Tag Archives: Memoir

Reflection on New Venture by Liz Flaherty

A Cruise in A Different Kind of Boat

I love metaphors and similes and anything else involving comparative language, which is why I’m talking today about a cruise in a different kind of boat.

I’m a romance author. Mostly contemporary, although I did jump into a rowboat once and write a historical. I’m pretty sure it’s sold a couple hundred copies by now and I still love it, but no matter how hard I pulled on the oars, I just wasn’t cut out to write historical romantic fiction. (Now, if you want to talk about reading historicals, I go right from the rowboat to the ocean liner as far as expertise goes.)

For even longer than I’ve been published in romance, though, I’ve written a column called “Window Over the Sink.” I’ve written it for newspapers, for a magazine or two, and in several spots online—including my own blog. It’s my favorite thing to write, so my husband asked me to compile some favorites into a book. I agreed, and 15 or so years later, I did it.

The reason I published Window Over the Sink when I did was because the romance boat was becalmed. I’d gotten a rejection that threw me for a much bigger loop than it should have, and I needed something to pull me back toward shore.

It’s been interesting and fun. I love the book’s cover. I love that I did what I promised my husband I would do.

I love that a ride in a different kind of boat gave me time to refurbish and overhaul the engine of the romance-writing boat. It also reminded me that it’s always good to try different vessels now and then.

EXCERPT

TURKEY, JOY, AND A SMALL GLASS OF BEER

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

~~ Marcel Proust

Aunt Nellie was my great-aunt. She was born in 1892, loved and married two men, and never had any children. She was the other side of the coin from my grandmother, who’d undoubtedly been the Good Daughter, and even though I loved them both, I worshiped the ground Aunt Nellie walked on.

My mother’s side of the family were all teetotalers, but when my brother-in-law asked Aunt Nellie if she’d like a beer, she said, Yes, she wouldn’t mind a small glass. I don’t know that she ever drank beer again, but she did indeed enjoy every drop of that “small glass.” Where Aunt Nellie was, there was always laughter.

We used to go to her house for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure how many of us were there. It seemed like dozens at the time, but the number was probably closer to 25. She lived in a pretty little Cape Cod house on a pretty little street in Goshen, Indiana, and she had…oh, even in memory, it thrills me…she had a step stool you could sit on and the steps pushed out in front! She also had a finished basement with its own kitchen! In the living room part of the basement, there was a cabinet Victrola with a stack of records. They were tinny and scratchy and it was hard to get them going the right speed with the crank, but there was such safety lying on the rug listening to Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore.

Even though I grew up on a small farm, the only time we ever had turkey was on Thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in it every year. I loved eating whatever I wanted and never having to touch the squiggly red stuff that slid out of the Ocean Spray can. The dessert table was impressive, to say the least, and it was pretty much stripped by the end of the day. Even then, leftovers went home with each family, and the feeling of fullness and warmth would go on with turkey and noodles the next day.

I imagine being poor was a key player in my satisfaction with Thanksgiving, but that’s really neither here nor there. What matters are the memories and the lessons Aunt Nellie left behind. She was somewhere in her 80s when she died. She’d been packing for a trip to Grand Rapids with friends when she passed away. Grief created a hard, empty place in my chest at the loss, and I just knew I’d never get over it. However, at the funeral the officiating pastor mentioned her preparing for her trip and said she’d been just as ready to go to heaven as she’d been to go to Grand Rapids. My grandmother, who’d loved her younger sister even more than we did, said she thought if she’d had her choice, Aunt Nellie would rather have gone to Grand Rapids. Laughter softened the grief and added one more rung to the memory ladder.

Aunt Nellie was one of the first people I thought of when I became a Harlequin Heartwarming author. She’d have loved the line’s premise, its joy and sense of family, and its humor. She’d have also told everyone at the beauty shop all about her niece, the author. Knowing that reminds me again of how lucky I was to have her.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. If you have that small glass of beer, be sure to enjoy every drop.

BUY LINKS

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Retired from the post office and married to Duane for…a really long time, USA Today bestselling author Liz Flaherty has had a heart-shaped adult life, populated with kids and grands and wonderful friends. She admits she can be boring, but hopes her curiosity about everyone and everything around her keeps her from it. She likes traveling and quilting and reading. And she loves writing. You can reach her at lizkflaherty@gmail.com.

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Guest Interview with Liz Flaherty

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I’m retired from the post office and live with my husband and three cats in the cornfields of Central Indiana. I’ve written 20-some books and every time I think about retiring, I write another one

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

I get people first—always. Sometimes I end up with people hanging around just waiting for a story of their own

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Other than a scene or two in England, where I’m still waiting not-so-patiently to go, I’ve been everywhere I’ve set a story. The towns themselves are always created, but with an actual place in mind. Fionnegan, the setting of Back to McGuffey’s, for example, has its roots in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

It sounds almost like cheating, but if I’m stuck, I look up story prompts on the Internet. I may not end up using the prompt for much, but I can always find a starting point.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

This release is the one that’s actually different. With one historical aberration, I’ve always written contemporary romance. Window Over the Sink is a compilation of essays chosen from the 30-year history of my column, “Window Over the Sink.”

In what genre do you read?

I read mostly women’s fiction these days, but also love to find a romance with “seasoned” protagonists or an Americana historical written with a voice like Cheryl Reavis’s or Cheryl St. John’s.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

I hope they feel as if they’ve been there—and that they enjoyed the trip.

BLURB:

It’s been nearly ten years since we retired. I’m still in the office Duane and the boys created for me. The seven quilts I promised to make have been completed. A few books. He has new knees and new guitars. We’ve had grief and loss in these years, occasional discontent, times of being alone even when we were together. We’ve also had a blessed amount of fun. Of music and laughter and family. Of the other side of being alone that comes of knowing we never really are.

Much has changed in those nine years and change, and much has stayed the same. At first, it seemed as if this book was a vanity thing. Or a thing for the grandkids to look at and think Okay, Nana, what do you want me to do with this? But in the end, like most other things in life that are worthwhile, it is a labor of love. A gathering of thoughts and dreams and memories.

Thanks for joining me on the journey.

Buy links: Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08Q5T2Y5S/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2

For everywhere else D2D:

https://books2read.com/u/bw7NM0

EXCERPT:

My father-in-law was here this morning for a while. Seeing him, naturally enough, made me think about my mother-in-law, and miss her. And my mom—and miss her, too. I gave him a cup of coffee and thought about how many cups of coffee there had been at how many tables and then I thought of places that have been important to me.

In case you didn’t know it, this is how a writer’s mind works. Forget any idea of sense or linearity or neatly dovetailing thoughts—there aren’t any of those. A writer’s mind is a whole lot like the junk drawer at the end of the cabinet, full and messy.

But, yes, places. Starting with kitchen tables. My mother’s, where the homemade bread and sugar cookies cooled and she taught me to iron pillowcases. My sister’s, where no one was ever a stranger. My mother-in-law’s, where we sat while she cooked and gave the grandkids whatever they asked for. The tables from our 30s where girlfriends and I sat and shared coffee and confidences. Our kitchen island now, where we play Farkle and I write Christmas cards and make plans. Kitchen tables are so many things—pulpits, confessionals, meditation sites, places of both privacy and society. They are where we laugh and cry and make life-changing decisions. They are important.

Desks have been instrumental since the first day of first grade, when I learned the word “Look” and from there on couldn’t be stopped from reading every written page that crossed my path. It was at a desk where I learned to love American history although I never got good at it and where I had to stay through several recesses because of talking in class. It was where I was sitting when an editor first called and said, “I want to buy your book.”

Bleachers are way up there on my list. They are where I watched my kids grow up and learn things that might have been missed outside the arenas of sports, drama, and music. They’re where I had my first experience with civil disobedience back in high school. When I was 19, I sat in the bleachers at the softball diamond in Maconaquah Park and tried to figure out what I was going to do next.

Church. Obviously, it’s the accepted place to worship, but I believe you can worship anywhere. It’s also where people are married, baptized, dedicated, and eulogized. It’s where we have chili suppers, noodle suppers, sauerkraut suppers, and tenderloin suppers—and that’s just in September and October; there are plenty more to be had throughout the year. It’s where, if we’re lucky, party affiliations and grudges are left outside the open-to-all doors. It is, when all else fails, a safe place.

Norris Lake, Tennessee is important because our family in its entirety spent Thanksgiving weekend there a few years ago. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had—it’s also the last time we’ve all been in the same place at the same time. That could be bittersweet, but it’s not—it’s all sweet. Although it’s important not to live in the past, keeping good memories in a pocket inside your heart is just as important.

The Nickel Plate Trail. I don’t walk much these days, but it’s still my favorite place when I do. I’ve done a lot of plotting there, spent quality time with family and friends, and remembered what a gift nature is.

The school up the road is important if for no other reason than there have been family members in it ever since it was built. It’s where I have so many memory bank deposits I can’t begin to keep track of them all.

There are so many others. Favorite vacation places, the side yard where the deer graze and the birds dive-bomb each other and the sun slips quietly and beautifully into the horizon, places I’ve voted, music that has been so stirring it created places of its own.

The pleasure in important places is that you don’t have to go back to them to experience them. As faulty as memory becomes—and it does—happy times still live there. You may not be able to remember how to get back to the physical places that are important to you, but you’ll remember how you felt there. You’ll remember the perfect meal with 16 of you at the table and the day you were laughing so hard you were falling off the barstools in the kitchen and the taste of those sugar cookies that you’ve never once been able to emulate. And you’ll know those places—and times—were important. Capture the joy.

Review snippets:

… you’ll laugh and cry and feel good all over!” – Nan Reinhardt

“The book is a delight to read with vignettes that are like warm hugs.” – Patricia Bradley

BIO: Retired from the post office, Liz Flaherty spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and wanting to travel. The author of 20-some books and her husband Duane share an old farmhouse in North Central Indiana that they talk about leaving. However, that would require clearing baseball trophies from the attic and dusting the pictures of the Magnificent Seven, their grandchildren, so they’ll probably stay where they are.

Liz can be reached at lizkflaherty@gmail.com or please come and see her at  her website, Facebook, and Twitter