04 July 2009

A Butt Kickin' Friend is Good to Find

Dungeonmistress's Note: Due to circumstances beyond her control (she's still looking for her brain, at last report) Jean Marie Ward was unable to post today. [grin] I hope you'll enjoy a piece cross-posted from The Romance Studio blog.
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Friend: noun
1. Someone who knows when to offer her shoulder
2. Someone who knows when to kick your ass (q.v. true friend)

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I’ll get right down to the nitty gritty. I lost my father about a month ago. Actually I’d been in the process of losing him for at least the last ten years; May 23 was simply the final chapter in a death-cheating odyssey that confounded the best specialists in central North Carolina. I mean, Dad would show up for an appointment and his doctors would say half-seriously, “Dude, are you still alive?”

I had this idea that when his end finally came, I’d be ready for it. Shake it off, secure in the knowledge that Dad’s was a life well lived, and move on to do likewise.

When I’d share this with my best friend J.C. Wilder, she’d nod and smile. She’d been down this road. She knew better.

Last December, my most recent title hit the virtual bookshelves right about the same time I visited my parents for the holidays. One look at Dad, and my Mom and I exchanged glances that said we knew it wouldn’t be much longer for him. He always went to great pains to sound hale and hearty on the phone, when in reality he couldn’t walk more than a few steps.

I took a deep breath and told myself I was okay. I wasn’t. I went back to Ohio ready to dive into book three of my Legends series — and found myself staring hopelessly at the screen, my mind as empty as the rest of my life looked without my Dad in it.

J.C. and my editor, Lindsey, were patient. They were kind and supportive through the final ordeal that ended May 23 as Dad passed peacefully into the next life. They bided their time over the next two weeks, waiting for me to turn back to the writing that has been a huge healing force in my life.

By early June, they lost patience. They knew better than I did that if I wallowed in my funk much longer, there might be no getting out again. There was only one way to get me back on task. Spring a carefully planned trap.

I knew something was up when I observed the two of them huddled over martinis in a dark corner of the bar at the Lori Foster conference. And how they’d stop talking whenever I came within hearing range. They even waited to strike until I was driving home.

My cell phone rang.

“Okay, here’s the plan,” said J.C. without preamble. (She always assumes I know it’s her.) “Starting tomorrow, you are going to start writing a novella. We don’t care what it’s about. You will write for two hours a day for six days a week. At the end of that two hours, you will email me the file, and I will forward it to Lindsey. Neither one of us will read it, you just have to send it.”

“Um, okay.” I knew there had to be more. She didn’t disappoint.

“Here’s the catch. You will immediately delete the file from your hard drive. The next day, pick up where you left off and keep going.”

My heart nearly stopped. My crippling Internal Editor was already screaming bloody murder. Write without the possibility of going back to fix mistakes? Yikes!

“You may not have the files back for editing until you hit 10k words,” she continued as if she had a perfect right to boss me around.

“I think I’m going to throw up,” I croaked.

“Trust me, this is going to work,” she said with a confidence I didn’t feel. At. All.

I hemmed and hawed for a few days. Then I opened a new document and started typing with only the vaguest idea of what the story was. Two hours later, I emailed the file to J.C., swallowed hard, and hit DELETE.

Then I went to bed, curled up in a fetal position and bawled like a baby.

Next day: Lather, rinse, repeat.

By day three, I found myself tentatively looking forward to my two hours of seat-of-the-pants writing time, even knowing that by the end I’d be a basket case. By day seven, I was writing on my laptop in the car, hauling it with me everywhere to cram in a few minutes here and there. And I have a first draft half-way finished. This has to be some kind of record for me, folks.

My talisman is a picture on my computer's destop of my Dad. He’s sitting in a boat, grinning and holding up a miniscule fish that’s not much bigger than the bait he caught it with. Even he understood that if you catch enough little fish, eventually you have a “mess”, which in Tarheel-speak means enough for a meal.

In other words, even baby steps eventually get you to your goal. So, step by painful baby step, I’m emerging from the numbness.

And it’s all due to the friends who have my back. Everyone should be so lucky.

Carolan Ivey
Romance that will haunt you…

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