Now before y’all start throwing rotten vegetables at me, let me explain. Deadlines are highly motivating for me because I’m all about goals. How many words I can log in a day. How many chapters I can write in a week. How many days in a row can I write. So what better goal can there be to push a writer to produce daily word counts than knowing that an editor and her entire publishing house staff are waiting for that manuscript? In my whole career, I’ve never missed a deadline, usually submitting the book well before its due date.
My current deadline is November first. I need to submit the fourth Ladies Who Lunch book. And I was chugging along quite nicely, figuring I’d have it done by the end of September.
Then life started getting in the way.
My beloved schnauzer, Dr. Carter, had been fighting kidney disease for around a year. He was doing okay on medicine, but he also celebrated his fourteen birthday in April. For anyone who owns and loves their pets the way I love Carter knows, when they get older, we start to worry. The beginning of September, Carter took a turn for the worse.
After numerous vet visits and watching him decline to the point he wouldn’t even eat, my husband and I finally made the decision to end his suffering. I was devastated, hurting so much that I simply couldn’t muster up the positive thoughts necessary to write romance. I just wanted to grieve.
My mother had a stroke about four years ago, and her health and functioning had also been in a slow decline. On her birthday, September fifteenth, I received a phone call from my sister during the middle of a class. My heart jumped into my throat because there was no reason for her to interrupt my school day that was positive. Unless of course she’d won the lottery and was calling to tell me I could shout, “I quit!” and promptly exit the building.
No, this wasn’t good news. My mother had suffered another massive stroke. I hightailed it to my hometown, probably breaking several land speed records and having a cracked windshield inflicted by an inconsiderate dump truck driver, and I made it to the hospital while she was still in the Emergency Room. She was in severe distress, barely recognized my sister or me, and doctors were talking far too much about whether Mom had a DNR on file, which she did.
Mom was transferred to ICU for a day, that decision made because we didn’t know the extent of the stroke—or that she had several other problems, including a heart attack and pneumonia. As the day wore on and test results poured in, we started to realize she wasn’t going to recover, especially when she slipped into a coma and she became septic. The question became whether we would honor her wishes to stop extraordinary care.
With our family’s support, my sister and I made the decision to switch to palliative care. We would let nature take its course. By Wednesday, we opted to bring her home—the place she always wanted to be.
The next several days were spent at her bedside, making her as comfortable as we could. My sister is a nurse, as is her middle daughter, so instead of having hospice doing the majority of the tasks for Mom, we took care of her ourselves. She passed away in the wee hours of that Saturday morning. Her funeral was the following Tuesday.
Two weeks. Not a word of writing. Needless to say, the deadline weighed heavily on me. Bless her heart, my editor told me to take as much time I needed. But me being me, I want to make that finish line by November first.
So here I am, logging as many words as I can, hurtling this story toward the The End. Life goes on.
If you’ll excuse me… I’ve got work to do.
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