On Control

I love control.  If everyone—including my dog—would only do what I tell them, it would put the fun back in dysfunctional and (my) life would go so much more smoothly.  Let’s include objects too, so my computer would stop being a butthead.  Ditto my iphone 5s, and Siri, who clearly has a learning problem.  Oh, it would be glorious: my husband’s socks would land in the hamper not the middle of the floor, my nails would stop breaking, no driver would cross the center line and hit my sister.  School shootings and hunger would be eliminated even if it took a whole week.  Unfortunately, I have calculated the amount of time each day that I am actually In Charge and my average daily RAS (Running Any Show) score is exactly 4.18.  Minutes.

You might think this is part of why an author writes:  the ability to pick each word, shape every sentence.  And hey, she can make characters do and say exactly what she wants, right?  Perfect control, at least on the page.

I used to think so.  But characters once created have this recalcitrant way of becoming themselves.  The story changes as it goes deeper, and the writer discovers what it’s about.  It’s like peeling an onion; you have to do it, and sometimes you cry.  Because with art you think you’re in charge and you’re not.  You’re just not.  Something more real, more like life takes over and you just hope you can chisel away enough of the dross that the gold will shine.

And then to make it worse, you have to let it go.  Ready or not–and you never are–you let it go.

A Matter of Mercy was two years in the research process and a couple more in the writing and revising.  It’s set in the closely-knit community of the oyster and clam fishermen of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod Bay.  In August, Blank Slate Press accepted the novel for publication, and I’ve just returned the second round of edits.  The publisher will send it to copyediting and proofreading, then there will be galleys to review.  It will be published both in print and electronically August 1.  Here’s the cover and the book description from the publisher’s catalog.

A Matter of Mercy

Caroline Marcum thought she’d escaped the great mistake of her life by leaving Wellfleet harbor, but is forced to face it when she returns, reluctantly, to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal put his past—and his prison term—behind him to return home to take over his father’s oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances long ago, when a nor’easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline’s lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other sea farmers are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust—and love. Inspired by an actual lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a riveting novel about treasuring the traditional way of life in the shallows of beautiful Cape Cod bay by discovering where forgiveness ends … and where it begins.

I’ll hope you’ll go on the rest of this journey with me.  Most of all, I hope you’ll love the story.  I loved writing it for you.



10 Responses to On Control

  1. Eager to read this long-awaited story, set in an area so special to me. Wondering if The Bookstore will make an appearance? Love the cover image!

    • Thank you! Indeed, the Bookstore/Restaurant in Wellfleet is the setting for a number of scenes. All of the locations are real; only the characters are fictional. The lawsuit against the sea farmers–and the very unpredictable outcome–on which much of the plot is based actually occurred, too. It was fascinating to hear about from some of the locals, and then to dig the story out of newspaper archives. I loved the research!

    • Thank you, Martha. Glad you like the cover! Somewhere, possibly on the back cover–not sure yet–the publisher says there will be a map of Cape Cod so readers will be able to locate Wellfleet and visualize the shape of the harbor, and where the bay vs. the ocean side is.

  2. Control freak? You?! NOT! But I can’t wait to read this long anticipated book. You are a wonder woman dearest Lynne ….

    • Thank you Barb! There are members of my family who might beg to differ with you, but I’ll take your endorsement any time. 😉

  3. Did somebody really cross the line and hurt your sister? Damn, I hope by now she’s all right and has been so for a long time.


    Yes, something takes over, and maybe “more real” as you put it is the best way to describe it. Sitting and cogitating and planning a story, that’s one thing, but the moment I’m sitting down and actually writing it out, I feel as if I’m plugged into the ether and that’s when things come to me — to the page — that I never could have anticipated back in the preparation stage.


    And yes, you have to let go. What somebody once said about painters applies equally to writers or any other creative folks: “Every artist should have somebody standing behind him with a two-by-four to hit him with when it’s time to stop working on that canvas.”

    • Yes, absolutely, my sister was in a near-fatal accident when an uninsured, unlicensed driver crossed the center line and hit her car head on at a high rate of speed. Multiple broken bones, car totaled (of course)–terrible pain, and a long, long recovery. You might wonder what happened to the other driver? Absolutely nothing. No serious injuries and, inexplicably, the charges were just dropped when he finally was in court. Since it’s apparently not a criminal offense, my sister wasn’t represented. My sister has had to let go of that, and so much to her credit, she has.

      Your comments about the creative process are spot-on! Thank you

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