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Twenty-five years ago there was a lot of life I didn’t know was going to happen. I didn’t know I’d have two fully grown kids, that the Rolling Stones would still be touring, or that dot-com was going to be an economy. I didn’t know same sex couples would be able to get married everywhere, though I sure hoped so.
I also didn’t know the meaning … of … restraint … when it came to ellipses. And I sure didn’t know that I’d deeply regret not starting and maintaining a spreadsheet to keep track of names of characters, their careers, where they lived, what time of year the story took place, and physical characteristics of my leads.
I don’t even remember if I simply thought I’d remember, and there’s irony for you.
And Then I HAD to Remember
When releasing a 25th Anniversary edition of Painted Moon became a thing, I was thrilled because Jackie Frakes and Leah Beck are two of my favorite people. We were great friends all those years ago, though we’ve only spoken briefly in the twenty-five years since, when I wrote “Smudges” for Frosting on the Cake Volume 1 (This short story is now added to this edition, FYI).
There would be challenges. I knew this. For example, revising the layout of the book for the way we read today, such as shorter chapters and fewer scene breaks inside chapters. I wanted it to be far more digital reader friendly, but without sacrificing the feel and pacing of the story as it was originally written.
Blue? Brown? Green? Hazel?
A challenge I didn’t anticipate was not being able to easily find a reference to the color of Leah Beck’s eyes. A romance novel where one woman doesn’t think even once and with great longing about the other woman’s eyes? I was appalled, yes I was. Appalled.
And I can tell you this – if I’d been populating a database all along (and migrating it from Lotus to Excel to Helix to Access) I’d have realized how this usually important detail was lacking while I was writing the book, not twenty-five years later.
For the record, Leah’s eyes are bronze-brown, as described by Leah herself. Apparently, Jackie’s not into eyes. Bad Karin, bad, bad!
Don’t Do What I Did
Also true: If I had been keeping track of vital details along the way, it would have been a snap to check necessary facts I needed for the short story “Living Canvas” that has been added to this edition. Their ages, for example. Hair, eyes, build – who was taller? So as I reread the manuscript start to finish I was taking notes like it was going to be a book report for Lesbian 101.
So here is my unsolicited advice to all you writers starting out – don’t be like me and put off basic data collection about your own work until you’re a couple million words deep and Mother Time has declared war on your grey cells.
Books Make Bridges
Setting that one (major) issue aside, all in all, revisiting this story about these women in that remarkable era of the Gay Nineties was quite simply a bunch of fun.
I caught up with old friends. I scritched the best dog ever one more time.
I thought about the women who haven’t yet come out and how, for them, this story of finding and claiming yourself will be one they need to go forward in their lives. Which is one of the ways books are so magical – bridges to past and future at the same time.
And THANK YOU, One and All
Thank you, all of you, for the long journey we’re on together. There’s no way to state how much your support all these years has meant, and how much it keeps me at my desk writing new stories.
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