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.


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