A point added, then ten removed

Between being a mother of two, a wife and a full-time writer the feeling of inadequacy isn’t one I’m a stranger too. This week it is particularly loud.

I hit a stretch there for a couple of weeks where I was handling the balance, but as I cruise toward deadlines and growing the show, I find myself yet again off balance with my juggling stance.

Perhaps I could do better job listening to my lack of focus and go take care of some real life things, but I usually don’t. I’m obsessive and stubborn, and when it comes to my goals, those qualities both assist me and fight to destroy me.

This is the first year that I’m juggling with this size of a workload with family life for the first time. I’ve mentioned my tendency to work too much. Sometimes it is instead of coping with something, in reality, I’d rather not, the other times I’m just grinding away at this thing.

Two things dawned on me over lunch as my husband talked to me about how he’s handled work and life over the years. For one, he’s a nicer human being than me and second, I haven’t been asking myself the right questions.

I realize things aren’t in black and white; some days are going to be balanced better than others. My feeling of accomplishments and jerky regrets often move as a wave does.
It’s just been on my mind. I spent Memorial Day in my office killing word count, and then I was left with a yucky feeling. A whisper that I could of chose differently nagged at me. Today I’m all over the place, so perhaps it all equals out, but certain things don’t last forever.

I suppose I’ll make a note to take off on July 4th.

Reverie: a journey

The wind shifted through the trees. The sense of her was everywhere. Flowers smelled in the sort of way that captured me and set me right there in the center of all of it.

Whispers tore at my heart. Time was the one force that commands us all. The moon will come in a second. A piece of the sun is in all of us.

“Try as hard as you can,” she sings in the spaces between the trees.

“I will, I promise.” I declared to the doves that spread the seeds. “I will not be afraid.”

Chapter Nine: Rolling with underdogs

*Remember you can listen to the audio version of this series on iTunes and Stitcher 

    Lincoln’s dark eyes held me in their focus for what felt like a million years. In reality, it was probably only a few seconds before he looked back down at the paper on the counter. He slid a pen from behind his ear that was hidden in a sheath of curly locks. He sketched a few things down as I approached him feeling weird now that we hadn’t said anything to each other yet.

    “Hey.” My voice cracked with the single word which brought a wave of heat across my face. My hand nervously clutched the camera in my hoodie pocket.

    He looked up, “The clock-in machine is in the store room.” He hesitated before adding, “The room you walked through with Malachi and Molly on the way to the smoking spot.”

    “Okay, thanks.” I felt an awkward smile pulling at the corners of my mouth. Before another thought, I said, “How was the rest of your weekend?”

    “All downhill after seeing you at the party.” With that, his eyes darkened, which made me want to throw myself across the counter and kiss him. I wouldn’t even come close to having that kind of confidence, but I could image that Molly would have no problem doing such a thing.

    The sensation from blushing only made it worse. Instead of saying thank you, an awkward noise escaped from my mouth. Flustered and embarrassed, I gave him a quick salute before stumbling toward the back of the store. I slammed my elbow on two different clothing racks on the way to the large black door in the corner left of a mostly dark store. Between the dim lights and black and brown decor I was hoping that Lincoln wasn’t able to see my lack of agility.

    The heavy door slammed behind me only adding to the thumping mess in the center of my chest. For some reason, I was coming undone at the seams.

    “Take a deep breath honey,” my mom’s voice was louder than it was the day before.

    I wished I knew what this meant. Did it imply I was getting worse or better? Or perhaps I did have powers.

    I was absolutely hoping for the powers. It was way better than losing my mind.

    The door opened and in came Lincoln, up close he smelled like pot smoke and sandalwood. “Forgot to turn the music on. So it goes. Lights on, music on, registers up, and then the gate. Malachi said something about going over seasonal displays tomorrow. I’m only a week newer than you.”

    “We work together again tomorrow?” The possibility that I might not survive this ran through my mind as I glanced around looking for anything that resembled a clock-in machine.

    “Yep, we are on together all week. Tomorrow night we close.” He eyed me with an unreadable expression then said, “It’s a gray box that looks like a bloated thermostat.” Lincoln pointed at exactly what he described.

    “Right, it makes sense it looks like that. I was picturing something more like a movie ticket kiosk.”

    “Gadgets up on Route 17 had machines like that.” Lincoln reached over my head. He pressed a large button then quickly turned a silver nob a few clicks to the right. A loud beat thumped through the speakers.

    I clicked around on the machine until I successfully clocked myself in. A rush of change swirled around me.

    “A new chapter,” my mom said, her words wrapped in a subtle laugh.

    It concerned me that I was hearing her more and more while I was around other people. When it just happened in the quiet moments when I was alone, I could justify it to myself more.  I’ve considered reading books about grief but kept talking myself out of it. I didn’t want to share the experience with anyone because it was all my own. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew I was on my own ride. Everyone grieves differently and is impacting all us in different ways.

    “You zone out a lot,” Lincoln’s voice broke through my inner dialogue.

    “Yeah, I’ve got issues I guess.” I pushed a chunk of turquoise behind my ear.

    “We all do.” His thin lips held each word closely before releasing them. Lincoln tilted his head toward the front of the store. “We should get back to it.”

    “Yes, let’s.” I shook my head at my lack of smoothness as I followed him to the front of the store.

    A woman nearing middle-age was fumbling around the Japanese t-shirt rack, all featuring different games and shows from the last four generations. My toes would touch the back of Lincoln’s feet if I weren’t careful. I lingered near the edge of the counter when he slid back into the position I first found him in.

    I tapped on my leg as I looked over his shoulder. He was drawing a giant lizard playing the drums. Gothic-style writing said in a thought bubble coming from the lizard’s head, “A drummer looking for a band.” A million possibilities of what I could say to him beat me over the head like a storm angered wave. My body was betraying me in sorts, but my mind wasn’t helping because it was after things all it’s own. I was beginning to think that having a goal of being distracted was on the dangerous side of things. I was becoming consumed by wanting to know everything about him. Every single warning bell has been going off. I could see clearly he was trouble and no good for me. In the same breath, my mind was telling me to jump in head first and to back away slowly and listen to Pete’s advice.

    The woman stood hunched over the circular rack wearing a heavy frown as she inspected the graphic on each shirt before sliding each one by. She pulled her large brown leather purse into a more desirable position before drifting over to the table of figures of various cartoon characters. Without any prior thoughts or awareness of where I was, I pulled out the camera, turned it on and snapped a picture of a complete stranger like I had so many times before.

    I slid the camera back into my pocket to find Lincoln looking at me and not his poster. His brow furrowed. “Did you just take a picture of that woman?”

    “I did.” I ran my hand nervously through my hair as I looked down at my feet. I considered a variety of excuses for a brief moment before adding, “It’s this weird thing I do. I dunno how else to explain it.”

    “I drum absent-mindfully on things without realizing. It usually drives everyone around me nuts.” Lincoln pulled on his sleeves causing his hands to disappear.

    I pointed my chin at his poster, “Looking for a band?”

    “Yeah, I’ve moved around a lot over the last few years. I miss being a part of something constant.” Lincoln brought his attention back to his drawing.

    “I kinda like the idea of moving around a lot right now.” I was surprised by how open I was being, and how comfortable I suddenly was.

    “Change can be good, but it usually isn’t.” His eyes revealed evidence of past scars.

    “Future is always uncertain.” I chewed on my thumbnail. Of course, I knew all about terrible change. Again I found myself enjoying what people didn’t know about me. I liked standing in front of someone without feeling like an open sore.

    “Sure is.” Lincoln lifted the poster up and showed it to me. “What do you think?”

    I stared at it closely, taking in the crudely drawn lines of the lizard and all the wording along the edges of the paper. “It’s awesome.”

    Lincoln turned the flyer around to inspect it himself, then shrugged. “It’s all right for the first draft.”

    “Pete’s band needs a good drummer.” The words sat in front of me after I spoke to them, shedding a spotlight on my interest in Lincoln.

    Lincoln laughed as he bent down and pulled a large black book out from the shelves underneath the counter. “Pete doesn’t want me in his band.”

    “You gotta be better than Wilson.”

    “At drums? Oh, I’m awesome. Way better than the slob your buddy has on the set. But, Pete hates me. I don’t blame him.”

    Something in Lincoln’s eyes softened, I saw a glimmer of sadness, the kind of sadness that lives in me. I wanted to reach out and touch his hand, but I refrained from fear of exploding or embarrassing myself. Lincoln turned his attention to the black book in his hands. He flipped it open. Each page must have held at least five clippings that were sticking out every which way. He slid the search for something constant into the book, closed it, then pulled out a comic.

    He leaned against the register with his back toward the rest of the store.

    I stood there for a second too long helplessly staring at him, trying to think of something to say about what he was reading. Finally, I weakly said, “Like Deadpool?”

    “Oh yeah. He’s one of my favorites. Are you familiar?”

    “Not at all with any comics.” A flustered heat spread across my cheeks making imagine vines climbing my legs and strangling me.

    “You are missing out.” Lincoln turned his body so that he was suddenly very close to me. It took all of me not run my finger through his curly hair.

    “Oh yeah?” My voice was barely audible. I was nervous, and he could definitely tell.

    “Absolutely.” Lincoln’s mouth wasn’t far from mine. The world was quiet. “The best stories are in comics. Underdogs are my favorite.”

    “That sounds like me.” I mumbled in my shoulder, not quite sure what to do with myself.

    Lincoln surprised me by laughing. “Oh yeah?”

    “Underdogs.” I mumbled starting to feel like an idiot.

    “Yeah, I got that. Rooting for underdogs is the way to go.” With this, he rubbed the top of his head causing some his hair to fall in front of his eyes.

    Was I making him nervous?

    “Excuse me,” a strained woman’s voice broke through our moment, giving me the chance to sweep myself off the floor. “I’m looking for something for my thirteen-year-old nephew and haven’t a clue where to start.”

    “I got you,” Lincoln said, handing me his comic and sliding out from behind the counter.

    I stared at the red and black masked man on the cover wishing that woman hadn’t interrupted whatever was happening.

***

    Electric guitar filled the speakers causing the store room of The Angry Crow to feel even more claustrophobic. I clocked myself out as easily I clocked in. The first day was under my belt, and it felt good even though I wasn’t on the road to anywhere, in particular, I also wasn’t standing still.

    “I’m out of here too,” Lincoln said appearing in the doorway. “My replacement finally got here. Malachi says that Derek sometimes doesn’t show up. I was getting doubts.” Lincoln reached past me to sign himself out as well. The musky smell of his cologne swirled around in my nose making me dizzy and distracted, and it felt so nice to be preoccupied even though I was already aware that this particular preoccupation wasn’t the best thing for me in the long run, right now it felt really good.

    “See you tomorrow?” I said sounding way more hopeful and interested in seeing him again that I suddenly felt like I was standing in the middle of the ocean naked.

    “We are on the schedule together again.” With this, he stepped closer to me.

    Without thinking about it, I leaned into him. Lincoln’s hands were in my hair, and then he was kissing me. I wrapped my arms around him, allowing all me to lose myself in his touch. Lincoln pressed the weight of his body into mine, gently pushing my back against the wall. His chapped lips moved with mine. My head might as well have disconnected itself from my head. Lincoln moved one his hands from my hair, and slowly brought it down to my hip.

    My phone let out a loud triple beep.

    Lincoln took a small step back; his dark eyes held me. “That’s you?” His voice sounded as flustered as I felt.

    I nodded as I pulled it from my back pocket to see it was Molly. Out front and waiting.

    “Molly’s my ride. I should go.”

    “Okay.” A few thoughts passed through his mind as he paused, just staring at me. “See you tomorrow?”

    “Yeah, work and all.” My heart started jumping around in my chest, and all of my extremities were tingling. I had to get out of there before I don’t know what. “See you.” Without any more words or touch of any kind, I made my way quickly out of the tiny room and through the store.

    I couldn’t figure out what exactly just happened. I mean I knew I just made out with Lincoln but I wasn’t sure why or if it would happen again. I definitely didn’t know what it meant.

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Feel their pain

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” -Kurt Vonnegut

This morning was an emotional one for me. I was taking care of content edits in a very intense part of the contemporary manuscript I’ve been working on. There is always heart from real places, places that exist in me at the base of every story. Over the course of writing the book I grow close to the characters inside the world, I’m creating. I have to in order to make my readers feel as much as I can.

Why read a story about someone you don’t care about?

This particular story deals with unexpected death, grief, and depression all the while my protagonist is going through one the biggest transitions in her life thus far.

I’m taking it as a good sign the chapters tugged my heart strings. I’ve spent extra with these characters. They have evolved quite a bit from their original selves. I’ve been playing around with a story centered around a friendship for awhile, and now that isn’t the only focus here, it is a major focal point. Standing on our feet and expecting life as it comes is another huge one.

As a reader, I need someone to route for to keep me reading and caring. I know that I’m not alone here by any stretch of the imagination. Being as most of my stories have pretty deep characters, I knew that this like the others, would be a character story. But, this time, I wanted to dig a little deeper.

I started this by making a list for each character of their traits, goals, and hardships. I have been finding this incredibly helpful as a checkpoint and tool for more interesting dialogue tags.

Knowing what makes my characters uncomfortable and happy adds to the story and turns into something more than just an idea. Over time, it helps to transform all of it into its own world.

Another Generic Monday Bit

I realize it’s possible that writing a post on Monday where I complain about how my Monday is going could be misunderstood as a reach or disingenuous. But, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

The plan was for me to start the day editing ‘Not Without Sunshine’ before transitioning into work on this week’s Elliot chapter.

I have an article about getting to know your characters that I was planning on putting together for you folks today, but instead, I am worked up and underslept. For no substantive reason, I’m unsettled and having trouble focusing.

My Monday started last night. My husband and I were falling asleep watching a movie. Before retiring for the night, we let the dogs out one last time which led to the discovery that our washing machine with our son’s Gee for Tai Kwon Do class the next day, was overflowing and backing into the sink. I was proud I didn’t freak out, just like my husband didn’t freak out when his computer’s motherboard fried a little bit earlier in the day. No, we stayed calm, saved the Gee and talked about our options.

I made a joke right before my husband fell asleep about how it’s possible we have Yo-Kai in the house. In case, you don’t know Yo-Kai are spirits that cause mischief a lot like Gremlins. My son is obsessed. My husband fell asleep; my dogs started snoring, and there I was listening to the dryer hoping that the contents weren’t too soapy. Thoughts about creatures in the house causing trouble starting cycling through my head. Then the thought of my daughter’s doll walking down the hallway for some reason jumped into the forefront of my mind.

Yep, I was completely wide awake.

My night consisted of less than four hours of very light sleep. Sometimes sleep doesn’t come easily to me. I’ve been in a pretty good cycle recently but have suffered from long insomnia bouts on and off most of my life.

Like every morning, my dogs wake me up (usually before 7) to go outside. This morning started no different. Both boy dogs had their faces right in mine. I rolled over instead of getting right up. My one dog made one of his signature complaining noises and went downstairs. I reluctantly dragged my butt downstairs to find him lifting his leg and peeing on all of my shoes. Yes, all of them. Which, I have to say I’m shocked this particular dog even did that.
He had to go, and I blew him off.

The dog, of course, felt terrible. Jake is such a good dog and is such a pleaser. He was so upset that when he went outside, he didn’t want to come in. Jake clearly saw I was turning into a dragon.
I am not my best in the morning when I’ve had eight hours of sleep. Between the lack of sleep, my shoe dispair, and all my wacky hormones (because, yes, of course, it is also that time of the month) came together in a slendid show. There I was barely awake standing in my yard yelling at my dog to come in the house, waking up my family, and standing in boots filled with my dog’s urine.

Needless to say, my day and week isn’t getting off on the right foot so far and at the same time it is, because two really great news emails that I’ve been waiting for came in.

So, long story short, life happens, and it happens on its own without permission. I realize none of these are real problems, and we are well aware that we’ve needed a new laundry setup. Nothing has really happened, but because my overpriced shoe collection got covered in a gallon of pungent male dog pee and I’m worried I’m in for a weird sleep cycle phase I’ve decided to share all of this with you guys instead of my character post in a desperate attempt to regain focus. I guess you can expect the character post tomorrow.

One thing I have been trying to pay attention to is my gut when it comes to what I work on when. The whole reason behind having multiple projects is so I always have somewhere to focus my wordsmithing. There are times I make myself work on this one thing when my mind is on the other. I fight it because I like lists and control. I need to be the one driving and saying no. But doing that works against me. In the end, if I just listen to my mind’s focus and not try to micro-manage my own creative ability so much I end up accomplishing more. Life doesn’t always care that I wanted to wait until next month to buy the laundry machines.

I’m low on sleep, and my husband had to go buy me shoes, so I have shoes to wear. I appreciate that he’s my partner. I know I’m not always an easy one.

Well, I suppose the rant is over. Hopefully, I can focus on editing and crossing things off lists, so I can happily hum along in my small, little world again.

Thank you for listening.