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Friday, November 18, 2011

My Inspiration for ON THIN ICE

While thinking about a blog topic, I began daydreaming about ice skating. It's been a few years since I've skated, but the chilly day and working on my final revisions to my upcoming release, ON THIN ICE, brought the sport to mind. I miss it terribly and think about it often. My location in the hills and my schedule have kept me from returning to skating, but it is surely in my blood and will remain a part of me forever.

Hand in hand with thoughts of skating come memories of my mom and how proud she was of my accomplishments. She's been gone for thirty years and I still hear her voice, "Patience and perseverence will get you far in life."

Stick-to-it-iveness, she called it.

I started taking skating lessons when I was ten. I was a bit too late to catch up with the competetive skaters who had started when they were as young as three or four, but I excelled nonetheless, and loved to zip around the ice executing daring maneuvers that only fearless children and serious athletes would attempt. Skating was an escape for me. Life at home was chaotic at best and more often painful than happy. When I skated, I was transported by the music, the intensity, and the focus required to master the art. I trained hard and sometimes skated four to six hours in a day several days a week. Though I only competed for a few years, the lessons I learned have stayed with me through every endeavor I've taken on since. There were times that my mother pushed me. She had too much invested in me not to want me to succeed. I didn't always understand that at the time, and it was often a source of tension for us.

Mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was twelve and she died four years later. I found out a week after her death that I was pregnant. I was sixteen and a junior in high school. Needless to say, these events put an end to my competetive skating, and I took a huge left turn into the struggles of life as a single parent. Again I leaned on the lessons I learned through my years of training in the world of figure skating. Sacrifice, hard work, self-discipline and commitment were the strengths that got me through some very difficult years and led me to persevere and succeed later on.

These same traits are the cornerstones to becoming a published author, no matter what road you choose, traditional or otherwise. I'm grateful today that my mother believed in me and taught me to believe in myself. I'm thankful that she pushed me at times and at others let me decide for myself what was right for me. Sometimes I learned lessons the hard way, falling repeatedly and picking myself up, brushing off the snow and trying again. Maybe because of that, or inspite of it, the lessons stuck.

ON THIN ICE is a labor of love and the book of my heart. Some of Penny's story is mine and other parts are how I would have liked for people to be and things to have turned out. I often say that writing allows us to re-write our history in some ways. When I first shared this story with others I was told it would never "sell" because I didn't follow the "rules" of story structure and plot. I heard terms like, "too many subplots," "too much telling," and "no one would believe that one teenaged girl could go through so much and come out sane." That one was from a contest judge, LOL.

Yet here I am--happy and healthy with two wonderful grown sons whom I truly admire. I may be breaking the rules, and I may fall. But for me, life is about taking chances, learning and growing, and sharing my experiences with others. Hard lessons are part of life, but I hope that by putting myself out there--on thin ice so to speak, there is a teenager somewhere who reads my story and chooses not to learn the hard way.

What lessons have carried you to where you are today? Did you have to learn them the hard way? Have you written them into your stories? Leave a comment and enter to win an advanced reader copy of ON THIN ICE coming December 15th.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Family Trees

Here in the Northeast, Mother Nature has given our precious trees a serious haircut. The devastation is widespread and heartbreaking to see, but I know that in time, we will recover.

The premature winter storm and the recent death of my last surviving aunt on my mother's side has me contemplating my past, my present, and my future, and how they are intertwined.

The increased frequency of freak storms the past few years lends to the theory that climate change is here to stay and will likely only get worse--a grim prediction, but one founded on common sense and intuition as much as scientific data. Millions of Massachusettes and Connecticut residents experienced first hand how dependent we have become on the comforts of modern technology. Without electricity and phone service, and with rationed gasoline supplies and no internet, they were virtually dead in the water. If not for shelters, or friends and family members who so graciously offered to share the comforts of a shower, a warm bed, and a hot meal, many more people's lives would have been lost to cold and hunger than the few sad deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from people trying to warm their homes with propane heaters and no ventilation.

When I got word this week that my aunt Rita had died (of old age, and unrelated to weather), what struck me most in her passing was that she was the last of her generation from my mother's family. Both of my mother's parents died years ago, and she had lost both of her brothers before she died herself at the age of fifty. My mother's two remaining sisters lived on until my aunt Lillian died a few years ago at ninety, and then aunt Rita, a woman well into her eighties passed this week. Being the youngest of my siblings I didn't have the same relationship with, or memories of my aunt as they did. I remember she was very proud of my skating accomplishments when I was a kid, but because of time, distance, her mental illness and simply the business of life, I hadn't spent much time with her over the years--an irrevocable loss to be sure.

As in all of life there are lessons to be learned.

1) Even the mighty oak can be felled in the span of a moment. Change is inevitable and we must learn to adapt, work together and help one another or we will surely parish. As Jack Shephard from "Lost" would say "We have to stand together or die alone."

2) We only get this one life to know and embrace the family we have, so don't waste time on pettiness or be so caught up in business that we miss a chance to know someone special. Every person in your family (good or bad)has the opportunity to enrich your life if you let them. And even more importantly, we have a chance to enrich theirs.

3) Finally, what I gather from this crazy week is that our future is linked to our past and we should never forget our ancestors and what they have taught us. From the pilgrims who settled our shores and endured the brutality of nature, we learn patience, endurance, and ingenuity. From the early pioneers who crossed this great country and conquered the elements to survive, we learn courage and perseverence. Our ancestors, no matter who they were, have left us a legacy worth preserving. The only way we will survive an uncertain future is to make sure to teach our children the lessons of our family tree so that the next generation may benefit from their experience and so that our history is not lost.

What has your family tree taught you?