Stealing Time.

I know I’ve been absent here for a long time, but I think I’m finally ready to come back. See, we signed up for this little thing that has been sucking away my time and energy, and I’ve been using it as an excuse for not writing. We thought about jumping into this project for a while, but we finally decided to pull the trigger in January and become foster parents. Yup, you heard right. Along with two preteens of our own, we now have a 1 year old baby. It’s been a crazy beautiful and intense 8 months, but I feel like we’ve finally settled in to some sort of rhythm. It helps to have the girls back at school.

I still dream of finishing a novel one of these days. Actually, I think I’ve finally found a way to help me stay on track! I bought a notebook and have been writing the traditional way, pen to paper. It seems like my writing time is always stolen between appointments, while waiting in the car, or on family trips. My laptop sucks, and honestly sometimes it’s just tough to be creative when Facebook keeps beckoning me away. Oh, you. You know what I’m talking about. Another perk to writing longhand is that I can’t go back and delete everything I wrote the next day because I think it sucks. It keeps me moving forward, and I wish I would’ve just started doing this a long time ago. I still think everything sucks every time I re-read it, but I am determined to make it all the way through the story line and wait to edit until I am typing it up. It feels really nice to be unstuck.

I started looking into some novel writing software – do any of you folks have experience with this? The prices range a lot. What are the things I should really make sure to look for? Any great recommendations? I am looking most seriously at Write it Now and Write Way. Also, still looking for a critique buddy…

Last thing for you all. Just came across this blog by Chuck Wendig and really like it! He’s got great insight for any aspiring writer, but he’s kind of a smart ass so avoid it if you don’t like sarcasm. I especially like this one and this one. That’s all for today, folks! Have a beautiful one.

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Annie

Her errands took a significant chunk of the day, and she finally was able to make it over to Christian’s house in the early afternoon. She heard muffled yelling as she approached the door and realized it was Christian reprimanding one of his brothers. Just as she pivoted her heel to leave (she’d come back, she just wanted to buy him some more time,) the door flew open and his brother Jon stormed past her. Jon was 13 and was quickly turning from a quiet kid into a troubled teenager. Annie had only known him for a really short time, but she could see the anger and confusion that bubbled just under the still cherub-cheeked surface. She was sure Christian saw it, too, and her heart caught in her throat when she thought of how difficult these upcoming years were going to be for him. Continue reading

Christian

Christian woke up in a bad mood. He wouldn’t admit to anyone that Annie’s imminent departure affected him in any way, but he knew he was moping. It was just that life here was hard. And redundant. He knew that it was important for him to set a solid example and that his mom deserved a break after working so hard for them. He knew that he couldn’t just spread his wings and fly away like she could; there was too much here holding him back. It wasn’t quite jealousy – no, he didn’t think he would leave if he could. He was lucky to have his family here. It was hard, but he had grown up with a lot of love and support and it was in his nature to want to step up and provide for his family here. He liked San Diego okay. The weather was always good, the beach was an amazing asset and TJ was close enough that he could regularly visit his dad and eat decent tacos. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he was moping because she was leaving. He had grown accustomed to thinking there was only room in his heart, his head and his life for his immediate family, but over the course of the last two weeks she had slowly started to prove him wrong. He’d lived his day-to-day fine for the past eighteen years without her, but he’d only just started to feel alive. Continue reading

A to Z: Grad Night

Over the next week, Annie and Christian slowly but surely built up their friendship. They ate lunch together almost everyday. They learned that they both had an affinity  for papaya, leftover pizza, and chocolate covered bananas. They equally hated diet sodas and strawberry milkshakes, but while Christian was a fan of vanilla, Annie would only drink chocolate. Annie was a Virgo and Christian was a Leo, which meant, according to Seventeen Magazine, that they were completely incompatible. Annie was the youngest child and Christian was the oldest, which meant, according to People Magazine, that they’d be perfect together. Annie had spent much of her life fending for herself; her mother had been in and out of prison since she was young, her father had disappeared from her life before she could even remember and her brother had gotten locked up four years prior, right when she’d started high school. Thankfully she had an aunt and a grandmother around who let her sleep at their respective house when she’d needed it, as long as she could bring her own groceries and contribute a little to the household.

Christian, on the other hand, had spent much of his life taking care of other people. He was the oldest of three brothers. His dad had been deported when he was 10, effectively making him man of the house. His mother worked two full time jobs to keep a roof over their heads, though she insisted that Christian only work minimally so he could finish high school and get his diploma. It was up to him to set the example for his brothers and keep them in line, and he did a good job with it. His grandmother lived in town, but his grandfather had passed away. She enjoyed her independence and didn’t want to give up her own apartment to squeeze into the Santos family’s two bedroom house, so he made sure to check up on her a couple times a week and help her with groceries.

When graduation rolled around, they decided not to go. Christian’s mom had to work, anyway, and though she was extremely proud of him, she really mostly cared about the diploma. Annie didn’t have anyone who cared at all to watch her walk, so she decided not to waste the money. Neither of them wanted to expend the energy or the money to attend Grad Night celebrations at the amusement park with the rest of the school, so they decided to celebrate together.

 

 

A to Z: Feelings

I am currently taking part of the April A to Z Challenge! During this month, I am writing a single story, building each day off of the previous one. To get the story from the beginning, start here and work on up…

Annie woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to tackle the day. She felt a little lighter today, dizzy with the excitement of impending graduation, and giddy from the droll interactions of the night before, though she was still somewhat bothered by Christian’s off-the-cuff sentiments.  She determined that if given the opportunity, she would expend just a little more energy working on being a friend instead of so singularly focused. Though it was a little late in the game, she hated to leave town this way, with only fleeting memories of herself as the girl who had no friends.

The first few periods came and went, same as they ever did. No grand opportunities came to her, no chances to help someone pick up dropped books or lend an ear, no one so much as looking her way. It seemed she had done a decent job of simply existing here, skating by without too many expectations. She was sitting alone under her favorite shade tree for lunch, a monstrous oak with rough, peeling bark and a trunk so wide she couldn’t even wrap her arms half way around it. She had recently printed out a map of the Greyhound routes and was beginning to discreetly plot her destined journey when she heard a rustle in the leaves behind her.

“Boo.”

She startled.

“Mind some company?”

Now was her opportunity. She feigned nonchalance as she gestured in a way that indicated he should sit. “Come on down.”

“Hey,” he lowered himself opposite her, folding long legs upon themselves more gracefully than she’d expected him to. “I just wanted to apologize for yesterday. I didn’t mean to be offensive.”

“Huh? You mean that friend comment? That’s okay. It wasn’t offensive, it just really got me thinking…”

“The friend comment? I meant everything except that! I was in a weird mood. I usually just don’t intervene so much, and then I said that you weren’t that pretty! I don’t even remember what I said about friends. I was just a little bolder than I usually am with everything. I think my adrenaline was up from that guy, and I didn’t mean to tease you so much. I hoped I didn’t make you mad!”

Annie’s cheeks pinked. “Christian, I am not offended that you stood up for me. I’ve been trippin’ over that thing you said about me not having any friends! You were right ya know. I’m leaving in two weeks and I don’t think I’ve ever made a friend in my life. It’s been about staying alive and getting out of here for so long that nothing else has mattered. I don’t think that’s a good thing.”

“Psh. You’re not the only one, chiquita. I don’t usually go out of my way for anybody. I’ve just got so many people and emotions that I’m trying to balance at home. I don’t have any energy left to even think about balancing somebody else. I just want to get done with all of this school stuff so I can get a 9-5 job and stop stressin’ about putting food on the table, ya know? Friends can only take you so far.”

“I dunno. It really got to me. I think I need to try. It seems like I’ve done a really good job of building up these walls, though, because no one has even tried talking to me today, except you. I’ve been paying attention. It looks like you, Mr. Santos, may have just volunteered to be my friend experiment.”

 

 

 

 

 

A to Z: Easy Friendships and Espresso.

I am currently taking part of the April A to Z Challenge! During this month, I am writing a single story, building each day off of the previous one. To get the story from the beginning, start here and work on up…

She turned to look over her shoulder. “Christian! Oh my God. I didn’t even notice that it was you out there! And now you’re cackling like an idiot and the whole bus is staring at us.”

“What, did you think it was some guy you didn’t even know, coming to rescue the poor damsel in distress? You might be good looking, Annie, but you aren’t that good looking!”

Annie socked him in the shoulder. “Shut up, you jerk! And thank you. I hope that didn’t hurt.”

“Ow! That’s how you repay my heroic knightly efforts? No wonder you don’t have any friends,” Christian was still chuckling. “Honestly, I’m glad I happened to be passing by. That guy was a fool and you could’ve really gotten in trouble. Do you always come home solo in the dark? It’s not very smart in this barrio.”

“I know. I don’t have too much of a choice, though. I’ve been at this job for two years and I haven’t had many problems– it’s not like I don’t know my way around these streets. Besides, times almost up! We’re graduating in 10 days! I put in my two week’s notice a few days ago.”

Christian’s eyes widened in surprise. “Really? Why? Are you going to college?”

“Nah,” Annie shrugged her shoulders and blushed, “just getting out of this town. I don’t really have too much of a plan. I’m buying a Greyhound ticket as soon as we graduate. I’ve been researching places, I just haven’t decided yet. I want to go somewhere far away and exotic. Maybe Nashville. Or Boston.”

“Nashville or Boston? Only white people live in those places, you know. That’s actually really cool, though. I don’t know if I’d pick Nashville or Boston as my top choices, but they’re definitely going to be real different than here.”

“That’s what I want! I want to go to coffee shops and drink espresso and learn how to play the guitar. Or go watch crab fisherman and see the autumn leaves. Don’t laugh at me. I’ve never told anyone this. In fact, I don’t even know why I’m telling you, Christian Santos! This is seriously so random! I can’t believe that I’m sitting here, spilling my fantasy world to you of all people. What were you even doing at the bus stop?”

“Hey, what’s wrong with spilling it to me? I’m not laughing at you. I think its cool, for real. I had no idea that you were such a dreamer. And I was coming home from visiting my abuelita. I go to her apartment to check up on her a couple times a week after school. You’re lucky I meant to get on this bus! You would’ve ripped a hole in my jacket if I tried to get away! This is my stop, though, so you’re going to have to give me up now.”

“All right, prince charming. Thanks for coming to my rescue. I’ll see you around.”

“Hey, it was really nice talking to you. Stay safe. Maybe we’ll run into each other again before you fly away from here, bird.”

And with that, Christian dismounted the bus and left Annie contemplating the random events of her night. She had friends, didn’t she? Wasn’t he just teasing her? But as she thought about it, she realized that he might be right. Sadly, she hadn’t put as much energy into building friendships as she had into putting up walls. She’d always thought it was too draining to talk to people, and scary to let them too close. It had been easy and even nice talking to Christian tonight. Maybe it wasn’t to late to make a friend, after all.

 

 

 

 

A to Z: The Boy

Hi, there. I am currently taking part of the April A to Z Challenge! During this month, I am writing a single story, building each day off of the previous one. To get the story from the beginning, start here and work on up…

Annie was a smart cookie. She was book-smart in the way you had to be to make it through school, and she was street-smart in the way you had to be to make it through life. She was wary and cautious, more so than other folks her age, a trait likely attributed to a tough upbringing in an even tougher neighborhood. People often told her that she was going to make it far in life, not knowing just how literally she took this tidbit. Daydreams of exotic travels across continents regularly interrupted her thoughts at inopportune times, and she couldn’t wait to finish school in a few short weeks so she could load up her few personal belongings and buy a Greyhound ticket.

Annie was also smart about boys. Many of the friends she’d had since childhood hadn’t been as smart and wary,  carrying the not-so-subtle after effects of these boys in the forms of stretchmarks and toddling guarantees to never get out of the neighborhood. Annie would not jeopardize her pathway to freedom in the form of a boy. Or a girl, for that matter. She was pretty sure neither species was actually worth the pain and suffering she’d witnessed her friends go through in the name of love or lust. Nope, freedom and happiness for Annie was nothing more than quietly finishing highschool — a personal goal that meant she’d be the first in her family — and then discreetly hopping on that bus before anyone even knew she was gone. Her mom was currently indisposed at the woman’s facility a few hours to the north and her pops had been missing in action since she was three. Fighting with her cousins for sleeping dibs on the couch at her grandmothers house was getting old, and truthfully they’d be happy to have one less body in the tiny abode. No way was a boy jeopardizing her escape.

And then she met The Boy.

 

From A to Z – Meet Annie

Wow, April crept up! I joined this challenge a little while ago, and since have been caught up in various aspects of trying to grow as a writer. This challenge will be great, because it will make me write EVERY DAY. I am also determined to make it fun and creative for me, stuff that I WANT to write instead of stuff I’m trying to make money off of =) Sound okay? I hope to build a story, one piece leading to the next. I am already a day late — eek! Expect two…

Annie

Annie was an exceptional specimen, all sharp, chiseled angles with soft curves interjected in just the right places. Her face was a heart surrounded by a tangle of blondish curls that cascaded down her back and tumbled around her shoulders like a waterfall, and two pools of aquamarine peered out from under a fringe of dark eyelashes. Her pink mouth was full and soft and kissable, and the way she pouted with it gave one the impression that she used it often for expressly that purpose. It was this mouth, along with that unruly mass of curls and the soft, mocha tint of her skin that made many a passerby do a double-take, and alluded to her grandfathers African roots.

Annie was eighteen years old, freshly an adult with the world at her whim. She knew more than she should about the pain and torment that had a tendency to run rampantly through the darker underbellies of large cities, for she had grown up clinging desperately to that underbelly with hopes that she could grasp it tightly enough to avoid tumbling off and being trampled by the beast. At eighteen, Annie finally felt equipped to jump off without falling, and run like hell to put as much distance between herself and it as she could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Random Ramblings

I got another article accepted today that was a total blind submission. YAY for that! It’s the little things in life that keep you moving forward sometimes. I’ve also been thinking a lot more on the direction I’d like to really take with my writing. I quite enjoy family travel adventure stuff, on a budget with kids, etc. I think this is what I am really going to focus on submitting to various places and see where it goes, along with reviews of certain things that pertain when they come up. I feel good about this, I think it suits me. I really ultimately want to write books, but bills must be paid over the course of however long it takes me to actually finish one.

My husband and I have this idea in our head that we are going to take our family on a crazy 30-day Amtrak adventure. We used to travel a lot when we were in college and kid-less. I think we always were sure that our children would be well traveled by the time they were 10, but of course we didn’t take into consideration the cost of actually buying 4 plane tickets anywhere. We’ve lowered out idealistic parenting expectations since they are now 8 and 10 and have barely been to Mexico (we live 10 miles away,) but we are really enjoying this age range and love taking them on low-key adventures around the city. While 4 plane tickets to anywhere seems prohibitive, Amtrak actually offers half price fares for kids and they have these cool US Rail deals. Essentially, you get 30 days of almost limitless travel with one ticket AND you can take bicycles on the trains for free. This is just the type of adventure our bohemian hearts are yearning for. Now, we just need to figure out how to save the cash to make it happen. Keeping my fingers crossed for a writing gig that actually pays decently! Hey, I’d even settle for consistently.

Losing My Voice (and trying to find it)

I’ve always been a wordy person, in the written sense, anyway. Don’t ask me something unless you want ten times the answer you bargained for, plus all of the research to back it up. I love complex issues, and I’m a very opinionated person. Call me a woman. It’s been interesting, then, that I’ve felt very lost since I’ve decided to really try to pursue writing as a career. The first step was easy. I wrote a few articles and found a job that semi-pays the bills and lets me work on my writing (in one sense, at least, even if it is very dry.) The tough part for me has been what comes next. It’s like this huge door was opened and I’ve got the whole world in front of me, but I don’t even know where to step. Intimidation almost to the point of paralysis. Have any of you had this happen? How did you overcome it?

I’ve got a head full of ideas and I haven’t taken the first step in many of them. I started writing a novel, got about 30 pages in, then went back edited, then re-edited based on my mood du jour. Sometimes I think there’s another book I should be writing, something better or more my style (or mood) but I don’t know if it’s ok to have two books going on at the same time. Do any of you write more than one book at a time?

I think that one reason I’ve been so paralyzed is because I’ve gotten caught up in this idea “writing for others” or, er, this concept of writing for money 😉 I am trying to fill in gaps by thinking of articles that might sell, but between that and my side job, it takes up all my brainpower. Or maybe I’m just hiding behind articles because it’s easy and I don’t have to be too creative on my own. I’ve got a million excuses, but the truth is that I just haven’t gotten very far. What tricks do you use to get yourself writing more, for you?

I think I am going to use this blog for ramblings like this, but also for short pieces that I’ve been thinking about putting into book form. I worked for a long time at a non-profit with youth that spent a lot of time incarcerated. We taught them soft job skills such as being timely and working on a team, plus the necessities like filling out resumes and interviewing skills. I still work there part time as a mentor coordinator. I am always struck by how amazing these kids (young adults, really) are. I’ve always thought it’d be amazing to write a little on their lives, how much they’ve lived through and how dedicated and brave they truly are. The kid with tattoos on his face working at Jack-in-the-Box probably has one of the most amazing stories you’ve ever heard, but no one’s helping him tell it. I’ve struggled with wondering if this is exploitation, or a story that deserves to be told one way or another. Can I even do them justice by putting their lives in my words? By simplifying them into a series of shorts? I think I need to try.

Another idea that keeps tugging at me is writing a memoir of sorts. I live a funky sort of life. My family lives with another family in a cooperative living situation in the middle of San Diego. We have a small farm in the middle of the city, with goats and chickens and rabbits. Throw in a few dogs, some cats, turkeys, a parrot and a gaggle of kids and you kind of come close to who we are. When we embarked on this journey, we didn’t know how long it would last. We dove in head-first and it’s truly been a wonderful ride. We didn’t know we were essentially marrying another couple when we started this, but that’s really what it’s been like. Ups and downs and life altering moments that we’ve had to get through together, and it’s made us infinitely stronger. It’s been 4 years now, and I don’t think there’s an end in sight. But then I think, who would want to read all about my life and my anecdotes? This is what I need to get out of my head — I should write it for me and my community and not worry so much about who on earth would read it.

Here lies the problem. We say that we are writing for ourselves, but truth be told we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t writing for each other, too. I wouldn’t care to put it on my blog, I wouldn’t fret about where to start. I do care if you read it, and I care that you actually like it. How do we get around that?