Friday, June 28, 2013


Sometimes life hands you a lemon.

Sometimes life force-marches you out to the lemon grove and fells a fruit-bearing tree on your head.

This June has been a pretty rough on the Boyce household. I'd like to be able to feel relief that it's almost over, but if I've learned anything this month, it's that life can change drastically from one instant to the next. 48 hours is a lot of time for June to find another way to mess with me, so I'm not celebrating just yet.

Don't let the sunny color lull you into a false sense of security.

One of the Not Great things that happened was the hospitalization of one of my children (Child is ok now; please don't fret.). My day was going along like any other. I was struggling with my Work in Progress and policing petty sibling squabbles. And then, suddenly, I was making phone calls to arrange care for two of the kids and taking the third to the emergency room for immediate medical attention.

It was stunning, how fast it happened. All at once, the bottom fell out from under me. I was forced from my normal daily routines into something new and frightening. Later, sitting in the hospital and holding the hand of a child tucked into an institutional bed, my writer brain kicked in. Feel this, it ordered. Take it all in. Make note. You might need this later.

So I let myself tune in to what was happening. I turned my attention from staring at my child (as though the weight of my constant gaze was the only thing ensuring his continued survival) to myself. I felt the ebbing adrenaline and the headache building in its wake, the bewilderment, the desperate fear, and strangely, the beginnings of betrayal. Life had pulled a nasty one on us. Tears occasionally spilled from my eyes, stopped for a while, then spilled again.

Around me, I watched the harried nurse click through a computer screen listing her various charges. I felt the coarse weave of sheets manufactured to survive bleaching after bleaching. I noted the dust accumulated on top of the various wall-mounted apparatuses. I wondered why our room didn't have a box of tissues. On the television in the upper corner of the room, a Food Network personality made a cookie-crumb pie crust. "What more could you want from life?" she chirped.

I tuned back out.

Now, with the distance of a couple weeks behind me (and a couple more craptastic incidents thrown into the mix), I can't help but recall the adage about taking life's lemons and making lemonade, and I find myself wholly unwilling to do so.

These are my lemons, dammit. I earned them, and I will make or not make with them whatever I choose. When Mr. B and I had to leave the hospital without our child (who is, as a reminder, now totally fine), I didn't have the luxury of enjoying metaphorical lemonade. It was lemon juice, straight up, and a lot of it. I was sick with it churning in my stomach.

Although, for the lobster, the lemon is
just a final splash of indignity.
And I have to think that sometimes it's ok to just let a lemon be a lemon. What happened to our family sucked. I don't have to try to make something more palatable out of it. Life is a messy business. We all go through rough times on occasion, and there's nothing wrong with letting them be. Of course, I have learned from this experience, and I hope I will be able to use the emotions I lived through to add authenticity to my work at some point in the future, but I'm not calling that lemonade. A well-stocked produce bin, maybe, but not lemonade. I'll keep the lemons as they are and use them as needed.

After all, having lemons to hand is a good thing. When life eventually hands me a lobster, I'll enjoy it that much more.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Once a Duchess Goodreads Giveaway

I'm running a giveaway on Goodreads to help celebrate the upcoming release of Once an Innocent. Through July 8 (Innocent's release day!), you can enter for a chance to win one of two autographed copies of Once a Duchess. This giveaway is open to readers worldwide, so click below to enter!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Once a Duchess by Elizabeth Boyce

Once a Duchess

by Elizabeth Boyce

Giveaway ends July 08, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Doing it for the First Time

Choo Choo!
Regular readers of my blog will recognize what I'm about to do here. The rest of you, get ready to take a ride on Elizabeth's Nostalgia Train!

I'll never forget the first time. The nerves, the sweaty palms, the racing heart... Is this really happening? I thought. Am I really about to do this? I second guessed myself the whole time, wondering if I was doing the right thing... or if I was doing it right. I worried what others would think of me when they found out what I'd done. Eventually, though, I succumbed to the need, thew caution to the wind, and embraced the experience. It was exhilarating. It was powerful. It changed me forever.

I am, of course, talking about the first time I wrote.

For this, you waste my time?

... About sex.

*Ding!* There it is.

It was my senior year in high school, my AP English class. The course marked a major milestone in my writing life, for while I was not yet writing my own novels, I was learning to analyze the hell out of others' works.

On this particular day--April 14, according to my file (You do hang onto your academic papers, don't you?)--we were given a poem entitled "The Centaur," by May Swenson (Downloadable text here). Our essay prompt was this: "Read the following poem carefully. Then write an essay in which you discuss how such elements as language, imagery, structure, and point of view convey meaning in the poem."

There was also some mention of spanking
and rump slapping.
So I read it. I read lines like: "I'd straddle and canter him fast"; "The willow knob with the strap / jouncing between my thighs"; "I shied and skittered and reared, / stopped and raised my knees, / pawed at the ground and quivered. / My teeth bared as we wheeled"; "Dismounting, I smoothed my skirt."

I read. I blinked. My 17-year old mind went straight to the gutter, as adolescent brains are wont to do.

Desperately, I tried to think my way around my degenerate ideas. There was no way Ms. Swenson's poem, told through the narrative voice of a young girl, was really saying what I thought it was saying. I mean... it was just a little girl playing in the woods, right? It was just my lurid imagination seeing titillation in the imagery, finding a phallus where a stick had been "peeled [...] slick and clean."

But no matter how I attempted to bully my brain into reading something more innocent in the text, I couldn't escape the notion of something deliberately erotic about this poem. I can't remember exactly what clicked, but I finally decided that "The Centaur" really was about sex, gosh darnit, and I was going to put on my big girl writing britches and say so.

It's like centaurs literally have NOTHING else to do.
I wrote how the language lent the poem an erotic flavor. In another paragraph, I stated: "In conjunction with the diction of 'The Centaur,' imagery and structure work hand-in-hand to bring about the sexualization of the speaker's imagined horse ride as a ten-year-old. The entirety of 'The Centaur' parallels a sexual experience. It opens with the expectation of a rendezvous 'by the old canal,' hidden away 'in a willow grove.'" I went on to map out the arc from foreplay to intercourse to climax to post-coital disarray. The paper I turned in ends with: "The poem transforms a seemingly harmless childhood game into a sexual romp in the woods."

I've never sweated so much upon turning in an essay. I held my teacher in great esteem. What if I was wrong? What would she think of me when she read my work? She would know I had all these thoughts about Ess Ee Ex in my head, that I knew about orgasms and women being on top. I was terrified.

I got an A-.

After "The Centaur," I was never afraid to call out what it was I read in a text. If I saw sex, or misogyny, or nuanced commentary on race relations, or a pink elephant in the sky, then I said so. I learned to trust my instincts, both as a reader and as a writer. As an author, this is a lesson I have to keep teaching myself. It's ok to go there. It's ok to write what's on my mind. I cannot be constrained by what someone else might think, whether I'll offend a reader's sensibilities. I have to be true to the vision I have for my work, and trust that it will find its way into the hands of readers who enjoy it.