Do Writers Ever Retire?

GUEST BLOG by author Brenda Whiteside

When the company I’d been working for decided to close their doors, I made the leap to early retirement. Until then, I was a weekend writing warrior. I completed my first novel, Post-War Dreams, writing on the weekends and in fifteen-minute increments before I left for the day job. It took me a couple of years to get the book to publication. The first book I published and second book I wrote, Sleeping with the Lights On, was written within the same time constraints.

Guest Blogger: Brenda Whiteside

After I “retired,” my time became my own, and writing became my full-time endeavor. That was several years ago, and since then when people ask if I’m retired, I don’t know how to answer. If I say no, I’m an author, the verbal reactions run the gamut from oh wow to a flat oh. If I say I’m retired but I write, well, it sounds the way I’m sure they hear it…a nice hobby.

The thing is, if I’m retired, why am I so busy? Writing full-time as a published author ends up taking up way more time than working a day job and writing when I found a few minutes. Getting published and taking writing to the next level added all the business tasks to my plate…social media, promotion, goal planning, networking, and on and on.

I will say, reaching the age of retirement has enriched my creativity. My heroines benefit from my life experience, which is why I enjoy writing heroines over forty. All that baggage makes for more conflict and plot paths.

This month, I’m celebrating ten years since I signed my first writing contract for Sleeping with the Lights On. AND it is now available on audio in addition to eBook and print. Sandra Holiday is fifty and still searching for the perfect hero and career in her life. She does it with humor and sassiness. But there’s suspense brewing to keep her on her toes.

RT Book Reviews says ” Cheers to Whiteside for writing a heroine who exists outside of conventional romance novels in terms of age and marital status…novel is written with a pleasantly light sense of humor…

What’s Sleeping with the Lights On About?

A secret admirer, a redheaded stalker, and an eccentric millionaire have thrown Sandra Holiday on a dangerous path.

After two failed marriages and countless relationships, Sandra thinks she’s met the man to end her years of less than perfect choices; choices that not only derailed her travel-related career plans, but also left her single and broke.

Carson Holiday, a Las Vegas country crooner with swoon-inducing good looks, spent his adult life pursuing a recording contract and love, never holding on to either. After eighteen years, he drops back into Sandra’s life, reigniting an attraction he can’t deny.

Can this handsome, country crooner save the day, or will Sandra forever be Sleeping With The Lights On?

BUY LINKS

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Lights-Brenda-Whiteside-ebook/dp/B003N3V4LK

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/sleeping-with-the-lights-on-2

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sleeping-with-the-lights-on-brenda-whiteside/1021751737?ean=2940043324740

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Brenda_Whiteside_Sleeping_with_the_Lights_On?id=RNwdCwAAQBAJ

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sleeping-with-the-lights-on/id1388815805?mt=11

AUDIO

Amazon Audible: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-with-the-Lights-On/dp/B07R7RRDDD/

Apple iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/sleeping-with-the-lights-on-unabridged/id1462229387

Brenda Whiteside is the author of suspenseful, action-adventure romance. Mostly. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have decided they are gypsies at heart. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo while splitting their time between Northern Arizona and the RV life.

Visit Brenda at https://www.brendawhiteside.com

Or on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BrendaWhitesideAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brendawhitesid2

She blogs and has guests: https://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003V15WF8

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3972045.Brenda_Whiteside

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/brenda-whiteside

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brendawhitesideauthor/

That’s What It’s All About

Happy Memorial Day! Hope you are enjoying a great kick-off to the summer season. In spite of the fact that I am hosting the family cook-out today, I wanted to take a moment to share with you a reflection that makes me smile and hope it does the same for you.

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the Apple Watch commercial set to the tune of a childhood favorite of mine — the Hokey Pokey. From the first time I saw it, I was hooked and no matter how many times I see it again, I’m always filled with glee.

Remember Robert Fulgham’s book, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? The older I get the more profound I find the simple things we learned as children. The other day at our mailbox kiosk, someone posted a sign that read: “Take the outgoing mail. Whoever delivered mail yesterday didn’t take it.” Seriously? What happened to “please” and “thank you”? Clearly, the writer who penned that note missed school that day.

But back to the Hokey Pokey commercial.  When I see those people dancing, jumping, playing to the tune, I’m exhilarated. And what could be more profound than the simple words “You put your whole self in…That’s what it’s all about.”

This summer, I hope you do nothing half-heartedly and that you put your whole self into everything you do. What chance do you have to be truly happy if you don’t? I mean, why bother doing anything, if your whole self isn’t in it? I’m especially talking to my fellow retirees out there. We have less in front of us than we have behind us. Why waste a single minute?

Just in case you need a little more inspiration, click below.

Happy Summer!

Book Review: Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

If you love to read, you probably also love discovering new authors. It doesn’t matter if they are well-established authors. If they are new to you, you feel the joy of discovery. And what a special treat to find an author who’s written a series. Knowing that, after you finish that first book, you have more  adventures with the same characters to look forward to is sheer delight.

Delighted to meet AJ Hartley at SinC meeting in May.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of meeting ,  A.J. Hartley, aka Andrew Hart, who spoke at our local Sisters in Crime meeting, recounting his journey  to becoming an international bestselling author of novels spanning a variety of genres.   He has written several archaeological thrillers, the Darwen Arkwright children’s series, the Will Hawthorne fantasy adventures and novels based on Macbeth and Hamlet. And as if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he is also the Robinson Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare at UNC Charlotte.

For me, AJ’s talk was one part informative, one part inspirational and two parts humorous.  Afterwards I selected Steeplejack, the first in his three-book YA Fantasy series. The book’s protagonist and heroine, seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, earns her living cleaning and repairing chimneys and towers in the city of Bar-Selehm,  “an industrial city resembling an alternate Victorian South Africa.”

Anglet is a Lani. In the culture of the Lani people, the first daughter is a blessing, the second a trial, the third — a curse.  Anglet is a third daughter.  Nevertheless, she is a talented climber and excels at her job. She is also independent and fierce, characteristics that draw us to her immediately.

Near the end of the story, when Anglet is on the run and in great peril, she encounters a black weancat with a collar, a creature with whom she feels a kinship. She muses that the collar is a “collar of the mind” that you could simply refuse to believe in, and without the collar “all the cat had was itself: muscle and sinew, claw tooth and bone, senses, experience, skill, instinct and roaring, blood-pumping animal need.”  She, of course, could be describing herself — or any of us, for that matter.

I loved this character and I loved this book. The story is gripping, the action, non-stop, the setting, hauntingly beautiful — the language, soaring.  No wonder more and more adults are turning to Young Adult literature.  Can’t wait to finish reading the series.

Ode to Emily on Beltane Day

That beautiful smiling face you see belongs to Emily Miller, daughter of my friends Nina and Steve. I was Emily’s confirmation sponsor and although that means my primary responsibility is to provide her with “prayerful support and guidance in her Christian life”, I choose to honor her on a pagan holiday — Beltane. Why?

Well, let me tell you about Emily. The first thing you need to know is that she’s brilliant. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. After college she worked as a paralegal in New York City. During that time she seemed to find “her calling” — a deep interest in the environment.

Next, Emily left NYC for Denver where she spent a few years and worked for the Chef Ann Foundation (www.chefannfoundation.org) whose mission is “To provide school communities with the tools, training, resources and funding that enables them to create healthier food and redefine lunchroom environments.” That experience led Emily to decide she was ready for law school. She is now enrolled in UC Berkeley Law School focused on food and environmental policies.

I am in awe of this young woman, who, I believe, can succeed at anything she sets out to do. And that’s why I was delighted when her mother told me she was working on a paper focused on policies to implement the Green New Deal. Now, I know many people feel that the Green New Deal is an impossible dream. But I’ve got news for you. It’s not just a pipe dream if Emily’s working on it.

If you’ve read my blogs over the years, you know I’m a Pollyanna — a cockeyed optimist. But I can’t help myself, especially when I realize our future is in the hands of intelligent, diligent and thoughtful young people like our Emily. In just a few years, they will come into their full powers and I just hope I’m around to see the wonders they’ll achieve.

But you may still be wondering, why I picked Beltane to write this ode to Emily? Well, May 1, Beltane, is the Gaelic May Day. On this day in Ireland, rituals used to be performed to protect cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. And, after all, isn’t that what Emily is working on? With her on the job, I’ll sleep better, knowing the Earth is in good hands.

As I am inspired today, I paraphrase words that inspired me so many years ago:




Some men see things as they are and ask why

She dreams things that never were and asks why not?”

Under the Tuscan Sun

What do all of the above pictures have in common? You guessed it. I’m smiling. Hard not to when you’re in Tuscany for seven straight days of sunny weather.

I confess I have been struggling to meet my personal goal of writing a blog every month. Last year I only managed to post seven blogs, and this one is only the second this year. But when I looked at my pictures and saw the enormous grin on my face in every one, I figured this blog would practically write itself. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I won’t need to add too many more.

Our patio in Vecchiano

My trip to Italy all began with a phone call from my friend, Janet Adams Strong early this year. She told me she and her husband, Bruce, were renting a house in Vecchiano and she was calling to invite me to visit them there.  Does it get better than that?  And let me tell you, better hosts than Janet and Bruce don’t exist on the planet. From the moment I arrived, we embarked on an Italian holiday I will long remember.

Oh, by the way, on this trip I learned the secret to beating jet lag. First, after being picked up at the airport, enjoy driving around the countryside admiring the stands of cypress trees, vineyards and olive groves. Stop at a fruit stand along the way. Visit a supermarket. When you reach your destination, have a drink. Talk. Take a walk around town, checking out the architecture, the local church and the cemetery. (The cemeteries are really something to see.) Upon completion of your walk, build a fire and grill food outside. Talk some more and, of course, drink some more. That should get you to nightfall. When you absolutely can’t keep your eyes open anymore, go to bed. When you wake up, you will be ready to roll — no jet lag. I swear by this method.

During my seven-day stay, we visited: Lucca, known for its well-preserved Renaissance walls and its cobblestone streets; Pisa, where I posed for the must-have tourist shot as I took my turn holding up the tower; San Gimignano and its majestic skyline of medieval towers encircled by 13th century walls; and Livorno, a port city with a breath-taking waterside promenade with checkerboard paving.

Perhaps my favorite excursion was our visit to the family-owned vineyard Frattoria San Vito. Matteo, the owner, took us on a tour of the vineyard and olive grove, followed by a delightful bit of wine-tasting on the back patio. The weather was perfect, the wine was superb, the bruschetta delicious and the olive oil to die for. I think the first picture up top picture captures the moment perfectly. We particularly enjoyed Matteo’s reference to one of their red wines as their “all-day wine.”  So much better a description than “everyday wine,” don’t you think?

An Italian cemetery.

Through all of these adventures, my dear friend, Janet drove through the narrow streets and maneuvered the multi-pronged roundabouts without trepidation. She’s a force to be reckoned with behind the wheel of a four-in-the floor automobile. Thank you, Janet, my fearless friend.

I had been to Italy when I got out of college, touring the great cities of Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan. I have wonderful memories of that trip, and  now, I’m so glad I had the chance to experience la dolce vita in the countryside of Tuscany. Because Elton John said it better than I could, I leave you with his words on Italy:

I love places that have an incredible history. I love the Italian way of life. I love the food. I love the people. I love the attitudes of Italians.” -– Elton John

Trip the Light Fantastic

Mary Poppins 1964

In the summer of 1964, I was 13 years old and the last thing I wanted to do was go see Mary Poppins. My younger sister, Mary Ellen, at age 10, wanted nothing more. I remember feeling so resentful at being forced to go with her. After all, I was a teenager all of three months at that point.

When we got to the theater in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the line to get in was formidably long, and I refused to stand in line. And so I was spared the ignominy of being a teenager at a children’s movie and I returned home and listened to my Beatle’s albums instead.

I confess that I felt conflicted because Mary Ellen was so disappointed. But, being the determined little thing she was, and still is, she managed to get to see the movie with someone else…not me a week or so later. I have always regretted that episode because I knew how much it meant to her, but, in my adolescent insecurity, I just couldn’t bring myself to go to a kid’s movie. I let her down.

Fast forward to last week. Mary Ellen and I went to see the latest Mary Poppins movie. This time she didn’t need to coax me. We  laughed when we bought the tickets. “Two seniors for Mary Poppins.” Quite a different attitude from 1964.

Mary Poppins 2019

We, of course, loved the film. Like Mary Poppins herself, it is “practically perfect in every way”. I read an interview with Emily Blunt and she said she remembered the original movie, calling it a “joy bomb”. Well, this movie is beyond that. Multiply joyful by a hundred. Call it a bliss bomb.

Trip a Little Light Fantastic was my favorite part of the movie. I loved it so much that I decided it will be my motto for 2019. My favorite lines:

“So when life is getting scary, be your own illuminary
Who can shine their light for all the world to see
As you trip a little light fantastic with me”

As we embark on this new year, I wish you twelve months of blissful brightness.

Happy New Year!

Stardust and the Power of Words

This morning I worked the crossword puzzle in the daily paper as I do everyday. One of the clues was “A Hoagy Carmichael Song”. The answer, of course, was Stardust. The word captivated me, so I googled the song and found it on Youtube.

I had heard that song many times in the past, but I never really paid attention to the words until I played that Youtube clip. As I listened to Hoagy croon his creation, I found myself entranced by the beautiful images he painted with words and marveled at his ability to create such beautiful poetry out of heartache.

Just felt I had to share that with you today.  To all my writer/reader friends out there, may the power of words be with you. If you have a moment, take a listen.( I’ve included the lyrics below the video.)

Stardust Lyrics

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a songBeside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain

 

Mother Nature — The Good and The Bad

Here in Mauldin, SC and, I think, most of Greenville County, we were spared the wrath of Hurricane Florence.  Thanks to the many friends and family members who contacted me to check on how I was faring during the storm. It felt good to hear from you, and perhaps it was your positive energy and prayers that kept us safe.

The Reedy River Falls in Downtown Greenville — Mother Nature at her glorious best

As I mentioned to some of you, we experienced  wind here, but not nearly as strong as New York City winter winds. Oh, how I remember being held in place by strong gusts that blew down the wind tunnels of those high rise canyons. By comparison, our weather on Sunday was simply breezy.

Unlike what you saw on the Weather Channel closer to the coast,  we didn’t even experience heavy rainfall in my neck of the woods. Just a steady mist all day long. Not even enough to keep my dog inside—Lucky hates heavy rain.

My biggest fear was losing power. After being without heat or electricity for ten days after Hurricane Sandy ravaged New Jersey, I am scarred. I pray I never have to experience that again.

I am so sorry for my fellow Carolinians, both North and South, who did get the worst. Looking at the pictures in the newspaper of flooded neighborhoods and folks waiting in line for water was really painful. As soon as I post this, I will make a donation to one of the organizations providing assistance to flood victims listed in today’s paper, and once again say “Thank you, thank you, thank you” for sparing us a similar fate.

Mother Nature can be very wicked indeed. But yesterday, when I stepped outside and took a look around my patio garden, I actually received an unexpected gift from the old girl. I spotted two eggplant bulbs sprouting on one plant that had borne nothing but flowers all summer long. Just before the storm, I’d actually considered pulling that plant out because, after all, it is September and if a plant hasn’t produced by now, you sort of expect it’s not going to.

I haven’t made eggplant parmesan or eggplant rollatini all summer–one of the things I most look forward to each growing season.  I know you’re probably asking why I didn’t just go buy eggplant at the store or the farmer’s market. I certainly thought about it, but somehow just never did. It’s simply not the same. Imagine how delicious those two dishes will be when I make them from these long awaited vegetables.

So now, my list of things to be grateful for keeps growing.  Let’s hope the eggplant do, too!

If not, no worries. There are all those butternut squash growing on a vine that seeded itself in my garden this Spring. Thank you, Mother Nature.

AMUSING NEWS: On Methamphetamines and Nutella

Sneak peek at the cover of book 3 of the Holly and Ivy Mystery Series due out this November

It’s been a very busy summer and I have shamefully neglected my blogging responsibilities. The worst part is that I have so much to blog about, but have kept putting off writing because I was busy finishing Full Bloom, book 3 of my Holly and Ivy mystery series. ( Very pleased to report that I completed my first full draft and hope to have the book ready for publication this Fall.)

Anyway, a news article this morning motivated me to write. So here’s the headline that greeted me from the Metro section of The Greenville News:

“CAYCE MAN CALLS POLICE ABOUT HIS MISSING METH”.

That sure made me pause. You know, I just had to read on. Here are a few of the article’s highlights:

“A 24-year old Cayce man told police his drugs had been stolen and he wanted to press charges…When Cayce public safety officers responded to the home, they found the man in the backyard. He was ‘upset’ and said someone had stolen his two grams of methamphetamine and he wanted the thief prosecuted…”

Okay, here’s where it gets really good:

“Two officers helped him search inside the house…a female in the home gave an officer a small bag of what she said contained meth…she had hidden it because she didn’t want the man to ‘drink it’.”

The conclusion:

“The man said those drugs did not belong to him. Officers were unable to determine who owned the meth and seized it…Police are still investigating.”

Yes, I assure you, this was a news story, not fiction. Now I’m going to just leave you to ponder this bit of amusing news because, really, what can I say, except that you can’t make this stuff up.

And just because pondering this news item too long can take you from amusement to a despair, I’ve got some really sweet news for you, a follow-up to my Nutella blog a few months ago. On August 6th, USA Today reported that The Ferrerro company, maker of the famed Italian chocolate and hazelnut spread, is looking for “60 ‘sensory judges’ who will be paid for tasting its products.”

Can you believe it! Imagine getting paid to taste Nutella. Again, this was a news story — not fiction. Sixty volunteers will be selected for a three-month training course “designed to sharpen the recruits’ senses of taste and smell.” (Sigh!)

There is a catch, however. The jobs are part-time and you have to be willing to relocate to Ferrero’s headquarters in Alba, Italy’s northwest Piedmont region. Mama mia! Does that really sound like a catch? I can think of  far less satisfying part-time jobs and way worse places to retire.

And so I leave you with that bit of amusing and far more enticing news to dwell on. Maybe listening to  Dean Martin croon Volare can actually fly you up to the sky–no meth amphetamines necessary.

#MaliceDomestic = #CozyMysteryHeaven

Linda Lovely and me at Malice Domestic 30

I can still recall the first time I heard about Malice Domestic. A fellow attendee at an International Women’s Writer’s Guild workshop recommended it to me when I revealed I was writing a cozy mystery. She said Malice Domestic was a yearly conference dedicated to cozy mystery writers and their fans.

Sounded ideal to me. So I googled Malice Domestic, registered for the conference and drove myself down to Bethesda, MD the last weekend in April 2014.

I didn’t know a soul, but soon discovered that didn’t matter. I had found “my people”. My fellow attendees and I shared a love of the same books and when you have books in common, you share a kindred spirit.

A few years back I read Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving — not a cozy mystery at all — but a book I love nevertheless. In one scene, the main character, writer Juan Diego Guerrero, reflects on the idea of using books as the criteria for finding mates and lovers. I thought that was a brilliant alternative to dating websites. A shared love of the same books is by far a more sound basis for the start of a relationship than any of the criteria used by Match.com and eHarmony.  But I digress…

Bethesda in bloom!

This year, I once again returned to Bethesda for Malice Domestic 30 the last weekend in April. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you already know that I rated it as “the best Malice Domestic ever.” Louise Penny was the Guest of Honor and Nancy Pickard received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Their interviews were magnificent. I’m always amazed at how open and generous writers are as they answer questions about their personal journeys. They never fail to inspire us to keep writing our own stories.

The first night of the conference we were treated to a viewing of Season nine’s first episode of Vera, a British crime series based on the novels of Ann Cleeves.  Brenda Blethyn was honored with the Poirot Award for her portrayal of the intrepid Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope. The interview with both Ms. Blethyn and Ann Cleaves was marvelous.

Author of the Dandy Gilver mystery series, Catriona MacPherson was the Malice Domestic Toastmaster. And what a delight she was! Her remarks about the award winners at the Agatha Awards Banquet were eloquent and heartfelt. Best of all, she tapped into the sense of kinship Malice attendees share whenever she took to the podium all weekend, her sense of humor making us laugh all the while.

On Saturday afternoon, I attended an event entitled “30 Years of Malice Memories.” One question from the audience was where did the name “Malice Domestic” come from. That was something I’d always wondered, too. Turns out the name comes from who else? My absolute favorite writer of all time–Shakespeare.

“….…………Duncan is in his grave.

After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.

Treason has done his worst; nor steel nor poison,

Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing

Can touch him further.”

Macbeth, Act III, Scene 2

Was there ever a character more embroiled in malice domestic than Macbeth? Could there be a more perfect name for a conference dedicated to mysteries about murders usually committed by family and friends in small towns and home-bound settings?

Finally, one of the things I love best about Malice is coming home with a bag of books and a list of titles to read by authors I either heard speak or met face-to-face at the conference. I even sold a few of my Holly and Ivy mystery books–the cherry on top.

If you like cozy mysteries, whether or not you can attend the conference, you may want to check out malicedomestic.org for the names of authors you might like to read. In the meantime, as the days grow longer and warmer, I wish you a summer free of actual malice domestic and full of cozy mysteries where there are no cold cases, justice is always served, and with a little luck, the spunky female sleuth always gets her man!