Why Writing Romantic Fiction with Mature Characters

Ever since I’ve been through all the Pippi Longstockings, the Karl May books (a German-style Western for youngsters), and matured through the rest of our tiny island’s library, I’ve been reading romance novels. I devoured them all my life.

Until a few years ago. I got bored with the flawless, beautiful, size ten, gorgeous, fashionable and funkily dressed young heroine. Yes, I remember those times… not very well anymore, but yes, I’ve been there, done that, and got the stretch marks to prove it. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t relate to these young girls anymore. And I would like to identify with the heroines I’m reading about and get lost in their worlds before I contemplate what to cook for dinner tonight. Continue reading “Why Writing Romantic Fiction with Mature Characters”

Is It Too Late For Love?

The other day I heard a story of an elderly couple in their mid-eighties who is having an affair. In their retirement home! The reaction of the surrounding audience was “How cute, how endearing.” As if they were little infants who lie on a lambskin, lifting their heads for the photographer or a couple of pre-schoolers playing Mums ‘n Dads.

It’s never cute to start a new relationship, no matter what age we are. More so as an older person than in younger years. As we enter the sunset years of our lives, finding a new partner and starting a new relationship requires courage and a giant leap of faith. It’s not easy to put one’s history aside and start anew. It’s also an incredibly hopeful act because One is a lonely number and living as One is a hard road to travel.

When people heard the story of the couple from the retirement home, I imagine their mental picture was that of a brittle couple walking the garden paths holding their emaciated hands, planting little kisses on each other’s lips or wrinkly cheeks, and whispering terms of endearment before they forgot what they were talking about.

But NO. Three times NO. It’s not cute. It is not like admiring a couple of rare Panda bears in the zoo or on TV. It simply is the human condition. Throughout our lives, we always need another person to help us regulate our internal state, our level of arousal. A baby couldn’t be calm or go to sleep without the closeness of a calm and soothing mother. It would suffer greatly and might even die without the love and physical comfort of another person, even when fed regularly. Being close to a (caring) person is not just a good idea, it’s a biological necessity for our survival. As we grow older, our dependence on another person decreases, but it will never ever go away completely. We always function better when we are close to another person.  (For more in-depth information about this read A General Theory of Love).

Back to my story. When it transpired that Eva (let’s call my fellow oldies Eva and Adam) talked about yummy sex, people’s eyes clouded over. The Icky-effect kicked in. The idea that Adam would have his eighty-year-old hand sliding up Eva’s trembling thighs and suckle with increasing enjoyment on her nipples, quickly threw the couple out of the ‘cute-corner.’ Because, let’s be serious, Old Folks over the age of 50, are put out to pasture and best used as babysitters, for house sitting, and looking after the animals when the kids are on holiday.

It may be hard to picture our parents as sexually active—I found it hard to picture my own parents as sexually active… until I crossed over to the Old Folks’ side.

Let me tell you, as someone who is closer to my eighties than my fifties, that’s not how it works for those of us on the other side of this magical divide. The skin may wrinkle and the bones may creak, but the (metaphorical) heart and soul are ageless. Besides having accumulated more knowledge over the years and learned from experiences, my thinking has not changed much. Only when I’m invited to join in some physical activities, I have to pass. That’s the only time I ‘feel’ my age.

The need for emotional and physical intimacy, however, doesn’t stop. Erogenous zones don’t disappear with the plumpness of youthful skin. It is still arousing to be touched in those areas. There is no use-by-date of the need for love, after which life becomes a waiting game for the undertaker.

Baby boomers have heralded the sexual revolution together with many changes we take for granted nowadays. Watch this space—they/we will not sit by and allow people to cutesify (don’t adjust your spell check, I just invented the word) our lives. I say that even though knowing the obstacles we face are extraordinary.

I started writing romance novels a few years ago and my heroines are in their late fifties and older… after all, they say write about what you know. Since then I have talked with many women my age and older, and through this scientifically conducted research, I came to the conclusion that we love being held, being kissed, being stroked, being made love to, no matter our age and the number of wrinkles we have.

I have submitted my ideas and manuscripts to several well-known publishers and agents and received the feedback that there is no readership for old heroines like that. Old Heroes, maybe, but certainly not dried up old Heroines. Maybe they are right? I for one am sick and tired reading about twenty and thirty-year-old people, whether they are normal couples or shifting into some other kind of beings. Yes, I too love Sleepless in Seattle and adore Dirty Dancing, but surely there must be more stories out there like Something’s Gotta Give? Yes, yes, I hear you mention the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A great start, but only one of very few bucking the trend and depicting positive images of older age. There are interesting lives being lived from the age of fifty onwards and they are worth talking about. Recognizing oneself in stories being told might help our generation to feel less isolated and resigned.

What are we doing to ourselves if a quarter of our life is ignored in so many areas of life, including art? I say our on purpose because if you are lucky, you’ll get there as well. Sometimes it feels like we are a burden to society—except for those who own and run retirement homes. They can’t wait for us to flock to their establishments in droves and guarantee them lucrative profits.

Imagine my excitement when two large publishers (in the romance field) put a call out for manuscripts with what they coined ‘Silver Fox Heroes and Heroines’. They defined ‘Silver Foxes’ as people between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five. It took a while for me to stop rolling my eyes. Did they mean those young people who dye their hair gray now because it’s a new fashion trend? The mind boggles. If you are middle-aged and love romantic novels, you might have to search amongst indie publishers for books with real silver foxes and vixens.

Ah well, the fight goes on. Ageism and discrimination of older people aren’t something new and it’ll take much more awareness and talk about these issues for things to change. At least, we have Grace and Frankie on Netflix, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. When they talk about life and sex I can see the silver lining. Like the Golden Girls of the eighties, they push the boundaries of contemporary thinking about us oldies. YEAH! Go, Girls!

For the reader of romantic suspense, my books A TUSCAN AFFAIR and A CASE FOR LOVE can be found at all major e-book outlets.

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Book Launch Party: A TUSCAN AFFAIR

I’m having a bit of a party to celebrate the launch of my debut novel A TUSCAN AFFAIR. Romance fans who are in Wellington on that day, are welcome to join us for a good time.

 

A TUSCAN AFFAIR, the first of four books in the GOLDEN GIRLS Series. Four long-time friends are faced with life changing decisions. As so often happens, life throws some serious obstacles their way but being strong Kiwi women, they don’t cower in fear. Instead, they meet those challenges head-on.

 

With the help of each other, they answer the age-old question: Do we quietly sit back and grow old or is there still one more adventure waiting for us? One more love?

Each one of the four friends has a book to her name. A TUSCAN AFFAIR is Anna’s story.

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The Secret Weapon in Relationships: Kindness

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As you may know, I have written a little book about relationships and how to make them work. Over about 60 pages I have-in one way or other-emphasized the importance of kindness. Basically pointing out that if you bring kindness to your relationships, be they intimate ones, work relationships, friendships, or those with family members, you have a great recipe for lasting, loving, relationships.

A friend gave me her feedback the other day, which made me stop and think. Besides some very well-meant comments about grammar and flow issues that could benefit from improvements, she said it offers “surface insight into solutions to very complex problems”. That puzzled me. As if loving kindness is a ‘too simple’ solution for complex relationship problems.

Whoever says that ‘kindness’ is simple hasn’t grasp the depth of insight and high level of awareness it takes to practice kindness. If it were easy to be kind, if kindness were the main driving emotion/attitude people have with each other, we would not have criticism, judgment, hate, wars, violence. It requires humility, love, and seeing the good in the other person rather than looking for shortcomings. “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt (painting above) symbolizes this point perfectly!

I know for myself how often I am unkind, when my ego gets in the way, when I am thoughtless, when I can’t be bothered with other people’s needs, when the inside voice in me won’t be silenced and shouts “What about me!!!!”, and lastly, when I am unkind with myself!

No, being kind is not easy. We all admire Mandela, Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama as they show us the meaning of non-violence, of kindness. Very few people master that level of kindness and love. You can test it for yourself by being highly focused for one day to be kind to yourself and others…and notice when you are not! I would love to hear from you how that experiment went!

So if you want to spruce up your valentines day with a simple, easy solution to relationship problems, go and buy my book Delicious Love Forever: Recipes for lasting, loving relationships  either on kindle or a hard copy, or read it for free on ‘kindle unlimited’. It gives you simple concepts – but don’t be fooled, they take a lot to put into practice!

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/oilpainting-gallery/4187152134/

Delicious Love Forever: Recipes for Lasting Loving Relationships

photo (3)The need to love and be loved seems to be in our DNA. Yet many people struggle to have lasting loving relationships. They find they don’t get along as well as they had at the beginning of the relationship; character traits undetected earlier raised their ugly head. People go into attacking mode to defend themselves. Others close down or run for the hills.

The book I have written is now available on Amazon for $4.99 and you can order the kindle version here. The paperback will take another 10 to 14 days to be available. It will be quite a bit dearer due to the printing costs and postage. But I digress! Continue reading “Delicious Love Forever: Recipes for Lasting Loving Relationships”

A Natural Woman

 

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Hearing the song “A Natural Woman” performed today, made me think of the men I have met over time, beginning with my dad and my grand dad who all in their idiosyncratic way helped me to develop or unlock parts of myself I didn’t knew I had then.

With some of these ‘gifts’ I wasn’t too happy at the time, but looking back over 60 odd years, I can see that even they held a learning for me – propelled me on my way to becoming the woman I am today. So, here the lyrics – be glad that I am not singing LOL – as a tribute to the men who inspire us woman to be the best we can be!
Continue reading “A Natural Woman”

Watching Swans

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This short story by Ken Staley is from his collection “The Art of Ageing” and published here with his permission.

Watching Swans.
I sit in this chair, day after day. Time passes, I’m convinced it must, but I take no note. The sky is always blue, the grass always new spring green and butterflies dance and chase each other from blossom to blossom. And that pond, always there, waiting. There is music here, always. Not their music, but our music. Songs, my Carol, songs you so deeply etched on my heart that those notes echo as long as I breathe, as long as my eyes can still see – you.

Oh, others stop now and then, and speak about me as though I do not exist and cannot hear them. I feel their pity and sense their shame. Words they have for each other – adult words – to salve their guilt. “Poor man – does no one come to visit?” “What does he find so interesting out that window?” “How can he sit here day after day after day?”

Continue reading “Watching Swans”

Only One Step to Happiness: End of Story

rel ships happyOver the last 20 years positive psychology and positive thinkers have suggested that by simply following a number of steps ‘Happiness’ is in our grasp. Who would not like the idea?  But wait a minute …. if there were only 3, 5, or 7 steps to Happiness, would people not have achieved it by now? People are not stupid – at least not the majority. So what is wrong with the picture?

Happiness is not a commodity, a trade-able good that can be acquired by following a prescribed formula – like how to start your car’s engine. Continue reading “Only One Step to Happiness: End of Story”

The Art of Listening

woman-listening“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  This quote from Stephen R. Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change) describes succinctly the problem most people have when communicating. Most courses and trainings refer to ‘active listening’ as a desirable practice, yet it teaches people to listen to the words, the content, and then repeat it back to the speaker.

In contrast, deep listening as I understand it is listening for the meaning behind the words, is listening for the feeling that the words are pointing it. In a way, it is listening with a sense or curiosity WITHOUT checking with our own mind whether it makes sense to us, we can relate to it, whether it is stupid/reckless/naive to name just a few examples. If we would listen that way (checking with our own mind) we would only listen to our own thoughts about something and not to the other person. Continue reading “The Art of Listening”

5 Mistakes That Kill The Love In Relationships (# 2) I am right and you are wrong

wrong rightNumber two of the mistakes that kill the love in relationships is the conviction that MY view of things is right and YOUR views of things is wrong. I don’t think there has ever been a couple that presented for relationship counselling, coaching, or therapy that was not caught in that erroneous assumption.

To be fair, it is not only an affliction couples suffer from, but human kind in general follows that strict line of thinking. Hence the fights, wars, and conflicts we observe throughout history and present day circumstances. How much suffering happened because people thought they were right and hence their actions were justified: from human sacrifice, to slavery, to witch hunt, to wars, oppression, human rights …. the list is endless.  Continue reading “5 Mistakes That Kill The Love In Relationships (# 2) I am right and you are wrong”