Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Memory Lane

     Last week I wrote about my WIP and how it's partially inspired by some events of my teenage years. So naturally after writing it I found myself traveling down memory lane. One of my favorite things to do back then was attend the Thursday night poetry readings at the Lighthouse Coffee Shop. It was this quaint little pink house that had been converted into a coffee shop/used clothing store. Even in my goth days, when the color pink was anathema, I loved that little pink building. Sadly, it is no longer pink, and no longer a coffee shop. 
     I dug up this poem I wrote a few years ago about a guy I had a crush on back then. Enjoy! 

No One Makes a Florentine Like You Do

Here I enter my weekly wonder,
the only constant in my world asunder.
My mind more a daze than the haze of the smoke-filled room
crowded with misfits sharing notebooks filled with gloom.

I wait behind the many followers at your bar,
but your eyes seek me from afar.
You know just what I like while I await to take the mike,
Your hand brushes against mine as you hand me my special florentine,
giving my heart a spike.

What to share? What to share?
I think, flipping through my tattered pages of exaggerated despair,
when your voice fills the air.
The room falls to a hush.
My heart pounds and my cheeks burn with a blush.
Your words are meant only for me
and my innocent mind fills with thoughts that were never to be.

You with your experience and never-ending band
of glaring green-eyed beauties. You look only at me,
not even old enough to buy the cigarettes clutched tightly in my hand.

Ahh, but it wasn't meant to be,
nothing but smiles and comments meant only for me,
And a florentine, served with extra chocolate, whipped cream, and a wink.

So here I sit half a lifetime later, my drink
now more bitter than sweet, and I think
wherever you are, this is for you.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

In With The New

     After dedicating many a post to my first novel and my experiences trying to get it published, I think it's time to start talking about the new novel I'm working on. It's a young adult paranormal fantasy (I think), and I can't begin to express how excited I am about it.
     It's takes place in a fictional Colorado mountain town called Caribou Canyon (also the working title). The name is inspired by Caribou, a ghost town in Boulder County that thrived when its silver mines were first discovered. The town never quite bounced back from the fire that took place in 1879.
     The story began writing itself in my head long before I actually put anything to paper. I remember the moment the idea first hit me. It was Spring of 2011 and I'd just had the daunting realization that my vampire novel, which I'd thought was complete, needed a lot more work. It was a Friday night and I was sitting at Red Robin with my then boyfriend discussing all the work I had to do on my vampire novel when the idea for the new novel suddenly came to me. I knew I would't be writing it for a while, but it was a huge relief that I had an idea for a new story. I'd been afraid that my first novel was a fluke and I would never have any new ideas.
     I now have at least six potential novel ideas floating around my brain, so this is no longer a fear of mine.
     It wasn't until Fall of 2013 that I finally started working on Caribou Canyon. Since then, I've been flying by the seat of my pants. It's how I roll. Or fly. At least in rough drafts. I only had a very basic concept in mind: three best friends, a small town, murders, ghosts, and maybe some sort of curse. That might sound like a lot, but since I didn't have any details worked out, it really wasn't much at all. I'm amazed with how the story has evolved, and I even know how it's going to end!
     This story has a very special place in my heart. The initial inspiration came from my own tumultuous teenage years. Crazy times. I can't stress that enough. My mom calls those years my "Lost Weekend."  She's a John Lennon fan and had to explain that reference to me. It's an apt name. Although it might've been a Lost Weekend, those years were both painful and beautiful, and utterly awesome.
     The three main characters are based on myself and my two very best friends ever, Teri and Charla. Words cannot convey how much they meant and still mean to me, and how precious our friendship became in such a short period of time. Teri and I spent about three months living at Charla's house, which is by far one of the most interesting houses I've ever been in.
      The house was located in a former mining town. It was built in the early 1900s smack in the middle of a large field. The house had no foundation, so by the late '90s, when I lived there, it was starting to sink into the ground. It was seriously awesome and seriously freaky. The floors were crooked and the walls were dipping in on one side and bulging out on the other. Don't even get me started on that field. It was creepy during the day and downright terrifying at night. Sometimes I couldn't even bring myself to look out the window.
     Teri, Charla, and I were three teenagers with wild imaginations and a desperate need to grasp onto something that was meaningful, something that was less frightening than our painful realities. Crazy angst filled teens and a horror writer's dream house is a recipe for wild times and a lot of groupthink fed delusions. It was good times. Painful, but good.
     For my novel, I traded in the "haunted" house for an entire haunted town. I took away the groupthink delusions and replaced them with actual paranormal activity.
     My main characters are based on Teri, Charla, and myself. Penny is the good girl, the quiet shy book worm. She represents me. Frankie is the angry rebel and is supposed to represent Charla. Natasha is the outgoing beauty who is supposed to represent Teri.
     But when I started writing, I realized that Frankie and Natasha didn't represent Charla and Teri. At least not completely. They are as much me as Penny is. Penny is the ambitious, nothing-is-ever-good-enough, perfect Becky, who finally cracked under the pressure of high school. Frankie is the result of me cracking. Natasha is the girl that nerdy, friendless Becky always longed to be.
     Each girl is a different part of me, though I still like to think of Frankie and Natasha as Charla and Teri. Those girls still mean the world to me. They taught me what true friendship and love is. I hope to do our friendship justice with this novel.
     Teri and Charla, if you guys are reading this, I love you.
     All right, now that I've gotten all gooey and emotional and teary-eyed, I'm going to sign off. As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Miserable Un-Accomplishments of Becky

     Yesterday I told my friend to use this as a blog title, and I was totally kidding. Then I told her that I was going to use it as a title, and I was still kidding. But I woke up this morning and thought, "Wow, I have lots of miserable un-accomplishments to share." By miserable, I mean so ridiculously pathetic that I can only laugh at myself, and encourage others to laugh at me as well.
     Back in college when I was working on my BA in psychology, I took a course titled Behavioral Neuroscience. This was a combination upper division/graduate level course. The only difference between the grads and the undergrads was that the grads had to do an extra paper. It was a tough class. In retrospect, I'm not even sure why I took it. I'm not a science-minded person. Needless to say, I got a D in the course.
     Lucky for me, the university was testing out their course forgiveness program. If you received an undesirable grade, you were allowed to repeat the course the next semester. After completing the course a second time, the new grade would be the one recorded on the student's transcript, regardless of whether or not it was better than the first. I gladly took the course again. Guess what happened? I got an F the second time around. Yep. I repeated the course only to have my bad grade replaced by a worse grade.
     Go ahead. Laugh. I do. It's funny, and it's easy to laugh now because I still managed to graduate with a decent GPA.
     My next un-accomplishment is in regards to my quest to get my novel published. During the first eight or so months of querying agents, my manuscript was 124,000 words. For those who don't know, 80-100k is the standard word count for an adult novel. There's nothing wrong with longer novels, but in a new writer, it can be a sign that one has yet to perfect their craft. I of course was certain that I needed all 124k of those words.
     I met an agent at a conference, who was the first to request sample chapters. She ended up passing on the project. A few weeks later I had a major epiphany about how to shorten my manuscript. It's now 96k. Yay! I was upset that I hadn't had this epiphany before I'd sent my chapters to this agent. I looked at her agent page again and discovered that she accepts revisions, which is pretty rare. So I queried her again, and again she requested sample chapters only to pass on the project.
     I got rejected by the same agent for the same project twice. I'm still a bit embarrassed/sad about this, but I'm trying to laugh. I bet a few years from now I'll find it really funny, so you can go ahead and laugh now.
     Okay, I've saved the best for last.
     I used to own a VW Jetta. I bought it at a shady little used car lot which caused me a bit of trouble, though that's a story for another time. They gave me the car with only one key. It was one of those fancy switch blade-esque key fobs with that weird electronic key. If I'd known better, I would've demanded that they provide me a spare, but I didn't know better. When I went to the VW dealer to get a spare, I learned that another fob would cost $400 and a valet key would be $250. I was a student at the time, so paying that amount of money for a key was out of the question. I decided to risk having only one key. It worked out just fine for about four years.
     After college I got a job at a mental health center for incarcerated adolescents. I always used the bathroom before my shift started, because during the shift it could be hard to get away. I was wearing a sweatshirt with pockets in the front, which was where I'd stuffed my car keys. When I leaned over to flush the toilet, my keys slipped out of my pocket into the toilet. Time slowed during those horrifying seconds as I watched my keys swirl around and disappear. I reached for them (ick) but I was too late. This wasn't just one key either. It was a big clunky key chain with lots of useless things on it.
     My car key was not useless. Nor were my facility keys.
     I had to ask another staff member to walk me through a number of locked doors to get to maintenance. When I told Mr. Maintenance I flushed my keys down the toilet, I was so embarrassed that I couldn't stop laughing. I think he thought I was joking. He stared at me blankly for a full minute before he realized I was serious. He finally grabbed some long stick thing and we headed back to the bathroom.
     It was a single person bathroom and someone was in there by the time we got back. Mr. Maintenance knocked on the door and briefly explained the situation. He asked the woman inside not to flush the toilet, to which she replied, "Are you sure? It's not pretty in there."
     Yeah. She said that.
     Oh, are you wondering who was in the bathroom? It was the president of the company. That's right. My boss's boss's boss.
     She opened the door a crack so Mr. Maintenance could hand her the weird fishing tool. She closed the door and tried to pull out my car keys while Mr. Maintenance yelled instructions through the door. By the that time, a number of people had poked their heads out of their office doors to see what was going on.
     Unfortunately, my keys were irretrievable. The funny thing was, the toilet never clogged. That was some good plumbing. Luckily, my boss felt so bad for me that he waived the $150 replacement fee for the facility keys. It wasn't so easy for my car though. I had to get it towed to the VW dealership so they could program a new key, and pay several hundred dollars for a replacement. I learned my lesson and got two replacements.
     I'm sure I have more hilarious un-accomplishments to share, but I don't think anything can top the key story. That was seven years ago, and I still can't stop laughing about it. If you aren't laughing, then you have no sense of humor.
     As always, thanks for reading.