Romance the Way It Used To Be

I overheard a couple shopping at the Rocky Mount Bulluck Warehouse Sale the other day. (I eavesdrop a lot, or as I prefer to think of it, pay attention to what people are saying around me.)  They were buying furniture, and the husband joked that the purchase was the wife’s anniversary present.  They will soon be married for 42 years.

“Tell him it’s for Valentine’s Day,” the sales clerk joked back.

“Oh, we’re too old for that,” the man said. “We don’t do that stuff anymore.”

I had to bite my tongue. Too old for Valentine’s Day?  Never.  I always use the holiday for a special meal, roses, and candy. Sometimes I even buy something for my husband.

See, I believe in romance. The old-fashioned kind, where the man woos the woman.  You can find this type of romance on the sitcoms of yesteryear, still broadcast on MeTV.  Programs like “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Andy Griffith Show.”

My most recent column talks about two episodes I saw recently, one from each show, that portray “a time when manners, chivalry, and propriety—along with feminine wiles—were considered to be part of a courtship.”

 

Image result for the andy griffith show

To read more about how the Cleavers viewed teenage dating or how some folks in Mayberry went about getting a wife, click here: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen

Maybe you’ll remember these episodes—or the times they depict. Hope you had an old-fashioned romantic Valentine’s Day.

 

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Killing Two Writing Assignments with One Pen…and a Few Pictures

IMG_0817So much writing to do… so little time. As most of you may know, each week I write a Sunday column for the local newspaper, The Rocky Mount Telegram.

I’m also working on the rough draft of another cozy mystery, tentatively titled Love and Death in Narrow Creek.  I used to post on my author Facebook page, where I commented on what I’d been reading—sadly, this has fallen off my writing radar.

And then there’s this blog that you’re now reading, that I don’t want to neglect as I have my author FB postings. But as you can see, I’m pulled in a lot of writing directions.

This past weekend, though, I had a brainstorm. The kind where the lightbulb comes on.  Why not tie the blog into my weekly column?  Often I wish I could submit pictures with my columns, and guess what—a blog is made for just that thing.

So here’s how it’ll work. I’ll give an abbreviated version of the approximately 525-word column that’s in the newspaper, along with a picture or two.  Or I may talk about what inspired me to write a particular column, again using visuals.  Or I may give an update on a column I wrote a few weeks before, with pics.

Then, dear reader, if you’re interested in seeing the newspaper column, I’ll provide the link right here in the blog. You won’t even have to click on the tab I have on my homepage that says, Patsy’s Columns! How exciting is that? So let’s get started.

 

Do you have a problem with email clutter? I do.  I find it hard to delete most email, especially if it’s a message with a time or place or some other nugget of information I may need in the future.  I’ve never been slick enough to figure out how to store email I think I might need and brave enough to delete the others.  Before I know it, I’m swamped.

As you can see, as of this minuteIMG_0810 I have 4,649 messages.  That’s not counting the thousands of promotions and social emails, held under separate tabs.  Shameful, I know.  What can I say, I’m an email hoarder.  If you share my problem or want to feel superior to a tech dummy like me, click here to read more:

http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/02/11/Email-clutter-is-hard-to-control.html

If you have any simple solutions, feel free to leave me a message below.

 

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A Dalliance at Dunkin’ Donuts?

“Are these handsome young men your grandsons?” The tall sixtyish gentleman in Dunkin’ Donuts spoke in a familiar tone, as if he was someone I knew but hadn’t seen in a while.

“Uh, yes, they are,” I answered politely, studying the man’s face.  I didn’t recognize him.

It was a Friday afternoon, and I’d picked up Sammy and Charlie from school for an afternoon Grandma visit. A visit that began with a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts.

The man, alone, lingered by our table. “I bring my great-nephews here sometimes.  They’re fine fellows.  Of course, we all think our young ones are great, don’t we?”

“Uh, yes, we do,” I said, not making eye contact this time.

Teva Alp Sandals - Men's Deep Teal He moved on then, bare feet in Tevas on this freezing January day.

“Grandma, who was that?” ten-year-old Sammy asked as the door swung shut behind our visitor.

“I have no idea,” I answered.

“He creeped me out,” Sammy said. “And did you see he had on sandals?”

“He could’ve shot us,” chimed in six-year-old Charlie, who’s all about stranger-danger. “But if I had my bow, I could shoot him right back.”

“I hardly think anyone’s going to shoot us in Dunkin’ Donuts right across from a Harris Teeter in what is probably the safest part of town,” I said. “He was just someone trying to be friendly.”

Or was he flirting? Is “Are these handsome young men your grandsons” a geezer pick-up line?

Nahh.   I’d have heard something like, “You’re far too young for these handsome young men to be your grandsons.”  Or even better, “Are you the mother of these two handsome young men?”  He pegged me for what I am, the grandma, and the compliment was for the boys.

IMG_0773Nope, he wasn’t flirting. Just some old dude passing by our table, making small talk on a Friday afternoon in Dunkin’ Donuts.  I think….

 

 

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What’s Better Than One Book Starring Dee Ann Bulluck? Two!

While Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder is at the competition I’ve entered (see previous blog), I’ve returned to working on another cozy mystery, a sequel tentatively titled Life and Death in Narrow Creek.

Here’s what’s happening. A little over two years have passed—it’s October 1982–and Dee Ann again finds herself in the role of amateur sleuth.  This time, the deceased is her landlord, Floyd Vaughan, whose sudden death requires an autopsy.

I’m not going to tell you what is discovered as the cause of death. Or who the suspects are.  And it’s not because I don’t know yet.  I do.  I’ve got the basic plot figured out; I just have to find my way chapter by chapter, filling in the details and hopefully keeping the reader guessing.

Life and Death in Narrow Creek gets off to a fast start with Floyd Vaughan dying in the first chapter. His wife, Miss Josie, has sent her handyman, Willie, to fetch Dee Ann on this traumatic morning. Here’s a snippet of how the scene unfolds as Dee Ann (the speaker) runs the short distance from her apartment to the Vaughan’s house with three-year-old Heather bouncing on her hip.

 

“I got Miss Dee Ann like you asks,” Willie was saying as I entered the dark den of the Vaughan’s house. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust.  But soon enough, I could see Floyd Vaughan, lying peacefully enough in his brown leather recliner, propped way back, the way I’d often seen him when I visited Miss Josie.  It took me a moment longer, though, to realize that beneath his shock of thick white hair, his eyes were half open, glazed and lifeless. There was no blood, thank you Jesus. …

 “Miss Josie, have you called for an ambulance?” I really thought we needed a hearse, but I certainly wasn’t going to suggest one.  I was trying to be a calm, steady influence, although to tell the truth, I wanted to run out of the house screaming.  I’d never seen a dead person before—well, not before the funeral home did its business on the corpse.

 “I did. I did.  Willie, run down to the street and make sure the ambulance driver doesn’t miss the house.”  Willie shot out the door, glad, no doubt, to be out of the room.  Miss Josie began to sway a little, so I plunked Heather down on the blue-checked Duncan Phyfe sofa, on the end that was farthest from the recliner, and went to help the widow. 

“Come on, Miss Josie, sit down. There’s really nothing we can do until the ambulance gets here.”  I was pretty sure there was nothing anyone could do even when the ambulance did arrive, but that was best left unsaid.

 

Intrigued? I hope so.  As you can tell (maybe), death isn’t to be taken too seriously in a cozy mystery.  The book is meant to be a fun read, and so far, I’m having fun writing it.

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Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Melt

I’ve been busy polishing Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder to meet a January 12 writing contest deadline—a long shot to win, but hey, a girl can dream—and thus have neglected my blog.  But Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder has been sent off to join the hundreds or thousands or millions of other entries, and I’m back.

It’s Day Five of a snowy landscape where I live here in eastern North Carolina. Day Five and the kids are still out of school.  Day Five and I can’t take my neighborhood walk.  Day Five of depending on my husband to take me the few places I go—the grocery store, Sunday lunch out with friends, mall walking.

In Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, set in northeastern North Carolina, there’s a scene with comments about snow days based on my experience with this weather phenomenon in eastern North Carolina.

Giant plastic candy canes hung from the lamp posts on Main Street the Saturday morning I’d arranged to meet Elizabeth for breakfast at Ernie’s Grill. It was early December, and once Thanksgiving Day passed, Narrow Creek embraced Christmas in all its commercial glory.  Mannequins dressed in black velvet pants and red sweaters crocheted with holly leaf patterns stood guard in the storefront windows of Three Sisters Dress Shop.  Bob’s Ace Hardware had an assortment of children’s sleds stacked right outside the front door.

“As if it snows more than once or twice a season at best around here,” said Elizabeth, eyeing the display.

“Kids want to be ready for even one minor snow,” I replied. “And Santa loves to deliver sleds.”

“Maybe we’ll have more than an inch this year,” she allowed. “I love a snow day myself.  School is dismissed at the first flake, and we don’t go back until it’s all melted.”  Elizabeth pushed open the old wooden door with the faded Pepsi logo stenciled on it. “Here we are.”

Yep, Elizabeth, in North Carolina, public school doesn’t crank up again until the roads are clear. But while the kiddies are home, as Dee Ann implies, they’re riding their sleds.  I leave you with pictures of my grandsons on the “ski slope” in front of my house.

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In the Spirit of Christmas

Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder is back, beat up and bruised, from its most recent visit to an editor. One criticism about the novel is that Dee Ann spends too much time going to church (not a fault anyone has ever found with me, for sure).  “You’ve got to hurry things up, move things along,” wrote my critiquer.  “You need to keep your eye on the detective ball.”

Okay. I understand.  Below is a scene describing Dee Ann’s Methodist church at Christmas.  Given the above advice, these words may wind up deleted from the final draft.  But in the spirit of Christmas and because I hate to waste anything, I offer them to you, along with photos I took this past Sunday at my own Methodist church, the inspiration for my description.

Enormous evergreen wreaths hung on the walls facing the congregation, and a bank of brilliant red poinsettias flanked the pulpit. IMG_0704An Advent wreath, holding the symbolic purple and pink candles circling the white Christ candle, rested on an ornate brass stand beside the steps leading to the choir loft.  On a mahogany table near the side entrance was a nativity scene set up by the children, and white tapers in clear globes surrounded by shiny magnolia leaves graced the sills of all the tall windows.IMG_0703 IMG_0702Most magnificent of all was the sanctuary Christmas tree, a giant Balsam fir rising twenty feet and adorned with oversized white Chrismon ornaments—giant crowns, crosses, stars, and doves.

Not anything there that advances the plot of a cozy mystery, I agree, but maybe a setting that evokes the glory of the holy season of Christmas in a Methodist church.

 

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All Kinds of Activities—and Ideas—Come from a Hunting Trip

IMG_0672What do I have in common with a Mormon mother of nine and an ex-Navy good ol’ girl from Georgia? We were the only three women—well, four, if you count the cook—hanging out with thirty-some men at a deer hunters’ lodge in the backwoods of southern Illinois.

I went not because I’m a fan of hunting trips but rather at the request of my husband, who, I suspect, wanted one of the few private rooms so he wouldn’t have to bunk in with a group of snoring guys. Taking a wife got him that room.

I also endured the road trip—two days there and two days back—to be sure this man didn’t overdo it driving for hours on end. The one time before when he went, he returned with a dangerous blood clot, probably from sitting too long while he drove 15 hours straight on his way home.  Wasn’t gonna happen again on my watch.  Eight hours a day was the maximum driving time, with a restful overnight stop mid-trip each way. Geezer travel, which is what we need these days.

But back to No-wheres-ville, Illinois. What did I do with all my time while the hubby was in the woods waiting for one of those XXL-sized deer to wander by?

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I took walks up and down the nearby scenic dirt road with my new girlfriends. One afternoon, the Georgia friend and I went to the winery, where a band called Back in the Saddle was playing country music. Yee-haw!IMG_0656

Since Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder was in the hands of a critiquer, I took the sequel I began a couple of years ago, Life and Death in Narrow Creek, and started thinking about how to recast it as a cozy mystery.  As you can tell from the title, I already have a death to work with.  Shouldn’t be too hard to make that death, originally a heart attack, into a murder.

Also, as I was describing some of the people at the hunting lodge in a phone call to my youngest daughter, she suggested I write a cozy based on this trip.

Hmm. A mystery set in a secluded hunting lodge.  One of the hunters is found dead, shot through the heart.  Who did it and why?  Amateur detective Dee Ann Bulluck, trapped in the lodge with time to kill, decides to investigate….

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