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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Late Night Hitchhiker

The moment I officially had my driver’s license and a car, I picked up students from my high school and gave them rides home. I gave rides to anyone I saw walking home after class and in Arizona; a ride is a blessing when it’s well over 100 degrees. As I got older and out of high school, I saw other people who needed rides, so I’d pick them up. I think the first time my brother was with me, he was a little surprised when we picked up a hitch hiker heading to Prescott and we were going just beyond, to Sedona. 

When I lived in Flagstaff, which has a huge Native American, college student and hippy population, there were always hitchhikers waiting by the freeway with their destination written huge on cardboard and luggage at their side. Now in Flagstaff, there are many roads that lead out of town, one goes to New Mexico, another towards Nevada and one that leads into the heart of Phoenix. If people were going where I was going, I’d pick them up. There was nothing wrong with it, though I’ve seen enough horror movies, heard things on the news, was constantly warned as a child, etc.

Usually I’ve never had a problem with this. Most people are super friendly, funny and interesting. The woman I picked up two months ago was a chemotherapy patient, but before she got sick she used to be an actress with the Renaissance Faire. She told me stories as I drove that had me laughing. I really enjoyed her company and she invited me to her house whenever I wanted to stop by. The sad thing was, since she couldn’t drive, she had to walk that long distance to the store with her walker and she had continuously stop and rest since the treatments made her so weak, so when I picked her up, she was beside herself with relief. It was something so small on my end, but it was so huge for her because she had to take a treatment when she got home and sleep it off. I couldn’t imagine walking in 100+ degree weather when you are sick from chemotherapy. She lost her driver’s license when the treatments started. She said she thought no one would ever offer her a ride so she never asked. 

Just recently, I was driving home from my meeting and I saw an older gentleman standing at the gas station with his thumb up. It was late and there wasn’t a great deal of traffic on the street so my empathy was immediately triggered. I turned my car around and asked him how far he was heading. He says, “Thank you so much for picking up a veteran on Veteran’s Day.” Of course everything inside me screams, VETERAN! I love my vets! He’s wearing this headphone device, but by the way he talks to me, I know it must be a hearing aid long before he tells me about it. 

He starts to tell me about his history, which is what I’m always keenly interested about when I pick people up. Who are these people outside my bubble, or what my cell mate fondly calls “my rock foundation” since he believes I live under a rock when I’m not in the Dungeon working. The veteran’s story is full of hardship and wallowing self-defeat. He has seventeen grandchildren, but his youngest daughter was murdered. He was in a coma from service and admitted that he wished he’d never woken up. 

As I turn down a back road to avoid road construction, the topic turns to me. “Are you married?” Yes. “Are you happily married?” Yes. “Do you have children?” No. “How tall are you?” Uh? “How old are you?” Um… “No children?” (He gives a long sound of manly approval followed by a very inappropriate comment) Warning bells go off in my head as I sit a little taller. In most stressful situations, I have this really, utterly useless defense mechanism; I start to giggle. Stupid, I know, but I outwardly laughed and inwardly start trying to sooth myself with PRIVATE thought, “This is okay, this veteran is obviously affected by his medicine. I’m sure he didn’t actually mean to say something personal out loud.”  (My co-dungeon workers told me I was na├»ve) 

He tells me about this homeless woman that he fell in love with and begged her to move in with him. That’s when he found out she was an alcoholic and smoked packs of cigarettes a day. He says, “If I had a gun, I’ll kill myself.” My sympathy is immediately back. My dad came back from service with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. My dad has severe nightmares and he sleepwalks, so again I pass the veteran’s odd behavior off from the stress of his service and all the darkness he’s seen.  

Then he repeats his earlier questions with a few inappropriate responses and a joke that I don’t immediately understand until he brings up what he can do at his age that most men can’t. 

We pass his complex because he requested I drop him off at Walgreens so he can pick up milk. When he gets out of the car, I debate staying. He’s less than a quarter of a mile from his apartment complex. 

So I flip a coin and decide to call Emory and tell him exactly where I’m at and where I’m taking the veteran and Emory disagrees immediately after I add in the odd questioning about my height, age and how many times he asked if I had children and followed it with the comment about my “tight body.” Emory says, “Leave him. He can get home.” I think, “but… but…” and Emory is right, my warning bells have been triggered and as we passed the apartment complex, I noticed how dark it was. There were very few street lamps and then all these scenarios took root in my writer brain, so in the end, I knew I got him as far as I could, but as a lone female it is dangerous to stay with someone who is that fixated with my body. So I drove away, but not without guilt.

My Dungeon Friends:

Carol: “You’ve learned your lesson. You’re never going to do that again, right?”
Julie: “My friend, you NEVER pick up hitchhikers.”
Michael: “Are you insane? Where is your husband? I need to have a long conversation with him.”
Carol: “What’s your mother’s number? I think I need to chat with her.”
Me: *private conversation with Emory” “Everyone thinks this was a life changing lesson, but it isn’t. I’ll probably do it again.”
Emory: “I don’t think you’re going to change either. That’s why I’m going to get you mace.”

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Holiday Theater and Lights




Like most people stuck in a state that has one spotlight for tourism, one of which if you’ve seen once, twice or three times, your good for the rest of your life, I’m looking for something to do during November and December. We have Zoo Lights, which I might volunteer for this year if the rest of my schedule isn’t a time cruncher. I’m looking at the calendar of events for Arizona and though I’m not terribly big about the theater, there are some shows coming through that even I raised the eyebrow of interest.

There is Elf the Musical playing at Mesa Arts. The Christmas movie, Elf, played by Will Ferrell, was hilarious. I would sit through a play based off that movie. Also coming through, we have Ghost Brothers of Darkland County which is a musical written by Stephen King. I might not be much into plays, chuck it up to my hyper activeness, but I really want to check these two out. Sadly, between Boot Scooter performances and my overtime at the dungeon, I don’t think I’ll have much time to take in a show… though I’m super-duper willing to throw my two cents in and see if Emory would be interested in splurging for tickets.

There are tons of things listed for this year on the events page, as long as we don’t mind driving the two or four hours out of town. Flagstaff might not be too bad. I don’t think it really starts snowing there until January, but it’s been almost ten years since I’ve passed through, so I can’t remember.
In California, about twenty minutes from where we lived at the time, was Candy Cane Lane, which was right across from the community college. Streets were mad-crazy decorated for the season. 

You’d bring a hot drink and you could park your car and walk it. If you drive, you can listen to your Christmas music. We did both, but from experience, I liked walking it because there are venders with hot chocolate and coffee and it’s just the perfect place to be with your family. I took tons of photos my last year there right before we moved to Florida. California also had a few Santa parks where there were sets setup in the parking lot with lights and that was super enjoyable and at the end, you park your car and get out and walk through the village. We couldn’t find anything like that in Florida and we’re having a hard time finding that in Arizona. There are a few houses that do a pretty awesome job, but that’s so far and few. Not many people decorate for anything out here.

P.S. I shouldn’t sell Arizona short. We are the Wild West. We have Tombstone and Jerome, Bisbee and the Grand Canyon. Places to see and tours to take. And speaking of tourist things, there is THE THING still sitting in the desert after all these years waiting for tourists to come and take a look at it. Be my guest. 

Writing Update:


I am now officially the secretary for the Romance Writers of America VOS Chapter. I'll start my duties in January. I'm a bit nervous because things are going to be busy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Benefit Concerts and Writing


I was invited to a benefit concert out in Surprise, which is about thirty minutes from where I live. Emory and I are commuters all around. His blood lives up in the Goodyear area which is about forty minutes away from us, heading out of town towards California. We have family in Scottsdale, Chandler, and Surprise. We’re pretty spread out. Yet, I am currently living within walking distance of my elementary school, so I didn’t exactly go very far in the end. I do know that right now, Arizona is fun. I have Boot Scooters, Tomahawk Twirlers, volunteering with the zoo, friends, family and a little time to write, but eventually I think I’ll be ready to move again. My blood likes the open road and I’m feeling an itch for that.

The benefit concert was very intimate and enjoyable. We brought our lawn chairs and coats, though as the night went, the coolness leeched from the ground making the park freezing. We will remember to bring blankets next time. Drinks were available, so I got wine and Emory got beer and we listened to Kelley McRae sing while her and her husband played the guitar. Her stories between the songs were gorgeous. My favorite song and story was Johnny Cash Died of a Broken Heart. It gave me goose bumps. I’m always looking for songs that speak to the Moose (my muse)

There was a raffle and a silent auction. I thought we’d be lucky since there were so many items up for grab and the raffle tickets were only $1. I usually have a hard time following raffle tickets at the Valley of the Sun RWA meetings, but Emory had it under control and we had no luck with raffle, but we did win the silent auction. We’re pretty good with silent auctions. We have a good bidding streak, or there is the possibility that Emory and I bid on things most people don’t want. 

We have one more performance for Boot Scooters this month, which gave us three shows in all for November. A friend filmed our new opening to the routine, so it was neat seeing it from the audience’s point of view. It took all summer for us to learn and there were huge hiccups in that process, but I’m glad it finally came together. After our last performance, we’re going to start learning the winter routine for Glendale Glitters, which is our Yule Holiday Feast in downtown Glendale. 

Our house is crowded glassware; vases, plates, tea saucers, crystal candy jars, bowling bowls, glass rocks, silk flowers and wreaths. My roommates were busting out items for the craft fair last weekend. They have three this month. Emory and I went to the last one and ended up buying a few cute items. I bought a tin man to hang in my office that a veteran made. The tin man stands about 3 feet and all tin cans. I love my veterans! And I love their stories.

Writing Update:

Novella: 10,002 / 25,000 words written
HBA 2: 3 chapters written. Feels like a 1st draft again. Yikes.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Pictures from My Phx. Arizona Drive

Two pictures from my Arizona route.

Morning Sunrise: Route to Work, Phx. Arizona

Chihuahua Seafood, Phx. Arizona
Writing Update

Every year I use NaNoWriMo buzz to get started on my major projects. So I'm currently busy with a novella, a horror novel and book two of my fantasy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Halloween is Gone and Writing

Halloween is now behind us. I came to work and all the decorations were cleared. I still have the pumpkin on my desk and I will probably keep him until he starts to rot, which will be soon. Emory pointed out the rot spots on my little guy. All the Halloween items were already gone from my favorite stores and now Christmas is up. It's not even Thanksgiving and the Christmas commercials have started.

I asked Emory to drop by Target for popcorn and he called my bluff. He knew I wanted to check out the Halloween sale. I got a lot of costume make-up for $1.60 and a few items for the trick-or-treat bags next year. I didn't do too much shopping this year because I went on vacation so late in the month and we've been playing catch up with everything.

Did I mention my brother is staying here for a while. He knocked on my bedroom door and asked for candy. His statement, "I know you keep a secret stash." I actually lied to him and told him I didn't have any. Two days later and I feel kind of bad about that. Emory and I bought a LOT of candy that was 30% off and we probably don't need all of it, but my brother goes through a bag of candy in five minutes. That's not how it use to go. When we were children, I would sneak in his room for chocolate because he'd keep his candy after Christmas or Easter, for months. The kid NEVER ate candy. Now he eats it like it's going out of style. Having made a huge life style change, I can't eat candy like he does, so I fail to believe what he's doing is okay for his body. He's only two years younger than me, so I can make these wild statements.

I said I was going to wait until after Thanksgiving to enjoy Christmas, but walking around Target, I got a little excited about the trees being up and all the shiny things on the shelves. I think we have a handful of people we still need to shop for. I did something creative for a few of my relatives. I usually do all my Christmas shopping before November. That way I can sit back and watch the crazies without getting involved AND I usually have an extra couple of dollars to buy a Cinnabon at the mall. The mall is the perfect place to watch people with too many packages and lots of small children at their feet.

The bad thing about Christmas shopping is that I tend to find more things for myself than other people. I love all the comic book stuff, knit caps, shirts, bags, etc. I'm going to try and be good. No self shopping! Okay, realistically, not too much self shopping.

Writing:

HBA: Finished the book. Talking with cover artist. 2 beta readers on the project.

Untitled Horror: Outlines

Novella: 2,500/25,000 words in.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Vacation and Writing

I went to Massachusetts, which was a vacation long due and can you believe it, I really missed Mozart like something mad. It's weird not having him in bed up against my spine. Emory just couldn't give me that same feeling. He teases me that if he ever becomes allergic to the dog, it'll be Em leaving the house. My only statement, come on! Mozart is like my four legged baby! I really, really wanted a baby. Now I have him... but Emory is my best friend, so honestly, I couldn't picture going it without the dude.

Just so that we're all clear, I've never been on that side of the United States before. We went late October, which was the tail-end of tourist season. Come Nov. we were told that all the museums and sights would be closed for the winter. That's how tail-end we came in to do all our lookie-loos. We did a Boston tour and a Newport Tour. Newport is in Rhode Island, so we spent the day in Rhode Island, which is a super expensive location. The tour guide said most homes in Newport start at $600,000, which is way more money than Emory and I make as creative sorts.One bedroom studios in Boston ran about $2,000 a month for rent. We're talking expensive territory, but I'm not sure if all of Massachusetts is that expensive.

Gorgeous Boston Buildings 
It's easy to get caught up with the tourism here in Massachusetts. There are so many old buildings that have guides to answer questions or actors and actresses giving you a strong glimpse into the history of the 1600's in America. Emory being an actor, and me being easily swept away by it all, saw a future here in the state, guiding people through the history, and then someone mentioned shoveling snow, and reality set in. I hate being cold. It physically is something I can't deal with.

Salem Museum
We walked through the Witch House, watched trials, looked at exhibits and did a few haunted houses in Salem. We also did a wine tasting with the locals. It was pretty private and our host gave us a sample of South Italy. Tons of people came in on our last day, dressed for Halloween. There was a small carnival up and they sold "Fried Dough" which at our fair grounds we call "Indian Fry Bread." We walked up towards the House of 7 Gables and did a tour there. Fabulous. Want to see an interesting house, check it out.

Plymouth Rock
I didn't think this rock was nearly as small as I was told. I thought it would be a pebble floating in a tiny glass case. I was pleasantly awed and more than inspired by history. We had fresh fish tacos, caught that very morning, which isn't something you can get in Arizona. We walked up the back road to look at some cool statues, read a few plaques, walked through a puritan museum and had a drink at the local watering hole. This guy, super drunk, mind ye, said I had a brogue, in which I promptly replied, "Aye, me mother is trying to fix that." He said, "He, it's okay to be Irish." I replied, "Aye, but I'm fifth generation American. I shouldn't have an accent." Actually, we don't know where this comes from, but Crazy Cousin Nik has a bit of an accent too. Strange. We're the only two that had ear tubes as children, so maybe we have a funny way of pronouncing things. I know for a fact that I sound a bit southern, because I use a lot of words I heard my grandma say, like "necked" instead of naked. and I drop a few letters in my words, which drives certain family members nuts.

Writing Update:

HAPPY START OF NANOWRIMO!!!!

All the old architecture gave me a stronger visual on some of the era pieces I'm working on. Since we couldn't take pictures in these homes, I bought postcards. I was very close to buying a book on early American architecture, but then I thought about the 50 lbs limit luggage has and decided to try my library before buying another book. This made me want to open up two stories I started, one is a 1800's supernatural story and the other is more modern with Gothic architecture. We're talking like Arkham in the Bat-verse. I'm a Batman girl!

I spent an entire night writing on this fabulous piece of fiction, and then I woke up. I guess you can take the writer on vacation, but does the writer ever really relax?

Started work on my outline for my novella.

Made contact with an artist for my dark fantasy... not sure if they'll be able to help me yet with this vision.

HBA: 5 pages left to edit, but they are very bloody and violent which takes me a long time to write. Since we're talking violence, my violence tends to be more emotional in my private writing projects, so writing real violence is harder. I had an agent once say, "It starts to get good, then the characters frown at each other and that's the end of it." So I am moving past the "frowning" stage and using more colorful ideas.