Breaking Tradition

- by Dianne Drake

I’m writing a sexy book. I don’t usually do that. Used to, wasn’t exactly comfortable, found my niche on the sweet side. Yet, the book I’m writing on a rush deadline is turning out sexy and you know what? It’s fun. It’s different. Also, I’m not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, which is also fin and different. I’ve done it every year, without fail, for thirty years now, and I don’t even like turkey. Yet, I cook that darned buzzard year in, year out, and feed thirty or more people without ever taking a bite of what I cook. This year though, I saw a sign at a local casino, and I knew it was speaking to me. Come celebrate your Thanksgiving with us. Start with our sumptuous buffet, end your evening at the slots. Yep, that’s my thanksgiving plan.

I’ll admit, I succumbed to a little remorse this afternoon, and bought the fixings for pumpkin pie. After all, we still need some of our traditions. They define who we are better than almost anything else I can think of. The recipe I use for the pies was my grandmother’s, and that’s the part of Thanksgiving I want to hang on to. And no, I don’t like pumpkin pie just like I don’t like turkey. But having that pie in my home for this holiday is important, because it stands for something I need in my life. Still, sometimes it’s necessary to break tradition and go in another direction.

I’m the president of a tiny chapter in Romance Writers of America. For the most part, we’ve all been medical professionals in our non-writing lives, and all of us write either medical romance or incorporate strong medical elements into our works. This past week, we’ve have a very knowledgeable guest speaker online, Laura Resnick, who’s been telling my chapter about managing your career without an agent. All I can say is, wow! Laura’s amazing. Apart from that, the reason we approached this topic as a chapter is that several of the members are starting to break tradition and go it without their agents. It’s a scary world out there if you’re used to depending on an agent to do the things an agent does. But several of my chap mates, as we call them, are ready to break tradition and see what else is out there for them in the publishing world. Why? Something in their tradition is no longer meeting their needs. They need to move in different directions, as unsteady as that may be.

Life’s like that, though. I’m going to a casino for Thanksgiving, one of my chap mates is shedding an agent. Baby steps, giant steps. It’s all about breaking tradition. But it’s also about shedding ourselves of the things that no longer fit in our lives. As writers, that rut we get ourselves into turns deadly. I’ve given up on many of my favorite authors who refuse to break tradition. You know what I’m saying – read the first dozen of his books, then the thirteenth seems like all the rest, and you can’t even make it half-way through the fourteenth. Rut, tradition…it will kill, or at least wound, careers in the end. Yet, it’s easier to cook that dinner for thirty people than it is to tell them you’re tired of doing it. And it’s easier to write that nice, sweet book rather than drag a sexy, lusty character onto the page.

Somewhere in the mix, there’s a compromise, and it may be as simple as a piece of pumpkin pie, or as complicated as firing an agent. Do we always have to break tradition? Sure we do. But can’t we cling to tradition as well? Absolutely. My husband doesn’t have the option to go either way – he’s an independent contractor for the government and the path in front of him has no flexibility. When I was a critical care nurse, when a patient came back to my intensive care unit from open heart surgery, my checklist of procedures was as rigid as it got. As a writer though, all I have is flexibility, and that’s the best. The thing is, my life doesn’t always follow suit, and that’s not the best. So maybe all I’m really doing in breaking tradition is living more of my life as a writer would, or should, by not cooking that dinner I don’t want to cook for thirty people who won’t even lift a finger to help clean up.

It’s a little discovery for me this Thanksgiving, but for my chap mate who has realized that her career can be so much better than it is thanks to Laura’s excellent advice, it major. So, break a tradition, see how it feels. If I survive this sexy book, I may write another one. If I’m not crushed by the weight of guilt over spending my Thanksgiving in the casino (like that’s going to happen!), who knows what’s in store for Christmas. Maybe no one will get my traditional Christmas chocolate fudge.

In the mean time, no matter where you spend your Thanksgiving, make it a good one. Maybe exercise some of your writer’s flexibility and bake lemon pies instead of pumpkin. Or try lasagna instead of turkey. Lasagna and lemon pie for Thanksgiving – now that’s a tradition waiting to be started.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of whipped cream on your pumpkin pie!

Dianne Drake
Firefighter With A Frozen Heart out now from Harlequin, Mills & Boon Medicals

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