Writing a Book About the Murders: I Can’t Do It and Here’s Why

I’m one of those people who doesn’t remember a lot of my childhood. There are good reasons why. While some memories are pure magic – picnics in my gramma front yard in Carmichael, friends who were always by my side, doing well in school and incredible teachers who saw me for who I was – others are awful. There’s a reason they call it “the past”. 

I’ve spent that last two months trying to get moving on a book. I wrote a huge chunk for a different book ages ago, but going back to it I realized there’s so much I didn’t say. It was fine for what it was, it was almost like a bridge in music that helps make the transition from one phrase to another, a mention that paced the real story of how I used a sperm donor to have my daughter. For a few years I did NaNoWriMo every November and managed to produce five manuscripts – none of them about the murder except for the interlude in my donor book.

So as I hunkered after DeAngelo was caught and started going back to the bad old days, it’s been difficult. My dad and I didn’t get along. He didn’t like me. He very well might have loved me, but he didn’t like me and that was demonstrated over and over by his actions. According to my mom, the early years were good. When I was a toddler and before my brother Jay was born, dad and I got on great. I was adorable and precocious (can you imagine?) and the center of their universe. Then Jay arrived and things changed. I apparently noticed and began acting out. That was it. I became the problem. My dad, who never really appreciated women as equals, relegated me to a second class citizen.

As I got older, it got worse. There were good moments. It wasn’t all trash. But man, there were a lot of shitty moments.

Writing about the crime.

I don’t want to write about the murders. They’ve been covered again and again. I just read one account – today on the ProBoards – that I find so disturbing. It’s just someone’s theory but it’s based on aggregated knowledge of stories that have taken on a life of their own. So, you say, Jen write what is true! Here’s the thing, it’s hard to know what is really true. Different folks have told stories that are based on what my dad or Charlene wanted people to believe. Charlene being an interior designer is one example. She wasn’t an interior designer. I’m sure she helped someone decorate their house at some point, but for everyone out there who’s been trained in interior design, calling her an interior designer is an insult.

I know this isn’t the thing for me. I’m pretty damn rational but listening to people go on about Charlene’s beauty, Lyman and Charlene’s “love” for one another, and the other ways my dad and stepmom have been romanticized is gross. This sentence gets to the root of the insanity, “Charlene and Lyman Robert Smith were a high-class married couple living in Ventura, California.” They were not a high-class couple. They weren’t “beautiful people” or whatever McNamara parroted. They were flawed, desperate, ambitious people who didn’t always do the right thing and left damage in their wake. They were both masters at creating illusion.

And in spite of all that, we loved them.

Instead, I’m going to keep blogging.

I’ll share stories I remember. I’ll try and shine some light on the nonsense and tell you the story of real people who messed up. I’ll talk about strange things that happened as a result of the crime and how my life was affected. I’ll answer your questions and keep following the trial. I’ll provide insight when I have them and debate the issues as they come up. But I can’t go back to that time and write a coherent book about all this. Hey – maybe I’ll even get my other books done and published. They are way more interesting.

If you like this blog, subscribe via email. It’s a brain-dead way to get the latest updates. The email subscription form is in the upper right corner. I’ll commit to at least one story per week. I’ll shoot for Sundays. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about being a suspect. Not my best moment but kind of ballsy now that I look back on it. Later this week, we also head back to court to “check-in” on DeAngelo. I’ll have an update on that as well.

Thank you for being a reader. It’s been wonderful support.

6 thoughts on “Writing a Book About the Murders: I Can’t Do It and Here’s Why

  1. your parents aren’t the only ones who’ve been romanticized. the perp has been too, media, sleuths like McNamara, even law enforcement have created this almost mythical evil villain. he is evil for sure, but human. this case will never be as interesting as what people imagine it to be.

    1. Oh man, really good point, we do tend to romanticize the stupidest things. I guess there’s some ideal out there we all think exists but it doesn’t. Nobody’s perfect and I’m not even sure there’s a right way to do this stuff. Thank you for your support. It’s awesome.

  2. FWIW, from some random stranger who came across your blog because of an interest in the GSK case….I think we are about th same age. I am the 5th child of six. My dad, sure he loves me, but no doesn’t like me. When I was in my twenties, I thought how much easier life would be if he’d just die of old age already. He was OLD, not even sixty yet. But he didn’t die of old age before he was sixty, and is now in his eighties. I’m thankful everyday that the selfish desires of a twenty year old didn’t happen.

    I can’t imagine my life without him, including all the numerous ways he annoys the hell out of me. I can’t imagine what my mom would have done, were he dead, forty years ago, or even now. But forty years ago, I think she would have been left destitute, to finish raising two or three kids on her own,

    I can’t imagine life without either of my parents, but of course it is inevitable. My father now has Alzheimer’s and a day will come when he doesn’t know me at all. People that barely know him have told me he is “the salt of the earth”, and I think gag. Lol. But I suppose he is, in his own way, and also an SOB, also in his own way. I’m sure my own daughter could point out with great accuracy my flaws, but she is also my girl, and I hope she knows the good parts too.

    I think your story is important. A murder isn’t just some event we read about and then life goes on. The world would be better off knowing, the long term impact. The good, the bad, the tragedies and triumphs. Even if all it is, in the end, how a daughter lives a life without her imperfect father.

    1. Man, you really nailed and I appreciate your understanding. It is true there’s so much messiness in life and I have no idea why we all run around acting like there’s some ideal. There’s just love and patience and trying to make a difference. All the rest is what happens along the way. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s good and it helps!

  3. Honestly, I think that your decision to continue blogging, instead of writing a book, is both wise and wonderful. I adore the candid, spunky, down-to-earth manner in which you share your unique perspective. It’s like breathing fresh air. And allowing the world a glimpse into your real-life journey as a survivor victim is so valuable in keeping focus on where it should be! I’m going to be looking forward to Sundays.

    1. Oh man, thank you. Maybe its a book when I’m all done, but this is way better, more authentic and frankly feels like a conversation between me and people like you – which I prefer.

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