Between the lines…

I keep opening up WordPress and staring at my dashboard thinking I need to write something, but mostly I just hear a lot of screaming inside my head. This is because I usually just read the latest headline regarding a certain deranged, blaze orange, narcissistic game show host who’s about to be given free reign over nuclear weapons and all his willfully ignorant and deranged cult followers.

But I don’t want to talk about that.

Instead, listing…

1.) I’ve been listening to the same music on repeat. This isn’t exactly a new thing, but my sanity is at critical mass regarding the aforementioned Shit I Don’t Want To Talk About and I need to maintain some semblance of calm in my bad addled brain. Nothing achieves that quite like listening to music I love ad nauseam. Right now we’ve got O.A.R., Andy Grammer, Eric Hutchinson, and Ingram Hill in heavy rotation. They are good for the soul.

2.) The Christmas tree still stands in the living room, in part because I am a procrastinator, and in part because I don’t want to put away the lights. I want to keep the lights up year round. I don’t need the tree or the ornaments, just the lights. I wonder if I could convince Robert to let me hang some in the loft…

3.) Basil seems to have expended all of his Tyler pipe dreams. Which is a bit of a blessing and relief, but he’s also being obnoxiously quiet on ideas in general. Because of course he is. There is no in between with him. Because he’s an asshole. But we’ve been over this.

4.) I’ve come to the conclusion that there is really only one story in the active list that is truly viable in its current state. As in, it has a definitive start and end point, and a clear plot in the middle. I’ve been beating my head against the wall over it for over a decade at this point (or half a decade as it currently exists) but it’s the one I should really be focusing on. Perhaps I should be listening to the Ben & Marina soundtrack on repeat for inspiration.

5.) I have a long list of house projects I need to get done but my focus is shot. (No–no, more than usual.) They are mostly small things that would take little time to complete, and having it done would make a lot of other things so much easier, but…ech… (see list item number one)

6.) Costco stopped selling Sobe vitamin water so we switched to the Vitamin Water brand. It’s taken some adjustment because we are creatures of habit and resistant to change. Something so insignificant shouldn’t cause such a disturbance, but we’re great like that. The orange flavor tastes like watered down Tang. Watered down Tang reminds me of the Farm. That was always pretty much the only available beverage for YEARS because well water wasn’t suitable for drinking. Christmas this year had me feeling a little wistful about the Farm. The family is gearing up to sell it now that both my grandparents are gone and it feels really weird to know that I’m probably never going to see the place again. I didn’t spend nearly as much time there as a lot of my cousins (or even my siblings) but it’s always been THERE and it won’t be long before it’s gone. (Or under new ownership, that is.)

7.) Life. It’s weirdly exhausting.

Swinging at smoke…

Writing is hard.

It’s a very cyclical thing for me. It moves along in stages. What those stages are, how long they last, and whether or not I recognize them as they’re happening all vary on a case by case basis.

Right now I’m in the JFC everything is crap stage.

It happens.

I’ve spent a lot of time staring at my writing folder—like I do—trying to discern what I should be working on. Truth is, I really don’t know.

Once upon a time I went through and summarized all of my “active” projects. It was a lot more difficult than it should have been. And I’ve been trying to do an updated version of it with the current active list for…a long time. It’s an exercise in brevity and it’s incredibly difficult for someone like me who has a tendency to ramble incessantly, especially when it comes to talking about writing.

I want to write a brief summary of the plot, a few notes on where my brain is at on the given project, and a snippet of text from the actual story. Problem is I could go on for hours about each one when “summarizing” the plot. (I might need to lookup the actual definition of the word summarize, because clearly it doesn’t mean what I think it means.) As for where my brain is at with each one, a lot of it generally comes out as fuck if I know. And when it comes to pulling out a few lines of text…I want to take paragraphs.

And then I have a twenty-thousand word post.

Give or take.

I’ve considered doing an individual post on each one in a series. Then I could ramble all I want. But it’s supposed to be about brevity. And while that’s clearly not one of my strong suits, that’s what I want it to be.

So as it goes with everything in writing, I keep hacking and slashing until it resembles something I’m more or less okay with.

Or I shove it back in the drafts folder and forget about it for awhile.

Fair warning…this whole thing is five-thousand-some-odd words. (The last one I did was 3000+…so…)

So much for that whole brevity thing, I guess.

Hey—it’s fairly brief commentary for each story. But once you pile them all together…

Continue reading “Swinging at smoke…”

Forget this feeling…

It’s November.

It’s currently pouring rain.

In Minnesota.

Did I mention it’s November?

Last year at this time we had snowbanks (and then it melted and barely snowed again all winter…bwuh?) but today we have rain.

Weather just keeps getting weirder all the time.

1.) I briefly entertained the idea of doing NaBloPoMo again this year. But then I remembered that last year wasn’t really a positive experience so…no. Blogging for 30 days straight didn’t kickstart anything, it didn’t make me a better writer, it just made me dread the task at hand. If I start to dread writing something is very wrong.

Anyway.

2.) This week marks the start of Bob’s year-end vacation spree. He barely uses any vacation time all year and then takes it all at the end. Short weeks, long weekends, and the last two weeks of the year all to ourselves. (Pesky holiday-social-obligations notwithstanding. I’m really dreading the drama that’s inevitable this year.) I get so spoiled with him home so much and it’s awesome.

3.) Sifting through some old blog entries, I realized this current bout with writer’s block has been hanging around for over a year at this point. I’ll get brief moments of inspiration and spill out a pile of words here and there, but for the most part, it’s still sitting at critical mass and I’m trying really hard to not start hucking rocks at people.

4.) I’ve been going through a lot of my existing writing projects, trying to figure out the problem areas, and what I might be able to do to fix them. Ninety percent of the time, it’s the narrative. I get a fairly solid outline down on the page and then time comes to fill in the narrative and it all goes to hell. Narrative is the bane of my writing existence.

We’ve been over this.

5.) I’ve been thinking a lot about Ben & Marina lately. I haven’t really touched that story in a long time. It’s always poking me whenever writing is on the brain—which is…always—but I decided to step back for awhile instead of trying to force things that weren’t working. I opened it up again recently and read through pieces here and there and was once again reminded how much I love this project. I have the majority of major plot points in place, I just need to connect them all with proper narrative. I even have an actual beginning AND ending written for this thing. It’s that damn narrative problem that’s killing me. As much of a [self-inflicted] headache explaining the dysfunction between Ben and Marina can be, this story has some of my very favorite scenes I’ve ever written. And once I finally got the character list right, I haven’t felt the need to overhaul it like so many other projects. Even stepping away from it for so long, I still love the cast of characters at the core and that’s not a common occurrence. And maybe by the time I finish this damn thing (HEY—A GIRL CAN DREAM) I’ll come up with a proper title for it, because the code name Reunion From Hell is completely irrelevant these days.

What’s left of my mind…

I changed to a new blog theme for about ten minutes and decided I couldn’t stand to use it until it’s undergone extensive editing. I have no idea if I’m going to be able to properly edit the parts that need it—without enough PHP and WordPress know-how at least—which pretty much means it’ll be another five years before I MIGHT get it changed.

Anyhoozits…

When I started writing so many…many…many years ago, I wrote in a linear fashion. I started at the beginning and wrote through to the end. Or…as far as I could get before I got stuck/lost interest/realized it was going nowhere/whathaveyou. And this worked. To an extent. But even when a story had a clear plot and path to follow, I so rarely actually finished a project because inevitably I would get stuck on one little piece that I couldn’t get past, and the whole thing would derail.

I would have ideas and plenty to write beyond that part I was stuck on, but I spent so much time STUCK on that one part, even if I managed to eventually work past it, I’d lose those other ideas because I didn’t write them down when I had them.

Eventually I did learn to write those things down. I’d keep up with the linear timeline, but fill up separate documents with these other ideas for later in the story. Then when I got to that point, I could piece in what I’d already written. In theory at least. It kind of worked. I wasn’t losing the ideas into the black abyss of my brain quite so much, but now I had several dozen other documents to sort through to find what I needed when I needed it. And that was usually a disaster, because when I needed a specific scene, it would take forever to find it—if I could find it at all. I’d spend a whole lot of time looking for something in particular, unable to find it, and then question myself if I ever actually even wrote it down in the first place.

That was when I started lumping everything for a given story into one document. I’d write the ideas as they came and everything would be right there when I needed it. If there was something that I wasn’t sure really belonged in the main story (back story/side story/whathaveyou story) I’d put it in a separate document, but everything else was written in the main document. I wasn’t losing as much material, but I was screwing myself in a whole new way. I’d write the ideas as they came. But they were also placed in the order they came to me. So reading back through, the scenes jumped all over the timeline and if there were pieces that belonged next to each other—but hadn’t been written in that order—I had to scroll through pages and pages of text to find it.

From there I learned to keep things organized by the timeline. I still wrote scenes as they came, but I filled them in, in between other scenes where they actually belonged in the overall story. I write out of order, but reading back through the document, everything happens in the time it’s supposed to. There are huge holes in the narrative, but the general timeline is there.

And this is how I’ve been maintaining for several years now. It works for me and my disjointed brain. I’m still not finishing things, but I’m getting a hell of a lot more writing done. And if I get completely stuck on a given project, I move to a different one entirely that allows me to keep writing. I might have twenty-some active projects at any given time, but at least I’m not staring at a blinking cursor, completely paralyzed by my inability to figure out whatever it is I’m stuck on in a specific story.

I could guess my writing methods would cause other writers to break out in hives from the stress of it all. But as erratic as it is—it WORKS for me. I’m WRITING. It might be rough, fantastic, or completely inane, but I’m writing.

Which brings us to Ben and Marina.

OH BIG SURPRISE.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written anything new on this project, but even with everything else I find myself working on, this one is constantly on the brain. I’ve reached a point with this project that I have most of the key plot points written. They might not be fully hashed out, but they’re there. There are just gaping holes in the narrative that need to be filled in to connect all of those points together. Narrative is the bane of my existence. It’s the one thing I struggle most with. Especially when it comes to figuring out how much or how little information I actually need on any given plot detail. I have so much information on the lives of these characters built up in my head, I have a difficult time discerning what is actually relevant to the story and what is just for my own demented entertainment.

I think I’ve reached a point with this project where I need to shift back to a more linear process. I need to start at the beginning and work through to fill in the missing information and weed out anything that seems excessive. I keep trying to jump around the timeline to fill in the gaps and I find myself getting lost in the process. Writing out of order gets the bulk of the story on the page, but making it coherent and cohesive is going to require following the actual timeline.

It’s just a matter of finding the focus I need to get it done.

And that is the biggest hurdle of them all.

Don’t run away this time…

I’ve been trying to muster up a blog post for…awhile…and…I got nothin’.

I have a knot on my forehead from smashing into the edge of the freezer while putting groceries away.

Because I am just that talented.

I had no idea I touched my forehead so much over the course of a day until I had a bruise to hit EVERY. DAMN. TIME.

Ow.

In the meantime…

Andy Grammer released a new song with a new album slated for “late summer”…whatever that means. I’m stupidly excited.

I want to smoosh him.

Also Matt Hires put out a new EP this week.

Another Matt in my collection?

Yes I collect Matts.

What?

We’ve been over this.

He has a excessively played song on the Ben & Marina soundtrack that is so very Ben.

Also in new music that I’ve put into heavy rotation…

Better Than Ezra.

There’s a new album on deck for “summer release”…again…whatever that means. But whee!

They also have the song that kicks me in the gut every time it comes up in the rotation of the beat to death Ben & Marina soundtrack. The song that plays over one of my very favorite moments between the those two characters.

AND…new music from O.A.R.

Their new album is slated to drop in June. And yes. I’m excited for that one too.

And because I keep bringing up the damn Ben & Marina soundtrack…

Can’t say I’m making a whole lot of progress on the writing front as of late, but I’ve been reading through a lot of what I have written on various projects and surprisingly I’m not hating every last word of it.

So…that’s…something?

This could last forever…

I don’t know how to write narrative.

We’ve been over this.

When I first started writing…twenty-plus years ago…I wrote in first-person. (But NEVER first-person present-tense JESUSFUCKINGCHRIST people knock that shit off.) Most of the books I read were written in first person. It was what I knew. I don’t know exactly when I made the switch to third-person narrative. It was sometime after I finished my grand masterpiece, but that’s about all the memory I can muster. I don’t even remember what the first project I tried writing in third-person was. I just know that I struggled quite a bit making the transition as it was so foreign to me. Now I struggle to write in first-person. It just no longer works for my methods. I have too much to say from the perspective of multiple characters and I’m not a fan of the trend of switching character perspectives every chapter.

One thing I do miss about writing in first-person, however, is the ease of telling back story. It was so much easier for me to fill in the necessary details when I was telling “my” story. Writing in third-person, I just haven’t figured out how to do that in a cohesive manner. It always ends up as a disjointed information dump that never quite hits the mark. (Kind of like this drivel.) Best I can muster usually is extensive conversation between characters, letting the dialogue fill in the back story. It works in some instances, but most of the time it just doesn’t. And that’s where most projects fall apart.

The gaddamn narrative.

That is why the Ben & Marina project has hit such a massive brick wall. Well…ONE of the main reasons at least. I need the narrative to properly fill in the gaps between dialogue and I’m struggling with figuring out just what exactly is actually relevant to tell. I have so much back story built up (in my head) surrounding these characters, I have no idea what is relevant to the current story and what is just filler for my overloaded brain.

Do I need to explain the origins of certain character nicknames? It’s not difficult to figure out why everybody calls Brody Mouth, but calling Jake Mouse doesn’t translate quite the same. And why the hell does Ben constantly call Marina Gator? I know the origins, but is it relevant to the current story? It’s probably worth noting somewhere along the line that Marina is the only person who knows the truth of how Ben’s last relationship ended, as it plays a significant role in his trepidation in regard to just going for it with Marina, but how much detail is necessary? Does it matter that Ben showed up drunk on Marina’s doorstep and she coddled him while he puked, then soothed his wounded (and severely hungover) ego with bacon ice cream? What about the necklace she always wears (that he gave her) or the tattoo on her wrist? Those are pretty telling details as to how she really feels about the “bane” of her existence, but where do those details fit in to the overall story? ((He gives you jewelry and you have a tattoo specific to him. I can totally see how you two hate each other.)) And when it comes to explaining the stupidly dysfunctional dynamic between them, how many words do I need to spend to say once upon a time Ben was kind of an ass but eventually grew out of it, but Marina has extreme trust issues and doesn’t know how to let go of a damn grudge. Thirty-three? That’s the gist of the problem, but it doesn’t make for very interesting reading. Although it would save me a lot of agony in the long run, I suppose.

It’s funny though. With as much as I’ve struggled with narrative in this story, the actual beginning of it is two pages of straight narrative. It currently feels like a forced information dump, but still. That coupled with the fact that I struggle just as much with beginnings (and endings) as I do the narrative (on any project) turns this whole thing into that much more of a head-scratcher.

There is nothing particularly groundbreaking about the plot of this story, but I never set out to do that in the first place. I write stories I would want to read. If nobody else finds them interesting, I’m not really concerned with that. I have no intention of publishing any of it in an official capacity anyway. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to actually FINISH the damn thing.

Personal victories and all that.

A simple piece of paper shouldn’t be so irksome, but every time Marina looked at it, she wanted to rip it to shreds. Never mind the fact that she had created it, she still wanted to set it (and the couple hundred more just like it sitting on her desk) on fire.

She’d agreed to design her sister’s wedding invitations (and save the date cards and programs, et al) without a second thought. It wasn’t until the event was just weeks away and Lanie sent her the relevant information to make the programs for the ceremony, that she suddenly regretted taking on the job.

It was ridiculous really, that a simple wedding program spiked her ire so much. Two names, two titles, side by side on a piece of fancy cardstock…it all seemed rather innocuous.

Except that it wasn’t.

Not to Marina.

      Maid of Honor…Marina Harrell
      Best Man…Benjamin Heyman

When her sister Lanie had announced her engagement to Sam, the reaction from everyone was one more of, “it’s about freaking time,” versus, “YAY! Congratulations! ” Lanie and Sam had been childhood best friends and high school sweethearts, but it wasn’t until they both finished grad school that they finally got engaged. This wedding was a long time coming. That same night, Lanie had asked Marina to be her maid of honor. She had accepted the role, despite the fact that she knew instantly she’d be walking down the aisle of their hometown church on the arm of Ben.

Benjamin Heyman—the boy next door. He was her brother Brody’s best friend. He was Sam’s cousin. He was the one whom Marina so affectionately referred to as the bane of her existence. Most considered Marina’s disdain for Ben to be on the side of over-dramatic, but Marina begged to differ. Seven years her senior, Ben had long considered her the little sister he never had. He teased her and tormented her just like the two older brothers she did have, but as they grew up, she learned to get along with her brothers.

Ben…was an entirely different story.

Ben knew just how to push all of her buttons and crossed every line Marina drew in the sand. Marina knew his weak points, and exploited them strategically as the mind game was far more effective when she stopped just short of pulling the trigger. Countless disputes ended with the prospect of never speaking to one another again. Apologies were always issued after both had time to defuse, but while Ben put forth the effort to make friends, Marina often found it nearly impossible to play along.

Even when he was being nice, Marina struggled see him as anything more than obnoxious. The aggravation was only intensified by the fact that the rest of her family loved him and couldn’t quite understand why Marina seemed to be incapable of getting along with him. He was an only child until age seventeen when little brother Chris was born. He more or less adopted the neighbor family as his own and the sentiment was returned in spades.

It drove Marina crazy.

She was asked frequently to explain her fervent dislike for Ben. The short answer was he was an ass and an obnoxious one at that. The long answer was much more long-winded, often punctuated with an abundance of expletives. She defined their relationship in four parts: the early years of indifference, ten years of torment, the college years, and after the apology.

The early years were easy to explain, she was too young to really remember them, and Ben was largely indifferent to her existence. Little boys weren’t interested in babies, toddlers, or even preschoolers. They had five good years of peace and that was the end of it. Eventually they crossed a threshold. Marina reached an age when her brothers, Brody and Nate, discovered it was much more fun to tease and torment their younger sister rather than just tolerate her. Ben, having no younger siblings of his own, didn’t want to miss out on the experience. Even with the eventual arrival of three more siblings—Lanie and Jake for the Harrell kids, Chris for Ben—it didn’t shift focus from Marina being the target of choice for the oldest three.

Admittedly ten years might have been a bit of an exaggeration—it was more like seven or eight years of torment—but being on the receiving end of the big brother teasing had a way of distorting one’s view of the situation. Especially as the one smack in the middle of the five Harrell kids and the two Heyman brothers. The tormented years overlapped the college years when Brody and Ben moved on to higher education and two years later Nate followed. They might have only been in the next city over, but it was enough distance to usher in a change of perspective and time to grow up for all parties involved.

After four years of college, Ben continued on to grad school and moved away from their tiny hometown on the western outskirts of Grand Junction, across the state to a school in Denver. Marina counted her blessings and enjoyed the reduction of annoyance in her life. She’d since learned to get along with Brody and Nate, but while Ben didn’t tease her quite like he used to, she still viewed any time spent together as an unnecessary evil.

Three years later, with a master’s degree in hand, Ben debated staying in Denver or finding a job closer to home. Meanwhile, Marina prepared for her own college career. She’d had reservations about choosing a school in Denver, knowing that it would bring her closer to her greatest annoyance, but eventually accepted that the city was, in fact, big enough for the two of them to coexist.

Then there was The Apology. Marina cringed at her own choice of words. It made things sound like a damn romantic comedy, though it was anything but. The title stuck, however, as it was exactly that—an apology. If Marina had to define her relationship with Ben in only two parts (instead of four) it would be split before the apology and after. It was a distinct mark in the timeline. It changed everything.

Days before she was scheduled to officially leave for the move to Denver, Ben approached Marina and asked if they could talk. He issued her a genuine apology for all the years of teasing and torment he put her through. He’d planned his words carefully, waiting for a time he thought she would be ready and willing to accept an apology from him. Marina wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the speech, convinced if she accepted without question, he’d turn it around and say it was all a ruse. To say she had trust issues would be the understatement of the millennium. In time she realized he was serious—he had actually grown up—even if it didn’t fix everything.

They didn’t become the best of friends, but her tolerance threshold for his general presence increased over time. They still argued frequently, but it became a level playing field instead of Ben always holding the upper hand. It helped too, that they rarely saw one another, despite now living just five miles apart. Marina’s four years of college turned out to be the most civil years of their entire relationship thus far.

After graduating, Marina landed a job in Denver, and even though they still lived just five miles apart, typically the only time she and Ben saw one another was when they went home to visit their families. Their relationship transformed from one that was always strained to one that was just, for lack of a better word, dysfunctional. Their ability to argue like the world was ending remained strongly intact, but they also gained the ability to get along…sometimes. One might dare say they forged a friendship out of the ashes of the countless burned bridges in their convoluted past. Although one generally did not dare say this in front of Marina, lest one was looking for a few colorful words, a smack upside the head, and a middle finger as she stalked out of the room. Sometimes double middle fingers if the term Drama Queen was uttered upon her exit.

It had been ten years since that major shift in the tides. Neither one could explain how nor why they functioned together the way they did. It was the dynamic of their relationship, and while it didn’t seem to make a single shred of sense—to anyone—that was the way things worked.

Or didn’t work, as was usually the case.

As Lanie and Sam’s wedding loomed near, Marina wasn’t sure how to prepare herself. She’d be spending two full weeks at home and Ben would be there the entire time. She wanted to believe it wouldn’t be so bad, but her pessimistic tendencies—and past experience—convinced her otherwise.

One by one they drive me crazy…

Wherein Sara babbles, at great length, about the writing projects currently burning holes in her brain.

In other words, none of it will make any sense to anyone but me, and even I probably won’t understand any of it either.



There are times I sit and stare at the projects sitting in my writing folder and find myself wondering what the hell all these code names mean. So many of them have nothing to do with the actual project, I have to wonder what I was thinking when I named them. Then again I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wonder that about the newest projects too.

It’s kind of sad that even I don’t understand what the hell any of it means and I’m the one who CREATED IT.

@reference… Varied and sundry reference files I’ve felt compelled to save from research I’ve done over time. I could probably delete a lot of what’s in that folder because when I look through it, I have no idea what a lot of it was even for in the first place.

@stalled… Projects that have been put to bed indefinitely, but still hold the potential to turn into something if I ever find new inspiration to work on them. Folders get moved in and out of this one at random depending on how I feel about them at a given time.

baylor… Darren Baylor is the newest artist signed to the Chance Records label under Will Jenkins’ tutelage. He finds himself recording his major-label debut with the famed Jenkins siblings, Kate and Marc. Inane late night conversations and romance ensue along side of familial drama.

boy nextdoor… This thing probably belongs in the “seek therapy” folder, but it hasn’t been buried there just yet. Hallie is a 33 year old former high school teacher who tutors her 18 year old neighbor Chris. All is business as usual until he professes his love for her and she finds herself seriously considering the prospect of a May December romance, while fully acknowledging she’s likely going straight to hell for even thinking about it.

She wanted to restore a little more of his confidence, even though she knew she was just packing her things into the hand basket for her one-way ticket to hell.

brother’s keeper… Alex opens her door to her delinquent stepbrother Nick, knowing full well she’s going to regret it. It doesn’t take long for him to end up in the hospital after an accidental drug overdose, followed by a 90-day stint in rehab. In the meantime, she finds an unexpected supporter in Ryan, one of Nick’s friends. Shocking, because she’s pretty much guaranteed to hate any of Nick’s friends. Romance ensues. Because it always does.

“Take a shower and burn your clothes. You smell like bong water in a dirty ashtray.”

desmond… Marissa has been Emery’s assistant for five years. He was engaged when they met, to a woman who eventually broke his heart. The pair have been dancing around the fact that they’re in love with each other, both denying the truth, until one night Emery gets drunk, calls Marissa for a ride, and ends up drunkenly professing his love for her. They find themselves toeing the line of professionally acceptable (he’s her boss after all) and what they really want.

“Alright fine. Stick with your platonic business lunches. Just know you’re not fooling anybody. Except maybe yourself.”

dreamweaver… Alison and Parker have been roommates for three years, and friends for more than twenty. A blast from the past resurfaces unexpectedly and apologizes for being a complete dick in high school. The ex-husband regrets ever asking for a divorce. The best friend ends up in her bed in the midst of a depressive slump that has everyone worried and on edge.

executive decision… Juliette and her small-time web design business get hired for a personal project for Andrew Gaynor, local self-made multimillionaire. He’s a shameless flirt and she doesn’t deal in bullshit. Personalities clash until Juliette caves and agrees to a date with Andrew, wherein she finds out he’s not the pompous ass she thought he was. Romance ensues amidst medical emergencies and a whole lot more drama.

The air of arrogant confidence that had once radiated from him had crumbled, gone completely. In its place stood a timid, broken, kid.

freelancer… There are two separate projects sitting under the Freelancer moniker and probably half a dozen other side projects exploring what if scenarios. There is a lot of crackpot drivel sitting there that should never be allowed to see the light of day, but is often way too much fun to write. The legitimate projects follow the same character Kate and the two ways she gets a job with Flammable Tech Productions…one in which she ends up with Michael and the other where she ends up with Joel. Both scenarios were spawned by bizarre dreams that had me wondering if I should stop smoking crack before bed. It’s this hodgepodge of projects that made me realize Kate’s like the office bicycle—everybody’s had a ride. Kate’s kind of a h0r. (Not really. I just make her look that way every time I concoct a new scenario of what if THIS happened?)

grammer check… Andrew Mason was the second ever Chance Records artist I created. He was somewhat of a veteran in the music business when I initially wrote him into another story, but when I decided to give him his own story, I moved him to present day Chance Records and signed him as a new artist all over again. The famed Jenkins siblings (Kate and Marc) are on board to produce his debut album and after spending twelve weeks working together, Kate finds herself in a position she always swore would never ever happen—in love with a musician, a one Andrew Mason.

“You probably think I’m a raging, insufferable bitch right about now.”

He laughed, shrugging, “I wouldn’t say that. I think you have little patience for people who clearly don’t know how to do their job—justified. But you’re still nice enough to answer their stupid questions even though it drives you crazy.”

“Out of that you concluded that I’m nice?”

“Why are you up at six in the morning for a conference call with people you have no obligation to talk to?”

She opened her mouth to respond and promptly snapped it shut.

grey matter… I have the whole timeline planned out on this thing—where it should start, where it should end, all wrapped up in a nice five-day package. But I can’t get the characters right. There have been so many changes made, I’ve lost count how many different people have been through this casting call. It might be on the way to the stalled folder until I can get this shit figured out.

missing in action… Ryan Mills is a rockstar on the rise signed to the Chance Records label. He’s on a hiatus between touring and recording his next album and returns to his tiny hometown for the first time since he left fifteen years ago. He never thought he’d return after the way things fell apart with his dad, but if his sister has her way, there will be reconciliation before he leaves town again. In the meantime he runs into Hallie—the high school crush he’s held onto all these years—and finds himself rethinking everything he thought he had planned.

Now that he could see her clearly, Ryan realized he’d recognize her anywhere. He watched her curiously as she walked toward him, his heart hammering in his chest.

She looked up at him and smiled, “Can I help you find something?”

He shook his head slowly, trying to swallow past the sudden knot in his throat, “Hey, Hallie.”

So maybe there were two reasons he’d braved coming back.

reunion… Ben and Marina are spending two weeks in their tiny hometown for Lanie and Sam’s wedding. As best man and maid of honor, there’s not much getting around it—especially considering Lanie is Marina’s sister and Sam is Ben’s cousin. It should be a fun, albeit chaotic, trip home. Drama strikes when the long strained relationship between the two comes to a head, putting everyone on edge until tragedy strikes with Marina’s little brother Jake. The two week vacation gets extended while they rebound from Jake’s trip to the emergency room and Ben and Marina finally decide that they’ve had enough of the bullshit drama they’ve been shoving around for a lifetime. They focus on mending their friendship, while everyone focuses on healing after almost losing Jake. And when the trip finally comes to an end, Marina finally admits what she’s been denying was true for years.

Oh Ben and Marina…never have I loved two characters I created so very much. They’ve been stalled at 63,000 words for far too long and as I start from scratch on the timeline of events, the gears are turning on what it is I need to do to fix what’s wrong and make new progress. Much like Ben is the bane of Marina’s existence, this story is the bane of mine.

Ben let her go and bent to kiss her cheek. At the last second Marina turned her head, catching him on the lips. He froze, dark eyes wide. A slow smile spread across his lips and he shook his head, “That’s my move, Gator.”

“Then I’ve learned from the best,” she smirked.

round two… Jacey loved Austin from the time they were twelve years old. He was her first everything. When they got married they had high hopes and aspirations for a lifetime together, and everything was perfect…until one day it wasn’t. It’s been six years since they got divorced and they’re both miserable. Jacey has been looking for an apology from Austin, but despite asking her repeatedly what he’s supposed to be apologizing for, he still has no idea what it is. He wants her back and he’s determined to make things right, but she keeps pushing him away. Nobody believes her when she says she wants him gone for good. She doesn’t deny she still loves him, but refuses to admit she wants him back too. It’s not until Austin tells her he’s finally done chasing her that she admits she doesn’t want him to stop.

After six years she’d almost convinced herself she didn’t want him in her life anymore. If she didn’t have to see him, she could forgive herself easier for giving up when he decided he was finally ready to fight.

saints and sinners… Kailyn is the tour manager for rock band Subtle Definition, and questions several times a day what the hell she’s doing with her life. Dealing with groupies and girlfriends and endless drama, she has five horny twenty-somethings under her supervision, and the last thing she has time for is a relationship. A medical emergency with a member of the band brings everything to a screeching halt and has everybody reevaluating what’s really important.

seek therapy… Where the crack-laden pipe dreams congregate. The home to the ridiculous and inane fanfiction and varied and sundry projects labeled “never see the light of day.” It’s what I write when I need to purge the crazy from my brain. It makes me question my own sanity, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play with.

smoked… Lia is a writer who works from home. She finds herself fixated on the neighbor’s new roommate, the chain-smoking, unemployed younger brother. Despite his multitude of flaws and questionable life choices, Sam turns out to make an interesting friend. A whole host of family drama on both sides keeps them stressed as all hell, but that doesn’t stop the breeding of romance. Because it never does.

spoiled brat… The original idea for executive decision had Andrew Gaynor being a complete douche canoe. But as I developed the character, I realized, it just didn’t fit him. I had a lot written in that direction, so I shoved it aside for awhile, until the brain dredged up a different plan that could use that material. A chance encounter in a coffee shop lands Olivia a photography gig with Parker Investments—the biggest real estate empire in the Midwest. She also garners the attention of Christan Parker, the younger of the two Parker sons poised to one day inherit the empire. It’s unwanted attention for more reasons than she can count, but that doesn’t stop him from pursuing her. Christian doesn’t know the meaning of the word commitment or the word no, but he’s fixated on getting to know Olivia. Olivia has her own life to deal with and has little patience for the spoiled rich brat who won’t leave her the hell alone. In a surprise to no one—romance ensues.

“Are you purposely trying to avoid me?”

“As much as I’d like to say yes to that question, no I’m not purposely trying to avoid you. You just happened to show up at a very inconvenient time in my life.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

She frowned, surprised by the sincerity in his question. The smoldering gaze was softening into one of concern.

“Well I’d appreciate it if you’d dislodge your boner from my hip. But other than that—there’s not much you can do for me.”

He took a fraction of a step back, but didn’t remove his hand from her waist. She felt a drastic shift in his demeanor, from possessive lust to protective concern.

What is with this guy?

teacher’s pet… Hannah is an eleven-year veteran high school English teacher. Chris is fresh out of college starting his first year teaching at the same school. They make fast friends and the more they get to know each other, Hannah finds herself wondering what if and if only. Much to her great surprise (but not the kids playing along at home), Chris is on the same page.

teenage dream… Matt and Alison first met at six years old, started dating at fourteen, and found themselves with a baby just shy of seventeen. They split up at twenty but managed to maintain a close friendship (and then some) in all that time. Fifteen years later, their son Zach is almost ready to graduate high school, and they’re finally ready to try being together again. At the same time Zach’s relationship with Remy is ever-evolving as Remy deals with more bullshit from his family than any one person should in a lifetime.

“I’m seventeen, Mom. I know what sex is. And while I really don’t care to hear the details of my parents’ sex lives, I don’t delude myself into thinking you never have it—with each other. But if there is something actually going on between you two, and I don’t mean sex, I think I deserve to know. Being your son and all.”

Alison nodded, setting a glass of orange juice in front of him, “We’ve been doing a lot of talking lately—more so than usual, anyway. We were thinking…maybe we’d try dating again.”

“Each other I hope.”

No, we were planning on joining a singles’ group together,” she rolled her eyes, shaking her head.

“It might be a little…weird…after all this time,” Matt rubbed the back of his neck, eyes shifting between Zach and Alison, “not quite sure how people will respond to it…but…you’re the first to know.”

“I certainly hope I’m the first,” Zach snorted, “I’m the gay kid of teen parents who never got married…I think I can handle a little weird. And you know how people are going to respond? It’s about fucking time.”

the older man… Once upon a time I had a dream wherein Kiefer Sutherland propositioned me in an elementary school auditorium. The scenario played over and over in my head for far too long as I contemplated the prospect of somehow turning it into some sort of story. Eventually a usable idea manifested and Kailyn finds herself being propositioned outside of an elementary school by Alex. (Though he is not actually based on Mr. Sutherland.) Many curse words are launched, accompanied by the threat of twisting balls, and after an apology and some tense conversation, friendship develops. Adding in a health scare, a spiteful ex-wife, and an excess of varied and sundry drama, the end result is romance. Because of course it is.

I blame Kiefer Sutherland.

theatrical debut… Darren moves home to Colorado after six years living in New York and finds his long-time crush on the [older] girl next door is still going strong. Hannah is finally on the rebound after a divorce from a cheating bastard. When the adorable neighbor kid she used to babysit moves home virtually unannounced, she finds herself wondering when then hell Darren grew up on her. Friendship ensues, long held secrets are revealed, tragedy strikes, drunken confessions are made. And maybe eight years isn’t such a big age gap after all.

unconventional roommates… Jordan decides to open the door to the prospect of a roommate and ends up with a whole lot more than she bargained for in Melissa and Andrew, a mother and her adult son rebuilding their life after escaping a toxic situation on the other side of the country. Twenty-seven years of being heavily sheltered, controlled, manipulated, and abused, Andrew doesn’t trust anybody or know which end is up. Despite being absolutely terrified, he finds himself trusting Jordan as she offers support and teaches him about the world at large. The damage of his toxic upbringing is extensive, making adjusting to his new life nearly impossible, but Jordan is determined to help him heal in whatever ways she can.

This project started out as something VERY DIFFERENT, spawned from a dream that would have put it in a completely different section of a bookstore. But as I toyed with the idea, it morphed and evolved, and pretty much turned into a heavy reflection of my relationship with Bob and how we cope and deal with my mental illness. The circumstances surrounding Jordan and Andrew are so completely different than what Bob and I have experienced in life, but at the core there is a lot of personal experience poured into their interactions and emotions. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to writing about us.

Normal is highly overrated. Also—it’s a bullshit concept. It just gives people the liberty to be judgmental assholes because they wouldn’t do something the same way as somebody else. There are a lot of things about this situation that people would consider weird or wrong, but there is nothing actually wrong with any of it. The only thing wrong here is the fact that you had to go through the shit you did. Nobody deserves that. As far as weird? I don’t care, I fully embrace weird.”

actor list… A list of varied and sundry celebrity types that serves as inspiration when I’m building character lists for projects.

Chance Records… Notes on the multitude of Chance Records artists past and present. There are many that never had their own stories or were merely mentioned in somebody else’s tale. Many I remember the band name, but not the story to go with them. Chance Records is sixteen years old. There’s a lot of history in that fake record label.

name list… A simplified list compiled from hours of scanning through baby name books, whittling things down to acceptable choices to use for characters. I recycle the same names all the time, but occasionally I need something different. This is where I start.

In short…I’ve got too many fucking irons in the fire and it’s really no surprise I haven’t finished a damn thing in about ten years.

Words that come to mind…

Despite making little to no progress on the Ben & Marina story for MONTHS, that project is constantly on the brain when it comes to writing.

It probably doesn’t help (or maybe it does) that I tend to listen to the Ben & Marina playlist several times a week. And as given songs play, the corresponding points in the story roll around in my head. I’m currently hung up on trying to write a scene that doesn’t happen until pretty much the very end of the story. A scene that does not have a specific song tied to it. Maybe that’s the problem. The soundtrack cuts off before the actual end of the story—aside from what would likely play over the closing credits in movie form.

There’s just this stretch of quiet that is both somewhat fitting and slightly unnerving. I’ll have to keep my ears open and explore for some fitting tunes, I suppose. The problem is, it’s so much easier to pick out the songs surrounding the endless (though wholly predictable, because face it, this is ME) conflict between the two of them than it is to pick out songs that fit just as well when the resolution finally happens.

In the meantime, I’ll run with my other piece of inspiration—a little alligator-shaped jewelry box.

Alligators are a prominent detail in the relationship between Ben and Marina.

So much that Gator came along for the ride on our Colorado trip last year. Because Ben and Marina live in Denver. And Gator needed his picture taken at Red Rocks.

Every song on the playlist resonates in some way (why would it be on the list if it didn’t?) but sometimes one will really standout and make me want to keep hitting repeat. One that stands out quite frequently is She (For Liz) by Parachute. Because it is so very Ben.


(She (For Liz) … Parachute)

Forget about yesterday by tomorrow…

I can write pages and pages of dialogue (and the occasional narrative) and find most of it to be crap. Or what I perceive as crap. Somebody else might think it’s okay. Then I go back and read, and reread…and reread…and then something stands out that I actually like and it sticks in my brain and I find myself wondering, “Why can’t it ALL be like that?

But I guess I’ll take what I can get.

The air of arrogant confidence that had once radiated from him had crumbled, gone completely. In its place stood a timid, broken, kid.

After six years she’d almost convinced herself she didn’t want him in her life anymore. If she didn’t have to see him, she could forgive herself easier for giving up when he decided he was finally ready to fight.

She wanted to restore a little more of his confidence, even though she knew she was just packing her things into the hand basket for her one-way ticket to hell.

Ben let her go and bent to kiss her cheek. At the last second Marina turned her head, catching him on the lips. He froze, dark eyes wide. A slow smile spread across his lips and he shook his head, “That’s my move, Gator.”

“Then I’ve learned from the best,” she smirked.

Now that he could see her clearly, Ryan realized he’d recognize her anywhere. He watched her curiously as she walked toward him, his heart hammering in his chest.

She looked up at him and smiled, “Can I help you find something?”

He shook his head slowly, trying to swallow past the sudden knot in his throat, “Hey, Hallie.”

So maybe there were two reasons he’d braved coming back.

Kate heaved a frustrated sigh, shaking her head as she looked down at the package of coffee filters, “I have not had enough sleep for my fingers to be able to separate these things,” she looked up, surprised when Andy appeared next to her, carefully taking the package and plucked a single filter from the stack. He handed them back to her with a smirk, but didn’t say a word.

She stared up at him and shook her head, “You probably think I’m a raging, insufferable bitch right about now.”

He laughed, shrugging, “I wouldn’t say that. I think you have little patience for people who clearly don’t know how to do their job—justified. But you’re still nice enough to answer their stupid questions even though it drives you crazy.”

“Out of that you concluded that I’m nice?”

“Why are you up at six in the morning for a conference call with people you have no obligation to talk to?”

She opened her mouth to respond and promptly snapped it shut. She stared up at him, brows furrowed.

Tucker snorted, shaking his head, “I’ve never seen anybody figure her out that fast.”

Andy looked at him, arching an eyebrow, “Seriously?”

He shrugged, motioning toward Kate, “Katie usually keeps people guessing the entire time they work together. They’re also usually afraid of her.”

“I think most people are intimidated by smart women. Most guys at least.”

“Are you intimidated by smart women?”

Andy turned to look at Kate again, “Why should I be? I have nothing to overcompensate for.”

She eyed him critically and nodded as she poked him in the shoulder, “I think I like you.”

Also, at this point, I’m pretty sure Word is just fucking with me.