Celebrating my family values

weddingThirty-two years ago today I got married.  In retrospect, I wasn’t a particularly great candidate for a good marriage.  I liked being alone, liked making my own decisions and wasn’t terribly motivated to be a wife. However, the planets aligned.

The groom, who was no more likely than I to achieve happily ever after, grew into a better friend with each year. We gave each other space, we tried to fight fair when we had our many fights, and we tried to forgive each other when we forgot to fight fair.

Along came three beautiful children who turned to us for love and stability and who provided us with incentive to work harder at our relationship. The next thing we knew they were leaving home and this whole marriage thing had worked out considerably better than it could have and in fact much better than it usually does. Lo and behold, a couple who had started out as kids in tattered jeans had achieved the ideal of the family values crowd. So, does that mean that we have family values?

Good question. I am happy and healthy and I like my particular life. I also like red wine and raisins. Do I think everyone should have to like red wine and raisins? Even if both are good for  you? Don’t be ridiculous.

Just because I am a woman attracted sexually to men, this is no reason to decide that other women need to be like me. Just because I decided to create a monogamous relationship with one other human, why would I think that this means that everyone should? I wanted to raise children. That’s nice. It doesn’t mean that you should. My choices are mine and they worked out well for me.  Your choices should be yours and if they lead to your happiness and better yet they also lead to the happiness of others, then that’s great too.

pouring wineDon’t get me wrong, I don’t wish anyone well for being hurtful to themselves or others. I just think that living your life differently than mine is not, by definition, the wrong way to live it. Has anyone ever been made less, or their own personal joy diminished, by acknowledging that there are a lot of fine ways to go through life? There is a Buddhist saying that there are many paths to the top of the mountain, and that the view from the top is the same no matter which one you choose. Clear message: take your own path.

Do I have family values? You bet I do. Tolerance. Patience. Empathy. Respect for others. All others.  I don’t always live up to my ideals, I never have. But I keep trying.

Care for some red wine? I’d love to pour you a glass. Just as happy, of course, to share some lemonade with you. Happy also to make you a vodka martini, even if I don’t care for one myself. Don’t worry, I’ll leave out the raisins. Unless of course you insist that I don’t.

Celebrate!

cakeToday is a special day for me because it is the birthday of one of my children.  I really like this being a mother thing, and among other things I love all the extra celebrations it has brought into my life.

Beyond all the usual hugs and laughs and triumphs, my kids and husband have given me an extra helping of joy by agreeing to let me use each of them to inspire a book in my collection 46 Ascending. There are probably dozens of reasons why this was a bad idea, fraught with potential problems from the very beginning. The characters are fictitious after all. Bad things happen to them and they even all behave a little poorly on occasion. They curse, they think about and even have sex and they aren’t always happy with each other. The make-believe characters have some faults that are exaggerations of my own family’s less desirable traits, and then they have faults that are purely my own or absolutely made up.

Against all odds, these four people I share a nuclear family with have been mature and reasonable about this. In fact they complained a little about their character’s relatively minor roles in x0, the first book in the collection that centers on the mom in the family. My son acknowledged a bit of trepidation when he learned that the second book, y1, would feature the character inspired by him. As my writing went on, however, he confessed that it was a bit of high knowing that somewhere somehow parts of his personality were being spun into that of a superhero.

My husband refers to the third book in the collection, z2, as “his” book. Indeed, he almost wrote it with me, building replicas of my Maya boxes, reading civil war history as I wrote and even heading off to a re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek in order to better research “his book”. The collaboration turned out well I think, producing something richer than I could ever have done alone.

I recently handed c3, the fourth book in the collection, off to my youngest daughter who is learning to be a social worker. Her studies and interests shaped much of this particular story. By tradition each family member gets to read “their” book first, and they know from the beginning that they have veto power over anything in the novel. This is my agreement with them; I do love each of them more than I love my stories. I was particularly concerned about c3, because my main character has some  horrific things happen to her early on in the book that later inspire her to become such a hero. My youngest child responded with the same grace that the rest of my family has shown. No one has vetoed anything yet, or even complained  once about anything I have written. Are these people cool or what?

celebrateToday, as c3 sits in the hands of my beta readers, I am starting the fifth book in the collection. This novel will tell the tale of a fiery hero inspired by my feisty middle child. The story has been growing in my head for years, and it’s time to get the basic building blocks down into the hundred or so bullet points that constituent a working outline for me. In real life, this daughter is probably the least patient person in my family (except for me), and it is unfortunate that her tale was destined to be the last to be told. That is just how the collection unfolded. I tell her that I saved the best story for last.

Next year on her birthday, I plan to publish the story she has inspired. The timing is entirely reasonable given my own pace, and if it happens as hoped for it will be a heartfelt way to celebrate her next birthday.  I do love celebrations. They make me want to dance for joy!

What’s wrong with adverbs?

stopI recognize the need to have some sort of regulations that keep us from hurting each other. Stop signs.  A nuisance but okay, the basic idea behind them does make sense. And unlike many of my fellow Texans, I even get the idea behind letting the greater collective regulate what kinds of deadly weapons I am entitled to own and which ones if any I get to carry on my person. Got it.  We have to have some rules.

I have more of a problem with those who try to regulate my behavior for my own protection.  Seat belts? Barely a grey area if you ask me …..  Buying milk that hasn’t been pasteurized? Come on, that’s totally my choice.

And when folks step in to try to modify my behavior to suit their sense of style? Well, in my opinion they have clearly crossed a line. I respond angrily. Defiantly. Perhaps unreasonably. In fact, a few dozen more choice adverbs come readily to mind.

This is because adverbs themselves have recently come under the disdain of the fashion police of the writing world. “They have fallen out of favor” advises one author’s website. In other words, don’t use them. Says who? Admittedly, overuse of any type of word makes ones writing repetitious and repetitive 🙂 but why does an entire class of descriptive words get banished in order to suit some group’s whim?

I can’t run quickly in the rain? Talk loudly in the library? Scream vigorously when I am frustrated?

wiineThis reminds me of whoever decreed that there should be no white shoes after labor day, no colored corduroy pants on adults and no red wine drunk with fish. Who makes up this crap? And why do we have such a tendency as a species to comply with arbitrary rules that involve neither safety nor courtesy?

Don’t walk under a ladder. Don’t step on a crack. And certainly don’t step fretfully on a crack, or walk under that ladder while giggling hysterically.

This is ridiculous. Labor day has come and gone and I’m going out for lunch tomorrow. I’m wearing white sandals, red corduroy pants, and I’m drinking a nice pinot noir with my fish. And I’m going to do it all joyfully.

Making a New Plan

I love planning.

I recognize that not everyone is wired this way. Some of you folks out there get the most joy out of your life when circumstances let you wake up and do whatever seems best to you at that moment. I think that is terrific, even though it doesn’t work so well for me because I just love to make lists.

c3 FINAL ecopyToday is a special day as it is the first of the month. That means that I get to make my plan for writing for the month of September. Figuring out how and when I am going to find the time to indulge in my most favorite activity brings me no end of joy. When I do this, I feel like I am somehow outwitting the gods of practicality, who rule the mundane world. They have decreed that doing my laundry and paying my bills will fill all my free hours and no time will be left for what I love.  I make my little list, looking for pockets of time I can claim as my own, and delight in the fact that THEY ARE WRONG. I’ve proven them wrong for 32 months in a row now and I intend to keep right on doing so.

This first of this particular month, however, is even better than most. I have finished my fourth novel, c3, and it will be out on Kindle by the end of the year. Each book has been a challenge to get into for its own reasons, and this one was no exception. Once I became immersed in it, though, it took over and now I am sad to leave its world. I already love its newly designed cover, once again expertly done by Jennifer Fitzgerald at motherspider.com.

I will spend September moving c3 along to my first group of beta readers, and making minor changes as they get back to me. This will be fun. I enjoy getting feedback on my stories and tweaking them to make them better.

The activity that really excites me, however, is that I will also begin research and planning for my fifth novel d4. Because c3 and d4 overlap in time, and tell the tales of two sisters having simultaneous adventures far from home, I have had the plot of d4 in the back of my mind as I finished c3. I already know that it involves subjects that fascinate me, and I can’t wait to start researching.

There is an old and frankly kind of stupid expression that goes “whatever blows your skirt up” and I probably don’t even want to know where it came from. The fact is that nothing seems to blow my skirt up more than planning to start a new book. It’s enough to make me want to dance for joy.

#SFWApro