Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Got By With A Little Help From My Friends

by Darlene Ryan

* Sharon Wildwind will be back next Tuesday.

Most of you probably don’t know that I've spent the last three months in a cast after having surgery on my right foot and leg at the beginning of February. Well, three casts if you want to get technical; one made of gauze and plaster, which weighed a ton, one made of gauze and fiberglass--red fiberglass which is what happens when you have a ten year-old with you--and one that was rigid plastic with more straps than a medieval chastity belt.

I learned a lot of things while I was cast-bound. For instance, a man will never miss an opportunity to cop a feel while holding a woman upright in the shower even though he has been married to her forever, and her leg is wrapped from toes to hip in black garbage bags and she hasn’t shaved her armpits in six weeks. It’s way more fun to watch Jesse come back from the dead on All My Children than it is to take a tour of the inside of Dr. Oz’s digestive tract on Oprah. (BTW, Darnell Williams who plays Jesse? Yummy with a spoon.)

After the surgery I was sick. I don’t mean kind-of-queasy-feel-sort-of-crappy sick. I mean SICK. Wretchedly, dry heaving sick. Had to be held upright by nurses sick. Flashed a room full of strangers sick. Yes, that is the third time I’ve flashed people in a hospital. No, I swear I don’t have a secret desire to be a stripper. Later, when I'd been shot full of some anti-nausea wonder drug it occurred to me that being a writer is kind of like wearing a mental hospital gown all the time. You have to be willing to expose yourself—your inner self, not your dimpled backside—when you write. You have to be willing to share some of what moves you, what terrifies you, what motivates you, with your characters and with your readers.

Once I was home, what little mobility I had came with the assistance of crutches. Crutches aren’t easy to use. They take time and practice to master, especially when you tend to be klutzy. Using crutches involves technique. And you can’t learn it from the Bruce Willis thriller Striking Distance. (Try using crutches the way Willis does in a courtroom scene early in the movie and you’ll end up in traction.)

Writing requires technique as well; where to put the commas, how to develop characters, when to end a chapter, how to write a synopsis. It takes time and practice to write well. And it helps to learn the techniques from people who know what they’re doing. In other words probably not from Bruce Willis movies or your mother, unless you happen to be, say, Jesse Kellerman which would make best-selling author Faye Kellerman your mom.

Maybe the most important lesson I learned was that while writing may be a solitary profession, being a writer doesn’t mean you have to be a solitary person. It was my writing friends that kept me from going totally bonkers. My blog sisters kept me up to date on everything happening in the writing world. Fellow Guppy, Janet, made me laugh with her emails. Susan sent me sugar-free chocolate which tasted like the real stuff. Sharon Wildwind helped me deal with peeling toes.

Hank Ryan’s Face Time landed in my mailbox in the middle of a snow storm when I had RUN OUT OF THINGS TO READ and the library was closed. HelenKay Dimon’s Right Here, Right Now got me through a two hour wait at the fracture clinic, and made the orthopedic technician blush. And Lynn Viehl’s advance copy of Twilight Fall kept me company when I got ordered back to bed. Thanks guys!

One Last thing:

Brenda Novak's 2008 On-line Auction to Benefit Diabetes Research is now underway and will continue all month. www.brendanovak.com There are hundreds of items to bid on, including books and gift baskets from well-known authors. For writers there are reads and critiques offered by some of the best agents and editors in publishing. Poe's Deadly Daughters has a Mystery Lover's tote bag in the gift basket section, Item # 1011096. Along with our books there are other treats including a Metropolis tee shirt and a Poe action figure. And of course, lots of chocolate! All the money raised goes to research to find better treatments and eventually a cure for diabetes. As someone who will benefit from that, a big thanks in advance for your bid.


Lonnie Cruse said...

Hope you are on track with healing now, Darlene! You've had a really tough time.

Lori said...

A Poe action figure? This I have to see!

Darlene Ryan said...

He's very cute. He even has a little raven on his shoulder.

Anonymous said...

I have diabetes as well. Thanks for your contribution to the auction.

HelenKay said...

Sorry you had such a hard time. I'm happy to hear you're up and around again, and that my book helped...at least a little. I bet the groping helped too (well, it helped your hubby anyway).

Anonymous said...

What a miserable time you had and you never really whined. The analogy to flashing is apt. I hope our readers and our families don't realize how much of what we write is really about ourselves. It'll scare the hell out of them.