Nostalgia

We all get a case of nostalgia once in a while - you know, another one of those “diseases” they are always talking about on TV. If your ear itches, it’s a disease. If your eyes get a little dry, it’s a disease. Used to be a disease was something serious that you usually died from. Now the drug industry wants you to think a mosquito bite is a disease. 


Be that as it may, there is no “cure” for nostalgia. It comes and goes and usually never kills anyone, unless it is so extreme that it becomes unbearably depressing. I’ve never been that “nostalgic,” but I have shed tears a few times – a side affect of this “disease.” I’m sure this is far more a disease of old age than anything else – like aching joints and dimming eyesight (I have neither so far). But still, as you get older, you can’t help but become nostalgic about the past, about your children, who are coming close to being “old” themselves, and your grandchildren, who were four years old last year and now are twenty.

My major nostalgia, believe it or not, is for my characters. I stand and look over the 70 or so books I’ve written, and I remember every hero and heroine and their basic story. I think and think, yet I can’t remember when in heck I wrote all those books amid full time work, raising two active boys and three active grandsons, shopping, cleaning, running kids around, mowing, cooking, doctor appointments, reading hundreds of books for research, taking thousands of pages of notes, saving and categorizing hundreds of articles for “story ideas,” being a wife to my husband, a mother to my sons, a daughter to my ageing mother, a sister, an aunt, a niece, and, of course, a writer. I’ve moved my office from a small bedroom, to a small living room, to a different small bedroom, to a separate cabin on our lake property, back to the small living room, to the new house we bought (30 years ago), to a huge apartment office at the family business and back to the new house just a year ago. This house is so crowded that I dare any burglar to find a place to hide in it. Every closet and every corner, nook and cranny is filled because of all the books, equipment, desks, drawers, and most of the things I once had in my big office now being packed into my house.

I look at all this and I sit down and add it all up – 70 books – at least 28,000 pages – 8,400,000 words – and that’s just once through for each book. It doesn’t include all the editing and re-writes, notes, outlines and synopses, as well as magazine articles I’ve written, blogs and speeches. I suspect you could pretty much double the above numbers because of all the re-writes, let alone the fact that I also wrote 7 big books that never sold and probably a hundred poems.

Through it all, I’ve created and lived with some wonderful characters who came alive for me in each book and from then on remained alive to me. They live in my dreams, my daytime fantasies, and in my mind and heart 24/7. There are some whom I loved beyond measure, like Zeke Monroe from my Savage Destiny books and Jake Harkner from my Outlaw books. You can’t cover 20 to 40 years in a series of books, living with the same characters throughout, without falling in love with them and truly, achingly missing them when you finish the series. Some characters were so alive for me that I truly felt the really lived and their spirits were speaking through me as I brought them back to life. I laughed and I cried with them. I felt their pain and their joy, and yes, I even made love to some of my heroes.

Here’s the kicker – and I’ve always said that I am a bit of a nut case over my characters – but I can look at one of my book covers and think about that hero and feel loved and comforted and safe. I can “feel” his arms around me. He loves me no matter what. He truly cares about me and wants to protect me. He never gets angry with me. I am his and I am adored and I am safe. That hero would never let anything bad happen to me. “Real” life goes away and I am loved just for me.

The nostalgia comes when I realize how special these characters and their stories are to me, but are they special to anyone else? Why did I go to all this work over all these years (since 1979) to write these stories, just to see them here today and gone tomorrow? And then I hear from my readers, and I see the fabulous comments posted on Amazon or Goodreads, and I know I am touching other peoples’ lives with my books, and I am writing characters who are special and memorable to others besides myself. And I remember that when I am gone from this earth, my books will continue to sell, probably for years. My Savage Destiny books (my beloved Zeke) are 35 years old and still selling, in some cases out-selling most of my other books! So in a way I will live on through all those books, and that makes me nostalgic, too.

I love writing so much that I literally pray God will keep me healthy so I can continue to write and create even more wonderful characters. And thank God for my back list, which leaves me with a host of titles yet to be reissued with new covers, so my books continue being published over and over and I continue to find even more readers. That means “Bittner” books will be around for a long, long time after I’m gone, and my children and grandchildren will benefit from their sales.

I feel like when I die I will be abandoning all my characters, who depended on me to write their stories and to keep promoting them so that they, too, never die. And yet I feel happy at thinking that when I am gone, I will actually meet some of these wonderful characters in the after-life and find out they really did exist. Who knows?

So many years. So many stories. So many characters. So many different publishers and editors over the years. So much research. And thousands of hours sitting in front of first an old-fashioned typewriter, then an electric typewriter, then a memory typewriter, and then a computer, from the old boxy kind to today’s flat-screen monitors and wireless keyboards. Where does all the time go? I should have arthritis in my hands, but I don’t. I should be tired of doing this, but I’m not. I will NEVER get tired of writing, and I have many more stories “in my head,” waiting to be told. As long as I have readers clamoring for more, I’ll keep giving them more, and as I said in my previous blog, writing those books will be a “joy” – never a “job.”

I want to thank all my wonderful, devoted readers for making me feel appreciated for all the years and years of hard work, and for feeling the same way I do about my characters … that they truly once lived and will continue to live on in their hearts. My readers and their comments are “medicine” for my “disease” of nostalgia.

Writing – A Joy, Not A Job

I was answering someone else’s blog a couple of days ago, and I ended with saying writing should be a joy, not a job. Soon as I wrote that, I realized it was a great topic for my own blog!


I write every chance I get, any time of day, deep in the night when I can’t sleep, often while my hubby is watching a movie. I just put on my ear phones and listen to my favorite “mood” music and shut out the TV.

I just sold three more books (still to be written) to Sourcebooks, which, when finished, will bring my total published books to 72 over about 39 years. Those years have gone so fast. I have no memory of even writing many of those books. It’s all kind of a blur. But I do remember the plot of every book. Sometimes I have to look at the blurb on the back to remind myself of the names of the characters, but most of the actual story quickly comes back to me.

I squeezed most of those books into my life while working full time and raising two active boys, then spending a lot of time with grandchildren. I’ve always led a very, very busy life, and when working full time, I often sat up after everyone else went to bed and wrote until 1 or 2 am – then got up at 5 am and put in another long day.

Yes, it was hard. Very hard. Yet I enjoyed every word I wrote because I love writing and have loved every character I’ve ever written.

And that’s what writing should be to any writer – a JOY, not a JOB. You should be so “into” your characters that you can’t wait to get back to them and continue their story. In my case, I want to see what happens to them, because even I don’t know until I go into the “next” chapter. I don’t use an outline and don’t plan out my books. I just start one and let the characters take me where they want to go.

Too often I talk to other writers who have been working on the same book for years. I don’t understand that. If you aren’t interested enough in your book to finish it and start submitting it, then don’t write it at all. Start a different story, something that keeps you so excited that, like a reader who can’t put down what she’s reading, you can’t stop writing your story!

I can tell those writers who look at their writing as more of a job than a joy. They struggle to find the time to write and come up with all kinds of excuses not to sit down and keep going. My problem is usually finding time to do everything else, but I never have trouble finding time to write. My stories and their characters are with me 24/7, 7 days a week. When we stay at our condo in Vegas winters, while my husband plays poker, I sit at Starbucks and proofread my daily writing. Why waste money gambling when I could be making money on my writing?

A true writer never sees her work as a job she dreads or struggles to find time for. A true writer can’t wait to get back to the computer, and she not only works on the story at hand, but she also has more stories in her head just itching to be told. A true writer never runs out of ideas, and she is so excited about the story she is working on that she gets in as much writing time as possible every day. She doesn’t sit watching TV for 3-4 hours every night. She sits and writes 3-4 hours every night. If you have time to do nothing but watch TV, then you have time to write. Once you get into the groove of working writing into your day, it gets easier and easier.

If you let writing be a JOY and not a JOB, you’ll find you can produce a lot more books in a lot less time. That joy has allowed me to produce an average of two big books a year for the last 35 years, and all those older books are still selling, a lot of them having already been reissued two and three times over the years. That’s how you build your name, which in turn builds your sales.

Write! Write! Write! You don’t get published by wishing it, and you don’t get published by working on the same book for years. I’ve heard some writers say they don’t want to “work” that hard. Honey, if you’re calling it work, you aren’t a real writer. Let it be a JOY!

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Birds of a Feather Flock Together

This weekend I’ll be attending a small weekend writers’ retreat, and I can’t wait! (See details at the end of this blog.) Writers love hanging out with each other, because only other writers can counsel each other on our own unique problems. Only other writers understand where we’re coming from when we talk about our characters like they really live(d). Another writer once asked me how I make my characters so “real.” My answer was because they are real … to me. They are people from the past, speaking to me in spirit. And the more “real” I write my characters, the more real they become to my readers. Only another writer would understand how “alive” our characters are to us. 

Becoming History

Our area newspaper has a “Local History” section, where it reprints news from 100 to 75 to 50 years ago and so forth. Recently, there was a section under “35 YEARS AGO,” and it was about my first publication, SWEET PRAIRIE PASSION, Book #1 of my SAVAGE DESTINY series. Apparently, I am now a part of “history.” Well, being born just five months before WWII ended, I guess I qualify, but I’m not terribly happy about the fact that that was 73 years ago! 

The After-Book Let-Down

The theme of this blog refers to how I feel when I am done with a book and I send it in. When I finish a book, and probably because my books are so long, I feel a big let-down and am depressed for several days afterward. After writing a 400-500 page book, usually 100,000 to 110,000 words, it’s hard to let go of the characters and “send them away” to the publisher.


Imagine packing up your own children and sending them off to a stranger who will then manage their lives from then on (i.e. edit your book and do things to it to make it even more marketable) – and knowing once you send your children away, they will never be returned to you. That’s kind of how it feels to work on a big novel and then send off the finished product.

Writing a story doesn’t involve just sitting down to the computer and putting an idea into words. That idea might have been brewing for months or even years, the characters living in your heart and mind all that time. Jake Harkner from my Outlaw series has lived in my heart and mind since about 1991, when I wrote down the idea for his story on the back of a check book with an eyebrow pencil because it suddenly came to me and I didn’t have a pen handy. That first book was published in 1993 and it took me 20 years to convince a publisher to let me write a sequel, which of course turned into four books and now I want to write a fifth. Part of the reason I want to write that fifth book is because I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE THESE CHARACTERS! I want to keep them alive for me and for my readers.

And now I know why it has taken me so long to even begin writing the contemporary Native American romance I talked about on Facebook a few days ago. The characters have been inside my heart and head for about 20 years now – maybe longer – and I know that if I write this book and actually sell it, I will have to “let go” of these characters. They won’t be just mine any more. Sounds strange, I’m sure, to non-writers, but I suppose as a reader who might love my characters as much as I do, they get the same feelings when the finish reading a book for which they have waited months to be able to read, especially books that are part of a series. They get done and they wish there was more because they don’t want to leave those characters.

Back to my comment about writing not being about just sitting down and getting it into a computer. Any well-written book takes weeks or months (sometimes years) of research before you even write it. So you go through all of that, and then you write the story – which normally takes 3-5 months for me. Sometimes, though, as with DO NOT FORSAKE ME and with my recent new book LOGAN’S LADY, the story is so real and already written in my head that it just pours out of me. I’ll sit for hours and days and weeks on-end doing almost nothing else but write – in which case I can turn out a 400-500 page book in about 6 weeks.

Either way, that first draft is not the finished product. I print it out – read and edit – go back to the computer and enter the edits – print it out again – read it again to check those edits, in which case I find even more things that need to be “fixed” – go back to the computer and enter all the new edits – read it again for even more edits – go back to the computer and enter those edits – then print it out once more and read the whole thing before I send it in to the publisher. So overall, you are with the characters night and day for weeks or months.

Then you send in the book. It’s like popping a balloon. Your elation at finishing a big book lasts only a day or so and then it’s – “Now what?” I want to go with my characters to the publisher and “protect and defend” them. “Don’t mess with my babies,” I want to say. The publisher has ripped them out of my arms. Plus, I feel like someone just took away my job and now I have to find a new one. “What do I work on now?”

My husband says I deserve a break, and I suppose I do, but I begin to panic. What if this book bombs? What if I never sell another book? I need to start another story and work on more ideas and make sure my publisher will take more – or make sure I have new stories ready to publish on Amazon so that my readers always have yet another book to look forward to.

If I had my way, I would continue my series books on and on into the children and grandchildren. I would stay with those families or couples I created for as long as possible. And if it was physically possible, I would publish a new story every month to keep my readers happy. Alas, there is only one of me and this old body can only sit for so long without aches and pains. Still, I try to ignore them because I want nothing more than to keep writing and keep turning out new stories.

Yet through all the 67 books I’ve now had published, so many of my characters will live with me forever and ever – most notably Zeke and Abbie Monroe from SAVAGE DESTINY – Caleb and Sarah Sax (from my BLUE HAWK trilogy) –Maggie Tucker and Sage Lightfoot from PARADISE VALLEY, Sunny Landers and Colt Travis from THUNDER ON THE PLAINS, Gabe Beaumont and Faith Kelley from TAME THE WILD WIND, Addy and Parker Cole from UNTIL TOMORROW, Lettie McBride and Luke Fontaine from WILDEST DREAMS, Two Wolves and Claire from CAPTURE MY HEART and A WARRIOR’S PROMISE, and of course Jake and Randy Harkner from my OUTLAW books. There are so many more! If you go to Amazon.com and type in my name, you will find pages and pages of my titles.

Sometimes I scan all my books and I wonder what will happen to all those characters after I am gone. Who will love and cherish them as I do? I’m so glad to realize that my readers will. And if they keep recommending those books to their family and friends, most of my books will continue to sell for a long time after I'm no longer in this world, which means my characters will live on for a long time to come. As far as I am concerned, they did live once for real and they told their stories to me from the past. I guess that’s why most of my books came out of me so easily. Those characters just visited me for a while and whispered their stories to me. I simply wrote down what they told me happened and how they felt about it. And yes, I’m just crazy enough to think that I just might meet some of my characters in another world, another life.

Can you tell I’m feeling sentimental? I hope Sourcebooks takes good care of my new “baby.” They are already working on a cover!

What’s In a Name?

Recently I eMailed my local writers’ group (Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America) and joked about how sometimes we writers get our characters’ names mixed up. For the last two months I’ve been writing almost constantly to finish my newest book for Sourcebooks – LOGAN’S LADY. In the midst of that, I had to stop and work on edits to my March book for Amazon, A WARRIOR’S PROMISE. The heroine in WARRIOR is named Claire – and in LOGAN’S LADY the heroine is named Elizabeth.


Fiction vs Reality

Writers are often asked if their characters are based on someone they know. I have realized that my reply to this always seems defensive – “Heavens, no! I don’t want my friends or people I know casually to think I am writing about them! They might be offended, and I live in a small town. My characters are purely fictitious.” 

Don’t Get Sad … Get Mad!


Did you just get another rejection?

Has someone dissed your book?

Has someone said that if you write romance, you’re not a “real” writer?

Are you stuck with your “sagging” middle? (I mean your book, not your body).😉

Focusing Your Ideas

Any “born” writer knows that it’s pretty hard to shut off your brain when practically everything you read, see and hear becomes a possible story idea. The news is packed with them – crimes of every sort – governmental espionage – historical events – major auto accidents – and even (too rarely) GOOD NEWS stories that give you an idea for a sweet, romantic tale.