Summer Nights

I remember when a summer night was an excuse to get out of the house, find the nearest outdoor bar with ambiance (or not), drink Long Island Tea or Screwdrivers or Scotch & Soda with a twist…or whatever. It was party, party, all the time! And somehow, the next morning, I made it to work, and did a fairly good job managing the hangover.

Now I look back, scratching my head. How on earth did I do that?

I was in my twenties. That’s how.

In my thirties, I started having babies. And divorces. My thirties were a blur of joy and crisis, so I can’t even remember much of them. Summer nights meant getting the kids to bed, the bills paid, the house clean, and still having energy left over to read before bed. This was my recipe for a great summer night in my thirties!

My beautiful kids circa 2003

In my forties, I began to gain a semblance of sanity. And my kids became teen-agers. At this point, I began to drink wine, exclusively. No more cute, little, designer drinks that looked good but made me throw up. Wine, I could control. Summer nights amounted to a few lake weekends with girlfriends, and marathon talks with teen-agers, trying to instill common sense into all those hormones. Ha! Ha! What a futile task. But I did my best, and a great summer night was a relaxed discussion on the deck with one or two of my teen-agers.

In my fifties, I had the best time ever. My kids were grown and gone or going; I discovered online dating, I had a great job, I’d learned to recognize and avoid toxic relationships. My summer nights were spent on my backyard deck, drinking good wine (by this time I’d become somewhat fluent), and having marathon conversations with other single moms about kids, men, and, well…mostly, men. How to tell the right ones from the wrong ones, which sounds simple, but isn’t.

Now in my sixties, I find that summer nights are for chats with my husband on the deck. Embracing the starlight. Enjoying a full moon and high tide coming into a Lowcountry marsh. Never forgetting bug spray. (It is interesting to me that when I was young I didn’t give a thought to getting a hundred mosquito bites, but now, I cover up with bug spray every, single day in the summer.) Summer nights are for…being still. Appreciating what I have, and laying aside regrets. Summer nights now reek of contentment, and appreciative, secret smiles.

However, I’m amazed at how much I miss fireflies.

When we moved to Hilton Head Island from Baltimore in 2015, I never gave life without fireflies a thought. I assumed fireflies were all over the place. Maryland, and everywhere I’d lived before, had spectacular firefly displays every spring and summer. I am still saddened by their absence. They are tiny, summer jewels – nature’s sparklers. Now, I settle for a flock of ibis in the yard, or the squawk of herons flying overhead. Egrets camping down for the night in a tree.

I guess that’s a good trade-off.

I ponder my deck on the back of our house and the light bulbs so carefully chosen and staple-gunned in place underneath the eaves to illuminate the night. I guess it was automatic…get the deck ready for a party…and now, I think…what was the point? We hardly use them.

I think that God…all this time…has been waiting to show me the rewards, the simple pleasures, the earned delights…of surviving all the previous decades and alighting with determination and grace into this one.

Summer nights now, are for softer things. Quieter things.

Like fireflies.

Or in my case, egrets.

Thoughts of Malice…the Virtual Version

I just want to be grateful for a hot minute.

I’ve been writing a long time, and it’s an isolating affair, and often writers feel like they are writing into voids of rejection and futility.

Level Best Books, my current publisher, is not about to let that happen to their authors! Case in point: More than Malice, my publisher’s answer to the pandemic-exhausted populace. Instead of postponing the typical Malice Domestic Writers conference, which they’ve been involved with for twenty years; they pulled out all the stops and produced a virtual conference that defied the odds, and had a lot of fun doing it. (Well, in addition to the blood, sweat, and tears of the learning curve and all the technological nuances and stumbling blocks). Now up to 90-something authors, give or take, Level Best Books is growing! And they still try to make sure every author is given attention in some shape or form, on this wonderful but terrifying journey called publishing.

Little did I know.

How much…WORK. IS. INVOLVED.

Like now. I’m sitting here, trying to catch up, because I took time off to love on two of my granddaughters, ages five and eight. Two, whole, days without one single ounce of marketing, writing, or deliberating plot twists. Two whole days, stiff-arming the desire to troll local bookstores in search of an author-signing venue, or create a FB ad, or do an edit on the first draft of Book Two of the Olivia Callahan Suspense series. (Which actually, I should be doing right now, but noooooo…I felt that my blog needed some attention.)

At Dolphin Point with my granddaughters, on Hilton Head Island

I repeat: Work. Is. Involved.

What makes it much easier to swallow this harsh reality is Level Best Books. My fellow authors are so supportive, I am, admittedly, stunned…and one of them, a gregarious, Italian, dark-haired bundle of bubbling optimism and generosity named Tina, has started a monthly Zoom call. My gosh, there are upwards of fifty authors on this call every month, plus the publishers/editors! These are so much fun, and a way to connect and be (gasp! dare I say it…) ENCOURAGED.

Encouragement is often in short supply for up-and-coming novelists, of which I am one. Encouragement, the up-and-comer figures, is only for the multiple-published, award-winning, A-listers. For the up-and-comers, we sit in self-flogging misery, pecking away at our manuscripts, with scant-burning embers of enthusiasm. For us, a compliment tossed in our direction is a bright sun on a cloudy day…a long drink of water in a wasteland. And a five-star review? You’d think heaven had opened its arms and christened us with crowns. (Please give your favorite books reviews on Amazon, in case you missed the huge, huge dose of guilt I just heaped upon you, dear reader).

I want to shout out a heart-felt THANK YOU, to Level Best Books and its ever-growing stable of authors, for the generosity of spirit, the support, the great marketing assistance, and the willingness to share time, author events, and information to help fellow authors. It’s been…and still is…an excellent experience.

Author Interview Questions for THE DEADENING

1) Tell us about Olivia Callahan, the protagonist of your latest release, The Deadening.

Sure! Olivia is 38 years old, has auburn, curly hair, was raised by a devoted mother who struggles with marrying the right kind of men. This caused Olivia’s mom to be somewhat absent as she was growing up, as she was handling crisis after crisis. Olivia subsequently met her husband early, while she was still in high school, and married him. As a married woman, she wrestles with how much of herself to reveal in her marriage, as she has believed the lie that she should let the man always have the last word, and her husband is very happy about that. For twenty years, Olivia is content to let Monty make all the decisions that affect the family’s lives, and eventually, of course, this kind of behavior backfires and Monty wants nothing more to do with her. Olivia is in a growth pattern, that will hopefully cause her to look deeply at her past to figure out what and why and when she became so passive.

2) What intrigues you about a person’s identity, a central theme to The Deadening?

Good question! I feel everyone has a story to tell, and I love to pull from people those stories. In almost every case, traumatic or chaotic circumstances have led to an identity journey. I find this fascinating. We may or may not reach our God-given potential due to how we respond to these crises, or circumstances over which we have no control. As the saying goes, when we stumble over obstacles, setbacks, or assaults, crimes…whatever life throws our way…we have the option to get bitter—or get better. The journey can take many twists and turns, and it would be a shame not to share these situations in order to perhaps help someone else find their way in life a bit easier.

3)The Deadening is the first in a three-book series. How much do you know already about the next two books? What’s it like to have to think so far ahead?

This is my first series. My other book, The Hunting, is a stand-alone novel. I took a deep breath when my editor suggested I write a series, but in actuality it is easier than starting from scratch because I already know these characters and settings. I know their history, their fears, their doubts. I know Olivia’s children. All I’m doing now is continuing the story, and it’s proving to be easier than I thought it would be. We’ll see what my editor says when I’m about halfway through Book Two, titled “The Rising.” And I do not think so far ahead. I plot out one book, then the next one. It would be impossible for me to think all the way to the end game of the third book!

And now, a few personal questions!

A few of your favorite things: My three cats, the sun faces I collect and hang on an exterior wall, my long view of the Lowcountry marsh off my deck. Good red wine. Jazz. Oh, I guess I should add my husband.

Things you love about writing: I lose myself and time can pass very quickly. How a scene develops under my hands. Editing after the first draft is done, which is much like fine-tuning a piece of sculpture by scraping away the bits that don’t work and polishing the bits that do.

Hardest thing about being a writer: Promotion. Who has time to set this stuff up? But we have to.

Things you never want to run out of: Easy…coffee and wine.

Words that describe you: Optimistic. Stylish. Fun. Nurturing.

Words that describe you, but you wish they didn’t: Decisive. Blunt. Opinionated. (These traits do not work in my favor sometimes…)

Favorite foods: Filet, quiche, asparagus

Things that make you want to gag:  Onions. Liver. FISH, and anything else that comes from a body of water. Yuck.

Something you’re really good at: Interior decorating. Loving my grandkids. Cardio & weight training. Makeup. Playing piano. And hopefully, writing!

Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: Arrogant, condescending people.

Things you always put in your books: A pet. Dog or cat.
Things you never put in your books:
Sex scene.

Things to say to an author: I could not put down your book!!

People you’d like to invite to dinner (living):  Jeff Goldblum. Vincent D’Onofrio. Stephen Furtick. Angie Harmon, Louise Jensen. (This list changes often)

Proudest moment: Those moments I see my grown kids fulfill their unique, wonderful purpose in life. For instance, one of my kids was destined to sing. When she steps onto a stage, I cry every time.