Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shuffle Off to Buffalo

“Oh, you went to the same high school?” asks almost everyone who learns about my husband’s and my background. “Were you high school sweethearts?”

No. We didn’t know each other at all. But the universal question does make sense.

One might think, since my husband and I lived a mere 12 blocks apart during elementary school, that we would have known each other since we were knee high to grass-hoppers. But we lived in Brooklyn, New York, and many of the blocks were between avenues, so we went to different elementary schools. We did not know each other, neither did we know any grasshoppers.

We didn’t go to the same junior high, camp, or synagogue, so I didn’t have another opportunity to meet him until high school. It never happened though, because I was a “W.” I sat next to the windows (and spent far too much time looking through them, rather than focusing on my teachers). He, an “A,” sat right next to the door, in accordance with the dictates of the Delaney book.

In order to get a clear picture of our high school seating arrangement, it’s important to understand that our desks were of the old fashioned wood top and seat variety, with metal bases bolted to the seats in front and back and to the floor. The year could have been 1920 or 1969, there would have been no difference in the seating. Each of the five columns of desks was six deep. That was how the room was set up and it never changed. Also, since we had no lockers, we had to carry our coats, books, and whatever else with us as we moved between classes. That usually meant wearing my coat all day, and, because I was sitting near the heat under the windows, I was often struggling to stay awake.

So although I kind of heard of this boy who would become my husband someday, when our physics teacher kept calling him Mr. Archer instead of Mr. Ascher, I didn’t know who he was. It’s even possible that he might have heard of me, when the same teacher, dear old Mr. Swett, called me, “Mrs. Wolf, oh, no, you’re not Mrs. Wolf, she is the chemistry teacher. You are Miss Wolf, but you’ll be Mrs. Somebody someday.”

Did I mention this was the sixties? The late sixties, mind you, when times were changing.  Rigorous dress codes were already “slackened” and we were allowed to wear pants, although not “dungarees,” and think about real, non-stereotypically female careers. I swore I wouldn’t be Mrs. Anyone, ever. But that’s not part of the story. Nor, obviously, was that the outcome.

In those three years of high school (we didn’t do our freshman year there, since we were both part of a three-year-in-two junior high program) we didn’t meet, although we were in five classes together.

When I learned that he would be going to the same university as me, I tried to get a mental picture of what he looked like. The yearbook helped a bit, but I didn’t know him at all. I never saw him the first semester of college. He was friends with another “W” though, someone who often sat in front of me in high school and who was also going to the same college. It was our only connection, yet it never brought us together.

But, during the second semester, he changed dorms and landed on the same floor as my “W” friend. And for the first time I saw him in all his splendor, from his shoulder length brown hair, to his work shirt which brought out his big blue eyes behind his aviator glasses. (Remember, this was early 1970. Young men in college actually looked normal, even handsome, that way.) I suddenly realized that he was taller than me (a big selling point), something he hadn’t been before, at least in my memory, and he was smart, funny, and to me, gorgeous.

I immediately fell in lust. Eventually, so did he. And three weeks after we finished college, his parents came with us to get a marriage license. (They were there because we were under twenty-one, and though women only had to be 18 to get a license without parental permission, men under twenty-one needed to be signed away.) Weird? Did I mention this was 1973?

What would account for so many near misses, chances to notice each other that we failed to seize? I don’t know. But I think Fate may have intervened, giving us enough opportunities to finally become aware of our mutual future.

I was lucky. My husband is a really good guy, whom people see when they read my Wally Morris character’s husband. And which of my Wally Morris books does my real-life paragon of wonderfulness like the most? Vengeance Runs Cold. Maybe that’s because we spent so many years together in Buffalo—learning to warm one another’s hearts.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Don't You Remember, You Told Me You Loved Me, Baby?"

Most people who know me know that my husband and I have been together since high school thus giving us the moniker of being “High School Sweethearts.” What a lot of people don’t know is that we actually broke up twice before we finally got married. The first time was while we were in high school during our senior year. And that can be attributed to being…well…being teenagers, where everything has meaning and yet love can be fleeting. The second time we broke up was a bit more profound.

We were engaged to be married. And while I’m choosing not to go into those details of breakup number two, trust me when I tell you how we finally ended up together makes for a better story. I think we’d been apart for three months and during that time not being with my then ex-fiancĂ© was like having a void in my life. But how does one go about getting their one true love back? The answer is; leave it to Mother Nature!

Upstate New York, where we lived way back in 1970’s was in the midst of a typical mid-winter heavy snowfall. My mother and I were driving home in her gold Duster from Albany where she worked and I attended college. As the snow storm made travel nearly impossible we realized we had two choices for which road to travel home on, the high road or literally the low river road. As fate would have it, we decided on the latter, which would eventually leave us stranded at the bottom of a very long, windy hill along route 9-J. Now my mother adored my
ex-fiancĂ© and she pretty much thought I was a crazy woman for leaving him. But as we sat there all alone on the dark road with the snow falling at hard rate, and nothing but time on our hands, (I may have been having visions of our frozen bodies being discovered in the early dawn hours by a snowplow driver), she quietly reminded me that Tom told me if I ever needed anything to call him. My mother was pretty sure that that night was a good time to take him up on his promise. So I “volunteered” to get out of the car, and trudge through the knee deep snow, down a long driveway to what turned out to be the house of a high school classmate whose mother graciously let me in so I could make the all-important, life altering phone call.

Tom graciously agreed to come out into the now massive storm to rescue the damsels in distress. I have to admit that when I saw the headlights of his brother’s Jeep coming towards us through the blinding snow, my heart began to race.  My mother eagerly moved to the back seat so our Knight in Shining Armor could take the wheel. His brother hooked a tow strap to my mother’s bumper and towed my mother’s car up the road. Now as all this was taking place Tom and I were in the front seat with the glow from the dashboard lights surrounding us. I laid my hand in the middle of the seat and within minutes I felt the heat of him as he covered his hand over mine, giving a reassuring squeeze. We both knew the gesture meant so much more than just “Hey, you’re safe now.” For us it was a new beginning.

As I looked across the expanse of the space that separated us, I knew we were getting back together. I remember saying, “I know we should remember the song playing on the radio right now for the rest of our lives.” He chuckled. And to this day the only thing I know about that night, is I’m forever thankful my mother and I chose the low road, and the song on the radio…well I can tell you it was a Carpenter’s song. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It Only Takes a Minute....

I love love. Is there any more wondrous event in life than finding another person to share your future? When this happens, it is truly nothing less than a miracle. Think about it. Six billion people in the world and you find The One who is meant to be your life partner. Amazing that this happens at all. Even more amazing is that finding and falling in love with "The Right One" happens as often as it does. This is my story:

Once in a while, we make a decision that changes the direction of our lives forever. And sometimes, we rescind that decision in a mistaken belief that we made the wrong decision in the first place.

Four years after I finished my degree, I had the opportunity to attend a week long Welsh language course — an interest I had developed during my post-graduate trip to the British Isles. A month before the course began, I changed my mind because I’m not good at learning languages and, after all, it was a whim. I requested a refund. With some reluctance, Cymdeithas Madog agreed to return the small fee.

One morning, a week later, while I read the Sunday paper, I realized that I had probably shut the door on an experience I might find useful in the future. I intended to write about my visit to Wales, and a knowledge of the language was always a good thing.

I canceled my cancellation, knowing that my reputation with the Cymdeithas was now tainted.
The course began in the first week of August. My first indication that I had made the right decision to return my whimsical pursuit of learning Welsh when, on the opening introductory evening, my attention was drawn to one of the name cards of someone who had not yet arrived — one of the course tutors.

His last name was the same as a writer I had studied on my course, but his first name looked French — an added intrigue.

I returned to following morning to attend the first day of the course. That enchanted morning, across a crowded room, sat a man with a guitar. I stared at him. He glanced at me.

Thankfully, I was assigned to another tutor and that evening I had a chance to meet this Welsh-speaking guitarist on less shaky ground at an external, related event. I, the Big City girl, and he, the charming innocent from the market town in the county made famous by the Lord Rhys, gravitated to each other as though we knew from the minute we glimpsed one another we were meant to be together.

I learned much more Welsh in that week than the course could have promised. Though we were discreet, my follow learners and his fellow tutors knew we were crazy about one another. Parting at the end of the course was dreadful. He had to go on to visit friends in Maryland where he had attended the Conservatory of Music and I had to return to my job as graduate liaison officer at my former university. We made promises to write, certain never to meet again.

I wrote my first of many letters to him that night. Twenty-four long, dreary hours passed. On the third day of our separation, he phoned — as he promised he would. He was miserable in Maryland. I was thrilled he wanted to come back to spend another week in San Francisco.

Over burgers and milkshakes at Great America, he told me he wanted four children and I accepted his proposal. Crazy as it seems, we have now been soul mates and best friends, partners and parents of three (reality did kick in eventually!) for 32 years.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Only Thirteen Days - That's All It Took by Fran McNabb


All the old ladies in the neighbor said it would never work. My friends rolled their eyes and said, “Really?” My parents didn’t know what to say.

            It’s amazing how a girl can ignore everyone around her when the love bug bites. That’s what I did when I decided to marry my husband after being with him for only thirteen days.

             We met in a rather boring way. A blind date. Everyone had them. Some worked out. Most didn’t. I was starting my senior year of college and my blind date had just gotten out of Air Force technical training and was on his way to Bitburg, Germany, for three years. This was during the Vietnam era, and he was glad that’s where he was being sent.

            I’m not even sure who fixed us up, but two of my cousins went with me. The guys stepped out of the car and one of them had on cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. I told my cousins I was not going to be stuck with the cowboy (This was the 60’s in a college town and NO ONE wore western attire. NO ONE.). One of my cousins was bigger than I was and she stepped in front of me and grabbed the normal-dressed guy. I got stuck with the cowboy, but I did get him to leave the hat in the car before we went into the nightclub.

By the end of the night one cousin decided she liked the cowboy, danced with him and sat with him on the way home, but after we all said goodnight, he found me and asked me out for the next night. That was the beginning of a wonderful two-weeks together. We spent every possible hour with each other, and when I went with his family to drop him off at the airport, I sent him off with the possibility of marriage when he came back in nine months. He asked me to date to make sure before I said yes.

For Christmas he sent me a ring, but before I received it, I had gone out with a guy and for the first time since our blind date, I had a good time. I was confused. Was I ready to marry a stranger? I wrote to him, explained my dilemma and asked for a little more time.

Too late. The ring was waiting for me on Christmas morning. Yikes. Knowing how awful he must have felt, I cried and cried and cried. I didn’t know how to get in touch with him. No email, no cell phones. In fact, I didn’t even have a phone number to the barracks. We only communicated through airmail letters and an occasional reel-to-reel tape. (I still have all of his letters in a decoupage box.)
After a lot of deep thought, I put the ring on— in spite of the heads-shaking and whispers of the ladies in the neighborhood. I met him at the airport the following summer and within two weeks we were married and he whisked me off to Germany for two years.

He might’ve been a stranger in the eyes of my acquaintances, but in our hearts we knew we were right for one another. We’ll celebrate our 45th anniversary this summer. (I think I’ll pull out that box of letters to see what promises he made to me all those years ago.)

Fran McNabb lives with her husband on the Gulf Coast where they raised two sons. They now have two grandsons. Fran loves to hear from her readers at or at

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I'll Marry You...Someday

     When asked to share the story of how my husband proposed, I always answer, “Repeatedly.”
     We were barely kids when we met, 17 and 18 and on the college campus for the first time, each of us scheduled to see the same academic adviser during orientation week. Our appointments were ten minutes apart and scheduled right after lunch. The adviser, perhaps for the only time in his life, was late in arriving and the rest is family history.
     Roger, now my husband of 44 years, made up his mind quickly. I was a bit tougher to persuade. Although I knew how much I cared about him, I was unsure of myself. Was I old enough to be thinking of marriage? I had barely begun dating. I was also unsure of us. Neither of us had ever lived away from home; what did we know about running a household?
     The first time he said, “Marry me,” I said, “Maybe someday” and that was my answer for most of a year. In October of our sophomore year when I said yes, it took a moment for the answer to register. Each of us had begun to believe in the other and in the possibility of “forming a more perfect union,” but we both found the prospect intimidating.
     We were married the following June when I was 19 and he was a month short of his twentieth birthday. His father had to sign a permission slip for us to get our license.
     Do I recommend teen marriage? Not on your life. We made it work and we’re happy with the outcome, but I won’t pretend it was easy. Determined to complete our education, we graduated on the same day. There’s a picture of the two of us in our caps and gowns, a toddler on his lap and a baby bump on mine.
     I eventually went on to earn a graduate degree. We both established careers while at the same time building our family. It worked. Still, when our eighteen-year-old high school senior eldest came to us with the announcement that he and his girlfriend were planning to marry the month after he graduated, we did our best to discourage them. We knew what an uphill battle they were facing. 
     We joke that we raised each other, but it isn't really a joke. Though there were rough times, our bond was real and our commitment solid. One day a few years ago, I was at lunch with girlfriends, both of whom were speaking of "my second husband" or "my third marriage." I told them I had also had three marriages but only one husband; we keep renewing our contract as our lives change.
     This July, our eldest and his bride will celebrate their Silver Anniversary two months after their eldest, at the age of twenty-three, is married to his own young sweetheart. It seems young marriages run in our family and, so far, they’re run very well.
     Maybe we've been lucky. Maybe we've been well tutored; Golden Weddings run in both our families. No, I wouldn't recommend young marriage, but for the right couples, they can be some of the sweetest of all. 

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves hearing from readers at, @SusanAylworth or You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Falling in Love with Love

by Sierra Donovan

© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
"Falling in love with love is falling for make believe...."

I've got to admit, that line has kept popping up in my head ever since our blog decided to go with a "Falling in Love" theme for the month of February. Mind you, I'm not complaining. Having Frank Sinatra singing in my head is reason enough for just about anything.

But while things quickly go awry for the person in the song, it seems to me that falling in love with love is what we romance writers do for a living. Again, no complaints! There's a real joy in dreaming up two characters who quickly take on a life of their own in my head, then gently steering them -- or, more often, poking and prodding them -- toward their happily-ever-after.

To quote another Sinatra song: "Nice work if you can get it."

I love being able to do this job, and I love creating that falling-in-love experience for readers. Because, of course, I'm a bit of a romance reader myself. It's a fun, guilt-free form of serial monogamy, falling for one hero after another.

And something I've noticed in this month's blog entries? Lots of stories from Classic & Cozy authors about the way they found the love of their life. A lot of those relationships have gone on for 20 or 30 years, or more.

I don't have any statistics to back me up, but it seems to me we're on to something. Dream of happily-ever-after ... watch others do so ... repeat ...  live happily ever after?

Of course it isn't that easy.

But my un-scientific evidence suggests ... it's a great place to start.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Five Dollar Happily Ever After

by Gina Ardito
I was a five dollar bet. He was trying too hard.

The year I turned twenty-two, a friend of mine forgot my birthday. Because I was (and still am) a bit of a smarta**, I told him he could make it up to me by showing up at a local club that Friday night, buying me several drinks, and dancing the night away. This particular friend is not much of a dancer so I knew there was a very good chance he wouldn't show up. Bearing that in mind, I brought another friend, Margaret, to the club with me that Friday night.

Margaret was the dance fiend among friends. She hit the dance floor that night and never returned. Since I was the designated driver of the evening, I took a seat at the bar (another friend was the bartender--always helpful!) and ordered up a club soda. The first guy to approach me showed up with a posse of his friends backing him up. He proceeded to tell me his dad was a driving instructor and he could get me free lessons if I'd date him. (Wow! What a deal! What a catch!) Luckily, my bartender pal scared him and his posse away. 

I was sipping my club soda, scanning the dance floor for Margaret, when a husky voice whispered in my ear, "You're not having a good time tonight, are you?"

I turned and came face-to-face with a pair of golden eyes that made my heart stutter. He offered to buy me a drink. I told him I was drinking club soda, which was free. He offered to buy me a free club soda. Okay, I thought, we've got great eyes and a sense of humor. Two checkmarks for him. I must have smiled, encouraging him. He pulled up the barstool next to mine and kept chatting. He told me he was a stockbroker and part-time ski instructor. He had a boat he'd love to take me out on. He routinely flew to Europe on business. The more he told me, the more I knew he was lying. And yet, as odd as it might seem, his lies charmed me. He was trying so hard to impress me, I felt flattered. Or maybe he had me hypnotized with those eyes. 

We talked for hours. We danced. And at the end of the night, despite his insistence I leave with him, I gave him my phone number and went home with Margaret. She, of course, gushed about this guy who seemed so interested in me. "When you marry him," she said, "I better be invited to the wedding." I told her, "When I marry him, you get to be in the bridal party."

You can pretty much guess the rest. He called me. On our first date, he confessed he wasn't a stockbroker or a ski instructor. He didn't have a boat and had no plans to go to Europe. In fact, he'd only recently graduated college and was about to start his first "real job" a few weeks later. Why had he lied? Because I looked so perfect, so special, he thought he wasn't good enough. Yeah, I fell. Hard and fast. Lucky for me, so did he. We dated for two years and on the second anniversary of the day we met, we married.

Over time, he taught me to ski. He took me sailing. And we traveled to Europe. So maybe he was more prognosticator than prevaricator. 

The five dollar bet? I found out about that after we were engaged. His friend, Mike, who was with him at the club the night we met, revealed all. "Didn't he tell you? He spotted you when you came in that night, said you were perfect for him, and bet me five bucks he'd leave the club with you."

He lost that bet.

But, in the end, we both won. Mike was the best man at our wedding; Margaret was a bridesmaid. It's been thirty+ years since that night in the club. His eyes still make my heart stutter. And every time he tells me, "I love you," I fall in love all over again.

Happy belated Valentine's Day! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sometimes a Blind Date Does Work Out

In keeping with the February theme of how we met our husbands or significant others, here's my story.
Our wedding in 1969

I had a number of blind dates my freshman year in college and they were pretty uniformly disasters. I suffered through the guy who couldn’t manage to string two words together—ever—and the guy who wouldn’t shut up—ever—about the dog he’d left behind at home. There was the guy who turned everything, including the food at dinner, into a political cause. The one who drank too much. The one groping me almost before we’d exchanged names.

The only one I met who interested me apparently didn’t feel the same way. He never called back. 

By the end of the year I’d sworn off blind dates.

But one month into my sophomore year, a friend of a friend of a friend needed a date and asked me if I’d go. She knew I didn’t have plans for the weekend. My first inclination was to say, no thanks, no way, not ever again. But I didn’t have a good excuse, really, and I was a bit bored, so I said yes.

Best call I ever made.  He turned out to be really cute, really nice, and really compatible. We hit it off right away, found out we had a lot in common (we both read mysteries and science fiction!), and we talked and talked. And then there was the chemistry thing. Definitely there. I think I knew by the end of the first date we’d be getting married eventually.

A year and a half later we did.  And as of last November, we’ve been married 45 years. It hasn’t all been roses. We’ve had our difficulties, arguments, and hard times. Sometimes we gritted our teeth and hung on by our fingernails. But we’d made a commitment to each other, and the love was still there beneath it all.  That got us through.

It’s totally been worth it.

True story from our Wedding:  I was standing in the back of the church with my Dad waiting for our cue to head up the aisle. A nicely dressed, middle-aged man rushed in at the last minute.  My dad stepped toward him, extended his hand and said, “Hi, I’m John Gxxxxxx. The other man shook his hand and said, “Hi, I’m your brother, Jimmy.” They hadn’t seen each other in years and my wedding was the occasion for them re-connecting.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Getting to Know Us—Love Songs

Collected by Jayne Ormerod

 Let’s all sing together now (cue the bouncing ball over the words…)

“What the world needs now is love sweet love…it’s the only thing that there is just too little of!”

In keeping with the Classic and Cozy them this month, we are forgoing our regular one-on-one interview with one of our bloggers but instead have invited members to share with us their favorite Love Song.  Choices say a lot about a person, IMHO, so let’s get to know us a little better. And by the end of your post you might have a few ideas for a Valentine’s Play List. 

Gina Ardito:

My all-time favorite love song is "At Last" by Etta James. Here's why:

Okay, don't tell my husband, but before I met him, I was dating someone else and that song came on the radio while we were parked outside my parents' house. It was late--definitely after midnight. Well, he turned up the music and told me to get out of the car. Baffled, I stepped out, and he proceeded to slow dance with me on the front lawn. All these decades later, it's still one of the most romantic things I've ever experienced.

Sandra Wilkens:

Pick a love song?  Oh, my.  Music of all genres can capture my heart, but I was able to narrow it down.  I’ve enjoyed John Denver’s music since I was a girl and I would sit in my grandma’s black rocking chair to listen to his record.  “Annie’s Song” was a favorite romantic song for most of my life, but a few years ago I found a little known gem called “For You”.  It’s his pure voice and a piano.  The entire song is lovely, but these lines really resonate with me.  “Just to look in your eyes again…Just to live in your laughter…Just to sing in your heart…Just to be every one of your dreams come true…For you—for the rest of my life…For you—all the best of my life…For you alone, only for you.” 

Janis Susan May Patterson

My favorite love song is "If Tomorrow Never Comes - Will She Know How Much I Loved Her" as done by Garth Brooks. It was the song he was singing (at a concert) when I decided that after 50 years of singledom I wanted to marry the man who became my husband. 

Leigh Verrill-Rhys

My favorite love song is: Stephen Bishop's "Looking for the Right One." I heard this song when my husband and I were on a date when we first met (to be detailed on February 24th). The song is so evocative of romance and the heartache of searching for love. I used a line from the Beatles' "I Will" for my debut romance "Wait a Lonely Lifetime" which is echoed in Bishop's later recorded song. Art Garfunkel also recorded  "Looking for the Right One" but Bishop does it best.

Victoria M. Johnson

I'm a die hard Beatles fan--so picking just one favorite love song is hard.  But since my arm is being twisted here, "If I Fell" gets my vote as the most romantic.  The words are so raw, of someone hurt and vulnerable, someone who truly wants to give love another try.  The lyrics are heart wrenching actually.  I would love to love you...  I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.  

Jayne Ormerod

In high school the song my BFF and I thought was THE most romantic song ever was “Muskrat Love” by Captain and Tenille (now divorced…but I digress…)  When it gets to the part about Muskrat Suzie and Muskrat Sam doing the Jitterbug well we substituted our own names paired with whomever the boy was we liked at the time.  My friend Barb would sing “Muskrat Barbie and Muskrat Steve” every time.  She ended up marrying him too! 

So for those of you who have forgotten the lyrics (or are maybe too young to have ever heard them), don’t expect great romance.  In fact from the distance of time they sound kind of cheesey.  But that’s the way we were back in the late 70’s.

Copyright laws preculde me from publishing the lyrics here, but if you need are very curious about the song, you can hear the song and ready the lyrics here:
But consider yourself warned, it's a tough song to get out of your mind!