Monthly Archives: March 2015

I’m ready

I have been a stay-at-home mother most of my life. I started when I had my first child, and continue to this day, despite the fact that my youngest is twenty-three. Being a mother is the job one can never retire from, or quit. I’m here when they need to crow, or to cry, when they need help or advice, when they just need that one person who will love them no matter what. They are my first priority. Always have been. Always will be.

Three of my four kids have been out of the house for some time. My fourth is moving out this week. This one has needed a little more care and feeding than the others. For a while, I don’t think he believed he’d ever be all-around well enough to live on his own. I always knew he would be, even if a small piece of me held on to him staying. Now that he’s truly ready to step out into his own life, I’m truly happy. Happy that he is well. Happy that he can get the hell out of here. Happy that he is happy and healthy and thriving.

My kids are grown. My husband and I did an amazing job. We have raised five truly extraordinary people, nursed them through good times and bad, helped them become who they are, who they’ve always had the potential to be. I’m really proud of them. I’m proud of myself. And I’m ready.

I started this mom-gig at eighteen. I was the mother of two and a widow when I met my Frankie D. We started our life together with three kids–two of mine, one of his. Then we added two more. We’ve been married twenty-six years and have never been “just us.” It’s about time we got to see how that feels.

As a mother, I’ve never lamented time ticking by. I enjoyed every stage of my kids’ growing years and never wished for my babies back. I’m not going to lament this part of their growth either. Empty nest has no negative connotation for me. I love the adults they’ve become. I enjoy them completely. Should they ever need to come home again, they know the option is there. That makes me happy too, because it means they truly understand how unconditionally they are loved.

It occurred to me this morning that raising kids is, in many ways, like writing a book. The stories birthed in our minds grow on the pages. There are fun times and frustrating times, but in the end, we have a book that goes out into the world. We miss it. We miss the writing of it. Creating the characters. The places. But it’s a triumphant feeling, sending it confidently out into the world to see what will become of it.

At fifty-one, I’m not having any more kids. Grandkids, sure, but they’re not mine. I just get to play with them and buy them fun things like magic wands and pirate eye-patches. I can write more books, though, and that’s what I’m going to do right now.

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Marvelous Brains (sorry, not a zombie love story)

A friend and I were recently discussing the subconscious writer-brain; it knows things it doesn’t actually tell us about. These bits of knowing are always there, guiding us along a certain path, just waiting for the opportunity to reveal themselves in all their glory. Some people call this their muse. I’m a whimsical sort of person, but I don’t ascribe to the nebulous being hovering over my shoulder feeding me plot points and character development. I’m doing all the hard work. I’ll take the credit, thank you very much. I don’t believe this is an accidental occurrence, either.

imagesVVS0VDLAIf we were conscious of every plot point all the time, we’d overload. I can’t think of a more stressful thing to deal with. It would be like trying to remember every grammar rule and writing trend as we create that first draft. It’s why we writers need several passes at a manuscript to get it right once that first draft is done. One pass for plot and pacing, one for grammar, one (or more) for polish. Anyone who says otherwise is deluded.

So our subconscious holds on to things, gives them out bit by bit. Sometimes the genius-held-in-check strikes while we’re at the keyboard, like it did for my friend the other day. And sometimes it whams us when we’re least suspecting. For me, like for many, this happens most often in the shower. (There is some cool science behind this phenomenon, but that’s a blog post for another time.)

This morning, it wasn’t genius my subconscious hit me with, but a detail I messed up in the second book in my Bitterly Suite, Dreaming August. It’s a tiny detail, a throwaway detail, but an extremely wrong detail. My train of thought leading to it:

People in my family who say hello and goodbye, and people who don’t.

It’s very important to my daughter to always say good-bye.

Because her father died when she was almost three, and she didn’t say good-bye to him before he left the house that morning.

Benny, the heroine of Dreaming August, lost her husband to a motorcycle accident, like I did.

And that gave me the scene in which this tiny detail went wrong, because the accident happened six years prior to the opening of the story, while Benny was attending a friend’s baby shower. A friend who would not even meet her husband for another five years. D’oh.

I have been over this book, and over it. Poor Penny. I’ve sent her at least four “updated” versions of this manuscript, and it’s not even due in until sometime around September. Why did this detail hit me today? Train of thought? Sure. But, this detail I’ve been over so many times without catching only today, in a round about fashion, zaps me.

Does this ever happen to you? How does your genius find you?

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Filed under Writing is Life

The Art of Subtle Writing

I am the last person to spout about how texting and its shortcuts are ruining the written word. I love my emojis and emoticons. I use them regularly, but I have to admit, they’ve made me lose sight of something very important to me. Subtle writing.

In texts and on social media, these shortcuts are what they are, part of the fun. It never occured to me that it would spill over into my writing, and it was able to because I wasn’t paying attention. As I go through this final edit with the extraordinary Penny Barber, I am relearning lessons I learned long ago. Write invisibly. Trust your reader. Trust your words.

Before Penny, I’d have witten that like this:

As I go through this final edit with the extraordinary Penny Barber, I am relearning lessons I learned long ago–Write invisibly. Trust your reader. Trust your words.

Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, yeah, there is. The mdash and the italics say, “I’m here! Look! Me! The author!” They’re author intrustion of an insidious kind, because they’ve become easy signposts to spot, and that’s the point. We spot them. It’s not writing invisibly, it’ s not trusting my reader, or my words. You got it just fine the first time, right? Exactly.

Many years ago, the incomparable Teresa Nielsen Hayden  told me I write invisibly. It’s one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever recieved as a writer. Writing invisibly lets the story shine brighter. It allows the reader to not only see it clearly, but to put her own spin on things, to hear the characters in her own way, to give her own voice to the words she is reading. That is a beautiful thing, and it’s what makes a good story into something extraordinary.

Just this morning, I commented on a comment a friend made on Facebook. To this pic he wrote:

my futer home 2

Clinton Harris Pretty sure a witch lives there already. Like the kind that bakes children into large pies.
To which I replied:
Terri-Lynne DeFino I’ll have to ask for her recipe. Mine’s dated. (wink emoticon)
Not uncommon on FB to use the emoticons when you want to make sure the person recieving the message knows what you were going for. But did my friend really need that winky-face to know I was kidding? And how much funnier the subtle version is. Subtle writing, the lost art I am finding again.
I am the Sparklequeen. That’s where it all started. Anyone who knows me understands I think in exclamation points, I sparkle, I smile, I throw my hands in the air like a muppet and shout. Putting my personality on the page began with sparkletext on LiveJournal, and turned into the overuse of semicolons, mdashes, italics and all the other indicators that have become habit. When Penny started taking out my exclamation points and semicolons, my heart shriveled. I didn’t want to lose my voice. But what I have come to understand in the days of this edit is my voice is clearer without all those things. The beauty of my writing isn’t inserting myself in there, it’s taking me out.
This entire post would have once been rife with exclamation points and italic text. Now, not so much. And not only have I learned this lesson, but it has sparked another we should all, readers and writers alike, never forget. The learning process never ends. Ever.

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