Monthly Archives: August 2012

“Don’t worry, I’m fine”

My son called me Saturday night. He and his girlfriend were at the beach for the weekend so I was surprised to hear from him.

“Hey,” I said, “What’s up?”

“Not much.”

This is how ALL our phone conversations start. Every. Single. One. Comforting in its predictability. But frustrating, because this kid never calls just to chat for no reason.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing. Just driving back from urgent care in Morehead City.”

“Urgent care?” This is not nothing. “What happened?”

My imagination has kicked straight into hyper-drive. He sounds calm, so I’m automatically eliminating things like evisceration and dismemberment by shark or boat propeller and have moved on to the lesser circles of hell. Maybe sunburn. Dehydration. Food poisoning. Even so, I’m already halfway off the couch, ready to drive two hours to the beach.

“Yeah, so I got stung by a stingray.”

“WHAT?!” My brain has now stopped working. Well, except for the part that vaguely remembers Steve Irwin died after being attacked by a stingray. And Steve Irwin was fucking invincible.

“Bastard got me on the ankle,” he said. “It bled like crazy. But don’t worry, I’m fine.”

Don’t worry? Right. Never mind that he’s an adult and can take care of himself, I’ve been reduced to stammering incoherence between spikes of adrenaline. “But– you– what? Stung by– ohmygod– stingray– blood– holy fu– you sure you’re okay?”

“Mom. I’m fine. It hurt like hell for about an hour. Like an 8 out of 10.”

Okay, now I’m remembering Allie Brosh’s revised chart of pain and freaking out. I think #8 had something to do with imminent death but was just short of Ebola and being mauled by BEARS.

Allie Brosh’s chart of pain:

I’m trying to remember whether there’s enough gas in my car to make it to the beach without stopping to refuel.

But I’m doing my best to stay calm. Taking deep breaths. I remind myself that I am the mother of two kids who survived each other and childhood. And college. I’ve had lots of practice with near disaster.

Still. An 8 on the pain scale?

“That sounds bad.” I am the master of understatement with underlying tones of panic.

“Yeah, it was pretty intense. But it didn’t leave a barb, so that’s good.”

“A barb?” I think I might pass out.

“Nope, no barb. They cleaned the gash and put a band-aid on it and I’m fine now.”

Gash?” My voice emerged as a squeak. “A band-aid?”

My kid could have DIED and they put a freaking band-aid on it? I’m now incapable of speech and reduced to emitting high-pitched sounds of distress. But like any good dolphin child, my son is tuned to the frequency.

“Mom. Really, I’m fine. I just thought you’d want to know.”

And then I heard it. The voice of the kid who went flying off his bike while doing stunts and scraped the hell out of his palms and knees but didn’t cry. The same kid who sliced open his hand on a sharp rock and bled all over the place but was totally calm about it. So his mom wouldn’t freak out and worry. Not that I would have. Probably.

Okay, fine then. I wouldn’t freak out now either. Seemed the least I could do. If he could be all calm and collected IN THE FACE OF CERTAIN DEATH– ahem, so could I.

“Thanks for letting me know,” I said, with Oscar-worthy insouciance. “I’m sorry it messed up your weekend. And so relieved that you’re okay.”

“Yeah,” he laughed, “I guess I won’t be going in the ocean again this trip.”

“You’d damn well better not even think about it.”

He laughed again and it had the sound of indulgence. And love. “Don’t worry, mom. I won’t.”

I’m sure he’ll wait until at least next weekend.


Filed under parenting


There have been big changes in my life lately and I’ve debated and delayed writing about them. Some of this is difficult to say, but it seems silly to continue avoiding it.

Several things led up to these changes. Part of it has been a growing conviction that the thriller I’m writing (or not writing) is beyond my abilities to execute. I just don’t have the writing chops to do it justice. It took me too long to realize that and admit it. Along the way, I lost confidence in my ability to write anything and that has been horribly depressing. I feel guilty as hell and apologetic to the people who’ve been waiting FOREVER to read that book. I haven’t given up on it. I love that story. That’s precisely why I’m setting it aside. For now.

Another factor is that, like anyone else who’s been paying attention, I’ve watched the growing audience for ebook erotica and erotic romance. And, yes, the growing sales figures. Way back in January, long before the recent blockbusters, I started thinking maybe I should give that genre a try. But work demands were . . . fucking unreasonable demanding and my confidence was in shreds and I never quite got around to it.

And then I lost my job. Yep, I got fired. And in the next breath they asked me to stay on for a month to help with the transition. Craziest damn thing I’d ever heard. I declined. All I’m going to say about that situation is that nepotism should be a cardinal sin in business. Don’t do it folks. It will cloud your judgment and cause you to make stupid disastrous decisions (not me, the head honcho).

At first I felt a bit panicked. But at the same time I was vastly giddily overwhelmingly (there aren’t enough -ly’s to express it) relieved. I knew the job had become stressful, every morning filled with dark suffocating dread, but I hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten until it was just . . . gone.

It was like William Wallace in Braveheart: “FREEDOM!” Of course, that didn’t end well for him. Ahem.

I gave myself a couple weeks to just think and de-stress. The prospect of taking another job crunching numbers filled me with that same awful dread. I’ve done that for decades. I’m very good at it. And I don’t want to ever do it again.

But I need an income. I’ve got a bit of a cushion, but that won’t last forever. I found myself wondering about the possibility of making money from writing.

And then Ray Bradbury died. I know, that sounds totally random.

Totally random picture of my daughter’s cat.

That sad event led me to a blog post by Hannah Tinti that featured an embedded video of a Bradbury speech and her condensed list of his writing advice (watch the video, it’s entertaining and educational).

One piece of advice was to write short stories before you write a novel. That sounded wise. It also sounded like something I could do. He admonished that writing should be joyful. That you should surprise yourself. And don’t do it for the money. ACK. Sorry, Ray, some of us have no choice but to at least try to earn an income.

He also said to write something you’d want to read. And to follow your intuition. So that’s what I’m doing.

With apologies to my mom and everyone else who expected something different from me, I’ve decided to write erotic romance. Yes, I’ll be self-publishing it and there will be a different pen name and all that goes with it. More on that some other time.

I’ve already spent the past seven or eight months (really, this idea has been percolating) reading erotica and erotic romance. Because you should never try to write something you haven’t read extensively. I’ve now read a lot of it. Like any genre, there’s a whole spectrum of good, bad and incomprehensible. There is also a wide range of diversity. From light and fun to dark and angsty, from mild to wild and everything in between. And I do mean everything.

The stories that appeal to me, the kind I think I can write, are the type that are more about the characters than a laundry list of physical acts. Stories, regardless of genre, resonate because of compelling characters and the emotions they evoke.

You might be wondering what makes me think I can write erotic romance when I can’t even finish a final draft of a thriller. Fair question. It’s one I ask myself often.

Years ago, back when I tried and then decided not to write romance in spite of reading and enjoying it, there were two primary reasons. One was the whole “I’ve known you three days, let’s get married” thing. I’m not capable of writing that kind of HEA ending. The other was that the scenes I wrote involving physical attraction and sexual tension were a little too, um, intense for what contemporary romance was at the time. In erotic romance? This is not a problem.

Apparently, I suck when it comes to plotting an entire complicated novel-length thriller and writing action scenes (yes, I know, sex scenes are action scenes, hush, it’s different). But I think I’m pretty good at creating believable characters and I seem to have a good ear for writing dialog. And sexual tension.

More importantly, I’m seeing results. I’m not saying it’s easy. Writing is hard work. But I’ve been working on a novella for the past month and a half (with a two week break while my daughter was here visiting) and I’m having fun writing again. My productivity has gone through the roof. I’m not a fast writer by any measure, but I’m astounded by how much I’ve written in such a short time. My creative energy has exploded and I’ve made extensive notes for two more stories I want to write after this one. My confidence is making a slow but steady comeback. And I wake up every morning filled with an odd realization.

I’m happy.

I can only hope that translates into fiction people will want to read.


Filed under health and well-being, writing