Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It’s A Family Thing…

By Jami Gray (Guest Blogger)
Whenever someone actually reads my bio and notes the number of siblings—36—I grew up with, there tend to be a few questions. Such as:
Ummm….is that a typo?”
How many wives did your dad have?”
All from the same mom?”
My answers are—Nope, totally accurate—Just one, the same woman he was with for forty plus years—and for the last question—Seriously? If that was at all possible, I don’t think my mom would go anywhere near a man, I know I wouldn’t.
For logistics I do need to explain that we do have three generations. At one time our ages spanned newborn to mid-thirties. I was part of the first batch—the older generation. By the time I left for college we turned over the torch to the middle generation. Now that most of the older gen’s have families of our own and the loss of our dad a five years back, my mom is left with the younger generation, all thirteen of them.
I was twelve when I became part of the mock United Nations clan that masquerades as our family. I slid right in to the fifth eldest spot, which was huge considering most things were done based on age. Of course, my sister who’s two months younger probably has a different outlook on the whole situation, but still… My arrival meant over the next few years our family could proudly boast having at least one child in a University, in High School, in Middle School, in Elementary School and Pre-School. Yes, we helped keep our local educational institutions in business.
With such a background, there are tons of stories, and yes, I’ve been asked when I’ll do a book. Here’s my answer…never. Let’s be honest, I write Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance for a reason, I like fiction. Besides, every single family member has a different point of view of our various experiences, so since I’ve got the fiction market covered, I’ll let someone else tackle the non-fiction.
Growing up in a large family comes with its own set of challenges and rewards, so I thought I’d share some life lessons I garnered during the ride.
Time Management
I am proud to admit that I can be ready to go anywhere faster than my husband. It’s a holdover from having to share a one-sink bathroom with seven other teenagers all through high school. The concept of having special alone time with a hot shower was never a reality. Seriously, I don’t think there’s a water heater out there, even now, that could hold that much hot water. 

When I finally managed to either sneak in, or body check someone else out of the bathroom, and barricade the door, it was hop in, get wet with luke-warm water, soap body with one hand, shampoo hair with the other, quick rinse, then shave, shave (I did have to slow down a bit there otherwise I came out looking like my legs went a round with a lawn mower), hop out as water turned arctic and snicker at the impending misery of those to follow me, dry, throw on lotion and clothes and then yank open the door before the homemade battering ram of older brothers and younger sisters made it through my barricade. Total elapsed time-10 minutes. 

Make-up application was a luxury and tended to resemble a mosh-pit in front of the downstairs hall mirror. And using a hair dryer? Puleeze, that’s for wussies. Nope, back then it was mousse it up and let it go! Now, decades later, I can still manage make myself presentable in under fifteen minutes, including make-up and a hair dryer. And the sink in my bathroom is all mine.
Bargaining skills (includes: compromising, negotiations, trading, and occasional blackmail)
As you can imagine (you’re readers and/or writers with great imaginations) growing up in my household there were certain survival skills that were quickly acquired. Bargaining, also known as compromising, negotiating, and occasionally blackmailing, was key in getting what you wanted. There were many opportunities to sharpen this skill, and some of us were way better at it than other. 

Take for instance, chores. Say you were up as part of the dishwashing team on Friday night, but your friends were hitting an early movie. Your social life was a priority but if you failed to do your part in the home office, your bosses (mom and dad) would hear the grumbles of your co-workers (jealous partner who had no social life) and your friends would be left hanging while you ended up doing dishes a lot longer than you expected. The key was to find that one irresistible lure to convince your co-worker that doing all the dishes by themselves was a rewarding endeavor. Experience gave you an edge, because the older you were and the younger your partner, your ability to make doing the dishes by themselves sound like winning the lottery was pretty high. 

If you teamed up with some with equal bargaining power, then it was like a meeting between two opposing factions. Treaties were drawn up so neither side could get out of their obligations, and official documentation of ownership would exist for various objects of worth.
Investigative skills (Including, but not limited to: eliminating suspects, tracing evidence, uncovering manic plots of evil, property retrieval, and treasure hunting)
When you have a household of teenagers one key element guaranteed to start any argument was the disappearance of personal items. The ability to track down your stuff, identify the culprit and exact restitution was a specialized skill, one I made sure to excel at. 

Let me share one particular case—The Missing Tank Top. I was putting away laundry and realized I seemed to missing an article of clothing—my white tank top. It was a necessary item as it went with a variety of outfits, not to mention the fact that I bought it myself. After going through the clothes belonging to my roommates (3 girls to a room) and coming up empty handed, I determined that a laundry mix-up was out of the question. I began a series of interviews with eyewitnesses (all 14 kids in the house). Each one swore they had no idea where the tank was, nor had they seen it. However, there were mentions of possible sightings. Culling my suspect pool down, I began to hunt for trace evidence. Room by room, I swept for any sign. White cloth teased me in various locations, but each turned out not to be the one I was looking for. 

Then I struck pay dirt. Waded up in the back of closet, belonging to a younger brother, was my tank—stained beyond redemption with oil. The horror was almost unbearable. The need to find the culprit burned and I went after each of my suspects without mercy. I was able to cross off the younger brother whose closet it was found in. No way was he wearing something that would hang like a dress on him. The next two crumpled and began to point me in the right direction. Finally, a confrontation with an older brother revealed that during an auto repair session, he needed a shirt and lo and behold there was a white tank top just sitting there. When he was done with his repairs he noticed the stains and realized whoever the owner was, they were not going to be happy about it, so he disposed of the evidence, burying it a closet not belonging to him. I made sure to relieve him of a very nice, white dress shirt and make it mine.
My family consists of every skin color, every nationality, every disability, every physical attribute and every emotional state you could probably imagine. Probably the greatest gift my family gave me was the ability to see the world around me without restrictions. No matter what you look like, where you come from, what you’ve had to deal with in the past, or what you can physically do—it will not define you. Instead, your individuality comes from the decisions you make, how you treat others, and what you do with your place in the world. So best make a statement.
Want to meet a heroine who makes her own statement? Jami’s SHADOW’S EDGE, the first in her Kyn Kronicles is free from June to August, so grab it while you can!

Shadow’s Edge, Kyn Kronicles #1
Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows—especially the monsters…
When the supernatural lurks in the shadows of the mundane, hunting monsters requires unique skills, like those of Raine McCord. A series of deaths threatens to reveal the Kyn community and forces her to partner with the sexy Gavin Durand.
As the trail leads to the foundation haunting Raine’s childhood, she and Gavin must unravel lies and betrayals to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.
You’re going to have to move fast if you want to save your boyfriend, Raine.” It took a second for the words to penetrate through the static.
Who are you?”
Let’s just say you and I are kin of sorts,” the voice was a vibrating growl.
Strange, I don’t remember attending a family reunion recently.” Her heart rate kicked up and static whispered across the line even as she struggled to stay calm.
The static cleared. “Perhaps because you have no family left.”
Her blood froze at the words. “What do you want?” Her own voice came out cold, merciless.
Ah, ah ah,” the voice chided. “No need to get so upset, cher. I just wanted to let you know if you want lover boy to make it out sane, you best starting moving on Dr. Lawson’s little lab.”
What lab?” she bit out.
There was a huge elaborate sigh. “I’m so disappointed at how slow y’all move. Hasn’t your boss found lover boy’s car yet?” The gruff voice didn’t wait for answer. “Check the glove compartment. I’m sure you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
Her mind raced furiously. “How do I know this isn’t just another little trap?”
The growl rumbled. “You don’t, but since you and I know exactly what’s happening to lover boy, I have a feeling it won’t matter. That Chet character, he was getting way too close, but this one they’re keeping alive for now. He shows promise.” A guttural scream cut through the airwaves, and she felt her breath stop.
Ready to add Shadows Edge to your TBR list and dive into the shadows of the Kyn?
Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. She can be soothed with coffee and chocolate. Surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and two female labs moonlighting as the Fur Minxes, she escapes by playing with the voices in her head.
You can find me at:
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Lisabet Sarai said...

What an amazing set of life experiences, Jami! I'm curious as to how (or whether) this aspect of your personal history influences your writing.

Thanks for being my guest!

Jami Gray said...

Thank you, Lisabet for letting me come over and share. I will admit growing up in the UN of families helps me create a more diverse set of characters since I tend to be blind to skin type and focus on personality types.

E.L. F. said...

What an amazing experience...which undoubtedly prepared you for any number of situations. I enjoyed reading about your interactions with your siblings and chuckled, as I can get ready quicker than my hubby, but I didn't have your training! Thanks for sharing and thank you for the free book!

Jami Gray said...

Thanks, E.L. for coming over. I think women are just better at the quick prep than men some days. =0)

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