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Friday, September 27, 2013

Guest Post from Boomer Lit Author Betsy Ashton

Surviving Those Pesky Voices

Ask any writer if she hears voices in her head, and she’ll look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Ask any boomer if she hears voices in her head, and she’ll shy away. Seniors often don’t want to admit they hear voices for fear a well-intentioned relative will smell Alzheimer’s or some other condition that would render said senior incapable of living on her own. Such a question might challenge one’s mental acuity. But ask a boomer writer is she hears voices, and she’ll talk your ear off about how wonderful it is to listen to the writers, to be guided by them.

We don’t need much incentive to talk about why we write. For me, I wake up. I breathe. I write. I played with stories and really bad poetry all my life. When I first started writing seriously a decade or more ago, I thought I’d whip off a couple of manuscripts, sell them for a nice amount, and kick back to spend royalty checks. Wrong. I didn’t understand there was as much craft in writing as there is art. I needed to relearn how to write, since what I’d done for decades in business wasn’t going to hack it. I studied the craft. I learned how to write. I learned that writing itself was the reward for listening to those pesky voices.

I didn’t like not finding strong women in fiction who were my age, still physically fit, mentally sharp and sexy. Yes, sexy. No, not the fifty shades kind of sexy, but they still had something in the tank that made them attractive to themselves and to the men in their lives. Where were these strong women that survived protest marches, advocacy, good and bad marriages, childbirth? I couldn’t find enough of them.

I found lots of women who survived bad experiences, but they weren’t necessarily happy in their own skin. They’d survived, but they hadn’t survived well. They were bitter. They wallowed in the past, never quite letting it go. Childhood dramas blew up into PTSD-like angst in the present. They saw ghosts and goblins around every corner.

I wanted to read about women like me. No, I’m not a super hero, or anything close to one, but I’m real with warts and stretch marks.

When I sat down to write my first novel, I chose the romance genre. Strong intelligent woman. Rather awkward near-genius, slightly younger male. Both married. And they fall in love. Hmm, probably would be better if they fell into lust, not love. Oh well, too late. The manuscript sat in cyber dust until a few weeks ago when I pulled it out. There’s merit in that story. Maybe there’s room for a romance that doesn’t fit the strict genre requirements. No bodice ripping. No six-pack abs. Just two people who fall in love and who have to live with the consequences.

Other manuscripts followed, including a trilogy tracking circles of women starting in high school in the early sixties, through college in the sixties and seventies, into the nineties. Again, strong women throughout. Loves, losses, war, losses, children, losses, careers. Lots of conflict. Rather like the lives so many of us have lived because we were born boomers. Their stories deserve to be recorded and read.

I remain fascinated by characters who are my age but who don’t consider themselves senior citizens. They’re out there in the community, doing their own thing, thinking their own thoughts, challenging assumptions, just like they did when they thought they could change the world. Some of us refuse to grow up. Old, maybe, but never up.

About the Author
Betsy Ashton, born in Washington, DC, was raised in Southern California where she ran wild with coyotes in the hills above Malibu. She protested the war in Vietnam, burned her bra for feminism, and is a steadfast Independent, before she entered the military-industrial complex after her academic career as a student and teacher. She defines herself as a writer, a thinker, the mother of three grown stepchildren, companion and friend. She finds time to mentor young women, write and publish fiction, sail, hike and read. In her spare time, she is the president of the state-wide Virginia Writers Club and is the author of the boomer novel Mad Max Unintended Consequences. She also loves riding behind her husband on his motorcycle. You'll have to decide for yourself if and where she has a tattoo.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Guest Post from Boomer Lit Author Stephen B. Satterwhite

Why a Baby Boomer Writes

I suppose everyone has a book inside of them. I am certain that all authors hear a similar response from their readers, that they were thinking of writing a book as well. The difference between thinking about it and actually doing it is testament to a burning desire inside of writers to share their life experience and their inner soul.

It is so much better than watching television, because we get to use our imagination, to visualize what we are reading. As a member of the baby boomer generation I believe we are just as significant as what has been referred to as the "greatest generation" before us. We stood for human rights for all people, regardless of the color of their skin, their gender, their faith, their ethnicity or their sexual preference.

We marched for peace throughout the world. We invented the incredible electronic pad that I am now writing on. We have developed microscopic surgery. We can keep a one pound premature baby alive. We have been to the bottom of the oceans and to the faraway planet of Mars. We have proudly witnessed the color of the past slave become the President of the United States.

My journey has been a journey of love, a journey to discover the beauty of my fellow man and to find God. This is what has compelled me to write, not that a final act of my life was like switching on a light, but it was the eventual culmination of living through many true stories, both heart breaking and hilarious, that many of us experienced.

It was being born after our fathers and mothers survived a world at war. It was the wholesomeness of the fifties when Superman, The Lone Ranger, and Elvis brought us warmth in the blue fire of our black and white TV's. It was the insane trip to see the USA in our Chevrolet that created our lifelong medical condition of claustrophobia.

Then it became our turn to define ourselves as "The Beatles" gave birth to our generation on "The Ed Sullivan Show". It was the night when we rejected everything, our government, business suits, being clones of our parents, as we tried everything in search of our own lives, a world of experimentation with sex, drugs and rock 'n roll.

Then it was our wake up call to tragedy, the outrage of the those left behind, the burning of our cities, the assassination of the Kennedys, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and the young men and women we sent to die or to be forever wounded in Vietnam. It was the disgrace and the dishonor of an impeached president and the tearing down of our many institutions we were taught to respect and admire. The United States was imploding.

But it wasn't just us. It was a billion baby boomers around the world who would experience the lunacy of a ridiculous educational system that has yet to adapt, the absurdity of losing our minds to self destructive drugs, losing our grandparents, mothers and fathers to the ravages of lung cancer, heart disease and the sad world of cocktail parties.

It was our own discovery of the time honored traditions of graduations, marriage, having babies and getting jobs, and not one lifetime profession like our fathers, but to adjust to the new world order, of a new career every couple of years, for the rest of our lives. It was the discovery that mom could no longer stay at home and raise the kids. In order to survive we all had to work. Some us didn't survive, as we turned to suicide.

It was the shrinking of the world with the evolution of the Communication Age, where instead of finding out that Hitler gassed the Jews years later, we would now know if a little girl fell off her tricycle in China, ten minutes later. This has been the most profound change in our generation. It has made us all next door neighbors.

Future generations will reap these benefits. No longer will it be acceptable for a madman to run free. We are entering an age of peace that the world has never known, a world of body replacement parts, a world of instant communication and ultimate knowledge at our fingertips, a world where the heavens will be our future frontier, full of drones and flying cars.

I am honored to be part of a group of remarkable people, of heartfelt authors and readers who were part up one of the most incredible generations in the history of the world, our baby boomer generation. We should stand tall and we should stand proud, as each of us prepares to walk into the loving arms of God in our final, most dignified act of all. I will be with you...

About the Author
Stephen B. Satterwhite was one of millions of baby boomers born after World War II. He was raised in upstate New York by his father, who was a successful businessman, and by his mother, who was a clinical psychologist. His book is True Stories from a Baby Boomer.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Guest Post from Boomer Lit Author Jeanette Vaughan

A Boomer reflects on giving peace a chance

As writers, we hold a power. The power of the spoken word. What a gift!

You have the power to transmit the reader to a world, which may or may not exist. Within the genre of historical fiction, especially Boomer Lit, you have the ability to recreate historical experiences and events seen through a new lens. Now that is power.

By virtue of that power, you as a writer, can craft works that bring out learning lessons, challenging journeys, heroic feats, and humbling demises. One can learn from controversy. Educated debate is what fuels the souls of the gifted. Those with political klout fuel huge paradigm shifts of the masses, with the written word. Just take a look at Oprah Winfrey. Small town abused girl come multi-million megastar. With one recommendation from her, a book goes viral. What bliss that her intentions are genuine. Writers bring messages which can change the way we look at life.

Yes, indeed, as the writer you hold the power of the pen. The written word far outlasts what is spoken. It is printed and published for eternity to read. Copied. Archived and saved for generations to come.

As a nation, we face a controversial decision in our world. Confronting the atrocities in Syria, we are a nation polarized. Do we as a free nation champion the injustice of chemical warfare against women and children? Or. . . do we follow suit with the cautious hesitance to enter a dangerous war - another winless battle against evil. Do we risk losing our sons and daughters? The resounding answer for most is NO!

When I wrote FLYING SOLO and its sequel SOLO VIETNAM, both books elicited the memories I had as a child growing up hearing about Vietnam. I can distinctly remember wearing my POW bracelet. I still have it. In our daily existence as Boomers, many of us lived an idyllic nuclear lifestyle within Middle class America. We were buffered from much of the truth. Yet political unrest abounded. Our soldiers faced atrocities far too grim for a nation to view in public.

Older Boomers remember war protests and sit ins. At Woodstock, we cried out for peace. In the initial aftermath, Vietnam Vets were shunned, some spat on as they came home. They were told not to wear their uniforms. The actions compounded their post-traumatic stress disorder. As such, most books about Vietnam didn’t come out until twenty years after the war.

There have already been books written about the Gulf War, the Iraq war and Afghanistan. Some of you might have already seen the movies. The Syrian debacle too, will be illustrated. But unlike in previous decades, the books will appear soon. Debates have already lit up social media. Our president was listening. He quoted the letters, texts and tweets he received.

Our Congress must listen too. Hear the voice of the people. Remember Boomers, the power is in your hands. As a population demographic, we are powerful in numbers. Blog it. Write it. Live it. Make your voice heard! In the words of John Lennon, "Give PEACE a chance."

[Opinions expressed in this post are that of the author. You are invited to express your opinion in the comments below.]

About the Author

Jeanette Vaughan is an award-winning writer and story teller. Not only is she published in the periodicals and professional journals of nursing, but also in the genre of fiction. Out on her sheep farm, she has written several novels and scripts. Her screenplay "Angel of Mercy" won the outstanding nursing research award from Texas Tech University Health Science Center. In addition, she was named Distinguished Alumni for the school of nursing in 2001 for her written work and volunteerism for the Sydney Olympic Games. Her debut novel FLYING SOLO was a winner in the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards for Southern Fiction and finalist in the Beverly Hills Book Awards. SOLO VIETNAM is a finalist in historical fiction in for the Military Writer’s Society of America. Jeanette has practiced nursing in the fields of critical care and trauma. She is the mother of four children, including two Navy pilots. She lives in a Victorian farmhouse out in the pastures of northeast Texas with her sheep, chickens, donkeys and sheep dogs.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Guest Post from Boomer Lit Author Libby Fischer Hellmann

A Boomer’s Reflections on Revolution

In fiction, they say, there must be conflict on every page, even if it's only someone wanting a glass of water that he or she can't get. As Boomers, one of the defining “movements” of our youth was advocating for change. Changing the status quo by peaceful means first, but if that didn’t work, well, some of us weren’t against changing society by any means available. And whether it’s peaceful or not, change involves conflict. There will always be some who resist, while others forge happily ahead. I wrote SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE in 2010 specifically to explore some of the attitudes toward change we held in our youth. But I tend to overdo things in general, and creating conflict is no exception. What I didn’t count on was that I’d write two more thrillers with a revolution at their core.

In fact, I can't imagine a more extreme conflict than a revolution. It affects everything and everyone: from individuals, to families, neighborhoods, cities, countries, and regions. A revolution can impact a society’s culture and art, its food supplies, education, income, personal freedoms, literature—the entire Zeitgeist. It affects the way people trust or don’t trust one another. It splits families in two. It makes everyday living dangerous and unpredictable. Essentially, it touches every aspect of life.

When you layer that extreme conflict on top of conflicts that already exist in a character’s life, those characters become unpredictable. Some become heroes, while some become cowards. I love to write about that evolution in a character, and I'm often surprised by what happens. Just when I’m convinced they’re about to behave one way, they veer in a different direction altogether. When that happens, incidentally, I feel more like an observer than a writer.

The interesting part of it is that I don’t think I could have written these thrillers before I entered the third act of my Boomer life. I don’t think I had the distance or perspective necessary to create three-dimensional characters in the throes of extreme conflict. Only by living through and studying revolutions in our recent past, ie Cuba and Iran, was I able to create stories that feature ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances.

Most of us were still children during the Cuban revolution, and while we were adults during the Iranian revolution, I wonder how much attention we really paid. We were busy with our own lives, getting married, settling into careers, raising our children. The Vietnam War had barely ended when the shah was deposed, and Americans tend to look inward after a protracted war. And yet, huge events occurred that permanently changed the face of the Middle East, especially for women. Call it a giant step or two backwards. That was the premise of A BITTER VEIL. (2012)

And Cuba has always fascinated me. My parents used to fly down to Havana to gamble, and I would beg them to take me with them. They didn’t, of course, but Cuba always remained a place that I wanted to know more about. And then when Fidel took over and became “Marxist” -- the avowed enemy of capitalism-- the entire island took on a mystery that I wanted to penetrate. I was lucky enough to go to Cuba with my daughter, finally, in 2012, and was able to satisfy my curiosity. You can read the results in HAVANA LOST.

I think every generation feels their history is unique, and it probably is. But I think our generation, born and raised in the 20th century has seen the most stirring and fascinating events of all time. The Chinese revolution, the Hungarian uprising, the Cuban revolution, the assassination of a President (and his brother), Vietnam, an unsettled period of time during the late Sixties, the Iranian Revolution, the Berlin wall going up and then coming down, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the rise of China, the realignment of Europe—it’s been sixty years of fast-moving events, any one of which has long-term consequences and implications. Taken together, we’ve entered into a climate of permanent “Future Shock,” if you remember Alvin Toffler’s book. (Btw, it doesn't hurt that I'm a history major and I love to read and do research. It’s almost Pavlovian on my part.) Hence, my “Revolution Trilogy.”

When I put my characters squarely into a revolution, the only thing that’s certain is conflict and change… sometimes not in a good way. The way my characters face up to that conflict and handle its challenges is what makes writing so much fun. They all have minds of their own, and like us, they are essentially unpredictable, especially under stress. And also like most of us, their instinct for survival is what drives them.

So my motto these days is “Viva la revolucion!” May it bring us lots of compulsively readable stories—then, now, and in the future. 

About the Author
Libby Fischer Hellmann writes Compulsively Readable Thrillers. With ten novels and twenty short stories published, she has also written suspense mysteries, historicals, PI novels, amateur sleuth, police procedurals, and even a cozy mystery. At the core of all her stories, however, is a crime or the possibility of oneHer most recent release is HAVANA LOST, a third stand-alone thriller set largely in Cuba.

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