It’s the day after my seventieth birthday. For the past week we hosted family and friends, including grandchildren from New York and Oregon who had never met before. I cooked many meals for fifteen people, announced and filmed impromptu backyard football games, and created the playlist for my rock-and-roll dance party.
And now the house is quiet. Classical music has replaced the rock we danced to on Saturday night. The air mattress is back in the box, guest linens are in the wash, and the toys are packed up for next time. We have hugged our goodbyes with the children, grandchildren, and friends who filled our home to overflowing. The house is almost back to its pre-party state, except for the fridge that is still full of party and child food (almond milk, anyone?).
And just like that, I’m in my eighth decade. There were days (and even years) that dragged by, but in retrospect, it all seems to have flown by in the blink of an eye.
Frankly I’m not sure what I was thinking, scheduling publication of my second novel for the same month as a six-day house party. All I can say is, September 2023 has been quite the month. Vampires of a Certain Age launched on the fifteenth, and the response has been terrific. I wrote this novel on a lark to generate examples for my upcoming book on writing seasoned romance, but readers are already clamoring for a series (which now has a tentative title: The Vampire Matriarchs).
In case you haven’t heard, Vampires of a Certain Age is the story of Marion Chase, a medieval healer in Yorkshire, England, who is accused of witchcraft and rescued by the vampire Vivienne. Now a vampire herself, Marion joins a society of honorable female immortals and eventually buys a blood bank outside Chicago, where she provides ethically sourced blood to Midwestern vampires. I’ve already outlined the next installment, The Vampire Vivienne, and will write the first draft of that novel during National Novel Writing Month
Meanwhile in September I enjoyed being interviewed by the fabulous Bonnie Marcus on her show, Badass Women, where we talked about my favorite topics including creativity and sexuality after sixty (Note to Self: Now I need to start talking about all that good stuff after seventy!). And then on Lez Talk about Books, Baby! I enjoyed speaking with host Anita Kelly about the evolution in society’s reaction to women loving women from medieval times to the present.
So, what is it like to be seventy? On the one hand, it feels like everything from here on is gravy. I’ve raised four children, hugged four grandchildren, had a successful career, and written four books. On the other hand, there is so much left to do. That stack of imaginary To-Be-Written books on my bedside table somehow remains as tall as ever. In addition to the Vivienne book, next year I plan to complete my book on writing seasoned romance, and also a book on what to expect in your sixties (now that I can look back at the full decade). And most importantly, I’m enjoying all that is: my wonderful partner, my great family and friends, and interacting with readers and with writing mentees.
What is it like for you to be the age you are? What is coming up that has you excited and even a little nervous? What do you look forward to? How will you use your gifts in the coming year? Please consider writing about everything that moves you today.
Some people say the year should begin in September, when the new school year begins. Naturally with a September birthday I’m all for that. But whenever your birthday falls, think about this time as a new beginning, as the leaves become colorful and the air turns crisp. What is on your great To-Do List in the sky? Do let me know.
And in the meantime, keep the keys clicking (or the pen moving).
An immortal healer turned blood bank director falls for the one person who can destroy her.
Marion Chase is a healer in medieval Yorkshire. Accused of witchcraft, she is rescued from certain death by a vampire. Now an immortal vampire, Marion joins a Sisterhood in York dedicated to ethical feeding. Centuries later Marion finds her true calling as president of a Chicago blood bank. There she falls in love with the one person who can destroy her: Rachel Sutter, an FDA inspector who is the living likeness of Marion’s lover in ancient Yorkshire.
I publish two blog articles (published online on the 10th and the 20th) and this newsletter every month, so you hear from me (or a guest blogger) a few times a month. Below is a brief extract from last month's blogs - click the links for the whole enchilada! If you've ever considered getting your voice out there, I welcome suggestions for topics, or a fully written guest piece in line with my philosophy for the site. Drop me a line......
A memoirist for decades, I’m still in a bit of shock having just published a novel! My debut historical fiction book The Forger of Marseille was released in early July, and so far all signs suggest that people are interested in reading about WWII France. As pleased as I am about that, I’m still reverberating from the steep climb of my journey to get to the top of the mountain and get the book into the world. That’s funny because one of the moments that turned the tide and urged me to write this novel took place on a road that crossed the Pyrenees foothills.
It’s interesting to consider how creativity manifests: a sensation, an idea out of the blue, a sudden aha, something that keeps tapping on your shoulder. A few years ago, I’d become obsessed by the story of an American, Varian Fry, who fought to save refugees who were trapped in France after the German Occupation. The story of his heroism doesn’t appear in most history books. He was a thirty-two-year-old journalist who’d been deeply affected by witnessing Hitler’s brutality in Berlin. A member of the Emergency Rescue Committee in New York, he volunteered to go to France and help refugees get papers to escape to America. He was due home in two weeks.
When France fell, The Germans created an armistice agreement for the collaborationist Vichy government under Petain that included a “Surrender on Demand” clause. Germans, Austrians, Czechs, and others who’d become stateless and vulnerable to arrest, were to be rounded up by Vichy and handed to the Gestapo. Hitler was hunting Jews, but he was also hunting antifascists, anyone who didn’t represent the regime—journalists, artists, and political people.