I suppose I could have penned this last year, but I rarely consider my final months in Yorkshire in connection with noveling. That decade-plus figures heavily into my becoming a writer, but the actual work truly blossomed after we returned to California.
It’s funny, pondering the last ten years of my life; authorial dreams had hovered forever, but motherhood left little time to do more than write grocery lists and scattered poems, although…. After my brother died in 1997, I used the written word to make some sense of what at the time seemed utterly baseless. I suppose that effort is what caught my eldest daughter’s attention, then nearly a decade later she pestered me into participating in National Novel Writing Month. But again, that initial foray into fiction was just dipping my toes in the water. 2007 is when this whole gig began….
When a long-held dream becomes reality, often the thrill isn’t contemplated until the dust settles, which in my case probably didn’t occur until I started publishing independently. What else was I suppose to do with all these stories which had suddenly spilled as though my hands had been released from behind my back. In retrospect, a few novels should have remained in my hard drive, ahem, but every book has a reason for being, and I don’t regret releasing them. While I don’t want this post to focus on the publishing aspect, if not for the rise of indie ebooks, I don’t know where I’d be now. Suffice to say, I’m extremely grateful to Smashwords in that aspect; thanks Mark Coker and your entire team.
But getting to that point takes an inordinate amount of time spent at one’s computer, also in mulling over plot lines, character qualities, various themes, then somehow coalescing all those elements into cohesive stories. Which means practice, practice, practice…. Writing requires discipline, as well as an artistic flair, and I am fortunate that meshing those two was fairly uncomplicated. As kids left for college, I had time to experiment; writing fiction was nothing like poetry or to do lists, but all my pent-up desires exploded and I could easily whip out a rough draft in thirty days. Now I smile at all those efforts, knowing the harder side of noveling, but I can still remember how a few books ended, some like the Alvin’s Farm series turning from what I’d assumed to be a short story into a six-book saga (shades of The Hawk already in place), to how I wept in my husband’s arms after completing a draft I’ll never publish, reliving my own life in the guise of fictional characters. That’s occurred more than once, and often I don’t see it until much later. For me, writing has been a voyage of self-discovery, with love and melodrama on the side.
In 2013, my dad’s battle with cancer went into overdrive, but it coincided with short stories taking my attention. Then came The Hawk; like I said, Alvin’s Farm prepped me for lengthy tales, but not even my brother’s suicide prepared me for the swing between life and death that followed in 2014 and 2015. As Dad endured chemotherapy, both of my daughters became pregnant, and this author was either taking road trips to offer assistance or learning how to quilt. I didn’t abandon the writing, but I certainly couldn’t start anything new, and The Hawk kept expanding, sort of like my family. The Burrito arrived, Dad passed on, then Lil’ Miss eased that sorrow. All the while I still found time at my computer, wondering if I was ever going to finish the WIP. I’m still curious about that, ha ha, but in stepping away from that saga, I feel a new chapter of my writing life is also being inaugurated. I won’t begin to ponder that, because if you’d told me ten years ago that I’d write over one hundred fifty thousand words for three different stories in thirty days, I’d have called you crazy.
In my first American National Novel Writing Month I went overboard, but within those four weeks, I reveled in what every would-be writer dreams, to finally be spinning yarns. There was no sense of how those tales might evolve, only the blissful thrill that finally they were being told. And now, even with books published, that joy still resonates; all day yesterday I was mentally plotting what I’ll start writing this week, from monikers to when Kendall learns the truth about Coach Schlatter…. This novel, Heaven Lies Where the Heart Is, isn’t merely a sequel, but an opportunity to again explore the giddy exuberance that drives this author, liberating my active imagination. Why I have more plots than sense is a mystery, but no longer are all those lives trapped inside my head.
And that’s a big relief, let me just say. I’m not one of those who writes every day, or I’m not like that anymore. But when the mood strikes, I’m ready to get my butt into the chair and see where the prose takes me. That is where it has to start; setting aside the fear and diving into the unknown. And I need to remember this too, on the cusp of yet another novel. It won’t be like what I’ve been struggling with, although it might not be simple. Yet it is my calling, and I can’t ignore it, even if it feels slightly terrifying. Ten years ago ignorance was on my side, but now wisdom, and some talent, ease me in front of the monitor, fingers placed upon the keyboard, lives itching to be freed. I have many tasks up my sleeve, but writing remains, and I hope it always does. As a new tale unfolds, I will appreciate this gift; while it requires hard work, it is also not of my own doing. Call it the muse, or for me, more rightly the Spirit, but at the end of the day, these tales are blessings from above. I’m just the lucky gal who gets to tell them.