This world is full of talented, fascinating people. People who can take their abilities and their experience and make something of it that gives joy and value to others. Some of them write, reaching back and touching their own experiences and bringing to the stories their own wisdom and interpretation. Today I am featuring Beth Carpenter and two books in her Choices series, Recalculating Route and Detour on Route 66, a short story that serves as a sort of ‘prequel’ to the stories of the two main characters.
The covers are crisp, evocative of the golden age of travel. Mountains, distant rolling hills, the sort of vibrant blue skies we remember from our childhood, and an association that, for me, at least, has a touch of magic: Route 66. They follow the stories of Marsha and Ben, who…
But let me post the Publisher’s Weekly review, which gives a wonderful summation that I can’t hope to match:
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Widow and former home economics teacher Marsha Davison is still trying to recover from the death of her husband, Eric, 19 months earlier when she meets Ben Mayfield, a wealthy retired geologist who invites her on a road trip along old Route 66. The ex-husband of a dear friend, Ben’s courtly manner and sense of adventure intrigue Marsha. Although initially she declines, Marsha decides to throw caution to the wind and she and her dog, Lindy, go along for the ride. After a nearly three-month jaunt on the road, Marsha returns to her home in Sedona, Arizona, and Ben to his in Texas, planning another roadtrip — an East Coast one this time — for the fall. But soon after returning to their respective homes, Marsha and Ben soon realize that their relationship is far from being a simple friendship, it’s turned to love, and then quickly they decided to marry. It isn’t all smooth sailing because both have grown children who object to the relationship for various reasons, and they live hundreds of miles away from each other. But can these obstacles stand in the way of true love? The author writes movingly of the mixed emotions that come after mourning a beloved spouse and then dating again in this sweet romance that targets a less-than common demographic: those in the later stages of life, who refuse to give up on love. A sweet treat.
Publisher’s Weekly is an independent organization. Review was based on manuscript version, which combines Detour on Route 66 and Recalculating Route.
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Beth Carpenter was kind enough to share an excerpt:
This scene takes place on the second anniversary of Eric’s death. Earlier, Marsha’s son sent flowers and she thought of how many yellow flowers Eric had given her over the years.
Marsha leaned forward to pick up the silver frame holding their wedding photo. Eric managed to look outrageously handsome even in the silly white rented tuxedo she had chosen. What was she thinking? She smiled broadly in the picture, her poufy veil framing her hair, arranged in shiny wings on either side of her forehead. They looked much too young to be making solemn promises. They had kept their vows, though, their devotion growing throughout their marriage. Good times and bad, they had stayed together and loved one another.
“Hello, my love.” She reached to touch his face in the picture. “We had a good time, didn’t we? We promised ourselves to one another until death do us part.” She sighed. “And even then, I didn’t want to let go. But Eric, I think it’s time.”
She reached for a tissue from the coffee table and dabbed her eyes. “I love him, Eric. Not the same as I love you, but a different love, just as special. I wish you could meet him. You’d like each other. I can picture the two of you, sitting under the trees in the back yard with a beer in your hand, swapping stories.”
She laughed. “Ben would love your story about Nicky Flynn, trying to get out of a spelling test by putting an Alka Selzer in his mouth to convince the teacher he was having a seizure. I remember you had to send him out of your office to wait because you could hardly keep from laughing out loud when you tried to discipline him. I’ll try to tell Ben that story, but you tell it better.”
She traced the curving lines in the picture frame. “I’ll always love you, Eric.”
Her face began to grow hot. She sighed, set down the picture, and walked out on the back porch to let the breeze soothe the heat from her skin as the hot flash continued. Lindy followed her out. The climbing rose Eric had planted grew lushly over the trellis at the western edge of the porch, blocking the sun while letting the breeze through, making the porch a shady oasis. Every year, just before Mother’s Day, it covered itself with clusters of apricot buds that opened into extravagant sprays of pale golden roses.
She noticed something yellow on the trellis, and frowned. Once, spider mites had almost decimated the rose, leaving the leaves pale and spotted, but Eric had managed to save it. She went closer to examine the problem.
A single yellow rose blossomed bravely. It shouldn’t have been there, not in September. This rose always bloomed in May, and only in May. Yet there it was: a yellow flower. Each tissue-thin petal was a work of art, deep yellow at the base, shading to a paler tint and almost white along the curving tip, the innermost petals hugging the shaggy stamens at the center of the blossom.
She bent to inhale the lemony-sweet fragrance of this miracle, her hot flash forgotten. A single tear fell onto the leaves of the rose, but this time it was a tear of gratitude, that she should experience so much love in a lifetime.
What started you writing?
I grew up on a farm with no nearby playmates, so I’ve been an avid reader since before I can remember. I’ve enjoyed thousands of books in my lifetime. About ten years ago, I decided to give the supply side of books a try.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I like getting to know the characters, to get involved in their lives.
Would you like to share some things you do that get you going, (note: I mean tips, tricks, ways you might get in the mood, things you like to do – I read of one fellow who danced madly around his apartment when he was at a loss for a word.)
I find that a bath or shower seems to let my brain float so it’s open to new scenes and dialogue. Maybe it’s because the tub one of the last places I can be alone with no outside conversation or stimulation.
What are your books about? You can give a synopsis if you really want, or you can tell what it is inside you that is finding expression through the book(s).
Detour on Route 66 and Recalculating Route are about Marsha, a widow, and Ben, a wealthy retired geologist with a poor matrimonial track record. He invites her along on a road trip strictly for companionship, but it grows into love. Then they have to convince themselves and their grown children that, in spite of their differences, they belong together. All the books in the series feature older than typical protagonists. There’s no upper age limit on romance.
Do you ever dream about your characters?
The very first short story in the series, At The Turning Point, started that way. I woke up from a dream that was so vivid I couldn’t understand why the window was in the wrong place. It started me thinking about the classic Vegas comedy of waking up in a stranger’s hotel room. I thought “What if a respectable middle-aged woman like me found herself in that position?”
Do you have a routine?
I try to grab pieces of writing time when I can get them. I need to establish a routine, but son, husband, and dog have this inexplicable desire to converse (or play fetch) with me, so when they’re occupied, I’ll run in and write.
If you could do anything you wanted to for a year, without having to worry about making a living, what would it be?
Read, write, and never worry about housework.
Quick: Chocolate or peanut butter?
Both. Reese’s peanut butter cups – yum. But dark chocolate if I have to choose.
What is behind your covers? (I like them!)
Thanks. The covers for Detour on Route 66 and Recalculating Route are from a stock image. I thought they felt like the area around Flagstaff on Route 66.
|Beth Carpenter, Author
(From Diana: What caught my eye is the way they reminded me of the old travel posters pre-WII. It helps that I used to live near the Rockies…)
What’s in the works for the future?
I just finished a romance/mystery called After the Fireweed that takes place in Alaska. I’m querying agents, but if that doesn’t yield results, I’ll self-publish and probably enter it into ABNA next year.
Finally, you have the microphone. What would you like to say?
Thank you. Thanks to you, Diana, for this interview and to all the readers out there who’ve spent their hard-earned money on my books. Whenever a reviewer says she enjoyed the story, I’m thrilled. Sharing my stories is what it’s all about.
Check these links (click the WORDS) for Beth Carpenter’s books and blog: