Stepping on the Banana Peel, Part 2

I want readers to know that each week, I go through all the comments that are posted to my blog on both Facebook and on the website. I’m interested in knowing what’s going on with my audience. Have I touched them? Am I writing things that engage their interest?

Last week people were discussing my using the blog to provide background on the writing process. That’s a question that’s often asked at book signings. “What’s your writing process?” As you may have noticed, that isn’t something that lends itself to easy answers. However, for speaking engagements, I keep a couple of pat ones at the ready. Pat Answer #1: I write murder mysteries, so I start with somebody dead and spend the rest of the book trying to figure out who did it and how come. Part Answer #2: I met outlining in Mrs. Watkins’s sixth grade geography class. I hated it then, and nothing that has happened to me in the intervening decades has changed my mind about that, so I start at the beginning and write to the end.

My previous blog was all about hitting the banana peel. That’s the part of the book where, as either reader or writer, once you hit it, you’re not going to stop until you get to the end. Stepping on a banana peel is a good analogy for that, and so is going off a ski jump. From that moment on, there’s only one way to go: DOWN!

When I first started writing and publishing, my kids were still in elementary school. Before taking up writing, I had worked in insurance sales. There were generally two major sales campaigns each year—spring and fall. At the end of each campaign, there would be a celebratory banquet of some kind.

Just like the word-count, score-keeping strategy, I decided to carry that end-of-campaign banquet tradition with me into my new career.

I was a single mom. There wasn’t a lot of money floating around, so we didn’t eat out often, and when we did, it was a big deal. So when I finished writing a manuscript, the kids and I would go out to dinner to celebrate. It was enough of an occasion that the kids started asking me if I was getting close to the end of the book, and I would give them the banana peel answer. “I’m not on the banana peel yet,” or, “I’m on the banana peel.” Eventually their question morphed into: “Are you on the banana peel yet?”

Years passed. As a senior at Newport High School, my daughter came home one day and reported that there had been a huge food fight in the cafeteria. “Mom,” she said, “someone stepped on a banana peel, and down they went. Now I finally know what you mean.”

Which causes me to think about the mysterious things my parents, especially my mother, used to say. If we asked where babies were before they were born, we were told, “They were in China with Chuck.” And then there was something about “Pete Pearson’s eyebrows.” I never knew who Chuck was, and I don’t remember Pete or his eyebrows, either. The problem is, with Evie gone now, I never will.

But I’ve done all of my readers a real favor. You know about the banana peel now, and so does my daughter.

29 thoughts on “Stepping on the Banana Peel, Part 2

  1. I love all your posts whether about family, friends, or the writing process. And I sure do know what you mean about sayings from other generations that have fallen out of use. All of my grandparents were from the generation that experienced the Great Depression as were my husband’s parents. They had some good ones!

  2. I haven’t watched cartoons for many years but I remember seeing the banana peel fall a lot in the “olden”times. Sometimes I You Tube videos for Lucille Ball, Red Skelton, Carol Burnett and the other shows with clean and funny humor about life. Sometimes you just need a hearty laugh to improve your mood!

  3. Love the “in China with Chuck” answer. Love hearing your life experiences, especially your childhood stories. Love your books. Keep on keeping on.

  4. So now all us readers have to find Chuck and and Pete Pearson’s eyebrows! Guess I have to start researching! Have a great day! And thanks for the new blog every week…I look forward to it!

  5. And now we are all going to wonder “Who is Chuck?” And if you ever have a character in one of your books with this name, we’ll wonder if it’s the same Chuck who took care of all those babies before they were born.

  6. I heard this saying growing up, (and now live by it) “If I marry again, he’ll have to be rich and have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.”

  7. Just a wild guess, but if it was coming from your Mom’s generation, when many husbands and boyfriends were fighting WWII, my guess would be their way of saying that they were waiting for daddy to come home and make it happen!

  8. I just love picking up my phone and looking through my messages with my morning cup of coffee and seeing your blog there! Today was quite an enjoyable read and made me think back to similar exchanges and little milestones with my own kids. Thank you! I’m also pulling out your books a few at a time and sharing them with a friend, a new J.A. Jance fan. She had asked me for a recommendation for a new mystery author, ran out and grabbed one if your Ali Reynolds books and was, of course, hooked! While she is not following my admonition to start at the beginning and work her way through for a better appreciation of character development and storyline continuum , she is eagerly finishing one and diving into the next. Knew she would!

  9. Just got my paper back copy of the A List. I have all of your books, with the exception of the poetry. I just have never been able to get into that. Getting one of your new books is both pain and pleasure. Pain, because I know I won’t want to put it down until I finish it and then I have that long wait to get another dose of you. Pleasure because reading one of your books is like sitting down with my mom, or my best friend to just chat and be at peace. I have read all of mine at least three times, and I share them with my sister in law who has also read them three times at least. Keep those fingers busy lady and keep making us all happy as you get on that banana peel.

    • I bought the book “after the fire.”. The edition I bought was published in 2013 and it contains background stories for each poem. This book gave me hope as I was struggling. It reminded me that life challenges us but we emerge stronger. You would have a better understanding of the amazing woman who writes the books we enjoy if you read the book. I keep my copy on my desk. I just thought you would like to know that the book is much more than just poetry.

      • I agree, Rosemary. “After the Fire” is much more than a book of poetry. It tells how and why it was written. I read it when it first came out in 2013 and again recently when my former husband died. It has helped me deal with feelings I didn’t know I still had. I’m so glad we have it to share.

  10. I’ve found that these phrases came from something else. So this one I researched. According to an engineering dictionary, “a chuck is a device for holding an object firmly in place”. Well I guess you could say that about being pregnant. As for the China reference, no idea.

    Love that you share your family’s bits and pieces with us.

  11. I love reading the background of some of these expressions.
    I also look forward to Friday mornings and reading this interesting blog.
    “After the Fire” is one of my most treasured books. It has helped me in different ways at different points in my life. Thanks again to Judy for sharing her pain and struggles with all of us. In my opinion, she has ‘true grit.’

  12. Your Sins of the Father book is on hold at the library for me! I’m so excited! I picked up one of your books in paperback years ago at a used bookstore, and have since read everything you’ve written more than once. I can’t decide whether Joanna Brady or J.P. Beaumont is my favorite series, but the Ali books run a close second. I also enjoy your blog. I’m in awe of authors who are able to create stories. Such imagination! Thank you for hours of enjoyment.

  13. I loved reading about your writing process. There is so much more to it than just sitting down and writing than most of us even imagine. But one of the things I have always wondered is when you start a series such as the Joanna books do you already have in mind where she’s going? Such as with Joanna, her first husband being killed, then Joanna running for sheriff and eventually meeting Butch and starting a family with him. Or does it just come to you? No matter how you get your inspiration it always works. And we thank you for it.

  14. Love seeing new books coming from you and the blog. I’ve been fighting the flu since the first of Jan. and I just now am getting a handle on it. My kidneys failed in 2007 and I went on dialysis for 5 years before I got my “new” kidney. It is starting to wear out and the anti-rejection drugs kill any antibiotics I have in my system. Average “life” of a transplanted cadivar kidney like I got is 8 years. I am coming up to that time line soon. I hope your husband has a handle on his kidney disease; my kidney failure came with no warning and they were gone before I or the doctor knew I had bad kidneys. Dialysis is a challenge and transplant is also so keep what you have working as long as possible! Love your books; they take me to another place .

  15. I hated outlining when I first encountered it in 6th grade and over the decades, that hasn’t changed. I usually start a book with someone dead or dying, and spend the rest of the book trying to figure out who did it and how come. So, no, I had no idea Joanna was going to run for sheriff until it happened. I found out at the same point in the book where readers found out.

  16. What a fun way to look at the writing process! And when I was a young and unpublished writer (which I would be for a lonnnng time), I lived alone and made little money. But if I finished a story that I really enjoyed and/or had high hopes for, I would treat myself to dinner out to celebrate. It didn’t have to be fancy. Just going out was a big deal. Funny how I think of that as one of the happiest times of my life. You don’t have to have a lot, just enjoy what you do have. I bet your kids have fond memories of that time as well.

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