Promises, tears, and magic

Remember back when I won a book on Goodreads and it led to me accidentally working with an author?

On May 13th, that manuscript, the one I got to read and puzzle over and love – it was published.

Suzy (I call her that cuz we’re tight, remember?) and I probably shot pieces of this book back and forth over the course of four or five months? Let’s call it six because that makes it sound like we did half a year’s worth of hard work and let me tell you, writing is hard work. She’s a total hack-n-slasher; she’ll remove entire sections, if necessary, in order to make her story go the right way. It’s like she is all the forces of nature wreaking havoc upon her poor characters but the result is amazing. In turn, her early readers are like FEMA workers in that they have to see what the lay of the land looks like after the restructuring. We’re responsible for testing the new spots, making sure everything fits together, sometimes reading the same thing over and over again. It’s a lot of work and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed or taken as seriously any other project in my entire grown-up life.

Anyhow, when time was up and she had to relinquish her baby to the publishing house, she told me I’d been a big help. I don’t know how much I believed her – my opinions are only opinions, after all – but it was nice to hear nonetheless. She reaffirmed she was going to put me in the acknowledgements, something she’d said a million times already, but this time she said I would be first. Again, I don’t know that I fully believed her because I know I get overly-enthusiastic about stuff from time to time and make promises only to forget them later. She asked me how I wanted my name to appear and if I wanted her to say anything specific. I said I wanted my full name because I’m vain and no one would be able to doubt it was me she was acknowledging but, otherwise, she could say whatever she wanted. Then I promptly forgot about all of this. Well, not forgot but it sort of went to my background consciousness.

As the publication date drew closer, I started hyping the book to co-workers, friends, and family, using the “You should buy this book because I’ll be in the acknowledgements” line but even then, I don’t think I really knew what that meant until April 18th when Suzy announced on Facebook that the pre-order was live and that if you went to Amazon and did the “Look inside!” trick, you’d see the people she’d tagged in the acknowledgements. I did as instructed and then died.

Talk about making good on promises.

People, when you say you’re going to do something, do it big like Suzanne Palmieri. I cannot tell you what this did to me (but I’m going to anyway).

Here’s the book:

Go get this book. If this isn't your kind of story, buy it as a gift for someone else. Just go get it.

Go get this book. If this isn’t your kind of story, buy it as a gift for someone else. Just go get it.

And here’s the Acknowledgements page which is right at the beginning:

Yes. That's me. The very first acknowledgement, just as promised.

Yes. That’s me. The very first acknowledgement, just as promised.

Not only am I first, but I have my own sentence. Two of them, actually. If you read the book, you’ll appreciate the sweetness of “shine,” too.

When I saw this, I cried. Not pretty little tears trickling down my cheek at a beautiful pace. No, it was the out-n-out snotty nose, puffy eyes cry, the Ugly Cry. You would think ugly-crying would not be the proper response to finding out you were mentioned with gratitude in a book and got a place of honor surrounded by swirly, lovely words but the thing is, not only had I not been expecting something this big, this special, but about ten days earlier, I had found out my mom has cancer and I’d been in a bad place ever since. So seeing this was a gift, a hug, a bit of love on the wind coming to give me comfort during a turbulent bit of life. Yes, of course, part of my joy was centered around my vanity – who doesn’t want to see her name in print, right? But it was more than that, two things more, to be precise.

One: My mother was going to be able to see this before she dies. I owe her and her mother, ZZ, credit for my reading addiction. Because they showed me how to love words, my name gets to live with words. My mom always wanted to be a novelist but never got around to it. I think she has the same hope for me but even if I never make it, this is close. I loved seeing her smile when I gave her this book and she read those words. I can keep that with me forever.

Two: Praise is a wonderful thing but, for me, it’s what’s behind the praise that means the most. I know that I helped Suzy, that I gave her a piece of me and she was able to weave my thoughts and suggestions into her story, that she was able to take what we all gave her and she made something that was already good into something absolutely…well…magical.

I feel the shine. Can’t you?

The Witch of Belladonna Bay is available at Barnes & Noble, Target, Amazon, and other fine book retailers or you can order it through your local bookstore. Can’t buy it? Try the library!

17 Comments

Filed under Adventures, My journey to writerhood, My Opinions on STUFF

Carrying the TOURCH in the #mywritingprocess blog hopchaintour

Funny story:
One day on October 4, 2012, I was perusing The Bloggess’ latest post and noticed the first commenter, a guy named Nic, had the word “garlic” in the bloglink under his amusing reply. I love garlic so I clicked over to his blog, found that it was quite enjoyable, and I left a comment. This is not an uncommon habit of mine – I like to spread myself over the internet like black mold invading a grimy bathroom. However, I took the extra step of stalking him (I started following his blog) which is rare because I typically only stalk people I’ve already met.

For months, I read his blog from the shadows and then one day, I just started commenting on posts as if we’d been friends our whole lives. My ruse, it worked. He accepted me into his tribe but I only just found out how much he had accepted me last week when he passed me the #mywritingprocess TOURCH (<–click that word to find out why I keep saying “TOURCH” and also to see Nic’s answers to the questions I am about to answer) and said really nice things about me! I was all, “Awwww!” and then I realized that he was just setting me up to do work. Then I was like, “DAMN YOU, NIC!” with my fist shoved angrily into the air.

So from what I can gather, this is a blog tour/hop/chain. It’s been done by both real, actual writers as well as play writers (like me) (no, I don’t mean I write plays, I mean I’m playing at writing. It’s what I do here on this blog) I don’t think there are any stated rules anywhere, but it looks like you answer the four questions (below), say something about it on Twitter with the hashtag (which you’ll automatically do if your posts send themselves to Twitter and you put the hashtag in your title. I think), and then tag some other bloggers you admire to do the same!

That sounds about right. Let’s move on now.

1. What am I working on?

Blog answer: I am currently working on three drafts and four scheduled posts. They’re in various stages of editing.

Non-blog answer: I am working on a YA horrordomesticfictionparanormalsomethingorother novel. It should take me about 10 years to complete at the rate I’m going. I am also working on some sort of friendship/chick-lit (though not really) piece but that’s all vague and hazy right now.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

It…doesn’t, actually. Blog-wise, I come from the same writing school as the admirable aforementioned Jenny Lawson as well as Tina Fey. It is sort of the Open Mouth, Words Come Out, Then You Listen to Them After You Realize What You Just Said school. Yes, yes, I understand both Lawson and Fey do lots of editing and don’t just go all willy-nilly but their art makes them look like they’re all willy-nilly and I always look that way because I am that way, so…see? Same/Same.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I don’t know what else to write. I think I’m a storyteller so I tell stories. I might not actually be a storyteller and am, rather, a hoarder of words which I then collect on a page and call it a blog post. I’m not really sure what I’m doing, actually.

I can tell you why I write YA horrordomesticfictionparanormalsomethingorother novels, though: It’s because I’m working through crap and this seems to be the most user friendly way for me to get it out of my system.

4. How does my writing process work?

Writing process? I’m supposed to have a process?

Oh, well, actually, with the blog, I am fairly organized. I think of things I want to write about or I remember stories I want to tell or Noelle says, “You should blog about that!” and so I jot notes on scraps of paper or, if I’m near my computer, I type sentences into a document. Then, when I’m in a super-writey mood, I compose all these stories and post them as drafts here on WordPress. I organize them according to when I want them to appear and then edit as needed. I like the editing part because I like making my jumbled writings more cohesive. I mean, you wouldn’t know any of my work is edited because it all seems so scattered but you should see it when it’s still in rough form. That said, I have a long way to go, obviously.

For the novels, though…I have to wait until my brain is ready to write. It comes and goes. If I force it, I just get crap. But if I wait until it tells me it has stuff for me, then I will sit for hours and pour words out of my fingers. When I’m not busy doing that, though, I edit. I really do like to edit. The YA horrordomesticfictionparanormalsomethingorother novel has actually become something I enjoy reading, too, and I keep getting frustrated that there’s not more done because I want to know what happens next. I think that’s a good sign, though I will obviously never know what happens next if I only ever work on the writing part six to eight weeks out of the year.

The End.

Those are my answers. I would have been more cheeky but I’m fresh out of cheek this week. Sorry.

And now, I would like to have the following published authors share their processes because I think that would be really interesting:

My beloved Internet Boyfriend: The Reverend Doctor (and his whimsical adventures)
Tyler is a fellow #Lawsbian (those who follow The Bloggess; we’re almost a cult, really, created the day she had a book chat on GoodReads, broke the site, moved the chat to Twitter, broke that, too, and we were all left in a heap of giggling and silliness afterward) and a published poet! He’s like the antithesis of me in that he’s kind and gentle, thoughtful and good-hearted, and impressively talented when it comes to crafting things such as hats, tiny taxidermied creatures, and words. Yet, somehow, we are so alike and I’m not sure why. I am sure, though, that I adore him. So, Tyler, it’s your turn to share your writing process!

Also, four-time published novelist and BEST. TWELLER. EVER: Suzanne Palmieri — Oh, look! She already did it. Here it is. She’s always one step ahead of the game because she is magical and one day, I will meet this amazing person. Go read her words because they are delightful, much like the author, herself. And then, you can go buy her books, especially the new one that was just released yesterday!

5 Comments

Filed under My journey to writerhood

Happy Mother’s Day: The Finale of Mother’s Day Posts

“She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them.” 
― Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera

 

To all the moms out there, this is your day. I hope you get to enjoy it! You do some really hard work and many of you get little or no appreciation for your efforts so GOOD JOB!

Happy Mother’s Day to you.

 

Happy Mother's Day

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under My Dearly Beloveds

“I’ll give you something to cry about”: A Prelude to Mother’s Day

I think it’s fair to say that my mom and I have enjoyed (more often not-enjoyed) a complicated relationship over the years. This is probably true for the vast majority of mother/daughters, it seems to be how these things work. After all, my mom had a complicated relationship with her mother and I don’t think Noelle or Bedot have had it any easier than I, either. Beyond personal experience, look at all the novels, movies, and psychologists who explore this same topic!

If you’ve been here before, you probably know my mom. If you haven’t and don’t, you can introduce yourself to her by clicking the My Horrible Mother tag at the bottom of this diatribe. So, anyway, you  might have guessed that my mom and I, we share a sassy mouth. We both say things that aren’t politically correct…or any sort of correct, really. I’m pretty sure I learned this trait from her. While being on the receiving end of said mouth definitely hardened my skin to a thickness seen only on citrines and rhinos, it was something of an obstacle while I was growing up, resulting in a lot of miscommunication and injured feelings. Some of the slights were real and intentional but most were merely perceived on my part. Regardless, there were things she’d said to me that were burrs in my blanket for years. Or maybe, it was things she didn’t say.

I always wanted to have one of those nurturing mothers, the ones who listen to your hopes and dreams and find ways to help you achieve them, instead of the “practical” (her term)/”negative” (mine) parent who tells you why your ideas won’t work.

The mom I really wanted.

The mom I really wanted.

The mom I felt I had.

The mom I felt I had.

For instance, I always wanted her to like my drawings but she didn’t. I wanted to take art classes but she nixed that plan. I tried to take one in high school as an elective but because she had final say in the matter, I took drafting. I bore so much resentment toward my  mother because I felt she was blocking my attempts to be the artiste I knew I could be, that I so badly wanted to be.  To make things worse, she encouraged Noelle to take art classes, to draw and paint and do all the things I wanted to do. It’s kind of like how I kept asking for Sea Wees for my birthday and Christmas and never got any; Noelle got them, instead. Noelle, who couldn’t keep her poor little Sea Wees’ hair nice and who lost their pets. It’s also like how Chris got ice cream for breaking my Wonder Woman doll! My early life was full of injustice and misery and I’m surprised I survived. Back to my crushed dream, though: I thought my mom would be proud of my artistic endeavors because before she had me, she went to school for art. After she had me, she dropped out and got a job in a deli and never went back. During her angrier moments, on the days that she was probably wondering how she ended up where she was, so far from where she’d planned to be, she told me I’d ruined her life because I kept her from getting a college degree. Remember that smart mouth I inherited? I always reminded her that I did not get her pregnant, I was just the result of her not being able to keep her legs together.

We were an awesome pair. And by “awesome,” I probably mean “toxic.”

The older I got, the more frequent these types of conversations became and it was hard for us to be in the same room for more than half an hour without sniping at each other. I judged her for every decision she ever made. I held what I felt was her lackluster parenting over her at all times. I was self-righteous and constantly told her what she should have already done and what she should do in the future in order to be a better person, a decent mother, even though I hadn’t done anything with my life at that point so really had no foundation of knowledge. Youth allows for a great deal of arrogance, we all know this. But knowing it and being able to deal with it are two different things and I think when your child is battling you with your own weapons, there’s not a lot to do but give up or fight harder. My mom has never been the giving-up kind of person.

I stayed away from the family for a few years. I was so angry, so tired of everything. I felt like I was the only sane one, the only sensible one, the only one who could keep her shit together and nobody gave me any credit for all my hard, honest, upstanding efforts.

Yup. Pretty much.

Yup. Pretty much.

I would only engage with my parents on holidays and then only if my nieces (I don’t think there were any nephews during this time) were in attendance. This lasted for three years, I think? It was ridiculous. I was so irate about things that didn’t even exist, not outside of my own mind, at any rate. I was self-centered and self-wounded and it made me reject the group of people I felt had caused all my problems.

Mom and I broke the barricade I’d put up with the most horrible kind of honesty ever. I was over there for some event, maybe Easter, maybe the Fourth of July. Whatever the case, it was a warm day and Mom, tired from preparing everything for the festivities, tired from me sniping at her, tired of being in a house full of people, just tired, went outside to smoke a cigarette. She was sitting on the front step and I followed her. I meant to make some barbed point that would hopefully make her feel awful about one thing or another but…I dunno, something changed. I sat down next to her and didn’t say anything for a little bit. She smoked. I coughed and then I asked her, “You don’t like me, do you? I mean, as a person. You’ve never liked me.” She looked at me and she said, “No. I don’t. You are not the kind of person I like.”

You know what? Even though I knew that would be the answer I’d get, had known for many years, it hurt. I started crying. We sat there some more. She smoked. I sniffled and coughed. She said, “But I love you. You’re my kid.”

Fat lot of good that did me.

So I did what I’ve always done – mouthed-off, then sucked it up and pretended not to care, just shrugged it all off. Whatevs, dude.

There had been many times up to that point that I did not believe my mother loved me. I didn’t think I loved her, either. Sometimes I hated her. But I hated her because I wanted her to be someone she wasn’t, because I wanted things from her she couldn’t give me because that’s not the type of person she was. Maybe that’s why it hurt so much to hear that she didn’t like me, it was one more thing she couldn’t give me. Some of the reasons for her dislike were real, like I was judgmental and arrogant. I was a bitch. Yes, she had to concede that I probably learned that from her but that didn’t make it a likeable trait. Some of her reasons were things she’d made up, like I thought I was better than everyone else because I went off and got a college degree and traveled across the world. I think she took my enthusiasm over the things I had learned as me rubbing my successes in her face whereas I just wanted her to be impressed with all the amazing stuff I was doing because…well, I wanted her to be proud of me and she wasn’t.

So much miscommunication.

I stayed away from home for a long time after that day despite the knowledge that one of the things I had learned early on, something that also came from my mother, was the value of honesty. Honesty was always a big thing in our house. I love to embellish, to make stories bigger and grander but I still understood when I needed to be honest and when people needed to be honest with me. Honesty gets a bad rap because people only want it when it’s nice and pretty, not when it hurts. The thing is, if it’s real, it will probably hurt. Almost always. There are coping mechanisms you can learn to deal with honesty: You learn to take it, let it hurt you, turn into a big baby over it all, then look at it and figure out what to do with it OR you learn to tune it out and rely solely on what you believe OR you learn to change it into something that is pleasant and agreeable OR you learn to twist it into what you want to hear. There are probably other things you can do, too, but I’m not familiar with them, having never employed them, myself.

I tried to learn the first coping mechanism and I think it has done me worlds of good. There’s not a lot that bothers me anymore. Yes, of course I hate criticism but I can tell when it’s meant for real and when it’s meant to hurt. If it’s meant to hurt, I can just ignore it. When it’s meant for real, I can take it apart to see if there’s a misunderstanding on the part of the criticizer or if there’s something in me that needs to be examined or both. This is an excellent skill to have and I have it because my mom did not mince words. School of hard knocks, and all, but come on, it totally makes for a kick-ass character in the long run.

In case you’re wondering how the whole “I don’t like you” thing turned out? After I sat on that for awhile, pitched some hissy fits, looked at the statement and the feelings behind it for a long time, after I broke so many things down because maybe they shouldn’t have been there in the first place and maybe after I realized I needed to be less of a jerk and needed to respond to my mother as a person and not as my mommy, I realized maybe we could get along. I think my mom had a similar response because after I ended my self-imposed exile, we both worked at our relationship in a different way. I tried to stop judging what she’d done in our past (except for those damned rolls! How could she lie about that? SO EVIL!) and tried to interact with her like I would a normal person, not like I would with my mother. She had to do the same thing, I couldn’t be her daughter, I had to be a person. After awhile, we worked something out. It was fragile, at first, and it was difficult. It was hard for both of us to not revert to catfighting and I know we’ve slipped up here and there. But we made the effort we both needed to make and, after a few years, we became friends. Once we were friends, it was a whole lot easier for me to respect her and appreciate her knowledge and abilities. I don’t know that she feels the same about me, but I know that she gets excited when I do big things now, instead of resentful because I’m one-upping everyone in the family. She’s become more nurturing, actually. She’s become my mom and I like being her daughter.

Look at us getting along like a good mommy and child! You have NO idea the years and years' worth of work this took. And no, neither of us shoved the other in the water after this shot.

Look at us getting along like a good mommy and child! You have NO idea the years and years’ worth of work this took. And no, neither of us shoved the other in the water after this shot.

So I guess she wasn’t kidding when she said I’d better knock it off or else she’d give me something to cry about…but at least I know she loves me!

 

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under My Dearly Beloveds, White trash childhood

“Mom says…”: A Prelude to Mother’s Day

You know how moms say all those crazy things? If you’re a mom, you know. You’ve said words that should never be together in a sentence or, worse, sentences that used to come out of your own mother’s mouth years ago. My mom had no amazing sayings of her own, all hers were standard fare, but she did follow through on her threats.

She was always a big fan of the “If you don’t knock it off, I am going to pull this car over!”

1980_Ford_Fairmont

This was essentially the car she was going to pull over, only ours was silver. Photo swipered from stationwagon.com

 

And she did. Several times.

Once, Chris was being such a little shit that I think Mom considered murdering him. We were going into town and Chris was acting up, per usual. Mom threatened him with the big Pull Over and he didn’t stop so she pulled the car well off the side of the road, well, Interstate, actually, and once The Ford was safely parked, she flung herself over the seat into the back seat to smack Chris only because he was part monkey, he jumped into the far back of the vehicle and a 3 Stooges skit ensued. Mom and Chris were diving over seats, getting out of the car, running around the car and getting back in via another door, Chris simultaneously shrieking and chortling, Mom making dire threats.  A police car pulled up behind us to see if we were alright and Mom used that to her advantage, telling Chris that he’d been misbehaving so horribly that the police had to show up. I don’t remember what happened afterward – I think Mom explained to the officer that she was trying to kill her son because he was being a horrible monster and I think the cop did the disapproving stare and gave Chris a “Listen, Young Man” lecture through a window and then Chris settled down, but I might have made that ending up, I don’t know. I do know that no one was arrested or murdered and we all made it to town and back in one piece.

She also enjoyed “Don’t make me come over there.”

You know, the first ten times you hear that as a kid, you’re maybe a little concerned. But note: there’s no consequence implied. What’s going to happen if you make her come over there? Nothing. So after twenty more times that threat is spoken, you’re not worried because it’s meaningless noise.
Until something does happen because you know what? My mom liked to mix things up. 30 “Don’t make me come over there”s were general operating procedure but she meant the 31st. She came over there…with a wooden spoon and we all got smacked about the head, shoulders, fleeing butts, whatever. From then on, irritating Mom was a little like playing Russian Roulette; we never knew which “Don’t make me come over there” was real.

Once Noelle got old enough, probably Kindergarten-aged, Mom broke out the “Stop your crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” threat. I don’t know that we’d really heard this much before the advent of Noelle; neither Chris nor I were big cry-ers. But Noelle was. By the time I heard that threat, I was eight or nine and logic was beginning to grow in my head. I thought, “She’s already crying about something, even if it’s something stupid. It’s not like she’s just crying on a whim.” Apparently, I was wrong. Mom would go over to Noelle, take away whatever she had, pick her up, carry her to her room, put her in there, and shut the door. That definitely gave Noelle something to cry about.

There was one dire promise Mom never did make good on. When she was totally fed up with us – which was just silly because, honestly, we were adorable little angels all the time – she’d yell, “SO HELP ME, GOD, I AM GOING TO SELL YOU TO THE GYPSIES!” yet she never did. It may have been because there were no gypsies in  Colorado Springs who were willing to buy children. Or, more likely, as she’d explain later, “You children are so bad not even the gypsies would want you.”

29-Mother-hides-her-face-in-shame-after-putting-her-children-up-for-sale-Chicago-1948

If she could have, this would have been me, Noelle, Chris, and Bedot. Sadly, no one would have made an offer. Read more here: http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/hammond/sold-off-siblings-shown-in-old-photo-tell-their-stories/article_1c095598-89f4-584b-891b-7ef48a1e2082.html

I guess this is what being a mom is all about: Making ridiculous threats, luring your children into a false sense of security, then pouncing! Apparently, it teaches manners or responsibility or twitchiness or something. Actually, not true. You know what we did learn, aside from self-preservation? A sense of humor because we figured out that if we made Mom laugh while we were still on the verge of being in trouble, we could get away with pretty much anything. There was no threat that could withstand the force of funniness and that is why we are all comedic geniuses today.

I wonder if moms still do this – promises of retribution – or if this is something of the past…like Monchichis and  Walkmans? If this is no longer a thing, you kids have no idea how easy y’all got it these days.

 

5 Comments

Filed under My Dearly Beloveds, White trash childhood