OMG, I’m Becoming My Mother

Originally published at Scary Mommy and republished in In Celebration of Mothers.

OMG, I’m Becoming My Mother

icm_Trisha Faye2.jpg

Iona Mae Burk – the mother that pops out of my mouth when I least expect it.

I opened my mouth the other day, and my mother popped out.

This was not supposed to happen, ever—at least not when I am still this young.

My sister and I used to joke together, back in our younger days (like, in our 30s) about how our mother was turning into Grandma. We’d chuckle that self-righteous laugh, because we knew that was never going to happen to us.

But somewhere along the line, we grew older and slid into another decade. We didn’t recognize that fact, at least not out loud and not to one another. After all, those odd stray gray hairs appearing at the most inopportune moments can be covered up. That “middle-age stretch?” Well, that’s what blousy tops and jeans with spandex are for. We can still rock it with the best of them…mostly.

Then one afternoon, after a particularly aggravating argument with a teenager, my lips parted, and my mother came hopping out: “Jason Patrick Dean (name changed to protect the not-so-innocent), if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?!”

Oh my God.

There are no appropriate words to describe the look on my face when I recognized the momentous event that had just happened. How many times had I heard this same exact phrase throughout my own teenage years? I called my sister to commiserate. “I know,” she said. “I’ve already heard Mom’s words come out of my mouth too.”

For the record, although she is several years younger than I am, my sister started her family earlier, so she was slightly ahead of me on this downward slide. “I was afraid to say anything. I hoped it wasn’t happening,” she said. As we started talking and comparing notes, we came to the conclusion that we’d been guilty of this for more years than we cared to admit.

“Don’t make me come in there!”

“Don’t use that tone with me.”

“It’s for your own good.”

“I know all. I have eyes in the back of my head.”

“As long as you live under my roof…”

“Close the door. Do you live in a barn?”

“Do as I say, not as I do.”

“Do you think money grows on trees?”

“Because I’m the mom.”

“Because I said so.”

The statements varied with the ages of the children. There were the standard responses we used on the younger ones, and then as their years advanced, we gradually slipped into the intermediate course of Mother Talk, rapidly earning credits that would have us graduating with honors.

The day when that first phrase leaps out and you recognize that it’s your mother talking instead of calm, rational, grown-up, independent you–I think that’s your graduation day, the day you take the mantel (whether you want it or not) and carry on down the road. That’s the day when you realize you’re on a long, slippery slope and you’re sliding down it much faster than you ever expected to.

Not that we’d ever wished to move on down this road. During our 20s and 30s, we thought we were immune to this syndrome. We were strong. We were invincible. We were our own women, not ones who would parrot our mother for the rest of our lives.

“I’m going to give you to the count of three.”

“I’ve had it up to here!”

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

The memories of words spoken long ago come drifting back through my memory. That’s when I realize I’ve been my mother all along. This change didn’t magically appear in my 40s. I’ve been her. I’ve just dressed her up in different clothes and makeup to disguise something I didn’t want to acknowledge.

“I’ll treat you like an adult when you become an adult.”

I guess I am now officially an adult.

I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry for all the times we laughed about how you were becoming more like Grandma Jones every day.

While we’re on the subject, I may as well apologize for all the times I talked back to you. For the times I didn’t clean my room—instead, I shoved everything under my bed. For the times I lied to you about where I’d been or what I’d done. For all the times I didn’t appreciate you or the sacrifices you made to give us what you could.

“If I told you once, I told you a thousand times…” Yes, you did probably tell us a thousand times, just as we’ve repeated to our own children.

I take a look in the mirror. A slight twist, a slight squint of the eyes. Yes, there she is—my mother. Maybe this growing older part isn’t all as bad as I’d thought.

 

 

cover_draft_front only.jpg

In Celebration of Mothers pays tribute to the many avenues of motherhood – from young mothers enjoying their children to mother missing the children in their nest, children’s memories of their mother’s and beautiful tributes to their lives, and the heartfelt thoughts from some who gave a mother’s love to their nieces and nephews. Many women and men shared tributes to mother’s gone from this earth too soon, to some who lived long full lives of over a hundred years old.

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. Molly, a young girl from a neighboring farm comes to fetch Jennie’s help in birthing a baby for her mother. When Mr. Rider arrives home, he’s not so pleased to see the women there, despite his wife needing assistance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘island.’

tt_banner

“We don’t need you Northerner’s here meddling in our business.”

Jennie hesitated before answering, trying to remain polite, despite the man’s rudeness. “Molly came to fetch me. Your wife needed assistance.”

“Oh, fiddle-cock she did. Now…skedaddle. Git on out a’ here.”

Eliza looked on anxiously as she gathered her mother’s supplies and tucked them back in the basket.

“Now…John…” Martha protested weakly from the bed where she lay nursing the baby. “Mrs. Barnes only…”

“Hush, woman,” the angry husband commanded. He tightened his shoulders and banged his fist on the table shaking the pail of water remaining from birthing the baby. Water sloshed over the sides and ran down the crude hewn legs, leaving a damp circle of wetness in the packed dirt floor. “They did enough damaged here during the war. She needs to just git on home. Better still…” His face turned a bright shade of scarlet as he continued his rant. “Git on back to Missouri. We don’t need you and yore likes here.”

Mr. Rider took a step closer to the bedside and Eliza scurried to her mother’s side, clutching her mom’s basket tightly in her hands, as if the woven basket could protect them from the wrath of an angry, six foot tall man.

Jennie started to open her mouth – then thought better and clamped it shut. Grabbing her daughter’s hand, the two fled the tiny abode, unsure how far Mr. Rider’s temper would flare.

The two women hurried back to their own property, arm in arm, not saying a word until they were clear of the Rider’s rickety cabin. Their stride was harried and purposeful, making the return journey almost as quickly as when they’d rushed to their neighbor’s aide.

Jennie was the first to break their silence. “Doesn’t he know the old saying about ‘no man is an island’?” she muttered, more to herself than to her daughter.

“Probably not, since I don’t know what you mean by that. I’ve heard you say those words before though. Just never gave it no mind to what you meant by it.”

“Simple enough. Merely that no one is self-sufficient. Everyone relies on others. Even if its neighbors you don’t like ‘cuz they’re from the north.”

“You make them fancy words up yourself?”

“Not a chance.” Jenny laughed and the stress lines around her mouth eased a little. “My granddaddy used to say it quite a bit. Came from one of his treasured devotion books. The one he read most often, after his Bible. Think it was an English author. Way back before his time even.”

log-cabin-inside“Surprised you even remember the saying. You must have been a small tyke.”

“Indeed I was. Barely knee-high to a grasshopper. I loved that old man to pieces.” A gentle smile appeared as Jennie seemed to step back in time, fondly recalling memories of her younger years. “Used to sit on the floor by Granddad while he read scriptures and devotions to us in the evening.”

The women didn’t tarry and kept on walking. Each seemed lost in their own thoughts. As they rounded the final bend before their property, Jennie burst out suddenly. “I remember! ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.’ It came back to me…just as if Granddad were reading aloud to me.”

“And that is what being neighborly is all about,” Eliza replied.

“It surely is, daughter.”

David stood in the open doorway of their log structure, watching his wife and daughter return. “I was worried. You’ve been gone quite a while since Eliza fetched your remedy basket. He stepped back and let the women enter. “Everything alright at the Rider’s?”

“That hard headed, obstinate man!” Jenny spit out. “You’d think we gone done and killed his favorite hog, the way he was going on. Why, just remembering what all he said has me all worked up like a wet hen again.” She moved to the wash basin sitting on the table and started scrubbing her hands as if she could wash the angry words from her mind. “Wantin’ us to go on back to where we came from. And with us just there to help his wife,” she sputtered.

—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.

Peonies and Peppermint – bread

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘bread.’

TT_banner

“Over here!” Eliza called out first. “Coltsfoot. A huge patch coming up.”

Jennie stepped over to Eliza’s side of the hollow and kneeled next to Eliza who was already plucking the fresh greenery sprouting from the earth. The women spent several minutes, tugging the emerald stalks that poked their way through the mulch of oak and sassafras leaves. Jennie added a handful to Eliza’s basket. “Better to keep it all together and not have to sort it out later.”

When they’d cleared a good portion of the patch, leaving some to grow and propagate, Jenny stood and wiped her brow. Looking over at her daughter, she squinted, as if sizing her up to see how she was holding up. Not even a bead of sweat glistened on Eliza’s brow. Jennie decided that they were good to keep going a bit longer.

They hadn’t wandered far from their first treasure trove when Jennie found the next. “Over here. There’s some nettles on this side.”

tt-picking-herbsThe women plucked gingerly on this crop. Even so, Eliza still muttered an occasional, “Ouch!”

Jennie laughed softly under her breath. “I see you don’t have as much experience at picking nettles.”

“No, I don’t, Mother. Honestly. I don’t know how you’ve done this for all these years.”

“It’s not so bad really. Look for the youngest ones. They’re not as prickly.”

“My fingers are starting to burn.” Eliza stuck a finger in her mouth and sucked on it to try to ease the sting.

“I’d say rub it with parsley when we get back, so you don’t get a nettle rash. But, I don’t think the parsley has come up yet. I’ll put a salve on it instead.”

“You and your herbs. Leave it to my mother to know what to do.” She stopped and looked at her mother with a quizzical expression on her face. “How’d you learn all of this?”

“Why, from my mother, of course. And her mother, too. Mostly from Granny, I suppose. She kept all the knowledge in her head. Walking through the woods with her was like having a talking book with you.” She smiled and paused, reflecting on her memories before she continued. “She knew more about plant medicine than anyone around. I don’t know but a small piece of what all she knew.”

Eliza sat on a large rock and let her mother finish pulling what she wanted.

Jennie glanced up and saw that her daughter looked paler than when they’d set out. Moving slowly and carefully up the hill towards where Eliza sat, Jennie plucked a folded dishtowel from her apron pocket. She unfolded the towel to reveal two slices of bread nestled inside the towel. “Here, dear. Have a bite to eat. I brought us each a slice. Then, let’s head back. We’ve got enough. Once your father digs the sassafras for me, I’ll be set for a good bit.”

About half way back to their cabins, Eliza looked up by a rock over cropping. She squinted and held her hand up over her eyes. “Look at all the brambles up there. It looks like berry vines. Maybe blackberries. Don’t you use blackberry leaves for something?”

“I make a tea with the dried leaves. They’re probably not leafed out enough yet. I usually harvest those around May or June.”

“You’re right. They’re not very green yet. Looks like they’re just budding. We’ll come back later to get some.”

“That would be nice, dear. I always appreciate your help. I’m surely pleased with what we did find today.”

They neared the spring and sat their baskets and walking sticks down to wash their hands and rest for a moment.

The peace was broken by the frantic calls of a young girl. “Mrs. Barnes! Mrs. Barnes!”

Jennie looked confused. She stood and surveyed the landscape, looking for the source of the cries. She finally spotted the youngster, their neighbor’s daughter, running down from the back side of the house. “Molly?”

 

—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.

Peonies and Peppermint –

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘town.’

TT_banner

Sleep was a long time coming for Jennie. Not so for her husband, who was snoring loudly a good while before she extinguished the lantern and headed to bed. When feeble early sunlight began peeking in through the chinks around the window, Jennie was already laying there with her eyes wide open. A hoarse, groggy rooster crowed from the yard, sounding far from energetic himself.

Jenny eased out of bed, the husks in the mattress rustling with her movement. David stirred in his slumber, but she knew that he would be up not far behind her. She slipped out the door, headed towards the privy in back. Pausing, she basked in the beauty of the still, early morning. The sun barely shone over the ridge to the east. The soft call of owls followed their otherwise silent flight as they completed their final runs for the night before heading back to their nests to doze. A full moon hung in the west, soon to dip below the horizon.

full-moon-morning-sky

A crunch of dried leaves warned her of company approaching. She looked up to find her husband headed in her direction.

He wiped sleep from his eyes before he combed his fingers through locks of tousled hair. “Enjoying your solitude?”

“Aye. ‘Tis peaceful out here at daybreak.” She pointed to the western sky. “It’s the Peony Moon this month. I was so worried about Eliza last night that I nigh on didn’t notice.”

David glanced around the homestead, squinting his eyes as he peered at the small clumps of green foliage beginning to sprout around the sides of the tiny, handcrafted cabin. A puzzled look crossed his face. “There’s lots of plants and flowers that you tend to through the year. Don’t remember seeing any peonies here.”

“No. Not here.” A sad look replaced the peacefulness that had filled her face just moments before.

“You always had lots of peonies. They were your favorite bloom.”

“I lost the seeds on the move here. Remember, we lost a crate when it fell off the wagon and tumbled down the ravine?”

“I recollect that incident. I thanked the Good Lord that we didn’t lose the whole wagon on that nasty turn just outside of that small town we stopped at in southern Missouri.”

“Or our lives. The whole wagon could have gone down. Along with us. A packet full of seeds wrapped in a piece of muslin is insignificant compared to what could have happened.”

He stood and wrapped his arms around his wife. “My best hammer was in that box we lost. But it doesn’t compare to the thought of losing you. You are more precious to me than any of our possessions.”

A pleased smile replaced the earlier frown that had briefly settled on Jennie’s countenance when she’d thought of losing her beloved flower seeds. “Yes. We all four made the journey safely. Being here together as a family is more important than where we lay our heads at night. We’re still together and all healthy. Mostly. Except for Eliza right now.”

“Want to go check on her?”

Jennie fought an impulse to run towards the cabin that housed her daughter and son-in-law. “No. Most likely she’ll still be sleeping. I’ll fix our breakfast first. Then I’ll dash over and check on her.” She pointed towards the weather-beaten outhouse sheltered by a towering oak and giggled. “After I stop in here first.”

“Hurry up woman, before I beat you to it.” David patted her retreating rear as she turned and moved towards the outbuilding.

 

Peonies and Peppermint – band

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘band.’

TT_banner

1881, Rogers, Arkansas

Wadding her apron into a bundle, Jennie carefully eased the cast iron skillet off the cook stove. She settled it on the sturdy metal trivet on the counter and plucked two steaming biscuits out. She dropped them on a plate that was already filled with several pieces of fried chicken and mound of mushy green beans. She handed the plate to her husband, who sat at the oilcloth covered table with knife and fork in hand as if a king waiting for his royal due.

two-women-standing-on-a-log-ca-1900.jpg

My inspiration for Jennie Lee and her daughter

She wiped her hands on the white cotton apron around her waist. “I’m going to run over to Eliza’s while you’re eating and check on her.”

“Something wrong with the girl?”

“No. Not that I know of. Just haven’t seen her today yet. She’s usually over her in the afternoon when she gets done with her chorin’.”

“Probably got busy. She’s a married woman now. Not a little girl tied to yore apron strings anymore.”

A soft sigh escaped Jennie’s lips. “I know. But she’s so good about stopping by every day that I worry if she doesn’t.” She wrung her hands absently, not even realizing what she was doing.

“Could have fooled me. You two…yore thick as thieves. Why, I’d almost claim you were attached at the hip. Good thing their house is on our land, nice and close. Why…Jennie Lee…whatever would you do if you had to make the trip clear into town to see your daughter? Or, heaven help us…what if they’d decided not to move south with us?” Her husband took a bite of beans and swallowed before continuing. “What if they’d stayed up in Missouri? You’d be in a mess o’ trouble then.”

“Why David Carl Barnes! How can you even utter that thought?” Color flooded her cheeks as the possibility of what could have happened flitted through her mind. “Of course she and her Luke would move with us. She is my only daughter.”

“I know that, dear.” His face softened and his eyes clouded slightly. He spoke a little softer with his next words. “I know it’s harder. Since the other losses. I’m just a’ sayin’ that you might want to give the girl a little room. She does have her own husband and house to tend to now.”

Jennie settled down in the vacant chair, her empty plate staring up at her. She spoke in a whisper. “It’s only that I worry so.”

Her husband shook his head and picked up a chicken leg. “I know you do. I’d almost think your name was ‘Jennie Worry’ instead of ‘Jenny Lee.’ Run along. Go check on the girl. Make sure everything’s all right.”

Before he finished speaking, Jennie leaped from the table and was lifting her apron over her head. She barely hung it on the hook on the wall before the door was slamming behind her as she rushed down the path towards her daughter’s abode.

The sun set long before Jennie returned home. The kerosene lamp sitting in the middle of the kitchen table cast a band of light around the one room cabin. David sat reading his Bible and held his finger on the verse to keep his place. Jennie gathered her sewing basket from beside the bed and joined him at the table.

He licked his thumb and turned a page before questioning after Eliza’s welfare. “You were gone a long while. Is the girl ill?”

—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.

Wordless Wednesday

photo (43).JPG

Image

Fanning the Flames of My Dreams

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

–Harriet Tubman

It’s easy to doubt ourselves. There are days that I not only doubt that I have the strength to follow and reach my dreams, sometimes I doubt that my dreams are worthy. The dreams I have aren’t dreams that I think will save the world. So, does that mean I should ditch them, in favor of more altruistic pursuits?

Not at all.

Just because the current dreams we’re chasing aren’t about opening a homeless shelter, or an animal shelter, or helping those in destitute straights, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t reach for them. Because even if our dream feels like a goal with a selfish intent – a weekend in Cabo, a new car, a trip to see the Aurora Borealis – in reaching for something we desire, we nurture our soul and fan the flames of contentment in our lives. And when we nourish this inner part of ourselves, we then have the confidence and fortitude to reach out to others and encourage their ambitions also.

Affirmation: I have the strength, patience, and passion to achieve my dreams.

(Excerpt from Spoonful of Sugar, scheduled for release October 2016)

Spoonful of Sugar

Guest Post: The Charm and Challenge of Writing a Series, by C. Hope Clark

I first discovered C. Hope Clark through her Funds for Writer’s weekly newsletter. Soon I began looking forward to Friday afternoons, waiting for the newsletter to appear in my inbox, full of markets to peruse and advice about making money from writing.

After waffling back and forth for several months, I broke down and ordered her book, The Shy Writer Reborn. It is still my favorite writing go-to guide several years later. The poor volume is dog-eared, highlighted, underlined and hasn’t been shown any respect. It’s a book I learn from each time I open it up.

And then, I read Edisto Jinx, and fell in love with Hope’s Edisto Island Mystery series. Like the gift that keeps giving, Hope is the author that keeps delivering, be it writing that draws you right into the pages of the story, or through her wise words of wisdom about how to develop and market our world of words.

To celebrate the release of her newest book, Echoes of Edisto, Hope is our guest blogger today, sharing her thoughts about the charm and challenges of writing a series.

The Charm and Challenge of Writing a Series

By C. Hope Clark

hope_echoes of edisto            A good mystery series grips me as reader, reeling me in to devour every book the author’s released . . . and to buy every pre-order often months ahead of release. As an author, molding a series carries a similar sense of charm and magnetism. I love sitting down to the desk with characters who feel like family.

Authors spend a tremendous number of days, weeks, even months, sculpting the world of a series. The place, the time period, the main characters and those sidekicks and secondary players that give this recurring world depth and flavor all add to this compilation that will hopefully maintain readers itching to buy book two, three, or like Janet Evanovich, 23 books in the Stephanie Plum mystery series.

First, let’s consider why readers love series. What is the magic formula that returns them to the same characters time after time?

Familiarity: Everyone loves to return to a place where they are remembered. To some it’s like coming home. To others, it’s more of revisiting a comfortable setting full of people we already know . . . people we understand, somewhat predict, and can let down our guard with. Instead of walking into a strange place full of the unfamiliar, we fall right back to where we left off, understanding the jokes, weather, buildings, traffic and community.

Ease of choice: With too many books to sort through for our next read, readers will leap toward the next in a series rather than a new author. Reading a series reduces the frustration of choosing something new that might not be worth the investment of time and money.

Accomplishment: While silly to some, readers find a sense of achievement in keeping up with a series. Not only do they feel they understand the players more intensely, but they also feel closer to the author. Becoming an expert in a series makes a reader feel a kinship with the creator.

Momentum: We live in a time of bingeing. Video games, television series on Netflix, movies sequels. Watching all the Lord of the Rings in one day sort of bingeing. A thrill shoots through readers when they discover an author with multiple books already published, and that thrill deepens when those books are a series. We like sliding from the end of one book to the start of another.

But from another angle, what drives an author to stick to one world and write about the same characters? The same feelings as readers do, maybe with a different spin.

hope_beach.jpgFamiliarity: Having a world already created enables stories to build upon the previous releases. The author already knows the behaviors, settings, clothing styles and weather. There’s a comfortable use of assumption that isn’t allowed in a stand-alone novel or the first in a group.

Ease of choice: Many characters return, giving the story a foundation from the opening page. Authors can more quickly select characters to make decisions because they can base action and reaction upon established behavior and past experiences. There is a sense of ease to writing in a world already designed, tried, and tested.

Accomplishment: A satisfying delight comes from writing book four, five, eight, or ten in a series. While an author can write the same number of stand-alones, the fact they’ve perpetuated the same package for so long, with readers following and begging for more, carries a serious feeling of accomplishment. Sue Grafton could have written 24 different books with 24 different characters, but instead she wrote 24 books about Kinsey Millhone. Which is more memorable?

Momentum: A story jumpstarts quicker for an author when the setting and players are already waiting for their marching orders. A book has a story and a character arc, with both changing over the course of the tale. A successful series has not only individual book arcs, but also a series arc, where the characters deepen, grow, learn, and change . . . maybe even the setting shifts as the series propels itself further. Each book is a stepping stone. When arcs quit occurring in a series, when the characters stop evolving, the series falls flat.

But there is a writing challenge in continuing a series. At first blush, a series appears simpler since, after all, a lot of the work has been done in the earlier books. However, series carry their own difficulties for the author.

hope_seashellsOriginality: The reader knows the world you’ve built. While they want more of the same, they also want fresh material. How do you take the familiar and infuse novelty into it without undermining the foundation?

Evolution: The reader enjoys this series’ universe, but they don’t appreciate it remaining static. Where is it going? How is it growing? What occurs in book four versus book three that changes the experience for entertainment’s sake, but also without disturbing enough of the old that keeps your reader coming back?

Character Growth: The protagonist in the first book isn’t quite the one in book six. A lot of water has flowed under that bridge, and each experience in each plot has changed that person. Novels cover life-altering, mind-bending events. Upheaval and confrontation make human beings adapt to circumstances as part of an evolutionary process instilled into our DNA. We try not to make the same mistakes, and we try to learn lessons that will make our futures easier, safer, and brighter. The difficulty for the writer is to continue these changes from book to book, piling on the education, while keeping the character likeable and familiar enough for the reader to still love.

Series have their charms and challenges. They remain keenly appealing to reader and author alike. It’s human nature to return to the familiar. However, sometimes the author has to shake that series up a bit to keep it crisp and spunky. And the reader, whether they know it or not, don’t want that world to be so familiar that it’s no fun to return to.

hope

BIO: Hope Clark has written six novels in two series, with her latest being Echoes of Edisto, the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Mystery continues to excite her as both reader and writer, and she hopes to continue as both for years to come. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

ECHOES OF EDISTO on Amazon

Guest Post: Defending my Genre

Carmen Welsh, a multi-talented writer and artist, is a guest blogger today at Trisha Faye. Join her as she tells about an experience she had during her MFA program.

kay fay avatar

Defending My Genre

In the MFA program, before each semester, we must submit a 25-page manuscript. The reason for this is so we can, during the then days on the university campus, workshop that particular piece.

In the entire MFA student body, all three genres are usually represented: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Many come from other states as well as other nations. Most of the student body stayed in hotels or university-sanctioned inns during the ten days. Our workshop classes consisted of four to six students on average. Each class taught by a mentor according to the workshop students’ genre.

In this third semester, we were all female, including our mentor. As somebody who started out in childhood with mostly male friends, because many female peers weren’t into comics, video games, and/or drawing super-heroes/super-sheroes if one was in art class. I remember classmates during grade school who often acted mean to me or any girl that did not fit a certain mold.

However, as an adult, I have since ended up with friends nearly split down the middle, gender-wise. I went along with the sisterhood hype of my graduate school friends and workshop buddies.

Perhaps it would be a good thing for once to be in an all-female group, I thought the first week.

The first few days involved discussing what we each had written/submitted by email and feedback we received from each classmate. Most of my feedback made sense, sounded intuitive, and, during the feedback sessions when the writer must remain silent, I took a lot of notes. I made many changes to the writing.

It was probably by the second week I began to get a sense the mentor wasn’t exactly on board with my story. Not with its ideas, just the overall existence of it. I can’t say what those social cues were because they ran as an undercurrent within her feedback and constructive criticism.

One of my classmates, who didn’t know me well at the time, seemed to side with the mentor. Two of my classmates that did know me and knew my writing beforehand because they both read my blog, defended the draft.

Each day in workshop, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable. It wasn’t even the nervousness of work-shopping my prose baby, it was an inkling of disapproval. As if I shouldn’t be using such a literary device.

Eventually, I didn’t feel confident in approaching the mentor. I seemed to receive a sense she wouldn’t listen even if I wanted to discuss my concerns. I panicked because I was in my third term, a pun-intended critical time as this would be when all third-semester students worked on a Critical Essay, a precursor to writing one’s thesis. I wondered if I might have to drop out this term. I couldn’t picture this mentor assisting me on such a crucial paper, not with the way she reacted to what would become my Master Thesis. My confidence in the mentor fell each time her comments about my draft meant more on changing it completely rather than fixing it. I wondered if I might have to take an extra term to graduate.

I went to the program director and asked if I could speak with him. At the end of the day, back in my hotel room, I emailed him a professional rant. The next day, right after morning seminar, I approached the director and he took me aside. He explained that he must get the mentor’s side of the story, which was fair. He also explained that because we were all writers (the entire faculty are professional authors in different genres), we tended to overreact when it came to criticism. His friendly and teasing manner put me at ease but I still worried about the mentor’s reaction.

During workshop, my insides felt in knots and crumbled pieces. When workshop finished for lunch, the mentor asked me to stay behind. My friend from our first semester together, looked back at me with worry. I thought, and I think she did too, that this felt a lot like detention. I made sure I remained as calm as I could.

The mentor lit into me. She was annoyed I actually ‘went behind her back to speak to the director when I should have come to her first’. I was angered. I am almost forty. I was done being talked down to. She continued her tirade that if I couldn’t handle constructive criticism, how far would I go as a writer? That’s when I stopped her and explained that I have a number of publications to my belt and have attended writing workshops since the late 90’s. I understood the model, how it worked, and that many of those classes had taught me plenty about the business of writing.

Those early ideas to take my writing seriously were given to me first by a caring English professor who directed me to my first Creative Writing professor. I never thought it could become a career choice. I didn’t even know that “furry” was a genre!

The mentor wanted me to change everyone in my story to human, including my male protagonist, but to keep only my female protagonist as a canine! She also explained that from the dog’s POV, she could observe human behavior from a distance. I told the mentor that wouldn’t work because there was supposed t\ be a romantic involvement between both protagonists and how would that look if she remained a dog and he was now a human? I told her I didn’t write those things and I didn’t want to be known as THAT kind of writer.

“But you won’t find an audience unless you change it! People will think this story is for children!”
“Not true. I thought of my stories as a hobby. But a professor changed my thinking when she encouraged me to continue to write these kinds of stories and to find the markets for it.”

“And did you find that market?” she asked.

“I did! Because rejection after rejection, I finally found my first publisher in September 1999.”

I told the mentor that once I began to navigate freelance writing did I learn there was a market, a genre called “Anthro” or Furry. Because of this market, I found a fandom that would embrace my writings. That would respond to my art work.

“There is an adult audience for this genre!” I said. “And I’ve worked with editors. I know how to take criticism. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be published!”

“But I just wanted you to change the premise to science fiction!”

“I love SF and Fantasy. I love the film The Secret of NIMH and read the book it’s based on: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I also watched several versions of The Island of Dr. Moreau. I tried having humans and dogs coexist within this story and though that might work for my other stories, it didn’t work in this one. Believe me, that was the first draft! I tried and the story just wouldn’t work. Once I removed the humans is when the story hit its stride for the first time.”

I gave her the abridged version about this novel as an idea I came up with back in sixth grade summer school. If after all those years, I have been working on this project on and off, don’t you think I have tried different ways and writing styles to tell this story? The more the mentor asked questions and the more I explained my position did I see her expression change from anger to disappointment to realization to understanding.

I also told the mentor that not only did I learn about a genre and fandom I didn’t know existed, but, I also joined a writer’s guild where all the members write in this genre (Shameless plug for the Furry Writers’ Guild) and that I have been a member for almost five years.

“You’re part of a guild?” she asked.

“Yep.”

Her face changed. “Every writer needs a community.”

“And I found mine.” I said.

Lunchtime was an hour and my mentor now showed a renewed interest in my story. We went to lunch together. The more I explained why I wanted my story in the historical genre is when she began to ask me the right questions and give me the right feedback. We discussed what book lists I should annotate.

The program director later told me in private, “I see you two made up. See? You were overreacting.”

When I presented my idea for a critical essay about Aesop influencing anthropomorphism, the mentor approved the topic.

But when friends in the program (many I later graduated with in 2015) asked what happened, they became angrier than I felt. They understood the mentor’s earlier ideas would have undone the entire premise for my thesis. My family was also angry, as well as coworkers and my supervisor, all of whom had read chapters here and there from the fledgling draft and were familiar with my body of work.

Upon finishing the ten days and returning to my job, my supervisor wanted me to tell her the whole story. Her expression agog, she said, “I don’t think I could’ve been as calm as you. Oh my G*d, you went Julia Sugarbaker on her!” I laughed at the Designing Women reference.

 

UPDATE: A chapter from the manuscript has been published as the short story “Night Sounds” in the literary journal Prick of the Spindle Issue # 9. It’s available not only on its official website but on Amazon.com in print and as an e-book. Carmen Welsh plans to polish the completed manuscript this year.

 

Carmen Welsh holds an AA in Art Education, a BSc in Web Design, and a MFA in Creative Writing. She’s published short stories, illustrations, essays, and articles in fanzines, e-zines, online journals, and in print journals. She’s an official member of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) as well as the Furry Writers’ Guild. Four out-of-print stories became podcasts or reprinted. Her latest short story is “Night Sounds” published in Prick of the Spindle.

Her official website is http://TabbertheRed.com. Carmen’s publication’s list is on http://TheAngryGoblin.wordpress.com. Her art portfolio is “CopperSphinx” on DeviantArt.

Prick of the Spindle – Kindle edition

Prick of the Spindle – print edition

 

 

It’s Here! Fat and Sassy!

Fat and Sassy_Cover

It’s Here!

Fat and Sassy

Arkansas moonshine and California citrus.

A stone church and an ironing board.

Post-Depression woes.

World War II.

Mix it all up. Add six children into the mix, three of each, and you’ve got a unique product – Bea Jones. A lady, when asked how she was, liked to retort, “I’m fat and sassy.”

Bea’s tale takes you on the ride from California to Arkansas – to Missouri – and back to California in the early forties. The family finally settles down in a small California town, Glendora, nestled at the base of the foothills. While they viewed Mt. Baldy every day, life also threw its own mountains in the Jones’ family path. Come along and join the family as Bea and Casey struggle to keep their family fed and clothed, with just a bit of Arkie sass.

Order your copy direct from Trisha Faye and save!

Only $11.99 by July 30th! (Plus $2.75 shipping)

 

HERE’S A STORY SNIPPET FROM FAT AND SASSY…

The last day on the road seemed the longest. The children were cranky and restless after being cooped up in the car for six days. The food was about gone. Only saltine crackers and two tins of Vienna sausages remained from what they’d left California with. Casey had counted the last few dollars in his wallet, hoping it was enough to buy gasoline to get them to their destination. Bea was tired of refereeing the children, keeping them from fussing and fighting with each other.

When Casey pulled off the main road and slowed down to navigate the dirt road ahead, the children gave a cheer.

Mae recognized what the moment meant first. “Goody, goody! We’re almost at Papa’s house!”

The car jostled and bounced down the road. A plume of dust followed, swirling around the car and choking the passengers. “Roll up the windows!” Bea hollered as she cranked the front window as fast as she could.

Mae got one window up in the back while Bill still struggled with the other. Mae climbed over Helen and started turning the window knob.

“Me do it!” Bill insisted.

Mae kept turning. “You’re not going it fast enough.”

Bea turned and asked her husband. “You remember where?”

“Oh yes. I can make this trip with my eyes closed. Seems like just yesterday I was makin’ this trip, pickin’ up a load of ‘shine from yore Papa. Yes, siree, I know the layout of this land back here.” He chuckled with the memories of an earlier, more footloose time. “Made the trip several times in the dark with no headlights on neither.”

The prim set of Bea’s mouth showed what she thought of her father’s backyard business. “I’m surely glad you ‘aint running his liquor back up into Missouri anymore. Don’t want you gettin’ picked up for running shine and thrown in jail. Not while you have a family to provide for now.”

“No reason to anymore. ‘Cept the money sure was good. I wouldn’t mind a pocketful of cash like that again.”

“No! Don’t even think it. The Good Lord will provide for us. You don’t need to go back to that.”

“I can leave it behind. Besides, I got the best end of the deal. I got me the purtiest little gal out of it. Comin’ down here that first trip and seein’ Sam Goss’s daughter for the first time…why…that’s the onliest thing that kept me comin’ back.” He glanced across the seat at Bea and winked.

“That was on Valentine’s Day, too. 1935. And six months later, we were getting’ hitched.” A blush rose across her cheeks. “My stars, Evan Lewis Jones! Four children later and you can still get a girl all worked up.”

FS_wedding day.jpg

Evan ‘Casey’ Jones and Beatrice Goss on their wedding day, August 4, 1935

He chuckled and patted her knee. “I know when you call me by name, and not Casey, you’re serious ‘bout what you say.”

“Truth be told…” Bea paused and turned her head to watch his reaction. “…there may be child number five on the way.”

Casey braked the car and it slid to a stop in the middle of the road. “Truly?”

“Far as I know. I don’t recollect having my monthly visitor. I was feelin’ kinda peaked there for a few weeks. I was a thinkin’ it was nerves. Ya know, worrying about the bills and the move and all. But now I’m a wonderin’ if’n I’m not in the family way again.”

A broad smile broke across Casey’s face. “Well, I’ll give a hoot and a holler. I’m gonna be a daddy again.”

Grinning, he straightened up behind the wheel and gave the car some gas. “Guess we’d better git the little mother on home to her Papa’s house a’fore the cows come home.”

Bea sat back in the seat and shifted Tom to her other knee. She was relieved how well he’d taken the news. What with money being so tight and food and necessities so hard to come by, she hadn’t wanted to worry him anymore than he already was. He was a good man and she was proud to be his wife. He was a good father and he loved his children. He was fun to be around and she was still as taken with him as she’d been since she met him. It wasn’t his fault that times were so tough and jobs were so far and few between.

They pulled up in front of a small wooden structure that was little more than a shack in other more affluent areas. Rough, unpainted planks formed walls. A tin roof covered the home and a small porch area off the front side of the building. The back doorway led inside, the threshold slightly tilted as if sinking on one side. The door stood open, the cook room visible to everyone in the yard. Chickens ran loose around the dirt yard and when the car pulled in they ran off in a flurry, clucking with all their might.

A slight frown settled on Bea’s countenance.  “It sure looks a lot smaller and older than what I remember.”

A figure appeared in the doorway, sporting a well-worn, faded pair of overalls.

Bea fumbled with the door before Casey had the sedan in park. She scurried out of the car, hefted Tom up on her hip and hurried towards the house. “Sam!”

Sam stepped out, one slow step after another, in no apparent hurry. Bea enveloped him in a bear hug. “I’m so glad to see you. I’ve missed you, Brother.”

“Missed you too, Sis. Glad y’all got here in one piece.” He tousled the little heads that had followed their mother and were now hugging his knees. “Looky here, how big y’all have gotten.”

“Where’s Papa at?” Bea was anxious to see the familiar face of her daddy.

“He’s down in the holler, checkin’ on the mash.”

“I thought he gave all that up when Mama died. I thought he wasn’t gonna cook ‘shine no more.”

“I don’t know ‘bout that. He didn’t cook any up through the winter. This is the first batch he’s got going. ‘Course, that’s cuz it was so cold and he didn’t want to fuss with the mash that much.”

“Ayup.” Casey joined the brother-sister reunion. “I recollect one winter when it took him a whole month to run one pot of ‘shine. We had some antsy customers that year. Takes too much work in the winter. Once it’s below fifty degrees, the yeast just won’t ferment and then the alcohol content is too low. Not worth the bother.”

Sam tipped his head back and laughed. “And then we really have some unhappy customers!”

Bill tugged on his father’s pants leg. “What’s ‘shine, Daddy?”

 

Previous Older Entries

A to Z

December 2016
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031