Saturday mornings when I was but a wee princess, I would get up early, have blueberry yogurt for breakfast and settle in for a couple of hours of cartoons. In those days, that meant a lot of Hanna-Barbera, and the arrival of the live-action Land of the Lost meant TV time was done. Usually, my parents would have the day planned. A visit to the house of friends was always best, especially if those friends had girls my age, because then it was play time. This usually meant imaginative play, turning the shows we’d watched into adventures we lived. Prehistoric alternate universes, outer space, somehow transforming the expanse of grass between apartment complexes and tract houses into what would probably be termed a postapocalyptic wasteland in which we intrepid heroines must find a way to survive. Live action fairy tales. Families with structures that seemed impossibly convoluted at the time, but in today’s society would likely not get so much as a blink.
Sure, there were the occasional times when we’d have to engage in some directed activity. Being fair-skinned, near-sighted with laughable depth perception, many allergies and an impatience with most sporty pursuits, friend and family softball games were a special kind of torture, and I never got the appeal of kickball. It was okay, though, as I could use that time for my brain to free-float and come up with more ideas for further adventures. It never occurred to me in those days that I could write things down. That came later, in school, but to this day, I can’t go past that stretch of grass without being transported back to those days, even if the family who lived in the house that bordered that grass has long since moved on and the new owners undertook an ill advised attempt to make a midcentury masterpiece into something more storybook. That’s another story in itself, and I don’t think it’s one of mine, so I’ll move along.
At some point in my elementary school career, I got cut off in the children’s room in the public library. Fourth or fifth grade, I think, the librarian pointing out that I had settled into checking out the same books over and over, and went through them rapidly. Time to go into the adult section. I protested. I liked it where I was, and I checked out those books because they were good…but beyond Ant and Bee, and one collection of tall tales about a cowboy character, I can’t remember a single one of them. Adult section it was, but under protest. Wouldn’t it be better if there were more kid books? (I predated the YA revolution by ah, some time, I should point out here.) Where were the pictures? The adventure? The stories of things that happened long ago?
As it would happen, all of those things started showing up in the bags of books my Aunt Lucy would bring on her visits to our family. Aunt Lucy was my mother’s sister, married to Uncle Pat (he who taught me to play poker the one and only time he was allowed to babysit me) always had a paper grocery bag full of books for my mother. These books had everything I wanted on the covers. People. Ships. Castles. Horses. Swirls or moody washes of color, and the books themselves were thick enough to get my insatiable reader heart pumping. I was allowed to look at the covers, but not read inside, and dutiful daughter that I was, I managed to resist. Until The Kadin, that was, but since my mother bought that from Caldor, instead of it coming from Aunt Lucy’s bag, Aunt Lucy was off the hook.
I wanted that book. I lusted after that book, in my story-loving soul, and it didn’t matter that there would be s-e-x inside (seriously, my dad was big on the classics, and they’re full of the human condition in all its glory) – I needed that story. It wasn’t only the enticing blurb. It wasn’t only the lush shades of coral layered over a beautiful couple in exotic surrounds. My mother tried to fob me off by telling me the story was about a Scottish girl “in the olden days” who was betrayed into slavery and spent forty years in a harem, then went home because her daughter in law didn’t like her. A) my mom would have kicked butt in writing synopses, and B) SOLD. I. Had. To. Have. That. Book. I snagged it, I read it under a bed during a thunder storm (don’t recall if it was a Saturday or not) and I was not sorry when I got caught. I pilfered the next one, and after that, Mom bought me my own copy because I was going to read it anyway. By then I was old enough, and though cancer took her soon after that, I think she would have been a great ally in both my reading and writing (and yes, she would have been entitled to free books.)
For a while, my dad and I frequented an indoor flea market on Saturday afternoons. My favorite stalls were always those with vintage comics (70s era Wonder Woman was my favorite, along with horror comics, and I now kick myself for not venturing into the romance comic bins) and used books. I came home with hefty hauls to see me through the rest of the week, stashed books in out of the way places – under the bathroom sink, in a guest room end table, etc- so I could get a dose whenever I wanted. The flea market eventually folded, I went off to college, and Saturday afternoon story hunting took the form of browsing my first used book store (UBS) and, because the time finally felt right, starting to write my own first historical romance, which now is safely tucked away in a storage unit where it can’t hurt anybody.
Now it’s Saturday afternoon again, my Kindle is full, and I am preparing for a walk in the park. For part of the time, I’ll listen to recordings from RWA national conventions past, and for part of it, I will leave my brain to free float once again, characters swirling about, ready to race across the expanses of their own adventures. Camp NaNo is coming.