A bit of a sad day, because June 15, 2021 is the two-year anniversary of my mother's passing.
I'm not too broken up about it. (The first year, however was awful, like being thrust into an emotional maelstrom.) Instead I guess you could say I'm more reflective.
I think a big help was working on my soon-to-publish fifth book, A Cold Spell. It's getting some final looks now, but should land in July. The character of Fiona is based hugely on my mother. I did take a few liberties, making Fiona born in the U.S., (my mother was born in Germany), among a few other small details. But in spirit Fiona is very much my mother. She's blonde. She loves glittery and shiny things. She likes to stand up for the underdog. She's ornery. She can drive her daughter crazy sometimes, but they're close. They have one another's backs.
Sometimes I wish I could have had my mother's back a bit more in her last years. She had dementia and would get quite combative. I would prickle and fight against that sometimes. It took a while to learn how to handle a loved one with dementia. It makes it all the harder when the mother who raised you, who is supposed to know more and know better, suddenly doesn't.
But I think in some ways I've tried to make some amends to her in my books. She was alive to see three of them published, and liked that, one, I'd written books, and two, that she hugely inspired a character in them. I think she also liked that I infused the books with little tidbits and memories of things we'd done and places we'd seen.
She's been surprisingly easy to write, too. Possibly the easiest, and most fun. When I write her character's antics I don't necessarily see my mother in my head, but I feel her, in a way, if that makes sense.
Hopefully when you read more of Poppy and Fiona's adventures (because Fiona has a huge role in book number five), you feel her spirit and sass there, too.
She'd insist upon it.
I keep thinking about yesterday's post, where I decide I'm going to play invisible and see if my absence is noticed.
It makes me think of a sad ghost. Also of a Keanu Reeves quote. I think he was asked on some talk show, about what happens after we die, and he responded with something like, he didn't know, but “I know the ones who love us will miss us."
I always thought that was touching, profound, and beautiful.
It's true, too. I don't know if my mother or father are in some other realm. In my books the father is in another realm and visits his ghost-spotting daughter from time to time, but as for what I believe, I don't really know. I know what I want to believe. It'd be nice to see loved ones again. But I guess if we poof into nothingness that's, well, not exactly comforting, but things could be worse.
But I do love my mother and father and I do miss them.
It also makes me think of book and story ideas. What if the ghost isn't missed by anyone? Do cease to exist? If they made some kind of difference or contribution they might live on in some way. What if a forgotten ghost is the one who haunts the earthly realm? Their essence lingers, hoping someone will know or learn who they are, to understand something elemental about them.
It's just spitballing, but maybe it's an idea for something down the line.
This is probably better for the therapist's chair, and I'm looking for one with my new health insurance, but sometimes being ignored hurts worse than being bullied. Being shoved or insulted is painful, yes, but so is being treated like you're not there.
I know some people I've kept in touch with loosely over the years. We've never been super close but I used to feel like I was more a part of things. The last few years, however, it's not the case. There's a queen bee-type in the group who likes the spotlight to be on herself. I'm fine with that. I don't necessarily want to be the center of attention all the time. I just don't want to be ignored either. I feel like a houseplant. Instead of ones that need hours and hours of sun and watering and fussing, I'm just some low maintenance bit of greenery that likes a little bit of sunshine and a splash of water now and then.
Some so-called friendships have me feeling like I'm a long-dead weed as opposed to something worth considering and nurturing, however.
I don't feel unloved or unappreciated, except by one group, and I kind of just feel like maybe it's time to move on, to devote energy on more productive pursuits.
Mainly it's because the queen bee ignores everything I say or do. If I see her in person, every time I speak she get up to go have a cigarette, go pee, or refresh her drink. She doesn't do it for any other people. She actually bothers to ask the others what's up with their lives, or to respond to them, to show interest. In those cases I listen and ask after things, but I also try and volunteer about myself a little tidbit now and then.
I didn't grow up so-called normally. We moved around. I was shy. My parents split when I was young. My mother drank heavily for years so for a long time I felt I had to watch out for her, to make sure she made it to bed okay, or that she didn't fall asleep with a cigarette in her mouth and burn the house down. She was in a bad car crash, too, and needed months to recuperate. I was 16 and would go home at lunch to tend to her.
I don't think I ever quite learned how to socialize with my own peers so much. When everyone else was curling their hair and squealing over boys I felt like a rejected square peg who never fit in.
Later on I realized I probably had severe depression because my dad died when i was a teen and I had no one to really open up to about it.
Least of all in school.
Instead of compassion I mostly got teased or mocked, possibly because I was different from the rest, and didn't have that shared history most people in my high school had. And you know, high school and junior high, where if you're different they let you know about it, and usually in most unpleasant ways. So I tried to fade and survive and hope for something better.
It did come along. Lots of good things, in fact. But one thing I still don't feel great about is often feeling ignored. I do have a couple good friends and a solid husband who make me feel appreciated. But I'm trying to move away from the people who make me feel less than. (Admitting maybe I'm responsible for it a bit myself, since I'm not sure I do the right things. I always have a battle in my head, a "they probably don't want me around" way of feeling. (And when people ignore me, that's exactly how I feel.)
But I'm conducting an experiment with this group. I'm just going to fade to silence. I've tried to speak up, share bits of my life. I've asked after people, after both good news and bad. Sent cards after a loved one died. Sometimes I've just randomly checked in to see how folks are doing. After so many efforts I feel like I'm a ghost in the room, conversation swirling around me. So, I'm going to become a so-called ghost, and just recede. And I'm curious to see if my absence will be noticed. Instead of burning bridges, I'm going to see if they crumble and dissolve.
I think that might be the kindest approach. No accusations. No questions. No rage. Just a simple shuttering. I'm curious to see if they'll notice.
Valentine's Day is coming up, and while I'm not big on celebrating all the fuss (I'd rather get a random gift or declaration of admiration, thank you very much), I do love the hearts and flowers. Possibly because they brighten up the dulled grays and washed-out whites of a Michigan winter.
V-day also makes me think of dates, both good and bad. The one I'm posting here, I might have to put in a book one day and have Fiona give some comments about it.
She would not approve.
In my college years, when I lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, I once went on a date and a guy brought me some flowers. They were red and white, not 100 percent my taste, because I'm not wild about those deep red roses, but it was a sweet gesture. Until he told me they were plucked from a funeral home. I guess he'd been in town for his aunt's or uncle's funeral or something. That's where you self-edit, though. Bring the flowers. Don't say where you got them. Unless you know your date will find it awesome that the flowers you bring got to spend the afternoon standing next a an embalmed uncle, I say, leave it unsaid. (And I'm fully aware there are people who are into that, and that's fine ... it's just not me.)
Have you ever had a romantic gesture that fell flat? Feel free to share in the comments.
I was reading a review of another writer's latest book and the reviewer complained about what she thought was a too-common trope: The male gay best friend. Admittedly this particular writer (and many others) do have the gay best friend routine down.
I have a gay character or two in my Poppy books, too. Jordan Keep joined in the second book, Plenty of Trouble. I purposely didn't want to make him flamboyantly, stereotypically gay. Yes, he has some artistic flair and can make some fantastic store displays and arrange furniture like a dream, so I guess that's a bit stereotypical, but I didn't want a gay man mincing across the page.
I made some fantastic friendships in college, with mostly gay men. No one lisped. No one squealed or demanded glamming up. (Though my character Fiona might in many ways have a lot in common with stereotypical gay males, now that I think of it.) My friends usually liked what I considered really good dance music. (I mean, Madonna's Vogue or some Diana Ross disco jams ... bring it ion!) But otherwise these were guys who seemed mostly like any other guy, except they liked guys. In many ways they were like Max Blum from Happy Endings, but not likely to devour a deep dish pizza in one sitting and use the shirt they were wearing as napkins...
But this reviewer made some intriguing suggestions: Why not have a lesbian best friend? Or a gay lead character?
That would be interesting, I thought. I do have my gay Jordan and his boyfriend Ash. They just happen to be guys who date, and, yes, probably dress nicer than your average fellow, but they're not going to be rocking sequins and boas any time soon.
I also introduced the character of Meadow not long ago either. She's not really gay or straight, however. She has an affinity for sweets, and is drawn to people she finds to be sweet-natured. It doesn't matter if they're male or female. I kind of think of her fitting some nature vs. nurture theories: If we weren't nurtured into gender roles and expectations, would any of us be gay or straight? Tina would like Tammy. Tammy might one day like Tom. Tina would move on and date Sharon. And so on.
That's a post for another day, perhaps.
But a prominent lesbian character might be an interesting challenge. The wheels are turning. ...
Book 5, titled A Cold Spell, is done! I'm not as fast as many authors, but having written five whole novels feels kind of awesome, I'm not going to lie.
That said, it's not ready to publish yet. It's in the hands of my editor, who, I hope, with some not-so-gentle nudging, will have it done soon. Then it'll get cleaned up and given a couple final reads, and poof, book 5.
In this one Poppy and Roger go to his family cabin for a romantic winter getaway. After they return the area is hit by an ice storm. Roger needs to go back to survey and fix the damage. Poppy remains behind because she's got to hawk her wares at a festival.
When he returns, he's acting differently. Is it because they had a bit of tension over the pace of their relationship? Or is there something else at play?
In the meantime there will be an outing to Drag Queen Bingo and lots of mayhem at the Outhouse Races. (Yes, you heard that right... )
And Fiona, Poppy's outspoken mom, will be around. (Would she have it any other way?)
Stay tuned for some excerpts and other goodies, including some teasers for another book (or two) that I'm working on.
It's been a wild year, hasn't it? I'm nearly done with the fifth book, titled A Cold Spell. (I know. I've been saying that forever.) Set in the dead of winter, it's influenced by some mythology pertaining to fairies.
I've covered fairies (at least Pukas) before. I think I like the mythology. Plus my mom told me a lot of fairy stories when I was a child. Fairies and mermaids.
Shifters are popular in a lot of books, but I'm not a fan of shifters in fiction. Something about it irks me. I think the armchair shrink inside my head wonders if it's some secret desire for bestiality or something? (Ewwwwww.)
Though in northern Michigan, a shifter angle would be a natural fit. (Maybe I should do my own thing with shifters. A trout shifter with a witch who has lots of cats. Hijinks ensue! Or a deer shifter. Hunting season means no forest walks ... or a murder-mystery that turns out to be a hunter shooting a deer shifter. Hmmmm?)
I think that oddball angle could lure me in, but I don't know.
But, back to book 5: I'm not going to say what happens, but Poppy has another big problem brewing. (Duh?) This one is (hopefully) not so obvious to most, but she senses something is off in her day-to-day life. Eventually she'll figure it out, and have a scary battle (albeit just between her and a foe) to contend with. And the stakes are high.
How is everyone faring in the midst of this global pandemic? Hopefully everyone is hunkered down, safe and sound. And if you do get the COVID-19, may your symptoms be mild and the duration be brief. And hopefully we'll all be back to work and happily moving along soon.
In the meantime I can't help but think of my mother, the inspiration for my character, Fiona.
My mom loved to read up on disasters. In part it might be because she was born in 1937, in Germany, no less, and well, let's just say she saw a lot of shit as a kid.
She has a real zest for life, for exploring and traveling and trying new things. At least until dementia robbed her of the ability to travel so readily.
But she also liked to be prepared. In the 1980s she brought up the threat of nuclear destruction. How were we going to survive the fallout? (I'm still not sure that's a desirable outcome, to be honest.))
In the late 1980s and early 1990s she liked to bring up climate change. One day the ocean levels are going to rise, and temperatures will get more unpredictable. (Damn, she was reading up on some good sources back in the day. As for me, at the time I was a moody teen listening to goth-adjacent music and writing cruddy woe-is-me poetry, so the less said on that, the better.)
Later she liked to just go on about disasters in general. She was pretty calm after 9/11 but she did like to keep supplies on hand. An extra jug of bleach. Some extra beans and rice. If a snowstorm was imminent, let's get some meat, potatoes and onions, because it makes an easy soup. Especially potatoes. I cannot stress how much the woman loved her potatoes.
Now with people hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper, and bread and other staples flying off the shelves as we self-isolate, I think of her often.
I also can't help but think, if she could see what's happening now, she'd just light a cigarette, and nod her head knowingly.
She didn't, and couldn't, predict the coronavirus, but she always did like to say, shit sometimes happens. May as well be a bit prepared.
Did I listen?
I've got a few rolls of TP in the closet, and I've got some potatoes and canned goods in the larder. (Bought on sale, of course, because mom liked to stash a bit for a rainy day, and dad loved a deal. Actually, they both did. As do I.)
Stay safe everyone!
On June 15, 2019, my mother passed away.
She was 81, and in declining health, but she was a huge (huge!) inspiration for the character of Fiona Wheeler in my books. I could go on and on in tribute, and go wild with memories, but to be brief I'll just say a lot of her is in Fiona. Sometimes I make up the words that come out of her mouth and the situations that take place around her and the other characters, but honestly she's the easiest for me to write, because when I write about her, I just think "what would my mother say?" My mother, never being shy of offering an opinion, seems to "speak" freely from my fingertips.
I will add Fiona is a bit different from my mother (Fiona is born and raised in the U.S., while my mother was born in Germany and came to the U.S. in her 20s), but the opinions, the love of animals, the sometimes inappropriate comments, the love of sumptuous and flashy fabrics and sparkly things, that is all my mother. Honestly the best tribute I can make to her is to make her as loud and sassy and glittery as can be in my books.
The photo I've posted here is one of my mother from probably around Christmas-time 1989 or 1990. She found these sparkly stilettos and a feather-trimmed satin robe, and decided she needed to ham it up for the camera. It's a lot how I see her in my mind, too, except as a blond, because she would rotate hair colors a lot, but most frequently went back to being blond.
RIP, Mama. I'll always love you, and never forget you.
I haven't had a book out in a bit, but I have been steadily working. My fourth book is written and with the editor. I'll need to give it a final go-through after that, but I intend to work fast on that once it's back in my greedy palms.
That one's titled A Spot of Bother, and in it Poppy's ex (Scott) is having loads of problems trying to get his brewpub ready and open for business. I also introduce a couple new characters in that book, including a new addition to Poppy's world, and someone who may pop in and out, but she'll ultimately end up in her own series.
I am in the meantime working on book five. Initially it was going to be set in the spring, but an idea popped into my head so that one is set to the side for a bit. Book five, tentatively titled A Cold Spell, is set in January. Poppy and Roger go away for a romantic weekend, and when they return back to town, a nasty blizzard hits the area. Once the roads are clear, some other matters don't seem to be. I can't go into much more detail on that yet. But once I had this lightbulb moment, mapping it out became easy. A few changes will inevitably take place in the writing (as in, changes from my original outline), but I like where it's going. Hopefully my handful of readers will, too.
I do read up on so-called Up North legends and events, and some more ideas are coming for future books. There's a dog sled race that hits Michigan's Eastern Upper Peninsula each winter, and I'm thinking that one will have to get into a book or story. I keep imagining Fiona doing something with her two pet beagles and somehow magically boosting her dog sled. That's just a fleeting image in my head at the moment, but I'm certain there's some kind of dogsled race in their future.
I also discovered an annual outhouse race. It's not unique to the area, as I've read up on other communities doing them as well, but I'm definitely including that somewhere. More than likely in book 5.
I've also written a short on how Vanessa ended up getting hired. That one's titled The Witching Hire, and it'll come out close on the heels of (or preceding, I'm not sure yet) of A Spot of Bother. More than likely The Witching Hire will be free for a while and then rolled into a collection of shorts. (Yes, I have other ideas, including when Fiona briefly became Poppy's college roommate.)
So, I'm writing. Not as fast as I'd like (one day I hope I can do this full time and then publish faster, and multiple series), but words and stories are pouring out. The goal is to turn the trickle into a waterfall. Consider yourself warned
I'm Magenta Wilde, author of the Poppy Blue paranormal fantasy series, and the forthcoming Happily Hereafter series. Hint: It involves ghosts.