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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thugs and Writing

I was volunteering at the zoo and I passed this woman pushing a stroller and she had “Thug for Life” tattooed to her upper right arm with a hand that was probably making a gang sign. I won’t lie, I’m terrible at distinguishing gangster hand signs, though I know I’m not too impressed when people post selfies with west side or east side, etc. I wonder if there is a hand signal for the valley? My favorite hand sign is Vulcan, “live long and prosper.” Booh-Yeah! 

Anyway, it made me wonder about this Thug for Life woman. Wouldn’t that be a hard life, wondering if your husband was going to get shot that day or knowing you might have to deal with a home invasion? As a writer, it’s easy for me to build her into a character. Before I know it, I have imagined her entire back story, but I can’t picture any of my characters having a badly drawn, blue ink tattoo of a gang sign. The tattoo killed the story.

Then I pictured a new story; one with a rich, high class woman who loses a bet and has to go get a tattoo that her friends picked out. Now that, my friends, is a funny story for such an awful tattoo. I’m not actually going to write it. I’m still working on my assassin novel and 2nd project with my co-writer.

I’m pretty bummed that I missed the Boot Scooter picnic. This is the second year in a row that I didn’t go. I missed the Halloween party and last year’s Christmas party. I plan to go this year to the Christmas party. The club has a lot of members and there are three things the group loves as a gift for the White Elephant game: Disney anything, Snowmen anything, and booze. At the end of 50 people playing this game, Emory had the NEAR to last number. I was somewhere in the middle and I won this singing antler hat that I really loved! Two years ago, I bought Frosty the Snowman glasses for the party, which I never ended up going to. So this year, I need to wrap those glasses. But I still need to find something for Emory to throw into the pot. I have two Mickey and Minnie Christmas dolls. I need to get Disney mugs to put them in. I’m not sure what the budget is for the game, but people tend to bring nice things.

We have a few new people in the club, Elizabeth, Barb and Tigger on the woman’s team. Elizabeth’s husband joined the couples, so she can dance both on the couples team and on the women’s team. Jackie (our resident snow bird, which is what we call people who come in for the winter and leave during the summer to escape the 110+ weather), is back in town and her new husband has joined the couples, so she can dance both. Tigger and Barb only dance on the women’s team. We had two other women, but they disappeared. It’s a huge commitment to be on a demo team, because you practice 2 nights a week and perform on the weekends. Some people just don’t have that time, but I enjoy the company and performing.

Writing Update:

HBA: Book one: Working on the cover art with an artist. Waiting to get the book back from 2 readers and one editor.
Novella: 11,168/25000 words completed on project.
HBA book 2: 5/30 chapters completed, but going back to rework sequence of events: 1/30 momentarily complete

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.