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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Always Something to be Thankful For

As I write, the sun is lowering in a brilliant autumn sky. Out my office window, I can see two of our trees, still fully leafed but vibrant in their orange-red fall color. Under them my rose garden is blooming vigorously--rose, pink, and magnolia white all within sight. My cat purrs on my lap, soft music hums in the background, and my husband is in the kitchen doing early prep work for our dinner. It's a nearly perfect November day. In this season of Thanksgiving, it's important to remember and appreciate days like this.

Many of my friends are practicing the art of the gratitude journal. Although I haven't been keeping the record, I try every day to recount the gifts that particular day has given me; I try to be grateful, to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Sometimes that can be difficult. Also as I write, only a week has passed since the terror incident in Paris. Mali terror is only a few days in the past. Syrian refugees are pouring over the borders of almost every nation, economic indicators are unstable, and presidential candidates are screaming at each other. On a more personal note, I have a niece lying in the hospital, hoping to save her baby in a high-risk pregnancy. Sources for worry and discouragement are easy to find.

Then again, they always have been, As we look back on any golden, romanticized period in human history, we find the problems hidden behind the image. The nature of the challenges may have changed over time, but every generation has faced its own struggles. And every generation has been happier when it focused instead on the gifts of each day.

Am I good at always being grateful? Nope. Would that I were! But as I grow older, I realize that worry accomplishes little (if anything at all) and discouragement keeps me from accomplishing much of anything. I feel better, do better, and enjoy my life more when I remember what a much younger friend has already learned: "There's always, always, always something to be grateful for."

I want to remember that--not just this coming week, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, but every single day.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 published novels and has a part in several boxed sets as well, all titles available now. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 24. She lives in northern California with her husband of 45 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves hearing from readers @SusanAylworth, at, or You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Writing around the day job

Like many writers I know, I write around the work I am paid to do—the “day job.” While I don’t mean for the writing to take a back seat, that often seems to be the result. I’ve been in publishing for over 25 years, have 13 titles available (most still in print) and a 14th in the final stages of production. I maintain a website and have a paid publicist/web designer who sometimes earns more than I do. Nevertheless, criticism about the “dilettantes” and “hobbyists” in the writing world still makes me squirm.

Is it guilt because I know I could probably find a few more hours a week if I was willing to sacrifice sleep or couple time with my honey or the few small efforts I make in the community? Am I squirming because I sometimes hit periods of exhaustion when the words won’t come or occasionally suffer crises of confidence that make me erase everything on the screen? Or am I worried I may really be treating the work as if it were my hobby and not the one thing I’ve aspired all my life to do?

I suspect the answer is D. All of the above. If I were brave enough, perhaps I could break free of the day job and live with the consequences until the royalties began flowing in. Then again, what if they don’t? See? I’m back to that crisis of confidence again.

The stories are many and varied about the writers who’ve lived in their cars or on other people’s couches (J.K. Rowling being the current favorite) because they believed so fully in their own work. Did the world have hostages it held until the royalties came? Because I did: I had a family. And since I still have people in my life, even if they aren’t dependent anymore, I still have hostages—at least to some degree.

For now I’m going to go on writing fiction around the day job and creating fantasies in my head about being brave enough to leap. Maybe those will be the best stories of all.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Down Memory Lane

It's reunion time and I'm about to begin a tour down Memory Lane, but it's not just my own memories I'll be revisiting. I'm also going to places where memories were made for a few dozen people who exist only in my mind and the pages of my books. I'm going back to Rainbow Rock.

Okay, so there is no real Rainbow Rock (although, if you look at businesses in the area of the Painted Desert, you will find it's a fairly common name). Never mind. There really should be, and it should be populated with the sorts of loving, giving people I like to imagine live there--complete with the attractive men and women who populate my books.

I'll be touring the Four Corners area with my own romantic hero, in the process visiting and photographing the places where some of my favorite characters enjoy some of my favorite scenes. Keep on eye on my Facebook pages and on this website for some of those images, coming soon.

I will also be gathering images in memory for future scenes in future books. I can hardly wait to meet the people who will populate those scenes! Until then, may you have a wonderful gateway into summer, enjoying old memories and building new ones of your own.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 24. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 45 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves hearing from readers @SusanAylworth or at, You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Valentine's Day, the Ups and Downs

     For readers and writers of romance, it’s one of the biggest days of the year. For people in happy, committed relationships, it’s a day to celebrate their union, and for hopeful lovers, a chance to woo the object of their affections. But for some among us, Valentine’s Day is best forgotten.
     One example is my friend, Faye, whose husband of nearly fifty years died exactly thirteen months ago today. There’s also my friend, George, who has dated and hoped to find someone for more than twenty years, but has never had a partner.  Around each of us, there are probably people who dread the approach of Valentine’s Day and sigh with relief when the calendar reaches February 15.
     For them, I propose an expansion of the holiday. Why should the day be only for lovers? Can’t it become a day for any and all whom we love?
     My husband began expanding his reach some years ago, including our daughter, Rebecca, as one of his valentines since her pre-teen years. When two daughters-in-law both lost their daddies, he added them to his list. Then two years ago, when my mother was widowed, he began sending her a small Valentine gift as well, usually the chocolate-covered strawberries she adores.
     I’ve been trying to learn from him. Last year, when asked to organize a Valentine’s Day celebration for our congregation, I invited everyone—married, single, even little children—and made it a time for all of us to come to know one another better. The dinner was successful and I've been asked to repeat it this year.
     I've floated this balloon once before via one of my favorite characters. Sarah, my heroine in Right Click, is dreading the coming celebration since the break-up of her engagement. To deal with her own loneliness, she proposes to relieve the loneliness of others, leading the third grade class she teaches in preparing care packages for soldiers deployed far from home.
     I’m not suggesting we forget the significance of the one sweetheart with whom we share our lives. I want my husband to know he is still The One for me. But as we approach the day of hearts and flowers, I’m hoping we can expand our circles of caring, reaching out to others. After all, love does not always equal romance, and no one should look forward with dread to a day that is all about love.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves hearing from readers at, @SusanAylworth or You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Voices in Our Heads? Of course! We're writers!

Writers have the best jobs in the world:  We hear voices in our heads without being thought crazy (well, not too crazy anyway) and we get to tell lies for a living. When we’re writing cozy mysteries, we also get to kill people—imaginary people who will be missed only by their imaginary loved ones. Still the voices we hear become real on the written page, the lies we tell carry the very essence of truth, and the imaginary people whose imagined lives we end bring hope to the very real futures of the flesh-and-blood readers whose lives we touch. What could possibly be better?

The beginning of every new year finds me having a chat with those voices in my head, all of whom are jockeying for position. Whose story will be next? Who is emerging as the new heroine, love interest, victim, murderer, detective, hero or confidante? This year’s conversation sounded something like this:

MALE VOICE:  Yo! Pay attention! You put me off all of last year and I think it’s about time you heard my story.
ME:  Sorry. I’m working with Roman and Lottie just now. They’ve both been lonely a long time and…
MALE VOICE:  I know, I know, but life isn’t all about the hearts and flowers. I’m about to be murdered here.
ME:  Take a number and get in line. I’ve at least half a dozen potential murder victims in front of you.
FEMALE VOICE:  No kidding! When am I going to get to come out and play again?
ME:  Maggie, is that you?
MAGGIE:  What? I’m wounded! You don’t even recognize my voice anymore?
ME:  Of course I do, but it has been a while…
MAGGIE:  No kidding! You don’t have to tell me. You made me the star of one book, and then you told me to take a number.
ME:  Sorry. There are only so many hours in a day, only so many books in a year.
MAGGIE:  That’s what I tried to tell you when you were on deadline with MAGGIE RISING, but you just kept pushing me for a solution anyway.
ME:  That was in your best interest, you know. You didn’t want to spend any longer in the county jail than absolutely necessary.
MAGGIE:  My best interest? You say that now, but you were the one who put it on the cover that MAGGIE RISING was “the first book in the Maggie Rising Case Files.” I’ve been waiting ever since.
ME:  You’ll just have to wait a little longer.
2nd FEMALE VOICE:  What about me? You told me if I came to work in the Hope Creek Medical Center, you’d find someone special for me.
ME:  Hi, Caro. I’ve found him and I’m working on the plot line. If you can just be patient a little longer—
NEW FEMALE VOICE:  Patient? You told me that too. I’ve been waiting about two years since that day you found me wandering on the beach near Sydney.
ME:  And I do plan to tell your story, Lucy, but there hasn’t been that big a market for historicals lately—
LUCY:  Tell that to Harry. Until I go to live with Aunt Marjorie in Stowe-on-the-Wold, I won’t be able to come back to him again, and that will leave him stuck with that floozy from Leicester—
ME:  So tell her to take a number and—
LUCY: …and get in line. I know.
2nd MALE VOICE:  Have you figured out what you’re doing with me yet?
ME:  Oh hi, Sean. You’re going to be Caro’s love interest at the Med Center. Didn’t I tell you?
SEAN:  Hmmm.  Caro, huh? Um, yeah, I like that idea. So how long before you get around to our story?
ME:  Probably not more than five or six months.
SEAN:  Five or six…?! Really? Come on! I was just talking with Rand. He says he thinks his story would make a good follow-up when you get done with mine.
ME:  (sighing)  Tell him to take a number—
SEAN:  I know, I know, take a number and get in line. Hear that, Rand?
RAND:  Yeah, I heard. Do you think we can find a writer who isn’t quite so preoccupied with other characters?
SEAN:  We can certainly look around. Can’t hurt, since we’re just hanging out here doing nothing anyway.
RAND:  Hear that, folks? Sean and I are going to start looking around, seeing if we can find someone else to tell our stories. You wanna come?
ME:  Wait! What is this? Mutiny?
MAGGIE AND CARO:  It all depends. How soon do you think you’ll get to our stories?
ME:  Now this sounds like blackmail. I don’t think I like this at all.
SEAN AND RAND:  So how does it feel now the shoe’s on the other foot?
ME:  But I’m the one who created you, the one who thought you up! What will you do if you go to another writer, someone who doesn’t know you like I do?
ALL:  Sorry. We may have to tell you to take a number and—
ME:  (sighing harder) Ugh, take a number and get in line.

I’ve decided this is what comes from writing uppity characters with minds of their own. This year I’m making a new resolution: I will tell as many of their stories as I can. I may have to commit my own set of crimes with the others, drugging them all into silent submission to avoid having them mutiny. I don’t like taking numbers, and I’m not good at standing in line.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Her recent release, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic, has just come out in paperback as well as e-book. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves hearing from readers at, @SusanAylworth or You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.