So now I’m 59

By Holly Lisle

I turned 59 yesterday. As you get older, your birthday goes from being the high point of your year to something you give a wary sidelong glance as it whips by.

You back away a little. Birthdays start reminding you of all the people who aren’t around anymore to celebrate them with you — grandparents and parents and siblings and friends.

So to have an amazing birthday — that’s an unexpected grace note in your life, something you don’t expect anymore.

My amazing birthday started when Matt and I walked a tiny distance to a local bakery in our new town and bought a bunch of very NOT keto celebratory stuff.

Then we drove to Gnadenhutten, where I showed Matt and Joe the three houses I’d lived in when I lived there — one on Cherry Street when I was three or four, one on Spring Street when I was five to six, and one on Tuscarawas Avenue when I was seven (before we moved to Alaska).

Showed them my school, which was the elementary and high school when I lived there, but which is now apparently just the high school.

Finding places you lived when you were very small is challenging — but while Gnadenhutten has gotten a bit bigger (and is still a lovely town), I was able to locate both the Spring Street and Tuscarawas Avenue houses.

The one on Cherry Avenue is kind of iffy, because I was around three or four when I lived there, and I remember the place only because the lady who lived downstairs from us (and from whom my parents rented the upstairs) had these gorgeous tucked red velvet pillows that she would let me touch when I went to visit.

And because that house was the place where I got my mouth washed out with soap when my rideable Yogi Bear threw me to the sidewalk, and I loudly called him a goddamned bear. S l225

I have tended to wax philosophical in some of my past birthday posts. And I don’t do them that often, because birthdays when you’re an adult are usually just another day.

But here’s the thing…

Yeah, I’m getting older, and getting older carries with it the sure knowledge that you’re pushing toward an ending, and you’d prefer that to remain a long damn way in the future.

But at 59, I’m down a minimum of a hundred pounds and a max of around a hundred thirty from the most I ever weighed. I stopped weighing myself when I hit 231, but I kept gaining weight while increasing another whole WalMart X size. So I don’t know exactly how much weight I’ve lost. I know it’s a lot.

My blood pressure, blood glucose, and overall health are superb.

I no longer have a parathyroid tumor, and am still clear of tongue cancer. We’ll ignore the fact that I have a cold today.

And I now live in Ohio.

As you get older, birthdays stop feeling all that special. But this one — this one was spectacular.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Hurricanes and Roving Thug Block Parties

By Holly Lisle

Image of Hurricane Dorian is a cellphone screenshot from WeatherUnderground.com

Imagine you live in a neighborhood where, from time to time during the autumn, roving thugs invade the entire area. They pour into your house and the houses of everyone else in the neighborhood, stick guns to your head, and for a period of a week or more hold their guns to your head and the heads of anyone else who is with you, threaten to destroy everything you own and to kill you and everyone you love — and you can put shutters up on your windows — but if the thugs are serious, that won’t stop them from doing what they’re going to do.

One of three things then happens.

They do nothing, getting bored with their game, and just go away.

They trash some places but not yours, kill some people, but not you… and then they go away.

Or they destroy your stuff, or kill you.

They might come back again several times during the same year. Might just disappear into the woodwork for a while — but you KNOW they’ll eventually be back.

Well, the thugs are in my living room right now. Our sky is gray, it’s raining, and there are intermittent gusts of wind bending the palm trees in front of our place.

I KNOW Hurricane Dorian is supposed to turn.

I KNOW.

But you look at the size of that monster, and to the outer bands that are already over us, it’s very hard to NOT think, “Weather forecasters have been wrong once or twice before about hurricanes… and what if they are this time, and what if it doesn’t?”

And even if if does, there’s another one already building out there.

This needs to become Florida’s State Song.

It already is for me.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


The Ohio Series: TGIF, and the magic digs deeper

By Holly Lisle

I made myself cry three times today in the couple hours I was writing my 2056 words.

I’m connecting deeply with the magic of a real and remembered place — with a town I loved, with a time I recall with a lot of powerful emotions.

I’m dealing with my connection to this story with my odd version of humor, but there are times when you’re writing along and being snarky and smartass, and you step right into a puddle from the past where you can put faces to names, can wrap the angle of a ray of light around the smell of a basement or a little bedroom, and suddenly you’re up to your neck in ice-cold memory. It’s a shock. A punch in the stomach, and you find yourself choking back tears at the sound of someone’s voice who’s been dead a long time.

The characters in this book aren’t me. They aren’t people close to me. No thin disguises, no ‘just the names are changed.’

I knew going in that the place I’m writing was powerful for me, so I made the people as different from me and folks I knew and loved as I could. But they have to live in the place, and they keep setting off memory minefields scattered around from this place I never wanted to leave.

I’m starting to understand what my Muse was keeping me away from in never writing about home.

But being safe is never good for your fiction. I’m seeing what I’ve been missing by not writing about home too.

Anyway… today…

My hero is a cop. She has a cookie recipe handed down to her from her mother, who got it from her grandmother, both now dead — and today she used a bit of cop-ness and the suggestion of possible cookies in the future to make the deeply disturbing discovery that the guy who has been claiming to be a lawyer isn’t one, and that there’s something weird about the cookies.

And since she knows what’s in them, and knows there are no bizarre ingredients, she can’t imagine why they have such a hold on the Old Guy.

But instinct tells her to protect this secret. That it matters.

I know — but she doesn’t — that this ties into the fictional magic of the place. I know — but she doesn’t — that the magic of the place already has its hooks in her. She could leave now.

But she isn’t going to… and the time when she can leave is growing shorter by the second.

What’s there? The secret this place is hiding? I don’t know. I’m getting hints of it as I write, the feeling from my Right-Brain muse that it knows.

I have no clue when I sit down to write what happens next. And I’ll note for the record that I HATE pantsing novels. So at some point, I’m going to work through a provisional outline, just so I have something solid that I can ignore and write against and fight with and argue with on my way to the story.

Because, dammit, the story here is big. Dark. Scary. Powerful. And the weird old lawyer who isn’t, and the locked freezer in the basement, and the fact that Tori’s mother’s room was stripped bare and wiped down and repainted with a glossy gray paint, but every item in Tori’s room is exactly where she left it when her mother took her away and went on the run, is a big part of what’s still hiding.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Origin of the phrase WILD HAIR UP HIS ASS: a true story

By Holly Lisle

I ended up looking up the origin of the phrase “wild hair up his ass” this morning, and discovered there is shit-all about it on the internet.

This in itself is astonishing — it’s the INTERNET, you know? It knows everything. But apparently not.

The best I could find, well, the only thing I could find, was “does something completely unexpected.”

ORIGIN, folks. “This is what a phrase means” is not the same thing “where the fuck did this phrase come from?”

But now, my friend, I have discovered the origin of this phrase I’ve been hearing folks say my entire life.

I was in the bathroom this morning getting ready for work.

My cat was in the bathroom using his litter box.

And all of a sudden, he leaps out of the box, runs in tight circles in an absolute panic (which in a bathroom that small is a good trick), and comes to a skidding stop in front of my feet, at which point he crouches, body rigid, eyes black, ears locked back, tail whipping back and forth like we are both about to be devoured by aliens only he can see.

I look around to see what scared him.

Nothing. 

I bend over, rest a hand on his shoulders, assure him that everything is okay, that he is all right, that nothing is going to get him…

And he relaxes, rolls on his side…

Which is when I spot about an inch of cat turd hanging from his butt, suspended as if by magic.

Probably NOT magic, I think, and grab a piece of toilet paper, and give the turd a gentle tug…

And slowly remove what’s holding it there, which is about six inches of one human hair.

Mine. Matt shaves his head, Joe keeps his hair short.

Guess who had a wild hair up his butt?

So now he’s calm, happy, purring. I pet his little fat head and kick him out of the bathroom, and get my shower.

Which is when I look up, and see the lizard hanging on the drywall above the tiles, eyeing me.

I just keep taking my shower — I spent time as a kid in both Costa Rica and Guatemala, and I have shared showers with scarier critters than that.

At least until this one dropped of the wall to the floor of the tub, and I did my own version of a “wild hair” dance.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Why I shut down my Patreon fundraiser

By Holly Lisle

I’d intended to send a Questions & Answers email to my How to Write a Novel launch list, but that’s going to have to wait.Instead, I did THIS.

Closed my “Move out of Florida while writing fiction” fundraiser.

Here’s why — it’s this clause in the Patreon Legal Agreement

https://www.patreon.com/legal

By posting content to Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content.

Understand that I read that clause and all the rest of them before signing up.

BUT… I’m not a lawyer, and I understood that clause to mean that Patreon was claiming the right to use my Patreon-created content (in other words, my POSTS) to promote the site.

I DID NOT think that they were claiming the right to use and abuse the content I was giving my patrons. In this case, three monthly chapters of the raw first draft of one of my current novels in progress, Dead Man’s Party.

A friend emailed me with a link to this post, however:

https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-beginning-of-the-end-for-patreon/

Turns out, I was wrong. Patreon is claiming rights to my novel.

So I’m out. I sent the first copy of this email to my patrons using a private Patreon post, and then I shut down my Patreon fundraiser, and am now trying to figure out how to actually close my account.

I’m not letting this kill my dream of moving us out of Florida…
…(hopefully before the next hurricane, if not the start of the hurricane season).

How you can help, if you want to —

IF YOU’RE HERE AS A WRITER:
I have created original classes ranging from under ten dollars to way over a hundred. If one of the classes I offer could help you, then you buying it would help me.

MY COMPREHENSIVE CAREER-LEVEL CLASSES (in recommended order)

*** How to Write a Novel *** 

http://hollyswritingclasses.com/class/how-to-write-a-novel.html

(IN LAUNCH: On sale ONLY through Tuesday APRIL 8 — Final Discount Launch)

How to Revise Your Novel: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/how-to-revise-your-novel.html

How to Write a Series: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/how-to-write-a-series.html

How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/how-to-think-sideways.html

WRITING CRAFT SERIES (Each class is under $10)

Create a Character Clinic: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/characterclinic.html

Create A Plot Clinic: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/plotclinic.html

How to Write Page-Turning Scenes: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/pageturningscenes.html

WORLDBUILDING SERIES (Each class is under $10)

Create A Language Clinic: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/languageclinic.html

Create a Culture Clinic: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/cultureclinic.html

Create a World Clinic: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/worldclinic.html

WORKSHOPS & MID-SIZED CLASSES (PRICES VARY)

How to Write Short Stories: 

http://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/how-to-write-short-stories-class.html

How to Write Villains: 

http://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/how-to-write-villains.html

How to Write Dialogue with Subtext: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/dialogue-subtext.html

Title Cover Copy Marketing Basics: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/titlecovercopy.html

How to Find Your Writing Discipline: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/writingdiscipline.html

How to Find Your Writing Voice: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/writing-voice.html

How to Motivate Yourself: 

http://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/motivate-yourself.html

Beat Writer’s Block: 

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/beatwritersblock.html

FREE, INCLUDED WITH (also Free) SITE MEMBERSHIP

How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck

https://hollyswritingclasses.com/go/free-flash-fiction-class.html

===================

IF YOU’RE HERE AS A READER:

You can help out by buying some of my indie-published fiction.

SHORT STUFF, CURRENTLY AMAZON ONLY:

Light Through Fog: 

https://www.amazon.com/Light-Through-Holly-Lisle-Singles-ebook/dp/B0096F4HY0/

Rewind: 

https://www.amazon.com/Rewind-Holly-Lisle-Singles-Book-ebook/dp/B00AY1OHAE/

Strange Arrivals: 

https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Arrivals-Twisty-Fantasy-Tales-ebook/dp/B00EOWMYRW/

FANTASY – ARHEL TRILOGY

Fire in the Mist: 

https://books2read.com/FireInTheMist

Bones of the Past:

https://books2read.com/BonesOfThePast

Mind of the Magic:

https://books2read.com/MindOfTheMagic

DARK SCIENCE FICTION-ISH

SETTLED SPACE

Both of the Cadence Drake novels Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood and Warpaint, are off sale while I come up with new titles and new cover art for them, and new key words, descriptions, and other marketing that allows me to correctly put them in front of the audience that likes a few vampires and a bit of horror with its spaceships.

The Longview Chronicles (complete Series) is in the same universe — still dark, but without the vampires:

https://books2read.com/longview-chronicles

Or you can get the individual stories:

Born from Fire: 

https://books2read.com/born-from-fire

Suzee Delight: 

https://books2read.com/the-selling-of-suzee-delight

Philosopher Gambit: 

https://books2read.com/the-philosopher-gambit

Gunslinger Moon: 

https://books2read.com/gunslinger-moon

Vipers’ Nest: 

https://books2read.com/vipers-nest

The Owner’s Tale: 

https://books2read.com/the-owners-tale

STANDALONE URBAN FANTASY

Minerva Wakes: 

https://books2read.com/minerva-wakes

PARANORMAL SUSPENSE

Author Page: 

https://books2read.com/ap/xbzgyx/Kate-Aeon

Midnight Rain: 

https://books2read.com/midnight-rain

Last Girl Dancing:

https://books2read.com/last-girl-dancing

I See You: 

https://books2read.com/i-see-you

I have much more fiction that’s commercially published, or which is out of print and has reverted to me, but which I have not yet republished.

I’m not linking to ANY of that fiction, because your purchase of used books or books where publishers haven’t paid royalties in years will not help me.

So there we are.

I want to thank all my patrons again, and I am so sorry that I had to do this, but there is no way I can permit this:

Excerpted from Patreon Legal Terms

You keep full ownership of all content that you post on Patreon, but to operate we need licenses from you.

By posting content to Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content. 

No. Just NO.
Holly

P.S. I have had one of my Patreon patrons already ask me how she could continue to support me on a monthly basis.

Here’s the answer I gave her:

“I’ll look into what’s available. Right now, I’m crushed to discover the rights Patreon actually claimed, and worried about getting involved with any other site. So I’m in limbo. You’ll find my blog at HollyLisle.com. I’ll be keeping my folks there up to date on how I deal with this. It sucks.

Hugs, and thank you for asking.”

Why is EVERYBODY on my blog, my mailing list, and in my forums getting this?

Because if you know me, you’re probably either a reader or a writer. If you’re a writer, you may be considering using Patreon, and you need to know. If you’re a reader considering funding someone on Patreon, THEY need to know.

And this is the ugliest, broadest rights-grab I have personally ever seen. Or sadly, been caught up in.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


The Pointy Marketing End of Writing Fiction: Old Dog, New Trick

By Holly Lisle

No big secret that I’m working hard on making my fiction a full-time paying gig again — my objective is to earn 50% of my income from fiction, with the other 50% coming from my writing classes.

Fiction has been shoved over in a corner for years, because, well — writing good nonfiction is about a million times easier than writing good fiction, and in general it pays a lot better for significantly less work. And at the point where my writing site broke, it was getting the nonfiction up and running again that kept us from ending up living under a bridge.

And, honestly, after being taken in by that con artist John Locke, I had any hope of making a living writing fiction crushed out of me for a long time — everything that including both “indie publishing” and “earn a living doing it” looked like a scam.

But writing fiction is the dream job I love — sitting by myself in a room talking to invisible people on a page, watching them do things I don’t expect, finding better conflicts, bigger stories — and writing about what matters to me in THIS world that translates into my worlds.

I did it for free every spare minute I got for seven years before I sold anything. Did it as a commercial novelist working fiction as my full-time paying job for seventeen years. Throwing in all the years when I’ve been an indie doing fiction at least part time, I’m now over thirty years in on this — and it is STILL work I love.

When you find WORK. You. LOVE…. you do not ignore that. It’s rare. It’s astonishing.

I’m writing hard again. Fiction is what bounces me out of bed every morning. Knowing that I’m writing the stories I love, and that they will not be destroyed by bad editors or cancelled by ordering-to-the-net publishing idiocy matters to me.

Knowing that if I can get my work in front of a broader readership, what I’m writing has a chance to matter more — to me because it will help pay the bills, but to MY perfect readers, who can find something in fiction that they love, that matters to them as well — that’s what MAKES this the dream job.

I know how to write fiction. I’m good at it, and a good number of my students are making REAL money writing fiction after taking my classes.

They learned the “write good fiction” part from me.

Learning how to bring in serious money as indies? No.

That’s the part I’m learning from them.

And here are the books and here is the software they have pointed me to that I am fighting with and fighting through in order to make fiction a business, while STILL keeping it MY fiction. Good fiction.

1. Mastering Amazon Descriptions: An Author’s Guide: Copywriting for Authors
2. Mastering Amazon Ads: An Author’s Guide
3. Rapid Release: How to Write & Publish Fast For Profit
4. How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis: A Step-by-Step System for Enticing New Readers, Selling More Fiction, and Making Your Books Sound Good
5. Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream
6. KDP Rocket

None of these are affiliate links. They’re just links to books I’m reading and software I’m using.

I do NOT yet have numbers to prove any of this will work for me. I can prove (using KDP Rocket) that my folks are earning what they say they are. That the writers of the books above (and the maker of the software), are earning what they say they are.

So this time, I can see that there is a path that leads from where I am to where I’m going. I am going to find my way down that path.

You’re going to be seeing more split tests on this site. NOT just cover art. Sometimes cover copy. Sometimes blurbs.

If you’ll help me out by participating in the split testing (just click whatever you like best), I’ll be grateful.

The only data I’m gathering is clicks. Nothing personal, nothing identifiable, nothing that will track you across the web and show you damned advertising.

I’m simply learning the split-testing process to figure out how to write better cover copy and blurbs, and how to build better covers.

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, thank you for reading this, and thank you for your help in clicking to let me know what you like.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


The Publisher-Devils are still out there…

By Holly Lisle

So… I got this email, which wrapped up with this question:

I’ve been in contact with Christian faith publishing the past year but haven’t submitted my manuscript because I recently finished writing, reading and editing it, & wanted to know more info before doing so. They have finally informed me of production costs if my manuscript were chosen for publishing. It’s a little steep for my liking, not knowing if my book will even be successful. Could you give me a little information of what I should look for, what costs are appropriate & which companies could be suitable? I appreciate it.

And I’m beating my head on the desk, because if you’re me, you’ve already covered this on your site in a lot of places and a lot of ways, but on a really BIG site like mine, you can’t always get folks to the places they need to find.

So, because so much is on the line, I answered this one personally. As follows:

Hi, <NAME WITHHELD>

 

You do not pay to write. Writing is a JOB, and people who work get paid.

 

If you are submitting to a legitimate commercial publisher, the publisher pays you.

 

Up front.

 

With a contract that explains your initial advance, subsequent payments, your royalty schedule, what rights you retain to sell elsewhere, AND which includes details of the reacquisition of your rights if the book does not do as well as the publisher had hoped.

 

If the publisher wants you to pay it, and the payment is large, then you are that publisher’s product, not its client. That publisher makes its money off of you, and your book will get no distribution, no promotion, and no sales, and you will never make a dime off of it.

 

It you want to publish independently, that’s a completely different conversation. You can publish your own work well for free, or very nearly free, and make pretty decent money doing it. And actually get your story into the hands of readers who want to read what you’ve written, and will benefit from it.

 

Do not pay these thieves anything. Learn more about the business part of writing fiction, including writing Christian fiction, here:

 

https://hollylisle.com/articles/

 

Starting with THIS article:

 

https://hollylisle.com/publishing/

 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a Christian, and I am not always warm and fuzzy in what I write (and while I generally don’t use profanity on my site, occasional words do creep in when I am incensed). I get incensed about seeing writers misused as this reprehensible scumbag is trying to misuse you and your work. If I whip out the wicked wango tongue in what you read, please understand that I do so because sometimes you have to call these abusive creeps what they are.

 

Holly

I want the assholes who do this to new writers to be eaten by rabid weasels one slow bite at a time.

And that’s my cheerful thought for the day.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Email is the devil

By Holly Lisle

Just sayin’…Email is the devil

People disbelieve me when I say I deal with a lot of email.

Glancing over at my email box, the number on Mail was just too funny to resist.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Poisoned Apple: After the Love Is Gone

By Holly Lisle

I loved Apple computers for a long time.

Frankly, I still love the two I have: A late 2013 iMac, and an even older MacBook Pro.

But Apple has definitely been embracing the Dark Side since Steve Jobs died, and its walled garden, along with its pressure to push users into the Apple store and to make getting software from independent developers outside of its store (because in its store, of course, it gets a cut of everything created) is a giant, tedious pain in the ass.

And then there’s the fact that everything it’s doing right now is designed to FORCE people who love its hardware into an “Apple way or the Highway” scenario, which is simply ugly.

Awesome way to get folks to quit loving them is to FORCE them to do things they don’t want to do. And I’ve spent enough time on the “highway” to prefer it to the way things are going.

So here’s the latest ugliness:

Bait and Fix

At the point where I can no longer use my current computers, I have no interest in going to Windows. But Linux remains a possibility, one I’m now investigating.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


The demons that drive writers

By Holly Lisle

There are folks who want to write books.

Then there are those of us who write because drinking kills your liver (and killed most of our relatives) and therapy is too fucking expensive.

You think I jest (and to a certain extent, I do). But there is something that drives people to turn themselves inside out, to rip every event they’ve lived through to shreds to try to make sense of it, to turn all of that pain and horror into plots and characters and conflicts and twists, and pushes us out the other side of unrelenting brutal self-dissection with books in hand.

And since over the weekend (while I was doing some cleaning) I found one of the little shards of horror that made ME who I am poised like a scorpion in the center of a bunch of stuff I was throwing away, I thought I’d share.

We start with the date here, which is Dec. 3, 2001.

The Envelope of Maternal Manipulation

The Envelope of Maternal Manipulation

I’ve redacted both addresses, not because either of them is current (I know mine isn’t and have no clue about hers) — but because having strangers show up at places because the addresses are THERE would be uncool.

My mother’s handwriting is distinctive and unmistakable, so I want to have it here.

Next, the lovely missive that came inside this envelope.

Letter from my mother

Letter from my mother

Done on what looks to me like an ink jet printer.

The words here are fun, so if you’re visually impaired and relying on a reader to read this post, I’m going to copy them for you.

December 02, 2001

Dear Holly,

I hesitate to write to you after the last phone call to you, when you said you never wanted to hear from us again. Being thick headed and figuring you maybe didn’t mean it when you called your dad a bastard, son of a bitch. I figured you probably were having a bad day. Any way not to bother you. You probably actually don’t care but your dad had a severe stroke and we sold our mountain chalet and business and moved to REDACTED. On the off chance that you might call Murphy we didn’t want you to call and us not be there. The people who bought the house kept our same phone number and would tell you. But I’d rather write and incur your wrath for writing than to incur it for not letting you know. We hope things are going well for you. Should you or your family need to get in touch with us our cell phone number in REDACTED. Our six month address is REDACTED.

Mom

SO.

I’m not from a normal family, but I’ve seen them on TV.

On TV, when something awful happens, what does the family member who KNOWS it happened do?

She picks up the fucking telephone and calls everyone, and says, “Your dad had a stroke, and is in the hospital, and we don’t know if he’s going to make it.”

In which case, the person who receives the call packs fresh underwear, jumps on the next plane out of town, and shows up at the hospital, because even if your dad IS a philandering, lying cuntbucket sack of shit, he’s still your dad, and you remember when you were little and he took you hunting and fishing and taught you how to clean game and load shotgun shells and shoot both a rifle and a shotgun and was the coolest man on the planet…

You remember when you loved him.

And you go. Because there’s still a chance what’s wrong can be made right.

But like I said… I’m not from a normal family.

In my family, apparently the way you let someone know someone important to them has had a stroke is to…

Wait for him to die, so you can hold it over the head of the one who wasn’t at the funeral.

Then when he DOESN’T die…

  • Wait until he’s out of the hospital
  • Wait until you’ve sold the house
  • Wait until you’ve sold the business
  • Wait until you’ve moved your whole fucking parade all the way to the other side of the state, and…
  • THEN write the letter above.

The purpose of this letter was not to give me a chance to make things right with my father.

It was to fill me with guilt.

It didn’t.

See, I have learned from long and brutal experience that this is the way my mother operates.

When my grandmother died, I got a letter from my mother telling me that everyone was surprised that I didn’t come to the funeral, because everyone else was there.

My mother’s letter was how I found out my grandmother died.

When my sister died a couple years ago, I found out when my mother phoned my first ex-mother-in-law (the child molester’s mother) who told my older son, who called Matt, who took the call, got grim-faced, told me no, things weren’t okay but to go ahead and finish eating, and when we left the restaurant, took me out to the car, and then told me so I wasn’t sitting in front of a bunch of strangers when I fell apart.

That ugly game of telephone tag was how I first even discovered that the sister who was four years younger than me was even sick, that she had been unwell for a long time, and had apparently slipped into a coma and stayed that way for a while. Possibly a long while. There apparently would have been tons of time for me to go see her while she was alive… maybe even conscious. But no.

This was how I found out my sister — who I always figured would come live with me when my parents died — (she had cerebral palsy and was severely retarded, but she was a good kid and I loved her) was dead.  I wrote the linked poem following my learning of her death.

In my mother’s version of family, this is the way you do things.

And I should have realized it a lot earlier.

When I was twenty-seven (in 1986) and considering getting a divorce from that fuck Barry (the child molester), she told me that with his drinking and his diabetes and his running around, he wouldn’t live long, and I should just stay married to him and wait for him to die.

By every proof of her existence, my mother likes to wait for things to die.

Meanwhile, however, Barry died in 2005. Instead of having my third husband, Matt, since 1995 — instead of having love and a partner in life — I could have had that evil spawn of scum and cuntery for another twenty years.

Divorce…?

Is AWESOME.

My best guess is, if either of my parents is still alive, my mother is still married to the husband she hoped would die, so she could send me another of those delightful “Guess whose funeral you missed this time?” letters. Hey, if either of them is still alive, they deserve each other.

But enough of them. Back to why I’m a writer.

When this is where you come from, when this shit show of manipulation and lies is what you have to call home and family, from an early age you turn inward, you start pulling yourself apart, you question EVERYTHING, and anything that does not hold together, you discard.

And then, because all the rage and fury and disbelief and despair inside you has to go somewhere, and because you have to find a way to make it mean something, to make it matter, to make it not a poison that eats you alive…

You write. Novels, short stories, nonfiction, blog posts, words, and words, and more words.

Because even though writing is a gruelling, painful, difficult way to make a living…

  • Drinking kills your liver
  • Therapy is too fucking expensive

And when you’re done turning your life upside-down and inside-out and stripping it to the bare-bone essentials and then rebuilding on those, and then turning that process into stories, maybe you will have created something that someone ELSE who crawled out of a hellhole and survived can use to make his or her own life better.

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