Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guest Blog with Becky Melby

by Becky Melby

Cathy and I approached the last books in our Minnesota and Illinois series with a hint of trepidation. With Stillwater Promise, we wondered if we’d be able to bring enough “spark” to a story about two married people whose differences had kept them separated for two years. We both dug deep, looking at times of conflict and reconciliation in our own marriages for inspiration, and one of the critical elements we agreed on was the power of laughter. Many things caused Sara and James to split, but one thing they reflect on is that at some point they’d stopped having fun together. In the scene that begins to bridge the chasm between them, Sara and James are painting a wall and reminiscing about old times. When James teases Sara about her pregnant craving for red licorice and comments on how cute she was with a red tongue, we see the cooled embers of romance rekindling.

Pure Serendipity gave us another needless concern. How do you make a romance between two people in their sixties come alive? The answer: lots of laughs. I was just starting to write the scene pictured on the cover, where Burt and Ruby go ice skating in Millennium Park in Chicago, when I got a call from my daughter-in-law Kristen, telling me she’d just found an adult-sized chicken suit at Goodwill. Muse bumps skittered down my arms! A chicken suit? I know exactly where that’s going to fit into my story! You’ll have to read the book to find out how, but that fluffy yellow thing became a focal point for many fun scenarios throughout the book.

Writing about a couple who aren’t all that far ahead of us in age turned out to be freeing rather than frightening. Burt and Ruby are long past the silliness of youth. They’re not into playing games or saying one thing when they mean another. Having both lost spouses, they well know how short this life is, and they are determined to enjoy what’s left of it. For once, we didn’t need to spend a lot of time with our main characters doing the approach/avoidance dance. They knew they liked each other from day one. But their daughters have other ideas! It was so much fun to create scenes where Burt and Ruby face their opposition with faith and humor as their weapons.

Both of these books have challenged me to live life to the fullest and not take for granted a single day I’m gifted with my husband. After thirty-eight years of marriage, we still make fun times together a priority. We just got back from a motorcycle weekend in Door County, Wisconsin, the setting for a Barbour novella collection in which I have a story called Christmas Crazy. (Okay, I admit, I worked this in as a shameless plug, but I think I did it rather smoothly, don’t you? Please visit the characters of A Door County Christmas at http://doorcountychristmas.blogspot.com/) In spite of cold and rain, Bill and I and two good friends had a blast soaking up the beauty, shopping, playing Scrabble, and eating our weight in chocolate. In real life, as in fiction, I hope to always keep the fun alive!

(The top picture is the Cloud Gate Sculpture in Chicago. The middle picuture is Galena Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor and the bottom picture is Becky and Bill)

Have you ever visited Chicago? Would you share what you did or a favorite memory?


  1. My first and only visit to Chicago was a little over a decade ago. The Romance Writer's of America conference was being held there, and I was a brand new writer. My first novella had come out about nine months before with Tyndale House. There were a handful of us in town who were writing for them, and they treated us like royalty. Limos, dinner while touring the Lake, a visit to the publishing house. But for this star struck newbie, riding in a limo with Francine Rivers was the highpoint.
    So for me, Chicago is a special City filled with fond memories. A place dear to my heart where dreams really do come true!

  2. I live two hours south of Chicago, so I have been there numerous times. I love shopping on Michigan Avenue at Christmas time and going to the old Marshall Fields (now Macy's) on State Street to see the window displays. Navy Pier is beautiful, but I don't recommend going when its cold! The Museums are phenomenal, as is the aquarium, and getting to see a real Broadway show so close to home was super exciting (I saw "Wicked"). I don't get up there very often, but I do think it is a lovely place to visit.

  3. I love the city of Chicago. I'm even a lifelong Cubs fan. :)

    Next week we'll be in Chicago, visiting the Field Museum and the Chicago Historical Society Museum...and anywhere else we can squeeze in before we have to come back home. :)

  4. I wish I lived close. You girls are lucky. :-)