Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Million Dollar Idea

It really isn’t a big secret that I would love to be a millionaire. That old adage ‘money doesn’t buy happiness”? Well I’d love to know if it really is true or not. There is also another famous line about the ever popular, substantial sum of money that sounds a lot more appealing: “If I had a million dollars, I’d be rich.” If I were rich, maybe I would invest in a canoe so I could paddle my way out of my street.

But I digress…Let’s talk for a minute about what could get a person into the million dollar club. Specifically, that person, being me.

So as you all know by now I have this book, well manuscript in its current incarnation, and it’s a pretty satisfying story to me. I’m in love with my leading male character, didn’t feel like killing off anyone more than I actually did, feel good about the plots & sub plots and like the way it flows overall. Is it a million dollar idea though? I’m not quite sure.

The book is Chick-lit (a term which I absolutely loathe but sadly seems to be here to stay), mainstream fiction. The basic premise is: 4 middle to upper middle class friends, from all manner of backgrounds but who share the common bond of entrepreneurship, live and work in the Boston area and try to make their way through the muck that is life with a smile and a laugh knowing they will be there for each other no matter what that life may throw at them.

Can’t you just see the rainbows shooting across the sky?

Okay, before you start to retch all over your keyboard, the story is actually fairly real, none of them do anything for a living that could have them jetting off to distant lands with loads of money and a perfect significant other waiting for them back home.

Okay, well maybe one of them does. Wait, two. Er, thr…never mind. It’s a piece of fiction. Chick-lit at that. Suspend the disbelief people.

But therein lies the issue of the million dollars.

Quick, name the last Chick-lit novel that made its writer a boat load of cash? Sex and the City? And didn’t that only become a hot selling book after the show of the same name got made? Suddenly people everywhere were asking the questions ‘Wait, it’s a book too?’ and ‘Who the heck is Candace Bushnell?’

I would wager that not many know she also wrote the book that, for some reason, NBC also tried to turn into a television show, Lipstick Jungle. (In that case, I’m sure the book did do way better than the show.)

It isn’t as if the genre won’t sell, it certainly does to people who are hungry for a flirty read that lets them laugh through a fantasy woman’s tragically hilarious trials so they can feel better about their own life. Hell, I felt better about myself just for having written the damn thing, but a best seller that makes a million dollars? Hmmm…not really sure.

Now, that’s not to say that if it doesn’t end up in the Times it won’t make a million dollars. Not strictly. There are many ways to pimp oneself out these days that have nothing to do with the top critic’s gauge of the awesomeness of the novel (although it is awesome, I assure you). Two words my friend -- Social Networking.

There are so many ways to market a story, so many people out there in the virtual world, that it almost seems pointless to go with a standard publishing house and wait the year after acceptance just to get it printed, when I could just hop on over to one of the bajillion self publishing sites, upload the MS and have copies on hundreds of people’s shelves by this holiday season.

Hundreds. Hundreds? Well at roughly $2 profit per sold copy, let’s just do the quick math here. That means (assuming it’s at the very top of the hundreds category) I only have $998, 002 to go. Seventy or so more books and I could be a millionaire! Yippie!

Yeah, the day I croak. Maybe even long after.

The potential for sales does greatly increase with an old school publishing house. But of course the profit decreases. But of course the editing is better. But of course that might mean I have to rewrite the entire thing to what they want it to be. But of course they can sign me for a multi book deal.


Maybe if I want to really make boat loads of cash I should go literal and just build boats. But not some silly, lame canoe. Instead, I bet I could sell a million, $1.00, “Build Your Own Ark” kits to everyone up and down the east coast this week.

They can take 2 copies of my book on board with them when they float away.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Too Bad The Clash Never Answered Their Own Question

I’ve shared in the past some of the issues with our current apartment -- creepy neighbors who seem to follow us from room to room, the fact that there isn’t a real door on our bedroom, the size and layout of the space -- but most recently we had a flood in the basement and after our landlords seemed to not only let it simply drain on its own but to also allow the dampness to fester, it prompted us to ask the age old question ‘should I stay or should I go (now)?’

You all know the next line and if you don’t feel free to check out the lyrics.

So we started looking at apartments with all of the amenities that we really truly would want in a space, mind you, some of which our current place does have but most it doesn’t. Two bedrooms plus a den (or study, loft, enormous extra storage closet, etc.), 2 bathrooms, a functional kitchen with a dishwasher and plenty of storage, decent closet space, a master bedroom sized to fit a king sized bed, a townhouse with no one above or below, parking for 2 cars and access to the T.

It all sounds easy enough, and truthfully it is, but when we started looking the harsh reality of the Boston housing market came to smack us around while it taunted us with dollar signs and 80’s décor.

The first place we looked at was in Norwood. ‘Where the hell is Norwood?’ you might wonder, don’t worry, I asked the same thing. Just south west of the city this fine town is located smack dab in the middle of the country. But we were encouraged to see that the property had everything on our list and then some.

The T isn’t just close, the commuter rail stops right at the community, the property manager told me I could faux every singe surface of the apartment (non-textural) as long as we painted over it when we left, washer/dryer in the unit, hardwood throughout, large private back patio with extra outdoor storage attached, and end units were available.

Those of you who know me know that I would likely spend little time on the patio because country = bugs and I just don’t do bugs. No matter how nice one’s patio furniture is spiders simply kill it for me. I shudder just thinking about it. Of course Matt would love it so that was a half a plus. It was in our price range but on the reaching end so neither of us were sure we wanted to reach quite that far to be quite that far from everyone; on a good day in no traffic it would take our family and friends at least 40 minutes to get there. Boo.

We went back on the hunt to look for communities and came across a newer complex in Southie. Right at the water’s edge and sort of next to UMass, the place consists of two really gorgeous semi high rise buildings. Based on their info online it had pretty much everything we were looking for but was a lot closer to our loved ones.

So we popped in and asked to see their 2+ bedroom unit. She quite literally frowned at us and said her next available appointment was at noon on Sunday. I referenced the ‘Open House’ sign on the front lawn and received no response. OK, thanks, bye.

On the same day we came across the find of all finds. A townhome community that had all the same stuff as the place in Norwood but it was located in Marshfield just a couple miles from Rexhame beach. Matt and I both grew up at the beach, the beach is where it’s at for us, and after spending a considerable number of years at the south shore, we know just where we’d love to land. Marshfield is a close runner up though so for a rental, it sounded perfect.

We saw photos online of the space and it looked great; nice community building, good size living room and bedrooms and their deluxe model even consisted of a front hall storage closet that was about the size of our current bedroom.

When we got there however, I instantly started singing Oh Mickey and was really bummed that I had left my can of Aqua Net and Balloons at home.

The kitchen was the first room on the left, half bath on the right. Both consisted of confetti and paint splatter style (?) rolled vinyl floors in shades of blue and pink plus white melamine cabinetry which could be doable but the rounded rectangle wood pulls really did nothing to make me want to sign a lease. In a final flourish, the countertops were squared off laminate. Oh yeah, and pink. Like, a grandmother’s bathroom, rose colored, pink. I hardly even noticed the deep pile, baby blue carpet everywhere once we got upstairs and saw that both full baths were decked out the same way.

No soundproofing between the units was a big concern of un-cosmetic proportions and although it did have 2 car parking and heat lamps in the bathrooms (score) it just didn’t seem worth the price considering it was only $100 less expensive than the country apartment.

Of course she did say that some units had forest green countertops and that they were just starting to remodel all of the community’s homes. Starting with the one bedrooms. I guessed we’d be almost retired by the time they got around to all of the townhomes considering the model was stuck in a time warp. We thanked her for her generous time and headed out on our merry way, a little dejected but hopeful.

On the way home we talked at great length about what to do. And then we continued to discuss it for the rest of the weekend. There are things about our current place that we just can’t change but one of the major draws of this apartment from the get go was the price. If we were to consider the place in Norwood, we’d be paying about $600 more a month, and I know that comes with a slew of ‘buts’ on the pro side of the page so it is a tough call.

With all that in mind we started talking about just renting a single family instead. Of course that conversation led right into buying a home. Now you all know we filed bankruptcy last year, as I’ve discussed in length before, so it will be a couple years before we’d be able to do anything about obtaining a mortgage.

So herein lies the dilemma -- stay here and save boatloads of money toward buying a home in a couple years but have to live daily with the creepy neighbors and a coin-op washer and dryer in a mold infested basement, or go and save a bit less money in the short term but be more comfortable in the daily flow of life.

As I type the question I am bombarded by what sounds like the people upstairs (the landlord’s son by the way) bowling in their living room. Sigh.

Matt plans to ask our landlord if we can make a few improvements around here (like new flooring in the kitchen, bath and mud room, a new vanity in the bath and permission to paint the stark white walls with the promise that they will be repainted when we go) and if they say yes to all of that we’ll likely just suck it up and stay for the foreseeable future.

I’ll just have to readjust my bathroom schedule so our neighbors don’t pee at the same time as me everyday, all the time, anymore.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Past Crashes

In the 1980’s there were just some actors and actresses you couldn’t avoid hearing about -- Ringwald, Broderick, Nelson, Sheedy, Estevez (OK, the whole “Brat Pack" really), Sheen (no, not Martin), Cameron, Astin, Phoenix, Depp, Milano, Wheaton, Fox, and of course the unmatched duo known simply as “The Coreys”.

Two of the actors in the list above are dead now. Both from overdoses. Both far too young.

It isn’t as if we didn’t all know that Corey Haim had serious substance abuse problems but I guess for those of us who glorified him as a “top notch actor” back in the 80’s the hope was that he’d smarten up and kick the habit in order to make a fabulous comeback to the big screen along with so many of the others who are reliving their old glory days for a new generation of kids (our kids!) to fall in love with.

It isn’t a total stretch after all. Don’t believe me? Hey, Mickey Rourke did it, so did New Kids on the Block. Enough said.

All hopes for a Corey super comeback were definitely lost yesterday when the world lost Corey Haim to an overdose. A tragic story for such a young guy.

It’s been twenty six years since Corey Haim first starred in a motion picture called Firstborn but no one knows him for this smaller role. His break out role of course was the 1986 movie Lucas where he starred as the title character.

He was amazing in this performance, truly captured the audience with his sweet charm as the vulnerable science geek who doesn’t get the girl but comes out on top anyway. It’s fair enough to tell you that every time I watch this movie I cry at the end.

He was just 14 years old when that movie came out. He had his whole life ahead of him on screen and off. Then somewhere along the way he just lost it and decided to go down the path of so many young stars, right into a life of big money and even bigger drug problems. I texted my sister to tell her and we both agreed it was like a little piece of our teenage years went right along with him.

So yesterday I started rifling through my old boxes of random stuff to try and locate an item I had a feeling was still hanging around. I found it this morning.

I made a joke to someone on Facebook that I could probably list it on eBay today and pay my rent next month. Now that I think of it, that statement is the epitome of “the comedy, is that it’s serious”. Besides, I’d never part with it after all the hard work I put into making it (no to mention money to buy all those teeny bopper mags back in the day).

Considering I’ve been on this nostalgia streak for weeks now it was odd timing.

There were a few other choice items stuffed into this box. Other scrapbooks and a whole bunch of stuff that can not be mentioned due to the following clause handwritten at the bottom of this birthday message from a very good friend:

Luckily I’m good with Photoshop so I have kept the grand secret of who gave this to me and who they ♥’d at the time. Not only do I find it appropriate to have kept it all these years but it’s perfect to have found it in this box of stuff that should probably be burned. No, wait, definitely should be burned. It’s ok if you miss the funeral Friend, I’ll know what you’re doing. No matter how old we are at the time.

So I also came across a super cool shot of me & my sister.

Our hair defies gravity. I won’t even tell you what her friend calls her glasses, its so evil. Kind of wish I still had that shirt though, dinosaurs are really cool.

Also re-discovered a stunning photo of my dad.

Every time I look at it I laugh uncontrollably.

Then there were some photos of my first serious boyfriend and some of the two of us together. He and I recently reconnected. (Yes of course on Facebook, where else does anyone stalk each other these days?) We got together for lunch and had the most awesome conversation for about three hours a few weeks back. We filled each other in on what has happened in the past 12 years since we’ve seen each other and in reality the last 18 since we spent any real time together.

Those pictures I keep just for me, but today on Facebook the following was posted and it made me laugh so it seemed appropriate to share it. All names have been changed to protect, well, no one really. If you know me you know him. If you don’t, well, it’s still funny so deal with it.

His status: Give a man a match, and he’ll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.
My comment: Thought process after reading this -- Hysterical laughter, "man you have got serious issues", hysterical laughter, 'huh, looks like I do too'

People pass.
Old friends come, go, stick, fade.
Family relations shift.
People get married, have babies.
Years pass.
Things change.
Life continues on.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It’s All in My Head

For the past few weeks I have been working on a multitude of sample boards and small furniture pieces as a way to kick start my faux finishing business again. Some of the samples are redo’s of past examples that just fell short, while others are brand new and shiny examples of some of the work I can do. I have been devouring shows on HGTV for inspiration and spending a lot of time reading through posts on the faux message boards I belong to.

One might think this has prompted me to be armed and ready to get out there and tackle the world. My business cards are printed, company bio sheets are ready and in full color, the website and Facebook image galleries are updated and I even have some fantastic ideas of who to hit up for business so, truthfully, I should feel empowered.

But I don’t. All I seem to let myself feel lately is that someone knows I’m not as good as the other finishers and that they will quickly discover I am a fraud.

Yes I am fully aware that this fear is partially irrational but bear with me.

For a long time, longer than I can even pinpoint, I’ve been running around saying I want to be a writer. I want to write books. I want to write for a living. That is great because last November I took advantage of the downtime in the painting industry to do just that for the very first time. And it came out awesome. I mean awesome for a rough first draft. Put it this way, I love my characters to death. (And I'm not sure at this moment if that is pun intended or not.)

Now that I have actually written my first book, however, all I have managed to do with it is a first round of edits (on no more than the first half) and then shoved it into a corner somewhere to collect dust while I go and paint for a living.

You get that? Paint for a living, not write.

If it ever gets finished I know this book will be published, I know it will be purchased because I truly believe that the world I have created and the people who live inside it are just real enough to be relatable but just fantastical enough that real people will want to escape their daily life to visit their alternate realm.

But their world is barely constructed and I’m already trying to paint it.

Inside my head my characters are wandering around trapped inside this box and they keep looking for the door but I have gone and applied a faux finish to every corner of it, so it seems they will never find their way to escape. While I went off and made a paycheck, I boxed them inside the inescapable world and now even I can’t seem to find the door back in.

Is this what (hooker/waitress/) actors feel like? They want to act so badly that they promptly push away the grand opportunity that comes their way in order to go and get paid to set plates down in front of hungry directors so they don’t get thrown out of their apartment?

So now I have this fierce battle raging inside me because I know that all my irrational fears that I’m not a good finisher are total and complete crap. I know I am creative and have come up with a whole slew of interesting and funky treatments over the past few weeks that will be a no brainer to install not to mention fun. So here is the real thing I’m afraid of.

If I pursue a career as a decorative artist, strive to make Chucka Stone Designs all that it can be and start taking on clients all over greater Boston, I am afraid that I will somehow sabotage my own success by claiming it “isn’t what I really want to do” and promptly start whining that I really just want to be a writer again. That’s usually when I crawl back inside my own shell and have a pity party for myself that I never let anyone else become privy to. Instead I talk about how I’m ‘getting stuff together” and how I’m “almost ready” to get out there and work it. I lie to the world knowingly but I’m no longer convincing myself that it’s the truth.

So herein lies the real toughie for me. Why can’t I simply do both -- write and faux?

Easier to ask that question than answer it. Well for me at least. The logical answer is that there is no reason not to. Faux all day, come home at night and edit slowly but surely; maybe even work on the book on the weekends. It isn’t like I have a publishing house banging down my door for this manuscript (yet), screaming that they gave me this advance and now I’m over deadline or something. Nope, it’s just me and my red pen, so timing really isn’t at all of the essence.

So what the fuck is my problem?

The short answer? Me. I am my problem; my own worst enemy most of the time.

I’ll sit here taking days to craft this blog post perfectly, and I do love blogging don’t get me wrong but as soon as it is posted the normal person would grab the 190 pieces of white paper, a red pen and their imagination and go edit for the entire day. Not me though, I am bound to notice one tiny little thing that needs to be fixed on my website to make it perfect, the fact that I never added that other picture to some specific photo album, that I only have 20 business cards in my wallet so those should get printed, that I should really practice drums, that I never did update the proposal form, that I’m running low on something, that I really should write 3-4 GLR posts to front load the week, that I’m hungry, or a multitude of other distractions which will ensure I look at the clock at 3:00 and utter the words ‘wow, can’t believe the day is almost over and I’ve done nothing’.

As is plain to see, I also never got out to visit any Interior Designers, Contractors, Architects, Real Estate Agents, Decorators or other industry pros in this scenario either. So instead of even going to make a paycheck from my decorative work as at least a lucrative distraction, I sit here, doing nothing.

Sure I know it isn’t really “nothing” per se. All those things do indeed get done, but I know deep down that my need to have Perfection in my life has taken over again and that bitch is costing me dearly.

I need to figure out how to trick Perfection to get onto the box, then while I distract it with discussing the cost of the beautiful decorative treatment on the walls (ceiling, floor, furniture pieces…) that they will be paying me for I can liberate my characters from being held hostage by Perfection (for what feels like it has been forever). Use Perfection to provide the financing for Ripple the Twine.

Does that seem like an unreachable goal? Honestly, sometimes it does to me. But others likely just see it as good common sense.

So what am I going to do today? That is of course the real question begging to be answered.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Without A Doubt

My family has definitely been afflicted with various levels of hoarding and my grandparent’s house is the pinnacle of where it began. In my last post I mentioned that my aunt, mom and I took an entire day to clean out one of the rooms in the family house. While completing this task we made two piles -- one for recycling, the other for Goodwill. Since the start (long before last week), it has been a slow and steady process.

We found countless piles of newspapers, magazines, maps from their trips across the country (a future post will give details on the journals we found from their trips that I plan to transcribe and then Matt and I intend to visit every place they traveled), chotchkies, pictures, broken things, you name it and you were likely to find it in my grandparent’s house. In addition to the vast number of items that are boxed up and ready for charity, a few things have made their way out of the house and into our own homes. I have taken a few functional furniture pieces -- the table I mentioned last time plus 2 cabinets for my painting stuff, books, knick knacks, clothing and a few very, very random items.

While in my great Aunt’s bedroom we discovered that not only was she a very religious woman (which most of us already knew) but she also had a thing for astrology, fortune telling, horoscopes and the like. When I came across this little gem it totally blew me away. I turned it upside down, over and sideways trying to figure it out and next thing I knew I was asking ‘what is this, some kind of secret fortune telling device or something?’ only to discover the glass on the bottom fill up with a triangular shaped piece of something with just one word written on it ‘Yes’. It was the original Magic 8 Ball! Cool!

The fortune teller was discovered upon one of the first visits when I also acquired some of my grandmother and grandfather’s hats. My grampa was a fedora man and there were two gorgeous ones -- a grey and dark brown. I only pull them out occasionally but every time I wear any of their hats I feel like a million bucks!

Which is exactly the reason we’ve been sorting through everything before just getting rid of it; there could be cash stashed just about anywhere. Both grandparents suffered from symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and especially with my gram, as she got older and less mentally functional she hid things. With the number of things in the house that means things could be anywhere, especially in books. It’s a nightmare.

While sorting through some of the books in the reading nook on the third floor I came across this one which my mom convinced me I should at least read before donating seeing as though I’m the Green blogger in the family. This upcoming week I have some time and fully intend to do just that. Of course I have my pick of many.

There were some books as old as the early 1800’s found in the house including some that I should have read years ago but never made the time for, even though some of which I was technically supposed to read for school. A Tale of Two Cities, The House of Seven Gables, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Three Musketeers, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, you get the picture. Well they all came home plus the complete ten volume set of the World’s 1000 Best Poems, as published in 1929.

In the den I pulled this out of a basket or a bag or randomly off the floor and just started laughing, I mean when she bought it the name was probably very futuristic sounding. Like back in the 1980’s. In fact this tube of goo might have been one of the only things we found in that house that represented that particular decade. Well that and the jelly belt that was sticky from melting. Oh yeah.

Earlier decades were thoroughly represented as we discovered by the mounds of 1960’s and 1970’s poly print fabrics. This one was in a paper bag with the thread, pattern and zipper, just waiting to be created. Not to mention the receipt for how much all of it cost; just over $10. My mom and I are going to work on this together; Mom rocks, so does the dress on the far right.

This year for Christmas Matt got me a laptop tray. Mine has a lifting, tilting top, a lip to stop the computer from sliding forward and legs that fold underneath for easy storage. Looks familiar… Of course this one is a little beat up and wood not plastic. No one needs it and I immediately thought of my Mother in law. I know she reads so this could be a perfect little giftie for her. I’m going to clean it up, paint and faux it then send it on down just because. But shhh, it’s a surprise so don’t tell!

Overall it may seem like a lot of stuff has come into my home and I’m just perpetuating the cycle of collecting and perhaps that is partially true but for the most part I am only taking what I know will be created, gifted, read, worn or used as a functional item…

In fact I asked the Syco Slate if I should throw away the Stain Master 2000 after taking the picture for this post and it responded not surprisingly: