What Do You Think Of Retirement Communities?

What Do You Think Of Retirement Communities?

Is Age Restriction A Plus Or A Minus?

Back in the 1990s, I lived in a retirement community in Arizona. It was the one my parents had moved to years before, and I’d enjoyed visiting them each year and dreamed of living there. I loved the warm weather, the sunshine, how neat the community was, the southwestern flavor of the newer home designs. I especially liked the tropical plants, because they promised a life without winter.

The outward look of the place was delightful to me, but after living there, I did notice drawbacks. Maybe they weren’t all about the age restrictions, but some were. Children were a rarity, and since they visited mostly in summer, you didn’t see them outside a lot in the blistering heat and punishing sun. I realized that everyone looked old. I was in my forties at the time, probably one of the youngest residents thanks to my husband being much older than I was. I’d always liked being around older people, perhaps partly because growing up, I had no close relatives outside of my parents and siblings. And I sure didn’t miss having little kids riding Hot Wheels up and down the sidewalks, yelling and screaming bloody murder. But after a while, I came to feel that having only retired folks gave the community an ossified feel. My own mother used to comment that it was like living in a mausoleum.

And one of the things that hit me as my parents aged is that the older residents get in a bind when they reach a certain age. They can’t drive anymore or have health issues, but their kids live far away and rarely get to visit. So they end up moving into assisted living, downsizing. The snow birds sadly give up the annual migration when they reach that age. Ultimately, many choose to move back nearer their children at some point in time. It becomes a strange cycle that makes it hard to keep a real feeling of family. I was fortunate to live close by my parents, but most had no family nearby to help them.

What About Covenants?

Rules that Homeowners’ Associations make you agree to are intended to preserve the property values and the look and feel of the community. Some are no brainers, but it’s funny how carried away some HOAs get. Even the best-intended ones can lead to conflict. I recall a good friend, a fellow biologist, who lived in a community where the HOA had rules about keeping your yard looking good. He had one portion of his property that had native grasses, a rare commodity in his area, and he let them grow tall and go to seed so they’d come back the following year, like a sort of living museum. But the HOA sent him a notice saying if he didn’t cut his grass, they’d come do it for him. That led to some unpleasantness.

Shouldn’t you be able to do what you want with your property? It’s hard to draw the line between what is best for the community and the personal freedom of the homeowner. A retirement community near the one I lived in was so restrictive, my business partner and I, who owned a landscaping firm, called it “Little Russia,” and we didn’t really like working there. It was surprising how many residents complained to us about the covenants and how stupid and strangling they were–and that was mostly about their plants. Yet they had bought property there.

Golf, Anyone?

Golf seems to be the central theme in most of the retirement communities in the Sun Belt. Yet many residents don’t golf. My parents didn’t. Nor did I. The HOA charges fees that cover the amenities, and early on, the annual fee was surprisingly low. But in the years after I left, my parents were struggling and complaining about the fees, because they had gotten so old, they used few of the amenities, but the price kept going up each year. Water is always a challenge in the desert, and the use of pesticides is pretty high on golf courses, and keeping them resown each winter so that there’s always grass is pretty costly. So even though the residents know when they buy a home what the deal is, they aren’t always happy when prices start creeping up, forcing the HOA fees higher and higher.

My experience with HOAs led me to believe the best HOA is hands off. The fewer restrictions, the better. The lower the fees, the better. But I know that isn’t how everyone sees it. What is your personal opinion about retirement communities? What pluses and minuses have you experienced?

Where’s The Age Diversity In Books?

Where’s The Age Diversity In Books?

Why aren’t there more books with mature characters? Not just the token grandmother, but main characters, heros, if you will, who are retired. Most bestsellers have young people as their main characters. Now, that isn’t too surprising if you’re writing about Jason Bourne. To do what he does, you need to be young and in superb physical condition. But not all stories are about secret agents/assassins.

No matter what your age, you still face the same challenges as your younger counterparts. Love, family, money, health, fulfillment: these subjects are not the exclusive property of people under 40, but with few exceptions, books and movies have you thinking life ends at retirement. One exception I particularly enjoyed was Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, both the movie and book. Most of the characters were seniors, and it was delightful to see them facing and overcoming problems with ingenuity, humor and courage.

One of the most frequent comments my readers make about Autumn In The Desert is that they are thrilled to finally see characters their own age who aren’t stereotypes. I believe there is a huge untapped pool of readers out there who would love to see more books written about seniors, that reflect the truth that age does not automatically put one beyond romance or a desire to live a happy, fulfilled life. The problems we face as mature adults have interesting twists to them, and I like reading and writing about them.

What’s your age group? Do you enjoy movies and books with seniors in key roles? Please comment below. I’d love to hear what you think.

An Author Is Revealed In Her Writing

An Author Is Revealed In Her Writing

I love to read, always have. I am sure my love of reading is part of the reason I love to write. Reading stories was a great escape for me as a kid and a way to entertain myself that cost no money. I have continued to be an avid reader throughout the years. I read both fiction and nonfiction, and I enjoy reading most genres. I am always thrilled when I find a new author I like who has written a ton of books. I gobble up every one of them. Heaven!

If you read many books by one author, you are going to get to know the author, because the stories an author writes come from within herself. The world she creates and the characters that populate it are all projected from the viewpoint of her experience and beliefs. I think that’s because it’s hard to write a good story using a viewpoint that is vastly different from your own.

When you read a book–like so many modern ones–that is filled with depressed, disaffected and evil people, you know that the writer sees the world that way. I personally find it hard to like books that have not one single character I can identify with (not being depressed, disaffected or evil). It’s not that I think such characters should not appear in a story; I just feel that a story is more fulfilling if it uplifts one. Even if there is only one character who strives for something better, that’s enough. But you see, that attitude is a reflection of my viewpoint and how I see the world. And technically, my viewpoint isn’t any more valid than anyone else’s. I’m the person who went to the movies to see The Deer Hunter, walked out of the theater shell-shocked afterward and went straight into a screening of Superman to get a dose of positivity. I tend to ‘pick up’ negativity and need to avoid too much exposure. I’m curious to know if my readers have similar preferences.

But getting back to how a writer’s work reflects a lot about their personality and outlook, have you noticed that to be the case? For example, can you guess about how Lee Child and Nelson DeMille feel about women and relationships by reading their works? Now that book 2 of my Autumn In The Desert series is out, I realize I populate my books with a preponderance of certain types of people. The reason for that is, all my characters eventually come from me, and they all will reflect who I am, and it’s easier for me to write what I know, as it is for all authors. Can you tell about me from reading my books? Feel free to post in the Comments below. I’ll try to be honest and reply. No nasty comments, please!

Getting Old Doesn’t Mean Giving Up

Getting Old Doesn’t Mean Giving Up

My “Autumn In The Desert” series takes place in a retirement community. All the main characters are 55 and older. Conventional wisdom says that retirement is a time for golf and steadily declining health. But that is a shallow and invalid viewpoint. And the worst thing you can do if you are 55 or older is to buy into it.

The media and our unfortunate culture on the one hand ply you with golden pictures of a happy retirement to keep you locked in a job you don’t really like during your middle years, wishing your life away. Then, when you arrive at retirement, the reality of it is rarely as rosy as you’ve been led to believe. That same media and culture convince you to buy into decrepitude and decaying health. They scare you into buying all kinds of insurance, none of which gives decent coverage. Then they give you a health care system that can’t fix you.

Aging is inevitable. But you would be wise to wake up and look critically at the picture of aging that you’ve been handed. Is it the way you want to live your Golden Years? From adult diapers to assisted living, aging is painted as a time of loss, constriction and giving up. You give up the dreams of fulfillment you had as a younger person. You let go of the idea you could be healthy as you age. You face financial and physical challenges that force you to downsize and give up hope.

It is my hope that readers of my “Autumn In The Desert” series will be able to see there are other ways of looking at life after retirement. You are a human being, with dreams and plans and the ability to make things happen. Yes, it can be late to start at age 60, but that’s the beauty of life. It’s never really too late to go after your dreams, to make a good life choice, to be the person you always wanted to be.

I wish there were more books with heroes our age. We need role models to remind us that retirement shouldn’t be a ghetto lifestyle filled with gloom and regret (even a gilded one), but an ongoing journey of discovery and fulfillment. What do you want to do with your Golden Years? Please let me know what you think in the Comments section below.

Do You Read “Romance” Novels?

Do You Read “Romance” Novels?

I have eclectic reading tastes. I read just about any genre except horror. I try to judge a book based on its own merits rather than its category. But I have to admit that the traditional “Romance” category triggers judgment in me.

I’m not saying I never read books in that category. I have read historical romances and paranormal romances and other types of romances. In my opinion, romance can make a story sizzle. But a lot of romance books are shells that have cookie-cutter characters and predictable plots that exist mainly for the sex scenes. I find such books tiring.

Granted, sex can be pretty stimulating, but when I read, I want a story that grabs me and characters who seem real and a believable plot. I don’t feel turned off if there is sex in the book, but it needs to be just one part of the story and not be the sole reason for the book.

Apparently, there is a BIG market for women who read these books. I guess their sex lives are pretty boring, and romance novels are like porn for women. Soft porn, but still pandering solely to sexual appetites. And while I don’t judge people for reading such books, I don’t really want readers to think my book falls into that category.

So when I wrote my “Autumn In The Desert” series, I was loath to put it in a Romance category, yet there isn’t another category that fits. There is an element of romance for sure in my stories. And sex happens, because it’s a part of life. But as an author, I’m not into writing steamy sex scenes. It just isn’t my thing. My stories are about real people and their entire life situations, not just their sex lives.

I wish there were a Boomer Fiction category or anything that wouldn’t misrepresent my stories. “Contemporary Romance” is about the best I can do. That and “Women’s Fiction,” which to me sounds like a literary equivalent of the junk drawer most of us have in our kitchen. I just cross my fingers and hope.

Do you read romance novels? Would you be turned off from reading my book because it’s in that category? Or would you buy it and then be disappointed that it isn’t filled with steamy sex scenes? And what the heck do you think constitutes “Women’s Fiction?” Please comment below. I’m interested in your point of view.

Time & Tech Wait For No Man (Or Woman)

Time & Tech Wait For No Man (Or Woman)

I don’t think I’m alone in this, but it’s still embarrassing…but first, some background.

My first novel, “Renaissance,” Book 1 in my Autumn In The Desert series, launched on August 31, 2016, about 15 months after I first started writing it. It was a big milestone for me, because I was not a full-time writer during that period. But in mid-2014, we decided to focus more on writing, and I spent a great deal of the next several months writing nonfiction books. In early 2015, I got a brainstorm for a novel and jumped into it.

This in spite of the fact that I had a partially written science fiction novel lanquishing in the cloud. I’d started it as a real ‘spare time’ project in 2012. It required lots of research and thought, and I had nearly 82,000 words written at the time I embarked on Autumn In The Desert. I only felt I had time for one novel, so I put the science fiction on hold.

In the meantime, my laptop died and I replaced it with a Mac. I’d long wanted a Mac, but we’d never had enough money to swing it. I figured a MacBook Pro was all I needed, and when I got it, I was in seventh heaven. Just over 3 years later, I decided I would write two novels at one time, so I needed to find (I really couldn’t remember where the files were) and get writing on my science fiction novel again.

I finally remembered they were backed up on the cloud (since the PC was no more), and I went to retrieve them, only to discover that they were in the wrong format. The YWriter software I’d used to write the novel was only for PCs. It took me a lot of research, time and effort to discover how to retrieve the files. But finally, I was able to get most, if not all, of them into Scrivener on my Mac.

Technology is changing so fast these days that it’s a real challenge to keep up with it. You blink, and you’re left behind. This was a real lesson to me about not putting anything aside for long. I felt like NASA sitting on mounds of data from space missions in floppy discs, with no way to read them.

As an indie author, I have to learn all kinds of skills that traditional authors can foist off on someone else. I’m not complaining, but sometimes it leads to a panic attack, as in when your 82,000-word manuscript appears to be lost forever. And it’s pretty embarrassing to admit it didn’t occur to you that it might be a problem. But all’s well that ends well, and I’m pretty much back on track. I hope I learned my lesson.

Have you ever had an embarrassing problem like this because of rapidly changing technology? Please feel free to share in the Comments section below. I don’t want to feel like the only person to ever do something like this…