The Right Words

0a0d5893cf0e40024295dae6ee3463f5For a week I haven’t had words.

Oh, I’ve chatted plenty with my son, who’s out of school for the summer. I’ve dropped by my neighbor’s house for a glass of wine and conversation. I’ve texted with more friends than I can count, checking in or making plans.

As soon as someone mentions Orlando I freeze.

For a week I haven’t been able to find the right words. That’s unusual for me, and uncomfortable. I feel like I’m failing: my LGBT friends, my readers, my community. I scroll through Facebook and see profile pictures superimposed with rainbows. I read posts condemning the shooter, and the society that denigrated his desires to such a devastating end. I’m so grateful for the love and support my straight friends are expressing, but when I read what my gay and lesbian friends have written, or talk to them in person–when I hear their pain and rage and confusion–nothing I could ever say seems like enough.

For a week I’ve had no words.

I do, however, have a wild imagination. I live a good part of every day in the heads of my characters. I see them, hear them, feel them. They’re as real to me as the people who populate my world, maybe even more so. Living them as I have for the past two decades, I’m not sure it’s possible to separate them from me. I wouldn’t want to try. I have an intimacy with these characters so profound and tangible it’s almost impossible to express.

As I embrace Joel, and James, and Adam, I embrace the men they represent.

For a week, I haven’t been able to come up with the words to tell you that I see you and love you and write for you. Not in your stead, but for you, and for who you are in all your beauty and humanity.

So I’ll keep writing.

Words are the most powerful gift I have to give.

Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

The Second Time Around

Both booksMany authors, once they’ve published their books, never read them again. I understand why. Misspellings and minor discrepancies, especially given the time most writers spend revising and editing before publication, are cringe-worthy. Stumbling across entire paragraphs in need of elaboration–or that should be scrapped entirely–can be downright demoralizing. Better to just focus on the next novel, right?

When that next novel involves the same characters, however, looking back at those previous books becomes a necessity.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve reread both The Crossing and I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden. I started with The Crossing (chronologically speaking, that novel comes first, but was published second), and finished Garden yesterday. As I expected, I found misspellings and minor discrepancies, as well as the inevitable paragraph in need of elaboration or omission. Those errors weren’t what got to me.

Here’s what did.

Joel has balls. Somehow I missed that in the writing of The Crossing, which took a good twenty years.

James has an agenda. He’s also a coward. (For the record, that last sentence was really, really hard for me to write.)

Loving someone and feeling like you shouldn’t be with them sucks. That just might be the most banal statement I’ve ever made, but James’s angst was profound for me with this reading.

Coming out in the nineties, especially in Texas, was arguably more difficult than coming out in 2016. There’s the second most banal statement I’ve ever made, but I keep thinking of Adam’s rant in Garden about the next generation of gay men:

They have no idea what I’ve gone through, what any of us who came of age in the eighties had to endure […] They’re too busy reaping the benefits of the groundwork we were responsible for laying […] I just can’t stand the sense of entitlement I see, the defiance I find undeserved.

Joel’s father has more nuance than I remembered. His mother, while she has her own story, makes me crazy.

Ashley (James’s sister) and Lindsey (Adam’s niece) are little scene-stealers.

The sections that were once my favorite no longer speak to me in the same way. This makes sense, I suppose; I hadn’t read The Crossing since 2013, and I hadn’t read Garden since 2010. My favorite scene overall? The one in The Crossing where Joel picks up the guy who wears too much hair product. I’d entirely forgotten the wording at the end of that scene, and whoa. I felt such a tremendous sense of foreboding.

Parts of each book made me cry. I knew what was going to happen, but I cried anyway. I don’t know if that’s because I love these men so much, or because the scenes in question (I’m thinking specifically of Joel sitting on the floor of the closet in his old bedroom at the end of The Crossing, and Adam talking to his father over Thanksgiving at the end of Garden) are actually that heartbreaking.

The big revelation? My third book might actually be two. I’ll know soon, because next up on my agenda is reading the 171,000 words I have so far. (For reference, The Crossing is 195,000 words, and Garden is 120,000). Either way, I promise you’ll have something to read soon. (That’s writer-speak for within the year.)

In the meantime, I invite you to reread one or both of the novels I’ve already written. I promise your take will be different the second time around.

Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved