Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Opposite of Blue


What’s the opposite of feeling blue? There is no color equivalent to describe a happy emotion, is there? Not really. Not in the simplest of sentences.

For example, ‘I’m blue.’ is pretty much a full sentence. Two tiny little words and people know just how you feel – depressed, melancholy, forlorn, like the world has killed your inner child piece-by-piece for a full year.

But, say ‘I’m’ with any other color and it just doesn’t work to convey happiness. Red, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, black, white, grey, mauve, chartreuse, hell even pink. None of them are happy colors on their own. Not like the word blue conveys sadness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past few days as even more of the heroes/celebrities/path-blazers of my generation have been snatched out of this plane of existence. All of us social media peeps can’t avoid the outcry, the memes, the articles that detail every blue detail of the past 365 days.

Silver lining? At least it wasn’t a leap year. Oh, wait…

366 days for the waves of ice cold water to slam into all of our brains. All but numbing us to the constant barrage of names thrown at us this year. Names we will never again hear used in present tense.

Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Glenn, Prince, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Glen Frey, Patty Duke, Harper Lee, Alan Rickman, Gordie Howe, Alan Thicke.

That list is just off the top of my head too, if you want a complete listing of all the amazing souls the world lost this past year you can check out this link, seems pretty comprehensive. Albeit way too long for my liking.

Awards season this year is sure to be a hoot as they spend a half hour per show honoring the fallen. In fact, this year has been so bad, some guy actually started a fund-me type account to order protection for Betty White. 2016 only has 3 days and about 14 hours left.

This year has been a true roller coaster in many ways. Since January, the world beyond my problems not only lost all those people but there was a year-long political campaign fueled by so much vitriol and hate that I almost guarantee anyone reading this who is on social media unfollowed and/or got rid of people they never expected to care that much about.

Views, primarily political made an appearance over here (and hereand here, and in 3 other places) this year. I wouldn’t think of that as strange except the last political related post I wrote before this year was in November of 2012.

And that post was the first since 2008. Yeah, this space isn’t usually a place I discuss world issues unless those issues are directly related to pop culture. (Like every fucking celebrity in the world passing away in a year, for example.)

This election got lost in the blurry lines between culture and pop culture. And, yes, those concepts used to be two different things. Not anymore.

And as if that wasn’t enough, radical people with issues and differing viewpoints on how to be a human, did some scary and shocking shit in a night club in Florida, in the streets of Dallas, TX, and in other countries. Many other countries like Belgium, France, Turkey, Germany.

We killed a gorilla to public outcry and tried to find an alligator like A Cry in the Dark was set at the Grand Floridian.

We watched enormous earthquakes impact Italy, Ecuador. An unconscionable hurricane hit Haiti and the United States.

By the time I got the news that Carrie Fisher had died it felt like emotional and mental whiplash. I just want to lie down now and take a big old nap from all this world shit until 2016 is over.

Because this year was supposed to be fucking awesome. The native people protected their sacred land and water. We had the first ever female nominated for President. Weed became legal in some way shape or form in all but 1 state that had it on the ballot this year. We had the Olympics. The Cubs won the World Series for goodness sake.

On a personal level, this year was pretty awesome. In fact, many super things happened.

I got to see my oldest friend and soul sister who traveled out here to visit us for a few days.
Matt turned 40.
We were fortunate enough to spend time with family we rarely see, as well as some people we saw a lot this year (another bright spot!).
My in-laws moved back to town.
We traveled to a beautiful tropical destination for a literal once-in-a-lifetime trip.
I got to celebrate my birthday in California at a Billy Galewood show.
We finished our final major renovation.

See? All awesome things.

So in 2017 I’ve decided to be more about the day-to-day wonderfulness, the personal victories and beautiful moments like the list right there. Because I’m done with the heaping pile of smelly trash that 2016 tried to become. Moving along. This is all behind us now.

Next year I’m going to be the opposite of blue.

Orange you glad?

Hmm, I agree, that’s weak. I’ll work on it. Next year.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, December 16, 2016

From the Front Lines of a Failing Author

It’s raining today. Started last night around ten-ish. After leaving Boston and moving somewhere with abundant sunshine I not only appreciate rainy days, I kind of crave them now. And this winter Phoenix doesn’t seem to want to disappoint me.

Thanks weather patterns!

Rainy days bring out the melancholy, no matter how cliché that might sound it is 100% true. They let me access that place in my head where I sometimes need to swim around in order to pull out the emotions necessary to craft a realistic fiction story.

Speaking of which…

The last update here was all about my cranky attitude and NaNo.

Well, I failed. In grand fashion.

29k words. Just over halfway to a win.

But, as always, the experience/journey is what everything is really about. Right? That’s what I’m going with because it makes me feel better about losing the challenge.

I lost only this one battle though, not the war.

Not a single word of all 29k words I typed during November made it into this book. The one that’s still in-process. The one I plan to finish writing by the end of 2016 and publish in early 2017.

After failing the NaNo challenge you might be wondering how I can say I’m going to publish “this book” in the next couple months.

During the first week of December I pulled an empty journal off the shelf, gathered my arsenal of black ballpoint pens, and sprawled across the sofa to tuck in and write.

So far I’m over 10k words. All by hand.

And let me tell you all, this is how I’m going to write everything from now on. I got away from pen and paper in favor of the much faster keyboard. But there’s nothing personal about plucking away on keys.

My main character, Deb, had no face and no discernable characteristics when I was blindly typing thousands of useless words. Editing that mess of shit would have taken me until 2018. And I guarantee the book would have made a complete 180 anyway so I figured it was better to just go with it and start over from word one.

Now, her character, as well as the MMC, side characters, and the setting, are firmly entrenched in my head. I can see it all. See them, who they are, where they are, their motivations.

Why does that matter you might ask? Because no author can craft a believable story, where characters portray unique voices, without essentially living in that character’s world.

Period.

And I don’t care what kind of book you write. From a reader’s perspective, if you can’t insert yourself into identifying with at least one character in a book you likely won’t finish reading the thing.

The important shit that makes a character seem more real. Relatable. That’s why motivations matter.

So, once again, I failed at NaNo but won at the challenge of producing a book. Almost. Not quite there yet but well on the way. I know I will finish this story because they are all but jumping off the page now.

And, aside from putting the wheels in motion to finish this book, I accomplished a couple other things while handwriting that I didn’t expect.

First, I developed a basic formula for all the books to follow. Now, before you ugh and roll your eyes the only thing I plan to formulate is the pace and overall structure of the stories. Because that’s the second thing I figured out. Every book in my California Dreamin’ Series (for now) will be based around characters you already know.

So, let me explain. As a teenager I always wrote stories that revolved around the meet-cute (despite not knowing what the heck that even was at the time) and the initial falling in love of the two main characters.

In Carol + Chad 4-eva! Carol talks about her life and the lives of those close to her. A huge, almost endless pool of potential characters.

If the stories about Jess, Cherry, Lara, Deb, and maybe more, were to be the focus of this series, I needed to figure out what part of their life stories I wanted to tell.

I started handwriting Deb’s girl-meets-boy story and it all clicked.

Every one of the people in Carol’s life had a someone. They were all in different stages of their relationships – some having just met before the end of Carol’s book but others had been together for a while.

But all of those people had to meet their person at some point. And that point was the 1990s, in California.

Boom!

The proverbial lightbulb clicked on and it all made sense.

They meet, experience some type of conflict, eventually realize they’re supposed to be together, end up in happily ever after. Like I said, formula for structure.

But, just like Carol, all of those characters will struggle to get their HEA ending.

The conflicts will change from character to character, but they will always be there and in roughly the same timing.

Because the bud eventually falls off the bloom, right? No matter how hot they may be for each other at first, at some point they’re going to see the real other person and face a struggle to overcome that defines if they can make it together or not.

Just like life.

So now I’m filling in the blanks of Deb Martin’s life. Who was she before she appeared in Carol’s diary? Who is that boyfriend Carol mentioned her friend moved in with? How did she meet him, where, when, etc.?

Failing is never failing in this life as a fiction author. It’s only a chance to start again. Build a new life for the character. One that fits who they are, where they came from and where they want to go. No matter how disrupted they end up after falling in love.

On this mellow, rainy Friday, I’m looking forward to getting more of Deb’s derailment onto the page.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Words are the Worst

I’m cranky. And if you’ll allow me a small moment to have a little pity party, the crankiness is all because I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo this year. So, like I said, you have to allow for the part where I’m all ‘woe is me’ because I’m fully aware I brought this pain on myself.

According to my page, this is my fifth time participating in the challenge. That equates to (as of today) two wins, two losses, one in process with potential to win, and, are you ready for this craziness, 176,266 words. So far. If I happen to pull off the win, add another 24k to that figure for a cool 200,000.

Since 2009.

And that figure only accounts for the words written for NaNo. Toss in anything I did for clients, blog posts, articles, everything else and no doubt I’ve written well over a million words in my lifetime as a professional writer.

Damn.

So it goes to reason that some days, no matter how badly I want to shape any combination of the available words in the English language, I just don’t have the creativity to form sentences.

Fun fact? When I looked up how many words exist in the English language it turns out the Oxford Dictionary says there are 171,476 available for use.

Less than the number of words I’ve written over the course of four and a half NaNos.

Again, damn.

Anyway, today is one of those days where I have time to spare, nothing to do but write. But something inside tells me I should be penning words for anything other than my book today.

That something is one of two things: fear or exhaustion.

I’m going with exhaustion and here’s why.

Back in 2009 when I sat down (on my mom’s suggestion, BTW) to tackle the motherfucker that NaNo actually is, I had no clue how to write a book. I’d never finished one before. So I opted into the challenge just so I could finally say I crafted a long form fiction story and typed The End for the first time.

Goal achieved.

And then some. Because, since that month seven years ago, I’ve finished and published seven titles. Five fiction, two reference.

Some of those titles came out of my NaNo experiences. One of them in particular, Reckless Abandon, came out of a Camp NaNo in August. A year I actually lost the challenge.

But I won my own challenge.

As a kid I was always a procrastinator, floating aimlessly along some vast ocean of possibilities and never wanting to choose a path. How limiting, I always thought, to pick just one thing to be. Couldn’t I be anything, everything I wanted to be like everyone told me back then? Sort of.

Wheee! Never settle into anything! Stay in the background of life so you never really need to commit to anything! Skate by! Hooray for choices! So many shiny choices!

And then I woke the hell up. Because no matter what I’d ever done to “pay the bills” (or more accurately, what I did for work and play without a care in the world for the future) it didn’t matter to me at all. I met some terrific characters at all those jobs, in all those clubs, at all those parties, but the only thing that stuck with me before, during, and after that time in my life, was writing.

There are few months, let alone years, in my past where I didn’t write. If I let myself dwell on the number of trees killed and ink expelled for my love of words over the years, it would scare me on an environmental level.

Bottom line, no matter what else was in or out of my life – love, money, work – I always had writing.

Right before Matt and I got together in fact, I was dating a guy who asked why I was home on a Friday night, writing, when I could be out doing whatever was cool to do back in those days.

We broke up shortly after that question arose.

Because if you don’t get why I’m doing that then you don’t get me. And I don’t need to waste my time being with someone who doesn’t get my love-hate relationship with words. The place inside me that is words.

Once I finally found myself able to say The End on a long story I knew it was all I would do for a career for the rest of my life.

I got over the fear of turning my deepest passion into a career years ago. That’s an entirely different blog post, one I’ve probably already written so I won’t write it again. But, suffice to say, the fear is long gone.

Honestly, I think that moment came when I finished NaNo in 2009 when I came away with the rough first draft of a finished book. It all became clear, I realized I could actually do it. Not just dream about being an author but I literally just made it happen.

With a shit ton of support, love and encouragement of course but in truth this is a very solitary profession.

I don’t get to take vacations while other people pick up the slack. I don’t get co-workers unless I decide to write a book with someone else. And even then, it wouldn’t matter because words are constantly forming in my head. Wherever I go, whatever I’m doing, I’m always working.

Last night a friend came over to give me a haircut and we got to talking about jobs. Matt mentioned how crazy his work is while he’s at work but that he gets to leave it behind at the end of the day.

I had a bullet of emotions pass through me. Jealousy being the predominant feeling. A little bit anyway. Because I’m never “off” in this life. I am my job and vice-versa. Every conversation I have, class I take, person I meet, job I do, everything in my life is tied to the work I do. Because how else am I supposed to create fictional characters that feel real without soaking in all that life shit from actual real people?

And that’s the hate side of things sometimes. I can’t just go out every Friday, sometimes I need to slave to the words because I’m already at capacity. Instead of overflowing from collecting, I need to drain a little off the top. Or the bottom I guess.

Either way, it’s like a sick form of bulimia being a collector of information from the world and then using it to inform an entirely new world. Binge and purge.

People who get me understand when I disappear that binge-purge is likely the cycle I’m going through.

So now I’m in NaNo and I’m not sure I really need the word-count accountability anymore. I love my process. I like taking a day off to refill the cup then shoot it down the next day only to vomit it all out onto the page in grand fashion the next.

Writing everyday isn’t a problem for me anymore. But sometimes I need to mix up what I write.

Once I broke through my own proverbial glass ceiling – finishing just one - there was no stopping me to keep going. Using NaNo like I used to seems unnecessary. So I’m flipping it over to the B side and using the challenge the way I need to in order to type The End once again.

Character and story development has me just over halfway on word count. Funny. Even though I’m not thinking I need the NaNo challenge with this book I might just harness my third win anyway.

But I’ll never get to that point unless I force myself to love words today and go write some about my characters.

You bet your ass that means I’ll be copy-pasting all 1350ish words from this blog in at the bottom of my manuscript. December is for edits!

Just kidding. I won’t even cheat that bad.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.