Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Loving Tribute to the Most Important Woman In My Life

Today would have been my mom's 75th birthday. Emma Lou Jones Fry. She died with lung cancer last year, and I miss her so much it hurts. Most of you who know me knew that my mom and I were close. But close doesn't even come close to describing our relationship. She was my best friend, my staunchest supporter, and the best mom a girl could could ever have. She believed in me, and if it weren't for her, I would never have began writing.

My husband Danny, two kids Jaymi and Justin, and I moved to Thomasville, North Carolina, in the summer of 1988. My dad had just suffered a heart attack, so leaving my parents was the hardest thing I've ever done. After Daddy recuperated, they came for a visit the following fall. I was never so glad to see anybody in my life. Daddy looked great, and Mom and I had lots and lots of catching up to do. When we began reading the same books back when I was in high school, one of our favorite things to do together was to discuss those books--the characters, the plots, the endings. During their visit to NC, we picked up right where we'd left off. After I concluded one of my quite unfavorable reviews, commenting on how I would have changed this and that, she said, "Diane, you need to write your own book."

Hmmmm, I thought, you mean, all those stories rolling around in my head driving me crazy for the past several years might actually find an outlet? That's when my muse sparked to life. All those characters I had come to know cheered, excited for the chance to finally see their hopes, dreams, and even their worst fears come to life. I can't begin to tell you my joy when I began the creative process of writing, and actually witnessing those stories unfold right before my eyes.

From that moment on, Mom was not only my number one fan, she was my editor. We had loads of fun discussing plot points and character traits of my words on paper. She was a stickler for making sure the hero and heroine stayed true to character. Part of Mom's editorial procedure was to read every word out loud, a process I continue to this very day. You can't imagine how many fits of rolling-on-the-floor giggles we shared when reading aloud the love scenes.

Mom was excited about my current work-in-progress--Rio and Keira's story. There was no doubt in her mind that it would be a best-seller. A true mom, right? And boy, was she. Now that she's gone, I'm a little lost. I feel as if I'm adrift once again, searching for that illusive muse, who seems to be as lost as I am. The story is still there in my head, the first draft roughed out, the first 6 chapters revised, the characters still waiting for me, if a bit impatient. I'm hoping this blog will remind me to believe in myself as my mom believed in me. To find that joy in writing again. To remember the reason I began writing in the first place. To know that my mom will remain in my heart forever, cheering me on.

She left me with another legacy, too, one I treasure above all the rest--the love of family. Because of her unwavering love, I have always felt that same kind of love for my husband Danny and my children Jaymi and Justin. Jaymi, who is now 31 years old was in Texas with me when Mom suffered through her last breath. My sweet daughter's presence saved my life. Together we were stronger, just like my mom and I had always been stronger together.

After Mom's death, while I was still in Texas taking care of my dad, packing up the house, and preparing to move him to North Carolina, my sweet daughter who is now 31 years old called me in tears one day, worried about me. She couldn't bear the thought that I didn't have my mom to talk to whenever I needed her, or just when I wanted to share something with her. Of course, at that point Jaymi and I both were crying, which was SO not going to work. After all, it was my job to dry my baby's tears, right? And all of a sudden, with the softest touch, I felt my mom's presence, and I knew what to say to her, just as if Mom had whispered in my ear. "Tell ya what, sweetheart," I said to Jaymi, "when I need to talk to Mamaw, I promise I'll call you instead." That simple sentence, much to my relief, was enough to spark the laugh I had hoped for.

Justin, my 27 year old son, wasn't there when Mom died. He had come for a visit a couple of weeks earlier, right when I needed him the most. You have to understand, from the moment I arrived in Texas for my yearly visit, totally unaware of my mom's condition, and seeing her for the first time, a ball of terror and anguish settled deep in my heart and wouldn't let go. Even the involuntary act of breathing hurt because I knew I wouldn't have a mom much longer. But the moment I saw Justin's precious face in the airport, an unexplainable peace settled over me. I shouldn't have been surprised. My son has always had the uncanny ability to calm the waters in a stormy sea. He's that steadfast anchor to hold on to during the worst of times. And with a gentle kindness in his soul, he always knows the right words to say, and always with a hug. His presence those few days gave me the courage to face the days ahead.

And then there's my husband Danny. Possibly the greatest legacy my mom left me was her example. She taught me to love my husband through the good times and especially the bad times. I forgot that lesson a time or two, but I always knew that she was right. Today, Danny and I have been married 35 years, and I love, appreciate, and respect him more now than I did when I first fell in love with him in high school. He was the definition of strength and comfort for me during Mom's illness. He was my voice of reason. When I panicked, he talked me off the ledge. When I cried, he listened and cried with me. He had to do it from a distance--a very long distance--but it was enough. It was as if he were there with me.

Best of all, for the five months that I was in Texas, Danny took charge of everything going on at home. The greatest relief for me? I knew he was taking care of the kids--good grief, I sound like a mom, don't I? My kids are grown and married to wonderful people, but a mom--the kind of mom I always wanted to be--the kind of mom my mother was--always worries about her kids no matter how old they are, right? Well, I didn't have to worry. Danny wore my mommy badge with pride. Of course, he about wept with relief when I got home so that I could take over all the daily drama.

So, here's my tribute to you, my mom, my friend. Thanks for sharing a lifetime of laughs with me. Thanks for teaching me to enjoy life no matter the circumstances. And most of all, thanks for always being there. Happy birthday, Mom.

I'd love to hear the special memories you have of your mom. And if your mom is still there for you, I hope you will call her and tell you how much you love her. When Mom's radiation oncologist released her for the final time because there was nothing more he could do for her, it was like a bullet to the heart for both of us. We didn't speak for a while after that. But when I got her home and settled in bed, she asked me if there was something she needed to do. I didn't understand at first, and then it hit me. So I told her, "No, Mom, there's nothing you need to do." I told her lucky we both were not to have the burden of unfinished business. Everyone she cared about knew how much she loved them. Not only did she say the words on a regular basis, she lived those words in everything she did. We all hold that kind of powerful love in our own hands, thanks to the hands of our mothers.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Don't you just love a good hero? Delicious muscles in all the proper places. Piercing eyes--any color will do. Dark hair, blond, red, salt-and-pepper, gray, long, short, doesn't really matter. A smile that can knock you off your feet. A man who can crush the enemy, yet hold a newborn baby with reverent gentleness. A CEO who can clinch a deal without a shred of emotion, yet will cry quietly at the death of his dog. Of course, I am writing this from a completely biased woman's point of view. But if there are any of you men out there brave enough to read this particular blog, and if you want a step-by-step way to a woman's heart, then read on.

Oh, boy. And how about al those stereotypes we tend to seek out like hungy, hormonal bees to nectar? The boy next door, a tortured soul, the bad boy who is strictly off limits, a loner with secrets. And my personal favorite: the brave soldier who is willing to sacrifice his life for the lives of his fellow soldiers, a man who loves his country enough to die for it, who fights through the terror to take care of business, and understands the true price of freedom.

Even when I was a little girl, instead of watching cartoons on early morning Saturday TV like the rest of my firends, I was watching old reruns of The Lone Ranger, Tarzan, Wagon Train--gotta love that Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood for all of you too young to have a clue who I'm talking about)--Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Old John Wayne movies, and any black-and-white war movie I could find.

My first love (keep in mind, I think I was probably ten years old at the time) was Audie Murphy. He starred in an old war movie about his life as a soldier. That did it for me. I was hooked on military heroes. Strong (in every sense of the word), loyal, brave, tough on the outside yet vulnerable on the inside, and most important of all, they were men of honor. They fought for what they believed in. They always wore white hats, even when those hats were black. And they always saved those weaker and more vulnerable than themselves.

Sigh...is any wonder why I write romance?

So tell me, who are some of your favorite heroes? What are some of the traits or qualities you value in a hero?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hello friends, family, fellow bloggers, and guests. My name is Diane Bradford, and this is my first blog. I've read tons of terrific blogs, so I'm determined to do mine justice. When I have more time--ha ha ha--I plan to improve the design and add a few pictures, but I have to admit the intimidation factor is high. I am SO not a techno geek. But as a writer of military romance chocked full of action and HEA (Happily Ever After for you non-writing folks) I have no choice but to jump in the freezing cold water with both feet--YIKES!--and get started.

I'm a wife to my dear husband of 35 years, a mother of two exceptionally wonderful children--no, I am SO not prejudiced--and a writer. Jaymi and Justin have left the nest and are married to people who are just as wonderful. And even better? They live close by. We get to enjoy lunch dates, movies, and time together whenever we can. No grandchildren yet, but I have hope.

I became a writer because I've always had a habit of changing plots, character traits, and endings of the books I read. My mom and I used to always share books and talk about them afterwards. She would always leave a little post-it note on the front with messages like, 'Good one!,' 'Don't pass this one up,' 'Wow!!!!,' Gotta read!,' and I would do the same. Even after I moved to North Carolina from Texas, we continued to haul sacks of books back and forth when they drove out here for visits. Was a little harder when I flew out there. During their first visit to North Carolina, Mom and I were discussing one of those books. I began my lengthy oratory on how the book should be this and that and what I would do to change it. Mom said, Diane, you need to write your own book. And so began my writing career. I'm just sorry my mom, God rest, won't be with me when I sell my first book.

My favorite joys (other than my family) have been reading and going to the movies for as long as I can remember. My reading and movie interests are very eclectic. Romance, of course, is at the top, but I also love mysteries, thrillers, espionage, and paranormal. When I get all of them in one book or movie, I'm a happy puppy. However--and this is key for me--all books and movies must conform to the following criteria:

Criteria #1 and most important: HEA (the happy-ever-after promise)
And here's why. After watching Million Dollar Baby a few years ago, I wanted to shoot myself, it was so depressing. But after watching Robin Hood with Russell Crow this weekend, oh man. Let's just say, my criteria list was fulfilled--big time. I definitely plan to see this one again. I felt the same about 3D Avatar, and yes, I went back and watched it a second time, too. If I know or even suspect that I'm not going to experience that HEA buzz, the movie is out. I refuse to waste my time and money. The same is true for the books I read. HEA is why I love the romance genre. And just so you know, for all you non-readers of romance, you're missing out on what makes the world tick. Romance books are no longer the silly bodice-rippers of the 70's, an image for which the genre sadly continues to pay the price. But that image no longer computes, folks. Romance books of today are about heroic men and women who face difficult challenges and impossible odds to find each other and fight for each other amid the chaos. Come on, take a chance. Try one on for size. I promise I won't tell. And for all you guys out there rolling your eyes, snickering, and turning up your nose, if you want to know what a woman wants in a man, what she finds sexy, what turns her on, read a romance novel. If you need action, then a romantic suspense is a sure bet. Trust me, you won't regret it. Oh, for crying out loud, rip the cover off, if your rep can't handle it, but take advantage of a perfect opportunity. If you absolutely cannot face being seen in the romance section of the bookstore, then order one online.

Criteria #2: Good MUST win over evil.
The bad guy has to go, people. And by whose hand? Why, the hero's, of course, whether that hero is the hero or the heroine. This criteria is one reason I tend to avoid horror flicks. It's also the reason I gravitate toward action movies, even in my reading choices. If I have to choose between a romantic comedy or an action flick, I'll go for Bruce Willis every time. I mean, come on--there's nothing more satisfying than a hunky-hot Matt Damon as Jason Bourne taking it to the bad guy (or in Jason Bourne's case lots of bad guys) and beating them. Now, if I get romance in the bargain, again, I'm a happy puppy.

Criteria #3: A feel-good ending.
Now, this one is a little subjective, even for me. No matter what, the hero and the heroine MUST be happy and fulfilled at the end. In romance, the ending is always HEA, meaning the two main characters are together and plan to stay together through eternity, no matter what--you know what I mean. If I read the book to the last page or sit through an entire movie expecting my HEA but don't get it. Look out. UNhappy puppy doesn't even come close. I'm either looking for a match or a brick. Although I require action-filled books and movies to fulfill the same criteria, man and woman don't have to end up together, but that possibility must linger in the looks between them. Or if there are no romance involved, I get my feel-good ending when the good guy whips the bad guy's butt and saves the world or rescues the innocent. A couple of my examples are Gladiator with Russell Crow--he was eternally in love with his wife (I won't say more in case you want to watch the movie), and Tears of the Sun with Bruce Willis. This one was a total Navy SEAL action flick, but he and woman he rescued shared That Look at the end, plus, even though some of his men died as heroes, they fulfilled their mission, rescued the girl, and kicked the enemies butt. The idea for my WIP (work-in-progress, or the current manuscript I'm working on, for all you non-writers) was born when I saw Tears of the Sun.

Criteria #4: Heroes have to be heroic. I'll talk more about this one on my next post. Hope you join me.