Rarely do I pause while reading a novel and think, “I can’t wait to finish this so that I can read it again.” But that’s what happened while I strolled the streets of Manhattan on New Year’s Eve, 1984, while reading Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.
In reality, by the date Lillian set out on her walking tour I was no longer in New York. In early 1982 I had moved with my then-husband and baby twins to Northern California. But Lillian’s flashbacks in the book by Kathleen Rooney span my six years in the city and decades more.
Here’s the premise: A woman in her eighties who was once a celebrated advertising writer and poet walks the streets of Manhattan on New Year’s Eve. She encounters her own memories of fifty years in the city, along with various new adventures, mostly with people she had never met before that night.
What makes this book spectacular is the narrator’s voice. At times rueful, at times playful, sometimes verging on cynical and always vulnerable, Lillian does not spare herself the most difficult stories. Her times of weakness are fully on display along with her triumphs. And the inexorable passage of time, too: Copies of her poetry books that once brought her fame sit in bargain bins outside the Strand Bookstore. The ghost of the old Penn Station waits in the shadows of the newer “monstrosity.” But by the end of the book, Lillian has come to terms with the toughest moments in her life and with her own mortality.
So why am I pitching this novel in my newsletter, besides the fact that the papers of the real ad woman on whom this book is based turn out to be housed in a university library just a few miles from me in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (of all places)? Because I was just about to lead a nationwide book group in a discussion of this fabulous novel when the sponsoring organization, Secure Senior Connections, ran out of money and closed its doors. I’m telling you about this novel because it’s wonderful and I need to tell someone. Lilian is probably at your local library, just waiting for you to walk with her.
Secure Senior Connections offered all kinds of classes, besides the writing classes I taught. The organization had thirty thousand members and was funded by the health insurance industry, because research shows that folks over 65 who are more engaged socially and creatively have lower health care costs. This is right in line with Becca Levy’s findings that people with a more positive approach to aging live longer, healthier lives. So why did SSC fail? Was it lack of outreach? I really believe millions more people would have enjoyed and benefitted. Or was it some other reason? I may never know, but I so much enjoyed teaching there, and hope other organizations like it will spring up and be more successful. We olders could use more places to engage positively with others.
Meanwhile, I’ve been busy editing my upcoming novel, Vampires of a Certain Age. It’s a romance about Marion Chase, a healer in medieval Yorkshire. Falsely accused of witchcraft after falling in love with her childhood friend Cecily, she is ostracized by the Church and by her fellow villagers. Rescued by a vampire and now immortal, Marion joins a sanctuary in York dedicated to virtuous living for vampires. Centuries and many adventures later, Marion finds her true calling as president of a Chicago blood bank, providing ethically sourced blood to Midwestern vampires. There she falls in love with the one person who can destroy her: Rachel Sutter, an FDA agent and the living likeness of Marion’s medieval lover.
This month I received feedback from more than a dozen dedicated Beta readers, who pointed out inconsistencies in the novel, asked for more character information, and let me know just where I needed to edit. I am so grateful to have their feedback and have worked hard to incorporate it. And if you’ve read my blogs or taken my classes about creative editing, don’t let my upbeat tone fool you: Editing is hard work, no matter how fun you try to make it.
And on to the next phase: As July is wrapping up, we have Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) of the vampire novel, available for your perusal. If you would like an ARC, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You will receive a free ARC in your email inbox from BookFunnel, and my only ask is that you post your honest review of the book on Goodreads, on the Vampires of a Certain AgePre-Order page on Amazon, BookBub, Barnes & Noble, or wherever you review books. Thanks in advance!
I’m looking forward to sharing more about Vampires of a Certain Age with you as we approach the publication date of September 15th. And once it publishes, I’ll use extracts from the novel as example illustrations in my next book, The Well-Seasoned Romance: Write and Sell Your Late-Life Love Story. If you’re interested in writing vivid romance
about women old enough to know what they’re doing, yay you! Write to me with details of seasoned romance books like that you love. Keep your eyes peeled for more about The Well-Seasoned Romance too.
I hope you’re keeping cool this summer, sitting in front of a fan and writing your next novel, short story, poem or memoir. We need all our voices to shift the narrative about the sexy, creative lives of women past midlife. So be sure to keep the pen moving (or the keys clicking)!
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 of 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......
My new novel Under the Blue Moon is about a woman who has been living for years with grief and regret and a man who, as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, has recently become homeless. The book cuts back and forth between her story and his. Outside of the fact that they both live in the same city (Albuquerque, where I live too) and that their paths cross every now and then, they don’t really know each other and their situations are totally different. What they have in common is that they have both reached the end of their respective ropes; they have been wishing and hoping for change and it has not arrived on its own, so now they’re ready to try to trick it into making an appearance.
Why I wrote it, in part at least…
My late sister was on the verge of homelessness plenty of times in her too-short life. After our parents died, it fell to me to make sure she never actually got there. That sounds a lot easier than it turned out to be.
Becca Levy’s work at Yale University proves that for the sake of our health and longevity, it is essential to cultivate a positive attitude about aging. One great approach is to explore the culture of women past midlife. Because here is the secret: Despite the often negative portrayals of older women in the mainstream media, the culture of age-positive older women is growing by the minute. This active and enthusiastic pro-aging culture speaks to our strengths and builds our community. There are novels with vivid older women protagonists, podcasts run by older women influencers, nonfiction books about everything from older women’s sexuality to the lives of women who came to prominence in later life. Make the very best of us visible to yourself, and you will have more to look forward to in your later years than you could ever have imagined. Immerse yourself in these riches and reprogram your Inner Ageist. Read books, watch shows, and subscribe to online groups that celebrate the wisdom, beauty, power and worth of older women. Pay attention to what resonates with you, as you explore the possibilities for your own next steps