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.

Creeping Back to Normal

I love this store. Mostly the prices.

I had a serious melt-down, sloppy-cry moment yesterday.

It started out as an ordinary day…morning quiet time, then to my desk to write for about three hours, then figure out routine chore-type things that needed doing.

Like grocery shopping. Which I hate.

However … on the tail end of the COVID panic, we somehow made the dubious decision to buy a 4-DR Jeep Wrangler, which has made all things ‘chore’ a delight, since I’m now toodling around Hilton Head Island in a black Jeep with oversize wheels/tires with no top or doors. This has changed my life for the better all around. Did you know Jeepsters have a ‘wave’? Like the peace sign, only it’s not. When driving a Jeep, one must put a hand at twelve o’clock on the steering wheel in preparation to raise the two designated fingers in a Jeep ‘wave’ upon seeing other Jeep brethren toodling around. Yep. It’s a thing. We are learning all that stuff.

But I digress.

So, breeze blowing through my hair, music pumped up, I’m happily driving to Kroger, which is mid-Island. And I think, well, TJ Maxx is right next door and I might as well go there first. This cheered me up considerably, as the Island has unmasked, for the most part, and it’s not a hideous mask-thing anymore to go shop for clothing, purses, and the like.

I hop out of my Jeep, thinking out of habit … I need to lock it. But no, the doors are off, no need. This also made me smile, and I trotted into the store, twirling the keys around my finger and looking all “Jeep girl.” I pick out a great purse, wander through the rest of the store, pick up another couple things, including a new pair of jean shorts. I guage their size with a sigh, thinking, ohmigosh another piece of clothing I have to take home that I will probably need to return. *I hate returning stuff* just saying. I head toward check-out. Notice the growing hubub at the back of the store.

What do my wandering eyes behold?

I crane my neck to look. “What’s going on?” I ask a fellow crane-necker. He doesn’t know and doesn’t care. I jerk to a stop, pull my cart out of line, and head to the hubub, just for the heck of it. As I draw closer, my heart rate picks up. My eyes moisten.

“It can’t be,” I whisper to myself. I push my cart ever closer, wondering at the mob waiting, their carts filled with clothing. I draw in a breath, and hold it until I’m finally in the center of it all. With a gasp, and a rush of tears, I cry out, “Hallelujah!” Several women, also with tears of relief streaming down their cheeks, give me a smile and a nod. They, too, cannot believe it. I dance to the front of the line and hug the woman checking us in. She laughs.

Yes, it was true. At TJ Maxx on Hilton Head Island … the dressing rooms … are … OPEN!!!

Happy, happy tears.

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