Monday, December 14, 2015

'Tis the Season…To Be Awful (or Awesome, Depending On Who You Ask)

I know I've written about this before, so if you're thinking, "Ugh, I already know this story!" you're just going to have to read it again.  Deal?  Good.

Every family has their traditions when it comes to the holidays and mine is no exception.  While I live far from my hometown now, those traditions have become a little more difficult to follow through with but I will never give any of them up completely because they are important and dear to my heart.

Mom loves Christmas.  I mean, she is ALL about Christmas and don't you dare leave out the "Christ".  She decorates with only about 100 candles, wreathes, garland, lights everywhere, one unbreakable Nativity scene so kids can play with the "dolls", mistletoe, angels, and of course the biggest and most beautiful tree.  Mind you, it never looks tacky.  Somehow she manages to maintain some mad skills when it comes to decorating with a whole lot of weird stuff to make it look nice.  (Does anyone else have a three piece wooden train set with mice in it?)
Mom loves Christmas music.  She plays every kind of Christmas music she can get her hands on and a lot of times it is weird music we've never heard of before.  It has never been some of the quirky Christmas music that you hear on the radio, but always singers that want to praaaaaaaise Jesus!

It all began when my mom had horrible back issues when I was in my teens.  She was physically unable to do a lot of things without our help or dad's.  But when dad was up north working on the slope in Prudhoe Bay, AK…all matters that required help reaching things or getting up on ladders were left to me and my brothers.

Well, being that my brothers and I are assholes, we took advantage of mom's misfortune to our hilarious benefit.  (Don't worry, she had fun with it too…after all, she raised us so in the end it's all her fault anyway.)

Our traditions had always landed on one day…the tree decorating day.  It had always started by making a batch of Tom and Jerrys (and yes, ours had a dash of alcohol in them...don't judge), pulling out about 10 boxes of decorations, turning on Roger Whittaker's Christmas (Never heard of it? Neither had we.), and putting up that giant xmas tree that almost always reached the very high ceiling.

Our number one goal for our Christmas tradition was to irritate and almost upset mom.  And we are a family of achievers so you bet your ass we succeeded every year.  We'd have our hot drinks and start the music and everything would start off so innocently…setting up decorations here and there throughout the house, humming along to the weird music, taking out the ugly ornaments we made as children and confirming with mom that they needed to be in the back of the tree where no one could see our shitty art we made for her and dad out of love, stuff like that.

But then…we'd start singing along rather than sweetly humming.  We'd sing off key on purpose or we'd try to match his very deep baritone voice and it was especially awesome that my little brother could actually pull it off, but it was disturbing when I'd try.  We'd change the lyrics or emphasize the odd language that was being used in Roger's music and start talking about how weird it was.  We pulled out the CD case and talked about the the cover used on the album and how real the snow looked.
I mean, it's awesome.

All the while, mom was usually saying, "Guys! C'mon. Stop it! You guys, knock it off.  Don't ruin it."  Which was always, of course, followed with one of us saying something along the lines of, "Yeah, Kathy. Stop it!  You're ruining Christmas. You're going to upset baby Jesus."  And we'd all start laughing…and we never did stop it.  Again, the goal was to upset mom…not Jesus.
Decorating the tree was a big deal.  We had ornaments that belonged to all of us kids from over the years, ornaments that my mom had from growing up, ornaments my parents had together throughout their marriage, and ones that were from family members that had died long ago and were over 100 years old.  
One by one, we'd hang the ornaments and the tree would start becoming this beautiful piece of art.  Mom loved this.  But then when we noticed that things were getting a little too normal and how happy she was with all the hard work we were doing, we'd have to change that.  We all had our tasks to begin the awfulness which started with taking our hideous ornaments from when we were in preschool and elementary school and bringing them directly to the front where EVERYONE would see our proud work.  Mom wouldn't notice this at first, but when she did we would hear her exhale in slight frustration and start to try putting them towards the back (as if we didn't know what she was doing).  The other assignment one of us had was to put about 10 ornaments on one branch, being sure the branch was barely hanging on and maybe shaking just a little from all the weight.  It had to be bowed over completely and right out in front.  Our hard work had to be where all eyes could see what we had done.
It was usually that branch that mom would notice and finally realize what was happening…and that's when we began our really awful behavior and when she was probably ready to sign any documentation she needed to emancipate each of us.
Mom would again try to tell us (unsuccessfully, of course) to quit it and put everything back the way it was.  We'd play along while singing horribly with Roger and look as if we were fixing it.  But what was really happening was we were now using the ladder to hang ornaments.  See, with mom's bad back, she couldn't and wouldn't get on the ladder.  Yeah.  My brothers and I have a oneway coach ticket to go straight to hell for this.
Steve was usually on the ladder while Jeff and I would hand him the pile of ornaments that were stacked on one branch for him to put up on a branch that she couldn't reach.  We'd also hand him our crappy paper ornaments with crayon scribbles, our school photos, and handmade salt dough ornaments painted exactly to look like a 4 year old did it, right where all the gorgeous crystals, blown glass, and expensive ornaments were supposed to be.  She'd laugh and holler out at all of us to stop it.  We didn't. We continued and we made it worse (or better).  There was a Santa that would go on the tree, but we never really figured out how he was supposed to be placed as he didn't have a hoop to hang from.  But we were a pretty smart group and managed to make it work…for our benefit.

Santa's boner.  Merry Christmas!

We had an angel that had big beautiful wings that lit up and she was incredible.  But it wasn't until we took the elf from Elf on the Shelf, and stuck his head up her dress and his hands down between his legs to really make Christmas amazing.  Blasphemy, I know.
Sometimes, we'd hang weird shit up on the tree, like mom's slippers or a dollar bill.  One or two of the dog's toys ended up there and we knew the dangers that went with that, but it was worth it.  The cat loved batting at the ornaments, so we made sure the very noisy bell was right where she could get at it.

Did we ruin Christmas for mom?  Maybe for a minute, but in the end she had a good laugh with us because she was a good sport.  But I do have to say now that she has a good back again and dad is retired…it just isn't the same.  Now, she has dad fix it.  What?  What was there and is there ever to fix?  We made it perfect.  So, now that we're adults and have helped decorate the tree the same way as it should be decorated…we come back on Christmas and it's ruined.  Dad or mom, will make sure the one branch that is dying because of the weight from 20 glass balls is back to its perky self with ONE ball.  Pshh.  The ugly ornaments aren't even on the tree, and her slippers are on her feet.  I call bullshit when I see that. The worst is she puts a star on top of the tree so the perverted elf can't do its thing.  

But here's the thing…my brothers are the same and will never change that part of us.  Come this Christmas, you bet we'll be listening to Roger Wittaker, singing loudly and horribly, changing the ornaments when neither parent is looking, and laughing the whole time.  And now that we're older, we'll yell at mom if she tries to change it and tell her she's ruining Christmas.  I can't wait!

Monday, November 09, 2015

I Wrote a Book

For the most part, I know everyone already knows this…but for those who weren't aware, yes I did!  I wrote a book on accident, actually.  I get asked all the time what made me decide to do it and honestly, I really had zero intentions of it getting this far.

Back in 2012, when life decided to deliver a flaming paper bag of shit on my doorstep on a daily basis, I tried to find a way to stop stomping on it to extinguish it but rather find a way to let that damn thing burn out on its own.
I wrote every day.  I found things that were funny around me and made fun of whatever I discovered and most of the time, it was me making fun of myself on this site.  You're welcome.

But how it happened, was a little like this…

I woke up from a dream and a 10 second portion of it stood out in my mind and wouldn't go away.  It was so vivid.  In my dream, a group of 4 of us were trying to run away from something scary.  We were in a dark and creepy cemetery that looked like one you'd find in New Orleans.  We couldn't escape and somehow I had the "means" to get us out.  I sat up in bed with the idea going over and over in my mind thinking, "Oh my god, that would be so cool if someone could do that."
At that point, I was still working at the gyms and Fuzion and doing what I could from Wenatchee…but I couldn't get the thought out of my head.

So, since it sounded like a book I'd like to read, I started to write it.

I wrote like a crazy person, typing every day.  I wrote a minimum of 1,000 words a day.  God, looking back I know it was significantly more than that.  I typed so fast as the story poured out of me.  I had no idea what was going to happen with the story, no idea who the characters were, who the antagonist was going to be, and if there was even a plot to the story!  I just wanted what I saw in my dream to happen to a character.  From there, my monster of an idea turned into a very loooooong story.

During that time, I was also pretty lonely.  I didn't have the kind of sex life I wanted and so I wrote about one I hoped to have…passionate, wild, and fun!  I often get asked if my book is like "Fifty Shades of Gray".  Umm, hell no.  A lot of those sex scenes seemed like they were cut and pasted together and that's simply not me at all.  Mine were detailed and graphic and exciting.  In fact, I had to clean them up a bit because I had to remind myself that I wasn't writing for Penthouse Forum.  (Hey, maybe I'll redistribute the book later with the unedited version for all you perverts!  Thanks for the idea, Rob.  Brilliant.)

Over time, my story started to have a life of its own.  Things happened that I didn't see coming.  Characters arrived that I'd had no intention to meet.  And maybe I killed a character I hadn't meant to kill…or maybe I let that one live.  There was no plan.

The weirdest part of this writing experience was how things that I wrote about started to actually happen.  I had been driving down one of the main streets in Wenatchee when I saw a guy who looked JUST like one of my characters!  It freaked me out.  I'd never seen this man before in my life, and low and behold he existed.  And out here, of all places!  A couple months later, I met a man who I spent time with and the way we got to know each other almost mirrored what had happened in my book.  Two characters in the story got to know each other the same way.  It hadn't hit me until months later when I read through it and discovered how weirdly similar the whole thing was.  Super bizarre.

Anyway, I wrote and wrote and people kept asking if I was going to publish it.  No.  Who would buy this crap?  I mean, it was a great story, but who the hell am I to even pretend that what I'd written was good enough for others to read from beginning to end?  I'd let some people read parts here and there and I would be told it's good.  The story is fun.  The sex scenes were really hot.  There are parts that were funny enough that made them laugh.  Good right?  Still, my lack of confidence got in the way…besides that, I wrote it for me.  It was my therapy.  I needed a pretend world to escape in, a pretend love life to to live vicariously through, and simply allow my imagination to reawaken after being dormant for so long because of the type of life I had been living for so long.  But enough people encouraged me to take it to the next level.  Okay.

I went to the local Writer's Conference and learned some things and then met with an editor and a publisher.  I was doomed with the editor because he specialized in non-fiction.  He did read my blog later and enjoyed it, but he didn't know how he could spin it to sell it.  No biggie because, duh, just come here to read it and it's free!  But I was also doomed when I met with the publisher.  I was the last one for the whole weekend to meet with her and she was half asleep and bored before I even walked in.  I was nervous as hell and felt like I needed to blow her away with my amazing story about witches and sex and blah, blah, blah.  As I explained my story, I started to hate it because I had no idea what the hell I was doing.  Also, it didn't help that I think she hated me as soon as she saw me.  It was a no-go.  However, she gave me pointers that I took into consideration later.
After that, I kept working on my story because I did love it and wanted to continue to be in that world.  The next year they had the conference, I went in with a very different approach.  I decided I didn't think I wanted to publish it.  I'd still go in and talk to the different publisher and pitch it to her, but then wouldn't care if she wasn't interested…again, this was my story and it was for me and I honestly didn't think my style of writing was all that great.
When I sat down with Jennifer, I told her about my story and my attitude was more carefree and blasé…when I finished, she was giddy.  "You just described my absolute favorite genres!!  I LOVE books like this, they're fun, they're sexy, and they are very marketable!  Here's my card…get in touch with me this week and I want you to send me the first 50 pages of your manuscript!"

Um, what?  I'd even warned her about my style of writing not being eloquent and she preferred that.  Huh??  So, now the REAL pressure was on.  I didn't plan for that.  That meant someone out there that I didn't know was going to read my crap and then I'd have to hear that it sucked and they'd made an unfortunate mistake and to please burn those first 50 pages of the manuscript and to do myself and the world a favor and never write another word again.  That didn't happen, though.  I received an email that said they enjoyed the story and looked forward to the rest.  Also, in that email was a contract for me to work with them on this book along with a W-9 for payment when that time came.
It may not be a "major" publishing company, but this was my first book ever.  How cool, right?

So, here I am a long time later, because to be perfectly honest, I had about 100,000 words to get rid of.  Crazy!  Remember, though, I wrote this for myself and just let the words fall onto the screen day in and day out.  I cleaned it up, sent it to my editor, she cleaned it up more, I cleaned it up more with her, my book designer did his thing, my proofreader worked on the finer details, and my book manager read it and loved it.  I wrote a book.  I WROTE A BOOK!!!  And the best part?  I finished it.  And now I'm working on book two and writing better than I did in the first one.  I can't wait to see where this one takes me and my characters.  But look at this…I'm all legit, now!

If I sell 5 copies, I'll be so happy…but I just might sell more.  So rad.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Beginnings...

Yes, yes, I know it has been quite a while since I last blogged and I'm sorry about that.  But honestly, there hasn't been a whole lot to write about because I've been writing everywhere else, it seems.  Plus, the job I had was killing the creative side of me slowly within the surrounding gray confining walls of a stifling cubicle.

Since that no longer exists for me…I'll write about something that happened yesterday.

Farrah is starting the 3rd grade next week!  Not only that, she is starting at a new school.  Kenroy Elementary!  The private school she has been attending for so long decided to shut down the program for older kids making it so she would have to join the forces of normalcy with the rest of the kids in the community.  I had worked hard with the district office to have her choiced into a better school than what she attended in the first grade down the street from us.  After finally being accepted in and being given the name of her new teacher, we decided to drive over to her school and walk around so she could get a good feel for where she will be going and where things are, like the playground, the cafeteria, and the office.

When we arrived, we were floored with how big her elementary school was!!  The entrance was huge with big windows, but we didn't go in.

We walked around the perfectly manicured school and admired the play fields she would get to play on when it was time for recess.  We looked in the windows and saw inside a couple of the classrooms and agreed they looked very nice.  We also saw lockers and I had to question if we were actually at an elementary school because I didn't have a locker until Junior High.
I thought, no way.  But the area we live in has been growing rapidly, so what did I know?  I looked in another classroom to be sure I was in an elementary school still and I saw a whole board that talked abut 5th grade math and science. Yep!  This was definitely her school!  Wow!!!  We kept on walking and found that there was a large outdoor courtyard where she would get to have lunch on the nice days.
Farrah was absolutely beside herself with excitement!!!  She said, "Mom, if I knew this was the school I'd get to go to in the second grade, I would've wanted to come here last year!"  I was really pleased with the decision I'd made to choose this elementary school over some of the others.  It really was beautiful…

Until we decided to try going inside the main entrance of the school.

"WELCOME TO STERLING!!" the sign read leading to the endless hall of lockers.


What's that?  Where the hell were we?  This isn't Kenroy?  What the hell was going on?


We were at the wrong school that whole time.  I was taking pictures of her in front of a school she wouldn't be attending and sending them to people!

We were in front of Kenroy park and Farrah said maybe Kenroy elementary was on the back side of the park.  I looked it up on my phone, drove one block up the hill, and BAM!  There it was…on the other side of the park.

We did the tour once again, except we made sure it was the right school before taking a bunch of pictures.