Vintage Romance-Romantic Suspense-Cozy Mystery



The Unlonely Road


I’ve had more than a few raised eyebrows about the fact I travel alone. No, I’m not Greta Garbo who always “vanted to be alone”, but when I travel, I prefer it that way.

When the boys were small, we always hit the tourist spots they enjoyed, which included stopping at every historical marker on every road we traveled. In fact, all I had to do to quiet small and not-so-small rowdy boys was say, “There’s a historical marker coming up a mile down the road, and if you two don’t settle down, we won’t stop.” I only had to pass single one by before they got the message.

I never minded following their lead as we traveled and saw the sights. That’s what Moms do, and we pretty much enjoyed the same kinds of things anyway. Then they grew up, and I made a few trips with friends. I enjoyed those, too. There’s nothing better than sharing good times with an old friend.

However, I’m the kind of person who can’t help saying, “Oh, I don’t care...whatever you want to do...” so I missed a lot of adventures I really wanted to take. The solution to that dilemma was to travel alone, and now I do.

A pantser when it comes to writing, I’m a planner when it comes to travel. I know exactly what I want to do and see, make lists, check opening and closing times, ticket prices, gauge travel times, and don’t need a five-star hotel. Clean, safe (preferably inside corridors in some places), comfortable, and amenities which include a microwave, a refrigerator, and WI-fi. (I can only take—or afford—so much eating out!) Free buffet breakfast are also a plus, but some are better than others.

The one hard and fast rule I have is: Come dark, I’m in my hotel room. I miss a lot of things like live music at hole-in-the-wall cafes, but common sense says that a woman—any woman and especially one my age—doesn’t need to be prowling unfamiliar streets after dark.

My favorite story regarding that rule is the last time I went to Vicksburg and stopped, as usual, at the wonderful visitor center on the mighty Mississippi River. I don’t remember whether I called my son or he called me, but we had a nice chat, and he knew I’d made the miles safely and in one piece. Then, about nine o’clock that night, he texted, Are you in your hotel room?

I swear the devil made me do it—but I texted back, No, I’m in a bar down on the levee looking for excitement. The phone went silent.

First of all, he’s been to Vicksburg several times and knows well there is no bar on the levee—and he knows even better that Mom wouldn’t be in one at night if there was!

But back to the topic at hand: traveling alone. It’s my thing. I do what I want to do when I want to do it. I meet nice people (who often gasp at my solitary traveling state) and see sights I might miss if I were part of a group or even with another person. Changing my itinerary or my mind at the last minute is always an option. The day can start at eight in the morning or ten. It doesn’t matter.

Basically, it’s a win-win situation.

People often say, “Oh, I couldn’t go anywhere alone!”

Okay, it’s not for everybody. I have no problem with that. But I can navigate airports, manage shuttles, drive a few hundred miles without wearing out or getting irretrievably lost, and solve a problem if it happens.

And whenever someone comments on my being alone, I just smile. I’ve already prayed over my miles, and God’s right there with me if something else comes up. We can do it.




Journaling--
the writer's friend or foe?

Writers are encouraged to journal regularly, although I’ve never been a fan. However, I decided to give it another try this year, limiting my commitment to three times weekly. Yesterday I finally got started. I journal in three parts:

  1. Free writing

  2. Writing reflections

  3. My reality today

Those aren’t original, but I can’t tell you where they came from. When I first gave the journaling a try, I was busy with Story-a-Day, either May or September, I’m not sure which, and the daily prompts gave me something to put pen to paper about. But it’s January—so where does the “free” writing come from?

From a book spotted on the shelf, of course: Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan. Opening to the first section, I found a lovely list of “Positive/Neutral Emotions” and picked four:

  1. her right eyebrow shot up

  2. her eyes darted around the room

  3. her jaw went slack

  4. her lips parted

Here’s the narrative, recorded for all eternity—or at least until it’s shredded sometime next year!

Her right eyebrow shot up. “I can’t believe you said that.”

Why not? It’s true—isn’t it?”

I suppose it depends on how you look at it.”

All things are relative, huh?”

I didn’t say that.”

You implied it.”

Her eyes darted around the room. “This conversation isn’t going anywhere.”

Neither are we.” He grabbed for the overcoat he’d slung across the back of the sofa. “But it’s been pending for a long time.”

You’re leaving then?”

I’m leaving.”

Will you be back?”

 “No.”

Her jaw went slack for a moment, but she recovered her composure. “I’m sorry.”

I know you are. So am I.”

Her lips parted. “I wish you well. Godspeed.”


So what’s happening here? Lovers’ quarrel? Business deal? Family split? Weigh in if you like:

judynickles@gmail.com






Not everyone who writes
 is a writer...

On summer evenings, when I was in junior high and high school, my father lugged this heavy-as-lead typewriter (like the one in the picture) home from his office so I could write far, far into the night. As I hunted and pecked, the words appeared on the cheap yellow paper he acquired somewhere for me. I spun my tales long and short and wrote some very good—and some very bad—poetry. But I wrote.

It wasn’t that I had aspirations of being a writer. I just needed to write, to get out of my dull, drab existence into more exiting realms. Even then, a restlessness possessed me, a wanderlust unsatisfied by a week at church camp or ten days in a neighboring town with a former Sunday School teacher and her husband. 

I can’t remember whether it was my last Christmas in high school or my first home from college, but the jolly plump man in the red suit left me my very own portable Remington Quiet-writer. Eventually my faithful friend traveled in a barrel across the Atlantic and back again. Later my husband bought me an electric typewriter.

After that, a series of word processors took me through more fictional adventures, and this time I thought of getting published. Not being a writer—just getting published. I had no idea what that entailed and no clue how to find out.

Now, of course, I do. I’m what they called multi-published, both traditionally and independently. And I still don’t really want to be a writer. I tried—and disliked—book signings, book events, and speaking to groups. I find it hard to act important when I know I’m not.

So now I do what I do best and love most: I write. Sometimes I publish. I have folders groaning with manuscripts to format and get out there, but a short story on this website will suffice.

The one “big” success I had brought in some enjoyable returns, but I paid an accountant big bucks to keep me straight with the IRS. No fun. Too much trouble.

Ambition is a fine thing for younger people, but at my age, I just want to enjoy life. Writing is part of that life and probably always will be as long as I can sit at the computer and tap the keyboard.

And that makes me smile.




The Best Part of What I Do...

Remember the old advertising jingle that went “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup” ?

Spin that to “What’s the best part of what I do as a writer?”


Let me count the ways...

  • I can live in a make-believe world at will.

  • I can make statements about the “real” world couched in the actions/words of fictional characters

  • When I’m out and about or traveling, I can look at places and people as settings and characters.

  • Documentaries and obscure news articles take on new meaning when viewed with an eye to spinning them into a story.

  • It’s cheaper to write to come to terms with unpleasant memories and experiences than to pay for someone who wants to mess with my mind.

  • Public conversations eavesdropped upon become dialogue for stories.

  • Sometimes I meet interesting people also involved with writing. (Sometimes I don’t.)

  • Writing is an escape from the real world (not too seriously or too long at a time) in tales of a better time and place.

  • Researching new places is always an exciting form of armchair travel.

  • Revisiting old familiar places in my mind warms the heart.

    And speaking of old familiar places, Dancing with Velvet, a vintage romance published by The Wild Rose Press in 2012, 

takes a look at my West Texas hometown during the late 1930s and through World War II. I just noticed it’s available at 

Amazon for Kindle at a new price of $4.99. It only has 5 reviews, but they’re five stars! I love I couldn’t put this book. Judy 

breathes life into her characters and just has a way of keeping your attention with every detail! Highly recommend this book!”


    In the waning days of the Great Depression, Celeste Riley wonders if life will always be the same: going to work, coming

 home to keep house for her widowed father, who ignores her. She clings to her married sister and to the recurring dream of

 a blue velvet curtain and a faceless lover who beckons her beyond it.


    Then a blue velvet dress in the window of a local department store seems to promise the change in her life she so 

desperately longs for. When she dances in the arms of traveling salesman Kent Goddard at the Roof Garden, she is sure she

has found the man of her dreams and is crushed when he disappears from her life.


    Soon after Pearl Harbor propels the United States into war, Kent returns in uniform as a student at the new bombardier 

training school. Their deepening relationship is threatened by a wartime separation, but not as much as when Celeste 

realizes that what she doesn't know about the man of her dreams maybe become her worst nightmare.





I will not be beaten!

      

     What is my “motto for life”? Interesting prompt which could spin in two dozen different directions—but I think

 if I had to hone in on one single set of words, it would be these:


I will not be beaten!


     It took a while, after waking up on the morning of December 31, 1978, and realizing that I was now a widow and

 the single parent of two boys ages 7 ½ and just-turned-3, to develop this mindset. I’m not even sure when it 

 became fixed in my spirit.


     But forty-two years later, here I am, and there it is. Faced with any problem large or small, I repeat steadily, “I

 will not be beaten.” (It also helps to have a great God who definitely won’t be beaten in any way, shape, or form,

 and I do a lot of praying—minute to minute, day to day, hour to hour...you get the picture.)


     I’ll admit I’ve spoken the words in tearful frustration more than once. All right, so I can’t even count the times. 

But give up? Never.


    Pride is a good thing, but pride also “goeth before a fall”. Faith is better, but sometimes even that can waver 

because we’re human.


     Still, it’s the determination to forge ahead, no matter what, that really counts. At least it’s significant that I’m not

 locked up somewhere, curled in a corner, sucking my thumb. (And don’t think the prospect hasn’t seemed 

 attractive at times…)


Deuteronomy 33:27 King James Version (KJV)

27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.

    For however many days or years I have left, I’ll keep saying:


I will not be beaten.

    And then I’ll add,

You and me—we’ve got this, God. Right?








I Wouldn't Publish That!

 

               Romance that’s just a little spicier. A backstory that’s just a little more convoluted. A plot-line that just might be recognizable as related to the author’s life. Synonyms for all of the above: real life. It explodes from the television screen and screams from the newspapers and broadcasters, but we hide it from my personal world with a confident smile.

             So why wouldn’t I want it published? Well, because it’s mine, you see…mine…not yours…not the world’s…mine. My smile brightens, because I don’t live in the real world, at least not openly, and if I did, I certainly wouldn’t tell you about it.

            When I sit down to write, however, it intrudes, comes out of hiding, wipes away the confident smile, forces my fingers onto the keyboard…because the truth will out.  Old Willie Shakespeare let out a lot of truth, but maybe he didn’t care…or maybe that was his intent all along.

            “Where did you get that story? Where did you come up with that?” Like I’d tell you that the romance I wrote was really my private fantasy. Like I’d admit that my character’s less-than-perfect background is, in reality, mine. Like I’d confess that the plot events spring from been there done that.

            Actually, I’ve lived a rather uneventful, even sheltered, life. But--if one of my characters throws convention to the wind, wouldn’t you wonder if I might like to do the same? If that same character harbors terrible secrets from her childhood, mightn’t you be curious about what I’m not saying about mine? And if I describe a somewhat shocking event in great detail, don’t you want to believe that I can only write the words because I lived them?

            Certain themes tend to recur in my writing, and sometimes even I wonder where they came from. Most of the time, I don’t really want to find out. My characters evolve as I would have liked to do if only…if only Mother hadn’t made it clear that well-brought-up children only turned out only one way. And liked it. The twists and turns of my stories suggest bittersweet fantasies of what I’ve never done and will never do.

            I think most writers would admit that writing is often a cathartic experience. A cheap psychiatric analysis. A way to be a little crazy without risking people believing that you are. Whether you’re driven to write or just write for fun, it’s all the same. The truth will out.

            Heaven forbid, however, that you read what I’ve written and know the truth. That’s why I tweak it or tear it up. Or write under another name. But then, that’s another prompt, isn’t it?


If you tell anybody, 

I'll cut your tongue out! 

 First blog of the New Year! And, it will be only one of two, because I’m cutting down from three times a week to two. (Not that anyone will go into withdrawal with one less blog!)

Yesterday I took the Small Person to the library for Planners 101, a workshop for kids from 11-18. While she was learning to get herself organized, I picked up the December copy of Writers Digest from the periodical rack and leafed through it, stumbling on an excellent article, “Truth and Consequences” by Elizabeth Sims, author of 12 books including You’ve Got a Book in You: A Stress Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams

So, into the note section of my handy-dandy writing planner, I jotted down some ideas about how to write/how not to write material from your own life.

It’s pretty obvious—or should be. If the advice “write what you know” is viable, writing about ourselves/our own lives should be easy. But we don’t inhabit the planet alone, so other people who are part of your life just might not want to be included in the great American novel. Can’t say as I blame them in some instances!

In my lifetime (a fairly long one at this point), I’ve been privy to more secrets than I wanted to know and, thankfully, forgotten most of them. One person who regularly confided the details of her own life once followed up a story with, “And if you tell anyone, I’ll cut your tongue out.” She would have, too!

So do I use my own experiences and interactions in my stories? You bet! But I disguise them heavily. I make sure the small towns I’m fond of writing about don’t even exist in the state in which the story is set. For example, I set Ruthann’s War in “Camden, Texas”--but the name “Camden” came from a town in Arkansas, and it has nothing to do with the story. Character names don’t even resemble the people I might be thinking of when I craft a character, and their backstories are different, too.

I write a lot of “myself” into my stories, too, but you’d never guess it. (And if you happened to get lucky, I’d deny it!)

Dancing with Velvet is set in my hometown, and the settings are accurate for the time period (1930s-40s). I used stores, cafes, hotels, even the church I grew up in. But the characters are totally fictional. I mean, there is absolutely no resemblance to persons living or dead. My purpose in using my hometown was to share a kinder, gentler time in a place which shaped me as I grew up in the years following World War II. By using my memory, old city directories, and the memories of people who responded to a newspaper columnist’s plea for information about a particular building, I crafted a believable setting for a believable story. He got four columns out of the endeavor, and I had the pleasure of hearing first-person memories of an old landmark hotel unfortunately razed and replaced with a bank.

If you’re thinking of telling a true story as fiction, I’d recommend reading Ms Sims’ article. It’s a slippery slope, a fine line—and you want to stay out of trouble! Following her guidelines is a good start.

 

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