My mother keeps waiting for me to grow up.
She’s been waiting a long time, and, sad to say, me growing up isn’t going to happen anytime soon. You see, most, if not all of my family, define growing up as choosing one thing to do in life and settling in to do that thing.
Just shoot me now.
If that is growing up, then Peter Pan is going to get a sidekick.
For my entire existence (up until last week) I’ve thought there was something wrong with me, something immature, something missing that made me somehow defective. But, last week everything changed.
Now, I would like to share with you that I am addicted to TED talks. Fifteen-minute snippets from the best and the brightest—what’s not to love. And last week someone close to me sent me the link to a TED talk under the subject line, “this is so you.” Who could resist?
Well, was he ever right. The talk is by a young woman named Emilie Wapnick—a very insightful young woman. She proposes that there are two distinct personalities when it comes to life and work and all of that. The first is the person who knows their calling, they become a master at it, and they settle in to do it the rest of their lives.
My mother would say they are the grown-ups. Frankly, the thought makes me hyperventilate.
The second type of person, I call her the bright-shiny-red-object person, sees something that interests her, and studies that things like madly until she’s mastered it. Then she gets bored. So, she pokes her head out of the hole, and…you guessed it…goes off in search of the next bright shiny object, where she repeats the cycle.
So, I’ve been a bartender, a waitress, an accountant, a business owner, a pilot, a tax lawyer, among other things. Guess which group I fall into?
And, according to Ms. Wapnick, there are others like me.
And now I have an answer for my aunt when she asks me why I quit being a lawyer.
I didn’t quit… I finished.
So now I find myself imminently unemployable :). After all, there isn’t much demand for perpetual students. Or is there?
That’s where writing comes in. It is, in fact, the perfect profession for someone like me. I can study all kinds of different things, then write stories either about them or set in that world. It’s PERFECT! I’m FREE. I’m ME!
I was wallowing in my luck until someone said to me, “You know, Deb, to make it in the writing business, you’ve got to pick one genre and just run with it. Don’t write anything else.”
Ten years ago I would’ve had a meltdown. Oh, God, they expect writers to be grown-ups, too.
But no meltdown—not today. Today, I spit in her eye (not really, but I do love a colorful cliché) and said, “Just watch me.”
So, once again, flying in the face of conventional wisdom, I find myself with a funny romantic mystery series set in Vegas, a character-driven romance set in the wine world of Napa County, an upcoming thriller with a female helicopter pilot set in the gulf of Mexico in the contentious world of Big Oil, and another thriller with a cutting edge medico/psychological twist.
Just letting the stories take me where they want me to go.
That’s the adventure of it.
So, as readers, will you follow a peripatetic writer if you like her voice and storytelling style, or do you like the one genre idea?
P.S. Here’s the TED talk on being a multipotentialite. It’s a brilliant way to spend fifteen minutes.
People ask me all the time where my story ideas come from. I never know how to answer—I don’t have ideas… I have characters.
A lot of characters. In my head. All talking at once. Like the dearly departed driving Whoopi nuts in the movie Ghost.
Imaginary friends. I do love my imaginary friends. And I love letting them tell their stories through me. Take my latest story, just released, Crushed.
No, this isn’t like the old Henny Youngman joke, “Take my wife… please.”
Crushed is the first in a series set in Napa and Sonoma counties—two of my favorite places on this planet. No, my love couldn’t have anything to do with great wine and sumptuous food. Why would you think that?
Anyway, Sophia Stone is a viticulturist managing a vineyard for a rather sleazy vintner. A widow, Sophia has navigated the years since her husband’s death and launched a son and a daughter into the world. Now she fills the hollow void in her life by nurturing grapes she grafted from stock bred by her now-deceased grandfather back in Italy. Truly unique grapes, they are all Sophia feels she really has left. Her kids are busy with their own lives and her mother is slipping away, Alzheimer’s stealing her in bits and pieces.
Nico Treviani is a multi-award winning winemaker. After losing his brother a co-winemaker, and inheriting his two thirteen-year-old nieces, Nico questions all his previous assumptions about life. One question assaults him daily: is he capable of making good wine without his brother?
Of course, Sophia’s grapes bring out the unscrupulous as they work to steal what she won’t sell. Nico and Sophia get caught in the middle. Will they or won’t they? Do they win or not? I’m not telling—you’ll have to find out for yourself.
But the whole point is that Sophia and Nico both visited me and started talking—I’m like the shrink for misunderstood characters. 🙂
“Here. Lie down on my couch and tell me what’s bothering you.”
Works every time.
Frankly, I loved the idea of a woman exiting her hands-on motherhood phase wondering what comes next and does she have the courage and energy to fight for her own dreams. Yes, dare I say it, somewhat apropos to this writer’s stage of life.
And I also loved the idea of a successful man thrown into a role he wasn’t prepared for (father for two teenage daughters) and fighting doubts about his own abilities, not only in his personal life but in his professional life as well.
So, I let the two of them talk. And in their stories, I examined some of the gems of life, the questions, the hopes, the fears we all have as we get older.
The great thing about all this is, Sophia brought her friends. All the women are in each story and each willl get her own book and the time to tell her own story.
Yes, I think women’s lives are fascinating: what society expects of us and what we want for ourselves.
So, there you have it.
I just hope these women keep talking to me. I hate it when my imaginary friends clam-up. Most of them can be cajoled into chatter with a few glasses of wine—but they never take the resulting headache the next morning.
You’d think I could dream up more well-behaved imaginary friends.
But then, they wouldn’t be all that interesting then, would they?
As a young girl, I fell in love with Fred Astaire.
Alas, the infatuation was one-sided, but, the best part about this unrequited love was the fantasy could be what I wanted it to be. So, hour after hour, I’d watch the object of my affection dance and sing his way across the screen. My favorite film of his was Holiday Inn. Of course, that really was Bing Crosby’s movie and Fred Astaire played his buddy that was always trying to steal Bing’s dreams, be they of the female variety or simply a wish for peace and quiet. And, being magnanimous with my affections, there was room in my heart for Mr. Crosby as well. So, we all were happy playing our parts.
To this day I still know every scene, every word, every nuance of Holiday Inn. In brief, the premise involved Bing’s dream of owning an inn that was only open on holidays (he was rather averse to work.)
Like Bing, I’m all about holidays.
And, it didn’t dawn on me until now that, in crafting the Lucky series, Holiday Inn might have been lurking in my subconscious. You see, and you might already know, each of the Lucky books generally, but not always, centers around a holiday or a major event such as a fight weekend or poker tournament in Vegas.
Lucky Break, the latest, is my version of Christmas in Vegas.
After having lived in Vegas for a decade or so, I started looking forward to Christmastime there. The weather can be chillier than most think—it’s the high desert and nights cool quickly. But the days are still warm enough to wander the Strip and absorb a bit of holiday cheer. Each hotel puts on its best face as they seem to buckle to an unspoken rule that the tawdry needs to be tucked out of sight.
And, if Vegas is about anything it is about excess. The same holds true at Christmas. The displays in the Saks windows lining Fifth Avenue, the Tiffany take on the season in San Francisco, the tree in Rockefeller Center or its counterpart in Union Square on the west coast can’t hold a candle to the sorts of grandiose displays in Vegas. Each hotel on the Strip works to outdo the others. The trees in the Palazzo, the glass ornaments in the Wynne, the Christmas trees and butterflies in the Conservatory at the Bellagio are each works of art—and these are only but some of the wonders to take in while sipping from your yard of holiday spirits.
And there’s always the endless Andrea Bocelli loop making the fountains dance in front of the Bellagio.
The citizenry also finds ways to add to the revelry.
In Lucky Break, there is a footrace called the Elf Run in which all participants are dressed as, you guessed it, elves, with a smattering of Santa’s thrown in for holiday cheer. Each December in Vegas there really is a holiday footrace called the Great Santa Run where thousands of Santas take to the streets to work off holiday excesses or to indulge in more. It’s Vegas—one can run, walk or stagger and still have a great time.
The buffets really put on a show at the holidays so you can feast to your limits. Eggnog and Champagne flow freely, and, much like everywhere else at this time of year, Vegas seems to be lit with the rosy hue of peace on earth and goodwill to everyone—a bit different than its normal frenetic mischief-making.
But, to be honest, Christmas is just a lull, so you have to catch it quickly. Once the day has past, the presents have been opened, and the turkey eaten, all attention focuses on the biggest block party in the world that is just a few days way.
New Year’s Eve.
The Strip is closed to cars and the revelers roam all night taking in the show.
But, that’s the next book….
Oh, and that Fred Astaire thing? When I was twenty and long past my infatuation, I had lunch with him in L.A., just the two of us (long story.)
And he was all that and more.
The new Lucky adventure, out now and her first in a year, is a novella, Lucky Flash. As with the other novellas, I like to try something a little different, push a few boundaries I wouldn’t in the full-length adventures.
In Lucky Flash, Lucky is joined by her best friend, Flash, a down and dirty investigative reporter in Vegas. Both tell the story as they work to uncover a theft ring stealing the icons of Vegas’ music history, recover a huge diamond ring given to the Big Boss by Liberace himself, and save some of Teddie’s treasured collectibles from disappearing into the Black Market.
Lucky’s old problems with men, her mother, and her heart remain although… there is a bit of a break-through. But I’m not telling.
This story is the first time I’ve tried using dual storytellers and it was more fun than I thought. Flash is very different from Lucky although with a shared sass. Learning her voice, her heart was great fun. And she surprised me along the way.
And it was fun to look at Lucky through another character’s filter. In that way, she becomes a more fully fleshed-out person, although I don’t think she’d like that choice of words.
One of the things that happened in Vegas, something that sort of flew under the radar, was Wayne Newton’s financial disaster. Watching it unfold, I felt like creditors were stripping away, piece by piece, Vegas’ music history. Couple that with Liberace’s home falling into a horrible state, and Elvis not showing his face despite the belief he just might still be alive, and I felt compelled to bring a little bit of that magic back to life, if you will.
And, who knew, but an Englishman is restoring Liberace’s home to its former glorious kitsch.
No word on what’s going to happen with Wayne Newton, which is really hard on each of us who remembers him as Mr. Las Vegas.
After all the turmoil in my life that last year moving my kids from Vegas to California and finding myself spending more time in Texas to handle family matters, it was nice to get back to Vegas.
And, as I get older, I tend to cherish the treasures of the past a bit more, while squeezing the juice out of the present. I hope you do too.
And I hope you like this little Lucky adventure. And, I hope you find Flash, as one of my friends said, “Crazy but terrific fun.”
I’m hard at work on another Vegas adventure, a full-length novel entitled Lucky Break, will be out by the end of November. And I plan to release Lucky stories more often—two to three times a year.
Vegas is just too much fun, especially with Lucky leading the charge.