Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Birth of a book

*** Charity Donation Completed to the *** 
*** Humane Society of the United States ***
Thanks, everyone! :)

Nine months from today, my book Deliverance: Mortal Path 3 will be released. If it were a human baby, we'd be talking a few cells. Fortunately the book's further along than that! I can't tell how thrilled I am to have a title and a release date. The cover's still under wraps.

There's been a gap between books 2 and 3, one that a professional writer ordinarily doesn't have. I'd like to share with you the reason why. (Warning: grab your box of tissues or skip this post.)

One thing I never, ever believed in was writer's block. I felt that people who claimed to suffer from it were whiners who just couldn't work their way through difficult periods. I never suffered from it.

Until my sister fell ill.

She and I were very close. Yes, past tense. She was a few years older than I was and blazed a trail through childhood and being a teenager for me. She's the one who broke the news to me that there was no Santa Claus; that says a lot right there. She didn't mind taking little sis along once she got her driver's license and later on helped me sneak out of the house to meet my boyfriend. We'd lie on the floor under the Christmas tree and dream about what our lives would bring. As adults, we could practically read each other's minds. She was a fifth grade science teacher and later a teacher of the severely handicapped, saying she felt called to do it. She wanted to be a writer too, but could never seem to get started. She wanted me to write her grand idea and put her name on it. I didn't, because I thought that if I encouraged her enough, she'd write it herself. Now I wish I had helped her get her science fiction novel, The Ice Princesses, published. It came to her in a series of vivid dreams. Why was I such a stickler about it? Because I knew she could do it if she tried. I should have been more generous and less high-minded.

She had a respiratory illness (not lung cancer) that caused her to get a tracheotomy. She hated it. She couldn't talk, and I was a terrible lip reader. If we weren't on the same page so much, we would have lost communication. As it was, we couldn't talk on the phone. I got her a laptop and tried to engage her that way, but she just wasn't up to it. She bounced from hospital to nursing home (she needed more care than I could provide, for which I felt terribly guilty) to hospital and back. Six times. She coded a dozen or more times, not getting enough oxygen to her body. She was afraid to go to sleep at night, because that's when the codes happened. As hard as this was on her, it was hard on me too, though I tried not to show it.

My sister, who could coax a smile from the most reluctant child, was in pain and prayed for release. She wouldn't consider suicide because of her religion. She wanted to be moved to a hospice, but according to her doctor, her health was improved in some ways and he was still hopeful for a better, stable life for her. I was cheerful when I visited her. Sometimes she had good days.

Was I writing during these months? Not really. A paragraph or a couple of pages a day, and sometimes I had to go back and rewrite it because it was, as a writer friend of mine once described her first draft, pea-green dreck.

Faster than I could have ever thought, her ashes were in a golden cube. I'd never seen human ashes before. When scattered according to her wishes, they clung to leaves instead of sifting down to the ground as I'd thought they would. The result was a large gray circle of vegetation. We happened to be in a hot, dry period, and night after night I would think about that gray patch and hope for rain to wash her cremains to the ground. It finally happened, and suddenly I was a changed person. I was able to smile, I wrote fiercely and well, and I focused on the good memories. And all it took was a thunderstorm.

It seems a little odd to have a book giveaway after a story like that, so here's the deal. If I get thirty or more comments (you can talk about your own experiences if you wish--I'm a good listener) by July 2nd, I'll donate $50 to my sister's favorite charity, the Humane Society of the United States. Sixty comments or more, and I'll donate $100. Encourage me! It's a good cause.



Nicole Murphy said...

My sympathies on the loss of your sister. Scattering of ashes is a strange thing isn't it - I went with my aunts and uncles to scatter my grandparents ashes a few years ago. Granddad went fairly easily. Grandma was more stubborn and at one point blew back toward us. We all laughed and pointed out how like them that was - even their ashes went the way they'd lived their lives.

I'm sure that a strong connection such as you had with your sister is never lost and you never know - you may just write her story yet :)

Karen H said...

So sorry for your loss, but you've written a great blog in her memory. Your donating to her favorite charity on behalf of your fans is a wonderful idea. Thanks for including us in your healing process and for helping in her memory.

Beth Price said...

I know that it is horrible to lose someone as close as a sister. I am sorry for the heartache you must be feeling. I firmly believe that people never really us, they are always around when we need them even if only to let us hear them laugh when we 'goof' up in life. Thank you for letting us share your memories of her.

Rain Maiden said...

That was hard to read. In one year both my grandparents pasted away and then my father-in law. I really never had to deal with death before. I have peace with my grandparents death but, my husband's Dad was different. I was so angry and confused...it was strange. It split my husbands family in two. It sounds like you have found peace. I can smile at that.

Barbara E. said...

What a touching story, I'm happy to help by making a comment and for such a great cause. I have had some loss in my life, but not a lot. The worst was losing my mother, even though she was 82, and had been able to live a full life until just a few weeks before the end, it was still very hard to lose her. I have a sister that I'm very close to, and I really hope we can both stay healthy and grow old together.

Brenda Hyde said...

Thank you for sharing; I know it must have been hard to put it all down in writing after experiencing it. I had a dear friend pass away after getting Ovarian cancer many years ago and I'm afraid I wasn't as brave as you were. I visited her, but not as much as I should have because it was so difficult. I think now that I'm older I could have dealt with it better.

I'm glad you will have such special memories of your sister, and maybe you can still do something with her book if that's possible.

JenM said...

My sympathies on your loss. Sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to be down in the dumps and depressed for a year or two after this happens. It's totally natural to need that amount of time to grieve. When you lose someone that important to you, you can't expect to just pick right up and go on with your life.

Casey said...

I'm so sorry! I cried the entire time I read that (I was literally sobbing) because I'm so close with my sisters and if anything were to happen to either of them...I don't even want to think about it. I'm sending you lots of mental hugs!!!

Chelsea B. said...

I am so very sorry....

Kristi The Book Faery said...

I am so very sorry for your loss but mostly for what you and your sister went through before the loss.

There comes a time when most accept the death of a loved one and move on. Focusing primarily on the good instead of the bad puts us as much at rest as the one that we lost.

My mom and I were very close and when she was so sick that the doctor felt it best she go into Hospice (to which I agreed) She came home to live with myself and my family with Hospice coming in daily. My mom was at times lucid but mostly confused. During some of those times she would ask me about the other nurses, that she thought she heard someone say 'Hospice' to which I said, "No, mom, they're just home health care that are helping me out." The reason I didn't tell her is because there was still some small light inside me that thought 'maybe' she still may pull through this (she'd rebounded before) and if I told her Hospice was involved, she would think I had given up on her and therefore, she would give up.
Screwed up thinking on my part, I know and to this day I feel horribly guilty for not telling her the truth.
I slept on the floor next to her hospital bed in our family room every night for 3.5 weeks until that last night when she died. I won't lie, it was a horrid thing to see and there were times I wanted to run from the run screaming.
I'm an RN and I knew there was nothing I could do to help her except try and keep her comfortable. I won't go into details but for a long time the guilt and horror weighed heavily on my shoulders, even though the logical part of me knew why I didn't tell her about Hospice-The guilty part told me I gave up on her and left her to die a horrific death, etc...

It was a long inner battle that was constantly warring inside me. I cried a lot, couldn't sleep or eat and couldn't even talk about her without bursting into tears and this was 6 months after so..I did the best I could.

I eventually did a lot of personal positive self-talk, prayer and talked with friends.

I came to the conclusion that no matter what I did, I did it with the best intentions and love in my heart.

I can look back now, despite the the pain, and remember my mom during the best of times :o]
Making blueberry pancakes for all the kids in the neighborhood, it they went and picked them, teaching me to sew (trying to, anyway) and the pride in her eyes when I graduated at the top of my class in college/nursing school.
Those are the important memories---the ones she would want me to remember.

I think your sister would feel the same way. I know that I would.


unseelieme said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your sister.

I'm one of four girls, all sharing the same initials (thanks a lot Mom *rolling eyes*), with only 3 1/2 years between us (and, no, there's no twins - just frisky parents). We're separated by thousands of miles now, but all still very close - even if contact is only through emails most of the time. If any one of them needed me, I would drop everything to be there, too.

When you're ready, you should write your sister's story, even if its only for you and her.

As for donating to the Humane Society, I hope you make that goal of $100. As kids, my sisters and I worked for them sending out requests for donations, etc. One of my sisters took it further and worked in the shelter & for a vet (starting at 11 yrs old!). We became a "death row family" - the local vets & shelter would call us to take unadopted animals on their last day (preventing euthanasia). We would take on their care & find permanent homes for them. My sister went on to become a zookeeper, got her doctorate in animal behavior and traveled to Africa to help save the drills (a type of monkey that's endangered).

Between all of us, as adults, we've adopted 7 cats & 10 dogs (not to mention rabbits, birds, gerbils, rats, etc.). Visits home are crazy since we all bring the furry family members (well, not the monkeys). My son now works at the local shelter, too, carrying on the tradition.

The sheer number of animals being abandoned in the last few years has skyrocketed, so the Humane Society & shelters are in desperate need of money, supplies and help. You make your sister proud by taking up the cause.

Dakota Banks said...

I'm so touched by what I'm reading in the comments. I'm glad I reached out with this post.


Leah Cypess said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I have nothing much to add, but this post touched me and I hope you reach your goal.

Anonymous said...

my story is... My met this wonderful man in 1997 and we started dating. We got married shortly after. I had one child and he had a younger brother he had custody of. His brother had musclar dysthropy. The doctors told him he wouldnt live past the age of 12. He did though. He taught me many things in two short years. He lived his life to the fullest. He wanted to go to high school prom he did that he wanted to graduate high school he did that. He wanted to see his brothers first child he did that. My second son was born in feb of 99 and in october 19 1999. He passed on. I miss him alot and every time the campaign is going on for musclar dysthrophy i buy a clover in his memory. Jerry of jerry kids recently passed away and not sure who taking over the foundation but when the clovers go on sale i always buy one. 8 yrs after he passed away on the same day and month i lost my dad. I grew up without him and hated him for not being there for me. I wish i could have time to change that. I miss them both.

cheesecake.thief59 said...

I'm so so sorry for your loss. I don't even want to imagine all the pain you're feeling - the pain you can't really explain with words. I'm glad you were able to start writing again <3

Jocelynn said...

I am so sorry for your loss, but I am happy that you have found some peace. Keep writing. It helps to heals the wounds that hurt the most.

Michael scott said...

Dakota, I am very sorry for the pain of your loss and am looking forward to Mortal Path book 3.

I am fortunate to have only lost a couple of people important to me thus far...my two sets of parents and godparents and four sisters are still with me and I am grateful for that. ( my older sister is getting married for the second tome next week)

When we lost our family dog years ago ( Snoopy was almost 20 ) we had had a family consultation and agreed it was time to put him to sleep due o many physical problems.

We had him cremated and we would say our goodbyes at Christmas.a month and a half from then.

Ttys time came to reveal his ashes...my sisters brought out a beautifully lacquered box and made theie was to the couch where my mom and I were sitting. Then our worst nightmare happened. She griped on the corner of the couch; the box with the 'ashes' flew open and CONFETTI spilled all over us! Of course, those were not his ashes. All I was thinking was that we would have to vacuum him up. THE INDIGNITY OF THAT. Lol

My condolences on your loss.

Michael Scott said...

Arghhhh to 'spell check'. It 'corrects' words I didn't want corrected. Sorry for the typos.

Dakota Banks said...


Sorry for the loss of Snoopy. I understand the deep pain that comes with the loss of a pet. I'm an animal lover and have had cats and dogs my entire life, plus rabbits, mice, fish, gerbils, and more. I said goodbye to a beloved cat during my sister's illness and took it really, really hard. See a Peanutty Farewell.


Lucy said...

It's so nice to see that you were able to move past the depression and continue writing. I know you'll never forget your sister, but knowing someone else made it through to the "light at the end of the tunnell." I recently lost my own sister, and right now I'm at the point where it hurts too much to talk about it.

Keep writing, and I can only hope that one day I'll have that moment.

Kim Falconer said...

Hi Dakota,

I love that you have beautiful memories with your sister. She was there for you all growing up, through thick and thin it seems, and you for her.

Your post brings up so much for me. My brother died while I was writing my 3rd in the last series. I'd written two characters, a brother and sister, and when the boy dies she has no idea what happened. Weeks after finishing that major scene, I found myself living it. . .

It is amazing when you read a book and are immersed in the story. The author is invisible, as is their life. But behind each page is a whole other story. Thank you for sharing yours.

And thank you everyone who has posted. I feel comfort from your words.

Justine R. said...

I am so sorry you went through this. And I have to be selfish (and/or rude) and say that I'm so very glad that none of my siblings have died or gotten seriously sick. I don't know what I would do without them. =(

Sharon said...

My comment disappeared...you are a good sister. I am glad you were able to use your writing to help. What a great cause for the donation. This is the charity my kids always raise money for.

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...


You have my sympathy, borrowed strength, and support. It's not easy to have an experience that leaves such an indelible mark, but we're stronger because of it. Even now, your sister has made you a stronger person, you know you'll survive, hard as it may have been. We sisters tend to do that to one another. Maybe you can help her leave a legacy, put her dreams to paper, writing not only in your name, but in her's as well. It sounds like she would have liked that. It also sounds like she was amazing. It takes a special kind of person to work with disabled kids, the more severely disabled the harder it gets, but so worthwhile.
Now, it's time to celebrate her life and remember all the grand times you had together. She'll never be truly gone as long as she exists in your memories.

Blessed Be


KerrelynSparks said...

I am so sorry, Dakota. Your loss is great, but so is your joy. The love always remains in your heart.

Dakota Banks said...

Thanks for these heartfelt comments. I'm truly touched, and the Humane Society has its donation!