Are You Emotionally Mature? Here’s How to Get There

“This was where the moment of maturity occurred: the place where they passed across an emotional frontier, the line that separates insecure ambition from likely success.” Making Haste From Babylon by Nick Bunker

As a writer of sagas about flawed people seeking redemption (usually from mistakes made in youth), the idea of emotional maturity has me pondering about emotional frontiers and how characters in books and those people in our real lives react to frontiers.

Some characters blanch as the emotional terrain before them comes into view. They hide along the edges of feeling, stranded in terror. They rationalize, keep secrets or drink self-pity by the pint. If only, if only . . . they seem to say.

Others plunge forward, stumbling, anxious, unthinkingly. A pride drives them. Criticism and praise prod them too quickly one way or the other. They curse the gods and run rough-shod over lessons unlearned in their futile efforts to satiate their immature ambitions.

Pruning lesser branches of the emotional tree produces stronger, mature specimens, but one must find a way to enter the frontier and not be chopped down by it. The frontier is where interesting characters live. Each character matures or dies. Even those who avoid the frontier one day are dismayed to discover the frontier has arrived at their doorstep.

Safe lives bring their own terrors and not of one’s choosing.

I decided to look at a few of my own characters to see where they stand:

JOHN WELDON hides his addiction.

THANKFUL CRENSHAW searches for the meaning of her own beauty in the arms of immature men.

BUCK CRENSHAW demands the world love him for his accomplishments because his mother does not.

Here are the marks of maturity according to Psychology Today:

A mature person is able to keep long-term commitments.

A mature person is unshaken by flattery or criticism.

A mature person possesses a spirit of humility.

A mature person’s decisions are based on character not feelings.

A mature person expresses gratitude consistently.

A mature person knows how to prioritize others before themselves.

A mature person seeks wisdom before acting.

After doing a quick inventory of myself, I have some work to do, but thank God for immature characters. We’d have no one to read or write about without them.




Readers and writers, do you have a favorite immature character?

How about an emotionally mature one?

Are you emotionally mature?

How did you get there?

***Painting by Anders Zorn


How to Have Sex to Make Better Children

“Sorry to say, but it’s mostly her gene pool,” the pediatrician said, as she glanced over the information about our foster kid. “No amount of ADHD medication is going to make her a rocket scientist.”

Theories abound about the essential things one must do to produce productive children. One theory that’s probably true is having parents who don’t tie you to a chair before going out for the night, but in the case of our foster kid even that behavior is hereditary.

Victorians loved the ideas of science and progress. They were so darn optimistic about the future and mankind’s place in that future. There were the doubters and the haters, but many people bought into utopian notions even if they didn’t up and join a communistic free-love society like my hapless Buck Crenshaw does in THE DEW THAT GOES EARLY AWAY. I give Buck a pass because he only goes to please a gorgeous girl (and gets himself in a heap of trouble).

I suppose most Victorians had sex that we’d consider pretty normal. Some had affairs and others–a small minority–practiced continence.

In his book The Science of a New Life, John Cowan (a 19th century “scientist”) urged sex to be saved for bi-yearly sex marathons:

“The core of Cowan’s program was his ‘law of continence,’ which, with certain variations, was echoed by many reformers: ‘The noble army of the continent of mankind’ is made up of those who don’t drink, smoke, wear corsets, dress ostentatiously, overeat, or live sedentary lives. They practice ‘voluntary and entire abstinence except when used for procreation,’ and they do not misuse the marriage bed for ‘the perverted amativeness’ of physical pleasure or sexual relief. Since Amativeness, the phrenological organ of the sex drive, is located at the rear of the lower skull along with other animal faculties, it may become an organ of animal lust.  But coitus that occurs when Amativeness has been subordinated to Spirituality, the organ of reverence located at the top of the head, permits the highest sexual magnetic impulses to be telegraphed from the brain of the parents to the brain of their child. The ‘law of continence’ mandates one heroic procreative session every two years during a sunny August or September morn, so that the child may be born in springtime. Following a four-week period in which the prospective parents, in a spiritual mood, have been focusing their will powers on those qualities with which they want to endow their child, their copulation generates and electrical transference of these very qualities to the child.” Excerpted from Pseudo-science & Society in 19th century America, edited by Arthur Wrobel

We smile a little at this but I wonder if a little more reverence, a little more thought taken for the future of offspring wouldn’t be a good thing.



Holiday Gratitude:Friends

forget4Thanks to all the kind and supportive bloggers and readers of my novels for making this a wonderful year!

002My cover designer SAMANTHA HENNESSY created these adorable seed packets in honor of our next cover collaboration on the continuing BUCK CRENSHAW SERIES of novels. Aren’t they sweet? We have some great ideas for the cover of the book, but this was just for fun. The packets are filled with lovely Forget Me Not seeds. Sprinkle a few in your garden and have blooms for years!

Leave a comment for your chance to win a pretty packet! I’ll pick a few people from a hat!

Seeds need a hidden time  in winter. We need germination time and stillness, too. I’ll be taking the holidays off to read books (and blogs I’ve neglected), be with friends and family and do a bit of much needed germinating.

Love and friendship to you all!




Where the Cadets Go for Kissing

Kissing in the woods . . .
Kissing in the woods . . .

Once a military trail, now a lovers’ lane, Flirtation Walk or Flirtie Walk was opened to West Point Military Academy Cadets and their guests in the 1840’s as one of the few places they could flirt and kiss in private. Part of the path is smooth sailing on firm ground, but there’s bumpy parts, too–perfect for falling into your guy’s arms.

In my upcoming novel, Buck Crenshaw’s romantic dreams are thwarted on one balmy evening along Flirtation Walk as the military band practices in the open air. We all know Rose Turner’s no good for Buck, but he doesn’t. A much better girl waits right under his nose, but you know young cadets. They’re silly.

Do people sneak off into the woods to make out anymore? In our town we had  “The Pond” and “The Woods.”  Is everyone afraid of ticks? Where did you go for secret romance?

Many a heart went pitter-patter under the arches of glorious trees . . .
Many a heart went pitter-patter under the arches of glorious trees . . .

Think while listening to Dick Powell sing about Flirtation Walk.

Finding Your Fictional Characters in the Real World

Smile for the camera, Buck.
Smile for the camera, Buck.

Here’s my muse Buck Crenshaw minus his evil twin Fred. Not sure why his overbearing mother allowed a photo of Buck on his own. It would have been better for everyone if she had separated the twins more often. Together they tortured chickens, shook down weaker school mates for cash and taught William Weldon how to spell every word wrong for the town spelling bee.

Yes, Buck’s no angel. Note the sneer on his well-fed and handsome young face. He’s worse than his brother for being a follower of badness instead of being the leader, but can you blame him? His father is distant and his mother neglects him–allowing him to wander into the ocean as soon as he can toddle towards the waves. Fred takes guardianship of his twin with a mix of superiority and resentment in return for his brother’s willing accompaniment in all schemes and mischief.

I already knew what Buck would look like as a young adult, but I found this gem recently. How is it that the universe delivers the photographs of my fictional characters whenever I need them? God works in weird ways indeed–even out of the back of someone’s pick-up truck at a rummage sale.

When People Get Nice On You

I was just popping in for a few minutes at the library when one of my new favorite librarians hailed me over to see what she’d found at a garage sale?!

Cover ideas for book five bursting forth as we speak!
Cover ideas for book five bursting forth as we speak!

I come from a long line of people who want to trust others, but just don’t. It’s an affliction we wear with humor and secrecy. I’m not a rock or an island. I’m a small time farmer/writer so I don’t get out much, but when I do I’m always surprised at how well I’m treated, especially at the Saratoga Library.

When on an ordinary day you suddenly have all of your questions answered about a little piece of the world you’re creating for your characters handed to you in a single brilliant bit of happenstance you have to wonder about the hidden workings of the universe (or as we old-fashioned Christians might say–God). I believe God hands out talents, but that’s for another day.

This librarian stacked five crumbling out-of-print books on my table before remembering that she’d purchased this hotel booklet. Buck Crenshaw has an eventful stay there in the summer of 1889. I’d been gathering bits and pieces but what great delight I felt when the librarian who hardly knows me said I could borrow from her personal collection this perfect book! (she also gave me the email for the contact person holding a rare house tour at Yaddo  who is looking for volunteers–who will get in for free–and the email for a lady who volunteers her time doing FREE proofreading for local authors!). What a day!


I think God may be telling me to act nicer to others . . .

A Writer’s Play Things

Girl on left has secret army boyfriend.
Girl on left has secret army boyfriend.

It’s not a secret that I like military men. I made a mistake the first time around, but I hit the jackpot in my second marriage to a Navy man. Since two of his nephews just recently graduated Annapolis and since it’s my not so secret dream that my daughter will one day marry one of them, I have to go with the Navy in football. But West Point and the army are where it’s at in my writing. My father served in the army and West Point is where Buck Crenshaw first really developed as a character for my novels. How could it be helped? It’s a scenic and historic gem and it became obvious pretty early in Buck’s development that he was going to love the discipline and was going to get into trouble.

Buck's playground.
Buck’s playground.

The play things are a schedule and a print (I think I’ll have to buy it). Just enough information to get me happy.

Who doesn't like a well planned out day?
Who doesn’t like a well planned out day?

And just as an aside, is anyone else morally repulsed when presidents in their State of the Union speeches always bring out the disabled soldiers to prove they care about them?

Occupy Wall Street 1886

Today I’m a bit stuck–well, not really–I could write for days about the Crenshaw women undermining Buck’s future wife, but it feels too like dessert before dinner and I’m a traditionalist. Hanging over me like the Sunday after a good vacation is MERCHANT BANKING. I’m being dramatic here. It’s actually exciting to peruse titles of scholarly articles like “Good Intentions and Unintended Evil: The Case Against Selective Credit Allocation” and have no idea what the author is saying. It means I’m on to something juicy. By chance Englewood, New Jersey (where all of my books take place) happens to also be the home of many prominent bankers of the late 19th century. Isn’t that a happy coincidence? I even used some of their names (found on headstones at Brookside Cemetery) before I knew who they were. But I’m off topic. Buck is suddenly successful at a prestigious banking house and I must find out every last thing about it. Of course they smoke and have amazing desks, but I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than that. Life really is great, don’t you think? Five years ago I read The House of Morgan by Ron Chernow. It came everywhere with me and even got chewed up by goats and drenched in the rain. I just liked the cover when I bought it. Today I’ll sift through the bibliography and furiously underline leads. I’m also re-reading The Screwtape Letters for fun–and furiously underlining good evil stuff. I hope Buck really enjoys his honeymoon because life is about to get bumpy–yet again.