Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Writing for Older Readers

I write senior sleuth novels because there’s a growing market for retirees who enjoy  reading about characters in their own age group. I was intrigued years ago by Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, who were wise and introspective, but never seemed to have any fun.

That’s not true of today’s seniors who are less inclined to retire to their rocking chairs than previous generations.

The late Pat Browning, who wrote Absinthe of Malice, said: “A St. Martin's editor gave me a piece of advice I have never forgotten: ‘Be careful not to turn your characters into cartoons.’ I try to picture older characters as they are--the same people they always were, only older. This is especially true when it comes to romance and sex. For all the jokes about senior sex, it's a very real part of senior life, and it's no joke to those lucky enough to have a romantic partner late in life.”

I agree. Not unlike Janet Evanovich’s character, Grandma Mazur, who is eccentric enough for a cartoon character, most seniors have the same interests they’ve always had, with the possible exception of roller blading and downhill skiing. On second thought, I once interviewed Buffalo Bill’s grandson Bill Cody, who learned to downhill ski at 65 to keep up with his much younger wife.

Mike Befeler writes what he calls “Geezer-lit.” His novels feature his octogenarian protagonist, “who is short on memory but has a sense of humor and love of life. He accepts his ‘geezerhood,’ solves a mystery and enjoys romance along the way.”

My second senior sleuth mystery, A Village Shattered, takes place in a California retirement village. The plot is generously sprinkled with humor but none of the seniors resemble cartoon characters, although a couple come close with a redneck Casanova and love starved widow. Diary of Murder followed and I portrayed the two 60-year-old protagonist widows as quite capable of traveling the country in their motorhome as well as chasing down killers who happened to be drug dealers. 

Another senior writer, Beth Solheim, spent years working in a nursing home and says she loves the elderly and their “humorous, quirky insight to life, love and longevity.”

Chester Campbell, an octogenarian, writes the Greg McKenzie Mysteries. He said, “My friends in this [age] bracket are out going places and doing things. Some, like me, continue to work at jobs they enjoy. I chose to use a senior couple in my books who are long married, get along fine, and do a competent job as private investigators. Greg, who narrates the books, is aware of his limitations from age and makes up for physical shortcomings by outsmarting his adversaries. My hope is to dispel some of the absurdity of the stereotypes about seniors that are all too familiar. Like the old song says, "Anything you can do I can do better."

Like so many other novelists, I write what I enjoy reading. My readers are mainly retirees and baby boomers who number over 78 million. Some 8,000 boomers are moving into the senior column every day, the fastest growing potential book buying market on record.

We’re experiencing the graying of America. What better subgenre to write about?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

January First has traditionally been a day of renewal and promises to oneself to do better in the coming year, so resolutions are made and usually kept for a few days to perhaps an entire month before we fall back into our old ways.

The top resolutions are usually the following: 

Weight loss: Losing weight comprises the most resolutions for Americans. Over a third of the population resolves to exercise more and stay healthy. A weight loss program is easy to start but if you don't find one you can live with, you'll fall off the wagon before the wheels gather dust. Nutritionists say to eat less and switch to healthier food such as the Mediterranean diet.  It's not easy to give up junk food, especially sugar laden sweets. But with determination and some basic tips you can slowly develop healthier eating habits. Learn to control emotional eating, be aware of reasons why diets fail, and research healthy recipes.

Improving  concentration and mental skills: There are plenty of supplements on the market that claim to make you smarter, but do they really work? Experts say that most improve memory although they don't actually raise your I.Q.  Some meditation techniques such as TM (Transcendental Meditation) are known to recharge one's batteries, and reading a good book instead of watching mind-numbing TV programs has been proven to help prevent frontal brain shrinkage and dementia. Cross word puzzles and other mind games are also good sources of improving concentration and mental skills.

Improving social skills:  When we stay at home and don't make the effort to meet people, we  miss out on opportunities to make new friends and enjoy life more. Networking can improve one's well-being and career, so we  need to overcome shyness, acquire knowledge as well met interesting people. 

Gaining confident and taking chances: If you're confident, others notice and are more likely to listen to what you have to say, so bone up on subjects that interest others, including current events. Make sure you're knowledgeable when you express your opinions. A good dose of self-confidence will help you lead a much happier life.

Earn more money: Even the wealthy search for ways to earn more money, and those of us climbing the financial ladder can always use an additional source of income to make life more enjoyable. Fortunately there are options available, such as a second job, taking employment courses, freelancing or using the Internet to your advantage.

Become more Tactful: Good manners have always been important although they don't seem to be practiced as much by the younger generations. Politeness makes it easier to connect with others, avoid offending people and ensures that others perceive you as a good and trustworthy person. So learn etiquette and deal with rude people the right way, as well as learning how to say no without offending.

Reducing stress: Stress kills and it can ruin relationships as well as your health. Stress may be an unavoidable side effect of modern life, but it can be effectively managed with the help of a good stress management course.

Happier with life: Even those who are in good physical shape, earn a decent living and have stress under control can be unhappy. Happiness requires time and patience to learn how to find joy in small things and prevent problems from getting you down. The right partner can also contribute to a happier life.

More sleep  It can be difficult to get sufficient sleep with a TV in the bedroom as well as computers, smart phones, tablets and gadgets with glowing lights and beeping alarms. We need 7-8 of sleep to function well enough to get through the day, and avoiding electronic devises in the bedroom is a good start. Avoiding sweets before bedtime is also a good practice.

Other traditional resolutions are to stop smoking, stop drinking or doing drugs, control one's temper, become more loving and kind to others, and stop beating yourself up over trivial matters. Whatever your resolutions happen to be, I wish you more self-discipline and self-control in the coming year as well as successes and happiness.
Happy New Year!!!