Quickie #2 If at first you don’t succeed…

PROMPT: Why do you think some people are successful in life and others are not?

I think it depends on the amount of DRIVE and DISCIPLINE a person has to succeed. Some people can focus on a goal and try for it single-mindedly. They never give up. They take the hits and still keep going. These people want to be better than mediocre; better than their parents were maybe. They are the leaders and trend setters and rebels that press always forward, whether their goal is CEO of a conglomerate or the scientist who makes a break through with Cancer treatment.

Drive makes a difference.

But also discipline.

Something early on in their childhood set them on a course for success. Maybe it was stern parenting or a challenging school teacher. It could be enrollment into sports or music lessons. Something that required the child to focus and get through the hard stuff. Maybe it was curiosity or a real talent for being GOOD at a particular thing. Whatever it was, these special people realized that it was hard work that was always going to get them where they wanted to go so they developed a drive.

Not everyone has this quality though. Some people are fine with mediocre. They’re fine having just enough. It could be a financially poor situation that taught them to be grateful with “just enough” or a godly devotion to work on being spiritual rather than materialistic. Or it could be straight up laziness. Or entitlement; everything was given to them so they never had to work for what they wanted.

Yes, all people have dreams and goals but they may not have the will to reach for them. When one way fails they may not see any other way around or don’t have the energy to research other options. They may not even know WHAT opportunities are out there for them. It could genuinely be a lack of knowledge or resources.

I do believe that drive and discipline can be learned/taught however, for those willing to do the work. It won’t be easy at all. Changing a fundamental part of your being, even for the better, is HARD. But you have to ask yourself, is it worth it to finally know what your dreams taste like in your reality?

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Quickie #1 Love/Hate Story

PROMPT: Write a quick love story. It MUST end badly. 

Girl 1, quiet, creative and meek, is sitting at her desk at school day dreaming about kissing girl 2, a sassy, bold and smart-mouthed rebel. Girl 1 is a photographer for the year book and has free license to stalk girl 2 through a lens.

One day girl 2 ambushes girl 1 and kisses her. When asked why, girl 2 replied, “Because I could see you wanted to but were too chicken shit to try.”

Girl 2 started to talk to girl 1 more and they snuck kisses in empty class rooms and bathroom stalls. Girl 1 found she quite liked kissing girl 2 and they slowly came together, a small and lovely romance budding.

And then a news article came out in the school paper with a picture of them kissing as a headliner and a piece underneath it about LGBTQ. There was an immediate back lash. The school was divided Pro and Con. Girl 1 was devastated about the article and she hid in the bathroom like a frightened 6 year old, crying hysterically. Girl 2 came in, having an opposite reaction. She was pissed and ready to get revenge. She wanted girl 1 to stand up for them, to fight for what she wanted, to throw their relationship into the teeth of the criticizers.

Girl 1 couldn’t do it. She didn’t like the spotlight; she never did. It was why she was always behind the camera instead of in front of it. Girl 2 slammed a fist onto the bathroom door.

“Do you love me?” she demanded.

Girl 1 was quiet for a moment. Girl 2 repeated the question, louder.

“I don’t know.”

Three whispered words destroyed them. Girl 2 stormed out. Girl 1 ditches school for the first time ever and walks home in tears. She doesn’t come to school for three days. When she comes back, she finds her locker is graffitied and she’s been ostracized by her “friends”. She’s slowly pushed out from the year book club. Girl 2 tries to hang out and make it so that nothing is wrong but girl 1 is so embarrassed she can’t stand being around anymore. Girl 2 brings drama wherever she goes now and all girl 1 wants now is peace.

They end their romance before it ever really began.

Girl 2 moves on quickly, hurt by the rebuff and goes on a dating spree while girl 1 slowly begins to find a new set of friends; ones that have been burnt before for being “different”. The true rebels. They set up a plan to get back at the haters. A slow burning anger sets into girl 1 and she does indeed get her revenge against the author of the article using logic and legalities. One last hurrah as a nod to her relationship with the vibrant girl she loved. Girl 1 fought back, in her own way.

Abuse of the first amendment: A tale of love/hate

But any curiosity girl 1 had was stomped out for good and she never did talk to girl 2 again.

All Magic comes with a Price, Dearie.

Sometimes I want to be a kid again.

Okay, ALL the time I want to be a kid again. Everything was Magic.

To them, everything has the potential to be a game and all they had to worry about was playing it. Imagination abounds morning, noon and night and they don’t give a rat’s ass who looks on while they battle dragons or fret over princes rescuing them. Only the adventure matters.

As adults, we lose this magic. Real life interrupts the adventure and evil villains like Bills and Work appear to shackle us with eternal slavitude. (Seriously Disney, make a Bills and Work Villain. Make kids NEVER want to grow up!) Thankfully, we have at least one saving grace, besides questionably healthful drinks like whiskey and coffee.

Yep. BOOKS. (Surprise, surprise 😉 )

Anyone can be an arm-chair traveler! We can sleuth as Sherlock and spelunker with a sexy tour guide in our mind, make dinner, pay bills, and come back to the adventure whenever we’re able. We can visit France, eat pan au chocolat, sip une tea citron and water the garden at the same time. Probably the only bonus to being an adult. We’ve learned to multitask. Reading is a wonderful escape from reality and a piece of recaptured childhood.

There’s something about being a kid that is so magical and carefree. But parts of it really should stay as magical memories. The neighbor girl that you played with and moved away (that you later found out became a crack whore). That trip to Disneyland where you only remembered Mr. Toad’s wild ride (and not getting lost in the mirror maze and screaming your head off till someone rescued you), or going to watch a movie with your parents on a SCHOOL NIGHT (then getting sick later from the popcorn and red vines).

As an avid writer and reader, I can extend this concept to books as well. Books that really should have stayed in my childhood out of self-preservation.

A few years ago I started to re-collect all the books I’d read as a child. The ones teacher’s used to read to us in class and book series I read that I enjoyed. I was so excited to have them again and share them with my own kids. I felt it was important to preserve these friends of mine and even re-read a few to refresh my memory.

This was a mistake.

It came with a price. Cuz all Magic does, right Rumple?

The price was that my standards have risen.

Children are fairly easy to please. The bad guys are conquered and the hero wins. The guy gets the girl in the end. The lost puppy finds his way home. Throw in a little action and some kissy scenes and most of the demographic is happy.

We ENJOYED these stories so much. The simplicity of knowing everything will be alright in the end and that there was always another adventure waiting for us on the book shelf.

Not really so satisfying as an adult. Adults require puzzles and challenges and angst. Something a little more meaty than a kissing scene or a skirmish. We need characters that don’t have all the answers immediately after they come up against a problem and that are multi-faceted enough to seem genuine. Adult readers demand more than children or Young Adult books often give.

But it’s still nice to have the memories. Tread softly with childhood my friends. Preserve them like a rare first edition tome.

Alright! Moving on!

So we’ve covered the reader part of this great magical tragedy. What about the WRITER part of it?

Ahhhh yes let’s flip this problem around on the authors.

How many times have you browsed book shelves and found a series you liked so much that binge read all of them in a week? The author held your attention the entire time and you became so engrossed in the plot you missed several meals and held your pee till the very last second? More than a few I bet. You’ve raved about these books to friends and family and wished the writer would come out with more but they don’t.

Well alright. You move on and you shelve the series under “Most Beloved” in your mind. You might re-read them over the years, like visiting good friends and discover some things you never knew or had forgotten. Your opinions might change and characters that were once your favorite may be knocked off their pedestal in favor of the funny side kick or “one-liner Bob”. You still wish there were more books to enjoy, that you didn’t have to quit the adventure so soon.

What happens when the WRITER wishes this?

…..this is where it becomes tricky my friends. And this is where my heart feels so well–disheartened.

So a writer really enjoyed penning the series you raved about. It was well-rounded, poignant, action packed and maybe even won an award. They sweat, toiled, cried and bled and spun straw into solid gold. Probably thousands of dollars worth of gold. Once they finished the series, they sat back and smiled and got through the book hangover with a good long vacation and maybe a book tour a little later.

Jump forward ten years.

They have several more books or series under their belt now. They may or may not have been more successful with them. They may or may not have won awards or had more tours. Sitting in their grand houses in their special writing room, they look around, trying to drum up some inspiration.

Hmm….What next?

Then something catches their eye. It’s THAT series. YOUR series. HMMMM. There was a lot of potential in that series huh? Things seemed to come together so well and there were a lot of things they meant to do with it. Characters they wanted to flesh out with a side story or two or maybe an origin story. And there was the one villain that didn’t quite fit into the first part of the series but maybe with some tweaking—

I honestly don’t know WHY this happens. Really. IT’S A TRAGEDY!!!!!!

I’m going to be truthful and say that I have NEVER come across a book series that has had a successful return to life.

NEVER.

They all were zombiefied versions of an author that was ten years younger, had a different mindset and different circumstances. I feel like when writers try to resuscitate a long dead series that they’re looking at their tux or dress from prom and confidently thinking they can slip back into it with ease, ten years later. “Nothing much has changed! I’m still as fit as ever!”

Guuhhhh. Seeing fat authors in skinny jeans is something you can never un-read. Trust me. It ruins everything and it taints your previous enjoyment of the beloved book series.

They don’t notice that particular brand of  magic is gone and the price that has been paid is that they have become a different author. 

I made my bestie Owen swear an oath to me. He had to swear to me that when I become successful author and in a decade I even THINK about trying to add on to a series I’ve written, he has to flog me until the idea passes. This is how passionately I believe that once dead, keep dead.

There ARE exceptions of course but this is where tricky comes in.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is one such exception. I say this because the book isn’t about Harry, Draco, Hermione and Ron. It’s about their KIDS. They’re parents in this book and have minimal parts to play. Books written within the same WORLD I think have more success with resuscitation. Genuine “It LIIVVESSSSSS!!!” Frankenstein moments. If someone were to make a continuation of the Narnia series for instance or the Dark Crystal series with only peripheral mentions of characters past, that’s acceptable. (Sorry I can only think of fantasy examples. It is my genre after all.)

Also tricky is when a reader first comes to the series and is able to re-read through the entire old and new halves of it in one go. It may not affect them at all and they simply cannot see anything wrong with the skinny jeans. But to me, it’s like binge watching all the Star Wars. ALL of them. 1 through 7. (Or is it 8 now? I’m losing track.) There are huge glaring differences that CGI and flashy tech simply cannot dazzle me enough to forget.

I’ve learned to be wary when it comes to books from my past. Childhood should be preserved. You should be a kid again of course; just do it the adult way. Don’t try to recapture what you had because you’ll pay the price. It’s not worth it, believe me. I’m writing this blog post to pass on what I’ve learned to you and to my future self. You can agree or disagree. We’re human and have opinions and free will. I’d welcome a comment about your opinions if you feel obliged!

—————DON’T DO IT!!!!!!!! FUTURE JESS, DO. NOT. DO. IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!—————-

😀 Have a pleasant experience my friends and followers. Tread carefully.

The Green Knight (Part #1)

Whatever he touched, grew.

Seeds, bulbs, out of season fruit, clearance bin brown weeds in cracked pots, dying trees set out on the side of the road and notoriously difficult plants to keep alive, like african violets and bonsais. If it could grow, then it would, under his care. That was how met him actually. They were in line at Lowe’s in the gardening department. She had one solitary succulent in a pretty pot. Behind her was a tall, clean-cut man who had a cart full of nothing but brown dying plants and some soil.

“You give new meaning to the Green Knight,” the lady commented, looking down into the cart and whistling impressively.

“Pardon?” His dark brows came together in confusion. The bangles on her wrists tinkled as she shifted her pot from one arm to the other. He saw a flash of a colorful tattoo under her flowing dress. She looked up at him with a friendly grin, a strand of her flamingo pink hair blew in front of her face.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” she explained. “A famous poem about King Arthur’s nephew and a fairy named Bertilak.” She said it as if everyone should know what she was talking about. “About testing a man’s virtue and the truth of his word.” When the dark-haired man continued to stare silently at her she cleared her throat and gestured to his cart. “Annywaayyy are you really going to try bring those back to life? They already have one root in the grave by the looks of it.”

He blinked, trying to catch up, but nodded to the last bit. Sir Gawain? Bertilak? Who talks like that? He couldn’t decide if she was flirting or genuinely being friendly. Or a know-it-all trying to impress him.

“That’s a type of magic then. I even kill these things,” she said, lifting the succulent mournfully. “They’re so pretty and graceful when they’re alive.”

Finally a response spurred his mouth into action. It came out a little more harsh than he intended but he did want to know.

“Then why do you keep trying?”

She shrugged, making more tinkling noise. One of her dangly silver earrings caught on the neck of her dress and she shook her head to dislodge it, wincing as it pulled. She was like a living fairy orchestra or something. She made noise with every movement. It wasn’t unpleasant though.

“Practice makes perfect?” she guessed with a chuckle. “I don’t know really. Just that I like having something alive in the house besides my cat. And the pots are always useful to catch water from the leaky roof.”

She peeked up at him to see if he would smile. He didn’t.

“Have you tried gold-fish?”

It didn’t occur to the man he was being rude at this point. All he could see was new life potentially being carried off to suffer a slow death by a pink haired hippie. She laughed though, accepting the hidden insult behind his words and throwing it back at him.

“Gold fish are ugly. Betas are better and my last one lived for two years before the cat ate it. He gets jealous of any attention I give other animals. Another reason for the plant.”

He nodded and looked away. Awkwardness now. She was undaunted though. She had to see him smile. He looked so stoic. A smile would transform him.

“Any tips for me?”

“What?”

“For the plant. I can see it bothers you the crazy pink-haired lady might be carrying it off to its death.”

“Don’t over water,” he said immediately and seriously. “If the leaves start browning, stop watering. Only do it once a month or so. And maybe get some succulent food.”

Slate grey eyes peered up at him and he looked into them for the first time, making him notice the smattering of freckles on her nose and cheeks. Her glossy pink lips pursed in consideration. She nodded.

“Thanks. That’s good to know actually. Do you ever smile?”

He blinked at her again and she saw his face shift from merely serious to closed down. He thought she was flirting. Not untrue but it was friendly enough. He was a tough customer. She snorted delicately and gave a rueful smile.

“Good luck on your quest, Sir Knight.”

She paid for her plant, looked behind her. He wasn’t paying attention at all. Deliberately so.

RIP little echeveria, he thought, carefully placing his dying specimens on the counter. It would have a few months of good life at least. He paid for his clearance bin projects and rolled the cart to his car. When he popped the trunk and began setting them in a box to avoid spillage, he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“Here.”

The pink haired lady handed him a business card with a crystal ball and a pair of scissors on it with bright pink lettering. He couldn’t see her eyes behind her sunglasses but he had a feeling she wasn’t looking directly at him. She was biting the corner of her bottom lip. He looked down at the card.

“The Psychic Salon?”

“We predict what the future holds for all your beautification needs!”

Her voice was fakey-happy and it made his eye muscles twitch.

“Don’t judge. It pays the bills,” she sighed, acknowledging the ridiculousness of it. “My cell is on the back if you want to check on the plant. I have a feeling.”

He tried not to show any emotion on his face. A few of them swirled in him. Incredulity. Irritation. Humor. And curiosity.

“A feeling?” he asked as she started walking away.

Her hair was a waterfall of ombre pink down the front of her neon dress. He saw more tattoos along her shins and the tops of her sandaled feet.

“Yep. The name’s Flora by the way.”

“That’s ironic,” he said, tucking the card into his jeans pocket.

“Ain’t it though? But at least I’m still alive.”

She waved from a pink (what other color would it be?) VW Beetle and drove too fast through the parking lot, squealing the tires.

Welp, it’s dead now for sure, he thought. Snapped in half by the 2-G turn she just pulled off into the street. He, however, drove home carefully. He had precious cargo in the back so he naturally drove like an 85-year-old granny.

It was a long, lovely drive out of the city and he allowed the day to melt off his shoulders. Not a pink thing to be seen out there except a random tea rose or a hibiscus. When he pulled into his drive way he was greeted by the shushing of the wind through the trees all around. His mind was immediately wiped of the encounter with the pink haired Flora as he made a mental list of chores to do. It was a long list.

______________________________

Flora would be lying if she said she wasn’t disappointed that her cell didn’t ring with a strange man’s number the next day.  Or even the next week. She didn’t really expect it to given his disdain for her murdering plants but a girl could hope. He was a handsome one.

Her cat watched her with derision as she carried the phone all around the tiny apartment, even into the bathroom. She considered dying her hair green and getting it cut. Maybe some bangs? or a pixie cut? She settled on doing her nails instead. Less dramatic.

She researched succulents online. She thought about going back and getting another one, just to spite the unsmiling man. She bought a modest dark green dress and pulled her hair up into a bun. She hated it and returned it the next day for a bright orange one and some gold flats to match.

After the second week, she stopped hoping for the phone to ring with a strange number (that wasn’t bill collectors) and cut her losses.

She resisted the urge to water her little succulent as she stared at it on her table during meals. It went against nature to NOT water things, right? What a backward plant. But the serious face the man pulled on her when he talked about watering was so darn cute it stuck with her. Maybe he was like a succulent too. He was happier being dry and humorless.

She should be used to the disappointment by now. She scared men with her colorful hair, bold tattoos and even more colorful life style. Her choice of career usually put them off especially after they discovered what she could have been. They never understood why she settled for less. Pfft! Stupid male egoism and power. She was socially awkward and in-your-face and enjoyed a good laugh. She always asked for what she wanted and meant what she said. Life was too short to mince words.

She was sure the stoic man was long gone. Sometimes her “feelings” were wrong, mainly when they regarded herself. She confused “feelings” with emotions or desire. She wanted to see what he looked like with a smile. It was important to her somehow.

So it was a delightful surprise when tall, dark and lanky darkened the door step of her work, looking completely out-of-place amid their female clientele. Her first thought when she saw him at the counter was she was glad she wore the matching bra and panties that day. Jesus.

“If it isn’t the Green Knight,” she said casually, looking up from shaving half a woman’s head in an intricate tribal pattern.

She felt a frisson of mean-spiritedness hum briefly in her veins seeing how uncomfortable he looked amidst the gawdy, gypsy caravan interior of the salon waiting room. His dark blue polo shirt and jeans stuck out like a black fly in unicorn poop. The other stylists eyed him with interest, ready to pounce on virgin hair and snag a new client.

“I lost your card,” he said, looking at her and then away.

Was he blushing? Oh gawd. A fierce bubble of hope lifted her mood.

“You lost it?”

“I washed it, actually.”

The salon went dead silent and he slid his hands in his pockets self-consciously. Buzzers stopped vibrating. Magazine pages stopped turning. Bubble gum popping stopped mid snap. He looked at his shoes; probably the safest place for his eyes. The sexual tension in the room went up about 16 degrees and he had the attention of every female in the building now. He fidgeted under the scrutiny.

“Is that so?”

Flora mashed her lips together to stop herself from smiling broadly. He came. She’d been right this time. Her feeling wasn’t wrong then.

“Miha, marry him right now! He does laundry!” a plump woman named Marrieta called from the back, cackling joyfully while she washed a client’s hair.

“Lay off Eta,” Flora called out. “The poor thing is ready to run as it is. He’s a gentle Knight after all.”

“I’ll do him for free!” another dark-haired woman called out, patting the vacant washing chair and snapping a curling iron playfully at him.

“You had the last one Dionne! Give him to me!” called the resident flamboyant gay from another empty chair. He flashed a very white toothy grin and blew a kiss at Flora, who gave him evil squinty eyes.

She breathed deeply to calm the girlish giggles threatening to erupt from her throat and concentrated on finishing up the last details of the shave, before passed her client on for a break. She grabbed the man’s arm and hauled him outside and around the side of the building where they could talk without spying eyes.

“Hi,” she said, putting her hands in the pockets of her apron where he couldn’t see them fidgeting with nerves. She tried to pull off ‘causal’ even if she felt far from it. Her nerves were tingling and distracting her.

“Hi,” he replied.

He looked good in dark blue. He wasn’t looking at her. He was looking everywhere except her but he was THERE. She decided to go easy on him.

“Sorry. You look shell-shocked. Will you ever recover from my embarrassing co-workers?”

She’d worked there so long that they were more family than co-workers really. The teasing and bickering and competition was from years of ups and downs together at the salon. It was second nature to her now and most of the clientele were used to it as well. They enjoyed the casual, playful environment. Like a mexican “Barber Shop” with Flora as the resident white girl. In the face of her green Knight though, every glaring embarrassment was apparent and she felt she needed to apologize.

“Uh…yeah I’ll recover. Eventually. I hope.”

She gave a half-hearted chuckle.

“Time will tell I guess. I know a good therapist though, if you need a recommendation.”

They stood in awkward silence, her joke dying on the vine. They scuffled their feet and shifted their weight, deliberately not looking at each other.

“How’s the echeveria?” he asked quietly.

“The what?”

“The plant you confessed to possibly murdering.”

She gave a full bellied laugh now that briefly revealed a gap between her two front teeth before she covered it her hand. Her nails had been done in bright acid green since he’d last seen her. His favorite shade of green. They matched the sweep of shadow on her eye lids and complimented her mulberry purple lipstick.

“You came all the way down here and offered yourself up on a silver platter to ask about my plant?”

He blinked and looked away from her face.

“Yes?”

Oh he was a rare one.

“It’s not dead yet. I read that it’s pretty hard to kill them actually. One question though.”

He waited. She admired his profile. His lips were nice and full. They even looked soft and moist, not like most men’s lips. Her gut tightened painfully even thinking about getting close to his face. As it was she had to curl her fingers into fists to stop herself from straightening his collar and brushing a fingertip through his soft dark hair.

“You do have a phone right?”

“Yes.”

“And you know how a phone book works. And the internet?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright.”

She nodded and rocked back on her heels, grinning smugly. A car drove passed them and parked in a back spot nearer the liquor store on the other side of Flora’s salon.

“It’s okay if you wanted to see me you know. I like a guy who’s upfront with his attraction. You score extra points for coming to my work.”

She stared up at him, looking closely for any change around his mouth. Last time she tried to flirt he’d shut down. This time there wasn’t even a hint of emotion to give any indication of his mood. Damn he was hard!

“You don’t have any plants in the salon,” he said by way of changing the conversation.

And had a one track mind. What a pity.

“They die too,” she said, resigning herself to working around his pedantic exterior. “Lots of chemicals you know and kids dropping their juice boxes in them or pulling them out at the roots. Difficult to keep alive and unharmed here and fake ones are a hassle to keep dust free.”

He nodded, considering her answer. She took a breath to reply but what he said knocked it right out of her.

“I could bring some.”

Wha…? Her mouth dropped open in surprise. Was this guy for real? Did he have roots for brains? Her neatly plucked eyebrows went way up along her forehead, completing the shocked look.

“Some plants? Some living plants with real leaves and soil? Didn’t you hear what I just said?

“Yes I heard. I could bring tropical flowers maybe. Or Ivy. It’s pretty hardy and likes humidity.”

Flora barked out a laugh and covered her mouth again. Her bracelets jangled and slid up her arm. He was serious. He’d really given this some thought! She should feel flattered he’d given her a passing thought (and she was sure to girlishly flip out over it later).

“Now who’s planning to be a murderer? None of us have the time to take care of things other than paying clients. Why do you think my plants die? I’m never home to water them or too tired to remember.”

He shifted his weight and looked up at the gawdy pink sign advertising her work place.

“I’ll come water them,” he said.

Astonishment billowed off her in thick clouds. He cocked an eyebrow at her dramatic reaction.

“You’ll come every week to water them?” she asked, her voice sharp.

“Yes. Twice if it’s needed. Just depends.”

She reached out and put a hand to his forehead, checking for fever. She did so without thinking. He stepped uncomfortably to the side, out of her reach and she dropped her hand with a jarring cacophony to her side. Even more uncomfortable was the fact that she was staring so hard at him he had no choice but meet her eyes. The shimmering green shadow on her upper eyelid brought out the grey sharply and he noticed there were streaks of gold in the irises.

“You’re going to willingly come into that she-wolf den every week to take care of our plants? Do you have any idea what you’d be doing to yourself?”

“Yes. I think.”

“WHY?”

He didn’t hesitate.

“You said you liked having living things around you, not just animals.”

Flora thought he might at least consider running away. She was willing to give him a head start but the fact that he answered right away made her suspect he’d thought about this for a lot longer than the 5 minutes he’d been standing with her.

“You remembered that?”

“Yes.”

Flora thought she might burst. She didn’t know if it would be into tears or in screams but she nearly vibrated with the need to do something. She couldn’t hug him. He really would run away screaming. So licked her lips and took a step back, out of temptation’s reach.

“Alright. If you think you’re brave enough to come back I’ll let you bring some greenery in.”

He waited. There was another shoe waiting to drop in her statement.

“On two conditions.”

“Which are?”

“One, you will allow me to bring you lunch once a week as repayment.”

His sideways glance of unease made Flora roll her eyes and huff at him.

“I can cook pretty damn good, okay? And I know how to cook vegetarian. Or are you vegan? That’ll take some practice.”

“Vegetarian is close enough. More like clean eating though. I still enjoy chicken.”

Wow, she thought, he divulged something personal.

“Alright. Second condition.”

She paused for dramatic effect and he waited, tense and not looking at her.

“Can I have your name or do I keep calling you the Green Knight?”

His lips curved into the smallest of smiles, bubbling his cheeks and revealing a hint of a dimple. It transformed him into a man who was lighter and more open. Flora’s heart beat so loud it almost choked her words off.

“Finally.”

He didn’t ask her ‘what?’. He knew what she meant. She worked damn hard for that glimpse of him.

“I’m Rhys,” he said.

“Reese?” She spelled it out.

“R-h-y-s,” he corrected.

The fidgety woman stilled suddenly. The noise of her ceased and it brought his attention around. Now it was Flora’s turned to look away. Irish. Goddamn Irish man. A hundred questions frothed up in her mind and she clenched her jaw against them.

“What?” he prompted, sensing her hesitation.

“Come whenever,” she said abruptly. “I’m usually here 9-2.”

Flora walked away, fast. She walked into her salon, passed all the waiting clientele and straight back into the break room where she sat in a corner and buried her face in her knees, trying to breathe. More than a “feeling”, she thought. It was deja vu. It was a memory. A pre-memory not realized until the moment it happened.

She’d dreamed this all when she was just a girl. It was the dream that had been the start of her ending, all those years ago.

The Happiest Place on Earth is NOT Disneyland

So.

This post is going to be a little more personal than usual but it eventually will end up about writing. Long story short, there’s been several deaths in the family, several births, very large and painful secrets divulged, there’s been separations and divorces, my husband lost his job and I had to find one after 10 years of not working.

It’s not a complaint-fest I swear! It’s a bit of a story actually. Surprise, surprise 😉

When my husband lost his job it was right around the same time I was looking for my own employment. His employer hadn’t been paying the workers on time and that sent up a huge red flag that something was going down. The kids were older and I knew we all could handle me getting a part-time job now. Plus, it was going to be necessary.

So I went online and did the whole “job recruiter” thing. I sent out half a dozen applications a day and waited anxiously. Target called me right away for an interview and I was excited. Not to work there but about being called back. This was easy! I trotted myself down there and waited on a bench with two other beefy guys. Haaaaa…

I did everything wrong apparently. I wore jeans to the interview for one. I was so far out of the game I didn’t realize that was taboo. I was a mom for Christ sake, looking for a stocking job! Who needed to be fancy?! I was too honest in my interview and said the wrong kinds of things. Like, “What is one quality your employer would say you need to work on?” and I replied with “Speed. I’m a perfectionist so I go slow and do things right.”

*FACE PALM*

They trap you with those questions, I swear! What is the LEAST BAD thing you can say about yourself that won’t impact your job performance? Seriously. And being a perfectionist isn’t bad! Ugghhh. Needless to say I didn’t get called back. I’ve been much less inclined to shop there suddenly. Hmm. Back to the apps.

Now, I don’t know how it is for you lovely people out there in WordPress Land but there has always been a job or two that I’ve ALWAYS wanted. I don’t aim high for employment so it’s not like I wanted to be a CEO or anything. I’m perfectly happy working in retail (a rare trait, might I add.) One of those jobs I had before I got pregnant with my first daughter. I wanted to work at a craft store. Michael’s hired me and I stayed there until a week before my kid was born. I was never able to go back since I got pregnant again right after my first was born. But I got to live one of my “dream” jobs!

It was wonderful! I helped kids with their art projects and I helped a young couple memorialize their deceased babies in a beautiful ceremony with reminder bracelets. I knew alllll the tips and tricks for the artsy things and I could whip out a full custom frame job in an hour if need be. I felt energized by helping people and my bubbly personality made their shopping experience better. No grumpy employee here! It was a mutualistic happy relationship I had with Michael’s. 

I did apply there first, actually. My mom works there now and my cousin worked there for many years off and on. I knew the managers by name and many of the employees knew ME because I practically lived there, shopping for one crafty project or another. It would still be a good job for me and I knew I would benefit the company.

However.

There was one “Unicorn Job” I’ve wanted since I was 18. I applied every year and always seemed to just miss the cut off. I was there almost every day of the summer in middle and high school. It was my salvation away from an abusive step father.

Can you guess that it might be? If one half of me is crafts, then the other half iiiiisssssss……??????

C’mon you can guess! I made a blog specifically for this kind of thing!

Nothing? Not a clue?

Alright, fine. I’ll tell you.

My unicorn job is Barnes and Nobles. It was and is MY happiest Place on Earth. Screw you Disneyland with your long lines and screaming kids. *shudder*

Yep! All those lovely dead trees printed with stories and facts and information. MMMM!!!!!! I knew I would be a good fit in there too if I could just get my foot in the door. I am well-read and I’m a pleasant and helpful soul. So once more, with a hope and a prayer, I tried one last time. I filled out the application and sent it in. Then I waited three agonizing days before taking my mama’s advice and going there to show my face. She always said it was better to go and let your physical presence be known to potential employers. It showed initiative.

Well. I was terrified. My interview went so badly with Target I got tongue-tied when I saw the store manager. My mind went blank. This was my unicorn job! I had to keep it together! I fumbled my way through introductions and could barely spit out what I came to ask. I was shaking and near tears. I was a mess.

She took pity on me, thankfully. I think my trembling chihuahua bit softened her and she arranged to have me contact her assistant manager to set up an interview. I walked out of the store, zombie-like, and stood by my car, in shock.

Did…did that just happen? Was that my foot going into the proverbial door of my dream job? OMG. OMG! I threw my arms up and screamed “YES!”

Well, I’m happy to inform you I am the newest part-time employee at Barnes and Nobles. YES! I did it! I didn’t get the book seller position I wanted BUT I got something much better suited for me. I joined the work force, which is basically stocking shelves and organizing, my two favorite things to do to books besides read them. I get to see all the newest titles pass through my hands and glean information here and there about what publishers are pushing out these days. My Good Reads account is slowly starting to fill up.

I did it. I can hardly believe it. I got my Unicorn job! I’m very slow, which is bad but that’ll improve with time. The holiday season is right around the corner and I need to be fully cognizant of the shelves before the crazy season begins. I adore all my co workers, who are welcoming and generous with me and my incessant questions. My managers are equal parts firm and funny. It is literally, everything I wanted.

I’m humbled working there too. I’m only a month in but so many things have been brought to my attention that I know I need to work on. For one thing, I have a poor diet of books in my library. Or rather, a very fantasy rich diet. Trying to recommend my personal selection of books to guests makes me feel like a toddler handing the “Good Night Moon” book to an adult. I need to get some meaty selections on my shelves! Some current events or some mysteries at least. I have all of my mother’s Lee Child books and picked up nary a one to read. So I’ll be working on that. 30% employee discount might help 😀

Another thing that has humbled me is looking at all the successful authors that have made it to the shelves. There are hundreds of thousands of authors at BnN. They’re the ones that have done the hard work and bled all over their manuscripts to make their dream come true. They WANTED it. They didn’t give up. What kind of writer am I to stop when the going gets tough? A punk ass one, that what.

I know that paper books are somewhat of a dying market. E-books are convenient, cheaper, environmentally friendly blah blah blah….I still don’t own a nook or a kindle or whatever. But I have a job at a book store. And I want to be traditionally published. I can only feel that me getting the job at Barnes and Nobles is a step in the right direction. I get up front information about what kind of genre and books each publisher is looking for. I can jump on trends and I can find endless inspiration on the shelves.

I am a blessed person. For all the shit I’ve been going through since the beginning of the year, I’m grateful I can still find blessings and my eyes are still opened to them. I’m excited for this new chapter in my life, even if juggling everything has been difficult. I’ve dropped a few balls but they’ll be in the air again. Once such ball has been my blog. I’ll be getting back into it again. I need to.

I’ve managed to manifest my dream retail job into my life so I can do the same with my truest and biggest dream as well.

I WILL be published. I WILL!

Take care everyone. Don’t give up. Find the blessings ❤

Spoilt 9th (#9)

It was never supposed to be this way. It never HAD been this way so what possessed me to try this year I’ll never guess. Maybe it was a last HURRAH before shit hit the fan. Maybe I wanted to try to inject some sunshine into everybody else’s shit storm and let them forget for a while.

I should have known better. But I wanted to try.

It started with a request. A simple request, as had been done every year before.

“Mom, I want a water balloon fight for my birthday.”

One year it was a cake. Just a simple chocolate cake with Neapolitan frosting colors. One year, she wanted a garden. I was so proud of my daughter for choosing unique gifts instead of bombarding me with requests for Tablets or Xbox One’s or Razor Scooters. Maybe not having cable in the house really did help.

It was still a huge deal to get ANYTHING for her birthday though since we used to be Jehovah’s Witness and thus eschewed any holiday traditions. What the kids didn’t know, they couldn’t miss and that’s the way it was. I did let them celebrate holidays at school since that was not at home. I refused to take them out of the classroom and let them believe they were being punished by not getting cupcakes. Ridiculous. Since we’ve cut ties with the good ol’ JW’s however, security had been lightened and I had no problem going back to my roots and getting my kid a small gift for the anniversary of her birth.

Water balloon fight. Cool. I can do that. It wouldn’t break the budget to get her a couple packs and maybe a little cake. She was all into Five Nights at Freddie’s so I knew the cake would have to be red and bloody and gory. It was a simple enough request so I got red and black frosting misters and a glittery red gel writer for the top.

That was it. That’s all that was supposed to happen. Then the texts started coming.

“What size clothes does she wear?” From my sister.

“What’s she into now?” From my cousin.

“Where are we having the party?” From my mom.

Wha…? Did I miss a memo somewhere? Since when was this a big ol’ thing? Okay, whatevs. I answered the first two no problem but as to the last… my house wasn’t big enough for lots of guests. I assumed from the texts that they weren’t just gonna drop off presents and bone out. So…a park.

Great.

This was right around the time that my brain shut off and my Debit card became an extension of my hand. People. Food. Decorations. Presents. PRESENTS! I couldn’t be the only adult to NOT get my kid something to unwrap! Toys ‘R’ Us. Hot Topic. Barnes and Nobles. Michael’s. WalMart for decorations. Target for wrapping paper and tape. Winco for food.

My god holidays are a media trap.

$400 later I was sequestered inside my laundry room for privacy, wrapping my first present in ten years thinking about whether I would be able to get a job fast enough to replace what I spent so we could make next month’s rent. Getting laid off was a bitch to deal with and humble pie tasted a lot like apple cider vinegar straight from the bottle.

But it would be fun, right? Worth it. Parties always were when I was growing up.

Well.

Mix one homeless and car-less sister who had suddenly become a single parent because of the death of her baby daddy with a depressed starving artist step dad, an over worked and under-appreciated mother and a hypochondriac cousin and see what you get.

Yeah. The tension was palatable. Yum.

On top of that, I was a terrible organizer. Or at least, this time I was. My plans had been blasted out of the water and I had to scramble to throw shit together. I over bought on just about everything. Way too much food for only 8 people. I didn’t even use the decorations because I didn’t get to the park in time to set up before people arrived and ran out of time to make the cake so I bought one instead, which was way bigger than it needed to be.  Great start!

The park site we got was bug infested. Black biting gnats were everywhere and no one had thought to bring citronella candles or bug spray. The kids didn’t care though. They were outside with the promise of getting wet, which was the whole point. I silently listened to the group of conversations going on around the table while I mixed dip and laid out sandwich stuff.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do about the funeral. I can’t even give him a good casket…”

“I’m on Somas and Tramadol for my pain and my doctor said I should have any ibuprofen in the mean time because of what happened during my surgery…”

“At work they just fuck around and take extra long breaks. I have to lecture them every damn time and I’m getting ready to write them up and give them an ultimatum…”

I mixed a drink for myself. Fireball whiskey and RC cola. I hadn’t had soda in months due to the new healthy diet I was on. I was slowly trying to  get myself off of sugar but I wasn’t sure I could deal with the negativity sober. Or at least without liquid happiness.

This was a bad idea.

I took the kids down to the creek and I plopped my jacket over my head to keep me from developing skin cancer. While they waded in and squealed over the moss collecting around their ankles I dipped my feet in the dirty silty creek shore and filled up the water guns one by one. I double-handed them and made the kids squeal louder with my squirting antics. So fun!

It’s all about the memories right? They’ll remember this for the rest of their life. The first time in a creek with the tadpoles and dirt and fish. I felt ashamed that this was the first time they’d been in a creek before. I practically learned how to swim in one as a kid, we were always camping and hiking. I was fearless.

We had a slew of visitors come and offer me drinks and conversation and snacks. I sat and tried not to think. This was supposed to be a bright spot in the middle of the craptacular month. I couldn’t add my woes to it so I smiled and drank and squirted until it was time to get things moving again. The bugs were getting too bad to tolerate for much longer and the sun was glaring relentlessly.

Time to get the ball rolling. Get on with getting on with this sham of a party.

Cake time! I announced. We wrapped the kids in over-sized towels and sand “Happy Birthday” for the first time in my daughter’s life. Then we ate cake and I smushed cake in her face. Bad mama. Ohhh she loved it though. It was gluey and half melted with way too much frosting but we ate.

Then it was Time. PRESENTS!

I don’t know who was more excited, me or the kids. Brightly wrapped gifts (or in this case, black and red to match the FNAF theme). Boxes and bundles of surprises, of unknown pleasures waiting to be discovered. And for me, I get to experience the opposite side of the equation now. Instead of the anticipation of getting the presents, I get to experience the joy of giving them.

With the family primed for pictures, we started. I gave her something boring first, trying to confuse her and lead her up the “Big Present.”

“Paint mom? Really?”

“Yeahh!” I said, upbeat with a big smile. “It’ll make sense in a minute.”

Chartreuse eyes looked at me skeptically but eagerly surveyed the big box on the table in speculation. The next one was a little purse with matching sunglasses that I thought she would love. She had complained that she needed new sunglasses and they were brightly colored in pink and green, her favorite colors, so I thought she would at least be thrilled with this gift. I bit my cheek when I saw her lips turn down and say not a word. She moved on to the next. Clothes. An emoji shirt (which she’d been all into with her class that year) and some pink capri pants.

“These are boring,” she said. “Not what I wanted at all. They’re kind of stupid.”

There was an audible snap in my brain and my rage came pouring out like liquid hot magma.

“Don’t be a spoiled brat Kate. You should be grateful you’re getting anything at all,” I whispered fiercely, bending down to her level so she could see the fury in my face. “I can take every single present back to the store and you’ll have NOTHING. Is that what you want?”

But I wanted Five Nights and Freddie’s–”

“BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU GOT, BRAT!”

Yes, I realized later that my mother came out of my mouth just then. Her eye brows were in her hair, arched in surprise, looking at the intense scene. It’s not like she wouldn’t have done any less. Hell, she would have smacked mine and my sister’s mouths if we were ever ungrateful shits like that!

There was a hushed silence and Kate looked gobsmacked. I slammed her next present on the table in front of her, emphasizing my immense displeasure. It was a new drawing book with a beautiful pastel cover that I now figured she would probably never use and moved away from her before my fingers wrapped around her little white neck.

Somebody else took pictures. I stood back in my hateful little bubble and watched as she blew through the rest of her gifts. Clothes, drawing books, scented crayons for God’s sake! And the piece de resistance: an awesome “Spin Art” activity that my sister and I begged for as kids but we never got. It was seriously, the creme de la creme of presents in my mind. How happy I was to give her something I never got to have! And it was pushed aside without a second glance.

I was done.

I started picking up trash and packing things away, silently seething. How did I raise such an ungrateful little wretch like that? I’ve always taught her manners, to say please and thank you, to share and be generous. She painted her teacher a coffee mug when I took her to a ceramics place. She ALWAYS shares her after school snack with her sister. She loves baking cookies for her class mates and giving them out just to be a nice kid. So what happened?  THIS level of nonchalance I didn’t understand. It was so out of character for her. I wanted to take everything back and teach her a lesson. Lucky for her most of the receipts were thrown away already.

My black mood seemed to be the straw the broke the camel’s back. While the kids entertained themselves with the promised water balloon fight, everyone else gathered their stuff and boned out. I got a quick kiss and some murmured advice.

“It’s just overwhelming for her. Don’t be too harsh.”

“Her first party. It was bound to happen. She’ll come around.”

Never again. This was the first and last party I would ever throw. I plunked everything in the car and drove home, trying to find room in my fridge for all the extra food no one ate and setting the half eaten cake on the counter. Fuck it. Fuck it all.

I stayed in my room like a grumpy adult child the rest of the day, barking out orders and losing myself to my own distractions. What they said was right. Kate had been overwhelmed with everything and I was willing to forgive her for that. She was still little and it was her first party ever. But this reminded me of the reason I never wanted to start celebrating in the first place, even after we left religion behind.

People make such a huge deal out of holidays, frantically running around trying to find the perfect gifts and decorations and food. They get anxious and spend way too much money and go into debt for one perfect day. Why? For what? It was too much to take in all in one day. Too much excitement, like having nothing but sugary treats all day long and then feeling hung over by the end of the night with an achy stomach and the world spinning.

I got it. I really did. But I was never ungrateful for the stuff I got.

The next day I sat Kate down and made her draw out and write Thank you cards to everyone with her new scented crayons. I still refused to look her in the eye but I did calmly explain why her reaction made me upset and that I would like a little more appreciation from her for the things she was given.

Because I was the adult. One of us had to be.

Adulting sucks. Don’t adult.

 

Should I stay or should I go now?

Hey y’all! How’s it going? Hot as the devil’s armpit here which means I stay inside to avoid getting skin cancer.

So here I am, back to writing. Finally. Maybe. Lots of shiet been happening in my life lately. Just about everything is topsy-turvy. CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER! MASS HYSTERIA! There are a lot of ruts I’m digging myself out of and when I got a moment to breathe I realized that writing has become one of them.

I predicted it though, didn’t I?

Apparently all my blog is good for is entertainment and not actual advice. At least not for myself. Haaaaaaa. Story of my life.

Well, as stories are won’t to do, a couple of them have been prodding me to get busy again. And not gentle Fluttershy pokes either. More like, the toddler-esque “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mama, mama, mama, mama–” kind of deal. Annoying to the point of table flipping in irritation. I did try to protest and tell them I was going through a few crisis’ in my life and couldn’t be bothered. Do they care? Not a wit. Laundry and divorces and deaths can wait.

So like the slave that I am, I turn back to toeing my creativity back into these half-baked stories I left browning in the oven of my brain. Specifically Hourglass. But all I see are gaping holes, gooey insides, nuggets of greatness and crispy edges. Oi vey. How do I pick back up a story like that?

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life?” ~Frodo Baggins

I feel ya Frodo.

I guess this is why the Pros say not to stop until you’re finished. It’s difficult to edit a story that’s half written but that’s exactly what I discovered I would be doing with all ones I left behind. Editing, filling in and changing something that’s only a pile of ideas in a flimsy structure.

So what do I do? Do I finish the story I started and go back to edit it afterward? Do I keep digging the trench and hope that the blue prints I left for myself would suffice? Or do I throw caution (and advice) into the fire and re-make the recipe with better ingredients and fresh ideas?

I suppose every writer comes to this decision. Should I stay or do I go?

Given the propensity lately of me digging myself out of ruts, my first inclination is to go with the later. I have a good character base. It was always the setting I had issues with. Trying to come up with a cohesive world for my characters to romp around in. (Plus I have an obnoxious husband that questions every single detail and decision and has to have everything make perfect, logical, scientific sense.)

However.

I feel like I have a good story premise. I have dynamic characters that aren’t too clichéd and a couple of sneaky villains. The setting is even pretty great with lots of potential. But we know that some of the best story IDEAS sometimes fall flat on execution.

So I think I’m going to stick with my current blue print and try to tighten it up and flesh it out more. I can always edit within an inch of my life after the full rough is done. (Cuz that’s the important part right? Finishing. Ha.)

I understand this might not be the case with every story. There will be times where I have to stuff it into a desk drawer, never to see the light of day again. I may even have to do it with this story. But I will try. I think that’s kind of the theme of my life right now. I will try. 

Jessie, the little red-head that could! Toot toot!

Slowly I am digging myself out of the trenches and getting back on solid ground, one crisis at a time. But there is some semblance of normal that I can cling to, such as procrastinating on my writing 😀 But at least I got something out today. That’s improvement.

Every decision is an important one because at least it’s a step in a direction. ANY direction. Backwards isn’t always preferable however breaking down and rebuilding is sometimes necessary. YOU have to make that decision. If it’s wrong, then make a different one. If you have to part ways with your story (or people or things or places) then do it.

Just make the decision and take the step.