Archive for the ‘Characters’ Category

40 Takes Another!

Having a birthday at the year’s end was torture when I was in high school.  Everyone did everything before me.  They got a permit, tested for a driver’s license, and even held employment before I could.  I wished for time to pass so I could do the things they were able to do with age.  I wanted to be older.  Twenty-five years later it’s not so bad.  I get to sit back, be the youngest of the group, and watch everyone else turn 40 before I do.

With 40 looming, I’m happy to see the days slow to a crawl.  Facebook statuses remind me (almost daily) the number is approaching.  Each day someone I went to high school with is photographed at a party with a giant 40 on their face or carting around the dreaded “Old Fart” walker.  Dear God if anyone thinks of doing this for me, you can shut it down right now because I will kill you.

I’ve been able to ignore the impending doom because those birthdays didn’t hit close to home.  Those people are acquaintances I shared a classroom with when I was a teen.  Or maybe they were dear friends then that I’ve fallen out of touch.  It’s not “real” if I don’t know these 40 year old birthdays personally, is it?    Maybe I could’ve lived in that denial before, but that all changed a few weeks ago when my best friend from high school turned the big 4-0.


Time to start the old picture montage.

I faced the fact it was coming weeks before.  I knew I wanted to make Tara something special to mark our long-standing friendship more than the fact we are hitting an age milestone.  Cookies seemed like the best answer.  I went for a design that represented her.  Something girly, classic, and not too lavish.  They were fun to make because I got to remember the great things about her, not the birthday the cookies represented.


Tara didn’t grow up in the same school district like most who went to my high school.  In our freshman year, I knew her through mutual friends and it wasn’t until sophomore year where I had my first awesome interaction.  It came at my 15th birthday party.  She was quiet and timid while others mingled in comfortable conversation.  I don’t remember anything we might have talked about.  I don’t recall anything much about the party.  I only remember opening her present and finding the Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians cassette tape I’d been wanting forever.  (Forever being a couple weeks in teenage time.)

The special thing is the fact I’m sure she had no idea who they were.  (Most people didn’t.)  Tara was a die-hard country fan.  I’m not even sure how she knew I wanted it.  I remember her asking me if I liked it because she knew music was important to me.  I fell instantly in best friend love with her thoughtful gesture.

Prom 1991.  Wow.

Prom 1991. Wow.

In our high school experience she was responsible for my big hair, my attempts at make up, and reducing my self-loathing.  We became co-editors on our high school paper and I found someone who loved writing as much as I did.  We shared our insecurities and hopes for what would come after high school.  All this love while rockin’ our differences — She was crowned in the winter formal court, joined a debutante society, and listened to her mother’s opinion.

Do you see the size of my hair?

Do you see the size of my hair?

After high school, she packed up her life and moved halfway across the country for college.  We grew up in our own directions, matured through marriages and children, and have come out the other side with our friendship still intact although changed.  I’m still finding it hard to believe we can be this age.

Although I wasn’t there to celebrate, I’m sure Tara set an inspiring example by handling her 40th birthday with grace.  Big smiles and gracious thank yous accepting her fate stepping over the line to the era we regard as being our parents’ time.  More birthdays are coming and more friends will be labeled “Over the Hill” as each day passes.

I hope by the time my day arrives I learn something from these examples.  Maybe I’ll be a little more mature about it only being a number.  Maybe I won’t freak out when someone says to call the fire department when the candles are lit on the cake.  Or maybe I’ll be a little wiser about appreciating the four great decades and the fantastic set of people along the way that got me here.

My favorite high school saying.

My favorite high school saying.


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Pub Crawl

Last week Hubs and I spent a Friday afternoon together.  No work.  Sans children.  Not one “to do” around the house.  (Well, there were some, but we ignored.)  We chose to see a movie that didn’t include animation, talking animals, or mythological creatures.  I’d been wanting to check out The World’s End after hearing it discussed in a film class at my writers’ conference.  And who doesn’t love the idea of old friends getting together for a pub crawl?

The movie was interesting.  I LOVED the idea of old friends getting together to finish a pub crawl they abandoned in their last high school hoorah.  The alien robot part was “meh”.  However there were some really funny pieces and overall it was entertaining.  The moment we exited the theater I start in with “How hard is it to finish 12 pints in a night?  They had all those hours to do it?”

Hubs and I head over to our town’s Irish pub and have a 4:30pm dinner to reminisce the movie’s idea.  The pub crawl idea goes back and forth as I knocked back a couple.  Then there’s a text sent out to my bestie about joining us.  Before we knew it, we were going on a pub crawl.


With two pints down, the second place and third pint brought smiles.  There is still sunshine in the background.  We also discover my bestie hates beer.  This might be a problem.


Pub #3 is actually a place where they sell beer by the can.  We hoped Angry Orchard might be a good substitute.

pub4No go.  #4 isn’t really even a pub.  To make sure my bestie had a good time, we needed cocktails.  Even with the lemon drop on the menu, I stuck to my pint.  We also picked up her husband at this stop.

pub5We continue with pub #5 not really being a pub either.  It’s a strip club.  The only one we have in town.  The boys thought it was hilarious for us to go in.  A small town strip club at 6:30pm is a sad sight.  I’ll save you from the picture.

Moving on to pub #6.  This is a beer only place.  They even give samples.  We’re still feeling pretty good.  Maybe a little crazy, but still good.  I’m seven pints in and still thinking “How hard is this?”


#8 brings more cocktails for the others and one more pint.  This looks like an easy enough picture, but it took about ten takes.


At #9 we played a little game of match the drink up with the person.  Mine’s easy.  This place is a little music bar.  The opening act was described by bestie as “a bad Elliott Brood.”  The highlight was Hubs busting out in a dance and trying to find a partner.  It was so funny, some guy pulled out his camera phone to record it.  I’m going to guess it’s on Youtube somewhere.

pub8It’s around this time, 11:00pm to be precise, that I start to get a little worried about the fact I have to be up at 6:00am to drive ten hours to pick up my children from their vacation with Grandma.  It doesn’t keep me from keeping the course.  #10 comes with some food and another emptied pint.

pub9We staggered down the street to my eleventh pint.  The amber ale labeled itself the worst beer of the night.

pub10I think in this picture you can see the wear on my face.  Or maybe better described, the haze in my eyes.  The clock struck midnight and encouraged us to get to that last place if I had any hopes of finishing the crawl.

#12 was a dive bar known for the Indie crowd.  Hubs was most proud of the fact he scored himself a free beer from a guy who witnessed his crazy dance at pint #10.  I was most pleased with the fact I finished it with a smile still on my face.

pub last

Learned in this crawl was twelve pints over a night was doable.  Better decision making would’ve told me not to do it the night before a long drive.  When the alarm went off at 6:00am, those twelve beers turned over in my stomach for five hundred miles.  I wished in those moment the World’s End aliens would blank me out too.

For days after I couldn’t hear the words “Pub Crawl” without gagging.  Even though underneath I still loved the draw from walking around with friends with a drinking purpose.  Each place and each new pint brought a different conversation.  We spent hours talking about everything and nothing.  We enjoyed each other’s company like it was our last night of high school.  In the end, isn’t this what a pub crawl is all about?

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I read many blogs from the writing community.  A common theme weaves into their accounts when they talk about writing.  They each say they have to write because the characters in their heads make them do it.  A recent comment, “If your characters want you to write the story, they will haunt you until you do write the story,” caught my attention.  Actually, it stopped me dead in my tracks.  These authors live to write and write to live.  They’re dedicated.  Focused.  If they didn’t have writing, they wouldn’t have anything.  I look at these sentences trying to find myself in them.  Instead,  I’m left doubting  if I’m actually a writer.

I think about my stories.  There are times where I think about them a lot.  It comes when I’m avoiding 8-5 work, drowning out fighting children, or in between choruses on my drive home.  I play out scenes.  I act out dialogue.  Try out a couple jokes on myself.  But I can turn it off.  In fact, I can easily distract myself with the other million things I like to do.  There are kids, concerts, and cookies to fill in the seconds I choose not to think about writing.

I went to the lemon drop self-portrait vault and found this ol' thing.

I went to the lemon drop self-portrait vault and found this ol’ thing.

I don’t have a compulsion.  When I take a break from the book to give a fresh eye before an edit, I have no regrets.  I enjoy living the non-writer life in doing things with people.  (Lemon drops come to mind.)  I play on the internet and catch a little television if there’s been something I find exceptional.  Damn you, Mad Men.  Does this make me a bad person?  A bad writer?  Is it my subconscious confirming what my doubt tells me everyday?  “You are not a real writer.”

Being a writer is so subjective.  Do you graduate to full-fledge writer when you type THE END on your first novel?  Is there a special initiation when you land your agent?  Or an acceptance to a secret society when a hard cover shows your name on the binding?  Or are you only a real writer when you spit out the sentence about not being controlled by your fictional characters?

The uncertainty can drown you on a daily basis.  Or maybe it’s only me who gets caught in the affirmation undercurrent.  I find myself looking for any sign I’m on the right path in this writer’s journey.  Especially times like now, when I’m fighting to get back to my WIP or start the query process for another.

The other night when I told my Tragic friend about my dilemma, she wrote out some wise words.  “Just write.  Right?”  In fact, she suggested I put it on a shirt.  (I thought she referred to another sentence which would be good on a shirt when I wrote — “Where are all the dicks jokes?”)  Her idea is simple.  To the point.  Stop worrying about all the other bullshit of “should I’s” and “what ifs” and stick to the part I enjoy.  Enjoy the process of getting to know my characters instead of being haunted by them.  Keep telling their stories even if an agent isn’t around the corner.  Most of all write because that’s what I want to do.

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Be careful what you tweet.  People read that shit.

Thank you Jimmy Kimmel.  I’m madly in love with this segment.  Kills me every time.

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Characters have quirks.  It’s what makes them likeable and similar to “real people.”  In fiction, you are supposed to push their quirks as far as you can to make them three dimensional.  This weekend on a twelve hour road trip to pick up my two children from their vacation with grandma, I discovered one of mine.  I have the odd need to fondle, grope, and “man-handle” art.  

It started out innocently enough when we agreed to stop at “The Lumberjack Cafe” for breakfast.  Getting out of the car,  we had the hard hitting conversation about if Hubs would order his usual of biscuits and gravy or branch out to pancakes when I spotted the giant lumberjack near the door.  How I missed it on the drive up to the parking lot, I have no idea.  The large framed rugged man in his airbrushed flannel shirt and bright blue pants called to me as any enlarged Americana art usually does.  I snapped a quick shot with my phone to immediately upload it to Twitter and Facebook.  But it wasn’t enough.  I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving my giant lumberjack without having some defiling memento. 

I asked Hubs to hump the leg.  He looked between the busy street of numerous cars stopped at the traffic signal on our left and the large crowd growing in the all-windowed waiting room to our right.  He laughed a “no” like there was insanity behind the thought.  If there was going to be any sexual statue harassment, it was up to me.  I climbed as close as I could to get the “money shot.”  Lumberjack didn’t even flinch when I went for his three foot crotch. 

When I revisited my uploaded memory of the special time I spent with Lumberjack, I realized I have a draw to fondling art in inappropriate ways.  It was only four months ago I was walking the streets of Portland and came across the silhouette of a modern art woman.  She didn’t have a true-to-form female body, but it did have the “lovely lady lumps” stacked on the front.  It was just enough for me to think it would be funny to feel her up for a picture.  To which I did. 

Donald Maass regularly talks about “quirks” in his books and through tweets.  They are the bits to a character which makes them unique and real.  On July 19th, he tweeted “What’s a foundational attribute of your MC? Create an odd tic or habit that implies the opposite. Add six times. Voilà: a quirk.”   The follow up tweet, “Start with the first standout quality: quirks. Effective quirks create a contradiction” finished the lesson.  Besides the fact he’s genius for teaching a writing technique in two 146-charactered lines, he makes a great point.  It’s these little things we do that make us the characters we are, like gaping our mouths wide open while we take offensive pictures. 

I’m not sure what it says about my character by having the same humor as a high school freshman.  The fact I cannot leave sculpted genitalia alone might indicate I have a much bigger problem in my life.  But it did give a perfect example about writing quirks.  What can I say?  I do it all for my craft.  What quirks do you have?  What tics make you who you are?

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An interesting conversation broke behind the scenes of Breaking Books after my last post about Ethan’s battle.  I went back and forth with a friend who is going through a difficult situation.  True, it’s not cancer of a child, but it’s having a significant impact on her life.  The question was posed, “I always tell myself that I am lucky and that things could be worse.  And I always count my blessings.  So then when is it okay to feel something?”  (This feels very much like a Carrie Bradshaw moment of ending the paragraph on a question.)

Everyone has something to feel grateful for in their life if they look hard enough.  Even the family in the previous post has blessings to count.  They have a lovely home with a perfect lawn, two healthy children, and they’ve had the pleasure of their son for nine years no matter what the future brings.  Does this lessen the sadness?  Of course not because it’s emotion and emotions are illogical.  How events and people affect our psyche make us individuals.  These are our character traits that make us different from the next guy.  This topic is nicely touched on in Delirium by Lauren Oliver when love is eradicated.  It gives the perspective of a world that is supposed to be better off because emotions aren’t driving decisions.  It’s also a cold place where a mother doesn’t comfort a child when they are hurt.  Not a good trade off if you ask me.

Having emotions doesn’t make you selfish or spoiled, it’s what makes you human.  Some of us feel them stronger than others and they have an overwhelming impact on our rationalization.  But it’s what we do after the emotions die down that make the person.  Do you gain some perspective or let yourself continue to spiral into a place where you don’t even recognize yourself in the end?  In the past, I’ve allowed the latter to happen.  I’ve worked for years to overcome this adversity in my personality.  But even knowing that, today I had a mini-meltdown when a best friend from years ago friended me on Facebook last night only to BLOCK me today.  I didn’t even get a chance to check out her info since I approved it on my phone.  Where is the fun in that?  I spent an hour trying to figure out what happened which left Hubs staring at me like I’d grown a second head.  I know it’s part of my “crazy,” but it’s what I do with that information that determines the type of person I am.

A problem doesn’t have to be doused in tragedy to make it matter.  It makes it no less of an event because it doesn’t have fatal consequences.  The impact on the person drives its validity.  Feel what you feel.  It’s not up for debate how long it takes you to get past your hurdle.  That’s your choice to make.  Some are bigger than others and may need a running start.  Mine trips me up at unsuspecting times when I think I have a good stride going.  But when I do fall, I try to bounce up in hopes no one was looking, dust the dirt of my ass, and continue down the street like nothing happened at all.

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The Man In My Life

It may be hard to believe, but this blog is not about Mikel Jollett.  I know, it seems lately I can discuss nothing else, but today I’m going to focus on the other male in my life.  The one who stood behind the camera, gathered the signatures from the other band mates, and of course asked Mikel if they were going to sleep together.  He is my Hubs. 

Hubs is an interesting character I’ve known for twenty years, been “together with” for eighteen, and last month celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary.  He is highlighted in many of my blogs, like here.  Lately people keep telling me how funny he is.  This is a fact I’ve known forever.  But the punch line about his humor, which everyone takes so much pleasure, is the fact it’s only funny when you aren’t the subject.  The minute the conversation turns and you are on the hot seat all of a sudden the “funny guy” turns into a huge asshole.  Now, this is where I find it most amusing.  His innocence in turning most conversations into something horribly uncomfortable is one my simplest pleasures.  Without any effort, he keeps a straight face when making someone else squirm, grimace with confusion, or even walk away in disgust.  It’s hilarious.

Hubs has made such an art out of this, I gave him a Facebook page*.  Some of you know about the place where I post his most unflattering pictures, his quirky habits, and the strangest situations he puts us into.  Yes, I say “us” because most of the time I’m the one standing next to him saying “he didn’t really mean it” or “he’s totally kidding.”  Some of my favorites are:

  • Insistence on not having more than 10 friends of Facebook.  Even though he’s upped it to 20 recently, there have been many battles and hurt feelings when deleting close friends to make room for others.  Don’t worry, he deleted his own father.
  • The time he gave the fake name at Dairy Queen to match the other names before him.  Needless to say, when the orders came out, it was a huge clusterfuck.
  • When a friend said she loved another friend, he called her padded answer by putting her on the spot with the question “What do you love about her?”  After five minutes of uncomfortable hemming and hawing, she said “I just do.”  To which he answered, “Doesn’t sound like it.”

His charm was proven once again this weekend when we went camping.  In the breezy Oregon beach air, we shared gin and tonics with friends around a campfire.  Hubs went to make another round.  He flicked his unmelted ice and lime slice into the next campsite.  An occupant of said spot walked over with the lime slice in hand. 

“It looks like you lost something,” she said.  Hubs looked down to the next lime slice he’d cut for the second round.

“Nope, I’ve got mine right here,” he said. 

With a perplexed look, the woman kept the slice in hand and returned back to her site.  Any other guilty party would have apologized for being careless and promised not to throw any more trash in their site.  Not Hubs.  In fact, later she came over to apologize about being accusatory when it was now obvious one of the annoying crows flying around probably picked it up and dropped it on her after realizing it wasn’t food.  Hubs graciously accepted the apology and agreed he too had been hit by crow debris.

Some may think he does these things to be a jerk.  I can vouch he really doesn’t.  It’s just him.  He’s completely honest almost to a fault.  He’s black and white when it comes to right and wrong.  He’s devoutly loyal and loves his children.  He watches bad television like Ice Road Truckers and makes up the porn name replacements like “Ice Road Fuckers.”  He won’t eat anything “white and creamy” like sour cream or mayonnaise.  He loves his motorcycle, believes in Bigfoot, and can’t wait for the day he can leave society all together for a Unibomber cabin in the woods.  (I think five minutes after my funeral.)

Hubs is the most interesting character I know.  In my writings, you will find pieces him here and there.  We’ve been together too long for him not to have a huge impact on my characters, thought processes, and writing all together.  But hopefully when you do catch that glimpse of him it has the humor everyone loves.  Because they’re right…he is a helluva funny guy.

*If you want the page, let me know.

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