Sunday, February 27, 2011

What a Week!

Just got back today from our first family vacation. I won a trip in December to go to Disneyland, and we were finally able to go. Picked up my sister in Las Vegas, and off we went!

It was beyond fantastic. I remember a lot of things from going there as a child to the last trip about seven years ago--nearly eight, now. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same. I wish the weather had been a bit kinder; cloudy and cool for two days, and then Friday was a lot of sprinkling, spitting, and then pouring rain. Did I mention it was cold?

We had the great fortune, however, to stay at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa on the Disney lot. Beautiful, courteous, and just plain fabulous. Have I mentioned how much I love turn-down service? You get a handful of chocolates; there is nothing bad about that. The lobby has a TV with constant Disney toons and kid-sized rocking chairs and regular chairs.

Three words; Tower of Terror. It. Is. Awesome. No matter how much of my stomach is still hanging above Anaheim in limbo. Freaking love that ride.

Cirdan had a great time, although Disneyland seemed for more overwhelming for him than California Adventure did. In CA, he discovered the Grizzly River Run ride, where you get to white-water raft. He LOVED it. Especially the fact that mommy got super wet every bleeding time. I think we did it 8 times over 3 days. Of course, there was Toy Story Mania. And he got mad at daddy when we decided not to take him on the Matterhorn.

And what kid does not like the spinning tea cups? It's a tradition. Happily, he was not totally enamored of Small World, thank the gods.

I'll probably go into more detail later; I'm still adjusting to being back home with complete internet access. I'm not that well adjusted into the instant notifications via a handheld device yet; that's my husband's forte.

My son and husband got to see the ocean for the very first time. Lots of seagulls, and we even saw a few dolphins! We went to Huntington Beach, and ate at Ruby's on the pier. SO amazingly good.

On Saturday we got to meet the fabulous Amber Benson! For those of you who don't know, she played Tara on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." She is also a fabulous writer. Her books include the Ghosts of Albion series, her Calliope Reaper-Jones series, and a children's book, "Among the Ghosts." She was at Dark Delicacies in Burbank; I was super excited when I found out her signing coincided with the last day of our trip.

Can I just say, Amber is incredibly nice and sweet. She spoke to everyone, was very personable, signed everything, and jumped up and down for photos. When I managed to tell her how much I love her work and her writing, she said, "Oh, thank you so much! Come here!" And she gave me a big hug.

So the fangirl in me is happy. The mommy in me is happy. And now... I have to deal with reality once more. Boo on that.

Night, all!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Small Tale

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who never knew what she wanted. She drifted aimlessly from one man to another, believing that each one would help make her complete. Alas, the young woman never really realized that in her quest for a relationship and for meaning, she had no idea what to do with one when she found one.

Her endless cycle continued when she was with one man for seven years. Even when their relationship turned to poison, and another woman was introduced, still she stuck around. It occurred to her to leave the relationship, but at the same time it made her heart ache unbearably to do so. And so she remained.

There were times when she watched her former lover with the new lover that she began to contemplate walking away, preserving what was left of her dignity. The younger model was surely no match for her, and yet knowing that he preferred this one to her was not enough to make her leave. He whispered sweet words in private, how he longed to keep her close and he couldn't bear for her to leave. And so she remained.

There came a point in the twisted menage a tois that the lover chose to go back to her. In fact, they became engaged. The young woman was thrilled that she was being chosen, that her efforts over the years had paid off and she would finally be rewarded.

Still, the young woman should have known better. As surely as he had been unfaithful to the younger model with her, how could it not be expected that he would be unfaithful to her with the younger model once more? Still, the young woman was blinded by her desire to have this relationship work. But was it really that? Perhaps it was a combination of that desire along with the sweet words that were continually fed to her like subliminal messages. 'Please don't go,' he would say. 'I love you and want to make this work. If you love me, you will stay here, with me, and only me. Why do you need to go out with your friends when you have me? It would hurt my feelings if you left me here.'

And still, the young woman remained. The blinders on her eyes left her narrow-visioned, and she did not realize the truth. In fact, things were looking up: the younger model would be leaving, moving far away, and it would finally be just the two of them. Oh, how the young woman rejoiced. There was nothing that seemed sweeter!

Until one day.

There came a day when her sister called to her, as they lived close by. Her sister told her that a terrible thing had happened. She could see the hesitation in her sister's eyes, but she could not imagine what could be the cause.

'Please, just say it,' she begged her sister.

Her sister took a deep breath, and revealed the venom within: 'She's not going after all because she's pregnant. She's coming back.'

At first, the words did not sink in properly. The young woman blinked, trying to understand what was happening. A very curious sensation was rising within her, something hot and fiery, something that felt as if it were stretching its wings and would make her explode with the force of it.

Finally she had a name to the feeling: rage.

Confronting her lover, she left. Only to return the next day.

Promises of fidelity and a new life were wrapped around her ears. Desperate for the heartache to stop, she believed. She wanted so badly to believe that she could still have that perfect life and relationship.

Time passed on. They remained a couple, much to the disgust of those around them. The lover sneered at them, telling the young woman that they were trying to rip them apart, and it would be better for her not to see them.

'It can be just the two of us,' he would tell her. 'We don't need anyone else.'

And she believed. In fact, when her family would invite her over, she would face an agonizing decision process: going would mean having fun and seeing her family, but going would also make her lover very upset. It was the same with invitations of her friends: to go would be to set free and enjoy a carefree time, but her lover would be angry, as her friends would likely tempt her.

So she remained.

More time passed. At long last, she made a friend who was somehow able to reach her slightly. The new friend invited her to come visit her, first in California, and then on a stunning week-long getaway to Europe.

These invitations infuriated her lover. Convinced that her new friend was trying to steal her away, to corrupt her mind, he tried and tried to make her see how foolhardy this was, that this new friend was a poison to her.

And yet... the young woman did not relent this time. She enjoyed her new friend, and saw something strange whenever they spoke: hope. In the veiled aura of her life, whenever she spoke with her friend, she could see the cracks that surrounded her, and began to wonder what else was out there. For the first time, her veiled life felt like a prison.

So she visited her friend in California. And then she went to Europe.

This was the beginning of the end. After all, once you see your life as a prison, and the lover in your life as a captor, what else can you do but try to break free?

In Europe, the young woman found the freedom she had been searching for. The world was not covered in threats and ties that restrained; it was filled with wonder and beauty and mad British boys that made her laugh and see the sun. Thousands of miles away from her lover, with almost no contact, and the young woman found something else: possibility.

When she returned home, it was with a desperate secret, one that she knew would likely be a punished offense if he knew: she had met two men in Europe, and had found pleasure. Her friend had been correct: there were other men out there in the world, men who could be kind and loving without being Machiavellian and cruel.

Still, all secrets will out. Her lover, angry with her upon her departure as well as her return, sought to find whatever secrets may be there. And after much searching for her journal, he found what he was looking for.

Enraged and infuriated, for the first time it appeared that he might take his love of mental abuse to the physical realm as well. But he did not. In fact, he did something that she had realized would likely happen, but did not truly brace for: he ended their relationship.

If there was an iron-clad rule that made ex-lovers automatically separate, it's likely that things would have been better for both. But there is not. In fact, her now ex-lover remained in their shared dwelling. While she cried and tried to deal with the fact that not only had he abandoned her, but she was also pregnant, she also had to determine who the father was.

Alone and yet not, the young woman sought solace anywhere she could find it. Guilt made her a hermit, and her ex-lover approved of this. In fact, he suggested to her in a moment of extreme weakness that they could remain intimate while he sought another place to live.

In her weakness and desperation, she agreed.

For the next few months, as she prepared for her child, she submitted in ways that she had never done previously. As much as she had given of herself before, it was nothing compared to the desperation that inhabited her now. Wanting to stay with her lover, knowing that her actions had caused her heartache, she tried everything to stay with him now. All the past looked cloudy.

When she was seven and a half months pregnant, her ex-lover announced he was moving to another state. Terrified at being left alone after so long, she made a frantic bid to keep him there once more: she asked him to marry her. He refused.

She helped him move his things out, waddling all the way. And on a cloudy day in May, she watched her ex-lover drive away, and she cried as she had never done before. She was alone.

But it wasn't the end.

Even when he was gone, he tried to keep tabs on her. He said it was for comfort purposes, to make her feel better. Every night she had to call him, let him know what she was doing, how she was doing.

Not a week after he left, the young woman had her child. Joy is usually associated with new life, but for the young woman it was as if despair had been given form. A child of her own, with no father in sight, it looked to be the worst event of her life. She grieved, knowing that she had to carry on now for the sake of this new life. A son.

Eventually, after many calls with her ex-lover, her brother in law had enough. One night, when he was calling her, her brother in law refused to let her answer her phone. Terrified, the young woman stared at the phone, knowing he would be angry if she did not answer. The phone went silent after many rings.

But a minute went by before it rang again. She tried to answer it, but her brother in law would not allow it.

At last, her brother in law picked it up. And he let loose a diatribe that had been brewing for years. Furious with what had been done to his sister in law, he told the anathema exactly what he thought, and that he was not to contact her again.

When he hung up the phone, the young woman stared in wide-eyed wonder. Surely it had not just happened! Even though the distance between them was hundreds of miles, it was as if she could feel the rage building.

Something changed, however. As she listened to the words her brother in law yelled, they seemed to penetrate the fog that clouded her mind, and in those words were truths she had not dared to face.

The man she had loved was a monster. He had abused her to the point where she felt guilty for upsetting him, had not dared to leave the house for fear of the rages he would impart on her. Even when he was no longer hers to call her own, she felt devoted and doting on him to the point where she was little more than a slave. She realized that her venture to Europe that caused the breaking point, and it was later that she realized it was the best thing that could have happened to her.

She would never have had the strength to leave him. Only forced separation had done it. She realized with muted horror that she would have remained in that waking dead state for as long as he would have permitted it, slavishly devoting herself and spurning her own life.

Suddenly there was light in the world again.

With a child to raise, she felt the world was still an impossible giant, but at least she could do it without the threat of anger pointed at her every day. The ties that had bound her were finally cut.

With a heavy heart, she faced the world again, free for the first time. Pure love is as selfless and giving as all the stories say. It is a sad truth that that love can be tainted, twisted and used to someone's own means. What the young woman had first thought was love grew sick, mutated into an obsession that nearly ruined her mind.

Today the young woman is still in the light. She doesn't have to worry about answering the phone anymore. And her little boy is growing up in pure love.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A New Day, A New Issue, and an Excerpt!

It's cold. It's windy. Arizona is not supposed to be that way. But, I can hardly complain when loads of my friends are buried under blizzards from Kansas to New York. Here it is, February, and these nasty snowstorms are hitting the country. Kind of weird to me. I am ridiculously glad I live in a state where if I want snow, I can drive two hours. If I don't, then I'm pretty safe staying where I'm at.

I wish I had a better outlook today. Due to some outstanding credit debt, bad things are happening, and I need to figure out what to do about it. I am hoping that it can be solved quickly without the judicial process. * sigh* This is a new one on me. I am not happy.

Meanwhile, my brain, while it longs to actually get out some more ideas onto computer chip, has stalled. I was on a great roll. Now, however, I think Karma has decided that I need some comeuppance for the good I was getting, and I've been hijacked. Ironic, really, because when stress hits, I can sometimes escape into writing with gusto. Nope. I am denied.

So. Due to the shitty nature of things, I've impulsively decided to post an excerpt from one of my WIPs. Feel free to read, comment, criticize, etc. Anything to help me get back on track!

The title is (tentatively( "The Play's the Thing."

Lina Harper is a Chicago barista who is good at her job, enjoys the customers, and loves the theater. With such a great musical center in the city, it's difficult not to. Her friend, Tiffany Day, encourages her to join her for stagehand work on an upcoming musical starring Lina's favorite actor of all time, James McKenna.

James McKenna loves his work, but hates the drama, especially with his on-again off-again girlfriend Chloe. After an explosive break-up, he heads to Chicago to begin work on a new musical. Acting has always been his passion, but the theater is where his heart lies.

As production begins, James meets Lina. Quiet, clumsy and capable of turning six shades of red when he speaks to her, Lina intrigues him in a new way. For Lina, it's a matter of trying to remain on her feet around the actor. But as the work on the musical thrusts them together day in and day out, there's a new sort of rhythm starting up between the two.

Okay, likely the worst summary ever, but I hope you get the idea. The excerpt is after a particularly grueling day in rehearsals, and Lina has nearly been kicked out. Enjoy.

Not being cut loose meant not being free to run away with her tail tucked between her legs. As it was, she could feel the tension in the theater that had yet to dissipate with the abrupt ending of her own dramatic scene. In an effort to get past the ugly event, she slowly moved to her knees and began working on the project she had originally been attempting to complete.
Lina tried to swallow down the burn in her throat, to make the angry flush fade from her face, but her traitorous body was having none of it. Staring hard at the floor, she blinked furiously until the tears backed off. She would not let anyone see her cry.
She could feel the sympathetic looks from some of the others boring into her from all sides. No one wanted to be in her shoes.
“You know, if you keep at it, you might discover the bones of the stagehands before you.”
Raising her head too fast, Lina startled to find James McKenna standing over her, an impish grin on his face. Her gaze flicked back down to see the rather impressive dent in the floor she had made. She was supposed to be realigning the carpet, not pulling out the insulation beneath.
“Oh... crap.”
Crouching down beside her, James chuckled once. “Don't worry. Just shove the insulation down here, pull up the panels like this... and good as new.”
The floor was complete once more, rather than looking as if an incompetent gravedigger had gotten to it. Sighing deeply, Lina ran a hand through her hair. “Thanks,” she muttered, struggling not to raise her face again and risk setting off the impending meltdown. The last thing she wanted to do was go Mount Vesuvius on James McKenna. They were getting along so well.
“You okay?”
Lina winced, still staring at the floor, and nodded a little too enthusiastically. “Sure, sure. I'm super.”
James gently touched her arm, and she slowly looked up at him. The calm, slightly amused expression on his face set her heart beating just a little faster. “If you're so super, then why are you trying to create an underground set?” he asked gently.
Swallowing hard, Lina abruptly looked away, certain that if he gave her more concern then she would most certainly cry. “It's just—well--you saw,” she mumbled. “I screwed up. I guess I should be glad I'm still here.”
“I am.”
She was going to get whiplash. She whipped her head back up so fast, she felt her neck complain. The confusion on her face served to say more than anything else. “Huh?”
Tilting his head, James gave her a reassuring smile. “I mean it. I see you working your ass off here every day, and you seem to love it.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she said faintly.
James hesitated for a moment, then reached forward and brushed back a loose strand of hair that was falling into her face. Lina froze. “You make it... I don't know, more pleasant here,” he explained. “I like knowing that you're going to be here.”
“Just because I go get you coffee every day.”
He shook his head, watching her carefully. The discouraged look on her face was slowly receding. He could tell how close to the edge she was, and he was determined to bring her back from it. “No, that's not it. Well, maybe a little,” he amended with a grin. “I like knowing you're watching me. Does that make sense?”
Lina shook her head slowly. “Not in the slightest. I think you're trying to pay me a compliment, but it's coming out a little jumbled.”
“Oh, good. You do understand.”
Lina released a quick burst of laughter, surprising herself. The utter absurdity of the entire conversation was at least enough to help her regain her self-control. She had learned that James had a quirky sense of humor, and now she felt she could safely add the ability to play to the needs of women in distress to his list of talents.
“That's better.” James sounded pleased. “I was afraid I was going to have to do something drastic to get you to smile.”
The smile remained on her lips as her mind momentarily sidetracked with ideas on what he could do to get her to smile again. Lina shook her head. “James, I don't know why you're taking the time to cheer me up, but thanks. I appreciate it.”
“It's no problem. I hate to see anyone get brutalized like that. It's tough to handle sometimes. Just be glad you're not in the cast. I know it seems he's bad enough to the crew, but you haven't had to deal with him when you can't get your lines right.” James grinned widely at her. “Look, don't worry about Robert. He'd probably have an aneurism if he wasn't trying to make everyone's lives miserable.”
Lina shook her head, still trying to get past the horrific day. She took a deep breath, then exhaled, trying to release the rest of the tension. “No, it's fine. I know I wasn't doing my best today. I'm just surprised he didn't throw me out.”
“Don't look a theater producer in the mouth. Besides, maybe he's getting soft in his old age.”
Lina snorted. “If that's soft, I'd hate to see him as a hard-ass.”
Slowly standing up, James extended a hand to Lina. With another brief look of incredulity, Lina accepted the gesture. “You ready to get out of here?” he asked, glancing around. The theater was emptying out fairly quickly, only a few people lingering behind.
“Most definitely.” She paused, looking shyly up at him. Being so close to him was very disorienting. For a second she imagined saying something witty and clever, something that might make her more interesting. Instead, she decided to accept the opportunity to leave without making a further embarrassment of herself. “Have a nice night, James.”
“Hang on.” James studied her for a full minute, his bright blue eyes searching her face. One side of his lips curved upward. “Come out to dinner with me,” he said. “I'd like to talk to you some more.”
Lina felt her eyes pop open wide, then quickly tried to hide the expression. “What—really?” she asked uncertainly. “You want me to go to dinner with you?”
James nodded. “Absolutely. After what you had to put up with from Robert, you look like you could use a drink, not to mention some food. Besides,” he added. “I like the shades of red you turn when I talk to you.”
She tried to glare at him, and failed miserably. Winding up with pursed lips and the telltale flush rising in her cheeks, she sighed. “Well, I'm glad I can amuse you at least,” she muttered.
When she tried to look away, James touched her arm, the one small touch sending a little jolt through her skin. “Hey. Kidding. Sort of.”
Lina rolled her eyes, then glanced down at herself. Her jeans and red v-neck were smeared with dust. She was reasonably sure that her hair was frizzy, and whatever make-up she had on was faded. There was no way she was dressed to go get dinner.
James seemed to pick up on her thoughts. “You look fine, you know. I like a woman who works hard and doesn't need to preen.”
As her gaze found his, Lina felt a smoldering heat rising inside of her. His eyes were playful, one of her favorite looks of his. That half-smile he wore seemed tailor-made for her, and she couldn't help smiling back.
“All right, I could use some food.”
Quirking a grin, James nodded. “Great. There's a new place just down the street from here.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Truth

Yesterday I was feeling frustrated with quite a few things. It seems sometimes there is just too much going on inside of my head. Having slept and gotten up in a crabby mood today, I've had a bit more of a chance to look at what's really bothering me. I don't like waking up crabby because I tend to snap at whoever's around, and it's my son in the morning. Granted, today he was moving slow and in his own world, but hey, not a big deal.

No, I read a note from my bank which says that they are going to convert my savings account to a non-interest checking account because I went over transaction limits or something in the past year. Not sure what it's about so I have investigate.

Moreover, there's some days when it feels too hard. Too hard having a child, a special needs child at that. Too hard to be creative in the slightest; I feel like the burst I had the other day was a strike of random chance. Too hard to get through the day without screaming. Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, cleaning: it's a never-ending cycle, and I do it by myself.

I think I hit the crux. I'm mad that I'm doing everything by myself. And I do it because I've spoken to him in the past and nothing ever changes, and I accept my lot. And then at some point it just becomes too much again, and I start to erupt inside. Why must I always do it by myself?

Marriage is hard. Living with someone is hard. I sort of want to laugh at people I know who get engaged. They're so excited to get that ring on their finger, oh it's going to be a happily ever after, I get to be with this person forever. I shake my head and mutter to myself, "Just give it a year or two. Trust me. Then you'll see what it's really like."

Okay, so I'm ridiculously cynical sometimes. I had a conversation like this a few weeks ago with some friends, at which time I made a case for reality vs. romance. I won't go into the details, but basically there's an illusion we have (and I do think this is geared more towards women): that we will find someone out there who will shower us with love and romance for the rest of our lives. It's a great idea. But you have to take reality into consideration.

Who really wants to think about picking up someone's dirty socks forever? Or getting pissed off because the dirty dishes were left on the counter for two days? Or cleaning the catbox/birdcage/whatever because if you don't do it, it won't get done? Or trying to be creative with food while staying on a budget?

I like romance books. I do. I think they offer a great escape. But I have yet to come across one that deals with the aftermath of romance. It's all swooning sighs, hard-muscled bodies and heaving breasts, lots of sex, stupid decisions by characters that actually can be pretty realistic, candlelight, and satin sheets. Or a wooden bed on a pirate ship. Whatever.

That's great. There's a lot to be said for courtship. In the books. Would a book that explored the effects of romance be as successful? Who knows? I hate to say it, but I think romance is just a farce. It's part of the process that is supposed to lead to copulation and reproduction. And I can hear the catcalls and boos from the peanut gallery; yes, I can.

I suppose it's easier in the books. There's a limited time in order to accept the conflict and find the resolution, and usually it does happen. Occasionally, I have come across a book where the conflict isn't resolved, where there is no happy ending. I find a sort of refreshing air to those. Life is like that. There isn't always a happy ending for the featured couple or individual or what have you. We all like the idea that things will work out in the end, that no matter what troubles come our way we can find a happy resolution. It's one of the ideas I keep promoting to myself and those around me: keep a positive outlook and things can work out that way.

I'm just a pot of conflicting viewpoints, aren't I? I resent romance, yet I crave it. I don't necessarily believe in a happily ever after, but I secretly wish for it. I want to get past the negative things and find the positive aspect in any situation, and actually I do pretty well with that. But I am allowed to have my slip and slide moments.

I guess I'm tired of doing all the housework and getting none of the romance back. But you gotta give to receive. I know that, too. Maybe if I can get my head on straight I can get more of this

To get back to this

To avoid ending up like this