A Stagger Down Memory Lane

I read a lot of my books this week, starting with the first one published.  Somebody had said once that she read her own books when she got stuck on a story (I’m not stuck), and I thought, “Well, why not?”  It was a lot like looking through an old photo album, the writing equivalent of “Look how thin I was in 1993!” but the big takeaway was that the good ones were pretty good although not as good as I remembered, and the bad ones weren’t that bad at all.  Also, I skim my sex scenes when I read, so obviously those weren’t working, at least for me now.  Like any other memory journey, though, it ended up being an analysis of loss and gain.

Loss: I don’t have that fearlessness that I had in the beginning.   I got my structure fairly quickly, Manhunting and Sizzle are the only ones that have no planned structure to speak of, but mostly I was just writing snappy dialogue and internal monologue by people lusting after each other, which was a blast to write.  I was tap dancing so people would throw nickels, which is a very loose, free way to tell a story (that is not a criticism of tap dancing a story).  There was a simplicity there, too, in those early categories: these are books about people falling in love.  Period.   I can’t do that any more, I get bored.  I’m good with the falling-in-love part, it’s just not enough.  Also, some of those sex scenes were ridiculous, and I knew it, and I just didn’t care.  

Gain: So, okay, it’s harder to write now, but it’s more satisfying because I’m doing better work.  I read the early categories and there’s not much there there, but in the SMP books, even the ones I’d like to do over, there’s Stuff there, you can reread later for deeper layers, and I’m happy about that.   I have more editorial freedom now than I did with the  categories, all of which had to be romances; a large part of that is the fact that Jennifer Enderlin is a goddess, which is why I’m never writing another book without her again.  I’ll always gravitate back to romance, but the later stuff is just more complex and more interesting.  And  I learned a lot from the collaborations, especially the collaborations with Bob.  My later stuff is just better generally, although not chronologically.  I once had the insane idea that each book had to better than the last: that way lay madness.  So there are stumbles in there, but nothing I’m ashamed of.  I got smarter about structure and theme, and the writing got more satisfying,  and the stories got better.  So lots of gains.

Future Stuff: Everybody here knows all the different books I have in progress, and I like all of them.  The big problem for me: I am an Old and I am not interested in hitting the streets to see what you young people are up to (“young” being anyone younger than 68).  Example:  I am horrible at texting even though that’s the way most people communicate.  (I e-mail my brother and he doesn’t find the e-mail for days; he texts me and I don’t look at my phone for days.)  Obviously the key is to avoid modernity, but the only way to really do that is to write historicals (never gonna happen) or fantasy (see Paradise Park and Monday Street).  And of course, the brain is aging, too, and that’s going to show up in my work.  So there has to come a time when somebody reads my stuff and tells me kindly to stop.  I just re-read Rex Stout’s last novel, and it was still great, but I remember reading that he asked everybody if it was good because he was in his seventies when he wrote it.  I’m not there yet (not that far off, either) so I really need to be vigilant.  And start setting my stories in the 1990’s which was the last time I dated and when people did not text or do Facebook (I think).  

Conclusion: My plan is to keep writing the best books I possibly can, and when I can see that my best is not very good, stop publishing.  It’s good to take stock every now and then, but it’s better to keep moving ahead until it’s time to sit down with a Diet Coke and watch the dachshunds and the bears in the sunset, proud of the fact that I wrote twenty (?) novels that were pretty good.  That’s a good ending to a good story.

And now back to work.

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

136 thoughts on “A Stagger Down Memory Lane

  1. I hadn’t known that about Rex Stout. My impression based on reading it was that it read as if he (the writer) was tired. Not only that the dialogue didn’t have the same snap as before, my recollection was that in many of the scenes the characters themselves sat around feeling tired.

    1+

    1. The last line pretty much says that, too. It’s definitely an elegy, plus there’s the sense of something lost (because of who the murderer turns out to be). It’s a sad book, but I think it’s still a good book.

      1+

      1. I remember thinking that the team had come to its logical conclusion. It was sad in so many ways, but particularly because I realized the shelf life of that kind of career and the shelf life of everything really.

        One day Fritz would die, Nero would have to retire for good, even Archie would probably settle down – because who wants Archie to be alone forever?

        So bittersweet, that last book – a bit like this post with the realization that there is only so much time to do the things we are meant to do and that we want to do.

        I wish you all the best with your next projects. Here’s hoping that they come together in a way that makes you happy and that you are able to put them into the world for us to share.

        4+

        1. I never thought of Archie alone. He might have lived with Wolfe, but he spent a lot of those nights with Lily, who wasn’t a marrying kind of woman anyway. And Saul and Fred would be friends to the end.

          2+

  2. Facebook was founded around 2004. YouTube I think 2005. It took a while for them to gain market share. People didn’t text either. The important people did have blackberries (more email than texting but close) and texting itself was extremely expensive. Heck cell phone usage wasn’t cheap cheap either.

    I think it’s expensive now and not for me. I’m in my 40s and I only have a purchase the minutes flip phone which I don’t turn on and generally can’t remember where I put it. I do e-mail. I do text other people’s phones from my laptop. I prefer to see people in public places who are into me and don’t take out their phones at say a restaurant table. I get pissed off when I see a couple walking their dog. One person talking on their phone, the other person checking something on the phone. It’s supposed to be the dog’s time. I can’t imagine what it will be like if they have children. Yes, I’m at the old soul and cranky. I definitely have a few Agnes issues. Just a few. But no flamingos.

    Anyway, there are plenty of non-techie people out there. Some with security and privacy concerns. Some who don’t want to be bothered because their former careers had them tethered, etc. So there are reasons that could be found to not have those pieces play a role. Or you could write something like you and your brother now. Which could become a comedy of errors. Of course writing about 20 somethings would make you have to work harder but again there are still pockets of people in this country who don’t want, need or can’t afford to have the latest gadgets. Heck many parts of the country don’t have broadband and might never get it. Phone companies don’t want to maintain their copper, etc. Out of 300 million or so people in the US, how many suffer from technology overload?

    All I’m saying is that there are many roads to pop culture (or even OZ), don’t pighole your writing by thinking it absolutely must include the latest gadgets. And remember much of that technology is relatively new and much of it was driven by kids and then later adopted by the rest of us. Plus of course there was the Great Recession in between all of that. You can pretty much write anything you want.

    I’m glad you had fun with your stories. Thank you for sharing.

    2+

    1. PS. Pop Culture is also a lot more niche-y now than it’s even been. So it’s not like the 80s or 90s where everyone watched Seinfeld on Thursday night and talked about it at the “water cooler” the next day. Master of my domain…

      4+

      1. That’s very true. And it’s not good to put a lot of current pop culture references in anyway, it dates the book. Classic pop culture sure, but not the stuff that’s hot right now.

        3+

        1. Seconded. A lot of books are not going to hold up because they mention the most current trends and gadgets. We should reasonably assume that people will have some way of writing each other and calling each other, but beyond that….

          1+

          1. I’m more worried about somebody saying, “Why wouldn’t she just text him?”

            I had some comments on why Andie didn’t use a cellphone in Maybe This Time because the reader had missed that page that said. “This book takes place in 1992,” although given that she was in the middle of nowhere southern Ohio, she could also just not have had cell service. Sometimes I don’t have it where I live now and I don’t think Krissie ever has it where she lives.

            4+

        1. I liked Friends but Seinfeld was so annoying! Jerry just whined all the time. Not sure why my husband remains so obsessed.

          1+

    2. I recently had to call my cousin to confirm an invitation to a party and she asked me how I got her number when they use cell phones and seem to forgot about their landline, so I said “ah phonebook”. I don’t have facebook, I don’t text, use twitter I’m practically having apoplexy just thinking about the price ($1,000.) for the new iphone. I buy my minutes like you because I don’t use my cell phone except for an emergency. It’s a convenience for me.

      1+

      1. ooohhh, Mary,

        $1,000 bucks. I just can’t even imagine. I know people get plans with “free” phones but I just don’t have that kind of money. I just don’t. No cell plan. No cable. I do have fiber internet but only because of the city I’m in made it a priority to have very fast and relatively inexpensive access. Relatively. I also have Netflix and a friend gifted me with Amazon Prime for x-mas last year so those are my movie and tv channels.

        I drive although the city I’m currently in would like me to give up my vehicle for the Uber automated ones coming soon to a city street near you. I know this because they are gentrifying the area, bringing in all these new people and businesses and getting rid of parking spaces. Now the latest thing is the micro apartments which rent for a serious chunk of change. No space, so no roommate. One has to have money to begin with so I guess buying $1,000 cell phone would be no big deal.

        But man, if 40% of the Americans don’t have $500 in cash to handle an emergency, then there really is a huge divide out there. People living completely different realities. And, I for one, am so sick of billionaire heroes. Jenny’s characters are ones that feel more grounded overall.

        3+

        1. There is a huge divide out there. A gulf, really. And the $999 iPhone is the top of line that has facial recognition and a whole bunch of other whistles that I don’t need. My iPhone is ancient and I’m keeping it. If I can find it.

          4+

        2. If you work for a company and you’re at a certain level, you won’t even be the one to buy it.

          I have the Tracfone with no bells & whistles but I work in accounting and a lot of people who think they need the bells & whistles are not the ones who pay for it.

          0

        3. A lot of those people who don’t have $500 saved for an emergency will probably end up with the new I-phone. Every phone company seems to offer low-interest payment plans these days, which are conveniently tacked onto your cellular bill! I paid cash for my phone and the salesperson kept pushing me to use a payment plan… “no money down – just $30 extra a month!”

          1+

          1. I don’t think a lot of people are going for the $999 version. There are at least two other versions that are cheaper and work just as well, they just don’t have facial recognition, which skeeves me out anyway.

            2+

          2. Most people with not much money buy Androids or other much cheaper versions. You can get a smart phone for a couple hundred bucks, which I know is still real money. The big cost is the data charges… The old contract for 2 years will get you a free phone seems to be going out of style though.

            0

      2. Some years back I had a boss who told me that he regarded his cell phone as something that was supposed to be a convenience for HIM, not for other people! So he used it to make calls, very occasionally, when he was in the field, etc.

        One day he called me and said, “How do I TAKE a call on this? The vice-president was trying to reach me . . . .”

        2+

      1. Then make the couple in their 50s. Whatever the chick lit or romantic comedy genre is for that age bracket. If there’s not a genre or subgenre then create one IF you want to because there are people in that age bracket who want to have romantic adventures. Think of that Betty White episode about tv shows that Boston Legal. There are readers out there. Niche markets and all that.

        You want to write it, I’ll read it. You decide to never publish again, I’m cool with that too because you’ve already given me so much with the books you have written that I’ve read plus the online communities you’ve created.

        Have fun, enjoy the ride and smile, young lady, because in the words of my former neighbor: “you done ‘good.'” And at 68 with the mental quickness you display online, there are still many possibilities and roads to be traveled IF that’s what you choose to do.

        8+

        1. Juliana Gray wrote a romance where the heroine was a poor lady’s companion and the hero was a handsome duke. But the duke was in his 70s and the heroine was in her 50s and I loved it. (The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match.)

          7+

        2. I don’t have much interest in reading romances about people in their 20s and early 30s.

          I’m 47, married with 2 kids under the age of 10. I have enough problems finding common ground with my age peers (who are often divorced with their kids in college or whose kids are having babies) or the with the (much younger than us) parents of the kids’ classmates. My reading is for comfort right now.

          I read certain popular authors because their writing is pretty much following a diagram. There’s a comfort in that but I may be done buying their books because of that too.

          1+

  3. The early ones were fun and funny but the later ones….I describe them to people as chic lit. They are stories about women finding themselves. Yes they find romance along the way but that is just part of what’s going on. I was doing a Crusie reread this past week during the hurricane. Did Agnes and the Hutman. The Cinderella Story and Dogs and Goddesses (I’ve read them all multiple times, those are just the ones I did during Irma). I have two questions – 1. Why did Agnes let Brenda park her boat at the dock when Brenda didn’t own the house anymore and was trying to swindle her and 2. Is cote ham really good?

    2+

    1. 1. As I remember, Brenda parked it there for the wedding. Also, she’d have had to get the cops out there to force Brenda to move, and that was the last thing they needed.

      2. Coke ham is excellent as long as you use full sugar coke and not diet. Krissie always swears the Coke bottled in Mexico has real sugar in it, as opposed to the stuff canned here which is something else but not artificial (corn syrup?).

      3+

      1. Can’t speak to Coke, but at least a few years ago, there were short runs of Dr. Pepper made in Texas with real sugar instead of corn syrup, and my sister-in-law sent me a case of it once as a gift. Now, while I like Dr. Pepper generally, the version with real sugar was nectar of the gods. It’s probably a good thing it’s too expensive to drink on a regular basis, or I’d gulp it down non-stop.

        1+

          1. Yes, Mexican Coca-Cola is gooood! It’s not too hard to find here (Texas), because we have Mexican food sections in most grocery stores.

            2+

          2. I believe Mexican coke is like Australian coke, where it has cane sugar rather than corn syrup. I definitely noticed the difference between Australian and American coke when I visited the US.

            1+

          3. I once did a root beer tasting, and to tell the truth, I like the corn syrup stuff better. It’s got a velvety mouth feel that is missing in real sugar. (-: Maybe if they made caramel out of the real sugar and used that?

            0

          4. Here in California, used t be that you could find it in mercados and taquerias. Now they sell it by the case at Costco. And yes, it is really good.

            0

      2. You have that right. Occasionally Coke will issue a short US production run of cane sugar cola, but Mexico is said to routinely use cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. At least that’s the theory. Whether it’s still the case, I don’t know this side of a lab test.

        1+

        1. Kosher Coke is also made with real sugar. It’s worth checking at Passover time to see if your grocery store carries it since it’s much cheaper than Mexican Coke.

          1+

      3. Krissie’s right. They sell Mexican coke at my independent grocer. They sell no other soft drink. Amused by the thinking that full cane sugar variety is, you know, healthful.

        1+

        1. Better isn’t always healthy, but happy or better-tasting (and moderation) is almost always healthy or at least not unhealthy. Wasn’t there a relatively recent NYT story about how eating “healthy” food under stress / anxiety can have as deleterious an effect on your well being as eating junk food?

          Sometimes wishing does make it so 🙂

          The “fat” episode of Malcolm Gladwell also has an interesting take on this subject:

          http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/19-mcdonalds-broke-my-heart

          Speaking of Gladwell …

          His Revisionist History episode on sad songs and country music is both hilarious (Tuti Fruiti Tuti Fruiti?) and heartbreaking, but it’s Gladwell so always a good time.

          http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/16-the-king-of-tears

          0

  4. It’s easy to be caught up in the technology of today, but the emotions of falling in love are still the same. That’s what I always love about your books, Jenny. Emotions.

    3+

    1. But it is and it isn’t.

      My nieces & goddaughters have their phones with them round the clock (except when the crank aunt makes them put it IN ANOTHER ROOM) and they seem to be always in three separate places in their mind at one time.

      I think it is their reality the same way I studied better with the radio on but not the TV and some of my younger friends studied better with the TV on. Which means that I can’t write inside their heads the way I could have 20 years ago.

      0

      1. I think people always drifted off when the conversation bored them or they were preoccupied. You probably did write that.

        But if you wrote a book without any texting I’m not sure anyone would notice.

        2+

        1. I wouldn’t notice.

          https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/oct/30/heathcliff-classic-books-reimagined-as-text-messages

          It’s going to make Romeo & Juliet a lot harder to understand for kids who think they should have been texting each other. ; )

          And someone who is on a smartphone 24/7 is going to be able to set up the story that explains that even when you’re in constant contact you can still screw up the relationship in ways that I will never understand.

          0

          1. That may be true and it could be a good book. But you could also write a very different book set today that doesn’t do that at all. Sarina Bowen writes some excellent contemporaries where cell phones and texting play a minimal role, for example. I don’t recall any texting in “The Year We Fell Down”. It may be there but it’s not core to the relationships in any way. Courtney Milan’s contemporary series’ first book, Trade Me, is heavily dependent on technology but texting and cell phones play only a small role. In Hold Me texting and internet communication is essential. So are modern medical advances. But not for the reasons you give. They are all great books. Technology is just something an author can choose to use or not as part of constructing their world. It doesn’t have to be there.

            2+

      2. There’s some research out there right now that shows that this youngest generation is unhappier because of their cellphones; they’re not connecting with each other in human ways. I don’t know where I read that, but I believe it. Says the woman who connects with everybody through e-mail and blogging.

        6+

        1. I’ll be really curious to see the results when there have been enough long term studies to get more nuanced results. Does it matter who they’re using their cell phone to communicate with? Or is it any cell phone usage? Is it that it makes people unhappy? Or does increased digital communication speed up the process of realizing you’re unhappy? Or do unhappy young people use their cell phone more than happy people? I completely believe that there’s a link, but cell phone usage is such a broad, varied thing, I’ll be interested to get a more detailed picture.

          5+

        2. I’m always skeptical about those types of studies.

          I seem to remember that TV was going to rot my brain and comic books were going to make me into a JD.

          Strangely, 45 years later, brains are working & comic books are in art galleries.

          5+

          1. I don’t think this is an elitism thing; it’s about how social media is disrupting human attachments. And you can see it, rows of kids ignoring each other to stare at their phones. It’s almost virtual reality instead of real reality. Empty calories.

            1+

          2. I’ve seen my teen use her phone with friends more than adjacent to friends, if that makes sense. One example: while college touring, we went to dinner with a group of my friends. One of them brought her teen daughter along so mine would have someone to talk to. The girls had never met before, but they spent much of the meal looking up memes and videos to show each other, and bonding over their favorite shows and bands. The phone actually made it easier for them to connect and think of something to talk about.

            9+

        3. I remember the ’70s. It wasn’t that great. Not having to actually face everyone, all the time, has its merits.

          I’m an old lady with angsty teens. My perspective may be somewhat warped.

          4+

        4. I wonder if it’s because they’re not learning the skill of how to communicate in person. I haven’t read the articles you posted, I’m just talking from my own experience. How we communicate in person is different than how we communicate via text/email. Each have their strengths/weaknesses. But, I wonder if younger generations are only developing the latter skills (or developing them a lot more?), and not the former. And there is something really fulfilling about conversations in person. My best friends don’t live near me. Whether we like it or not, text/email/messenger is how we stay in touch. But when we do finally get to see other, it’s so so much better. Unless of course because you never learned how to connect with people in real life, you’re stuck just in the virtual one, and connecting in real life is terrifying. I could see how that would be lonely.

          0

          1. I think it might be a lack of visual cues, too. Written words pale in communication beside spoken words with body language and inflection. Plus people lie on social media all the time so there’s a sense that everybody’s life is better than yours. Or sometimes they only report the good stuff (why depress people?) and that has the same effect. There’s a LOT of research done on the importance of face-to-face contact with other people, not just in social media; that’s pretty much a given. Old people who are isolated in their homes become depressed and degenerate mentally, for example.

            0

          2. I know I’m jumping into this discussion kinda late, but, my other favorite author (besides Ms. Cruisie) is Connie Willis. Her new book, Crosstalk, is about the pitfalls of too much communication via texting and cell phones…it’s hilarious and timely, and…frightening! Plus, there’s a good romance in there too. Highly recommended!

            0

  5. I think it’s the use of old technology that is jarring not the absence of new technology. I hadn’t realized that your books have no texting or Facebook. But if someone got out a typewriter that would be startling. Books need to be rooted in people and to some extent place but I don’t think they have to be rooted in that specific a time so long as the details they have are right.

    It drives me crazy when historicals use the wrong social customs because that is pretty much missing the whole point of writing historicals. Getting to know someone was harder and different when women were never left alone with men for example. That’s part of what makes the books interesting. But I would have no idea if the clothing or carriages were described correctly. Correct details add but you don’t have to have everything in there.

    But a wrong detail just jars you out of the story.

    And you can convey the feeling without detail. In Faking It Tilda’s backless midnight blue dress –I could probably draw 5 completely different ones for 5 different periods but what matters is just those words tells me why Davy reacts.

    3+

    1. There was a Regency writer I loved for her characters but she had a scene where her middle class aunt threw away the heroine’s upper class clothes as a punishment to her. Threw it into the street.

      Used clothing had real value in the regency. A wealthy person might have given it to the servants but anyone short on money would have sold the clothing. I don’t know whether the colors are right or wrong, or a curricle had four doors or two, but I know how people lived.

      I also tried one of her Westerns but she started with a military doctor visiting a junior officer’s wife in their home, calling her by her first name, and it wasn’t a romantic relationship in a small Western fort. Yes, the West was more casual than the East in the 1870s but that threw me out of the story completely. It’s such a little thing but it misunderstands how military set forts up.

      4+

      1. That stuff is really jarring. I remember one regency period book had a woman meeting alone with men and then moving temporarily into a male neighbors house. If she did that she would have created an enormous scandal–and if the narrative had done that it would have been fine. But it was treated as no big deal. Yet later in the book the author referred to the custom that a man can’t write to a woman. That failure to understand the reason behind the custom and what it said about relationships was really jarring.

        Leaving out texting would not be. Unless a plot point turned on reaching someone fast I doubt it would be noticed.

        3+

      2. Yep. Had a throw the book against a wall moment when a medieval heroine in reduced circumstances refused a pear tart because of pride or principle or something. Nope. Poverty meant not enough food, you couldn’t buy pears at the supermarket, and desserts were luxuries. She’d have eaten the damn thing then thrown the plate at the guy.

        1+

    2. Well, naked backs are universal.
      But that’s a good point about not having to get it right, just not get it wrong.

      5+

    3. This is a good point. I think texting might be more of a requisite thing than Facebook though because you could just say “she looked online” rather than “I found it on Facebook/Twitter.”

      Here’s one idea: have someone else more into modern technology go through the book and tell you where the requisite moments of technology should be used. Maybe that might work?

      On a similar note: a series I read as a teenager and loved got re-released last year (and sadly, I think it sunk like a stone) and the re-release was interesting because they rewrote all of the pop culture references to change the names from Brad Pitt to Karlie Kloss (or whatever), but they did not really change the level of technology that was used in the 90’s. This was noticeable after a while because one plot point about a character ending up in the hospital would have been different if people had had cell phones. Now, the characters all lived on a tiny little island on the East Coast so I think the rewriters could have probably just said something like “we don’t get cell and/or Internet on Chatham Island because we only have like 20ish people living here all year” and gotten away with it, but realistically I think the kids would at least have had cell phones for use on the mainland or something.

      2+

      1. And that’s what bugs me about the technology in modern stories is that sometimes authors pretend technology doesn’t exist in order to help their plot shenanigans.

        For example, if a character waits for someone and feels stood up, couldn’t the guy have just texted her? Couldn’t he have called the restaurant and paged her or left a message?

        Those are the things I don’t want to see – the fix that is available, but ignored because the writer needed to manufacture a problem and couldn’t come up with a better one.

        Eep! That sounds harsh, but it’s so true. Also, Caray, Caray (the funny blog for telenovela lovers) used to have this list of hysterical and irreverent rules for telenovelas. My favorite was, “If someone is in trouble, a priest will have to ride a donkey to go for help, even after 1985.”

        2+

      2. I lost a lot of respect for Stephen King when he re-wrote and modernized The Stand. There were so many elements that didn’t make as much sense with the time shift. What is sticking out in my mind (without having re-read either version in 20+ years) is Randall Flagg’s woman using a planchette. Ouja boards weren’t that common in the 1990s.

        0

    4. I have really enjoyed H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy series. But holy hell, the tech and language about the tech is dated. Not to mention women’s rights, environmental protection and society changes.

      A guy I know in a fan group for an online comic has been rewriting them with updated tech but I haven’t read them yet. I’m slightly afraid that what I love about the originals will be completely gone.

      1+

      1. I loved Escape from NY when it came out. But now they go and pull out the yard long cell phone (not even a smartphone) in one scene and all I can do is laugh.

        I think that was a real problem in Star Trek trying to keep the canon straight.

        They can do things AFTER the Original Series because then the tech difference is explained. They can’t do anything before TOS without deliberately making the tech lousy or doing what Abrahms did and pulling it into a new timeline.

        0

  6. I reread Maybe This Time, last week. The first time I read it of course I was reading from an emotional stance, and gobbled it up. At the first read I hadn’t liked it as much as say, Bet Me, because it wasn’t a pure romance. so, I thought it wasn’t one of my favorites of yours. This time I read the book slowly and noticed more of your brilliant storytelling. I understood the slowly developing romance, was in awe of how you wrote Alice, and really all of the characters. Plus the setting. Now I want to study that book! So my point is, write what you are passionate about, sometimes it’s the reader who hasn’t moved forward, to embrace the author’s knew path. If the time period that appeals to you is prior to today’s technology, write that. We could all use a break.

    4+

    1. That’s something every writer has to deal with: Readers come back to you because they like what you wrote. If you change, you’re messing with what they liked, which is perfectly understandable. It’s an extension of that reader’s contract thing.

      On the other hand, this is your life, and your mission is not to live it writing the things other people expect you to write. I figure people are going to hate Nita, too, they really didn’t like Wild Ride (and I know why and I wish I could fix it but that ship sailed). And then there are the fantasy books with Zo and Cat and a lot of people aren’t going to like those, either. When you consider how much of your life writing these stories, living in these stories, consumes, you really have to write them for yourself (and then revise for readers, but that’s a different topic).

      Oh, and thank you. I like Maybe This Time a lot, too.

      2+

      1. I really liked Wild Ride! I thought it was the best of the three!

        My only guess as to why not would be (a) the aforementioned “baby bird imprint on first male they see” problem, which I think you handled well and some folks must have been blockheaded about, and/or maaaaaybe (b) that Mab dates Funfun as a “Mr. Wrong” for awhile, and maybe the folks that had an issue with baby bird imprinting would have an issue with that as well.

        2+

        1. I should have imprinted them on Oliver. He was a good guy but he was in the background too much (because he was undercover and wanted to stay in the background, but I could have fixed that.) It was too much of a bait and switch. And Oliver was great, he should have had more page time.

          1+

          1. Oooh, speaking of bait and switch…. I have a friend who ah, doesn’t react well to criticism of writing so I have never said this to them directly, but they tend to have these whiplash turns in their books out of nowhere that make it hard for me to follow their plots. Like “where did THAT come from? did I miss it?” stuff. I honestly feel like if there was just enough development to explain why we went from A to D, it’d be a lot better, but…again, they do not react well to criticism, so I say nothing about what I read. Sigh.

            And when they have a romance, they’ve been setting up a relationship with Person A for like 100+ pages and then suddenly whiplash, here we go, now we’re supposed to root for them with Person B out of nowhere! Person A is old news, for some sudden mismatch reason or other! Yay Person B!

            I dunno…I’ve certainly read other romance books where there’s a guy or two before the endgame guy (Judith Krantz did this fairly often) and never had an issue with it, as long as you telegraph that Person A is just kind of a shallow fling, or is an asshole, or wants kids when the heroine doesn’t, or some other good reason to not baby bird attach on him. It is doable…there just needs to be a lot more build about it than my friend does.

            Not your problem though–there was plenty of build, I don’t get why other people didn’t get it!

            1+

    2. That book is one of my favs! The first scene is my palate cleanser when I’ve read a bad beginning. So much going on. Beautiful.

      0

  7. I’ve noticed that the time of my youth – seventies and eighties – is being used as a setting more often. I guess it’s historical to today’s twenty-somethings. So that’s another option. Although I’m pulled more to write characters near to my age; I can get fed up with some young protagonists; I want more stories about good things that could happen to older people.

    5+

  8. It’s interesting that this came up today because it is Sunday and I was ill and sleepy and put the phone away till about 18.30. I didn’t miss it. But now that it is out I’m texting and whatsapping and retweeting and blogreplying.

    I’ve learned that I need to release the written word too, for true slience.

    As for anyone who might need a cheaper phone, I use the brand called Xiaomi for my daily use, which is a *lot* of use. There are quite a few lesser known smartphone brands out there doing good things at much lower prices. The specs I have would cost almost double in a Samsung.

    Some books become part of us. I’ve never had a problem reading an author with a range. I think I come back for snappy dialogue that you’re going to do anyway. I’m giving up on You Again in favour of Alice, Nadine, Monday Street and Paradise Park. But GRRM is not my bitch, ya know 😉 So you do you, I’ll buy and read.

    I bought three copies of Agnes and the Hitman: one for lending out, one for me and one as a gift. I don’t know who has the one for lending out. So mine is with me. Carefully guarded next to my Crazy For You and Bet Me.

    2+

    1. I come back for snappy dialogue, too. I read a lot of bodice rippers in high school, and someone gave me a book for Christmas that was modern, and I disliked it so much, I didn’t read anything contemporary for decades (fastasy/scifi for the win!). Then one of my favorite authors recommended your books, and I found Hot Toy, I think, and have been thoroughly entertained since then. The real difficulty in finding fiction I like is that none of the book recommendation sites I’ve found have a way to search for something non-standard, like snappy dialog, or a chapter book/graphic novel like Ursula Vernon’s Dragonbreath books (for my son). You’d think putting in my favorite authors (all of whom have characters with brains) would help, but I still end up with books full of horrible dialogue and no character in their characters. Clearly, I’m doing something wrong, but for now, I stick with what works (buy tried and true authors, check the rest out of the library first).

      0

      1. Don’t pretend the Dragonbreath books are for your son. I love those things; I read them and then give them to the grandkids. She has a new series out about a hamster princess that I had to wrap and hand over for Christmas before I could read them. I’m still a little bitter about that.

        1+

        1. Oh, I LOVE The Hamster Princess! I have only read Harriet the Invincible but I want everyone to read it. Jenny, you need to find a way to read those books while visiting the grandkids or check them out from the library or buy your own copy. I need to get my hands on the rest of the series. I got my copy of the first book from the publisher at ALA annual conference. Normally I would’ve given it to one of my nieces or nephews but I couldn’t decide which one so I kept it.

          1+

  9. Now I’m thinking about the ways texting and technology have changed stuff for me and my friends in our twenties.

    The biggest thing with texting/ communications technology is that it lets you do things you couldn’t before, but it makes it harder to draw personal boundaries to keep some part of your life from invading your other part of your life. My little sister texted me at work when she was super excited about something, and it’s socially and professionally ok for me to take a moment and text her back, so I get to be part of her life that way. But then when I’m at home, if there’s a work emergency, my boss gets to text me and confirm that I packed up the display at the theater. How you deal with that is a big character revealer. One co-worker texted me over the weekend to ask if I wanted some kitchen stuff, because he knew I had moved into a new apartment and needed kitchen stuff, and his wife was doing a purge of their house. Then on Monday he apologized for texting me over the weekend – even though it was a nonwork thing – because he’s a quiet, private person, and he’s trying to treat his coworkers the way he would want to be treated.

    If you work somewhere where you have a work email, then odds are that work/ life boundary is no longer enforced by a lack of technology. It’s now enforced by careful human decency. Which makes the good places to work priceless, and the horrible bosses truly horrific.

    It’s pretty easy to bow out of social media, if you don’t want to, although you will get eye rolls for it among your friends who are on it. But not texting is just not an option if you’re in your twenties and want a job. Bosses who don’t expect older employees to text and/or be reachable by cell phone will expect younger employees to. And when you’re starting a career, that’s not a position you get to argue.

    There’s also the hiring bias that assumes Young People Understand Technology. Which undoubtably helps millennials when we’re being hired, but kind of sets you up for failure if you really don’t understand technology.

    Tinder and Bumble and other phone based dating apps are definitely a thing. But most women I know either don’t use them, or use them for 6 months or so until they find someone they want to be dating, or give up on internet dating. It’s definitely a thing, but it seems to be a phase people go through thing as opposed to a re-structure-the-way-you-relate-to-dating-and-technology thing.

    It looks like lots of changes on the surface, but mostly it’s just humans responding in the exact same way they always would to a changed set of circumstances. And good research + good beta readers would probably be enough to write it well if you wanted to. But it sounds like you don’t really want to, and if it’s not inspiring, go with the fun fantasy stuff that is.

    5+

    1. “It’s pretty easy to bow out of social media, if you don’t want to, although you will get eye rolls for it among your friends who are on it.”

      True. I don’t do social media. Problem is that it REALLY hampers certain friendships. I am an e-mail/texting person and not a Facebook person, so I really only hear from people who will do text/e-mail. If you will only communicate with someone if they are on Facebook, for example they only invite you to things if you saw them on Facebook, then we’re no longer going to be friends, and I have lost friendships/potential friendships for not constantly Facebooking. I’ve been asked/kinda begged to, but I cannot stand that shit and I don’t want it in my life just because of a few people–there’s too much other drama, baggage, ease of public shaming, etc. that goes along with it. Plus now that I have a coworker who I discovered likes to stalk folks online and was doing it and bragging to my boss about it….nope.

      2+

      1. I avoid Facebook like the plague. My high school reunion was planned on Facebook so I went to the page to talk to people can catch up, but I could tell right away that friending people was out of the question. I come from a very little blue-collar town in the middle of Ohio, and there were a lot of Trumpers in there. Not obnoxious or starting fights, everybody was very low key, but I coul see the pitfalls ahead.

        3+

        1. Whenever everyone started to be on Facebook, say 9 or 10 years ago, I went to join up.

          It began pulling suggestions out for me from five or six jobs, high school, college and random people I actually might have known. The algorithms were amazing.

          And I was horrified. Because there was a good reason I wasn’t talking to most of those people and everyone I did want to talk to? I was already emailing or calling them.

          I use it so I can comment on some news sites and to keep up with a few family members. Otherwise? Not my cup of tea.

          1+

  10. I’m smack dab in the middle of middle aged, so I’m not sure if that makes me the best or worst to comment on this. I have a different frame of reference than the “youths” (who grew up texting and with everything on the internet) but I don’t view technology the same way as Baby Boomers either.

    I felt like the last Vicky Bliss book by Elizabeth Peters really suffered from “older person writing about present day sydrome.” She had been writing the Vicky Bliss books forever and I appreciate that she wanted to give the characters a great send off, but every character hated technology and grumbled about how awful the internet was. Now, I think some of this was for plot reasons and I do know a few 30 somethings that are tech averse, but my suspension of disbelief was strained a little extra hard by that. Elizabeth Peters was probably in her 80s by then and it was still more entertaining than anything than I could write, so feel free to take that with a grain of salt.

    Personally, I would love to read about an older heroine or a a story set in the recent past, “pre-text, pre-Facebook” era. Both sound appealing to me. They may be harder to market, but if it’s a good story, it can work, I say. Sue Grafton has kept Kinsey Milhone in the late 80s for years.

    My two cents anyways. And another vote for fantasy too.

    5+

  11. I guess I need to reread the last Nero Wolfe and find the last Vicky Bliss.

    Texting has definitely changed how work and personal life bleed into each other but the boss who always wants you at their fingertips has been around forever. When I started working the only computers in my first workplace were in a central location with special typists and reserved for documents over 10 pages. And yet, my boss assumed I was available if he needed me 24/7 when there was a big case going.

    4+

    1. Before cell phones, there were pagers. You were a big deal if you were assigned a pager. So even in the dark ages, bosses wanted to be able to reach you. ; )

      I’m a little annoyed when writers assume older people don’t use tech. I carry a Tracfone because I’m cheap, not because I don’t like tech. (Although I do admit the fact that my boss can’t email a spreadsheet to fix is a plus). My 79 year old aunt loves her smartphone and uses it every day. I’ve got older friends who love Facebook & Instagram and who are on it all the time.

      What I am not however is a digital native. Facebook leaves me cold and I’d rather talk than text anytime. I don’t know why anyone would care what my lunch looks like and I have no intention of boring them with a picture of it. But what I remember is sitting on the phone for hours with friends in my teens and my grandmother having no clue what we had to talk about since we had spent the whole day in school together. So I just think it’s different for the digital natives and in 20 years, they’ll be complaining about their kids.

      4+

  12. Another “age gap” problemthat sticks in my mind –
    I was reading a chick lit mystery (this was maybe 10-15 years ago when chick lit was hot and I was still a target demographic :-)) and the heroine made some off hand comment about “Cary Grant, whoever she was. ” Clearly this was supposed to be a “big laff” moment, like “haha, look at the stupid young girl.” And I knew the author (not well, but to talk to), so I knew she was of a different generation than the heroine. And this was the heroine, not some villain we were supposed to laugh at.
    I think it was a writer loving a joke too much to not realizing how it would land.

    Yes, some millennials and Gen-Xers will not know who Cary Grant is, but then that means they won’t get the joke, doesn’t it? And if they do get the joke, they’re supposed to laugh at the heroine?

    It rubbed me the wrong way.

    3+

    1. Yeah, it was dumb to give it to the heroine, too. Classic films are on all the time and he had a lot of real estate in those. His Girl Friday, North by Northwest, the Hitchcock stuff, kids still watch those because they’re incredible.

      4+

      1. I had a student employee about 2 years ago who was 17 & who only knew Julie Andrews as the grandmother in Princess Diaries. I’m not sure she’d have known who Cary Grant was.

        2+

        1. Julie Andrews is also one of the voices in at least one Shrek movie. Fiona’s mom, maybe? I was surprised to see her in the credits a few months back.

          2+

        2. A couple of the guys at Crooked Media (Pod save America, etc.) were once assigned to UNICEF, where they greatly admired Audrey Hepburn without knowing a thing about her film career — just too young. They thought she was wonderful anyway.

          2+

  13. Speaking of Nero Wolfe, I have been watching a few of the Timothy Hutten (sp?) TV versions (on DVD from my library, but prob streamed somewhere too). They are ok to pretty good but one episode with Kari Matchett was fabulous. She plays 2 characters and one of them is the Best Heroine Ever. Funny, kooky, smart, adorable, femme fatale, tough cookie – oh what joyous trouble one could get into with her as a friend.The episode was “Death of a Doxy” and I think it was season 2.

    I don’t remember the Rex Stout original story but this dramatization was definitely re-watchable.

    And wasn’t it Rex Stout who said in a birthday interview something like “the best thing about turning 80 is you can now kick ass with impunity”?

    4+

    1. Was she playing Lily Rowan? Best detective girl friend ever.
      I haven’t seen those Timothy Hutton shows in forever. Mollie was working on a movie set with him once, and she told him that her mother loved those shows, and she said he was really pleased, not just polite, because they’d been a real labor of love.
      And then came Leverage . . .

      3+

      1. Love Timothy Hutton. Love the Nero Wolfe series. He and Kati Matchette sizzled. She played the recurring role of Lily Rowan, but she also played in Death of a Doxy, the one about fencing (love that one), and the one about the single mother who gets poisoned. They were always magic.

        3+

      2. Yes, she did also play Lily Rowan, at least in that season 2. I’m watching season 4 and there is a different actor playing Lily who doesn’t so far at least seem to have the campy, slapsticky mood of the series in hand (not unlike Moonlighting, maybe?). Matchett totally did – and so did Hutton. I keep picturing the cast hamming it up like crazy for fun even off set. That season 2 was a blast.

        Must watch Leverage … 🙂

        0

  14. I have that imprint of Manhunting! Still one of my favorites, maybe because Our Heroine has moxie, and it makes me laugh. It and Bet Me are the two I have on my phone (in multiple apps so I bought yet more copies). I have those and everything else in hardcopy as well.

    The divide is widening as people without a smart phone find it difficult to deposit cheques, pay for parking, buy tickets, line up for some services (we will text you just before your number is called so you don’t have to stand in line), etc. It’s hardly used for phone calls at all for many people–it’s their portable computer.

    3+

    1. My problem is that I can’t see the damn thing; it’s too tiny. Give me an iPad with a phone in it, and I’d be on it all day.
      I have a phone so I can call if I need to and take pictures, but otherwise it’s computer and iPad. I got the largest iPad Pro so I could see the screen to read, and I love it. Put a phone in that sucker. For a large iPad with a phone I could read, I would pay $999.

      2+

      1. I thought you could buy iPads with mobile data/phone capability? For your next upgrade, maybe? It’d have to be a hands-free phone, I suppose. But I can’t see why it wouldn’t work; unless for some reason Apple doesn’t allow their phone app onto the iPad: it’s just the Phone and Messages apps (and the size) that differentiate my iPhone from my iPad. I think.

        0

          1. What about Facetime? For short chats, can work well. Especially for grandkids.

            iPads are awesome. The latest is really a computer. You can even get keypads to attach I think. Have to double-check with the Geniuses in my family–they know everything;)

            0

    1. Yep. That’s what the prompted the memory lane stuff. It was one of those “How did I get here?” days. Fortunately, I like “here” a lot.

      6+

      1. Shoulda remembered. Our natal dates are clooose. Happy birthday to the max. I celebrate for a week before, week after. Hope you do too.

        1+

  15. I’m not sure what to make of the isolation stuff. In some ways I think technology makes it a lot easier to keep strong friendships over distance. My college age son has a hard time making friends. He is great at being a friend and has great friends from HS. He is on an 11 person chat group and that is how those HS friends stay in touch and then when they are in the same place they have a great time. Also my older kid (and to some extent her brother) and my foster kid skype all the time. That seems better than phones or texting tome. I just think it’s complicated.
    I guess I need to reread Wild Ride. I didn’t take to it the first time, and I love Agnes.

    1+

  16. When I decided to turn my first screenplay into a novella, fifteen years had elapsed, and a story without cell phones had to turn into a story with cell phones. It didn’t really change much, because the story was really about people talking face to face.

    Have never used online dating and so I don’t think I could realistically describe that relationship mode, but I’ve dated a lot of other ways so it seems there is still room to maneuver. 🙂

    I am going-on-52 and didn’t use a personal computer until I was in graduate school. Didn’t use email until I moved to California, the year I turned 30. Still don’t use “the Twitter” or other insta-media formats, but I am on Facebook – it has helped me reconnect in that shallow but socially-useful way with acquaintances and old friends who aren’t really in my Real Life – and I would rather text than talk on the phone.

    Growing up in the rural South where every call – EVERY call – to a close friend or family member was long-distance, and long-distance calls were expensive, the chatty phone habit is one I did not learn. Now what I most dislike about phones is not the expense, but the artificial urgency. A phone call demands immediate attention the way a text doesn’t.

    1+

  17. So, I am a 20-something with my first smart phone. It’s a love/hate relationship. I also wanted to mention that I love dipping into slightly dated books. Mary Stewart, for example, is one of my favorites. Her books are very solidly grounded in the time that they were written, and it is charming. I also enjoy books from the 70’s and 80’s. As long as I know the rules for the universe that I am visiting, I don’t throw a hissy over technology. Also, people break their phones all the time. If you really want to set something in the very modern present, you could have something catastrophic happen to your heroine’s phone. My sister dropped hers in the toilet once… and then there was that unfortunate incident when I had a hole in the pocket of my coat and the phone fell through to nestle in the lining… We all could go on. Someone should really invent a cord for those things 🙂

    7+

    1. LOL, oh yes. And it could have a curly sort of cord, so it didn’t get in the way, but could stretch way out if necessary.

      Actually, for my old Galapagos phone, you could attach key chains. And one keychain was a curly cord with a mitten clip on the end so I could clip it to my pocket. It didn’t work very well — any strong tug would result in it falling off.

      1+

      1. Haha. There was a Zits cartoon about this many years ago, with Jeremy making the same suggestion. Can’t find the exact link, but all the collections of Zits are worth the time to read and laugh (libraries have them too): http://zitscomics.com/

        Jeremy keeps us up to date and laughing with teenage antics and Scott and Borgman keep parents of teens sane. I give print copies of the Zits comic books to young friends who have teenagers. It has probably saved many a life 🙂

        1+

    1. You laugh but I just bought my first tablet two weeks ago and I’ve already lost the damn thing.

      I was thinking I needed another dog treat pouch – that’s the right size to store it in. ; )

      0

  18. “And of course, the brain is aging, too, and that’s going to show up in my work.” See for me, there’s where trying new technology is important, because trying new things is important on the brain-aging front. I’m a decade behind you, I think (I’m 59), and I do try to try new-fangled technologies. I email (early adopter, because I worked for a university), Facebook (good way to keep up with friends and family worldwide), Instagram (this is my most recently-adopted platform, and I’ve harnessed it to improve my photography skills), text (for information purposes – not for conversations). Tried Twitter (ugh!) and Snapchat (do not see the point, which makes me sound old :-)), and am awaiting the next big thing.

    Have your brother text you on your giant iPad Pro – win-win for the two of you.

    2+

  19. iPads can’t take regular phone calls — rules with the FCC forbid it. But you can, I think, Skype with them as if they were a regular phone.

    0

  20. Oh cell phones are actually easy to not be connected with. It was turned off. It was out of battery. You lost it. You left it at home/the office/a restaurant. You were in a rural area, or in the middle of a building, or in a valley, and had no reception. Your toddler did something awful. You couldn’t hear it ring over the (whatever). The ring tone was turned off. You were in a meeting and couldn’t check it. It’s a miracle anyone ever gets through! (and then there is my son, who managed in middle school to miss the fact that his phone sent and received texts for two years–when we finally pointed it out he had two years of unopened texts, all from his dad when he was traveling.

    0

    1. Depending on one’s job, there’s also work accidents with phones. Examples from my work – run over by a car; run over by a fire truck; dropped down a chimney during a house fire (it was a radio and it survived and worked for another decade); dropped into a puddle; dropped off the Fireboat and into the lake (best chief EVER responded “you’re the dive team. This is not an acceptable excuse. Go find it.); flushed down a toilet; broken by his kids; left in the grocery store; and most recently – left in someone’s personal car after being in an accident and now it’s gone.

      I hope you had a really good birthday.

      1+

    2. As long as you don’t make the heroine keep noticing that the charge was low, and not charging it, and then having no juice while running from the bad guy. It just made her sound stupid, and was such a set up.
      Clearly, this was pre-smart phone, when phones would stay charged for much longer, unless the bad guy was coming for you.

      1+

      1. I never use mine so I forget where it is. Haven’t seen it for a week, although I’m pretty sure it’s either in my purse or somewhere by my bed. I should recharge that.

        1+

  21. Off topic – How do I change my Favicon? I have looked everywhere, to no avail. Do I need a WordPress site to do it?

    0

    1. You need to set up a Gravatar. You don’t need to have a WordPress site (I don’t). I remember it was pretty straightforward – I just Googled how to, and then did it. You’ll want an image to use for yourself and a password.

      0

  22. How old is your iPhone? If not too old (I have a 5 and this works for me), you can connect your phone and iPad via their blue tooth. The two devices just have to be in reasonable proximity. As in, when my phone is downstairs I can answer it upstairs on my iPad.

    0

    1. Oooh. My iPhone is old. I never use it so no need to update. I’d check to see what it is, but I don’t know where it is.
      My iPad Pro is new and I love it and I will never let go of it.

      0

  23. Happy belated birthday! Many happy, healthy ones to come, doing whatever your creative, funny heart desires.

    (posted on 9/18)

    0

Comments are closed.