Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Mother's Day Tribute to Lavinia Lamkin
Or...The Dragon remembers her roots

I got some grief over the acknowledgment page of my first published novel because I've never really shared with folks outside my family how deeply I was (and probably still am) influenced by my great grandmother. For those of you who haven't read CMFG, here's the acknowledgment page:

to Lavinia Lamkin
My Kora Rothahn, my Hrazon of Mon'dore, my Mia, my matriarch, my mentor, and my support--I wish you could have met Nigel and Chariss

I didn't start thanking anyone else because, as you'll see by the insane list of acknowledgments in the front of Choices Meant for Kings, it would have taken a lot of space, and I would have forgotten someone, and would have gotten grief over it. You can't win for losin', can ya? But here's the deal: folks outside my family didn't see the relationship I had with my grandma. (And, yes, even though she was my great grandmother, I called her "Grandma," as I called my other two grandmas. I didn't really see a distinction.)

Further, if you read the back cover inside flap of CMFG, there's this bio about me (hey, the publisher put it there). The second sentence reads: "As a child, she entertained the folks in her great grandmother's apartment building in Southern Illinois with tales of squeaky spiders and mice picking berries," etc. That's how I got started with this whole writing bug. I distinctly remember standing shyly by as Grandma read my little stories to Ruby from down the hall. (Poor Ruby! I need to add her to the thank-you list!)

In a college speech-writing class, I prepared, and presented, a speech on someone who inspired me; that was Grandma. When Mary Warner prepped a Sunday School lesson on heroes, I listed mine as Grandma. When Grandma needed someone to stay with her at her apartment before she made the move to a nursing home, I took a week's vacation and went to Southern Illinois to be with her. (Other family members took weeks as well; I'm not playing martyr here.) When I was a little girl hanging out at her apartment, she taught me how to crochet. (I didn't take so well to knitting...) Believe it or not, I can make doilies and blankets. Go figure!

Also when I was a little girl, Grandma told me that if I asked my dad, he'd take our family to church. Novel concept. Okay. That worked out for a couple of years and I learned something interesting: you make some close friends in a church. Friends who get out of bed and drive through the rain to take your mom to the hospital while you're out of town.

Thinking of all the lessons Grandma taught me during the 28 years I knew her awes me. Some of those years she spent in Ohio with her daughter, helping her get through difficult times, so my visits were limited. Some of those years, I lived in Kansas City, so my travels were less frequent than I would have liked. Just because I got over to St. Louis to visit my parents for a weekend didn't mean I made it the additional three hours to West Frankfort to see Grandma. That necessitated a longer weekend, and I tried to work in as many of those as I could. We all know the gift of time when loved ones are aging. And Grandma was born in 1906. Do the math.

From those visits, I remember the dripping air conditioner unit rattling away in the living room window. I remember stacks of paperback novels piled waist-high next to her armchair, next to her couch, next to her bookshelves, next to her sewing table, and next to her dresser. I remember sitting up late on the hideaway bed with the "woah" in the mattress eating baby dill pickles like candy while watching Friday Night Videos. I remember her letting me take a picture of her holding one of her wigs in one hand...and her dentures in the other. I remember the dusty, melted-vinyl smell of her ancient green car with the black interior and no air conditioning that she "sold" when the state took her driver's license - oh, what a fiasco. (She got her license back...and a new car...and don't think THAT story's not going in a novel someday...) And I remember that last week I got to spend with her when I made whatever dinner she craved each day and served her hot tea from her expensive antique tea cups off her display shelves because, you know...Grandma just deserved tea from fine china tea cups.

Grandma's little sister Thelma is still with us, and it's a crying shame my circumstances have put me in such a way that I don't get to travel to see her. I haven't been home since Christmas '06. Life throws strange curves in our path at times, but there are ways to cope. Memories and swapping stories with people who knew our loved ones the way we did helps keep them alive in our hearts. On this Mother's Day, I hope you're celebrating with the people who are special to you, and who help you keep special people close to you.

Happy Mother's Day!

"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."
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