And She Dances


My first Monday morning in my own home.  The kids are sleeping.  I’ve got a cup of coffee with just the right amount of hazelnut flavoring, and the only sound is the cooing of the mourning doves outside my window.

Life is good.

Life is scary, too.  I still haven’t found a job.  I haven’t found a home for my two cats.  There are boxes everywhere that still need to be unpacked, and I have so many doubts about being able to make this all work.  I have so much to prove to the world.  And to myself.  I will keep this house clean, I will stay organized, I will stay current on all bills.

It has been an enormously emotional weekend, and not just because it was our first in the new house.

Saturday was my daughter’s dance recital.  She has been dancing since she was four years old, and we’ve learned over the years that recital weekend is a grueling, exhausting, expensive weekend.  It is a true joy to watch her and her friends dance on the stage, but I am always relieved when it is over for another year.

I always cry when my daughter dances.  It’s silly to keep doing that after all these years, but I can’t seem to stop.  There is something so graceful, so ethereal, so not-my-daughter about her when she is on stage.   She is illuminated from within, barely touching the ground, her gaze focused on something I will never be able to see.

When she dances, she is free in every sense of the word.  When she dances, she is utterly her own being, and I ache inside because she is not mine in those moments.  When she dances, she is dancing away from me and I don’t want to let her go.

Two of her teammates graduated this year.  I have watched these two young women grow up with my daughter, through awkward teen years and adolescent angst and even the occasional acne.  But these are not my daughters.  Their growing up shouldn’t hurt me.

When my daughter first made the competition team, I instructed her to follow one of the older, more responsible girls.  “Follow Lindsey,” I said.  I knew Lindsey was reliable and trustworthy, a born leader.  As long as my kid followed Lindsey, she would always be where she was supposed to be, when she was supposed to be there.  After my accident, there were competitions and performances that I couldn’t attend, when my daughter had to ride along with other families.  “Just follow Lindsey,” I repeated.  I knew Lindsey wouldn’t sneak off to break rules and get in trouble.  She would never lead my child astray.

Saturday, I watched Lindsey dance her final dance with the Alleykat team, and my heart cracked just a little.  I have no idea how or when that skinny little girl became such a beautiful adult, but she is all grown up and off to college and it takes my breath away to realize that my little girl is still following Lindsey; in one short year, my baby girl will dance her final Alleykat dance and head off to college too.

“Please,” I want to say to my child, “Don’t follow Lindsey.”

Emily is also heading off to college.  If Lindsey made my heart crack, Emily broke it wide open.

I know nothing about dance, but I know enough to know that she is good.  Really good.  She is a tiny girl, with huge eyes and a perpetually serious expression that almost hides her capacity for mischief.  There is something sprite-like about her on stage, an ability to defy gravity and make the impossible seem easy.  Over the years, I have loved watching Emily dance because she is always perfectly in control, precise in every way.

She wasn’t in control with her dance this year; her performance to Christina Perri’s “Human” was all about breaking free of control.   Maybe I misinterpreted her dance.  Maybe I got it all wrong and I have no idea what I am talking about.  She wore a silver mask and went back and forth between precision and wild abandon, symbolically fighting to be free of self-control and the expectations of others.  This song was her public declaration of who she is everything that she can be in life.

It was the first time a dancer other than my daughter has made me cry.  I am so proud of Emily, even though she is not mine to be proud of.

And my daughter . . . my beautiful, thoughtful daughter did a dance just for me.  She did a Pointe solo to “And She Dances” by Josh Groban, and she became one of those whirling ballerinas that pop up and spin in a child’s music box.  If Emily’s dance proved to the world that she is only human, my daughter’s dance reminded me that they all becomes something other than human once the music starts.

I was a wreck by the time it was over.  My niece, sister-in-law and mother-in-law were too.   I think even her father and future stepmother were moved to tears as well.

And now it’s Monday morning.  There are costumes to wash, thank-you notes to send out, dance tuition payments to make.  It’s a new week, a fresh start, and all of the raw emotions have been repackaged and put safely away for the time being.   Somewhere in the back of my mind, there is a tiny, nagging thought that next year’s recital will be the last one we have to attend.  That next year will be my daughter’s farewell dance.

Life is good, life is scary, and life goes on.  Day by day, year by year, dance by dance.

What’s In a Name?

Well, I did it.  Something I never thought I’d do.

I wrote The Scene this weekend. The Biggee.  I wrote a full-out, down and dirty, detailed and delicious sex scene.  A lemon.   And it was fun.

That’s right; I did it . . . . And I liked it.

All I had to do was step away from the characters I’ve been working with and write about a pair of complete strangers doing things my established characters have never even thought of trying.  Well, things I’ve never thought if doing to them — with them–for them — oh, hell, ya’lll know what I mean.

The bad news is that this particular scene doesn’t fit with my novel, even if I plug in different names. No, this is basically a stand alone bit of erotica.  The good news is that I feel ready to do it again now that I pushed my way through the first time.  I’m not scared of it any more, now that I know what to expect.

Not unlike losing my virginity a second time, but with Josh Groban playing in the background this time around instead of Michael Bolton.

So now I have this . . . thing that I’ve written and I don’t know what to do with it.  I’ve discovered that most erotic “novels” on Smashwords are actually little more than short stories, and I’m thinking about putting my little story on Smashwords.  I have to do more research first to make sure that Smashwords really is free, and that I really would retain all rights to my own work, but I’m seriously considering the idea.

My biggest dilemma here is deciding what name to use when (and if) I self-publish it.

As it is now, I don’t use a pen name to hide my identity from anyone.  I use a pen name because my real name is boring.  Also because I apparently share my real name with a  semi-famous journalist.  But I post links to my blog right on my personal Facebook page with my own picture, and there’s not a person in my life who doesn’t know that I am also A.J. Goode.  So far, I have nothing to hide.

I have no idea what to do if I self-publish erotica.

Do I publish it as A.J. Goode and use the experience to build up my professional writing resume?   Do I create another pen name just for this?   If I publish erotica under a different name, do I keep it a secret from my followers here on this blog, or do I share the links with you guys and just let the world know that I write under two names?

Or do I just set the whole thing aside and forget about it while I get back to work on my novel?

I’m just not sure what my next step is at this point.