Monthly Archives: January 2015

Travel as Inspiration

A couple weeks ago, my middle child and I took a trip to Disneyland and California Adventure where we spent several magical days enjoying special experiences, great food, and each other’s company. Having my youngest child and her husband and two kids with us for part of the time only enhanced the experience. The photo below, taken from Mickey’s Fun Wheel, looks out over Disneyland to the east and the mountains beyond and gives you some idea of just how gorgeous a winter day in southern California can be.

Southern California in January 2015.

One of the best parts about getting away from normal day-to-day life is being able to see the world in a new light – and that’s always good for the writing process. The drive down and back, while somewhat familiar from previous trips, changes each time we travel that way and that often spurs interesting story ideas. The way the sky looks and the air feels is different than at home and which is refreshing to the sensory memory. Coming across people we’ve never seen before (and probably will never see again) can inspire character creation. Plus, visiting an amusement park often brings out extreme feelings from terror to exhaustion that can be mined for future stories. Not to mention the fact that actual writing can be done during the enforced confinement of the long car trip.

The return home to my own small community after spending time in the big city gave me a chance to look at the familiar in a somewhat different light, too. The sky is a paler shade of blue at our higher elevation than the warm golden tones I associate to the LA basin. The mountains are much closer to us here than they are in the valley down there. The air is thinner and colder than the heavy humid air to the south and our smaller population means we have less smog. We also don’t have as much light pollution so the stars are brighter and clearer in my home town than what’s visible beyond the endless lights of the metropolis. Most of the trees up here in the north look skeletal now, devoid of their summer greenery, and we have a lot less vegetation overall due to our high desert climate, while sunny southern California is ripe with flowers, fruit and palm trees, and thick green grasses. While I enjoyed my time away from home, I’m always happy to come back again.

After a short week back at work I took a second trip out of town, this time for business. Again, I traveled south…to fabulous Las Vegas. A co-worker and I flew down in the morning and returned on an evening flight so the experience was quite a bit different than my day-long drives of the previous week. Again, I saw many unfamiliar people, but this time I also met up with people I know from the work environment. Since we weren’t vacationing, we didn’t get to enjoy the more glamorous aspects of Sin City, but spent our day in a generic conference room taking notes, drinking coffee and eating rich pastries, and discussing some pretty in-depth technical issues. Though my day job is not writing-related, I do get quite a bit of inspiration from the work I do, and this trip was no different on that front. Some of the ideas discussed during our training might someday serve as background detail for one of my romance novels; just a sprinkle of dry material here and there to add texture without causing the plot to thicken too much, so to speak.

Las Vegas is much different from both my home and the Los Angeles area so being in the three locations in such a short span of time is stirring my imagination in new ways. January is often a depressing let-down period for me after the holiday season, but I didn’t feel that way at all this year, and I believe the work I do in the next few months will be richer for the experiences I’ve had over the past few weeks. While I’m more of a homebody than a world traveler, getting away has been just what I needed to help me settle back into my writing routine with fresh eyes and renewed excitement.

Romance in Real Life

Dictionary.com defines romance as: a novel or other prose narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits, etc., usually in a historical or imaginary setting; the colorful world, life, or conditions depicted in such tales; a medieval narrative, originally one in verse and in some Romance dialect, treating of heroic, fantastic, or supernatural events, often in the form of allegory; a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention; a romantic spirit, sentiment, emotion, or desire; romantic character or quality; a romantic affair or experience; a love affair. That’s a pretty dry definition of such a complex idea.

Romance, of course, means something different to everyone. As mentioned in the definition, a romance is often a story “depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits…in a historical or imaginary setting.” The romance genre of books can be any or all of these things with an emphasis on the relationship of the two main characters. But does romance have to be a fictional ideal?

As mentioned in a earlier post, the New Year reminds me of how my partner-in-crime proposed that we spend our life together. Eighteen years old at the time, I didn’t answer right away (which he reminds me on occasion!). Even though I found the idea of marrying and running off to live wherever he might be stationed by the Air Force to be incredibly romantic, I wasn’t sure I was ready at that age, a sensible thought for someone so young and idealistic. Three days after he proposed, I said yes…and the rest is history.

Has our life together been one of the constant romance I’d imagined as a young adult?

My answer is yes – though I’ve come to see romance in real life as something much different than that in the novels I’d read in high school. Day-to-day romance is doing all the little things that help make each other’s lives more bearable: bringing chicken soup to a sick partner, scrimping up enough spare change for movie date, scraping ice off the car windshield, and, of course, bringing flowers, candy, or a card to the significant other.  All those little things add up to the long-term and loving relationship we’ve shared for thirty-three years now.

Of course, we also had romantic experiences in the broader sense: travel, adventure, and glamour. Yet I remember the little things more often than the big ones.

The romantic fiction genre is a popular one and that may be because so many of us get lost in the annoying little day-to-day problems that we don’t see the romance around us. As I get ready to head out to my day job at the beginning of another new week, and after the excitement of the holidays, I must admit I’m not finding life particularly romantic at the moment. My goal for this Monday is to think of the past events that brought me to this point in life, both those I found romantic and the ones that weren’t so great at the time, and to realize things aren’t as grey and gloomy as they seem on this cold January day. Even the most romantic of novels puts the character into situations they don’t enjoy, after all. Surviving those events is part of what we enjoy about the stories, isn’t it?

If you’re having a rough Monday (or any day for that matter), think of your life as your own personal romance novel and try to put what’s happening into that context. You might find that you’ve got more romance in real life than you ever thought possible.

 

 

Reflections on the New Year

Happy New YearThe New Year is like a clean slate – an opportunity to achieve the heart’s dearest desires.

My first seventeen New Year celebrations were loud events full of extended family talking and laughing together, dancing, drinking, eating, and all the other fun things associated with big parties. What I felt I missed out on over all those years was the chance to stay up until the magical hour of midnight. The Christmas/New Year holidays also meant two weeks of blissful freedom from the drudgery of school so I celebrated that as much as anything else.

New Years Day number eighteen became a major turning point for me. The two jobs I’d had the previous summer dwindled to one when I learned I wasn’t cut out for manufacturing. My remaining job in fast food turned out to be the one that would change the course of my life forever; that’s where I met my soul mate, who proposed to me from an airport payphone in New Orleans on New Years’ Day 1982. We married the following June – a year and a day after my high school graduation.

The first day of 1983 found me a young bride living through a cold Nebraska winter with my new husband as we prepared to have our first child. I don’t remember much about either that holiday or the next few, but know that New Years Day 1986 found me pregnant with child number two, and that I was pregnant with child number three on January 1st, 1988.

On January 1st, 1989, our young family of five had just moved to an Air Base near Tokyo, Japan. While I don’t remember that year’s holiday very well, what I recall most about that time is the excitement of living in a foreign land and the discomfort of learning our first trip into our temporary community coincided with the death of Emperor Hirohito.  We celebrated two more New Years in Japan before leaving the military life and returning to live in the town where my husband and I first met.

I can’t say whether or not I stayed up until midnight each year of the 1990s since that decade covered the bulk of the time spent raising our kids and my memories are lost in the haze of exhaustion surrounding parents. We, of course, stayed up to celebrate the coming of the New Millennium; everyone wondered what would happen that year so we had to find out. We also had a few years of parties at our house for our kids and their friends after that, the photo above from one we hosted four years ago.

Fast forward to 2015. Like the first New Year we celebrated together, my husband and I once again watched the Time’s Square ball drop on TV this year, just the two of us. We had trouble staying up late enough to watch the tape delay in our time zone and spent today recuperating. I’ve gone from my childhood wish that I could stay up until midnight to wondering whether I should anymore. January 1st is just another day, after all. The sun rises and sets on schedule and nothing magical happens at 12:00 unless you happen to be Cinderella.

I don’t know how my husband and I will celebrate in future. We may have just seen our last midnight ball drop because we decide we’d rather get the rest we need than stay up. Maybe we’ll go to be early and celebrate the first sunrise of the New Year instead. What we do doesn’t matter as much as that we do it together. No matter what else the New Year has meant to me over the years, I’ve come to realize the most important thing I celebrate each January 1st is that my wonderful better half proposed we spend our lives together on that day – and that we’ve spent every New Year together since then. That’s all I need.