Tuesday, November 20, 2018

That Time of Year, and I Am Thankful

Thanksgiving has always been thought of as a day for families to gather, enjoy a meal that takes hours to prepare, minutes to consume, and days to clean up after. I'm eight hundred miles away from any family, so holidays are often a bittersweet time for me. It's a time when I think about the ways my life is blessed every single day.

I'm blessed to have great friends who think of me as family, and I think of them the same way. I have much for which to be grateful. I have a job. I even have a job I don't mind going to most days, and absolutely enjoy at times. I have a roof over my head, a car to drive, and a freezer filled with food--thanks to said job.

I've been blessed to have the opportunity to pursue my dream of writing. As for success, well, it depends upon how you measure that. I have 27 novels, 3 novellas, and 5 short stories published. Is that success? Or is the success in the fact that a fair number of readers enjoy my writing, and in the fact that I find such gratification in the whole process. Writing and publishing might never pay the rent. But it makes me happy. And that, my friends, is success.

I've been blessed with a wonderful, crazy, sometimes odd, always funny and welcoming family. I love watching the next generation and the one after that growing up, taking hold of the family reins, seeing the future in the faces of my grand-nephews and grand-niece, and praying for a better world for them.

I take time during the holidays to pause, to look back, and to remember with both tears and laughter those family gatherings of my childhood. The women in the kitchen from early, early in the morning stuffing the turkey, baking pies, and laughing. The men usually outside with their heads under the hood of one car or another. I preferred their company and learned more about carburetors than I did about casseroles. There was always laughter--whether at one another or at some funny story or joke that was told. And the stories--oh, the stories that were passed around that table as easily as the turkey platter. Those stories seemed insignificant at the time. What precious memories they have become.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the many ways we've been blessed and gifted. A time to show gratitude and to embrace those who have less than we have. Now, this may sound crazy, but what if we lived that way all the time? Every. Single. Day. What if we were first thankful for what we've been given, and then what if we looked to those who had less and broke off a piece of bread (or five dollars for gas, or a warm jacket, or a moment of listening and being with, or giving voice on their behalf), and just gave something from ourselves and of ourselves.

I know a lot of people who do this. They do it every day. Perhaps you do, too. But it can become overwhelming. So we need to hold one another up, remind one another that we're all in this life together. We need to remember those things for which we are thankful, and we need to give others something for which they can be thankful. Sometimes all that takes is a look, a notice, a smile, a welcome. Because, when you get right down to it, we're all part of one big, crazy, sometimes odd, funny, hurting, needing, and generously gifted family.

There is so much that can and does divide us. So much that tries to tell us we are too different, more than/less than, better than. But those are lies. I may not always agree with you. I may not always be kind. I may not always be generous. I may not always be mindful. But know that, under all my own human imperfections, I am grateful and thankful for you.

Have a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. Share old stories, and make new ones to pass on.

(As an act of kindness, I removed all the calories from all the pies. You're welcome.)


Friday, August 10, 2018

Paw Prints, Precious Memories, and a Broken Heart

It was with a shattered heart that I said a final good-bye to my sweet Binky this morning at 11:05 a.m. She became very ill within this past week. Tests showed she was in renal failure. Binky hated being handled by anyone, especially for medical treatment. She was prodded and poked and given subcutaneous fluids, but that was only a temporary fix. She'd pretty much stopped eating and drinking. After a frank conversation with her doctor this morning, I knew I had to let her go.

I had a sense of the inevitable and spent an hour just holding her and telling her how much she was loved and what she has meant to me these past nine+ years before we went to the vet clinic. I cried. She licked my face. I cried some more. I knew I might be facing this decision today. I could have put her through another treatment, brought her home, and watched her decompensate over the next few days or, possibly, just find her dead. She could have died alone while I was at work. Instead, she drifted into a peaceful sleep and then died with quiet dignity and surrounded by love, with her head in my hand.

I came home and broke down. She's everywhere in this apartment. I used to joke that this was her home and she just let me stay because I have thumbs and can open cans and doors. But the truth is, it wasn't the apartment but my heart that she owned. Owns.

So this part is for Binky:

I remember the day I found you at the shelter. You'd only been there a day and you looked so terrified and confused. I was looking for a younger cat, and a grey tabby. You were already six years old. But you looked into my eyes and stole my heart. That was Friday. I called back on Monday to say I wanted you, and I picked you up on Wednesday. The lady at the shelter said you'd be the perfect cat for me. She was right. I brought you home and set you free to explore the space. You disappeared. After an hour of searching, I found you in the overhead kitchen cabinets beside the wineglasses. I should have known then you'd be a handful. I admired your spunk and independence, though.

It took a long time for you to accept me, to relax with me, to trust me. But once you did--wow. We were buddies. I loved that you came to greet me when I came home. I loved the way you would demand I give you food, water, a clean litter box, and attention (when you wanted it.) You owned me, and I loved every minute of it. Who will boss me around now?

At times when I was sad or sick, you came and patted my face, so much concern in your little eyes.

I remember the games of tag we played when you were younger and more energetic. Some folks refused to believe that you'd come and get me to get up and play, then run and hide and wait for me to find you. What fun we had. The downstairs neighbors had to wonder about the thunder above.

I remember the very first time you got up onto the bed and slept through the night with me--even though you kept to 'your side.' And then I remember the night you burrowed under the blankets and curled your warm little backside into the back of my knees. I didn't move all night, afraid I'd disturb you. You slept just fine.

You must know that you were so deeply loved, and you will be equally deeply missed by me--your person. Dance with the angels until I see you again on the other side of the bridge.

When I first brought you home.

You loved to hide, especially in blankets.

And in freshly laundered comforters.

You liked your little bed, until....

...you discovered my bed was bigger and more comfy.

You loved sunshine wherever you could find it.

Even when it snuck up on you from behind...

Rest well, my angel.

That bed is going to be far too big now without you taking your half out of the middle.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Long Walk, Short Pier

Some people should just take a long walk off a short pier. I remember hearing this phrase used when I was growing up, this or some version of it. It was a favorite phrase of Blaire Copeland's father, and it comes to mind as every little things seems to be getting on her nerves, including her doctor.

But what if taking a long walk off a short pier was a good thing? What if it led you right to where you were supposed to be?

At fifty-five, Blaire Copeland was certain she'd slipped quietly through menopause. But the hot flashes were relentless. Her doctor--a man--tells her not to worry, that she's just going through 'the change.' After being irritated by his attitude, Blaire begins to wonder what she's changing into. She's divorced, has a twenty-six year old daughter who is married and part-owner of a day care center, and a twenty-seven year old son, Max, who still lives at home and has buried himself in his education. Blaire occupies her time overseeing the operations of a charitable foundation her father had started.

Blaire decides time away is in order. Her mother confirms this, telling her every woman has her time to take a step back and re-evaluate her life. Blaire packs up her car and heads south to Eventide, her mother's family home on Isle of Hope, Georgia. The Victorian has not been lived in for some time, but a caretaker has been paid to keep the place up and the lawn cared for.

Blaire arrives and is greeted by the caretaker's fiancee and two children. What is supposed to be time away from everyone for Blaire to think turns into her own caretaking job. It also leads her to Davis Rembert, the boy she once fantasized about marrying. She's surprised to find the attraction still burning.

Her long walk off a short pier, and the decisions she makes, brings her right to where she needs to be.

Available in ebook and trade paperback at Amazon.com

and in ebook at Smashwords

* Signed paperbacks can also be purchased directly from the author.
Email request to: lindarettstatt@yahoo.com

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Happy Book Birthday - Gone to the Dogs

It's been quite an adventure with this book, but it's finally here. This light, sweet seasoned romance will likely appeal to those who enjoy Hallmark movies. It was written with that in mind. Gone to the Dogs features a heroine and hero who are 35 and 38, respectively. Love is all about second chances.

When her best friend is injured in a sky-diving accident, Emily Price jumps at the chance to flee New York and give Carrie the support she needs. Ransom Cove, the small town on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, turns out to be just what Emily needs to overcome writer’s block. Dr. Noah Holt, the local veterinarian and Carrie’s third-best friend, is skeptical from the start that Emily is the person Carrie most needs. He could be right, but Emily is the person Carrie has chosen. The biggest challenge for Emily isn’t uprooting herself from New York, finishing her manuscript, or nursing her friend back to health. Her biggest challenge is Daisy, a twelve pound terrier mix, and stepping in to run Beach Dawgs Spa & Resort, her friend’s business. Emily tells everyone she is not a dog person, but no one seems to be listening—least of all Daisy. Then there’s Noah…

Available now in ebook and coming soon in trade paperback.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Why I Write What I Write

When I launched myself into writing some eighteen years ago, I didn't have a plan. I didn't have an understanding of any rules beyond basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  I didn't have a writing community from which to garner support and feedback. I didn't have a clue about the process of writing for publication.

Here's what I had: A pretty good grasp of the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. A decent handle on language--words. And PASSION. Mostly, I had passion. The passion to tell a good story, to bring characters to life, to engage someone else in my imaginings.

Inspired largely by the writing of Elizabeth Berg (who I personally think is brilliant at characterization and story-telling), I set out to write a book. My only goal was to find out if I could write a book from start to finish. That was my singular goal. What would I write?

Though I had little knowledge of genre and the technical differences between genres, I wanted to write the kind of stories Berg wrote. So I determined my book would be a story about a middle-aged woman facing a crisis that propels her into following her dreams. I found out later that what I wrote was considered Women's Fiction. Well, that label worked for me. So I identfied myself as a writer of Women's Fiction and went on to write three more books over the next year.

I desperately wanted to be part of a writing community and, unable to find a local group, started my own critique group on-line (still clueless of what critiquing meant). I was quickly joined by a few wonderful romance authors who taught me invaluable lessons. Through critiquing their work, I found myself drawn to writing romance. It was fun, not to mention the richness of having two primary characters to draw upon. I realized that most of my women's fiction work included a hint toward or a sub-plot of romance.

I learned the rules for writing romance--then promptly broke many of them because, well, I just don't do well with rules. Would the Romance Writers of America approve? Probably not, but my readers had no problem. What I end up with in a novel is generally a hybrid--either primarily romance with a women's fiction sub-plot for the heroine, or women's fiction with a romance sub-plot. It can make marketing a challenge, but I don't mind the challenge.

I write what I write because I enjoy writing strong, yet vulnerable, female characters who have to dig deep to find their own inner strength. I like writing women who are flawed and funny and determined, who have a rough edge hewn by their life experiences. I write romance into my stories because it's fun. And it gives me a chance to write from the male perspective. Now that's the biggest challenge--to try to think like a man and still not make the character too cliche.

I write what I write because I want to give readers something that is believable, realistic, with characters who are relatable and enjoyable, and the pleasure of a happy ending. Let's face it, life offers enough difficulty and unhappines. Fiction is, among other things, intended to provide the reader with an escape.

When I realized that my books would largely appeal to a female audience, to reflect the experiences of women, I branded my work as: Writing for Women: Stories of strength, love, humor, and hope.

Why? Because I think we all can use a little encouragement, humor, and hope. Especially hope. After my second book was published (The Year I Lost My Mind), I received an email from a reader thanking me for the book because it made her feel less "crazy" while she navigated the turbulent waters of menopause and the internal changes that brought for her. She felt less alone in that journey. I cried at that email because I knew I'd met my goal. Even in fiction, we can help people find hope and make sense of things in their lives. Mission accomplished.

I write because to not write would be like not breathing. Something inside me would just shrivel up and die. We all need passion in our lives--that one thing that, when we pursue it, engage it, it gives us life and purpose and drive. We find that exact place where we are meant to be.

In the words of Joseph Campbell:

“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn't know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else.”

Substitute the word 'bliss' with the word 'passion.' This is why I write, and why I write what I write.

                                                                    Have a blissful day,


Monday, March 26, 2018

Parkland - St. Valentine's Day

Parkland – St. Valentine’s Day

~ ~ ~ 

Hearts and flowers for St. Valentine’s Day?
A text sent and received with a smile.
Sneaking a kiss on the way to class?
All was right with the world.

Then come the sounds, the popping, the ricochet, the screams.
Valentine’s Day was just a dream, the red that runs the halls
is real.
The panic as refuge is sought, bodies crushing together.
It’s happening—again.
Terror pulsing as bullets rain and shatter the innocence of children slain.

Children left with lifeless eyes and fear-filled hearts,
A text sent, “I love you, Mom. We’re being killed.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with you. This was never what
we willed.”
I close my eyes against the scene, the rhetoric resounding
in my brain.

When I opened up my eyes, I saw
That the children were not there anymore.
In their place, a monument stood,
A memory of their childhood.

But from the smoke and apologies
An image rose and began to move.
The children—united—no longer children now
Will lead the way and show us the truth we have refused to see…

How blinded we can be.

© Linda Rettstatt, 2018

Friday, March 2, 2018

THE PLAN - 2018

Winnie the Pooh says, "Once you get a plan, the best thing is to just stick to it." So here's my plan for 2018.

I'm intending to release three books this year. Yes, that middle one says it's by E.J. Linden. I'm adopting a pseudonym for what will be a continuing line of suspense novels. If all goes as planned, I'll release a book in May, August, and October. As long as I continue to listen to Winnie the Pooh, nothing should go wrong.

                                                                     Happy reading,  Linda

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Gone to the Dogs

What if you weren't a dog person? Not even much of an animal lover? But your best friend desperately needs your help, and that help includes not only caring for her little dog, but keeping her dog spa and resort up and running? Then you meet the one guy you can't resist--and he is, of all things, a veterinarian. When all is said and done, you might just find you've Gone to the Dogs.


Coming soon.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Aaah, February ~ The Month of Romance

When we think of February, our thoughts turn to Valentine's Day--roses, chocolates, love and romance. I'll be part of a nine-author group in attendance at the first annual Romance Reader/Author Valentine's Tea at the M.R. Davis Public Library in Southaven, MS on Saturday, February 10, 2017 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

It will be an opportunity for readers of all sub-genres of romance to come and meet local romance authors, learn more about their writing, enjoy tea and crumpets (Not really. We'll have treats, but who knows what crumpets are?) There will also be door prizes.

This is the perfect event for romance readers and for book clubs, in particular. So if you're in the general Southaven/Memphis area (or wherever you are, if you don't mind the drive), come and join us. It's sure to be a fun-filled afternoon.

Just look at this line-up of superb romance authors who will be there: