Join Prism Book Alliance® as Diana Copland goes Outside the Margins today.
I finished writing my eighth novel this week, the fifth in this genre. I’ve got to say, this one was harder to write than any of the others has been. Not because of the subject matter, or the main characters, because I really liked both. I even like the secondary characters, enough that what started as a stand alone novel will, hopefully, become a trilogy. I’ve got synopsis’s and outlines for books two and three. No, I think the problem for me this time was that I simply underestimated what grief does to a person, and what suddenly finding yourself at loose ends looks like.
Everyone who’s read my Facebook knows I lost my dad in January. He was ninety years old, in the throes of Alzheimer’s, and frankly, I think he was ready to be done. We’d lost my mom the June before and once that happened his decline was so dramatic it was stunning. I kept him home for a year, but by then being his primary caregiver had become too much, even with the help of my son. And I can never accurately or fairly describe the depths of his devotion to the man who had come to be like a father to him. No one, NO ONE should have to see a beloved and brilliant parental figure reduced to a toddler. It was, and remains, heartbreaking. I just don’t think I knew how much this loss was going to hurt.
When you take care of someone at the level, it’s what your life becomes about. Every minute between the time they wake until they go to sleep at night is one hundred percent about them. There were days when it was almost more than I could take, but I’m not sorry I was there. I just didn’t realize when he died that there would be six months of stagnation and lack of motivation when it was over.
In retrospect, that’s pretty dumb. I mean, even once he was in assisted living, I was there every day. He didn’t like it, and he’d only eat, get dressed, etc. if I was there to make him do it. I won’t lie and say his passing wasn’t something of a relief. Not so much for me, but for him. He was so lost, and so unhappy it killed me. There was just this…void I’d never felt before, like when you yell into a canyon and there’s an echo coming back at you. That was what I felt like inside; empty. I’d never felt that before, ever. It lasted for months, too. Nothingness inside, an aching hole. It took me a while, but I think I’ve finally figured out why.
When my husband died, my daughter was seven and my son was thirteen. A week after he passed, his mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. So between trying to keep things as normal as I could for my kids while helping my mother in law with her radiation and housework and grocery shopping, I was too busy to take a deep breath. I wasn’t alone; I was surrounded by people. When she passed we moved three states away. There was football and swimming and volleyball and ballet; there wasn’t TIME to feel anything but ‘what’s next?’ I was a girl scout leader, and a team mom, and did costumes for a ballet company. It was fun, and hectic. About the time my kiddo’s were graduating high school, my parents started to fail. Over the next decade, my kids became these remarkable grown ups and my involvement in my parent’s concerns began to fill the empty hours left by my kids become independent.
During all of that time, writing was my solace, where I could go to escape my own life. It was great; I made up other people’s lives, like a screenwriter and a director all at once. I could play God a little bit, and it was awesome. I could make up a set of problems and solve them, all in three hundred pages. I began with m/f romance, because romance has always been my genre, but I didn’t really feel at home until I discovered m/m romance. I’m not saying I won’t ever write another m/f book; my daughter would REALLY like for me to, and she’s been waiting patiently for several books I’ve outlined. It’s just that m/m was where I was first published, and seemed to welcome me.
I could always write, too. There was always someone’s story I needed to tell. Until after my dad died, and then where this wide and varied cast of characters lived became a barren wasteland. There. Was. Nothing. And let me tell you, it scared the shit out of me. There was nothing, until after Dad’s memorial service in May.
At first, when it came back it was just a whisper, so soft I was almost afraid to trust it. I started looking through submission guidelines, and one publisher was looking for ‘blue collar stories’ for an anthology. Word limit 18000. I thought, okay, I’ll start with that. Let’s see what I can do. See me snorting here; 18k. Right. I’ve written paragraphs that are longer than that But I was so blocked it sounded like a million.
Of that prompt, David Snyder was born. David, the interior decorator who can decorate a house beautifully, but doesn’t know the first damned thing about plumbing, wiring, roofing. Enter Jackson Henry, the hunky handyman. I didn’t want to write a dirty joke, however, so Jackson had to be real, a person with depth of character who was more than just a pretty face and body wrapped in a tool belt and a flannel shirt. Real people have friends, so enter David’s best friend Michael, a twenty something hipster with only some of the obnoxious affectations and a wounded heart he’s hiding under his sleeve. Add in Jackson’s best friend Gil, a skilled housepainter, (and if you’ve ever tried to hire one, they’re hard to find) a giant of a man whose size belies his gentle spirit and who is looking for love that is real and permanent. Then there’s Vern, a crotchety old fart who is never for a loss for something sarcastic to say. David’s mother and sister, Beth and Beverley, appeared, who love him unconditionally but don’t mind telling him what they think. Ever. Even when he’d rather they didn’t. Manny slipped into the pages, Jackson and Gil’s friend, whose past hurts have nearly crippled him emotionally. And Boots, a five year old Welsh Corgi with more personality than a lot of people I know.
Slowly but surely, after months of silence, this little world began to form. I followed where it led, and the result is tentatively titled ‘Renovationg David’, although that’s probably the working title. There are still some things that need fixing; line edits, a couple of scenes to add. When it’s done, though, I firmly believe I’ll always have a soft place in my heart for David, and Jackson, and the rest of the characters who populate this book.
They resurrected the voices in my head and pulled me back into my imagination, kicking and screaming.
Somewhere, I have to believe, my dad is smiling.
About Diana Copland
Diana Copland began writing in the seventh grade, when she shamelessly combined elements of Jane Eyre and Dark Shadowsto produce an overwrought Gothic tale that earned her an A- in creative writing, thanks entirely to the generosity of her teacher. She wrote for pure enjoyment for the next three decades before discovering LiveJournal and a wonderful group of supportive fanfiction writers, who after gifting her with a “”Best New Author”” Award encouraged her to try her hand at original gay fiction.
Born and raised in southern California, Diana moved to the Pacific Northwest after losing a beloved spouse to AIDS in 1995. She lives in eastern Washington with four obnoxious cats, near her two wonderful adult children.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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