If I Had to Do It All Again…

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

You get to a certain age, and you start to think, “If I could go back and start over…” Real life doesn’t give us a “do over,” but it’s nice sometimes to fantasize. I’m at that age, and as wonderful as my life is, sometimes I think about the roads I didn’t take.

I talked about my process for writing A Second Chance House recently. Though my characters started out as two people talking, I had to turn them into characters others would relate to. Otherwise, no one will stick with your story. Think about any movie or book you enjoyed. Part of the reason you liked the characters in that story so much was because you saw a piece of yourself in there. Do you remember the show Roseanne starring Roseanne Barr? Why was that show such a success? Because women everywhere said, “that’s what my house looks and sounds like!” Relatable.

I’ll tell you a little secret. I have a hard time writing women. A strong female lead has to be, well…strong, independent, smart, tough, vulnerable, wounded (otherwise there’s no character arc,) emotional, but not whiny, she can have insecurities, but she can’t be too desperate. That’s a tall order, and it takes me more than one pass through to get my heroine right. (Personally, I don’t like the unreliable protagonist so in books like The Girl on the Train, I just get mad at her repeated poor choices.)

How did I make Grace relatable? It wasn’t easy. In the first draft, when we first meet her she’s in the library crying her eyes out. Ugh.

But Grace became relatable because as I got to know her, she fantasized about a fresh start. Grace gets one, at the exact moment she needs it. Not that she knows that at first. In fact, she doesn’t know she wants a fresh start at all until she realizes she’s a walking cliche and all her planning, following the rules, playing it safe has backfired in her face. She’s also a little stubborn. She wants to prove everyone who told her she couldn’t renovate a house in a town she didn’t know – wrong! Yay for Grace! It’s a good feeling to tell the nay sayers in our lives to shove it. We can relate to that too.

I put Grace in my age bracket because it is in the middle of our lives with as much time behind us as ahead that we start to wonder if this is all there is. It’s also during the middle of our lives when people act out on those what ifs. We’ve seen a lot of bald, paunchy men in red sports cars, no? Just saying. I can relate to women my age, and why shouldn’t women in their forties be the heroines of a love story? They fall in love too. Love the second or third time around is a different love than the first one. I wanted to read about a woman my age who’d been married, had children, wondered what if. I figured other women did too.

So, I now have a middle-aged woman faced with the tough choice to start over or not. She isn’t a risk taker. I’m setting up the conflict for her. Go or stay? She goes. Brava! But when she gets there, she gets more than she’s bargained for. More conflict. And when she meets the sexy neighbor, he is the exact opposite of who she is. What is she supposed to do about that?

What’s great about writing books is I get to control the ending. I can’t control much of anything in real life, but believe me I try. When we sit down and take the journey with Grace, she gets to do the things that maybe we can’t. We don’t always get a second chance to start over. And we can’t predict the ending of our love story. But we root for Grace to achieve her goals and fall in love.

Will the woman who never takes a risk, risk it all – and possibly fall in love? If given the chance, would you be that person?

Music is so important to me and my hero, Blaise Savage. I’m having a book launch concert at Patrick’s Pub, Neptune, NJ, March 28th 7 pm. I’ll be signing books and doing a reading. And right along side me will be fantastic bands playing awesome music. (I won’t be singing. Don’t worry.) If you’re in the area, stop by and say hi.

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Arell Rivers, I’ll be taking over Arell’s Angels (she’s a wonderful author. Check out her stuff.) on Facebook. April 15th, from 6 -8 pm to celebrate the release of A Second Chance House. Stop by for games and prizes, and to talk about writing, or whatever else you fancy.  We had a blast at the last Facebook party. If you missed it, here’s another chance for some fun.







Do Overs

This is my crack. Kidding. Not crack. Just chocolate.

My first day back to work in 2015 didn’t go quite the way I planned. I had organized my desk and my calendar. I blocked out time to write a short story I’m going to enter in a contest, time to come up with clever blog posts for all of you to read, and time to work on Welcome to Skull Mountain, book three in the Gabriel Hunter series due out in the spring. (Thanks for letting me plug it.) Then the Universe laughed at me.

Noodge 1 must have his high school I.D. with him at all times while on the school campus. Every morning, I ask him if he has it. Yesterday he didn’t realize he had left it at home until we were at the bus stop and the bus was coming. Yes, I take him to the bus stop. I live in the country. The bus stop is no where near our house, the bus comes before 7 and we don’t have sidewalks or street lights. I might not trust my Noodge to have his I.D, but I trust everyone else less. I had to drive him to school. I took a deep breath, didn’t panic, knowing I could make up the time elsewhere.

Every morning I take Munson out to play. An eight month old German Shepherd puppy needs to run. He loves to chase leaves. I let him have at it while throwing a tennis ball into the mix. Munson was in his glory and full of mud which I didn’t realize until he was dripping on my floor and getting mud all over the walls. Have you ever tried to clean a 60 lb puppy? Munson lives from a place of “are we playing a game?” and “can I eat it?” Another deep breath, but now I missed my yoga class. I didn’t panic. I’ll just eat fewer calories.

At lunch time I burned my food because Munson needed to go out. More leaves, more mud, fighting with the prong collar. A nap was in order, but I don’t take naps. In fact, I hate sleeping. And my writing time was being gauged into.

Instead, I put a candy dish full of Hershey kisses on my desk. Comfort food. I’ve never put a full bag of candy within arms reach of my computer before. If I’m going to eat the chocolate at least I can walk downstairs to get it. But my stress level was up and chocolate releases serotonin in your brain as well as increases the numbers on the scale, but the kisses are wrapped in pretty Christmas foil and I’m bummed the holidays are over. I have to search for a holiday movie on Netflix now and what happened to my Christmas music?

Then, Noodge 2 sent me a text around 1:30. She didn’t feel well. She wanted to come home from school. My new year hadn’t gone the way I planned. I wanted a do-over. And candy.

Remember do-overs? Do-overs allow you to make mistakes, try something out, and not worry about the results because you can just shout “do-over” again until you get it right. The best games I played had a do-over option. Do-overs mean there is still a chance for your plans to turn out the way you hoped. Do-overs make me think of hot summer days, cherry ice-pops dripping down your hand, running across the parched earth kicking up dirt in your wake and filling the air with your laughter. Do-overs are about childhood when you still have all the chances to live the life you dream about.

Today was my do-over and every day I wake up. Today is another chance to write those stories, practice yoga, laugh with my Noodges, wipe off the dog, and eat the chocolate. That’s the only “do-over” I need.