Monthly Archives: December 2015

Between one year and the next

The week after Christmas, before New Years Day, is typically a week of recovery and reflection. I have a lot to reflect upon this year. Stuff I don’t really want to reflect upon. I’m also battling a wee case of pneumonia (complete with ear infection–huzzah!) to make it really spectacular. I pushed myself through all the beautiful chaos in the house, the coughing, the exhaustion, the joy and the sorrow. I didn’t have much time to think. I suspect that was partially what my family had in mind all along. How I adore them.

Monday, I finally went to the doctor because I promised my kids I would. I knew I was fine, so much better, in fact. What a waste of time, right? Wrong, kind of. I had pneumonia, but it was clearing on its own. I also have the beginnings of an ear infection. The doctor said she wouldn’t force the issue of antibiotics, since my body was fighting it off on its own, but strongly urged me take them, as I’d been coughing for three weeks. Yeah, I know. No need to torture me with that.

I’m left feeling pretty exhausted, and a little foolish. Instead of pushing myself through the holiday, I could have actually enjoyed it without the constant haze of coughing and the headache all that hacking caused. Reflecting on it now, I  think maybe it wasn’t just me being stubborn. I think it might have been something along the lines of distraction.

And maybe a little punishment.

The distraction part is pretty obvious. The punishment part is only something that occurred to me after seeing the doctor. I’m not an idiot. I knew I had more than a cold. What a grand job I did of fooling myself otherwise, and why? Because who am I to enjoy the holiday, this year of all years? My throat closes up writing this. I’m fighting back the tears. How does an otherwise intelligent, introspective, intuitive woman do this to herself? Here I learn another lesson–the mind is far more tricksy and powerful than anyone suspects. It’s like there are a whole lot of “others” in there, with their own agendas, playing their parts independent of the rest. Sometimes, it takes a while to get into a collective mindset, to see the big picture, and the harm being caused by a part not cooperating with the others. And here I learn, too, how incomprehensible my son’s mental pain truly was. How at odds he was with himself. I understand how an intelligent, introspective, intuitive person can make the wrong choice, knowing it’s the wrong choice, and not truly considering the consequences that independently-acting player doesn’t want to know about.

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Broken Shells

I collect sand and seashells. My office/loft holds shelves and shelves of treasures from the sea. I’ll admit to being somewhat of a snob about it. I don’t like broken seashells, chipped ones. I’ll rarely bring home anything less than whole.

Last June, Frank and I took Jamie, Josh, the kids and Chris down the shore (Brigantine Beach.) I found myself drawn to broken shells, the pretty bits of pink and tan and white. I came home with a jar full of broken pieces, and put them on my shelf.

photo

 

Chris was broken when we went down the shore, and yet I didn’t make any connection between that and the shells I was collecting. Before the month was out, he was gone. All this time later, spotting that jar on the shelf, it hit me. Egads. Had I written it into a novel, it would’ve been maudlin, too obvious a metaphor. And yet…

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Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

     I just finished the first book in a spin-off series to my Bitterly Suite. Cape Maybe Book 1 of Bitterly’s Bachelors. I will freely admit, it wasn’t what I wanted to write when I got to the end of Waking Savannah, but I do love the story–all three I have planned–I was fully immersed in the characters, in the world. But there’s this other story…
     Traegar’s Lunatics has been the novel in my heart of hearts since before finishing Waking Savannah. I wrote Cape Maybe not because I really wanted to write it, but because I thought it was wiser to ride the wave, both creatively and professionally. There was something not quite right about it. I sent it off to Penny the Great, and she gave me some feedback that made it better. Much better. I wrote up my proposal for it, as well as the rest of the series. Long story short, Seeking Carolina only just released less than two months ago. I got a “let’s wait and see what the first series does first.” Fair enough. I was a little bummed. Surprisingly, I was also excited.
     Of the six published books I’ve written, only two have been so without a home ready and waiting. Finder, and Seeking Carolina. It’s a good feeling. A really good feeling. I work hard, but I know I’m lucky. There are a lot of hard-working writers who don’t get that privilege. But there was a reason Cape Maybe didn’t sit right in my mind. I didn’t realize it until just this week, but now I know–I wrote it for the wrong reason. It should have been the story in my heart, not the wise choice.
     Traegar’s Lunatics isn’t fantasy, and it’s not romance, even if there are fantastic elements as well as romantic ones. It’s the story of an old man and a young woman, one dying and one damaged. Within a collective story written by all the beloved lunatics in The Pen–a home for elderly writers–they both find what eluded them through their lives. The edges between story and reality blur, creating a world within a world where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole and anything is possible.
     This is not a book I can write in four months. More like a year. Creativity unbound of parameters and deadlines. This excites me in ways I can’t explain.
     I published three fantasy novels with Hadley Rille Books. I will have published three romance novels with Kensington/Lyrical Shine by the end of next October. Whether I publish with the same press, a different one, or do it myself, I’ll write my Bachelor books. When they’re the stories in my heart and not the wise choice.
Writing to contract is very comforting, rewarding, secure, validating.  Writing without that safety net is a little scary after getting used to it being there, but it’s time to take the road as yet untraveled.
     Traegar’s Lunatics it is.

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A Frankie D Story

When our house was built thirteen years ago, the walkout basement didn’t get finished correctly. We have these two, six-foot, concrete walls that were supposedly to hold back earth, but there isn’t any earth there to hold. Thus we have an eye-sore. It was one of those things we wanted to do something about, but it just never warranted the time or money to do it right.

A couple of summers ago, Chris decided to build a roof for it. He wanted to make a workshop outside so he could do his woodworking, welding, chemistry projects without destroying the basement (which he had already pretty much taken over and destroyed anyway!) After starting the project, he shattered his ankle, the same leg he’d injured so badly years before. That did not thwart his efforts. He built the thing in the driveway, from his wheelchair. Once it was finished, we carried it around the house to the walk-out.

I had all kinds of plans for the roof, making it look like thatch, lattice, something nicer than the temporary tarp we put over it to keep out the rain. It never happened. We talked about tearing it all down and starting from scratch, and then Chris died. I couldn’t bear to tear apart this thing he worked so hard to build.

Yesterday, we had a proper roof put on the frame. It looks great. And here’s where the Frankie D story comes in…

Preparing for the guys to do their thing yesterday morning, Frankie D picked up an old, cloth potting container and disturbed the little mouse who’d built a home in it. He felt awful, but it had to be moved. Last night, the first thing he did when he got home was go look at the great job the guys did. The second thing he did was put the pot back so the little mouse could come home. He checked on it later, and sure enough, the mouse was there. He was so happy. It was adorable. I can bet without fear of losing that he’ll be putting bird seed out there through the winter.

My Frankie D. This is why I keep him around when there are times I want to strangle him.

field_mouse

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Sadie Mae, the boa-wearing diva

shesback

Sadie’s gone. Her kidneys went, and we have no idea why. It happens, and it happens fast. She was suffering  with mouth ulcerations so bad they bled. She looked like a vampire kitty. Frank and I took her to the vet this morning and let her go.

The irony of euthanasia and how it works hits me harder than her dying. What an awful thought, huh? But this is where I put them, so yeah. You’re welcome.

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Blanking

This is not untrodden ground. Many have

been here before. I

have been here before.

And yet I’m unprepared, because what everyone says is true–

it’s different for everyone.

*

Happiness makes me sad. Seeing it.

Feeling it. I listened to my family sing

Christmas carols on Thanksgiving,

watched them ham it up.

I went into another room and cried.

If he were there, he wouldn’t have been singing with them.

He’d have been standing off

to the side, watching.

Smiling.

When he sang, it was with his ukulele, and solo.

And beautiful.

*

I hear him singing, all the time.

There is no such thing as silence in my mind.

If words aren’t filling it, music is.

My brain sings,

not always in his voice, but often.

Clear. So clearly.

I hear every crack in his song.

*

I have learned how to push down

the memories that flare

up unbidden and precious.

“Don’t. Not now.” I can do it

and I do. I have to or go mad with sorrow.

Remembering hurts, and so does refusing to.

I don’t want to forget. Anything.

But most memories will turn into

ones I want rather than ones that were.

It’s how I’ll be able to remember without crying

the time he cut out coupons, thinking he could use them to buy toys;

how he walked his baby sister to her classroom, kissed her good-bye. Every. Day.

that he befriended every misfit in his world;

all the times I held him, making sure he kept breathing through the night;

His chaos. I don’t want to forget that either.

but I will. I will.

*

I had a son, and now he’s gone

no matter what anyone says of heaven or the other side of stone walls.

I open my arms and shout his name,

trying so hard to feel that presence still imbuing this house.

He’s everywhere I look. Every corner, every wall full of the life he lived here,

but I don’t. I try. Maybe he does too.

Or maybe it’s just too soon, and it just hurts too much.

 

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