Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Why I Stalked a Shopper in Hannaford

old-womanwigIt’s near impossible for a writer to go out in public without imagining characters for their next novels.

Once, while waiting at a bank’s drive-up window, I wondered about my teller’s hair–which was really a bad wig. Why would she pick a style from the ’60s? Was she threatened by the aging process? Or had she spurned the whims of fashion?

The drawer slid open with my receipt. I reached over my half-opened, stuck-off-its track window to retrieve it. My arm wasn’t long enough. While I tried not to stare at the woman, character names for her ran through my head: Paula? Nancy? Frances? 

I soon realized I’d have to open my door and half-step out to get my hand inside the drawer. I had one foot in and one foot out. Unfortunately the car was in drive, and the foot that was in was not on the brake.

I grabbed the receipt and hopped alongside my rolling car to the end of building. It came to a stop after it withdrew the bank’s downspout.

 All because of that woman’s hair.

Recently, I was developing a female character. It was important for this character to be recognized by her perfume, which meant researching fragrances. I tested a multitude of brands in department stores. All I came away with was a bunch of stinky samples and a whopping headache.

None of them were right for my character. I needed to simplify my method. I would sniff it out in a more natural habitat.

It worked. I was standing at the deli counter in Hannaford when I smelled the perfect scent: Clementine and cactus flower, bergamot, Hawaiian tuberose, spring honeysuckle, frangipani, musk, exotic woods, and nectarine. [Research, people research!]

I looked around and tried to figure out which woman owned it. The one in the Nike jogging suit? The lady with the kerchief and polyester pants? The one in the beige top and funky straw hat who looked a lot like Minnie Driver?

Minnie DriverI wove my cart in and around them, sniffing as subtly as I could, pretending to check out cheese. I quickly eliminated the kerchiefed woman, who smelled more like salami than the salami she was buying. I tucked her away for another day.

I tailed the other two women until I reached a fork between two aisles. It called for a quick decision. I chose the Minnie lookalike. I tried to get as near to her as I could without drawing attention to myself. I dropped a few items in my cart to throw her off. Each time I got close, I sniffed, surer than ever I was on the right scent.

Even when she skipped aisles and pushed her cart faster, I kept up. I had to have the name of that perfume!

At one point, she gave me a weird look. I wasn’t sure if I’d blown my cover or if she’d looked in my cart. I’d been in the store for forty-five minutes and all I had to show for it was a jar of Gerber strained peas, a box of matches, and a toilet plunger.

Before she called security, I gave up the hunt. I retraced my steps and found the makings for dinner. Rather despondent, I checked out.  All my research had been for nought.

Pushing my cart through the lot, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Loading groceries into the car parked right next to mine was my perfumed lady!

I sprinted toward her, then slowed to a stroll, blocking her only way of escape. I said, “Excuse me, you may have noticed me in the grocery store?”

“Ye-es.” She quickened her pace and scanned the area.

Before I could finish my explanation, she gave up the name of her perfume and took off faster than I could say Tommy Bahama.

Nice woman. Haven’t seen her since.

TB Perfume

 

Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:15 (MSG)

 


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But That’s Okay. We’re Boomers. We’ll Figure Something Out

Welcome My Guest Blogger Kathleen D. Bailey!

KBailey-2015 - Small

Kathleen is a freelance and staff writer with a lifetime devotion to the printed, and now the digital page. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s and 70s and a young mom in the 80s. Kathleen says, “It was a turbulent, colorful time to come of age. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and written about most of it. I share some of that on my website Kathleen D. Bailey, along with book reviews and snippets from my fiction writing. Join me in the wonderful world of words!”

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. ~ Pr 16:31 (NIV)

I’m so happy to be asked to blog with Clarice! I’ve enjoyed getting to know her this past year. We have a lot in common, from Catholic childhoods, don’t get me started, to home decorating, to, of course, writing.

I’ve been able to cheer her on in the process of getting Double Header between covers and on to bookstore shelves. But I was dismayed to learn recently that an editor rejected her first book, Party of One, because stories about older women don’t sell. I’m not blaming them, they don’t control the market, but sheesh. As an older woman, I didn’t like hearing that I’m not all that interesting.

But wait, it’s about to get worse.

Intrigued by the promos for TV Land’s new series Younger, I decided to give it a try. I lasted about 20 minutes. I’m from the three-dot school and I thought Fifty Shades of Grey was about hair coloring. I left these 20-somethings to their courting of Chlamydia and escaped. But like Lot’s wife I looked back, not at the sexual content but at the premise.

Younger tells the story of Liza, a suburban divorcee of 40 who can’t get a job in New York Publishing because of her age. This is the same New York Publishing (capital letters intentional) where Anne Hathaway has trouble being true to herself in The Devil Wears Prada, and the stakes are higher for Liza. She’s in pretty good shape for 40 and her best friend urges her to “pass” for 26, whereupon– bingo–she lands the job.

7--year-old Dame Helen Lydia Mirren in the movie RED.

70-year-old Dame Helen Mirren in the movie RED. “But that’s okay. We’ll figure something out. We’re Boomers.”

There is so much wrong here I don’t know where to begin and I guess I’ll start with the perception of 40 as “old.” Forty was supposed to be the new 30 and if it isn’t, what is 30 not the “new” of?

I’d love to have my 40-year-old body back. The mind, not so much. I’d like to have my 40-year-old memory and sharpness, but not the judgmental spirit and bad decisions. I wouldn’t want to give up what I’ve learned, sometimes through dark places, in order to be “young” again. But I don’t need to worry. According to the TV show, 40 isn’t young.

I cringed to see “Liza” adopting her co-workers’ slang and hanging out with them. I watched long enough to see her acquire a 26-year-old boyfriend. Whatever did they talk about? Oh, right, these people don’t talk.

What were the first 40 years of her life worth? Apparently not enough when placed against the grander scheme of New York Publishing.

It’s also significant to me that the producers didn’t go for a 50-or 60-something pretending to be 40 or 30. Was it simply too impossible to make a 50-or 60-year-old hot enough? Or was it too impossible to imagine them in New York Publishing? Or was it too impossible to imagine a REALLY OLD PERSON doing something that dumb?

This isn’t resume tweaking, people. It’s a denial of who “Liza” is, who she’s spent 40 years becoming. No job is worth that.

And it’s a denial of what older people, seniors, elders, whatever, have been working toward since the Boomers began to age. The right to age with dignity, to be respected for what we’ve done and who we are. To love and learn and take risks, to keep our minds and bodies as sharp as we can for the next adventure. To matter.

Except for Betty White, who’s not typical, we’re not going to see a lot of women on the small screen who look like us. And unless some people publish independently, we’re not going to read about them. Nobody’s going to validate us unless we do it ourselves. But that’s okay. We’re Boomers. We’ll figure something out.

And Clarice will get her book between covers somehow, some time.

Because our stories need to be told.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. ~ Isa 46:4 (NIV)

More About Kathleen:  This year, Kathleen semi-finaled in American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis, finaled in Lone Star, and won in her category in TARA. She’s an active member of Journey Church, teaching the children’s mission program and working in its homeless ministry. She also enjoys baking for college students, service people, and community events. She and her husband David live in Derry, NH. Find Kathleen on Facebook and LinkedIn. [She does kind of a lot for an “old” Baby Boomer, don’t you think? – CJ]

image001Readers (and Publishers?): Please check out these novels which feature older protagonists.

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