In spring, a young-at-heart author’s thoughts turn to…

One piece of advice fiction writers hear a lot is, “Give your characters goals in every scene.” To me, that dictum shades a little toward visual media, because the idea is that an audience will become invested in the character’s striving toward the goal, and in the repeated disappointments and surprises as the scene goals elude Our Hero/Heroine.

I don’t know as book characters need to be that obviously running gauntlet after gauntlet, because readers can peek inside the characters’ minds and hearts more frequently and deeply than a screen audience can. The interior landscape, particularly in romance, women’s fiction, and YA, can be more compelling than a race to Boston to win the jackpot.

But goals do matter, whether the goal is tangible like that race to Boston, or intangible, like self-acceptance or the courage to fail. It strikes me as I’m writing, writing, writing my way through the pandemic, that my goals lately have taken on a different feel. The past year has been tough, whether you are struggling with how to manage kids/work from home/elders-at-a-distance, whether you are in Texas, or whether your cousin’s restaurant has gone bust.

Or whether you have lost loved ones among the half a million casualties.

Our objective has been to survive, to endure, to make it through, or to recover. Virtually every disaster movie and thriller ever conceived has exactly that goal, and unless it’s a tragedy, after significant hardship, the protagonists prevail. Where I am, the vaccines  are in very short supply, but we’ve been conscientious about masking, distancing, keeping the schools closed, and handwashing.

Our positivity rates are at about 3.5%, and hospitalizations and new cases are on the wane. The election is behind us, and there’s a sense that the worst is behind us too.

And yet, we could still blow it. We still have major economic readjustments ahead, many people have lingering recoveries to make, and there are those variants lurking in the bushes. Now is not the time to let down our guard, but I find myself looking for some way to ease up a little. To exhale, to have that happy scene in the middle of the book where optimism and courage forge new ground.

There are other names for that scene, but in a romance, the point in the middle of the book is to give the characters a glimpse of the emotional riches ahead if they will remain loving, brave, and true to their honorable selves and each other. To fortify myself at this seventh-inning stretch, I’m writing a little novella. All the happily ever after, but in one third of the words. A frolic, and one I haven’t indulged in for a while.

I’m jealously watching the crocuses sprinkled around my yard, and they have rewarded my vigilance. I polled my sisters about a family trip in 2022, and the reactions are enthusiastic. Next we’ll research destinations… I’m launching a new series in June, and hope to have my first mystery series on the shelves–the whole six book series–by autumn. I’m looking forward in ways I haven’t for the past year, and it feels good.

Are you feeling the urge to indulge in a seventh-inning stretch? What does that look like? I’m starting my ARC list for Miss Delectable (already!), so pass along those comments and think spring!


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19 comments on “In spring, a young-at-heart author’s thoughts turn to…

  1. We decided, here in the wintery Midwest, to do two major renovation projects while I had to be homebound. A basement re-do last fall and a kitchen refresh which started the last week of January. Beginning with a snowstorm, a trip to the ER for our autistic son, four plumbers (for two problems with the KITCHEN plumbing and two problems NOT kitchen related), the countertop being configured backwards, the backsplash guy being called out of state for a family death and the floor people ordering, reordering and forgetting deliveries OY VEH to say the least. And more snow, below zero temps and fa-la-la-la-la…….still waiting for the floor and backsplash but the worst is over.

    After this kitchen project is over, I am planning to gather material for a book based on the blog I write for my professional society and also some serious study and catch up. Right now, it’s hard concentrate for long periods of time, knowing I will be interrupted but maybe I’ll start s few things next week anyway. I’ve wanted to do these things since we began our shelter-in-place but was too agitated to sit still for any long period. I think I can do it and might as well because who knows how long those folks will take to finally finish!

    I read your teaser chapter for “Miss Delectable” and have to say I really am intrigued and looking forward to it. Enjoy those crocuses!

  2. I am usually a very positive looking forward person but—- it’s taken a bit of a bashing this last year.Before the pandemic my two best pals were suffering serious health problems which changed their outlook and confidence.The three of us enjoyed holidays abroad and here in the U K.We had fun and enjoyed a new lease of life.Our families had grown and had families of their own.We were called the golden girls often.But like all good things there comes a time of change and acceptance and making the best of what we have.One of my pals has dementia which is progressing fast the other heart/breathing differculties.Soon as we can we will see each other and enjoy lunch and keep each other safe while we make plans for the rest of the year.It may be limited but we can enjoy each others company and remember all-our adventures and lovely places we have seen.Friends to the end,I’ve been blessed.

  3. I’m recovering from cataract surgery with a whole raft of rare side effects thanks to a rare form of glaucoma, so being able to read this without pain/blurring from corneal ulcers caused by some of the meds is my victory for the quarter. So nice to read for myself without being chained to the mechanical voice monotoning ebooks at me.

    I’ll be going into double innings with more medical repairs planned after this is over and I’ve had a few months to rest up, so I’ll be keeping my head in the game for now as I still have turns at bat.

  4. After quarantining for the first 8 months or so of the pandemic, alternately bored out of my head and hopeless that this would ever end, I decided to do something constructive that I had been meaning to tackle for some time. I took my parents’ two recipe boxes and compiled the recipes into a paperback book. I included some commentary about when my parents would make the dish, some funny notes they included on their recipe cards (like my Dad’s notation on a recipe he felt he’d perfected, “Ready. Aim. Eat!”). I also set it up (I’m a graphic designer by training) with pictures of my parents on each page, starting with the earliest images we have of my parents. With Amazon’s on demand printing, I was able to order copies for all of my family members. I know this is a publication that will only be precious to my family members, but I’m OK with that. I know they will enjoy and cherish the recipes and the memories. Having finished that book, I’ve started on a 2nd edition to my own personal cookbook, originally printed in 2008 for my niece’s engagement gift. It’s become a tradition to give the cookbook to each couple as a gift, and I’ve given out more than a dozen (so far!). I love to cook and have made nearly 200 recipes since then that I would like to include in my new edition. Keeps me out of trouble, anyway!

    • Hi Tina,

      I know you’re Italian—I’m Italian by marriage–and your recipe book is such a wonderful idea! One of my SIL’S did that with our husbands’ side and her family’s. My brother and I did one for our German/French family, including a Curry from our great-grandparents who were missionaries in Napal. Those flavors evoke all sorts of memories of my Mom and Grandma making it for us–now we do for our kids.

      I think I’ll text my SIL and ask if she’s up for a Volume 2….such a WONDERFUL idea for a Bridal gift!

      • Thank you! I know they will love it, for the recipes but also for the pictures. It was a nostalgic trip to compile it!

  5. Good for you-planning for a family trip in 2022. That’s exciting. It IS so nice to have things to look forward to, isnt’ it?! Jennifer McQuiston posted an article on FB about not having a meltdown as things get close to being over, a great read. Perhaps you’ve seen it? I found it to be a most excellent read.
    We’re in the Third Quarter of the Pandemic. Antarctic Researchers, Mars Simulation Scientists and Navy Submarine Officers Have Advice For How to Get Through It

    We’re really looking forward to outdoor dinners with friends once everyone is vaccinated

  6. Seventh inning stretch sounds better than ‘this old mule smells his barn’. I am looking forward to unhitching myself from my job and being home. It’s a large house with a large yard and it has been neglected.

    I want the freedom to get up in the morning and decide to cut shrubs, rather than to do the chores that must be done (such as laundry) to be ready for the workweek.

  7. A couple of months ago, a friend and I signed up for the virtual challenge of “climbing” Mt. Fuji — doing the amount of exercise equivalent to making the 46-mile climb. We recently earned our medals for this project — one that got me outdoors in January and February when I was tempted to huddle indoors. Now, the weather is warming a bit, so we’re thinking of taking on a longer challenge — it never hurts to have an incentive to exercise, and accumulating the miles with a friend — separately, but together — makes it even more fun!

  8. I have too much happening that are major sources of stress, so a real seventh inning stretch for me is a long way off.
    It does sound nice though! Maybe my seventh inning stretch is to dream of a seventh inning stretch!! 😀
    I’ve also been thinking of travel… indulging in programs that show me beautiful countries and imagining going to them.
    And naps… lots and lots of naps… instead of pushing through the tireds and continuing on task, take after my cats and just zonk out for some time.

  9. I’ve been staring out my kitchen window redesigning the patio. While my design tastes and my budget are in disagreement, it’s so nice to daydream about warm, sunny days when I can look forward to reading and having my tea outside again.

    The best part of the whole plan is it’s not pandemic dependent. I’ll be able to enjoy it all by myself, and next year the landscaping will be a year old and ready for guests.

  10. It was temperate enough and the stars aligned so that I got to sit outside and chat (with masks and distanced – no vaccine yet) with my best friend after not having seen her for a month and a half. I had been feeling done, just wake-me-when-it-is-over kind of done, and being able to talk in person with my oldest and best friend hit some kind of reset and I felt lighter after our chat. We will be able go back to our weekly walks hopefully. Spring can not come too soon for me. I probably won’t get a vaccine until almost summer, but being able to be outdoors comfortably will make that wait much easier.

  11. How I would love a seventh inning stretch right about now, but it’s nowhere in sight. Just moved from the North to the South, and we are living in the land of boxes. Have been giving the empties away to lots of local people, and that feels good. Rediscovering things that have been packed away for most of the year makes every day like Christmas. Meeting new neighbors has been wonderful. And the new screened in porch – it’s been a peaceful oasis in which to escape from the chaos in the house. So maybe it’s not an actual stretch, but a few daily minutes of bliss. I’ll take it!