Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Waiting is Over


By Fran McNabb

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already experienced the excitement of Christmas morning,
especially if you have children in the house. You still might have lots of torn wrapping paper around the Christmas tree and empty boxes where the children left them after getting their toys. Watching the excitement on a child’s face on Christmas morning makes all the stressful weeks before the holiday worthwhile.

Maybe you’re relaxing in a big chair after feasting on a traditional Christmas meal or waiting for the rest of the family to come in to enjoy a later meal together. Christmas is about family and what better way than to sit at a table together.

Every family has a different tradition as to how Christmas day will be spent. I hope whatever you choose to do with the rest of your day and the rest of the holiday week, you spend it with family and friends and find the peace and joy that Christmas should be all abo

And lastly, if you or someone you know received a Kindle or an iPad and you’re looking for some great reads, don’t forget the ladies on this blog: Susan Aylworth, Sandy Cody, Sofie Couch, Roni Denholtz, Victoria M. Johnson, Karen McCullugh, Deborah Nolan, Janis Susan May, Leigh Verrill Rhys, of course, me, Fran McNabb.

The waiting is over. Enjoy your holiday. Merry Christmas and Happy Hannakuh to you and yours. See you in 2020.

FRAN MCNABB and her husband live on a quiet harbor on the Gulf Coast. She writes sweet, traditional romances and uses her beloved Gulf Coast in many of her books. Check her out at www.FranMcNabb.com


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Holiday Traditions

With Christmas approaching I start the count down for the big day, stress over the right gifts for the folks on my list, and how to squeeze in time to decorate.  I also think about what I’ll serve for every meal surrounding the holiday.  Planning those meals is the fun part.  I enjoy the whole process—from the menu and the special ingredients needed, right down to the actual preparation. My trip to Zabars is done, the herring, Stilton and brie are in the fridge, and my husband is in the middle of the three day preparation for the gravlax.  
We have our traditions and each of them is sacred.  But all this delicious and to some, exotic food, accompanied by great wine, doesn’t overwhelm the fact that this holiday has always been a family affair with my husband and children, and now their spouses, helping out at every step. 
When I started writing this piece I was thinking the food was what made Christmas so special.  But I realize that really isn’t true. There’s no dispute that the meals and preparation are important, but it’s not what makes holiday so meaningful and enjoyable. What is important are the rituals and the traditions that have been created from having these family meals and being together. The dinners, including the planning and preparation, are what the holidays are about and are so much of our family’s tradition.  It’s why I try each year to make them special.
I marvel at friends and acquaintances and even extended family that tell me how they’ve figured out how to make Christmas easy.  “Cold cuts,” they say. “We pick up food at the deli the night before so no one has to fuss.”  Others tell me they’ve discovered the solution to a peaceful Christmas:  the simplified menu.  “We just get a spiral ham,” I’m told, “and with a Caesar salad, we’re set.”
            In our house, there would be a revolution if I ever suggested either menu. I wouldn’t be happy either.
But in the end, I understand it’s really not about the food per se.  Focusing on the meals isn’t about having a gourmet feast or the extraordinary wine that’s been chosen to accompany all that good food.  It’s the being together around a table enjoying each other’s company.
I don’t have the perfect family—does anyone?  But in spite of our differences and maybe because one of my daughters and her family live on the other side of the country in LA, we want to come together as a family and so far have managed to every Christmas and several other times of the year.
That’s the real meaning of the holiday, being together around the table enjoying the time that we have.  Of course what we eat and drink adds to the fun, at least in our house, and the fact that everyone pitches in to cook and help with the clean up makes it all possible and enjoyable for everyone.  So really, cold cuts or a simple and basic meal may not be my choice, but it’s not a sacrilege.  The important thing is the comfort and joy of being at the table together this time of the year.  

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Friday, December 13, 2019

It's Snowing at the Classic and Cozy Corner!


Welcome to the world of Classic and Cozy writers...

Come on. Walk with me down Main Street! (We'll cut through the park.)
It's not far now. (Crunch, crunch, crunch.) This is it... Can you hear the music coming from inside?
As we step inside, we are greeted by the smell of cookies...
...the sound of a crackling fire...
...the sight and smell of a tree...
...and coming from the corner of the room, someone is reading from a Classic and Cozy Book.
My gift to one of you...
So sign up to follow my blog at https://sofiecouch.com/blog/ and I'll choose a couple of names and post the winner on my blog,

In celebration of the holiday, to launch an overhaul of SofieCouch.com, I’m giving away the Christmas Trifecta – one of each, IN THE ST. NICK OF TIME, IN THE ST. NICK OF TIME…AGAIN, and DRAGON RUN, a not so Christmassy collection of short stories. I’ll draw a name from our current followers here at ClassicAndCozyBooks.blogspot.com, and a name from new and old followers at SofieCouch.com and those folks will receive a copy of each of those short-shorts! Well, I think it’s exclamation worthy!!! Woot, woot!
And if you haven’t already, you can still order books in time for Christmas from the many amazing writers here at Classic and Cozy. They are books with heart that anyone would appreciate finding under their tree.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Of Travel, Ideas and a Heavenly Heliodore


by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

I have long said that everything is research, and that ideas fly around us with the intensity and persistence of a gnat horde. It’s true. It’s also frustrating. And overwhelming.
Right now I’m sitting at an ungodly early hour of the morning, my inner clock still refusing to synchronize with my home time, trying to sort out the masses of information boiling in my brain. The Husband and I returned (LATE!) a few days ago from a trip to the Munich Gem and Mineral Show, a wonderful trip concluded with long hours of flights on uncomfortable planes interspersed with long hours spent sitting in uncomfortable airports. Our return day began at 5 am in Munich and ended right around midnight here in Texas. My poor jangled electrons are still trying to catch up.
So what does that have to do with ideas? Everything. As I said, I believe ideas are everywhere, and they are there in spades at the biggest gem and mineral show in Europe, if not the world. (5 acres under roof – it may be weeks before my poor abused feet recover!) All we have to do is open our minds and imaginations to them. Ideas, that is, not my feet.
Everywhere you look there is the germ of an idea. Fossils, for example. Who found them? What kind of creature were they? Where were they found? What kind of adventures did the discoverers have bringing them to market? Or take the case of the 38 carat emerald cut heliodore (a gloriously clear pale yellow-green stone) that looks as if it might have been snatched from the crown of some pagan idol.  It made my little jewelry-junkie heart beat like a hyperactive triphammer.  While my rational mind is completely assured that it was legally acquired and is purely legitimate, my warped writer’s mind is off on a wild ride of ‘what ifs.’
Adding to this rich mix of stimulation are the languages. Walk down any aisle and in fifty feet or so you will have heard at least a dozen languages, some of which I could identify, some of which I couldn’t. While doubtless all these people were either exchanging gossip or talking about business, that self-same warped writer’s mind can spin a tale of international skullduggery or heroic derring-do.
Of course, no writer has to make an exhausting and punitively expensive trip just to find ideas. You can do the same thing with a trip to the grocery store (which, to be honest, can be punitively expensive, too!) as long as your eyes and your mind and your imagination are open. And maybe that’s the trick – not where you go or what you see or anything else – just be sure that your mind is open. Explore. Dream. Think. And imagine. It’s easy.

Friday, November 22, 2019

BEING A STRONG WOMAN THESE DAYS

I told my husband I was thinking about writing a blog about Jane Fonda.  The instant I said it, he had a negative reaction--as I expected he would.  For those of us who were young adults during the Viet Nam war, Jane Fonda is still a controversial figure.  
But I’m not writing about that time and whether or not Fonda was a traitor for going to  North Viet Nam. I’m writing about who Fonda is today and how in many ways she’s a model for older women in our society.  
Jane Fonda was born into Hollywood royalty.  Her father was Henry Fonda, a respected and beloved actor. From what I’ve read, her childhood was not happy or stable even if privileged.  She married three times and has throughout her life put herself into the limelight.  Sometimes it seemed she’d gone off the deep end, case in point, Viet Nam; or cashed in on her notoriety or celebrity, cue to her exercise tapes. But she never slowed down and she kept reinventing herself.  
There were her marriages.  First Roger Vadim, the French director and ex-husband of Bridgette Bardot. Then husband number two, Tom Hayden, the political activist, who first came to our attention during the 1967 Democratic Convention in Chicago.  These two men could not have been more different except, like Ted Turner, her last, they were famous, successful, and most likely, egotistical and probably narcissists.
But Jane Fonda persisted.  You have to admit, if you’re still reading and not turned off by the very mention of her name, Jane Fonda is resilient and now, even at nearly 82, remarkable.
I was struck by that resiliency the other night watching her on the news after being arrested in D.C.  She appeared as herself, sans the make up she wears when filming Grace & Frankie. She looked, while fabulous, closer to her age.  Nonetheless, besides being attractive and articulate, she displayed an enormous amount energy and intelligence for anyone, much less an older woman. 
The person I saw on the screen was not some old lady wacko, but a vital person who believes in climate change and her obligation to do what she could to bring our attention to its dangers.  She used her celebrity to get the world to pay attention. 
I was impressed and struck by what she said, that being almost 82 she didn’t have to worry about coming across too strong or too aggressive and could say, do, and be whatever she wanted. She didn't have to try and entice a man. 
That struck a chord with me and I imagine with many of my peers.  We are of the generation that thinks before we speak lest we came across as too aggressive or even too smart or, heaven forbid, unlikeable.  It’s been suggested that’s why certain female candidates are unelectable. 
There are some men and even women reading this who will deny that there is a prejudice against smart, outspoken women, and maybe in some circles there isn’t.  But from where I sit, I see a prejudice against that kind of women that needs to be acknowledged and addressed or else we’re in danger of missing out on the wisdom and assistance of far too many. 
I'm not suggesting that Jane Fonda should be a role model.  But I do think her responses to the life that she was born are understandable and I'm impressed that she  never stopped trying to figure out who she really was and what she could offer to the world. I think she finally has. 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

A private Memorial Day

As I write this post, on Friday, Nov. 8, I'm doing a great deal of remembering. First, I'm thinking of my dad.

Anthen Hugh Hubbard was born on November 8, 1922. If he were still with us today, he'd be 97 years old. I feel blessed that I had him until seven years ago. My children, all adults now, remember him as one of the kindest, best people they ever knew. To me, he was Dad. His unconditional love carried me through all kinds of childhood and teenage crises, and strengthened me when the more serious adult challenges came. I always knew I could turn to Dad and he'd be there. I miss him.

The other memory associated with today is harder, perhaps because it's much more raw. Missing my dad can bring me to tears, but thinking about a year ago today is a whole other ball game. A year ago today, the most destructive and deadly wildfire in the history of California galloped through the county where I live. It wiped out the towns of Concow and Paradise, left 50,000 people displaced, and changed our county forever.
Many of our friends lost their homes and all their possessions. Some lost loved pets, a few lost relatives, friends or neighbors. 85 people lost their lives. The impact wasn't so great in my town. Although the fire burned within five miles of our home and threatened us with evacuation warnings, we were spared the flames. We were not spared all of the shock and horror. There's a hymn frequently sung in my church. The third verse begins:



     When dark clouds of trouble hang o'er us, and threaten our peace to destroy,
     There is hope smiling brightly before us, and we know that deliverance is nigh.

I can't sing it without tears. Any time I think of dark clouds of trouble, I remember stepping outside my home last November 8 and watching the black smoke, thousands of feet high, rolling toward us at 50 miles per hour, blown by the same winds that fanned the voracious flames. We lived in hazard masks for three weeks, doing our best to render aid to others while we all worked through shock.

My book, Sunny's Summer, the second book in the "Seasons of Destiny" series, works with characters who experienced that day as so many did. It takes place in the aftermath of the Camp Fire. In it, I've tried to give others the visceral sense of what that first day was like, and what the past year has been like for everyone who experienced it, each of us in different ways. Maybe, for me, it was a form of therapy, of working through the enormity of it all.

People here are recovering. Folks wear t-shirts that proclaim they are #ButteStrong or #ParadiseStrong. The first game of the Paradise High School football team this fall saw the stands overflowing with people who were moving back, or had sworn that one day, they will. Still, every community in Butte County has felt the impact, and nothing will be the same again.


Paradise may indeed rebuild, but it will take ten years before it begins to look like Paradise, and probably 30 years before the population numbers return. The population once here will not return, as displaced people scattered across the map, taking root elsewhere. Speaking of roots, most of the beautiful trees that did not burn died because of toxins in the air and soil. The forest that went with the town may not fully regrow for a century or longer.

While November 8 means little to the people of the world, for me it's a private memorial day as I think of my dad. To the people of Butte County, it's a day that will live forever in memory, a memory we hope to make happier as life goes on.

Susan loves to hear from readers. Write her at susan.aylworth.author@gmail.com, or visit www.susanaylworth.com or her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author. Watch for Amber in Autumn, Book 3 in the "Seasons of Destiny" series, coming early next year. Books 1 and 2, Paris in the Springtime and  Sunny's Summer are available in e-book and paperback formats. Winter Skye will follow soon. Subscribe to the newsletter or stay in touch for updates. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Tiara? Check.
Coffee? Check.
Notebook? Check.
Favorite ink pen? Check.
Computer all fired up? Check.

So no excuses.

 Oh! And did I forget to mention, it’s also November? That’s National Novel Writing Month for all of you out there who have been saying, “I’ve got this book idea floating around in my head…” Well, we’re half-way through NaNoWriMo (pronounced Nay-no-rye-moe with your thickest southern accent) so you’ve got some catching up to do.

The goal, after you create a free account at nanowrimo.org, is to create wordcount equivalent to a short novel… in one month. That’s 50,000 words to the noobs, and “all in a day’s work” to you seasoned writers.

So you can do the math, or have the nanowrimo.org site do the math for you. Thirty days in November, divided into 50,000 words, that’s… er… that’s 1,667 words per day, every day. Wait! You’re already a half month behind! That’s a little over 3,000 words per day. Pshhht. That’s only about 12 pages per day, 250 words per page. Easy peasy, lemony squeezey. Hey, if this humanities major can do that much math in one paragraph, you can whip out 12 pages per day for the next 15 days.

Computer. Pen. Notebook at your side. Coffee. Tiara. GO!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

An Author’s Thanksgiving

By Karen McCullough


I think there’s some kind of unwritten rule that November blog posts in the U.S. have to be about being thankful--and, really, that’s a good thing! Cultivating gratitude as a top-of-the-mind trait is something we should all do and it’s great we have a special time of year to remind us to do so. I’m more disappointed than I can tell you that retailers are turning a beautiful holiday into a gateway to the profligate spending money for Christmas season, the antithesis of what Thanksgiving should mean.

But anyway, back to gratitude. I firmly believe that gratitude isn’t something you do. It’s one of the most important underpinnings of how you live your life. It’s an attitude that everything you are and everything you have is a gift. It means taking nothing for granted.

With that in mind, I want to take a slightly different slant and talk about some things I’m thankful for, strictly in my capacity as an author. Some of these may be controversial, so feel free to disagree in the comments. Here are some of them:

Computers and word processing software – I’m old enough that back when I was in college all my term papers and theses were produced on a typewriter. I developed into a fairly speedy typist, but not a very accurate one. The typewriter I used was old enough that when you messed up, you had to either use that messy white-out stuff or just retype the whole page. I shudder to think how many times I would’ve had to retype each of my book manuscripts to get a reasonably clean copy.

The freedom to write what I want – I’m grateful to live in a country where I have the freedom to write pretty much whatever I choose. But let me be clear, freedom to write whatever I want doesn’t absolve me of responsibility for my words. I can write what I want, but the rest of the world has the right to object to my words, to refuse to buy my books, and to write scathing reviews. They can sue me if those words are stolen from someone else (something I’d never do, by the way), or hold me responsible if someone uses my words as inspiration to commit a crime. (I like to think my books are inspirational but not that way!)

The ability to travel for research and inspiration – I love travel and it inspires me with ideas for stories, settings, and characters.  And several of us here on this blog have talked about the importance of getting details right in your settings. There are some substitutes for actually visiting a place, but none will give you the richness of detail of the actual experience.

Libraries – As a kid, I hung out in libraries as much as I could. I loved to read, and I loved to research odd facts, pursuing all sorts of information. I don’t go as much as I used to, but it still gives me joy to be in a library. Usually when my grandkids are visiting, we’ll take them to the library and let them check out a few books to read during their time here. I love that they regard that as a huge treat. In the early days of my writing each book would require several trips to the library for research purposes. The staff at the research desk knew me and sometimes I could just call to verify a few facts.

Google and Wikipedia -  Google created the first search engine that delivered really accurate results, speedily, and Wikipedia created the first crowd-sourced, comprehensive encyclopedia. I do a lot of my research using them. I don’t take everything I read on the Internet as gospel, but at the very least, the articles I find suggest leads to more authoritative sources. I try to verify everything I learn with another source.

Amazon – I know not everyone will agree with the gratitude here, but Amazon did create the first online bookstore and, let’s face it, that has changed the world. Before Amazon I bought books at the local bookstore, but frequently would find an author I liked and had to go searching through used   Not to mention the time I’ve saved because I can do most of my shopping online and have everything delivered right to my door! That’s more writing time for me!

bookstores to find the rest of the author’s works. Since my taste runs a bit off mainstream, I often had to special order books I wanted and then wait, and wait, and wait some more for them to arrive. And Amazon popularized the ereader. It’s hard to describe what a boon that has been for people like me, with poor eyesight. Now every book can be a large print book! And for the author, the advent of epublishing has meant I can make my backlist available as I get the rights back to my older published books, and also have a chance of putting out those other books that mainstream publishers didn’t want – usually because I crossed too many genre boundaries!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Booking a trip


Whenever I travel overseas, I try to read novels ahead of time, usually mysteries, which take place in the countries I am visiting.

It wasn’t always that way. I didn’t read Icelandic mysteries until after my husband and I visited that country. We’d heard that there were a lot of authors in Iceland who loved to write, especially during the long dark cold winters, probably one in three of the 375,000 residents. Perhaps that writing bug had been sparked by the Edda but it was something with which I, as a writer myself, could identify. Yet I discovered when reading the books, one set on an island off Iceland where a lava flow had obliterated a town not all that long ago, that I wished I had read the book first so I could have had a sense of place and known to ask more questions while I was there. I can’t beat myself up too much about that though, since the book was not available in the U.S. It was just something my husband picked up (along with a copy of the Edda he still hasn’t read but does double duty as a doorstop) on our way home.

We both enjoyed the Icelandic books and for a while bought as many as we could find online. Many were written by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Arnaldur Indridason. The descriptions of the land, weather, and amount of daylight, which was either too much (no such thing in my opinion) or too little, fascinated me, as did their children naming conventions.

Taking our past experience into consideration, I read a few mystery novels written on the Emerald Isle to get a sense of what we might expect on our trip to Ireland. I found that while the language is the same, (at least the English, not the Gaelic) there were several words that I didn’t know. More words unknown to me were explained by our tour guide when he mentioned “gob,” which is mouth, “bog,” a word used in many places but in Ireland refers to where peat comes from, and “craic”  which somehow meant good, or news or gossip or conversation, I think. I’ve been taking a refresher course by reading a book by Patricia Gibney and watching Derry Girls, with the helpful subtitles.

I tried to find Scottish writers’ books before our trip. I had read Outlander many years ago, but I still wanted to see some modern-day people and activities, so found one mystery by Pete Brassett. It put me on the lookout for Scottish food, such as sticky toffee pudding, black pudding, haggis, and the ever-present shortbread which was as common as fish and chips. I also read about the extremely changeable weather which was totally integral to Scotland.

I looked forward to learning some Scottish words and I was not disappointed. I heard terms like “hoolies” (big windy storms, not to be confused with a hooley, a traditional dance and music party,) which tap into my inner linguistic interests. I’d learned long ago about all the words for snow the Inuit have, depending on the conditions, and I was fascinated that the Scots have “dreich,” “snell,” “fret,” “drookit,” “stoating” and many more for rain. They expect the weather to change frequently, and I found myself layering up, but always leaving the umbrella on the bus when the sun was shining, only to be caught in rain on the way back to it.

Shortly after returning home, I picked up a book by Jenny Colgan about a fictional island off the northern coast of Scotland. I had almost forgotten about the unpleasantly sweet drink called Irn-Bru, which our tour guide offered us, when I saw it mentioned in Jenny’s book. She reminded me of many other things we had learned about during our trip, such as Cranachan, a delicious whipped cream raspberry dessert never prepared the same way twice. The book also referred to the coos, which is what they call cows, especially the adorable Highland ones wearing bangs. Reading it was almost like extending our trip.

Don’t get me wrong. I like books written in this country too, and many of them remind me of places I have visited. But if I go somewhere new, there is a very good chance I’m going to try to find a book written by a local author.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Setting -- More than a Name



by Fran McNabb

Recently on our Classic and Cozy blog, several of our authors wrote about using accurate details when creating setting in a piece of fiction. Those posts got me thinking and I’d like to add to them.

Setting puts readers into time and into the place of a story. Historical writers usually have a good grasp of setting. It’s easy to feel where the writer of historical fiction wants the reader to be because she or he understands that point must be made early in the story. Unfortunately contemporary writers sometimes neglect to place their characters in a specific place other than simply naming a town. If a reader can plop the character down in any town in the United States or in any other county, the writer has missed her mark to make setting as strong of an element as character and plot.

Even if the writer has accurately placed the character in a specific setting and built that world correctly, has she captured the feel of the place? I’m speaking from experience here. I recently submitted a manuscript to an editor whom I personally know and who works with one of the top ten publishing groups. I had my story set in Key West, a place I love and have visited several times. She rejected the manuscript because she wanted a series and she said she didn’t think I had captured the feel of the Keys and what I had written would not sustain the area's thread throughout three novels. Needless to say, I was baffled because I thought I had done a good job with the setting. Obviously, I had not.

When the manager of a very nice welcome center on my Gulf Coast suggested I have a book launch at the center for my next book release, I thanked her and hoped I’d actually have another book release. With that piece of information in mind, I started thinking about my rejected story and realized I might not know all the nuances of Key West, but I certainly understood the region where I called home. I took the same story and rewrote it with a Gulf Coast setting, outlined three books that could come from the idea, and found a small press to publish the series.

My point here concerns setting. Just finding a place on the map to put characters in won’t work unless the writer understands the place. Sure it can be done without actually living there, but when an author feels the setting, he or she has a better chance of helping the reader feel the area as well.

What’s it like to walk down the sidewalk of a town? Are sidewalks actually there? Do neighbors know each other? Do they sit on their porches and talk to each other? Do neighborhood children play in the streets? Do taxi cabs and other ride sharing vehicles get people around or do citizens rely on their own transportation?

Even though I know the area where my new book is set, I still did not use the actual name of the town. Instead I named the community Marsh Isles. Readers along the Gulf Coast should recognize the town where I placed my characters though I gave it a different name. By not using real names of cities or streets I can change the physical setting to fit my story while still keeping the feel of the town—I hope. It doesn't always happen though. The name of this book is PARADISE LANE, 

and at one of my talks a lady raised her hand and said she wanted a copy of the book because she lived on Paradise Lane in the same area where I set the book. I was floored. I thought there wasn’t a street by that name there, but who knew there would be one in one of the newer subdivisions?

I’m pleased that I changed the setting to the Gulf Coast, and so far I’ve had good feedback from my readers. I can’t wait to see what other locals think about the book. Fingers crossed.

Where are your books set? Do your readers feel the area? It doesn't matter if it's real or  simply based on a place you know, think about the little things that make it special and make your readers know where they are.

FRAN MCNABB lives along the Gulf Coast and uses this setting in most of her novels. PARADISE LANE is her newest book in the three-book GULF COAST SERIES. Check her out at www.FranMcNabb.com.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

New York: My City


When I hear people who don’t live in New York City say how much they hate the city I always wonder what part of the New York they’ve visited. If it’s Times Square, I don’t blame them.  If that were how I experienced the city, I’d hate it too. 
I do understand the city isn’t for everyone.  Lots of people prefer to be in less congested, more bucolic settings and/or have more space to live in.  I actually can’t imagine living in the city without the ability to regularly leave for the country and space.  But I still love New York City and if I had my way, I’d live here part of the time for the rest of my life.  
I lived in the city right out of college for eleven years and then again as an adult after our children were launched.  This second time has been for 16 plus years, but in May that time will all be ending and we’ll be moving upstate to live in our country house full time. Knowing I’ll soon be leaving New York has gotten me thinking about why I like New York so much and has reminded me that why I love New York is, in many ways, contrary to how a tourist thinks of and experiences the city. 
My New York is a city of neighborhoods including mine on the Upper West Side. My city is a friendly, caring place where if everyone doesn’t know my name, they at least recognize me and will, if necessary, look out for me.  
Most tourists think of New York as the midtown area, consisting of Times Square—a place in my opinion that should be avoided at all costs—and the streets between Fifth and Park Avenue from 42nd Street to Central Park.  This is where the high-end hotels are as well as the most expensive restaurants and the same international boutiques you’re likely to find in every other major city in the world.  But it’s not my New York. 
Of course I go into midtown—but not often.  Most Christmas times, like so many tourists, I make a pilgrimage to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and the windows at Saks and Bergdorf’s and stop and have a drink at a bar in one of the fancy hotels. I also go to the theatre every chance I get and Lincoln Center and the art museums—all in midtown.  But otherwise, I stick to my neighborhood.   
I live in a medium sized prewar apartment building where the doorman knows me and my husband and my grown children, their spouses and my grandchildren too.  They may not know every member of my family by name, but they know them all well enough to let them into the building without calling up to check.  They’ll also give them our key if we’re not in town.  
The doormen also know the minute details in our lives and everyone else’s in the building.  They inquire if they see me by myself on a Friday night, wondering where my husband is.  They also keep tabs on me if they see my husband out by himself during the week.  They know we leave for the country most weekends and where we’ve gone on vacation. 
Some may think all this interaction is overly intrusive. I think it’s being neighborly. In many ways our building is like a small town where everyone knows who you are and looks out for you.
            It’s also true at our typical New York City grocery store just around the corner.  It’s not Whole Foods with its fancy labels and boutique cheese selection, but the produce, thanks to Asian owners who know what they’re doing, and fussy Hispanic customers who also know their fruits and vegetables, the produce is always fresh and reasonably priced.  It’s at least as good as Whole Foods and much cheaper—I know because I’ve checked. The store is also friendly.  I lived in a small town in New Jersey for twenty-three years, but no cashier ever called me Sweetie until I moved to this neighborhood and became a regular customer. Now I’ve come to expect it.  These people know me and I know them.  
            Contrary to many myths about the city, New Yorkers look out for one another and can be counted on to help if you’re lost or in trouble.   The city is such a communal place that when I rode the crosstown bus last week with my nineteen- month old grandson on my lap, the entire front of the bus where we were sitting got involved.  By the time we got out at Amsterdam, I knew where my seat companions were from, Poland, and they knew my grandson was in from L.A.  
            But you don’t need a baby to make a travel friend.  It’s not unusual when I’m riding the subway for women my age to ask where I’m headed and what show I’m seeing if I’m riding the train in the evening.  In every one of those encounters, what show I’m seeing is just the icebreaker with conversations then veering off from theatre and restaurant recommendations to quick synopses of each other’s lives.  This has happened so frequently that I no longer think of it as unusual and recognize it for what it is, New Yorkers at their best. 
            This is not to say that I’m sad about leaving the city.  I think it’s time to downsize and simplify my life.  But I’ll always treasure these past sixteen years and attribute my stay here as a great transition into retirement and helping me stay mentally fit.  I also imagine visiting often. After all, I know my way around and can get on the subway to reach my favorite neighborhoods. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dogged Deadlines!

I've been Missing in Action for much of the last month. My family wonders where Mom has gone. My neighbors may be asking if I've moved away. Social media connections almost certainly believe I've unfriended them. I've been on deadline.

This particular deadline crunch began with a challenge. I attended a writers' conference in mid-September. A woman I've known for years and have worked with frequently, managing editor at a publishing house that has produced some of my books, attended the same conference. She issued a broad challenge to anyone willing to accept it: The publishing house had a contest going involving three different genres. They sought novellas in each of the three categories, with the best entry in each to be published next year. One of those categories is historical romance and my friend, the editor, challenged me to send her a manuscript.

The problem? She showed me the flyer for the contest and issued her personal challenge on September 14. The deadline for all entries was October 15. Could I write a novella start to finish in a month?

Now you understand why I've been MIA. I've been pushing that deadline. The good news is, the novella is complete at 36,000 words. Three lovely readers and an editor gave it a once-over for me, even when I gave them a two-day deadline to get it done, and I submitted my complete manuscript two days ago, on October 14, actually one day early. It's a good story, too. I did it! But that's about all I've done lately.

What has this experience taught me? For one thing, I can be stubborn about taking on a challenge, even if it doesn't seem realistic. Also, I can write a book in a month if I'm highly motivated. Those are good things to know. Not so good are some of the other lessons, like realizing I can disappear so completely into the black hole of my fictional world that I can practically vanish from the physical world we inhabit. Not good. Not good at all.

I'm back now, remembering where I live and reconnecting with the actual people around me. I'm even working again on my other deadlines, which got pushed back or snubbed altogether during my month of publishing panic. Today, I appear to be just like other people with other jobs, people who work given hours and live the rest of the time with family and friends.

I'm not cured, however. Deadline Fever will surely strike again. One day soon, I'll realize I've spent so much time playing with my imaginary friends that my actual, physical friends wonder what has happened to me. Or maybe not. My friends know I'm a writer, after all.

Susan loves to hear from readers. Write her at susan.aylworth.author@gmail.com, or visit www.susanaylworth.com or her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author. Watch for Amber in Autumn, Book 3 in the "Seasons of Destiny" series, coming early next year. Books 1 and 2, Paris in the Springtime and  Sunny's Summer are available in e-book and paperback formats. Winter Skye will follow soon. Who knows? There may even be an historical romance novella to add to the mix. Stay in touch for updates.