Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don't MESS with the DRESS!

I write fiction, but sometimes, true stories are better. :)

This morning I’m sitting in the school parking lot waiting to pick up my seven-year-old from her summer classes, when all of a sudden, I spot her marching towards the car. She is furious. I mean, I’ve never seen her so mad, and, trust me, the girl is known for a short fuse, so this is really, really saying something. She jumps in the car and slams the door shut. Before I can even ask what is wrong, she’s telling me. “MOM! A boy KISSED me today!”

And I’m like, “WHAT? He kissed you? WHO kissed you?”

And she’s like, “We were working on our science projects and he messed mine up so I yelled at him and he kissed me right on the lips! And mom, I slapped him.”

And I’m like, “You SLAPPED him?”

And she shrugs and says, “You told me to. Remember? You said if a boy kisses me before I’m twenty-five I’m supposed to slap him!”

Oh. Bless her heart. Of course, I didn’t mean for her to slap other little seven-year-olds. I was referring to horny teenage boys. But I don’t want to contradict myself right away so I say, “What happened after you slapped him?”

She shrugs again, her anger waning and says, “I said ‘Don’t MESS with the DRESS!’”

I burst out laughing and say, “You actually said that?”

She nods very seriously and says, “Yep. I did. It’s from that movie, Mom, the Barbie movie, but I was wearing a dress today, so I figured it worked.”

And I’m nodding because, seriously, it did work. “What happened then?” I ask.

“Well, then he got in trouble. The teacher yelled at him and he had to go to the principal’s office!”

And I’m thinking, Oh, that poor, little boy! Come on people, it was just a kiss!

Then Abbie says, “But, guess what? I didn’t get in trouble at all. I told the teacher that YOU said I was supposed to slap boys if they tried to kiss me and she agreed, and Mom, I think she was laughing.”

And I smile and say, “Abbie, I’m sure she was.”

The end.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Our Characters

As writers, we think a lot about our characters. Before we write, we have to understand their likes and dislikes; we have to know their personalities, and sometimes, we have to accept their flaws. Quite literally, we have to be in their heads. This might sound strange if you haven’t written fiction, but if you have, you understand. You get it.

 I think that every writer has his or her own way of discovering their characters, and I believe this process is very personal and unique to each individual. But, in the end, the characters keep the story moving and if you, as the author, don’t know them, the words you write are wasted.

Before I start any project, I spend about a month thinking of the story and more importantly, the characters. I take this time to play with them. I’ll watch scenes in my head like a movie. Then I’ll rewind and play the scene again, except I change it. Most of the time when I start the actual writing I know my characters really, really well. But sometimes (like last week) I get hung up. I come to a scene and I can’t write it. I’ll try a few hundred words and erase them, and then I try again. Finally, I take a step back.

I go on a dry spell. Some people might call it writer’s block, and they’re probably right. But when I think back over the times I’ve been “blocked” I realize that it’s usually because I have no idea how my character should react to the scene. I know what scenes are going to happen; I already have my road map. But is my character happy or sad? Does she feel like crying? Is she really angry or just slightly put out? Is she scared? How should she respond to what I am putting her through?

The fact is, I have the stage, but if I’m not in my character’s heads…nothing is going to work.

And then the dry spell. You try to push ahead but nothing comes out right. Sometimes I’ll just keeping pushing, trying to get through it, other times I step away and let it come to me. And stepping back usually works better than pushing through. I’ll tell you why. Because sometimes, your characters might surprise you. And if you are so busy trying to push them through the scene, you won’t realize this.

Story time.

A few days ago, I was outside in my front yard, watching my kids play. It was sort of, kind of nice weather for Utah, so a few of our neighbors were outside, trying to enjoy it as well. I was watching my kids riding their bikes up and down the sidewalk, when suddenly, I heard a sort of howling sound. The sound was really loud (probably sounded even louder on our quite street) and it sounded like a dying dog. Kind of.

Confused and a little bit worried for the safety of my children, I searched the street up and down. There was nothing. The howling continued, and a few minutes later, my neighbor who lives across the street came around from the back of her house with her dog in tow.

Okay, I thought. It IS a dog. I relaxed. The thing might have been dying, but at least he was on a leash. Just as I was about to dive back into my book, the howling started again. I looked back up, slightly annoyed, and thought, “Put the thing out of his misery!”

And that’s when I got the shock of my life. It wasn’t the dog that was making those horrible sounds. It was my neighbor, the person walking the dog. My quiet, barely-will-wave-to-you, never smiles EVER, neighbor. I took a closer look and realized that she was carrying a walkman. And she was wearing earphones.

I don’t know what she was singing along to—country western?—but she was belting it out louder than I belt out Lady GaGa in my car. And that’s saying something.

I am 100% positive that her music was up so loud that she didn’t realize how loud she was singing. I am sure she thought she was singing barely above a whisper. I. am. sure.

While at least one of my sisters would gladly serenade the whole neighborhood with poor musical abilities, this woman would not.

Trust me.

So, my first impression of the situation was one of horror. I was embarrassed to be outside. I felt awful for the woman. I wanted to run up and tap her on the shoulder and let her know that she was really howling down the street, not singing quietly to the wind. But then I smiled.

Since I’ve lived here, I’ve thought that I had this neighbor figured out. I’ve called her grumpy, mean, cranky, and just about every other synonym I can think of. And although I’ve never said it, I categorized her as a person who not only doesn’t know how to have fun, but also despises it.

Well, let me tell you—the woman knows how to have fun. She might not be able to carry a tune. She might not have any musical ability period, but she was most definitely having fun walking her dog and singing. And while I have still never seen her come close to smiling or being friendly in anyway, I have realized that my rash judgment was exactly that. Rash.

And this is when another thought hit me. Maybe I don’t know my characters as well as I think. Maybe they have their own secrets, and maybe I shouldn’t categorize them right away, either. Maybe the whole week I was “blocked” wasn’t for nothing. Perhaps, it was a time for understanding who my character REALLY was.

Today I finally figured my character out. I wrote a thousand words without pausing because I knew why she was doing what and I knew how she was feeling and I understood why she was going into that next scene.

So next time you experience a dry spell, take a step back. Your character might surprise you.

As for my neighbor? (grins) Well…I’ll never look at her the same way again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I suck at spin class!

So. My ass is on fire. Literally, fire. And I know I should be happy about this but I can't sit down and I can't stand up and I have a feeling that when I finally decide to use the bathroom it's going to kill me.

I know, I know...I'm posting something and it hasn't been three months of dead time. Tonight is just a crazy, sore ass kind of night. Maybe I'll post something else after I do a billion sit-ups.

I joined 24 Hour Fitness yesterday and I love it! Well, not right now, but I'm sure in a few days, after the initail soreness has left, I'll love it.

I love going to the gym, and it's been a long time. I've been doing workout DVD's on my T.V. for way too long. The last time I had a gym membership was before I got pregnant with my almost seven-year-old daughter. So after seven years of doing those monotonous DVD's (and I do still love them in an odd sort of way) I am back in the gym.

I took my first spin class and a guy twice my age kicked my trash and made me look bad. Still not happy about that. To make a long story short--I suucckkked at spin class. I looked like someone coming out of a grave when I left. Everyone else was smiling and giving each other high fives, but me? I was crawling across the floor, yelling horrible things at the instructor. Honestly, I still don't know how I got off that damn bike.

Anyway, my friend sent me this video, and I think it is soooo good that I just have to repost it. It is geared towards writers, but I think it applies to anything in life. Even spin class. And she puts it so well! Enjoy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Holidays Are Over...

The holidays are officially over. There are no more excuses for over-eating, over-sleeping, over-spending, and under-doing everything else. It is back to the grind. Back to the dull grey skies of January, with not even the excuse of Christmas Lights to brighten the ugly, disgusting look of winter.

Do I sound dramatic?

Don’t get me wrong. I love winter—for the month of December. After that, I want the warm sun, the green grass, and an excuse to wear shorts to an amusement park. But that’s not going to happen for the next five months! It’s going to be ugly and cold and dark.

That’s why two of my sisters and I have planned to run away to St. George, Utah this coming weekend. It’s not going to be Hawaii, but hopefully it will be better than our current, colorless world.

And I have a lot of fun getting away with my sisters. Three of us decided to start this tradition last year when we took off to Grand Junction, Colorado to go to a wedding. Someday, I hope that ALL of my sisters can come. Some are too young and one just had a cute, four-month-old baby that needs her. But someday, I hope all six of us can go away together.

There is something special about sisters. They get you in a way that not many people can. Maybe that’s because they’ve seen you at seven o’ clock in the morning when all your hair is standing straight up and you’re wearing your retainer and an ugly bathrobe. I’m not kidding around here; sharing the same toothpaste does something to you.

Right now, I am lucky enough to have all my sisters live within five minutes of me. I realize this probably won’t last, but I hope that I can always have close relationships with my sisters.

Anyway, this girl’s weekend comes at the perfect time. I’ve finished a second draft of my middle-grade book, and it’s getting reviewed right now, so it’s the perfect time to set it aside and take in a breath of life and hopefully (cross my fingers) sun. The truth is, I will be writing like a maniac until the moment we leave and then my sisters will have to hide my laptop, so I won’t sanction myself to the hotel room, looking like a mad scientist as I punch away at my keyboard.

We have all kinds of stuff planned for our get-a-way. We booked a hotel with an indoor pool—that was a must. And you can’t go to southern Utah without doing a little hiking. Little, not a lot. None of us is what you call out-doorsy. We like make-up and clean hair and shopping, and we’re not afraid to admit it. Why be a girl, if you can’t have fun? And we intend to have A LOT of, good, wholesome, slightly evil fun.

So, if any of you out there are feeling the lackluster blues of January, I suggest you take a little piece of advice from the book of Meagan’s Rules to Live by to Make it Through the Month Of January.

This will be on bookshelves soon, guaranteed. And yes, I realize the title needs help.

First: Get moving. Any form of exercise will suffice, as long as you are moving consistently for the next month, preferably the rest of your life.

Second: Buy yourself a new tube of lipstick or change your hairstyle or get a new pair of pants. Or do all three like I did... Obviously, I’m speaking to the women here, but guys, you get the idea. Change up the deodorant you’re using, take a different way home from work. One simple change can go a long way.

Third: Get out of your rut. Everyone has one. If you can’t get away for the weekend with your sisters, then get out for a night. Change your atmosphere. Change your routine. I highly recommend going to a Salsa Club or taking your favorite book with you to the tub.

Anyway, that’s my advice for the month of January. And to all you people who live in Florida, California, Hawaii, or any other place that is warmer than 30 degrees—I hate you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm a good person that does bad, bad things...

I’m the world’s worst blogger. I already know this, so don’t get your pantyhose in a knot. The problem with blogging is I have to feel inspired when I write. If I’m not inspired, I don’t write. It’s as simple as that. So…yeah…my blogs come far and few in between.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been writing. Most of the time, the book I am working on inspires me more than the mundane in and outs of my daily life. In fact, I am happy to report that my middle-grade book is nearly completed—at least the first draft. I know, I know…hold the applause.

So, I have a confession, and it’s so horribly awful that for some reason, it inspired me to take time away from my book and write this blog instead.

Yesterday was my friend’s birthday, and about a week ago, she asked if I would go see a movie with her. Last night, I decided that before the movie I needed to get her a caramel apple from The Chocolate Factory. You know, the kind they first roll in caramel, and then in chocolate, or in crushed candy bars, or cookies, or anything else that adds about two thousand calories to your green healthy snack. These apples are amazing. Truly. And they make the perfect birthday gift if you only have five dollars to spend.

So at 4:30 in the afternoon, I decided that I absolutely had to get one of these forbidden fruits for my friend. I was in the middle of making an early dinner because I had to be to her house by 6:15 to make it to the movie in time, but I quickly decided that if I left the house at 5:30, I would have plenty of time to drive to chocolate heaven before picking her up.

At 5:30 I got in the car, cranked up the music, because that’s what I do, and jumped on the highway. I was singing as loud as I possibly could to Taylor Swift’s Love Story when I realized that I was stuck in commuter traffic. No problem. I had a full half an hour, plenty of time. To distract myself from the fact that minutes were ticking by, I sang even louder. At one point, I reached for an invisible microphone and the guy in the car next to me had a good laugh. That’s right. I’m a freak.

By the time I got to Orem it was 5:55. I had twenty minutes to pick up the apple and get clear across town. My mission was starting to look hopeless, and I began to tap my foot. By the way, this is a bad sign. It’s a habit I picked up from my mom. Whenever she gets angry, she starts tapping her foot to this really scary rhythm that only she can hear. To the rest of us who know her well, it is like a terrible warning, one of impending doom. Prepare yourselves, the red-head is about to explode! Oh, just kidding…it isn’t that bad. (And I have to say that because I know she is going to read this.)

Anyway, my foot was tapping, my hands were sweating, and I had stopped singing so that I could yell obscenities at the car in front of me. That’s right. The commuter traffic was completely their fault!

Now, I know you all think that I am confessing to road rage here. Nope. That is nothing. I get road rage all the time. Freaking out on the cars around me is just how I drive. It’s in my genes. Another gift from my mom. No, compared to what else I did last night, that makes me look like a saint.

By the time I pulled into the right parking lot it was 6:01 and I was thinking something similar to this: All right, Meagan. Park, run, grab, pay, run, drive. You can be out of the parking lot in one minute flat. Well, there was a problem with that thought process. The parking lot was packed. There were NO parking spaces. Okay, well, technically there were some spots available, at the end of the parking lot, about a mile away. It would take me a whole five minutes just to get to the store to by the apple. And I was OUT of time! I didn’t HAVE five minutes! I didn’t have ANY minutes!

At this point, I had stopped yelling and had started to cry. It was really ugly. The tears. The sweat. The banging of my head against the steering wheel. I will spare you the rest of the details.

So I was driving past the store, preparing myself to drive to the end of the parking lot, hike up my skirt, and run, when I spotted an open parking space right in front of the store! It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was for the handicapped.

I stopped the car; my whole life flashed before me. I looked in the rearview mirror. I had about five seconds to make a decision. It was wrong. I knew it was. It was illegal and rude. But it was right there! I would be in that store for less than sixty seconds. SIXTY FREAKIN’ SECONDS! And I was doing it for a good reason, right? I was buying a birthday present! That had to count for something, right? Right? Right? RIGHT?

About right then the angel on my other shoulder spoke up.

No, Meagan. Right now, you are doing what you do best. You are justifying all the bad things you do, like when you ate all that pie last week. Just because it was Thanksgiving doesn’t mean it was right to eat a whole pie by yourself, with whipped cream. It’s the small moments in life that define you. You can prove yourself right here, right now. Just drive away. Do the right thing.

This was the last thought I had, and then, God help me, I swung into that spot faster than I ate that pie last week. I jumped out of the car and ran in the store. I picked an apple and paid for it, all the while, keeping an eye out for someone wearing a uniform and holding a pair of handcuffs. I was in that store less than a minute. Forty-five seconds, tops. Apple in hand, I ran back to my car and pulled out of the prohibited space. And, almost immediately, I started praying for forgiveness.

That’s right. I broke the law for a stupid, scrumptious apple. Last night I traded my soul for a convenient parking spot. Disgusting.

I believe in bad karma. Mine is coming. Oh, it’s coming. Any person who steals a spot reserved for the handicapped deserves it. It’s like taking candy from babies, something else I’ve been known to do.

And if it was any of your birthdays, I’d do it again. I love you that much. Anyway, I hope my confession counts for something. I’m risking everything by writing it. My friend’s husband is a cop, and I don’t know if he could arrest me if he read this. But I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read this, so I think I’m safe.

And just so you all know, I was only two minutes late picking up my friend.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Don't take yourself too seriously!

Well…it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

It’s not that I haven’t had stuff to write about it. My life is full of all kinds of lovely little stories that would, if given the chance, make you want to pee your pants.

Like, a few weeks ago when I bought my first pair of skinny jeans. Seriously, skinny jeans have scared the hell out of me ever since they made their debut.

I was like, “Where does my butt go? Oh, yeah? There? Yeah, that’s not gonna work for me….” or “But you can see the shape of my entire thigh!” or “Seriously, the zipper is like an inch and a half long!”

Let’s just say that I’ve avoided them for a while. But when I got to see how cute my mom and sisters looked in their skinny, totally-in-style jeans, I was like, “Hmm…maybe I can get away with wearing that, too. Maybe if I wear boots with them it will help balance out the size of my ass….”

So, after calling my sister and getting the inside scoop, I strutted into Pac-Sun and said, “Hey, I need some of those skinny jeans (in this particular size)!” And the really cute sales girl was like, “Let me get those for you! And, by the way, your daughter is sooo cute!”

And in my head, I was thinking, “Of course, she is, but kudos to you! You just got some major brownie points, and I’ll probably buy these pants, even if I don’t like them!”

In two minutes flat, I was in the dressing room, pulling off my totally-not-in-style, boot-cut jeans and pulling on these really skinny things that stuck to my legs like wallpaper. Literally, I had to jump up and down to get them on, but after I got them up, I was like, “Damn, these don’t look all that bad! I’m feeling kinda sexy!” And my daughter, Charlie—who is no doubt going to grow up and become a fashion genius—stood on the bench and said, “You look bootiful!” And, seriously, at this point, I was thinking it was a go.

Then the doubt started to loom. First concern, could I even sit down? I quickly sat on the bench. Okay…well, not without my butt crack showing. Shit. (I’m sure you’ve all said it in your head, too. I certainly didn’t say it out loud with my three-year-old daughter staring up at me.) Then I realized that I hadn’t even done up the button, which was, by the way, very south of my bellybutton. No big deal. I pulled up the zipper and…oh, yeah, that was not gonna work….

Now, honestly, I know it sounds like I’m five hundred pounds here, but I assure you, I’m not even close to that. I wear a size six. Okay, it’s not a skinny, model-like number, but I’m sure J. LO wears something close. (I use her as an example cause we are similar in the pocket area.)

So, I called over the cute, kisser-upper sales girl and explained my predicament.

I was like, “Hey, sweetheart, I have a problem.”

And she was like, “What’s that?”

And I was like, “Well…I’ve got a fat ass. Could you please bring me these in the next size up?”

And, honest to God, her eyes popped out of her head, and she started laughing so hard that she had to hold onto the wall to keep from collapsing on the floor. I’m almost positive she didn’t expect me to be that frank.

And I was thinking, “Hey, my big rear end just made some one laugh! How cool is that?” But, then she assured me that their sizes run small and she could definitely get me the next size up. I’m telling you, this girl was good. First, she tells me that she’s never seen a more beautiful three-year-old in her life, and then she feeds my ego by lying to me!

So, before I knew it, I was pulling on a size bigger, and, I swear on the goldfish that I accidentally froze, they were amazing. And I started jumping up and down and posing in the mirror like I was a model for Vogue, and Charlie started clapping, and I just know there has never been a bigger party at Pac-Sun.

I know this story is long. Sorry. I can’t help it. But I promise, it happened just like this.

So, I pulled the pants off and marched up to the register and the sales girl, who should seriously consider selling something more profitable than pants, told me that if I buy one I get another pair half off.

Well, sweet music! Get me these in black!

I walked out of that store with two pairs of skinny jeans, a huge smile, and a daughter that really, really, really had to go pee.

I was driving home when I decided to call my mom and tell her that I had completely grown up and bought my first pair of…well, by now you get it. Being the wonderful mother she is, she told me to come over to her house and show her how the first masterpiece she created in her belly looks in sexy, skinny jeans.

Well, why miss an opportunity to show off? I pulled in her driveway, and, on my way up to the front door, met the guy that was putting a fence around her house. He seemed nice, but let’s face it, I wasn’t paying him much attention.

I entered the house and pulled the miracle pants out of the bag, and my mom was all like, “Go try them on!”

And I was all like, “Okay!!!”

I ran down to my sister’s bedroom (the one where the dresser is the floor) and pulled on the pants. On my way out of the room, I checked myself out in the mirror and grinned. Then I started up the stairs.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I have a big mouth. Not just big. Huge. All of my brothers and sisters can back me up here. So, as I entered the front room, I yelled out, “WELL! MY FAT ASS LOOKS…”

That’s right. Dot. Dot. Dot.

Because I never got to the looks amazing part. Instead, I realized that my mom had the front door open and her and the fence guy were staring at me with huge eyes and two not-so-subtle grins. My mom started laughing, and I was like, “Hey, let me just back on out of this room and stick my head on fire. Oh wait, it’s already on fire!”

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. I announced that I had a fat ass to the fence guy.

Please, tell me the same thing has happened to all of you.

That's okay. I've learned not to take myself too seriously. You have to laugh at yourself. You have to look at the positives. Like today when I got my long-awaited response from an agent that asked to see some of my manuscript. All I could see as I read the email was, "your manuscript’s obvious merits" and "clearly saw enough in your writing to request a closer look". I didn't see the part where she said she couldn't represent me because her client list was too full and the bad economy made it hard to take on new clients. I just didn't see that part.

I thought it would sting a little more, but honestly, I'm so happy tonight. Sure, I bet I would have been happier if she had wrote back and told me that she absolutely had to take me on as a client, but like I said, for some crazy reason, I am so excited to keep going.

Tonight, I'm going to read a good book. Tomorrow, I'm going to write one....

(Oh, and by the way, it doesn't matter what size you get in those jeans. You have to wear a belt if you don't want to show the world your crack!)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quick Confession

Quick confession time: I love Halloween.

No. It’s worse than that. I am a Halloween junkie.

I worship everything about it. The smells. The sounds. Getting to dress in a questionable costume. It’s all beautiful.

I try to be good. Hold off until the end of September. But today I went to Target to get my three-year-old daughter some pajamas, and I knew I was in trouble when I spotted a pair of long underwear covered in witches and black cats. I had to get them. It didn’t matter that she’d only be wearing them for two months. I couldn’t come home with Halloween pajamas for one daughter and not the other one…so I got some for my six-year-old, too. Skulls wearing pink bows. She’ll love them.

I could’ve stopped there. I should’ve stopped there. But I do not call myself a Halloween junkie lightly. When I walked by a black shower curtain with skeletons and a matching bath rug—I almost cried. Then I threw them in the cart. There was an end to my insanity. I ran the other way when I saw the Halloween dishes. Spider web plates, skull tumblers, and little black bowls. Well, all right…if I’m being completely honest, I stacked them in my cart and almost drove off. Then I remembered that I wasn’t a millionaire, and I put them back. THEN I ran away.

I remember the first Halloween decoration I bought like it was yesterday. It’s a little sign that reads “Just call me wicked”. It cracks me up. Some people out there probably just said, “There’s your sign, Meagan. There’s your sign….” And if they’re laughing, I’m laughing with them. I claim to be nothing but human.

Back to decorations. I buy them. I hate craft projects, and I don’t DO cute. No painting, sewing, bead work, cross-stitch, or anything else that requires more than a minute of my time. I tried the whole craft thing once, but I’m bad at it.

I try to keep my decorating classy. Black roses on the table. A scarecrow. Some eyeballs in a jar. You know, just the necessities.

I think my obsession with Halloween stems from always wanting to be in another world, hence the writing. Not that I don’t love my life. I do. But most days my thoughts are somewhere else, leaving my body to stare into space. A forest. The ocean. A world only I know….

So, after I got home from the store today, I started setting up. I know it’s only September seventeenth. Very well aware of that fact, and yet…I simply don’t care. If it was up to me, everyone would dress up the entire month and what happened on Halloween night, would stay on Halloween night. All bets are off.

For any of you God-fearing people out there, say a prayer for me. My husband will be home tonight, and he’s in for a bit of a shock. I’m a tiny bit worried. But if he can survive the bat cave I made last year, he should be able to handle a shower curtain. I hope.