Sunday, May 8, 2022

A Mother's Day Reflection

I've spent a good measure of my adult life without my mother. Even though I was forty-one when she passed. We were just reaching that state of equality where we were both adults and might have become friends.

I spent much of my childhood into young adulthood trying to be different from my mother, seeing only the aspects of her that I didn't want to become. My mother had her struggles with anxiety and worry. There were times that, in my childlike observance, I thought she might not be happy. I wanted to be my own person, strong and worry-free. People would constantly remind me, "You're so much like your mother." And it would spur me to try harder to be different, something that expanded the gap between us in those years. I had to admit, when I had my senior photo taken, that I did, in fact, look just like my mother. 



My mother passed away in 1991, ten years after we lost my father. She was just sixty-six. I remember the relief when I reached and then surpassed my sixty-sixth birthday. I'd outlived my mother. It's sad, in a way, to have outlived the opportunity to finally move past the differences and settle into a new, easier relationship. It's a different loss to never reach that point where the struggle and the differences fall away and two women become friends.

It took a while, even after my mother's passing, for me to own and embrace the ways I am so much like Anna Catherine (Kay) Hennessey Rettstatt. Having outlived her years, I suppose I see in my own image now how she might have  aged further. When I look into the mirror, I see the same sparkle in my eyes and can hear the same laugh at a good joke. I glimpse her kindness when I find myself in a situation to be generous and kind to someone in need. It's probably no accident I became a social worker. It's probably also no accident I became a writer. My mother loved to tell stories. Though many were true accounts of her adventures as a young girl, they came with the warning: Don't let me catch you doing that.

I think she would have enjoyed and been proud of my work as a writer.

My one regret or, perhaps, greatest loss is that I didn't have the opportunity to get to know my mother well as a person, as a woman. I think back on the things I would do differently. We all visit the 'if onlys' from time to time. We can't go back. Only forward.

Here's what I carry forward with me when I reflect on what I know to be the best of my mother--a woman who was the eldest of nine children growing up in small coal mining towns in the 1920's and -30's. She was a tomboy who loved baseball. She cared for her younger siblings. She was no stranger to mothering and hard work and giving care. She was daring once. She loved country music, singing and dancing, and the hula hoop. 

I carry her zest for life, her sense of humor, her kindness (though I'm not always as good at that as she was). I carry her with me. I've turned that corner from wanting to be separate to wanting to embrace a relationship that never had the chance to fully develop during her lifetime. I've had only to allow her uniqueness and accept one fact: I'm so much like my mother. Thank God for small favors.

How many times I've said, "Oh, no, I've become my mother." It took all these years to realize that's not such a bad thing after all.

Happy Mother's Day.






Thursday, April 21, 2022

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

International Women's Day ~ Should Be Every Day

It's International Women's Day. Not to be confused with National Women's Day which is in August. So we get two days a year to celebrate ourselves. If you're a woman--every day should be women's day. Every day should be a day to celebrate you, your womanhood, your accomplishments, your being.

Take time today to reflect on the greatness that is you, apart from accomplishments. Think about the women who have impacted your life to make you you. Sometimes those are good influences, and sometimes not so much. But those experiences all make you who you are--loving, kind, strong, boundaried, open, talented, driven by desire for something more, happy with what you have. Celebrate it all.

Remember the words to the song: I am woman, hear me roar? Katy Perry echoed the sentiment as well: You're gonna hear me roar. Sometimes that roar comes through in a soft utterance. However you roar, do it. Make your voice heard.

I am, like many of you, struck these days by the scenes out of Ukraine and the women taking up arms--a rifle in one arm, a child in the other. They are literally fighting for their lives. I can't imagine being in their shoes. Take a moment to offer a prayer, an acknowledgment, silence for the courage of those women.

What demands your courage as a woman? What's your struggle to stand firm? What do you have to celebrate today?

Do it. Do it all. Stand in solidarity with other women around the world who have their own particular struggles. Stand with your women-friends who strive to become more themselves. Stand up for yourself as you continue your own journey.

Celebrate you!




Friday, January 21, 2022

A New Year, A New Book, and the Magic of Writing Free

 



I started out chasing the same golden ring most writers chase--agent representation and a contract with at least a five-figure advance from a major publishing house. That's what we've been conditioned to pursue. We've also been conditioned to think that anyone who publishes with a small press or, heaven forbid, self-publishes is less of a writer than those who land a contract with one of the 'big five.'

In the course of my writing career, I have written under contract with four small press publishers. I turned down a contract with one significant publisher. I had agent representation for one year, but was not satisfied with the direction my work was being taken, so ended that relationship.

I shifted to self-publishing in 2014. One of the publishers I was with at the time folded and closed their doors. I had already severed ties with two others. My earliest books remained in the hands of my first publisher. I requested and was given back the rights to all of my published work. Then I set about rewriting, updating, finding new cover art, and republishing those books on my own.

I came across an online announcement in early December that a major publishing house had opened a limited time window to accept unagented submissions directly from authors. I got caught up in the initial excitement and rush to submit in hopes the publisher would contract my book. But I didn't have a book ready for submission. The deadline was January 9. One month away.

I set myself up with a challenge to write a book and have it edited, proofed, and ready to submit within that timeframe. I'd have to complete the first draft in fourteen days. I began feverishly to write a new book for this purpose.

I chased words around the page like a cat chases a mouse. I was determined, driven. Until--I sat back and revisited my reasons for switching to independent publishing in the first place. Why was I so caught up in having a book to submit to this publisher before the window closed? Did I really want to pursue traditional publishing with this or any publisher?

Deciding the answer to that question was a firm 'no,' I slowed down, took more time with the story, and it came to life. I was now writing from my heart, not my head. I wasn't driven to produce a product but, rather, engaged in the creative process.

I had written one book, Finding Hope, in seventeen days during a NaNoWriMo challenge. I could do it again. But I didn't. I stopped and realized that I have not pursued traditional publishing again because I prefer to publish independently. I enjoy the freedom and the control. I admit to finding the marketing aspect a bit overwhelming.

I slowed down, but still finished the first draft of Reasonable Doubt on January 12. After a beta read and a quick edit and proofing, the ebook published on January 19.

There are some who make assumptions about this--that's too fast, the writing has to be sloppy; no one can write a decent novel and have it edited and ready to publish in that short time; if you don't follow the traditional publishing path it's because your work is sub-par or you have no confidence in your writing. Well, you know what they say about assumptions.

Not all books are this easily written. Not all stories tell themselves so readily. Not all characters let you inside their heads and hearts so willingly. But when that freedom happens, it is magic, though I didn't pull this book out of a hat--or anywhere else anatomical. This is the way I love to write--the way I wrote early on in my career when the passion for writing drove me, and I didn't let the 'rules' or the naysayers slow me down.

So, here's to 2022. We're all a little bruised by the last two years. Let's hope this one is kinder to us all. I have lofty ambitions for this year. I have four more books in cue to be written and published in 2022.

Tell me I'm crazy. Tell me it can't be done. But do not tell me the book can't be any good because I didn't slave over it for five years and a hundred rewrites and then sell it for a five-figure advance. That last part is more of a dream most writers strive for but few achieve. I can put my energy into chasing that brass ring, or I can put my energy into writing what I love. And I don't have anything against my fellow authors who work that way. I applaud their efforts and successes.

We each have to choose the path that works for us. If you can write a good book in a month, do it. There's no shame in self-publishing, though some would like you to think there is. It's not a failure or a settling for less. It's a legitimate path to publication if you do it the right way. You are the publisher. You have to make sure the book is edited and the cover art is eye-catching and marketing is done to promote the book. So, in whatever path you choose, be shameless. Forge ahead with all the passion you have.

Will I ever take another swing at that brass ring, consider traditional publishing again? I don't know. I'll never say never. But for now I give you my latest effort--a women's fiction/mystery novel that I had such fun writing and that was born of my passion for storytelling. I hope you enjoy the story and meeting the Mountain Mamas.

Here's a short blurb:


Nurse Gemma Wallace is held suspect when opioids go missing from the neighborhood clinic where she works. She’s questioned, but never arrested or charged because the police have no solid proof and an abundance of reasonable doubt. Still the suspicion hangs over her like a sword. This is just the tip of an iceberg that sends her life sinking around her.

In a moment of utter hopelessness, Gemma considers ending it—all of it. She’s pulled back from the edge by a woman who’s been to that same edge more than once. Through Collie, she meets the Mountain Mamas—four women who show Gemma the power of friendship and the truth that no one is free from doubts—reasonable or otherwise.

Gemma soon realizes the burden of proving her innocence falls to her. While she searches for the truth of what happened that day, other truths are revealed. Truths that erase doubts about herself that she’s carried for years.

Available now in ebook and paperback at Amazon.com and in ebook at Smashwords.com  and all Smashwords affiliates including Barnes & Noble and Apple iBooks.

Happy reading, Linda