As you may have noticed, I’ve been more than lax in my blog posts since last spring. At first I was too busy with the sex book to think about blogging. Then, after I turned in the manuscript on May 1, I was just plain all “wrote out.” The book took everything I had to give, emotionally and physically. More than three months later, I’m still all “wrote out.” I can barely tap out a word. But I feel I owe you a few updates.
For those who don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter, I have some very good news. On July 15, I learned that my publisher, Berkley Books, has accepted my sex book manuscript and set a tentative publication date of October 2012. The next 12-plus months will be spent editing, vetting, copy editing, and proofing the manuscript, as well as deciding on a name for the book, designing its cover, and creating marketing, sales and publicity plans.
That sex book acceptance news should have sent me into ecstasy. Instead, it sent me into panic. I ate 10 pounds of McDonald’s hot fudge sundaes as I worried and fretted about what neighbors, friends (particularly my Christian friends from high school), co-workers, future employers and, most of all, my family – specifically my mother – would think of me after reading the book. After an afternoon trip to the emergency room, I begged my mother not to read the book. She promised she wouldn’t, and I relaxed … some.
Through all of this, indeed, through the past 13 years of writing four true crime books and one sex book, my emotional rock has been my dear Mr. Cool. In truth, he’s not “my” dear Mr. Cool. He is my mother’s beautiful, sweet, blond cocker spaniel. He is the one who calmed me as I wrote about five dead babies and nurtured me as I sank into depression afterwards. In fact, he has soothed me through many depressions. And when I panicked over the sex book, all I had to do was think of Mr. Cool because I knew he would be the one who would love me and treat me the same no matter what I revealed in the book. But on the night of August 9th, after a brief illness, Mr. Cool moved to puppy heaven.
Earlier in the day, he’d collapsed in my mother’s front yard. For the next hour and a half, I lay with him in the St. Augustine grass, whispering that I loved him and that it was okay to walk toward the light. I think he knows how much I hate death because he did not walk toward the light until I told him goodbye, left my mother’s home, and left him with those who are better at death than I – my mother and sister.
But I left with one big regret. That regret is that I cut Mr. Cool from the sex book.
Please don’t go to any kinky thoughts when you ask why in the world I included my mother’s dog in a book about sex. It’s a perfectly clean explanation: Just as Mr. Cool comforted me through the stress and confusion of writing about real life murder, he comforted me through the stress and confusion of writing about real life sex.
More specifically, my boundaries as a journalist constantly blurred as my sex sources turned to me for reassurance and yearned for friendship. And sometimes I too longed for their friendship, as they often came to my emotional rescue, such as the time they supported me after my mother fell and broke her hip. Thus, I became confused over my role in their lives and their roles in my life. And I equally became confused over the role of sex in my life.
So, as a salute to Mr. Cool, I share a (deleted) moment from the sex book. In it, I’m juggling comforting my sex sources with taking care of my mother.
* * *
I shut down my computer and drove the 40 minutes to my mother’s house. In the darkness of two and three A.M., as I listened to her obnoxious bird clock tweet the wee hours, I rolled over on her couch and petted her blond cocker spaniel. Mr. Cool is his name because he’s always calm, cool, and collected and because he’s always known who he is – one cool dog. Throughout the night, his collar jingle jangling as he walked, Mr. Cool made the rounds from my mother’s bedroom to the couch and back and forth again to check on us both. And when I lay on my right side, my fingers lightly on Mr. Cool’s head, touching his comfortingly soft hair, I could see into my mother’s bedroom and know for myself that she was safe and hadn’t fallen again.
… This night, as I lay on my mother’s plaid couch, the same couch I’d lain on when that workman had lightly stroked my legs and I hadn’t known how to stop him, part of me wanted desperately to be back in my own house where I was free to think about sex. And part of me didn’t want to leave my mother. Unlike Mr. Cool, I didn’t know who I was.
* * *
Today, I know who I am. I’m an all “wrote out” writer who is blessed to be comforted by the memory of a dog, the friendship of some sex sources, and a mother who loves me enough not to read my book.