I had finally finished 2 stories from the children's book series I have been working on for almost 15 years and couldn't wait to get feedback from Riley of whose childhood these stories were inspired by. I emailed her the stories earlier in the day with instructions for her to read them to her 8 year old twin nephews whom she is staying with at this time.
Then I took a break from writing and attempted to acquire a sugar high while watching a great old episode of Bonanza. I thought I would get warmed up for Valentine's Day since I hadn't had a chocolate fix in a while (all this blogging causes butt-lag and a plethora of snacking so I had to turn to dry Corn Chex for a few weeks!).
While downing a mini Snickers bar, 2 dark chocolate kisses and a handful of smarties, and falling in love with Hoss Cartwright all over again due to his tender moment where he tries to reject the advances a lovelorn girl who thinks he wants to marry her and it will never work because she is engaged to someone else who brought her there as a mail order bride and now wants to kill Hoss... am I losing you?
Anyway, as I was enjoying Hoss and my sugar high, "Moon River" began playing on my Blackberry, that's Riley's ringtone. I almost spilled my cherry kool-aid while quickly reaching across the side table to answer her.
"Mom!", I hear her sweet sounding voice in my ear and immediately respond.
"Did you read them? What do you think? Did you read them to the twins? Well, what do you think?" I couldn't wait to hear her response.
At first she sounded tired and I thought maybe she hadn't read them yet but quietly she told me that she had.
"Mom, I don't like them. They make me look stupid and they aren't accurate either. Can you please change them?" her voice was quiet, soft and pleading with me.
"Change them!" I tried to remain calm and not raise my voice, "Change them how?", I asked.
"I don't know!" Riley moaned slightly, "Maybe just change the name of the book to someone else's or make it all about Ryan!"
She was instantly adamant that I not connect her name in any way to these stories and was even suggesting I make them about her brother, Ryan, instead of her. She repeated again that the stories were not true and they made her look stupid.
"Riley, they are fiction, and fiction isn't supposed to be real!" I countered.
"But you're using my name, my dog's name and even my friends name and if you are telling lies about me and my life, I don't like it." she countered back, still sounding somewhat amicable.
"Honey, these stories are only "based" on your childhood and your character, if I wrote true stories of the things you really did, I would have to re-title the book, "My Experience's Living with the Spawn of Satan", and somehow I don't think it would make a very good children's book series even if a lot of mothers could probably relate."
"At least it wouldn't be lies that will make me look stupid!" she said. And then came the threats; these are usually added as a desperate attempt to sway ones decision when all niceness and logic has failed. "Mom," she said, still with a sweet but now somewhat nefarious tone, " You will be sorry! I can leave comments on your blog that will destroy you!"
"Go right ahead," I told her, "At least you will have shown some interest in something I have written!"
We must have argued back and fourth in this manner for nearly a half an hour until she finally said, in a somewhat amplified voice, she had to go grocery shopping. Realizing Bonanza had ended and I missed finding out how Hoss resolved his woman problem, I told her in a somewhat higher amplified voice, that I had to start supper for her father, who had just came home from work.
"Goodbye then!" Riley said in the same amplified voice, at which I said the same back at her in my higher amplified voice, and we both hung up.
Big Guy had only caught the end of the vocal fracas and thought it better not to get too involved even though I spent the entire evening detailing every word that had been said in the conversation with our daughter. He just kept assuring me that I should stand my ground and not worry about Riley's fears.
Still feeling I needed more support than what he had offered, I asked two of my closest friends for their perception about the controversy between me and Riley. Both read the stories and took my side which helped shore up my defense, so I held out hope for a restful night's sleep.
But It was still hard for me to sleep last night and not because I was agonizing over Riley's attack on my stories. It was because her dog Rocky, was having a difficult time breathing again. He has contracted a bad cold and in between his wheezing, are sniffles and an occasional cough.
So not being able to sleep due to worry over Rocky, I laid there thinking of Riley and how much I enjoy having her in my life. I went over everything about her that I loved, which made me begin to think of my other 4 children and how much I loved them too.
I have been blessed by 5 beautiful lives and all with their own special characteristics. Each one of them has brought me happiness, caused me to laugh almost uncontrollably at times, inspired me and given me comfort. Of course there have also been times of disappointment, worry and even great sadness but that just comes with the territory of love.
I hope someday to be able to write all of their stories, and they will be true, albeit coming from a mother who is terribly biased. But for now, I will listen to my heart and write what I choose with conviction, the things that come to me, whether fact or fiction. (I think that rhymed!)
I will continue to borrow the wonderful characteristics from those I love, because I believe there is honor in doing so. But, just for the sake of those involved, I will add this proclamation to any story that is deemed fiction and I am even naming it after my youngest daughter.
Riley's Rule of Fiction