Monday, September 8, 2014

An Unmarketable Skill

My memories of growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan include long summer days in and around the water. I had a summer friend – someone I only saw during a few weeks of overlapping vacation every year – she and I were matched by our grandmothers and spent every sunny day we could on the beach. Our activities were the same from the time we met when we were in fourth grade until we graduated from college.

The days were long in northern Michigan. The sun didn't set until well after 10pm. I remember having freckles across my nose like brown sugar and scabs on my knees like strawberries. Other than sunning ourselves and bobbing around in the water, our favorite occupation was hunting for Petoskey stones. These speckled stones are actually fossils made from coral in a sea that covered North America when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I can't remember a time when I went to the beach and didn't look for Petoskey stones. It is like second nature to be look down for speckled gray rocks while walking in the waves. It's an instinct that I don't remember anyone ever teaching me – I just knew when I had one in my sight.

We got to be so good at collecting rocks that at one point we opened up a rock business outside the post office. We were eight years old. I think we sold ten for a dollar. We made a killing selling stones to all of our grandparents' friends. And throughout our twenties when we were struggling to find our way in the world we often comforted each other with the thought that we could go back into business again.

It has been twenty years since I hunted for Petoskey stones on the shores of Lake Michigan. I returned with my new family last week. The water in the lake was as cold as I remembered, but within minutes it was the perfect temperature as it washed over my sandy feet.

I was able to find Petoskey stones quickly and easily. I was surprised to find out that it wasn't as easy for non-native Michiganders. There were so many pretenders mixed in amongst the stones in the waves. I was thrilled to discover I had a special skill. I can identify a Petoskey rock at three paces. Huzzah! We all went home with non-Petosky treasures. I've a couple of blue stones on my desk, as well as a white one with what I think is the pattern of a dancing horse on it.

It was a blissful day. The sun was high above in a blue sky. The seagulls cried and the waves gently tossed small stones and sand in their wake. I could smell whitefish being smoked in the harbor and I knew as the sun got lower in the sky I would soon be around a table of my beloved family members. 

Everything was the same as when I was young, but I took it all for granted then.  Now that I'm not there every day, I know what a treasure hunting for Petoskey stones truly is. It it is my little piece of heaven here on earth. If only my Petoskey hunting skills were something that I could put on my resume.

Maybe it's finally time to open the rock shop. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

It's the end of summer and the news has been so dark recently. It's been hard to turn on the television. I am the kind of person who wakes up most days and looks forward to what the day might bring, but I have been feeling a little defeated.

And so it seems like the perfect time to make a list of all that's right in the world, all the things I love in the world, and all the little things that make my day bright.

1. Waking up next to the Handsomest Man Alive
2. Laughing together over the absolute nastiest joke I've ever heard. (No I won't repeat it. )
3. Hearing Joey chirping at the birds on the backyard feeder.
4. My big brown leather writing chair.
5. Watching Joey, Gracie, and Roxy sleep.
6. Sending texts to and from Sara.
7. Getting phone calls from my relatives to plan upcoming get togethers.
8. Knowing that candy corn season is right around the corner.
9. & chocolate chip cookies. Anytime. Any place. Anywhere.
10. Having a home-grown Caprese Salad for dinner.
11. Re-reading classic romance novels from my youth.
12. Looking forward to spending a week in my favorite place on earth.
13. Boxy, grey T-shirts. (A girl can never have too many.)
14. My lighted make-up mirror (Yes, I show some wear. But it could be worse. Way worse.)
15. Knowing my mom has a full and active social life.
16. Putzing around in the kitchen with a new recipe.
17. Hearing the kids outside playing after school.
18. Rocking out in my car to Pink.  Blow me (one last kiss)...
19. FB pics of my sorority sister's children at the same age when I met their parents.
20. Blue skies.

I challenge you to make a list as well of 20 things that make you thankful. It will make your life ever so much sweeter.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Get Me Off This Rollercoaster!

When I'm reading a romance novel, the dark night of the soul is one of my favorite parts of the story. I want it to get really bleak. I want the hero to be chained to the walls in the bowels of a blackened dungeon. I want the heroine to be trapped in the tallest tower with no way out. I want all hope to be lost. I want all these things knowing that I can count on a happily ever after ending.

Yet in my real life when I'm writing a romance, I try to avoid dark night of the soul moments at all costs. I don't want to buy a ticket to ride that rollercoaster. I plot and plan to put my own characters on that rollercoaster every time I begin a new story, and please keep your hands inside the ride at all times, but I want my reality to be rollercoaster-free. I want my life to be a gentle boat ride like "It's A Small World" at Disneyland, only without the annoying earworm of a song.

While I'm on the gentle boat ride portion of  my life, my writing is smooth sailing. In fact it's a little like a sunset cocktail cruise. Only there's no sunset and no cocktails --unless it's after five o'clock somewhere. I can crank out words like a machine. But let's face it, the gentle boat ride is the shortest ride at the amusement park of life.

No matter how hard I try to avoid it, I end up buying a ticket and getting on life's rollercoaster. It's inevitable. Sure, it's all fun and games and Instagram selfies going up the hill, but the minute I'm going down at a fast rate of speed, my writing goes into complete upheaval. My word count slows down to a halt.  At the first sign of strife, or a change in my schedule causes me to have a hard time even sitting down in the same room as my computer.

For the last few weeks, I have been screaming on the downhill slope of life's rollercoaster. It wasn't one big catastrophe that put me on this ride, it was a series of little events that didn't seem to matter much until suddenly I'm on the rollercoaster dropping sixteen stories at what feels like the speed of light. My stomach drops out and I'm scared to death because I know I can't count on a happily ever after ending in real life.

I was dropping fast on the downhill slope when I realized that just as I could slip into a story someone else had written when my reality was too much to bear, I could also slip away into a story of my own. Why not? Either way, I was using my imagination to comfort and protect me.

My word count increased overnight. Instead of avoiding my computer, I was looking to it for comfort. Yes, at first I had a hard time maintaining my concentration for a long period of time.  And it took me more time to leave the upset of my reality behind and be able to slip into my story. Eventually I managed to get into it and write.  

I'm determined to get back on the cocktail cruise, no matter what ride I'm on.

Woot woo!

Am so thrilled about this!

Monday, July 28, 2014

#My Writing Process

The lovely and talented Morgan Richter tagged me on The Writing Process Blog Tour! We met when we were both working as temps on the Paramount lot in Hollywood. We were practically neighbors, living across Olympic Blvd. from one another. We were frequent guests at each other parties until Morgan moved to New York City and I moved to the burbs. I love her blog, you should make it one of your bookmarks.

Now on to the questions at hand:

1) What am I working on?

My focus this week is on a New Adult Paranormal novel I've been working on for a year. After having written it once, twice, three times a lady… with way-more-than-I-care-to-admit different edited versions, I decided to rewrite the entire thing this past spring. Now, I am editing and polishing the new manuscript!

For a hint as to what it is about--the story stemmed from a couple of questions about standard fairytales and Happily Ever After endings: Why doesn't the Fairy Godmother save Prince Charming for herself? Are there any rules for being a Fairy Godmother? What if, just once, the Fairy Godmother fell in love with Prince Charming? What would happen?

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My work is really just a New Adult novel. It's the paranormal bits that make it different from other manuscripts in the genre. My main character would object strongly to being the main character in a Paranormal novel. She has deluded herself into thinking she's just an average twenty-five year-old SoCal chick with a slow metabolism, terrible eyesight, and a tendency to splurge on designer handbags.  But she's not. She's a fairy by birth and a fairy godmother by trade.

3) Why do I write what I write?

I write because I am a fan of storytelling and the allure of getting to use my own imagination to create a story that other people might enjoy is just too powerful for me to ignore.

4) How does my writing process work?

It involves a lot of staring at walls and my husband yelling at me over and over that I'm not listening to him. And I'm not, but I don't like to be accused of it. Makes me seem insensitive. 

It's just that the little voices in my head are louder.

Each manuscript is different but here is how I've been most successful recently:

1. Feed cats, make tea. (In that order lest I be killed.)
2. Put on writing clothes (torn, unattractive, loose fitting) from the bag that I was too embarrassed to give to Goodwill.
3. Put my butt in the big leather chair.
4. Here's the tricky part – avoid all social media and emails.
5. Write at least 2,500 words or else you can't leave the chair.
6. Only after daily goal is met, answer emails and use social media.
7. Use leftover creative energy to edit other projects.
8. Rewrite WIP.
9. Edit WIP.
10. Feel triumphant.
11. Feel worthless.
12. Feel completely spent.
12. Repeat 1-12 above when the sun rises again.

Now, I am passing the pen to the fabulous Miss Maria Powers, a dear friend and writer from the Los Angeles Romance Authors writing group! I look forward to reading about her writing process!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Under Drone Attack

We moved. 

Just like that. Two weeks ago we were happily tucked into our little condo on the edges of a park where we fed the birds and our cats chirped happily at them out the window. Then we found a place to live. Called the movers. Stuffed the cats in carriers and drove a half mile down the street to a new house.

At first my biggest problem was what to put where. Then it became where are the cats. They had all new hiding places and had become even more diligent about hiding due to the fact that they were mad that we had moved at all. Cats are territorial. They don't like change. They're even worse than me.

I've spent all the time in the new house running around making sure the house was secure. That the cats couldn't get out and no one that I didn't know couldn't get in. In between, I've been unpacking boxes and packing boxes. It seems like a never ending story.

Lasst night after our fifth trip to Lowe's in as many days, we were bringing a load of miscellaneous stuff to the new house from the old house when we were called over for introductions and merrymaking with the new neighbors.

It was a jolly good time. New people are interesting. They have all new points of view. The nice old lady who lives across the street from us is of the opposite political persuasion from The HMA and I, and not knowing any better she attempted to persuade him to see the world from her point of view. This was not going to happen.

As I was standing there in the middle of the street wondering how he was going to sweet talk his way out of this dilemma, a man (with what my imagination believes was a heavy Russian accent) appeared and started pointing into the sky above our house and yelling, "What is that? There in the sky?"

We all looked up at the roof above the house that we had just moved all of our most prized possessions into -- and there it was. A lighted object hovering above our back yard. It darted side to side and up and down. If I didn't know better, I would say that ET had landed in my backyard and was going to be hiding out in my closet with the cats. It reappeared twice. My husband identified it as a drone. And while I had heard that Amazon was going to start same-day deliveries via drones and someone else was thinking of using it to deliver pizzas -- I honestly never believed that a drone would be flying over my backyard.

And yet, it happened. We have a microwave that cooks frozen food in less than three minutes. We have wireless phones. We have a trash can that opens with a wave a of a hand. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

So when you get our change of address card next week, don't be surprised that we signed it "with love from The Jetsons." That is if we're still here. If we haven't been kidnapped by aliens...Or Jeff Bezos.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beat Up In A Back Alley

When I was little, I lived in a neighborhood with alleys. Not right behind our house, but in the general vicinity. Behind our house, the alley had been reclaimed and our yard backed up to the yard of our neighbors. They had a little dog, and we had a little dog, and the two little dogs would run along the fence next to each other for countless hours of doggie pleasure while we leaned over the back fence and gossiped. The houses across our street had an alley behind them. And the street beyond that had an alley behind the houses. When I was a kid, these alleys were cool. That's where the garbage trucks came through to pick up the trash. In some cases, that's where the garage was. (No one had a garage that was attached to the house. Way too plush!) The alleys were the shortcuts we took when we were on our way somewhere fun in the neighborhood on a long hot summer day. Those were the days when your mom told you to be back to the house by sunset -- which was like ten o'clock at night. You didn't have to tell anyone where you were for hours. No texting, no cell phoning. Ah, bliss.

It's been probably thirty years since I lived in a neighborhood with an alley. But we live in a condo with a garage alley. The front of the condos all face the street and the rear of the condos are where the attached garages are located. It creates kind of a garage alley. It's where our trash is picked up. There's a constant stream of traffic. Neighbors coming and going. A few people even use this space for kickball and barbecuing.

Recently, I've been participating in another traditional activity of alley life -- getting my ass kicked.  This week, I got into two different rumbles with two different neighbors. The first was with a mean-looking junkyard dog of a tow truck driver who had completely blocked access to the alley. I had groceries in the car, and so I asked politely how long he was going to take to load what I could only guess was a motorcycle he was repossessing onto his truck. He looked at me -- shot daggers at me -- and refused to answer. Three times, I asked! Three times, he gave me the look of death but refused to utter one word. The guy who was my actual neighbor was supervising the pick up. He also said nothing (three times!) and went into the garage and closed the door ASAP. 

The next day, we backed out of our garage to find a girl in an SUV parked in the middle of the alley in order to have a flirt with the young man who lives at the end of the street. He spends a great deal of time in his garage fixing up his car, and always waves amiably to the HMA when he goes by in his loud American muscle car. But this time things were different. We suggested the girl in the SUV  pull to the side of the alley. The young man suggested we drive around her. Loudly! So I made our suggestions again -- with some swear words thrown in for good measure. That's right, I'm one of those saucy old women who cusses like a sailor. Snarling ensued. I don't think I would've been so upset, if I didn't have the earlier altercation.  

Maybe it's not the people. Maybe alleys are bad. Maybe it's best to go back to a time when all the alleys were reclaimed, and all you did with the neighbors who lived behind you was hang over your back fence and have a good chat while a couple of dogs capered around your feet.

Those were the good ole days.