My oldest son and my gift for worrying were born on the same day. 

When Zack was an infant, newly home from arriving in the world, I had a fear of letting him cry.  By that, I mean letting him cry at all.  One day, after one of those long nights when mommy and he who cried had been up all night, one of my cousins dropped by to see the new addition to the family.  When she arrived, I was sitting on the couch and sobbing.  She asked what had caused me to be so upset and I told her that I wanted to take a bath.

My cousin blinked a couple of times and said, quietly because she'd dealt with lots of new mothers in the family, "Mary Anne, go take a bath." I protested that Zack might cry or need me.  She said the baby was in his crib and he couldn't yet walk or roll over.  He might get upset, but he wasn't going to get hurt because mom took a few minutes to bathe.  I took the monitor to the bathroom and had a long soak.  Mommy felt much better and when Zack woke, he felt better too - especially because mommy felt like playing.

...continue reading "The Trouble With Mister Ducks"

I'm currently in the midst of a  pre-publication edit of A Sixth Sense Of Forever.  Yeah, Boz's story.  He played prominent roles in Faerie and Golden as the friend who kept his cool in the midst of Nial's and Colt's chaotic adventures.  So he's got it coming and he gets it - over the top and then some. 

In the course of this edit, given the current state of the world, the job market and everything, I keep thinking - what if we could edit our lives?  Think of the sections you could go back and rewrite.  You could take back the phrase "I quit" or you could say it instead of saying "I'll accept that."  You could respond differently to a job review or rewind all the way back to college and major in something different.  You could keep the one that got away or re-script a fight or nasty e-mail exchange with your spouse so that the words you can never take back get taken back.  So wouldn't it be great to get a shot at editing your life?

Well, there's a problem with that.  Like the old cliche about woman's work, editing is never done.  What book is ever the absolute best it can be in the mind of its greatest advocate and worst critic - the writer?   If Shakespeare had another shot at Romeo and Juliet  or if Margaret Mitchell could revise Gone With The Wind would they change anything?  As a writer who knows how I'd answer that question, I'm betting they'd find a hundred or more things they'd revise in what legions of readers find to be great work.  Because if you ask any author whether this book or that play is the absolute best it can be, the answer is always going to be - no, I can make it better.

With this edit of  Sixth Sense I find that the big bones of the story stand up well.  It's the little details I'm revising....a word here, a phrase there, rewriting a description or changing a comparison.  Mostly, as is generally the case, I find I can tighten up the language to make the story flow along faster and smoother.   The numerous places where I can tighten dialogue, edit lines and revise scenes are likely products of my creative process.  When I sit down to write something new, I make no effort to contain or control - I follow my muse where she leads.  With the hindsight of editing, I can make muse's meanderings make sense.

I suspect that all writers are prone to editing, but I don't know if they're as prone as I am.  I never like to post anything or send it to anyone without looking at it one more time.  If I got a call from an editor or agent tomorrow saying they'd read the posted free samples of Brotherly or Faerie and wanted to read the fulls, I'd make changes.  If they said they'd read the fulls and needed a word copy to present to a board or to revise themselves - I'd still make changes.  I expect that if they published the book and I passed it on a bookstore shelf somewhere I could leaf through it and yes, find things I'd like to change.  I wonder if my favorite writers - Julia Quinn and Johanna Lindsey - pick up one of their old volumes, flip through it and think - Boy, I could do that so much better today.   

The bottom line of the editing process is that as long as I'm growing and changing, as long as I'm working and improving my craft, then I'll see changes I could make to improve any past project.  If I didn't see those changes it would mean I'd stopped growing and learning and improving.  And that would be a very, very bad thing.

It's too bad that we don't get a chance to edit our real life stories to make them flow more smoothly.  Maybe that's because the bumps and bruises, the miscalculations and mistakes give us the experience that got us to today.  And maybe, where we are today is where we're meant to be right now, at this moment. 

We can't edit our pasts, but we can use that editor's eye to change our futures.  We need to pull out the story of our yesterdays and see the places we'd like to re-write and revise and understand the spots we'd like to alter.  We can't change yesterday's mistakes but we can refuse to bring the past into tomorrow.

Today is Volume I.  Tomorrow is the sequel.

1

Fathers are a lot like movie stars.

They cast the biggest, the broadest, the most all-encompassing shadow in the house.  They inspire, motivate, de-motivate and terrorize.  And all too often, they do it all without ever trying.  The memory that sticks in my mind from my own family features my hubby and Zack, our eldest (now 18 and about to head off to UCF to college although Mommy isn't sure how she'll like the dorm room). 

Zack, as a combat crawler at the age when he should have been toddling, had a couple of challenges.  First, his Mom worried constantly that he might be hungry.  (She still does).  Today he can just give me the look, say he loves me, and leave the table.  As a creepy crawler, he didn't have that option.  So he was a big butterball of a baby and toddling presented size challenges.  Second, his own mental make-up, even at that little age, meant he didn't want to do anything until he could succeed.  He did his combat crawling while his peers held onto furniture and took lurching little steps. 

Then one day Zack's dad was in the kitchen and Zack and Mom were in the den.  Dad started whistling and Zack jumped to his feet and ran into the kitchen, chasing the man making the merry noise.  Yeah, his Father inspired his first steps without even trying.

...continue reading "An Ode To Daddy Dearest"

A quick blog post from sometimes sunny and sometimes stormy Orlando, Florida. I know what you're thinking, but no, we did not travel here to visit the mouse. My eldest, Zack - the braniac National Merit Finalist - was honored to receive a full scholarship to the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. Their mascot is "The Knight." He'll be attending the school's outstanding Honors College, Burnett Honors College.

We've been in Orlando for a two-day orientation called, "The Knighting." It is now complete, and my son has registered for classes for the fall, pursuing an engineering major. He wants to go to Law School - like Mom. His Mom advised him to major in a "real" undergrad discipline where he could get a job. That was a 'do as I say and not as I do'  bit of advice. I majored in English. Many of my Law School classmates majored in either history or poli sci. With engineering, my son will have a leg up on construction, products and other very technical litigation. He can also get a job as an engineer and right now that would be easier than finding a job as a lawyer.

Zack is a smart kid and I'm very proud of what he's accomplished. I'm also very grateful to the outstanding educators at UCF who saw enough potential to give him a full scholarship. I'm confident he will achieve wondrous things and make UCF proud.

...continue reading "The Knighting Is Complete"

I've been stuck in the final lap for a while now.

Yep, I'm writing the final, climactic chapter of my new contemporary romance. The problem is that I've been writing the final chapter for a couple of months. It should have been long finished.  By now, I should have finished the new one, finshed a pre-publication edit of A Sixth Sense Of Forever - the sequel to Faerie and GoldenAND started on my next projectInstead, I keep getting side-tracked on tangents, writing pages of text over one weekend and not getting back to it until the next weekend.  Then, when I read it back over, I realize that it's all wrong - either wrong for the mood, wrong for the characters, or wrong for the story.  I hit delete and write the section over again.

I've been making myself write - at least on the weekends.  I know I should write something every day.  I used to do that.  It used to be that I couldn't wait to get home and write.  The words would be churning inside, just waiting to burst free. But these days, it's sometimes tough to write on the weekends.  The problem is that my muse has turned fickle.

...continue reading "In Uncertain Times, We Have to Work Harder For Happy Endings"

1

Many of us imagine the perfect mother as some combination of TV matriarchs June Cleaver and Marion Cunningham. Those mothers and the ones so often portrayed in film and literature are happy, well adjusted souls. They act as the rudder, steering the family through the choppy waters of life. Society's image of "the perfect mother" is someone who puts aside her wants and wishes, her goals and ambitions, and focuses on those of her children or her spouse. In other words, to fit the mold, the perfect mother must be the perfect martyr.

I've never been much for molds. I don't like them for my characters and I don't like them in my reality. I've also never been much for martyrdom. If I'm nailed to a cross then I can't hug my kids. Hands down, I think hugging and frequent reminders that my love and my support are unconditional beats trying to guilt my two phenomenal sons (Zack -18- and Sam -11) into doing "the right thing." Who says it's the right thing anyway? The phrase makes my point - social norms make mothers into judges who decide absolute right and absolute wrong, who know that Junior must do this or that to be happy and productive but that doing the other thing would not only be wrong, it would make him miserable.

...continue reading "The Best Mothers Are Certifiable"

Currently, I'm awaiting two things and I'm not sure which causes the most tension.

Just published my FIRST paperback.  Brotherly Love  is available on Amazon.  The publication of an actual physical version of a book is a momentous occasion for any writer.  It's a dream come true.  Okay.  It's the K-Mart Blue Light Special version of a dream come true.  The actual dream come true would involve a NY publishing house, an editor, a literary agent and a book tour.  But, the great thing about being a writer today is that we can take the reins of our own destiny.  Thank you Createspace and Amazon. 

My listing just went live on the aforementioned literary mecca called Amazon and I'm anxiously awaiting my first sale.  Not that I'm clicking my Createspace member dashboard every few minutes or anything.  No.  Of course not.  (Yeah, right.)

The other anxiety producing event is that my husband is actually reading the book.  He's nobody's romance fan.  Just last night he told me that he might go postal if he ever read any versions of the words pebbled and nipples in the same sentence again.   I asked if he'd have the same problem looking at them.  He shot me a look. Yeah, one of those looks.  No dear, I'm not certifiable. 

So, I'm biting my nails to see whether my husband will be able to finish the book and come up with anything nice to say about it.  Can the man I've been married to for over 20 years and produced two people with find something non-nasty to say when he finishes my book?  If he finishes my book?   

I can hear it in my head.  It's the voice of the announcer from the soap I used to watch with my maternal grandmother.  Her grandchildren called her Mammy.  We  called my maternal grandfather Spot. Don't ask.  But anyway, Mammy and I used to watch a soap called "The Edge of Night" every afternoon.  That announcer's voice is in my head now. 

What's he saying?  It goes something like this: 

Will any patron of Amazon ever click the buy button and take delivery on Mary Anne Graham's firstborn paperback, Brotherly Love?  Will the man who with Mary Anne Graham created her first and second born sons actually read her entire book?  If he does, will he be able to say something nicer than, "It wasn't completely rotten." Or even - you dreamer you - "It didn't make me want to throw up."

Stay tuned women everywhere.  As for me, like I said, I'm biting my fingernails.

My toenails are even starting to look tasty!!

2

I'm currently editing A Golden Forever, the sequel to Faerie.  Like all good sequels, it also stands alone as a book the reader could enjoy without reading any of the other books in the series.  And yes, when I say I'm editing, what I mean is, I'm re-editing.  Or perhaps, re, re, re editing.  Does any writer ever feel finished with the work?  Anyway, in the course of editing this time with the intent to e-publish, part of the story causes me a little concern.  

Golden  tells Viv's story of going to California's gold rush to fund a future independent of any man.  Of course, the Earl who sends her to California has his own agenda.  The Earl is using Viv as bait to reel back his son, Colton.  The son is a bastard half-breed who was abandoned once by the father as a child, and betrayed as an adult.  The P.C. issue arises with the son. 

Troubled heros can be trouble for writers too.  Colt was the result of his father's affair with an Indian maiden during the father's tour of the American west.  Colt's mother marries a tribe warrior who doesn't much like the half-breed who reminds him and his wife daily of the English noble the wife gave herself to and still loves.  Colt pays for that as a child and after his mother dies has to sell his body to widowed squaws for food and shelter.  Later, in England, he sells his body to ladies who want to sleep with the savage in order to get invited to their social affiars and to gain acceptance to the ton

The stories about the tribe are rooted entirely in my own imagination.  I selected a real tribe, the Crow, as the one to which Colt's band belongs.  Why the Crow?  It made sense geographically in the story.  I also researched the tribe and found they were much more open about sex and sexual issues than many other bands.  I consider that philosophy very positive.  I also consider it important to the story because it had to be a tribe where the women would have had enough power and self-esteem to take charge of their sexual needs - even if they did it in a way that hurt Colt.   Let's face it, they also helped Colt because he survived. Survival isn't always free and it isn't always easy.

That's where my fears about the P.C. police come in.  I proudly have Cherokee blood in my lineage.  My eldest son has golden skin year-round thanks to that part of our heritage.  We've taken the kids to the Reservation museum and the Indian Village in Cherokee, North Carolina.  The children have been taught to respect all of their heritage.  But some folks of Indian heritage object to things like names of sporting teams.  It's not an attitude we really understand in the South and none of that P.C. mania has ever taken hold here.

Many symbols of history and heritage hold mixed messages.  In my state, South Carolina, we honor those symbols for the heritage and leave the meaning to the beholder.  I worry that some of the groups may take aim at Golden  and see only part of the message.  Even so, I decided to leave the Crow tribe as the Crow tribe.  I thought of making up a name - perhaps the Eagle Tribe - but in its own way, that seemed more disrespectful.  I admire the open acceptance embodied in Crow principals. I wish the South had more of a grasp of accepting rather than judging, of opening doors rather than closing them. 

I'll put a disclaimer at the beginning of my book, advising the reader of my creative license, and urging them to visit the Reservations, study the tribe and hopefully come to respect its many accomplishments and achievements as well as its history of acceptance.  The P.C. police may come for me when I post the book, but I hope they won't.  I hope they will understand that the dangers of fighting creativity and literary vision far outweigh any benefits.   

A Golden Forever  should be posted -- or published -- soon at e-tailers around the web.  Check it out and let me know what you think. I suspect that how readers see the story may be as varied as how readers see some of those monuments and symbols.

History is as individual as the people who made it.  One size doesn't fit all.

Dreams sometimes come true.  Once in a great while, Second Chances happen in real life too. 

The best duck in the pond swam home. 

Right now I'm working hard to deserve him.  Soon, I'll have time to address other topics.  My next post will call for everybody to board the mind hopping express - it's one of my favorite trains!

Stay tuned.  Same quacking time.  Same quacking channel.

I had the best duck in the pond but he swam away.

My duck had a tough year and I should have worked harder to support him. Instead, I let the pressure of bills and finances get to me and I quacked at him harshly. We all feel some stress from finances these days, but why didn't I see that what pond we swam in wasn't as important as that we swam together?

Some lessons get learned too late.

I hope my duck swims home soon so I can pet him and treat him like the special quacking partner he is. If he doesn't, I'll have to sharpen my bill so I can take care of any poaching female quackers until he does.

I have to believe he will. Second chances aren't just for romance novels.