Monthly Archives: February 2016

Some memories aren’t as good as they are necessary

I’m not sure what this is. I wrote it that summer just after Chris pulled out of the cycle of addiction. He’d get clean here, and stay clean for three years before dying the way he promised he never would. It might be a song. I have no musical notes, only words. I’m not really a poet. So I’m not sure.

I found this today, while getting together some writing samples for a grant I’m applying for and, coincidentally (not) it echoes thoughts that have been sailing through my head for days. These things seemingly present themselves when we need them, but I know better. They’re all in there, just waiting to be called up.


You were drowning and I could not save you
Could not pull you from the waves
I grabbed, you slipped
The current pulled you down, stronger than I
Stronger than us.
Down and down and further away
A riptide in an unnatural sea, with all of nature behind it
Then that sea spit you out
Threw you up, out of the surf
To me, ready to drag you free, or drown with you
A dead weight, unable to breathe on your own
I breathed for you
I slapped your face
I brought you back
But I did not save you.

All those nights I held you in my arms and
listened to your stunted breath
Reveled in the heartbeat betraying lungs that couldn’t work
I held you and I cried
I held you and I raged
silently, so I would not wake you
Because that was even harder, knowing
the cycle of silliness and sleep to come
Of hunger and itching
Of biting cuticles and fingernails and rubbing at your face
To hear you tell me you are worthless, a fuck up, and that you love me so much
I deserve a better son
And that you should go away, disappear
So I wouldn’t have to worry
So I wouldn’t have a son like you
Anymore. Ever.
That hurt the most.
Even worse than the next day
When you hated me again, because you loved me so much
And I was that conscience the beast didn’t want you to have.

You couldn’t do it for me; you could only do it for you
And you weren’t worth the effort
All pain and shame and need
What did you have to live for? Who could you love?
Who could love you?
Somewhere in the haze, you knew the answer was me

And you hated how you clung to that
How you hated me
I was a horror, I was smothering
I loved a worthless nothing, so what did that make me?
I loved you when you raged
I loved you when you used
I loved you when you were like a baby again
Pleading to be held, to be loved, to be understood and loved anyway.

You couldn’t do it for me; you could only do it for you
And you weren’t worth the effort
All pain and shame and need
What did you have to live for? Who could you love?
Who could love you?
Somewhere in the haze, you knew the answer was, “Me.”

You were drowning and I could not save you
Could not pull you from the waves
I had to stand on the shore and watch you struggle
Breath held and heart racing
Every muscle tense and ready
For the moment you would reach for me
But you didn’t, as you shouldn’t have
You had to walk up that beach yourself
To stand in the dry sand and look back at your turbulent sea
And say, “Never again.”



Filed under poetry

A Crystal Child

Crystal child. I’d never heard the term before.  I don’t mean this kind, interesting as it is. Let me backtrack, just a little.

Chris had an amazing psychiatrist. I credit him with giving us our son back, and fully believe that without him, we’d have lost Chris three years earlier than we did. Frank and I still go to see him. It’s a connection neither he nor we wish to break. Losing Chris was devastating for him, too. They weren’t just patient/doctor; they were friends.

With Chris’ birthday coming, we wanted to get together. In the course of our discussion, he said that, in his opinion, there was nothing so gut-wrenching as losing a child. End of story. But losing a crystal child comes with an added category of grief–knowing not just we but the larger world is denied what he would have given it.

A crystal child is brilliant, multifaceted, and fragile. That was Chris. The stuff locked away in that head of his, that he tried so hard to put out into the world? Gone. Talk to his professors, high school teachers, middle school, elementary. Talk to colleagues, friends, gym acquaintances. Brilliant doesn’t quite cut it. He was able to help others connect with concepts they thought beyond them. He tutored a lot in college, and he loved it. But there was so much in him he couldn’t share. Not that he didn’t try! He talked about things people didn’t quite grasp. Some simply weren’t interested. To have a brain full of knowledge to share and no one to share it with weighed on him, I know. It made him feel disconnected from his peers, and was one of the reasons he always felt apart. When he got going with someone who did understand and was interested? Holy jeez, sparks would fly out of his eyes, ears. His happiness, then, was breathtaking.

A professor recently told me that when he saw Chris coming, he’d put away whatever he was doing because he knew he was in for several hours of discussion. I’m certain there were times the man really didn’t have hours to spend with Chris, but he did, because he knew it was going to leave him feeling excited about…something. It made him remember, he said, what it was like to be twenty-something and enthusiastic about his chosen field of study. He also said Chris was light years beyond what he could get his head around, even after all his years teaching.

When we lost Chris, we lost a beloved son. He was goofy and sweet, gave amazing hugs. And he loved. So much. His smile was legendary. Cocky little bastard. He was never going to be easy. He could be infuriating, self-centered and, yes, a little arrogant. There’s that multifaceted thing–can’t point to one characteristic that didn’t reflect/deflect another. He might have always needed more than those who love him sometimes had to give. But that’s only a small portion of what HE had to give.

I’m his mother. Of course I knew he was “special.” In so many ways, Chris was the strongest person I’ll ever know. All he endured, how hard he strove to overcome every physical and mental obstacle that came at him–few could have faced all he did and come out the other side in one piece. His fragility is of a more subtle kind, a deadlier kind. The kind that hides within all the apparent toughness and strikes hard where it finds a crack.

Today is Christofer’s birthday. He should have been twenty-six. We’re never going to know what he’d have given the world. Good, bad, or otherwise. But I do know that our loss isn’t just ours, even if no one else ever does.



Filed under Family, Life's honest moments

All and sundry


The closer Christofer’s birthday comes, the less I think about him. I get through whole days without crying. It’s like my brain has put its blinders on. If I can’t see it, it can’t see me. Too bad that’s not how it works.

My logical mind says it’s just another day among many. But those blinders…they’re on for a reason. If I think the thought, it flies away quickly. Like right now, I’m already thinking about the rest of this post, tomorrow’s hair appointment, the busy weekend. Distraction that can’t quite pretend there’s nothing more nefarious going on.


Traegar’s Lunatics is now 33K words. I’m so in love. (first draft–don’t judge.)

Leaning low compressed lungs too weak to compensate, but Alfonse held his breath and did so. He kissed her brow. He kissed the fair princess’ cheek, and the monster’s. He dropped back in his chair, gasping. Cecibel opened her eyes, blue marbles, even, impossibly, the ruined one. The moment froze one heartbeat. Two. Three. Four. She was rising, towering over him. A wounded Valkyrie fresh from battle. Alfonse felt so small in that gaze. A withered old man who’d trespassed into places he didn’t belong, and couldn’t survive.

Cecibel’s hand came to rest on his shoulder. A swoop of hair dropped into his lap as she kissed his brow, his cheeks, his lips. She lingered there though he didn’t respond, couldn’t respond without breaking the spell. A thousand sweaty nights, languid afternoons, fresh mornings careened through his body, his brain. To pluck even one of them from the parade would undo him. Instead, his fingers curled into that hair pooled in his lap. He fingered it, concentrated on the thick softness Cecibel took with her when she pulled away.

He didn’t call her back. She didn’t glance over her shoulder. The metallic click of his door was the only indication that she was gone; he hoped, not for good.

Head back, eyes on the ceiling so high above his head, Alfonse counted breaths until he could do so calmly. He couldn’t have written the magic of these moments, not if given another century to try. Life could never be contained by words. It could only be expressed to the best of one’s ability, in the hopes of capturing a tiny spark and giving it away.


Busy weekend, starting with tomorrow’s hair appointment. Blue and purple this time. Really, my hair is still blue (baby blue, now) from when I did it around Halloween, but it’s grown out some. I’ve got a book signing on Saturday, and a writing group event on Sunday. I figure it’s time for a fresh-up.


Next Friday is Christofer’s birthday. So much distraction. I’ll be fine.


Filed under Life's honest moments, Traegar's Lunatics

I love it when a plan comes together

I opened my file a few moments ago, read yesterday’s work, and when I got to the end of the last paragraph–

He couldn’t know anything about her outside of, somehow, getting files from Dr. Archer, and Dr. Archer hadn’t known anything. Because Cecibel never told her, never admitted she didn’t know if the accident had been on purpose, never confessed that whether or not it was, she’d been more than willing to die. 

–I added a single line.

More than willing to take Jennifer with her.

Who the hell is Jennifer?? There is no Jennifer in the story. There wasn’t, at any rate. She tagged along today and pulled a whole storyline I had sketched but not fully fleshed into sharp focus. I’d known, from inception, that Cecibel (POV character) was in a a motor vehicle accident that left her face disfigured. I knew there was question as to whether it was actually an accident, or not. Along the way to this point, I was leaning towards it being on purpose, but didn’t know why. This morning, Jennifer became the reason why.

I know who she is. I know why Cecibel was willing to die and take Jennifer with her. I know why she’s fixated on Olivia Peppernell’s vision of headlights and twisted metal in the opening line of the book. How amazing it feels, this creative process.

I got so excited, I had to record it here in my blog so, if the process gave me trouble one day, I could come back here and show myself it does happen when one’s patient.

Image result for headlights on a dark, wet road


Filed under Traegar's Lunatics

$800 Valentine’s Giveaway!

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Seeking Carolina is on page two, and currently only 99 cents. Not only will you get a fabulous book to read, but several chances to win a $200 gift card.



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Gads, I love this story

Just a little snippet, because, egads, I love this story…
Alfonse chuckled, a wheezy, breezy sound. He offered his arm, and Olivia took it, resting her head to his stooped shoulder and remembering days gone by. A similar setting. A sanctuary, they called it. His shoulder broad and sinewy. Her hair like fire. Fans waiting. Gossips too. But in there, safe from them. From Him. Her injuries healing. Her memory daily and diligently erased by drugs and electrical shocks. Dreams of tumbling turned to headlights and twisted metal. No one visited. Not the man who refused her a divorce. Not the children he kept from her. Only Alfonse, and sometimes Cornelius, though never at the same time. Now, decades hence, decades older, decades lost, they bookended the fame, the fury, the sweetness and safety and solitude. They’d give to each other, to Cecibel. And maybe it would be enough this time.
Traegar’s Lunatics. Just under 30K words. It’s coming along nicely.
the Pen


Filed under Traegar's Lunatics

Here’s the thing about novellas…

Those of you who’ve known me for a while have heard this rant before–Novellas, they’re not what you think they are. They’re not–I repeat, not–about word count. Novella means new* in Italian, not, as many think, little novel. Suggesting a novella is a short work of fiction between 20K and 40K words is like saying a sonnet is simply a poem composed of fourteen lines. As Canadian author, George Fetherling said, (in his essay, Briefly, the case for the novella) to reduce the novella to nothing more than a short novel is like saying “a pony is a baby horse.” See? It’s not just me.

Why do I get such a stick up my ass over this? Because this isn’t a grammar rule in flux, we’re losing an art form, a beautiful art form, and that just hits me in the writerly gut. The world of literary fiction knows and holds the difference when it comes to categories and prizes, but the genres and the general populace don’t, and that’s the danger–because a lie believed by the masses becomes the truth.

Very briefly, it is structure that defines a novella, not word count. There are no designated chapters in a novella, rather they are presented as a whole divided by white space to designate a significant shift. (Though, to be fair, I have seen novellas utilizing chapters.) Plotwise, it ends quite close to where it begins. In fact, little can and usually does change if at all. The form concerns itself more with the character development, the evolution (or devolution) of that character, than it does on plot conflict. The internal vs. the external. Novellas tend to begin close to the precipitating incident, but skip back and forth in time, filling in background. They usually end on the moment of climax, on the brink of change.

I recently came across this diagram that shows the structure in a visual way:structurenovella

See how it climbs, then how quickly it falls? The reversal (something that happens to change the action’s direction) in the rising action is intrinsic to the structure. I thought that was pretty cool. So I’ll end this here, having gotten it off my chest, and will leave you with a few examples of actual novellas you’ll have heard of:

Breakfast at Tiffany’s ~ Truman Capote

A Christmas Carol ~ Charles Dickens

My Mortal Enemy ~ Willa Cather

Animal Farm ~ George Orwell

Ethan Frome ~ Edith Wharton

The Old Man and the Sea ~ Ernest Hemmingway

Shawshank Redemption ~ Stephen King

The Stepford Wives ~ Ira Levin

The Picture of Dorian Gray ~ Oscar Wilde


*I’ve recently seen it as “little novelty,” but that’s no more right than “little novel” is.


Filed under Writing is Life

Get it while it’s hot!

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Filed under Romance