What’s Next for a Juicy Tomato?

Susan SwartzWhen I say “Juicy Tomatoes” I’m talking about women who enjoy their lushness and squeezing the most out of life, the kind of women who I started writing about years ago, women in their 50s and 60s and beyond. It’s been a while since I wrote those books,  and as my friend, Laura, points out, we juicy ones eventually do become a little sun-dried. But with a little oil and freshening up we’re still delicious.

With that in mind, I’ve created this website to talk about a book I’ve written since my Juicy Tomatoes books.

Unlike the women in Tomatoes, the women in this book are fictional. It’s a novel that I call Laughing in the Dark. My characters, decidedly juicy, are three Northern Californian long-time friends who every summer go camping to drink and eat to excess, skinny dip and laugh long into the night. But now there’s a new darkness, the kind that creeps in when you start to worry about dying and getting sick and losing people and what happens if your brain turns to oatmeal.

When people ask what the book’s about I say: dying, old friends, fear of dementia, cancer, love, infidelity… and, oh yes, it can be funny. Because you don’t get to this point in life without laughing…and crying…over some of life’s absurdities with your best friends. Like, asking who will do your makeup when you die.

About the book: It’s a novel-in-waiting. That is, it is not yet published. It will be, one way or another. But I decided to launch parts of it here first. So, you are my first readers.

Three Women and a Jester

This is a painting called Bloom, by artist Marylu Downing studioml.com.

This is NOT the cover of the book but it could be. The three women look to be in a contemplative mood, perhaps considering what comes next, like my women. I imagine them being old friends who fiercely defend and love each other and would spend the rest of their lives together if they could. They likely get a little rowdy, too.

Now, meet my characters.

Jude is a retired counselor, a fan of the SF Giants and Sauvignon Blanc, married to a good guy and consumed by fears of the disease that stole her mother.

  • This is what haunts Jude:
    “Could she have her mother’s throaty laugh and not have her disease? Could she look like her, fear cats like her, prefer her eggs scrambled with hot peppers just like Ruthie but not end up alone in a room where the TV never shuts off?”

Franny is looking for romance, at least some good sex, and a plot for a best seller so she can quit her job as a burned-out college teacher. She’s becoming intrigued by the California style of dying.

  • “A woman at school has her very own casket sitting in her living room. She uses it as a storage chest and coffee table. It has extra blankets and pillows inside and on the top, a pile of magazines and candlesticks. But one day she’ll be inside.”

Anna sells overpriced houses in Wine Country, had breast cancer, is in an up-and-down marriage and her mother-in-law just moved in.

  • About friendship, Anna agrees, “It’s the women in your life who hold you up. It’s so much easier to handle getting older when your friends are going through the same damn things.”

Want more? Contact Susan.