently find yourself wanted to take them all home! Self-discipline is an important ally when visiting the cutest shops for sure. Annie has on staff, a celebrity stylist who has an eye for display, and a vintage authenticator who is a clothes psychic. The clothes psychic can receive impressions about the clothing’s past owners. This trio is involved in quite the adventure right now!

Do you have favorite vintage shops where you are? Let me know!

Learning to love vintage

While vintage clothing may have been low on my priority list, the idea of period costumes, and period culture always intrigued me. Years ago I participated in a letter-writing exchange where those that loved letter-writing could select by subject, other letter-writers who also enjoyed the same interests. The Letter Exchange.

The peculiar charm of letters — perhaps also, their greatest value — is brought home to us when they are familiar, unstudied expressions of thought and feeling; when they betray no sense of a larger audience than the friends for whom alone they were written. — Edward T. Mason

The letters were fascinating always. One artsy pen friend, a costume designer, shared with me how the discovery of a curved seam changed the history of the long-worn roman togas into how fashion looks today. Now that I have my own personal historical fashion overview of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s it’s easier to identify the different shapes and characteristics of each time period and appreciate the changes.

I became intrigued with those that lived in those years and fashions. I wondered how someone without a personal history might identify clues to their beginnings through fashion. As I explored these ideas the beginnings of Loving Vintage, my work-in-progress, took hold. Heroine Annie Savone was adopted. She’s not certain of her authentic beginnings long-clouded by the adoption, but a vintage photo that has remained with her after all these years provides clues.

As always, synchronicity played into the story development. On a visit to Wilmington, North Carolina, we discovered a vintage clothing/artisan/antique neighborhood on Castle Street, just blocks from downtown Wilmington. One particular shop, Every Good Thing Artisan Gallery, was a joy to visit. In fact, proprietor Kathy Huber wanted to know more about my stories and asked if she could place my books in her shop. If you find yourself in Wilmington, I recommend visiting Castle Street and Kathy’s shop.

I’m happy to report I’m Loving Vintage right now and the wide world of remembrance and seeking our authentic selves!

Holiday stories!

Christmas ballsAround this time of year I see beautiful covers for new holiday-themed story releases and I have to admit, I admire those authors who plan such a story and execute it. For me, though, many years of finding time to grab a book and read it, meant I’d have about two-three books in progress and in varying states of completion … and any holiday story would certainly only be completed AFTER the date in the story and definitely not during a holiday stretch. Reading a Christmas story in July doesn’t do it for me.

I’ve never felt an urge to write a holiday timeline. I think because I’m disappointed in holiday over-commercialization in general today and it would follow that my characters would not be so wide-eyed, or motivated by a date on their calendars. Characters shouldn’t feel they have to take action because of an arbitrary date, but perhaps that’s a story right there … understanding the why of all that and where it leads them. The jaded view is their conflict would all be resolved by January 2, if you know what I mean. While I did include a brief Christmas prep scene in A Path through the Garden with Leyla Jo and Hal in Rome, Italy … the holiday was more about emphasizing the theme of family and Leyla Jo’s desire to share a baby with Hal.

How about you? Do you enjoy a good holiday-themed book? Do you look for a story title specifically to read during this time? Have you wondered how characters from my stories might celebrate their holidays?

Wishing you all the happiness of these coming days and the most healthy, prosperous, and wise New Year!

Writing about death

So, from Wednesday my family has been taking up the challenge to love and assist my dear 95 year old mother-in-law, who is still working, crocheting baby hats and blankets for volunteer groups, savvy, funny, alert and beloved, to pass over to join her deceased family. In our crazy world, there doesn’t seem to be time or provision for a meaningful death … a death with dignity. Her diagnosis is Aortic Dissection wherein her Aorta is shredding apart. (You may remember John Ritter , Three’s Company, died from this.) At 95 any type of surgery, anesthesia is out of the question.

It got me thinking about how many of you ever include death in your stories? Or perhaps find it uncomfortable to read a story that somehow addresses this important part of life?

In my story, A Path Through the Garden, I talk about this transition and how the main characters must face this challenge with love and compassion. As a Holistic Nurse, I included information within the story about this profound transition, end of life care and introduced the concept of Golden Rooms. And here might be an example of a strictly romance genre story vs Women’s Fiction. In a romance there MUST be a Happy Ever After ending. Women’s Fiction on the other hand can have a Happy Ever After, but also address other less than happy events women face with strength and compassion in their lives. Sometimes this is a Happy For Now ending where the story conflict involves life and death and how it affects the characters.

Also, in this story, I created the character “Henrietta” who is my mother-in-law. Here is where as writers it would be fabulous to be able to rewrite life as easily as writing words on a page.

Our challenge continues though we’ve been advised we only have days left with her. Ahhh, the writing life provides another level with which we experience our everyday lives, heartbreaks, and life challenges.