Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On the Outside Looking In

My heroine has always been a team player and well-liked. But right now she's hurting physically and emotionally. She's on the outside looking in and she's having a difficult time moving past the pain and guilt. And if she can't figure out out a way to let the events that brought her to this point go, then she won't have the future she deserves.

Enter the hero. He's alpha all the way, but he's a good man. An honorable man. And a man who doesn't want to be tied down. He's had a huge responsibility since he was a child and he's finally free. Also, his world is miles away from the heroine's world. Still, he's drawn to her and he wants to help her let go of her wounds so she can have a future filled with happiness and love.

Foolish hero believes this future will not include him. Heroine foolishly believes this as well.

But this is a romance novel. They may think they're engaging in a holiday fling with no strings attached, but eventually they'll realize that they're each other's perfect match.

And my heroine will no longer be on the outside looking in. She'll be free, liberated, and transformed by this relationship.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Birth Order: First, Middle, Last, One, or One of Many?

I've been thinking about birth order lately because my novella's heroine is a middle child. My Summer 2014 Indulgence release has a heroine who is an only child. And my Margie Lawson Visceral Response manuscript's heroine is the last child in a family of many. Each of these heroines have different personalities and ways of coping with life, adversity, other people, themselves.

I'm one of two children. The oldest. Possibly the bossiest. But my brother grew up and became his own boss, runs his own company and is a take-charge guy in an understated way. So who's the boss now? The Physicist is one of two and the oldest as well. He's a take-charge guy, too. Coincidentally, my brother and my husband are the sign Taurus.

I'm a Capricorn. Locking horns is the name of the game here.

My daughter is an only child. She's got qualities of a first born child and a last born child as part of her personality. Some people think only children fit a stereotypical "spoiled child" picture. That couldn't be more wrong. I've met a lot of people who are only children and without exception each one of them have not behaved in a spoiled way. If anything, they are generous to a fault and very easy to get along with because they're probably used to navigating between two hovering adults. But that's just my theory.

My best friend in the Netherlands is from a family of five and lands smack dab in the middle of the clan. She's a great negotiator, arbitrator and knows how to take care of herself very well. She grew up and has four children; each one of them as unique as the snowflakes that fall in winter.

I'm not sure if birth order impacts personality as much as nature, nurture, life circumstances, and life experiences, but it's interesting to evaluate and understand from a writer's perspective.

So now I'm about to write a story about heroine who has always been stuck in the middle, a good kid with two parents who love her but were busy juggling the demands of running their resort, raising two other children, and loving each other. Sometimes she thought of herself as the "ride along chick." And sometimes being left to her own devices meant she could do what she wanted when she wanted to do it. She also likes being part of group, in the middle of a team and getting things done.

But now she has to face something that has rocked her world, and given her usual spunky optimism a cynical edge. If she doesn't figure out how to redefine herself, she could lose the one man who is perfect for her. Even though he seems completely, totally, out of her league.

I'm curious about your place in the family pecking order. Where did you fall? If you are a middle child or have raised a middle child, I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Take a Breath, Pause, and Remember

So many years have passed since 9/11 impacted our country. Yet, I still remember the day as if it were etched in a mirror. We were living in Fairfax, VA and the Physicist was on his way to work, the College Kid was at school, and I was expecting a love seat to get delivered.

He called. Said turn on the TV. Twin Towers hit.

I listened. I turned on the TV. I watched the second plane hit during a live news report.

I heard the reports about the other planes, called the Physicist, told him to come home. He was on the phone with me when he heard the plane hit the Pentagon, saw the black smoke rising into the blue, oh so blue skies, and I cannot begin to tell you about my terror.

Shortly afterward, my love seat was delivered. The deliverymen, two big strong burly dudes, stood in shock in my living room as we watched the ongoing reports. I may have given them water, coffee, a hug. I don't know. I just remember standing there and feeling numb.

The College Kid was in the second grade. Some parents got their children and brought them home. But I let her stay in school where I knew her teachers and the administration would do everything in their power to protect her. Then I called my church, asked them to pray, and brought out the ironing board.

I ironed and I prayed. I ironed, ironed, ironed. I think I may have ironed my underwear. I know I ironed the linens. Each rhythmic swoosh across the fabric calmed my racing mind as I waited for the Physicist to return home. He did. Then we walked to the school bus stop together to pick up our child.

But so many people didn't come home. So many people didn't get to pick up their children from the school bus stop. And so many people lost someone they loved that day. My throat closes around that memory, the heat of tears prickle behind eyes, the sorrow squeezes my lungs as I write this now.

So now I take a breath, pause, and remember 9/11 by honoring those who were lost, those who responded to that horrific tragedy and were forever changed, and those who continue to serve my country by risking their lives every day for the sweet gift of freedom.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Road Less Traveled: Sometimes Slower is Better than Faster

Last Saturday the Physicist and I decided to go on a road trip to Birmingham. We had no particular reason other than wanting a nice lunch and a stopover at our favorite grocery store, Whole Foods (why can't Whole Foods come to the Madison/Huntsville area? Again a shameful plea on my part) to get cheapo wine and goodies.

Rather than take the freeway, we opted to take the scenic route and drove through small towns via Highway 31. The drive was lovely and stress free. Occasionally, we would have to slow down and stop when we entered the small towns that lined the route, but we didn't mind. It was interesting to see how these towns were doing along this route. Eventually we were dumped into the freeway via a forced entry and we were back to going fast, rushing past exit signs to towns that dot the state of Alabama's map.

The drive only added an extra half an hour to our travel time. It also afforded us a chance to look at something different than our backyard and our neighbors. But it also gave me a glimmer of nostalgia. Although I think freeways have made it easier for people to travel great distances, I wonder how this modern convenience has impacted local economies of the small towns we no longer travel through in our hurry to get from Point A to Point B.

The sight of some of the unkempt storefronts saddened me. As did the loss of the local flavor one gets from stopping at a local diner for lunch and being served by someone who isn't wearing a fast food uniform. Sure the fast food restaurants popping up at all the exits bring money to these towns, but I remember eating at many diners and little shops when I was a child. How many personalities have we missed truly meeting because of the anonymity of the Fast Food Uniform.

I'm not advocating going backward, but occasionally it's nice to meander instead of to dash. And I think the fine art of meandering has been lost to many of us in this country. Well, lost to many except for maybe teenagers, but even they are more busy and active in this time than when I was a kid. I guess I am just wistful for the times when we actually broke bread with our neighbors because we wanted to and not because a weather event like the 2011 tornadoes forced us out of our homes and into our lawns where we actually saw each other.

In a way, I think social media is to social lives what the freeway system is to small towns. Faster contacts, sound bites, and flashes of information have taken over sitting down and chatting over a cup of coffee while watching kids play in the backyard or run through sprinklers.

Though I appreciate speed, and I am the first to admit I'm not the most patient person on the planet (though the flip side of that poor character trait coin is that I get things done fast and on time and respond quickly to others -- take the bad with the good I always say), there are times when I just enjoy taking it a little slower. I like taking the road less traveled, picking up the phone and having a long chat with a friend, and taking the time to cook a meal or host a party where people actually come to my home and use my good dishes.

So do we turn back the hands of time and reverse all the modern conveniences of life? No. I would be lost without air conditioning, a car, my trusty laptop, and my many virtual friends in the cyber world. However, I suggest that seeking a balance which includes both worlds might be a good way of living.

So I choose to drive the road less traveled whenever I need a real person, real life, and real experience to recharge my batteries.

How do you recharge your mental and emotional batteries?