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I’ve had a not-so-secret dread of family gatherings ever since I was a child, and the holidays are a special kind of hell. For most of my life, Thanksgiving and Christmas involved herds of people who had some blood claim on me, crowded into a too-small house for hours on end. As a child, I can remember hiding out in a variety of places to avoid being forcibly squeezed in between a burly cousin who liked to tickle me, and an aunt who liked to pick scabs. It’s been my experience that it’s your family who most often feel totally okay about violating your consent with forcible contact.

all-the-cousinsFamily gatherings have always seemed like a recipe for an introvert’s nervous breakdown. Being forced to socialize, make pleasantries, endure hugs and kisses, be quizzed about your life, your love life, your profession, your very existence.

Over the years, my family herd has thinned, as the elderly members died, and my generation failed to reproduce in the numbers necessary to pack a room. As those blood relations died, we replaced them in smaller numbers with friends, until this Thanksgiving, there were more non-relatives than relatives. Someone remarked on this, and on the importance of being able to form your own family from people you’re not related to.

This struck me as wildly funny, since that is the very nature of marriage: forming a family with someone you’re not related to. It’s what we do, so why does it so often strike us as strange or modern to bring outsiders to our family table? After all, we’re building families around strangers, when we marry them. To me, the joy of holidays with non-relatives is that I’m allowed to set boundaries with people who aren’t my family.

I think about this today, sandwiched as it is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, because of the deleted scene from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things that I’m sending out in my December newsletter. It’s about what happens after that awkward Christmas dinner at which Wavy’s ragtag family is reunited. It’s about making truces, setting boundaries, and agreeing on ground rules for all the future gatherings you have to face with people you don’t particularly like, but who are your family.

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Well, here’s the official day … Last Will is out in the wild. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, direct from the publisher, Stairway Press.

I’m feeling a little excited and slightly anxious. After all, the first inevitable bad review must come. I’ll feel better when it’s over. So far the nicest thing is how supportive and helpful people have been. I’ve discussed this with other folks, but I’ll say it again: with very few exceptions, book people are good people.

So far, the funniest part of the process has been my family’s reaction. I’ve been writing most of my life. They know I write. They’ve badgered me for years about when was I going to sell a book and become a millionaire. (No amount of me explaining the publishing industry has disabused them of the notion that publishing is almost as random as the lottery, and my odds of “winning” are about the same.)

Now that I finally have a book coming out, they’ve been on this see-saw of excitement and dread.

My mother, holding the book in her hand and frowning: I’m not going to be shocked, am I?

Well, you’ve know me for forty years. If I can still shock you, I’ll be pleased, but I kinda doubt it.

My sister, calling me immediately after she finished reading: OMG!!! I really really liked it! I was worried that I wouldn’t, because … you know, but I really do!

Because … I’m a weirdo? Who writes weird things? Or because you weren’t sure I was any good at it?

My cousin: I’m not in there, am I?

Only if you’re an alcoholic alien abductee or a beauty queen or an elderly rich woman. Are you?

In summation: the book isn’t all that weird, I think it’s competently written, and I didn’t base the characters off my family.

Alas, the book is out, but I’m not yet a millionaire, so I better quit futzing around here and get back to work. Cheers! And I hope you enjoy it.

PS: the contest winners’ books are going in the mail today!

 

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