Monthly Archives: July 2016

Dreaming, Disoriented

I woke up out of sorts again today, fresh from dreaming about being in Portland with Scottie. He was showing us animals he was raising. They were white and fluffy, but other than that I can’t recall what kind of animal they were. Not sheep. Maybe goats? My dad was there, and he picked up one of the animals (strange in and of itself, since my dad has never willingly touched an animal in his life) and set it across his shoulders. The fluffy white thing turned into a young woman in a black and gold gown, a black, velvet ribbon at her throat. She balanced there a moment, then dad lifted her on his palm, like a circus performer. She wobbled a little but said, “Steady, steady.” In the background, Scott and I tried (and failed) not to laugh, because even in dreams we knew it was a really strange sight. And then I woke up, or rather, Frank woke me. I don’t like sleeping late. It throws off the rest of my day. I never thought I’d become such a creature of habit. Of daily ritual. But I have.

Gads, I miss my son. It’s been five months and fifteen days since that Sunday in March I hugged him good-bye. An adventure for him, one he needed so desperately. This is his time, and I am as thrilled for him as I am sad for myself. More thrilled than sad, in fact. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating–I was never a mother who wanted, or expected, to keep her kids forever. Fly! Be free!

When we were in France, on our last night in Cannes, my dad raised his glass and said he wanted to propose a toast. We all had the same thought, I expect, that it would be to the wonderful time we had together. But he said, “To my son, who I love more than life.” I will admit, it stung just a little. Sitting beside him, I teasingly and tentatively said, “Daddy?” Without missing a beat, though slightly red-cheeked, he looked at me and said, “Oh, honey. I always have you.”

I know my dad. I know how much he loves me and my sister. I also know he’s always related better to the boys, as would a man raised in the era he was raised in. But I also know his actions have always spoken louder than words that–despite being a gifted lawyer–didn’t always respond emotionally. This morning, after my dream and realizing how much I miss both my sons so intensely every day, I came to realize something, and it stems from that old adage, “A son is a son til he takes a wife. A daughter’s a daughter the rest of your life.”

It’s what he’s always believed, that he’d lose his sons one day to another family set. To distance. To something. And he didn’t. Strangely enough, though one brother did go out to California twice in his life, for several years at a time, he’s now living within ten minutes of my parents. My other brother has never lived more than half an hour from them. His daughters, though? I’m in Connecticut and my sister is in New Paltz. Close, but not close enough for a drop in.

But I got it. After a few weeks pondering that toast and comment–because though first impressions might sting, they’re seldom what they seem–I understand, and it’s because he put me in charge of planning our cruise next March. I’D get my brothers in line. I’D make all the arrangements. I’D see to it we all got to the same place at the same time. Because I’m the daughter. His peacekeeper (always have been, always will be.) “I always have you.”

You have to know my parents, or at least me, to understand them. Words are easy. They’re safe. They’re often not what is meant at all. Actions are harder, truer, and make a far more lasting impression. Dad isn’t perfect, and sometimes he says things he shouldn’t. Sometimes I feel like I don’t matter as much as my brothers. Growing up a girl during the time I did, with parents caught in their own upbringings, I’m left with a few hiccups that jolt me now and then. But you know what? I’m over it. Who I am now is the direct result of my past, ALL of my past, and I really like me.

I’ve been out of sorts since waking, and so here I am, sorting myself out. Dad picking up that fluffy white animal in my dreaming, in missing my son, in that animal turning into a girl balanced on his palm like a circus performer might not mean anything at all. Or it could mean a whole lot. I choose to see the meaning there. And now I’m no longer disoriented. See how that works? Off to write.



Filed under Life's honest moments

Broad brushstrokes

   It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that Romance fiction is judged the way most things female are judged–with a broad brush covered in rose petals and sparkles. Sugar and spice and everything nice is all well and good, but it’s not all we are, and it’s not all that romance writing is.
   Chick-lit, chick-flicks–yes, such things exist in the exact form you’ve instantly conjured with those terms. There is a place for these lighter-than-air stories crafted to give no more than a moment or two of, “Oh, no–poor character. Her latte wasn’t fat free and now she’ll be all bloaty for her date.” They’re a form of fantasy, maybe a little wish fulfillment in a real life of job, kids, spouses, dog-poop on the carpet and/or dating a thousand frogs in the hopes of kissing a prince. Or worse. I know, when we were going through the worst of the worst, I devoured romance fiction of this nature like a kid on a melting fudg’icle.
   Then there is the rest of romance, the kind that touches on deep, painful, uplifting, complicated and otherwise intense aspects of life. Or death. There is romance set in war-time, in the aftermath of natural disaster, in the quiet and tragic illness of a loved one. There is also comedic romance, suspenseful romance. As a matter of fact, just add “romance” to any genre, and you’ll find excellent examples of what you can easily find. Anywhere. The “romance” part simply means there is a love story at the core, and that those two people will find a way to one another in the end.
   Now, I get it. In this world of self-publishing, there is a whole lot of poorly written stuff out there.And it’s not as if every traditionally published novel is fabulous. I’ve read quite a few stinkers on both sides of that fence. But you know what? Some of that “poorly written” stuff sells really, really well. Why? For the same reason it has since Professor Bhaer admonished Jo March that she wasn’t a real writer until she stopped writing her pirate stories–it speaks to a large number of readers, in language that doesn’t make them feel talked down to, or talked at. It reads the way they speak, the way they relate stories. In short–it’s real.
   Some readers want a more elevated form in their reading, just like some viewers prefer a film that has won awards in Cannes to those that win Golden Globes. And don’t get all wonky about me using the word elevated. I’m not saying one is for dumb people while the other is for smart people. One of the smartest people I know loves the Zoolander movies. Even I, grammar fiend, word-dancer that I am, love me some Tosh.0. Elevated simply means it’s done in an artful, more formal way. It’s almost a fantasy, because few people speak the way such novels are written. There are those who look for word acrobatics, for prescriptive grammar over descriptive. And then there are some who have no patience for such things.
   And you know what else? There’s a whole lot of stuff in-between that satisfies readers on both ends of the spectrum. That’s the beauty of life–diversity. Romance is diverse. There will always be good writing, and bad writing. Romance has its fair share, but defining an entire genre by that share is snobbery, and it’s unfortunate, because there is a whole lot of good stuff being passed over because it’s romance. The ever-growing genre of women’s fiction is growing as it is because people will pick up and be seen reading women’s fiction when they’d never even consider romance. I hate to tell you this, people, but most of what you read is romance. #sorrynotsorry
   This whole thing was sparked by an article shared by a sister-in-romance on Facebook this morning. Here’s the article.
Here, have a cute little crab. Peace out.

Courtesy of Karin Gastreich VAB16







Filed under Romance, Writing is Life

When you Wish

You were a dream I had once, long ago

When I was young and hopeful and free

of the pain of my past, a new beginning unfolding

And you, the binding of that past to present, to the future

A tiny ball nestled on my chest, breathing baby breaths

I conjured you until you were real,

Pinocchio after all the wishing was done, after

the whale and the sacrifice and a fairy’s magicked compassion

Blond hair and blue eyes, where did you come from

in my swarthy sea of Italians? You always said you were

Viking, a long-ago raider marauding along the coast,

leaving behind the blood that would tumble through time,

through DNA strands and couplings and transatlantic voyages

to show up in my arms, held to my breast, a bundle of baby boy  breathing sweet breaths.

You are a dream again. Now.

Images. Conjurings. Memories true and sometimes blurring

around kinder edges that spare me

sustain me, always skewer me straight through. Sometimes

the pain is exquisite, and sometimes

it’s just pain that I gather in around me because it proves you were real

not some fading wish once made upon stars already gone to dust

as if you were never quiet here to begin with.



Filed under poetry

A Few New Things

The novel formerly known as Traegar’s Lunatics and now as The Pen has been marked final. Beloved Agent Janna (as she will forthwith be known) not only guided me to the perfect ending for the story within the story, but for the actual story itself. What I had was fine. Her “what if you did this…” made it amazing. I’m so in love with this book.

We’ve also decided that Helen Mirren will play Olivia in the movie.

The synopsis is written, the query is all ready. After the holiday weekend, it will go off to the list of publishers she and the powers that be at the Knight Agency have generated. And now, the wait.

In the meantime, I’ll work on Undeclared.  It’s up around 25K words. This story is once again different than anything I’ve ever written. There is no romance. Not even the scent of it. I’ve never written anything without it. This one, though? Nope. Ledanora, Nell, Beverly–maiden, mother, crone. I hadn’t planned that when I started this book, but it’s just so right. My subconscious knew, and acted accordingly. I’m in love all over again.

You might have noticed a change here on Modesty is for Suckers…the banner, above. A ridiculously talented and generous friend sketched this of me from a photo on Facebook. I’ve never had anything capture me, who I am, my spirit, as perfectly. It embodies my motto–Modesty is for Suckers. Does that imp look modest about ANYTHING? Nope.

Happy Independence Day! Eat well, stay safe, and have fun!


Filed under The Pen, Undeclared, Writing is Life