Monday, October 31, 2011

Birthday Reflections

Me (center) and my friend April on my 14th birthday

When I grow up, I'll carry a stick 
and be very dignified, 
I'll have a watch that will really tick, 
My house will be tall and made of brick,
And no one will guess that it's just a trick, 
And I'm really myself inside.
- Marchette Chute

My birthday is on Tuesday. I'm going to be 29 and I'm a little freaked out. Not because I getting older, but because of how little life is left. I still feel like I did when I was 14. I have no idea where the last 15 years disappeared. I look back at my 14th birthday party - my first real, grown up, weekend evening party - and I can't believe we're all grown up now. Most of us are married - including two of my best friends who married each other. A lot of us have kids. April, with me in the picture above, passed away just 15 days shy of her 25th birthday. But in my head, we're all still teenagers. We still go to concerts every weekend and giggle about kissing boys. We're worried about our clothes and our hair and how we're going to convince our parents to let us see The Blair Witch Project in the theater.

More from my 14th birthday party...
Gifts included a newspaper article on Bigfoot and cans of whipped cream
This is the first birthday that has ever bothered me. Maybe it's watching my little guy grow up. Maybe it's my 30s looming on the horizon. All I know is that I am not a grown up yet! I thought by this age I'd feel different. I'd know what I was doing or at least what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought I'd feel prepared. But I don't. Shockingly, I'm still just me.

My life has taken all kinds of twists and turns and ups and down. There are good years and bad years, just like there are good days and bad days. I wouldn't trade a single one. I only ask for more. There is so much life to be lived and it terrifies me and thrills me and challenges me every day. I don't know where life will take me. I don't know what kind of sorrows are up ahead. I don't know what kind of joy awaits. But each year that I am blessed to blow out another candle, I thank God for the years behind me too. 

My mom made brunch for all the girls the next morning.
Cause she's awesome like that.
Notice my oh-so-cool stripped hat.
And my friend Christa's awesome Star Wars shirt.

The last 29 years have gone so fast and I'm certain that the next 50 will go even faster. I think that's about my life expectancy these day. Just 79 years. Or about 675,000 hours. 

Maybe that's why I write. To leave something behind when I'm gone. Or to let myself be a teenager for just a little longer. I don't know. But if I only have 427,200 hours left, I want to make the most of each one. And maybe, just maybe, I can trick the world into believing I'm a grown up for a little while.

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Work in Progress!

For the first time in a VERY long time, I am writing something totally new! It's an idea I toyed around with for a follow up to Rivers Underneath, but I could never get it moving. When it occurred to me to try it as a totally separate story, it immediately fell into place. With a day, I had a main character, three supporting characters, a love interest and a rough plot outline. I know her conflict, I know her stakes, I know where her story begins and where it end. I even have a title (or at least part of a title...)

I, like a lot of creative kids in high school, was a drama geek. Not on the stage, but behind the scenes. I even wrote a one act that was produced at the local community college. I still love theatre culture, especially theatre myths. Like the one about the scottish play. Even during a production of MacBeth, it is bad luck to say that word until opening night. Punishment for uttering the name of the scottish play range from running laps around the house to elaborately worded pleas for mercy from the theatre gods.

My favorite myth is the ghostlight. Theatres should never be left dark. It invites ghosts. So a single light is left on the stage, known within the theatre as the ghostlight. So what happens when the stage goes dark? When theatres are abandoned? Oh, the creepy, beautiful possibilities!

I'm thrilled to have a new idea after almost three years of editing - and I have a feeling that this new enthusiasm will infuse my editing with new blood too. Now if only my little guy will start napping again, I have a story to write...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Favorite Photos

Photograph is still one of my passions. My heart skips a heat when I hear the shutter. But it has taken a backseat over the last couple years while I worked on my writing. Today I sent out some print orders and found some pictures I'd forgotten I had! I mostly shoot portraits professionally, but I love landscapes. I could happily shoot sunsets for the rest of my life (cliche, right? And I write paranormal too.)

I thought I'd share some of my favorites from the past couple years! Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them :)

Sunset Beach, Oregon - Somewhere along Route 1. We camped a mile or two down the road.

My beloved MINI, Jack, driving through a tree in Northern California.

Lamp inside a lighthouse, somewhere along the Oregon Coast.

One of our camping sites in Oregon. It was even freakier at night!

See?!? Freaky woods!

Flowers at Pike's Place in Seattle. Loved the market, loved the city. Sigh.

An awesome sculpture at the Ballard Docks in Seattle. What other city puts something this beautiful on the edge of a lock system?

Confession: I am a HUGE fan of Deadliest Catch. Crab pots! Squeal!

Closer to home: Manhattan Beach, just a few miles south of where I live. I am blessed.

It does snow in Los Angeles. At least occasionally ;) Technically, Gorman is an hour north of LA, but still, it's amazing to see so much snow so close!

My favorite picture, perhaps ever. An isolated stretch of beach in northern Oregon. This spot was my focal point during labor. Such a peace, vibrant place. We camped two feet from the sand and fell asleep listening to the waves. First thing in the morning, the fog crept in and we walked along the beach for hours.

...I need to get my camera fixed and go take more pictures!

Monday, October 17, 2011


I had to run errands after work on Friday - always a delightful proposition with an active 17-month-old. After battling traffic along the 405 for nearly an hour, we finished up our errands and headed home. But just before I turned toward the freeway, I caught a glimpse of drifting fog. It's been HOT and SUNNY all week, with temps pushing 100 in some areas. So instead of heading inland to sit in traffic, we took the scenic route. My little guy and I drove along the Pacific Coast Highway with the windows down and the heat on our feet, watching the marine layer ghosting through the palms. It was by far the most soothing thing I've done in weeks.

We all need detours. Those times when we turn left instead of right or follow our hearts instead of our heads. There is so much to discover, if we are willing to wander. So take detours, let yourself get lost, chase something beautiful instead of something practical (there's plenty of time for practicality). It will be good for your soul. I promise.

So what is your favorite detour? What have you learned by getting lost?

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Importance of Breathing

Breathe in, breathe out. Simple, right?

At the height of my teenage angst (oh, what a height), my dad had this obnoxious habit of reminding me to breathe when I got too worked up. Whatever problems were ragging in my head, I'd get so upset that I would literally forget to breathe. And my dad just look at me, coaching me through each inhale and exhale. Worst of all? It worked.

You'd think almost 15 years later I would have learned this lesson. But I haven't. I still forget to breathe. Maybe not literally any more (I'd like to think I have a little more control over my emotions than I did at 14...), but I still get so wrapped up in things that I forget to step back and measure the true magnitude of my problems.

Editing has taught me a lot about breathing. Every time I hear a new writing no-no, I freak out. I scrub through my manuscript for adverbs and passives and over use of words like "as" or "that." I take out the use of names with abandon, blindly replacing them with "he" or "she." I remove any dialogue tag that isn't "said." I rewrite entire scenes because dreams are cliche or every female protagonist has dark circles under her eyes.

Then I read a hugely popular, wildly successful published book. And it's full of adverbs and messy dialogue tags and that pesky "was." How did this author get published while ignoring THE RULES?

Probably by remembering to breathe. It's so easy to get caught up in fixing things that I forget that rules are meant to be broke, if done correctly. Without breathing, without taking a step back to look at the big picture, it's impossible to do anything with subtlety or grace. When I step back and breathe, I can confidently use "hesitantly" and state that "the room was empty." Because when I breathe, I can see that even though it's breaking the rules, it's the right way to tell my story. Sometimes "the deserted room swallowed her in loneliness" is over-writing and sometimes people do snarl at each other.

So in the midst of querying (write, rewrite, post on at least two sites for critiquing, rewrite again, research, rewrite, send), editing (delete, delete, delete, rewrite, delete, delete) and writing (start, stop, start, stop), I have to learn to pause and breathe.

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Aeonium Canariense by Jenny Kaczorowski

Today is a lovely, grey, rainy day and all I want to do is sit on my patio and write. This Ohio girl misses lake effect weather and thunder storms and fog. I love SoCal. But 75 and sunny gets old fast when trying to write dark, moody fiction ;)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Keeping the Faith

HOPE by loop_oh, on Flickr

This has been one of those weeks. Not because of any one thing. Not even because of that many small things. It's just been a tough week. There are times when I read through something I've written and it's beautiful and engaging and I love every word. And there are days when I want to take my laptop, throw it into a fire and watch all my dreams burn to ashes (an image that works better when I actually write on paper ;) Some weeks, it's just hard to keep those dreams going. It's hard to continue to have faith in myself and in doing what I love. Wretched artistic temperament.

But I am an optimist by nature. I can't stay down forever. To pull myself back up, I read Souless by Gail Carriger, a delightful read! I obsessively cleaned the area surrounding my fridge (I think I could eat off the floor beneath it). I went to the Los Angeles County Fair with my family. Yes, LA has a fair. And yes, it is that strange. And I signed up for an intensive 1st five pages workshop with Adventures in Children's Publishing. (You can win an ARC of Amy Kathleen Ryan's GLOW if you comment on all five workshop entries.) Still feeling a little down, but it's a start. It's not enough to let those feelings define me. I have to keep going, keep moving. I have to keep the faith.

Any other ideas on keeping the faith? How do you cheer yourself up when you feel like your goals are unattainable? How do you motivate yourself to keep moving when you feel like giving up on your dreams? Let's encourage each other. 'Cause I don't know about you, but I can use all the encouragement I can get!