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June 28, 2008

Blind Faith: A Guest Blog by Patricia Smiley

Blind Faith
By Patricia Smiley

The Tarts are thrilled to welcome the fabulous Patty Smiley as today's guest blogger. If you haven't yet read any of her books, you are in for one helluva treat. Her latest Tucker Sinclair mystery, Cool Cache, just came out.

Blog_coolcacheI’ve been a lurker on TLC since almost the beginning, so when Harley invited me to guest blog, I jumped at the chance to post with this group of kick-ass writers (note to me: ask Me, Margie if I’m allowed to say “kick-ass.”)

My fourth book just came out, and my mother has “read” all of them. I use quotation marks because my mother is what we euphemistically call “getting up in years,” and now lives in an assisted living apartment. Her mind is sharp but her body is frail from the ravages of age, the worst of which is the loss of sight from macular degeneration. Because she can no longer see to read, she has listened to the audio version of all of my novels except the latest.

Cool Cache is dedicated to my parents. When I gave my mother her copy of the book, I guided her finger to the spot on the page where her name was printed.

“Is it there?” she asked.

“It’s there.”

“Daddy’s name, too?”

“Uh-huh.”

“He would have been so proud!”

“Yup.”

“Read me the first chapter.”

With the first words, my mother pushed the button on her blue recliner and drifted into peaceful reverie. When I finished, I glanced up and saw her staring trance-like into space as if she was the proverbial deer caught in the headlights.

“Mother?”

No response. My mother’s hearing is perfect. There was no way she couldn’t hear me. On closer inspection, she seemed unusually still. Her facial muscles were rigid and her eyes glassy. All I could think of was OMIGOD! I’ve killed her!

“MOTHER!!!!!!!”

She blinked with a start. “Why are you shouting?”

“I thought you were…well, never mind.”

“I was just caught up in the story. Is that the end of the chapter?”

“Yes.”

“It was very exciting. What comes next?”

“Chapter two.”

“So? What are you waiting for?”

I stopped reading after the second chapter because I had to leave for an appointment. A couple of days later I was talking to her on the telephone. She told me the suspense was killing her (bad choice of words, if you ask me), so she asked her caregiver to pick up the slack. In no time, they were on chapter nine.

“Lita keeps laughing,” she said.

“Maybe she’s tired. Exhaustion can make you hysterical.” I could say this with authority, because deadlines have made me an expert on hysteria.

“No, she’s laughing at your writing. Today she was giggling at lunch about something you said, and she didn’t even have the book with her.”

A little bit of family history here. My mother doesn’t have a sense of humor. If life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel, my mother is a big-time feeler. As a result, I live to make her laugh, sometimes by shocking her reserved sensibilities. Example, during a recent discussion on global warming, I asked if she knew that excessive farting by sheep in Australia and New Zealand was destroying the ozone. She laughed, which was a miracle because when I was growing up, the word “fart” was never spoken in our home. In fact, all references to flatulence were verboten. My sister and I were told that those strange sounds coming from my father’s direction were, in fact, barking spiders. I had a serious case of arachnophobia until I entered first grade and sniffed out the truth.

I digress. So, it was not surprising that my mother wasn’t laughing. I just hoped Lita was laughing with me and not at me.

“Lita and I think you’re talented,” she continued.

Thinking a daughter is talented is the primary job of mothers and those who work for them. Truth be told, my mother isn’t a reliable arbiter of my talent, because she thinks everything I do is brilliant: navigating L.A. freeways, clearing my throat, folding laundry (If she could see those naughty little Victoria’s Secret thongs in my laundry basket, she would definitely drop laundry-folding from the list.)

That night, I told my husband the story.

“I think you should redirect your marketing strategy,” he said. “It’s clear that seniors are a material audience.”

“You’re basing your hypothesis on one person, and she’s my mother.”

“Okay. Ignore the empirical evidence, and do so at your own peril.”

Despite the fact that I live with a man who uses “empirical” and “peril” in the same sentence, his words caused me to ponder. My books are very popular among my mother’s friends, but I’d always assumed that was because she carries a publicity poster in the basket of her wheely-walker and makes Lita slip my bookmarks under everybody’s daily dish of breakfast prunes.

Frankly, it’s difficult for me to narrowly define any specific audience. Still, on those days when I find myself alone at a book signing or stung by a critic’s tart words, it’s comforting to know there is someone sitting in a blue recliner, hanging on every word I write. Lita’s laughter is just frosting on the cake.

I know you can’t read this Mother, but thanks for being in my corner.


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Comments

Patricia, you made me cry.

Your mother sounds like mine, macular degeneration and all. We lost her 2 years ago, the lovely old gal was 92. She was the leader of my cheering section and had always hoped to see my books in print, but alas it was not to be. I'm still writing, my agent is patiently waiting, and my husband, aunties, and cousins have taken on the job of cheering me on.

Thank you for waking one of my favorite memories of my mother. She got it, she knew who I was, and she was proud of me.

Terrific post, Patricia! I was especially touched by your mother's question, "Daddy's name, too?" What a happy marriage that must have been. It's wonderful that she's still cheering you on. You are blessed.

And you write funny, too!


What a lovely blog! I got a bit teary too, and my mom, at 84, can still see to read.

I got your books at RT, Patricia, and I love them. Your mother's right! (and Lita)

Great to see you guest blogging today. Hope we'll see you again soon.

Hi, Patricia. I giggled at what you wrote, too :) Thanks for sharing such great stories about your mother. I'm sure I won't be the last to admit to being teary at the end. She sounds like quite a character and a lovely woman.

I can't wait to check out your books!

If your book is half as entertaining as your blog, then it's a must-read, Patricia!

I got choked up, too, but for a different reason. My mother was never in my corner, ever. But I've tried to be like your mom to my own three daughters to make up for it. My aspiration is to have one (or all, I'm not picky) of them write such a tribute to me as you have written to your mother.

Best of luck with the book!

Hi Patty, that's such a sweet story! Lita sounds like a great character for another book. I lost the head of my cheering section this year when my stepmother died suddenly. Who's going to order stacks of books in September and press them on the neighbors???

Hope the tour is going well! Roberta Isleib

Patty, may I borrow/rent your mother? My mom didn't live long enough to see my books published, but I know she was up in heaven negotiating the contracts. But I'd love to have heard her laugh out loud. What a lovely blog.

And Roberta, I love the fact that your stepmother was the head of your cheering section. I think the image of stepmother needs to be rehabilitated.

Thanks everybody. My mother is a treasure and constant source of entertainment for me. I've used her spirt and spunk in various characters in my books. I suppect most writers use the core of someone we know, change the sex, age, whatever, and away we goooooooo! So fess up, Harley. Who was Doc?

Hi Patty!

How great to see you here and what a wonderful blog. Laughing and crying - that's what great writing is about, eh?

For those of you who haven't yet read Patty's books, you really are in for a treat. Go get them!

Roberta - I'm probably not old enough to be your any-kind-of-mom, but I will watch for your book in September and hand sell it at Mystery Lovers. If you have an ARC, please send it and I'll do a review for their newsletter!

It works both ways - I was pretty happy when my mother, at age about 60, dedicated her first book (non-fiction) to me and my sister. I'm still pretty happy about it.

Thanks, Kathy. It was so much fun hanging out with you in Pittsburgh. Your author interviews were faboo. And Laura, thanks for reading my books! You now go to the top of my mother's Christmas card list.

Anna, that's so cool about your mother dedicating her book to you and your sister. The most wonderful thing about writing books is you can do it at any time in your life. You just have to start putting words on the page.

Lovely! Your stories reminded me of my mother, who was always so supportive of me. Woe betide anyone who dared to claim that teachers had it easy; she would set them straight in a heartbeat! We both enjoyed storytelling events, and when I began telling, she was always there cheering me on (even, according to one audience member, appearing as an "angel" over me when I told at a school talent event). Her friends in assisted living told me, "Your mother was so proud of you." It meant so much. Your books are going on my "to read once the move is over" list. Thanks!

Another book to read based on the merits of the author's blog writing. Touching and hysterically funny. Now I have to go check where MY barking spiders live. I had no idea! LOL.

Patty, welcome! I've added your name to my list of authors to read and recommend at the local B&N. One of the booksellers is always asking me for "new reads". She's been through all The Tarts' work, so now I have a fresh name to give her on Monday...when I pick up a copy for me.:o)
Roberta- when in September? I'll make sure we get some in (and if you have a spare ARC, I'll handsell like crazy down here in Champaign either way)
My mom died when I was 17, but my dad encouraged me to do what made me happy :o) Unfortunately it took a while for me to do that, but now I'm writing--not published yet, but I'll get there one day. My daughter and son-in-law are my biggest 'groupies' right now (and my peers at the store run a close second). If not for them, I'd have given up a long time ago.
Thanks for guesting :o)

Mary, I'll never forget the time my dad came to school to have a little "chat" with the principal when he thought I was being picked on by my P.E. teacher. I felt so vindicated.

Dani, oh boy! Those barking spiders are everywhere. BE CAREFUL. Insect repellent will not suffice. A gas mask might be in order.

Maryann, thank you for the warm welcome. So glad you found your passion and are writing. Count me amount your cheerleaders. GO TEAM!

Delightful blog, Patty. Thanks for being our guest! I love my older readers.---They're discerning, but generous with their praise.

Great blog, Patty! My mother died at a young age--maybe I'll just borrow yours.

Thanks for the welcome, Nancy! Joyce, you can borrow my mother anytime and here's a hidden benefit--she's a stud magnate. Whenever we're out and about (me pushing her in her wheelchair) men seem to find her irresistible, which always provides us with a giggle or two.

Patty, your mom and my mom would get along just fine. In fact, I just dedicated my latest SPUN TALES, to my parents because they have been my constant support for many years. My mother, like yours, is a one-woman cheering squad. I get e-mails and cards from all of her friends as she spreads word of The Black Widow Agency around.

We're truly blessed, aren't we?

Yay for your mom, Felicia and best wishes for Spun Tales and The Black Widow Agency. Maybe we should send the moms on a book tour together.

Hi Patty!!!

Great to see you over here! Your book is on my immediate list to pick up and read while I recover from minor surgery this week. :-)

See you back at nakedauthors.com !

Cheers,
Marianne

Oops. Great blog! I always love reading about your mum and her antics over your books. She's such a sweetheart. :-D

Cheers,
Marianne

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