YOUR IDENTITY

       I recently watched the new TOP GUN movie and LOVED it! As I watched, Tom Cruise, whose Top Gun call sign in the movie is Maverick, is talking to one of his commanders, who, in an argument, reminds Maverick he is the best flyer among the elite Top Gun crew. Maverick looks back at him and says, “That’s not WHAT I am. It’s WHO I am.”

        That statement really impressed me. It hit me that for some people, what they do is not just a job to them. It is something from the heart. I thought to myself that writing is not just something I do to make money (which, believe me, is not the fantastic income some might believe). Writing is who I am. I don’t have to force myself to do it. I don’t strain to think of ideas. I don’t see my characters as just that – characters. They are real people living a real life.

        Stories and ideas dance around in my head 24/7. I am currently working on my 75th book, with more in mind. I hope to stay healthy so I can write for many more years. Writing is not just something I am able to do and something I hope to retire from some day. It is as much “me” as breathing, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and dreaming. It is something I can’t NOT do. If I did it just for a living, I would quit and find a good job that would likely pay more, and I wouldn’t be sitting home alone at the computer for most of the day every day.

        I don’t want to retire. I don’t care if I make a lot or a little money. I don’t care if I write till my legs swell and my back aches. I don’t care if it interferes with my social life. I love to write. Period.

        If you see writing as a job and consider it hard work, you are not a writer. If you dread having to sit down and start a new book, you are not a writer. If you have a lot of trouble developing your characters, or liking them at all, you are not a writer. If you get bored with your own story and stop for days or weeks at a time, you are not a writer. If you work on a book for a year or several years, always mulling it over, always making changes, never sure if it’s good enough, you are not a writer. We all have doubts and struggles at times with a story, but we keep at it because we love our characters so much and are confident the problems we might have will work out, and that’s because we have confidence in ourselves and know that the answers will come. And being writers, we always have pen and paper near the bed because nine times out of ten, the answers and great ideas will come in the middle of the night. If we don’t write them down, we know that answer we’ve been looking for, or that great idea, will no longer be there in the morning. The same goes when we suddenly hit on the perfect conversation, or the perfect one-liner. That’s what I mean about the statement Maverick said above. It’s one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments, and I have had plenty of those.

        So, God willing, I will be writing for many more years, because writing is not “what I do.” It is “who I am.”

PS -- If you want to learn more about me and all of my books, please visit my extensive website:  www.RosanneBittner.com.    I would also like to invite you to join my Rosanne Bittner's Heart of the West Street Team on Facebook!

 


 

THE GOOD OLD DAYS

      I have been working on my 75th book for several weeks now, but the idea for it has been in my head and in my heart for about 30 years. As I sit here thinking about that, I still wonder how and why so many stories keep coming to me. I am surrounded in my office by pictures of past book covers and pictures of models who look the way I picture them for future stories, and the ideas keep coming. One picture on my wall is of all the main characters from GUNSMOKE – Matt, Kitty, Doc, Festus, Chester and Quint, and I realize how much all of them influenced me to write about the Old West, clear back to when I was little and listened to GUNSMOKE when it was only on the radio.

       All those actors are gone now, but they live on in reruns that have been on TV since the fifties. Hard to believe. GUNSMOKE had to be one of the longest-running shows ever, but I fear a lot of today’s young people don’t watch it. Some probably have never even heard of it.

      That is sad. Thank God for Turner Classic Movies. If you want young people to know “real” America, have them watch some of those older movies. I love old black and whites that show what New York and Chicago and other cities looked like back in the 30’s and 40’s. TCM is a treasure trove of lessons in how we got to where we are now, and the Encore Western Channel is a great source for westerns that span the 1930’s through today.

      I don’t know about you, but I love studying and remembering the past. So much has been lost in the way of class and manners and how we dress. I love watching old airplane movies when people dressed up just to fly - furs, hats and all. And men wore suits and hats to baseball games.

      I think with the loss of respect and manners and pride in how we look only leads to disrespect of others and more crime and crude, insulting talk and even ignorance. We learn from the past, but now certain factions try to erase that past. We should not let that happen.

 


 

HEALTH AND WRITING - AND ALL THAT STUFF:

        I am working on my new contemporary and was sailing along just fine until I suddenly felt like someone had given me a powerful sedative, knocked me in the head, and shoved a brick into my stomach. I don’t know if – maybe – I’ve had a bout of Omicron (for one day my temp was 101) or if there is some other kind of flu going around, but the bug bit me – enough to keep me in a constant headache for about 10 days, make my stomach feel like it was full of ulcers, make every muscle in my body seize up, and keep me too tired to get out of bed. I would sleep for hours at a time. At 77, I honestly wondered if this old body was shutting down and I would never get to finish my book.


        Yes, that is actually what I worry about when I’m sick, or, in those bleak moments, think maybe my time is up. I’m not worried about dying, but I panic at the thought of dying before I finish writing all the books I still want to write. All those characters will never get a chance to have their say.


        Yes, I’m a bit crazy, but most writers have weird quirks. When Louis L’Amour died, my first thought was, “But what about all the stories he still might have written?” And now that I have a deeply vested interest in the characters in this new book, I can’t think of anything worse than not being able to finish their story. It took a while for all of it to jell and for these two to begin to take the form of reality and for me to fall in love with both of them (which is vital for me in writing a good love story), but now – WOW! These two have overtaken my heart, and the story is getting really exciting. Ben (Red Wolf) Colter is Lakota (Sioux) and Carmen Wolfe is a gorgeous blond from Michigan who knows next to nothing about the Lakota culture. Both characters come with a tremendous load of baggage that says “STOP! DO NOT PROCEED BEYOND THE FIRST MEETING. YOU ARE HEADED FOR DISASTER!”

        We all know that the basic theme of most romances is “love conquers all,” but in this case, love is a real battle waiting to happen. I was worried about writing this story because contemporary is not my forte, let alone getting involved in a culture completely removed from today’s average dating scene . Worse, here I am 77 years old writing about a young divorce (I’ve been married 57 years!) who experienced an abusive marriage (I never did) and who has ideas about dating far more modern than when hubby and I dated 60 years ago!!! And writing about a 32-year-old widower (thank God I’ve never experienced that) who lost his wife in a tragic (and still unsolved) shooting (what do I know about being involved in a shooting? Nothing!) and who is very deep into his Lakota culture and life on a reservation. (Right. Like – I know about that life. I grew up Sicilian and eating spaghetti and meatballs most of my life.)


        See the problem? So I’ve been wrestling with this book, and then along comes this stupid Covid, or whatever it was, and I was beginning to believe I’m not supposed to write this book at all. But these two characters will not leave me alone. Actually, they have lived in my mind and heart for around 30 years, because that’s how long ago I had the idea. I actually wrote the book! But I didn’t like that version or the location, and by now other things have changed as far as keeping the story “modern,” so here I am writing it all over again in spite of all the little voices telling me not to write it at all.


        I am finally feeling normal and getting back my old energy, which I am proud to say is pretty darn good, considering my age. Yes, writers can have “sick days” and “skip work” once in a while, but they end up backlogged just like you would on a regular job when you don’t show up. I don’t have a boss who could fire me, but I have a lot of fans, and sometimes they get pretty demanding. They would love it if I could turn out a book a month, so when I get behind, I feel guilty because I owe those great readers a new story.


        Covid be damned. I don’t have time for this nonsense. I am “back at it,” and hoping that DANCING BENEATH YOU will be published sometime this summer. Writers have job responsibilities just like anybody else.

 


 

RACETRACK DAYS


      Feel time flying by? I sure do. I feel like I’m sitting at a racetrack watching it fly past me.

 

     Zoom! There went another day.

 

      Shoom! A whole week!

 

      Whoosh! A month!

 

      I told my web site designer today that I was still recovering from Thanksgiving. Christmas feels like it never happened. And I was going to post a Valentine’s Day message and realized that TODAY IS VALENTINE’S DAY and it’s mostly over!! I meant to order a really pretty green sweatshirt for St. Patrick’s Day, and now that is right around the corner and the shirt might not get here in time. 

 

     We have a steep driveway, and last summer a lawn cart I use rolled down the driveway without me. I tried to catch it, but at my age, that aint’ easy. That’s how I feel about time. I’m always chasing after it and trying to stop it. At 77 I feel like every day now is a gift, and I want to treasure it.

      Part of the problem for a writer is that we are always looking forward to that “next” new release. BLAZE OF GLORY was published just before Thanksgiving (last year already!), after months of buildup to the book, lots of promotional work, interaction with you, my readers, for weeks, with trivia questions and fun facts. I worked so, so hard on that book and worried I would never finish in time, worried if you would like it, worried something would go wrong, and then – bam! It was published. Comments were posted. Orders were placed. I sent out all the promised prizes. And then the glorious balloons all popped and everything got quiet.


      Now I am working on my first contemporary and – again – looking forward to its release sometime this summer. So, because I am always looking ahead to another new release, I often miss what is right in front of me. TODAY. And today is all we have. But I get so excited over every story I write that I can’t tear myself away from the computer to just relax, something I preach to others that they should do. I will relax more when summer gets here and I can sit out on my patio and enjoy my flower garden and the hundreds of birds that occupy our big pine trees every spring. But even then, my mind will be racing with what should happen next in my story, although by summer the book should be done and it’s the promotion and advertising that will be on my mind.


     I can’t do much about turning off my brain. It is always in writing mode, so I continue to work hard on managing both my writing work and excitement and finding ways to also enjoy the beauty of each day. Many of you want me to write faster, but a chapter a day is pretty fast, after which I proofread – rewrite – edit – rewrite – work with my cover designer – work with those who help with promotion – work with my agent on a pub date with Amazon – so there is plenty to do even when a book is finished. The real satisfaction comes when all of you, my readers, buy the book and send me your wonderful comments, and I have no doubt you will gush over DANCING BENEATH YOU. It’s my first contemporary, and that makes me nervous, but I am finding out that I like writing contemporary more than I thought I would. I just might write more contemporary stories, but I still have a lot of historical stories to write after this, especially sequels to other books all of you loved, including one more story about the Harkners – maybe two. Jake and Miranda have come so far after Jake the outlaw met the woman who would change his life forever and finally help him learn to love and learn what it’s like to have a loving family.


      Now, in DANCING BENEATH YOU, I again bring together a man and a woman who others believe don’t belong together at all. He is Lakota and lives in South Dakota. She is white and lives in Michigan. The way they meet will have you turning the pages to see what happens next, believe me! Others think a relationship between these two could never last, but hey – that’s my favorite kind of writing - impossible relationships that are held together by one thing – love that cannot be denied – an attraction neither of them can ignore. You will love this sizzling but suspenseful love story. I will talk more about it as I continue writing, but for now, I want to build your expectations so that by this summer, you will be salivating to read this book.


      Sorry! That means you might see time passing too fast because you are waiting for a new pub date. Or maybe it will pass too slowly for you because you are so anxious. Either way, try to relax and just enjoy TODAY. 

 



 

(Race car Photo by Ján Žilla from Pexels)


Birthday Musings -- 77 Years???

        Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is over. Christmas is over. New Year celebrations are over. We are already into the middle of January 2022, and I am already thinking about Valentine’s Day (one of my favorites – brings back childhood memories of decorating a shoebox for all my valentines, and of making my own cards). 

 

        Friday the 14th I will be 77 years old. WHAAAAATTTT??? No way! WWII ended just five months after I was born. My parents and older sister lived in government housing in LaPorte, Indiana, where my father worked in a bomb factory. My mother’s best friend from high school was an Army nurse, and while my mother was home having babies, her friend was traveling to England, France, Italy, North Africa and Germany. I still have two scrapbooks my mother kept with all of her friend’s letters from overseas. So interesting! Those scrapbooks are the foundation for the WWII book I wrote many years ago but never published. I still hope to revisit that story and get it in shape for publication.


       Meantime, what am I to do about this birthday thing? I mean, I am so confused about how all these years passed so quickly. I am one of those seniors who thinks about “the good old days” with nostalgia, and now those “good old days” are like ancient history to my grandsons. Every time I listen to Bon Jovi’s song, When We Were Beautiful, I cry.


Back, when we were beautiful,

Before the world got small,

Before we knew it all.

Back, when we were innocent,

I wonder where it went.

Let’s go back and find it.

 

      Thinking about my birthday brought back memories of what life used to be like. I could go on for pages and pages about that, and about how I feel about life today, but the real purpose of this blog is just to tell all of you, especially my younger readers, to enjoy each day that you wake up alive and healthy . . . enjoy your children, your siblings, your parents and grandparents. Don’t let technology and today’s fast-paced life rob you of days, weeks, months and years of just feeling the sun on your face, or playing in the snow with your children, or being kind and loving to your mate, being respectful of others and “paying it forward.” You have heard many times from others that “life goes by so fast.” It really, really does. Suddenly your days seem numbered, and you realize there is still a lot you want to do, so get busy and do it NOW. Don’t put off your dreams, and don’t let doubt defeat those dreams before you even try to make them come true.


        No matter how much technology interferes with our lives, what with tv, computers, e-mail, cell phones, video games, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, modern appliances, electric cars, Bluetooth, streaming, texting and the host of technology this old dog knows nothing about, down deep inside we all still crave that “real” connection of hugs and smiles (behind those damn masks), talking face-to-face, and just plain falling in love. Don’t let technology steal from you and your children the thirst to learn and study and enjoy a “real” book in your hands. Don’t let it steal family time and in-person visiting and manners and creativity – or privacy and your identity. Don’t let technology preach, and even lie to your children. Real “life,” including touching, looking right into someone’s eyes, love and romance, still remains a primary motive in most peoples’ hearts.

 

        Romance has always been part of the human psyche and always will be. It’s here to stay, and I will always enjoy writing love stories. As long as “old age” doesn’t rob me of the ability to write, I will keep writing every day, as I have done for nearly forty years now. And boy, I have written my way through a LOT of life challenges – more than most people know. I guess that’s what provides food for my stories about family life and helps bring my characters to life. With that, I have decided I am not too old to try new things, so I am currently working on my first contemporary romance.

        Meantime, I am so happy to still be healthy, and happy that my husband is still healthy and still with me – 56 years and counting. There is still “romance” in our relationship. I am so grateful to have lived long enough to enjoy our first great-grandson, and I hope to see and enjoy however many more great grandchildren the Good Lord blesses me with. The picture on the right is almost forty years old – me at my first electric typewriter working on the Savage Destiny series. Seems like yesterday, but that was 74 books ago! And for whatever years I have left, I sure as heck will be writing more!



PEAKS AND VALLEYS

       The title of this blog refers to the highs and lows of writing. There are times when it feels like I am on a roller-coaster, and believe me, I am getting too old for such wild rides!


        When I start a new book, I’m kind of on a flat track, waiting to see how high the ride will take me . . . or how low. You know what it’s like – the ride starts with a slow climb, and your heart beats a little harder as your car rises higher and higher. Then I finish the first draft, and I’m on that first high peak. Yay! I’ve finished the story!


        Then comes the editing . . . along with the doubts whether the story is any good . . . and down I go! Time to get real and face the fact that no, I’m not the greatest writer ever to be published. LOL! I find mistakes, I see room for lots of improvement, I wonder how I allowed this or that mistake to get by me. I know my characters much better by the end of a story than at the beginning, so that means things at the beginning of the book have to be re-written because I realize they would not have said or done some of the things I used there.

       OK – several re-writes later I send the book off to a more professional editor, and I am on another high . . . that second climb of the roller-coaster. Yay! Now I am REALLY done! But then – down we go again, when the editor sends back her notes and comments. Oh, my gosh, how did I miss that? Why did my character say or do this? Yes, my editor is right! I have to work on being too wordy, or on being too repetitive, or on letting the readers know who is talking to whom, or how my character(s) are really feeling and why – on and on with the edits.


        So, I go back and do more re-writing, and yay! I have the finished product – much better than the original (at least that’s what I think). Sometimes the book gets edited again – sometimes it doesn’t – but I work hard on that last re-write, and I finally reach the point where I tell myself, “enough is enough. Send this thing off for publication.”


        And so, I do send it to the gal who converts my WORD version of the story into the format Amazon needs for publication in print and for Kindle. And I’m on another high. My roller-coaster car takes me to an even higher peak, and I celebrate that my book will finally become a reality! The publication date is set, and my readers will be thrilled! I work on advertising and book signings, and things will be great!


        Or . . . will they? Maybe the story sucks! Maybe there is something I forgot to include. Maybe they won’t understand my main characters. Maybe readers will toss the book after a couple of chapters because they can’t get into the story or the characters. Maybe I’ll get horrible reviews. Maybe they will wonder what happened to my writing. When did I drop the ball and write such a loser?

        Down I go again. I just don’t have it anymore. My muse is gone. I’m getting so old I just can’t write good books anymore. I’ve lost my touch. Why am I even writing at all anymore? What makes me think I can keep doing this and doing it well? Younger writers are more “with it.” They know what today’s readers want. How can someone my age, who has been writing almost 40 years and who comes from the era of big, sweeping, 80’s romances understand today’s fast-paced world? And who cares about my subject? Historical western romance? Who reads those anymore?


        Then I get some nice comments on Facebook . . . and some great reviews on Amazon . . . and people ask how fast I can write the next book . . . and they love my characters so much that they start offering me their own ideas of what I should do with that next book . . . and I begin to realize maybe I’m not such a bad writer after all, or maybe I’m not getting too old after all . . . and the comments and reviews keep getting better . . . and that roller-coaster car starts climbing again, higher and higher.


         Finally, I fly down that last dip, but it’s not a “low” for me. It’s just a release of all the pent-up doubts and worries and emotions that come with every book I write. I reach the bottom and the car levels out . . . and I can finally relax.


        Whew! The book is done – published – accepted – loved by most and selling well . . . and now it’s time to do it all over again. I walk to the pay booth (my computer) and I start the ride all over again.

SO, YOU THINK WRITERS HAVE IT EASY?

 

        Think again. I have back problems, had a hip replaced, suffer from migraines and swelling in the legs – all from too much sitting. I toss and turn all night with new ideas, or because I wonder how I can improve on my current work in progress. I write “in my head” constantly – during a conversation – during a meal – while I’m driving – watching TV – gardening – cleaning – no matter what I’m doing. My characters are always with me, nudging me, haunting me, interrupting my sleep, and sometimes arguing with me. I spend some really long, lonely days sitting here alone and wondering if anybody cares what my characters do or say or if anybody cares about my books at all. I wonder why I put myself through all this, and I’ve been doing it for almost 40 years, through full-time jobs, a son on drugs (a real nightmare), surgeries, loss of parents and siblings, and trying to be wife, mother, sister, daughter and grandmother.


        And then I finish a book, and every time I do, there is that “deep breath” moment that I’ve finished yet another story, and I’ve done the best I could do. I start missing my characters and go into kind of a mourning period. Yes, mourning, because I hate leaving the characters I have created. Worst of all was leaving Zeke in Savage Destiny, especially the WAY I had to leave him – and leaving Jake in Outlaw Hearts. In this case, I just know that I can’t go on writing about the man forever, but OMG, I miss him so much already. My consolation is that I’m not done yet with the Harkner family. I already have a story brewing involving young Jake (hot! Hot! Hot!), as well as Jake’s son, Lloyd, who is also HOT!!. I already know it will involve WWI, as well as a granddaughter of none other than Zeke Monroe! So, I will be bringing Savage Destiny and Outlaw Hearts together through the two families, who both live in Colorado.

        My mourning is short-lived, because then comes the release date, and I feel better because the book is fully a reality and I start getting feedback from my wonderful readers. When I know they love the book, it warms my heart. And I get excited about contests and book signings and giveaways. But I hate that the book I worked so long and hard on will soon become a past project. Then again, I realize that as long as people keep ordering it, it will keep selling, and I can have it reissued any time I want. In that respect I am grateful to Amazon for providing this opportunity.


       Then I realize – oh, my gosh – it’s time to start the process all over again with a new story. After all, my readers always want more, and I refuse to disappoint.

 

 



 


FORTY YEARS OF CHARACTERS AND MEMORIES

      

       We have sold some property that means cleaning out a pole barn. Thank God we have one, because my husband is a bit of a pack rat, and we have owned the property for 46 years and used to live there. We kept it (29 acres on Little Paw Paw Lake), but sold the house and 5 acres to our son years ago. He is selling the house now, and a storm two years devastated the beautiful woods. My husband was able to clean up a lot of it, but some is just impossible – huge, up-rooted trees lying in a deep creek bed – things like that. Anyway, we have realized that now is the time to sell the entire property, while prices are up, so we are selling to a developer who has the means and the money to properly clear it and do much more with it than we can at our age.


        But, oh, the memories! Our sons, who are now 52 and 51, were 5 and 6 years old when we bought the property, and it would take pages and pages to describe the kind of work we put into it back then. It was totally overgrown, the house looked like something out of the back hills of the Smoky Mountains, and there were two cottages (1 since burned down) that were falling apart, and the woods had been used like a junk yard. We made it beautiful over the years, a lot of remodeling, built a barn, did a lot of clearing and tree cutting, burned a lot of brush piles. We farmed Christmas trees for a while, potatoes on part of the land, then asparagus and blueberries. In a Michigan winter, we had a ½ mile driveway to plow.


        Memories there are vivid, and we cry about selling it. Once it’s gone and changed and developed, it will be hard for us to drive by there. I will never be able to look at it without “seeing” my husband sitting up by the lake, or by a pond we dug on another piece of he property. He loved it there. After we moved to where we live now (32 years ago), the lake property was still “ours” and we went there a lot, just to sit in the woods and talk. And my husband went out there and farmed and putzied round every single day all these 46 years.

        My most personal memory of the place, besides all the hard work I put into helping develop this property, was that I wrote my first several books there – probably at least 20 of them, maybe more like 25. It’s where I got my start, and I wrote those books while working full-time, then going home to two active boys, helping pull brush, helping pick asparagus, and all the things that go with being a working mother. It all started with SAVAGE DESTINY, and once I sold that first book, I was off to the races. I wrote 50 more books after we moved to the house where we live now, and I’m still going strong in spite of many surgeries and personal problems I won’t even mention here. Thank God, my husband has been loving and a great supporter since I wrote that first book. He believed in me.


        Back to cleaning out that barn. That includes finding what to do with the many books I had stored there. I kept several original copies of all my books, and today I went through 26 bins of books! What memories! Each one brings a vivid memory of the characters and stories involved. I thumb through them and I wonder when in hell I wrote all these books amid all the other things I was doing and going through. I do know I slept about 3-5 hours a night for years, and I learned how to shut my mind away from problems and how to block out the sound of the TV in that small house where we first lived. While hubby and sons were snoring away deep in the night, I was sitting at the typewriter “clicking” away – first a clickety-clack old Royal on which I made carbon copies of my books, then an electric typewriter, then my first computer (which I thought I would never learn how to use).

 

       I don’t know how or why so many stories came out of my common, non-college-educated, plain old working mom brain, but they did, and they still are. My only advantage was being good at typing and spelling because I was an executive secretary, and my love of reading and researching, and of course, my love for the American West and pioneers and Indians and all the exciting events in settling this country. I also read – a LOT – but always books about America history and pioneers. I don’t care about WOKE or any of the other lies going on today. I will always write the truth. History is what it is, and it is silly and almost traitorous to try erasing or changing it. History is how we learn, but mankind seems to keep ignoring it and making the same mistakes all over again – but that is a subject for a different blog.


        Well, I got 26 bins down to 17, thanks to consolidating a lot of titles into one bin, but what a project! Now I have to figure out where to put those 17 bins. I have some ideas, and one of them is wondering how many of you wonderful readers would like original copies of certain older books. First I have to go through them again once I get them home and see which ones have never been reissued and probably never will be. I might be able to help new readers find some of those old titles, or help some of you long-time readers get fresh copies of some of those old paperbacks (signed to you). I have to figure out what to charge, and I want to find out if some of the hurricane-devastated states have libraries that need books. I have plenty I can send them, and I have copies of every single book I’ve ever written – a lot of many of them, only a few of others, which I of course need to hang on to for my family.


        I’m going to sound crazy here – but – the only thing that depresses me about dying some day is thinking about all the stories I could have kept writing. Writing has been my life for almost forty years now. We bought that lake property in 1976, and I started writing my first-first book (never published) in 1979. It was my learning tool, as were the 8 more I wrote after that. Only one of them sold – SAVAGE DESTINY #1 – SWEET PRAIRIE PASSION. Seeing that book and that series reissued several times and still selling just makes me cry with sentimental memories.

 


 

STAND AND LISTEN

        It’s chaos out there, isn’t it? The daily news has become repetitive and depressing. Right is wrong, and wrong is right. You don’t know whom to trust, and car lots and store shelves are half empty because product is unavailable – and that’s because there aren’t enough people working to keep things running smoothly. We hear about an uptick in prices, taxes, and crime, while hurricanes and wildfires prevail. We miss peoples’ smiles because of masks, and we worry about that invisible creature called Covid.


        Life seems to have changed dramatically, but when I study the history of this country, it hits me that things haven’t changed as much as we think they have. There have always been plagues, and there has always been scheming, underhanded corruption in our government. There have always been the greedy, the middle-class and the poor, all struggling to get what they think they deserve. There has always been conflict over states’ rights and how to keep up our infrastructure, as well as conflict over fossil fuels, workers’ rights, women’s rights and voting rights. Nothing has really changed.

 

        Today I had to travel to an appointment that took me along Interstate 94 here in southern Michigan, a trip I have to make often but have hated all summer because of major construction going on. Those construction areas seem to just add to today’s frustrations – people going too fast in zones where you should slow down, semi trucks behind you, in front of you, beside you, and coming at you when there is only a small cement barrier between you and that behemoth bearing down on you. Moments like that make me want to go home – my safe zone. But then, I wonder if someone will even invade that, too.


        We are bombarded from every direction – television, traffic, kids, jobs, spouses, rude people, school, the ding-dong of appliances, phones and doorbells, and, of course, the ever-present internet and all its ways of coming right into our home uninvited, through our computers and telephones, and even through our automobiles. 

 

        Sometimes we just have to take a deep breath and take a moment to enjoy pure quiet. When I got home from that wild ride down I-94 today, I took some groceries into the kitchen and realized how quiet the house was. I was tired, so I just stood there, breathed deeply, and listened to the ticking of the several clocks in my house. I love clocks, and I find that ticking a soft comfort.


        So I just stood there and listened. Tick, tick, tick. Just me. Alone. Silence, but for those ticking clocks. And it was kind of nice. It was a moment that reminded me that life outside the door could seem chaotic, noisy and dangerous. But when you are lucky enough to have a home to call your own, a place where you can walk inside and close the door to that world “out there,” it is something to appreciate. Of course, it’s even nicer when a kitty-cat or a dog greets you lovingly. Creatures who love you no matter what else is happening in the world always make a difference.

 

       Take time out once in a while to just stand and listen. Listen to the clocks. Listen to the refrigerator turn on, or the air. Listen to your own breathing. Remind yourself that life goes by much too fast, so don’t let the outside world make it seem to pass by even faster. Don’t let the chaos create havoc in your own heart and mind. Find your safe zone, breathe deeply, and enjoy that special place. Whatever that place is, don’t let anyone take it from you. And visit it every day, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes. Just stand and listen. Feel your own pulse and be glad you woke up today, alive and well.




TAKING THE BIG STEP


        I wrote a blog several months ago titled “PAGE ONE.” It was about how intimidating Page One can be when starting a new book. Well, I am having the same problem with Book #75, which I have started (and did already write Page One). However, every chapter – every page - feels like “Page One” to me – i.e. – the whole book is intimidating because it’s my first big contemporary story. I have a title but won’t give it away yet, so I’ll just call it Book #75.

        Mind you, in today’s times a writer has to be aware of all that’s going on “out there” as far as everybody being offended by just about anything and everything. When you consider the fact that Book #75 contains a host of themes/subject matters/emotional baggage/etc. that could “offend” others, I am a nervous wreck. I don’t even know what genre this story fits. It’s a mixture of murder mystery, faith/inspiration, American Indian customs and beliefs, culture clash, divorce, drugs, hot sex, violence, assassination, Native American fancy dancing, and an Indian/white romance – and oh, did I say culture clash? Yes.

        Book #75 is a romance beyond romance, a love story between two people who never, ever, ever should have thought they could live in each other’s worlds, let alone make it work for the rest of their lives. The hero’s Lakota family and friends insist he needs to leave things alone and stick with the world he knows best – and not mess with a woman who not only belongs to a whole different world, but who doesn’t know beans about American Indian culture. And the heroine’s family and friends feel the same – she has no business loving a man who could never fit into her life, nor she into his.

 

        Ahhh, but we all know that “love conquers all,” doesn’t it? That will happen in Book #75, but not without a LOT of conflict! Bringing these two together might “offend” some readers because of the realistic way I will make it happen. It’s the culture clash that worries me. I am going to be truthful and honest (to the best of my ability and with what I know from years of studying Native American culture, especially the Sioux and Cheyenne). At the same time, I understand all the misunderstandings harbored by many of those who have lived only in the white world – those who have never studied our American Indians, about reservation life, ancient customs and beliefs, and problems today’s Indians have with our government (little has changed in the last 250 years!). The heroine in Book #75 is a blond, blue-eyed New-Englander who is, of all things, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution – i.e. a descendant of original pilgrims! I mean, really? These two would have been enemies 250 years ago, and that is what will make this a very powerful love story. They absolutely do not belong together.

 

        This will not be an easy book to write, but I have published numerous Indian/white romances over my 40 years of writing. However, they were always set in the 1800’s, an era I am comfortable writing. It’s all I know, so moving into contemporary is not easy for me. As I do so, I guess I just have to take my chances as far as worrying about offending readers. I don’t consider writing the truth and honest emotions and typical misunderstandings offensive. We all struggle with such things, and it’s not our fault. All races and cultures have so much to learn about each other’s beliefs and religions and basic makeup, and the more we learn, the more tolerant we become. No one changes overnight, and not all people are willing to accept differences. It’s a sad statement to make, but that’s how it is, and showing that in a story is just part of real life.

 

       Wait until you find out how the hero and heroine meet in this story! It’s unusual and exciting, and it’s instant high voltage. Although it’s not noted verbally, it’s damn well felt physically and emotionally. BOTH will be thinking – “Good God, now what do I do? I’d better get the hell out of this as fast as I can.” But neither can let the other go. And BOTH come with a busload of personal baggage that just makes it all even more difficult. The hero has been through hell from losing his wife and her unborn baby to an assassination he is sure was meant for him. He was gravely wounded and fought to get off opioids, and he is possessed with a determination to learn who did this to him. He’s a grieving widower who has no desire to find another woman … until he meets the heroine, who in turn is NOT looking for another man after a really ugly divorce from an ex who physically and mentally abused her.

 

        And so, the story begins. I have put this off for too many years, so I’ll take the risk of “offending” someone and write it. I think the theme of “love conquers all” is always a winner. I hope you do, too.