HERE'S SOME GREEK MYTHOLOGY TO GET YOU THROUGH
I was all set to write Wings, Whiskey & a Waitress, which is the fourth book in my Goddess of Tornado Alley romantic comedy series. It had taken me a while. I’d thrown myself so intensely into the writing of the book that came before—Honeymoons, Harpies & House Arrest—that it felt as though I’d spent a month on top of Mount Olympus, eating, breathing, sleeping every single detail of that storyline. There was nothing else in my universe but this book, and when it was finally finished, I could have sworn I wasn’t present in my house throughout that time. My body might have been, but my brain certainly wasn’t. I was immersed. I was on a self-set deadline. I was determined to finish it, and the story was screaming at me. It was relentless. It had to be written. I don’t like to pick favorites. It doesn’t feel right somehow, but between you and me, I might love that third book just a smidge more than the first two. It was a marathon, though. And once it was published, I drew a huge breath of air … and I held it for a bit.
There are two cliffhangers at the end of that book. One I planned, one came as a total surprise. There’s a character in that series. His name is Charlie. He seems so innocent. He’s sweet. Unassuming. Truthfully, the man is tricky, and he’s pushed the story along twice now without me seeing it until it happened. You gotta watch the quiet ones. I knew there would be a fourth book, but the plot didn’t come into focus right away. Then, as it always does, the story began to unfold in the messy and cluttered space that is my brain, and there it was: book four.
I’m one of those writers that has to take notes by hand. It goes back to when I first started weaving stories at a very young age. I have notebooks and folders full of my script lining page after page of sometimes disjointed, sometimes quite clear storylines, character descriptions, research, thoughts and other random things that I may or may not be able to decipher at a later date. It’s not necessarily the most structured way of doing things but it works for me. Somehow I find some sort of method to my madness, and I’ve never written a book without this process fully taking over. I have a collection of notes for Whiskey. I’ve written the first chapter. If you’re interested in reading it, you can do so here. The story is plotted. I’m excited for it. But I’m putting it on hold. I’m saving it.
Over the last six years, taking handwritten notes has gotten more and more difficult. I still do it. I can’t quit something that’s been working for me pretty much my whole life. I suffer from chronic pain. The whole thing stems from a particularly frustrating morning on the ice about a week before my sixteenth birthday. I was a competitive figure skater back then, and I was struggling mightily to land a jump. I tried thirty, maybe forty times, and fell just as many. I was so angry and frustrated at not being able to land it that I didn’t realize I had broken my wrist until I came off the ice and couldn’t get my glove off. The mother of one of my fellow skaters was a nurse, and she took one look at my swelling hand and instructed my mom to take me to the emergency room immediately. It was good advice. I’d broken it. But it wasn’t an average, ordinary break. They put me in a makeshift splint, gave my mom the names of a few orthopedic surgeons, and soon the two of us were driving across town to a specialist. I had no idea then how that same wrist would still be plaguing me thirty-four years later.
I broke my wrist a second time when I was in my forties. The fracture was in a different place. It wasn’t set the way it should have been, and it healed incorrectly. It was really downhill from there, and in 2015, I began seeing another orthopedic surgeon. Many x-rays, an MRI and four months in and out of different braces, several casts and cortisone shots later, we opted to do an exploratory surgery. The surgery itself left my already battered wrist a bit more so, but it did give my doctor the answer he was looking for. My ulnar joint was destroyed, so we set a second surgery a few weeks later where he inserted a prosthesis to replace it. He tried to help me with my pain, but I was told that my wrist would always be “broken”. The surgeon did for me what was available to him at the time, and I hold him in high regard. He was honest with me. I knew he couldn’t fix it, but I knew he was doing his best. Unfortunately, the pain has only gotten worse since those surgeries five and a half years ago, and my wrist has really deteriorated within the past couple of months.
That surgeon I saw has since retired. In November, I went and saw someone new. He filled my head with a lot of scary stuff. In a nutshell, he knew what would work, but it was very risky. It was a long surgery, there would be a lot of pain, and recovery would be hard. The worst part was that all sorts of things could go wrong, leaving me worse off than I am now. That was not an option. So, I left the office feeling deflated, and then one of the coldest winters we’ve had in Colorado settled in. A lot of things hurt my wrist, but cold is the worst.
In April, I decided to see another surgeon. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I did know was that I couldn’t go through another winter like this last one. For those of you who suffer from chronic pain, I HEAR YOU. I’m saying that loudly. I hear you, and I wish it was different for you. There have been so many days and nights where the pain has been so bad that I can’t sit still. There are nights when I sleep in my sports bra because I can’t pull it over my head one-handed. The thought of unwrapping or unbracing my wrist makes me so uncomfortable sometimes that I will go days between showers. Once I get into the shower, I turn the water up to approximately lava temperature and I stay there for as long as I can. I know that once I turn that water off, I will get chilled, and it will be incredibly hard to comb through my long hair, put lotion on my body, get dressed, put on makeup. The act of showering and getting ready for the day makes me weep more often than I want to admit, but that is where I am right now. That’s where I’ve been for quite a while.
The surgeon I saw in April thinks he’ll be able to help. He’s a hand/wrist specialist. I told him about all the muscle twitches that set my fingers off. He saw the swelling in my fingers and the knuckles in my hand. He took x-rays, he pushed and he pulled. He prodded and he twisted. The fix is going to be tough. It will be much like that other doctor said. The surgery will be long. I will have a lot of pain. Recovery is going to be difficult. But he sees this getting better. I have a long way to go. He first wants to do an exploratory surgery, which I scheduled today. He’s got some questions about a joint in my hand that he can’t answer with x-rays or an MRI. He wants to go in and see what’s going on so he can better help me. Then, after that comes the removal of the implant I have now and some pretty serious reconstructive surgery that requires metal plates, at least six screws, and a new prosthesis that rivals those I saw on The Bionic Woman when I was a kid. I don’t expect to be Jaime Sommers, but it would be nice if I could lift a gallon of milk with my right hand.
On my ‘twitch and fumble’ days, I might have trouble getting undressed. I have broken a plate or a glass on occasion when I tried to wash dishes, and oftentimes my fingers won’t cooperate and my progression through the house can be calculated by the sound of all the things I drop along the way. I still write notes by hand … although sometimes, my writing is almost impossible to read. I’m not good at a lot of those things right now, but the one thing I can still do is type.
So, why am I not writing Wings, Whiskey & a Waitress right now? Because I’m saving it for my recovery. After all, that’s how this silly, funny Goddess of Tornado Alley series got started in the first place. I’d started Dead Beat Dates & Deities back when I lived in Germany. It was my first and only foray into NaNoWriMo, and I got 40K words written on it before I tucked it away. I had no idea what that book was to become back then, or that it would be the first in a series. I certainly didn’t know that it would wind up getting me through a very difficult time, but it did. After those surgeries, I went through a depression. Pulling that project out again and working on something that I loved, something that made me laugh helped me through it. It turned out to be the perfect therapy. When I realized I might have another surgery—which is now two surgeries—I decided I might need Frankie and Archer, Ella and Rosalie to swoop in and do for me what they did before.
I’m still set to write the next book in this series. Now that I’ve had some more time to think about it, I’m even more jazzed to get this story underway. Whiskey will be something for me to look forward to as I heal and hopefully get some strength back into my wrist and hand. These characters got me through this ordeal once. I know they’ll help me get through it again.