Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When Your Dance Teacher Videos Your Class

You've spent hours in the studio, strengthening and lengthening your muscles, learning complex choreography, and perfecting your dance moves. What felt awkward and difficult just a few months ago now feels as natural as breathing. You're starting to get the hang of this dance thing.

You're practicing a particularly fun bit of choreography and enjoying every moment of it. You feel light on your feet and one with the beat. Moving your body in such a graceful and elegant way makes you feel more beautiful than you've ever felt in your life, and you're absolutely sure you've just nailed that dance step you spent so much time learning. You're convinced that you look like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

Yep, you're really feeling good about yourself right about now.

And then...

...your teacher decides to make a video...

...and she makes you watch it...

...and you realize...

...you don't look a thing like John Travolta.

In fact, you look more like Kelso from That Seventies Show.

At this point you realize you have a choice. You can either decide that you are not cut out to be a dancer, or you can decide to get back in the studio and practice until you do look like John Travolta.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

When My Own Book Makes Me Cry

A Difficult Process

I have to admit that I've had something of a love-hate relationship with my current work in progress. I mentioned in a couple of previous posts that my first book, Amelia's Children, flowed out of me with relative ease. I completed the writing portion in just three months and had it published a couple of months after that. This new book, Primogénito, has been more of a challenge. There is so much backstory and the paranormal element required so much research on my part before I even started writing that in the beginning I kept getting bogged down in the details. Some days I didn't even want to write at all because I knew that before I did I'd have to do about a dozen Google searches and read passages from about a dozen different books just to makes sure I was getting everything correct. For a while this really slowed down the writing process.

In Love With My Characters

This is the driving force for all of my writing. I have to love the characters or I don't want to write about them. More specifically, I have to be head over heels in love with my primary male character. In Amelia's Children, that character was David, (though by the end I was also kind of digging Sarah's brother Will too). In the new book my favorite character is Damian Fuentes.

A Complicated History

The story revolves around Damian, his wife Jenn, their friend Ashley, and Ashley's husband Nick. There's an extensive back story that gradually comes out over the course of the book involving a traumatic event that the four of them lived through five years previously. Though Damian and Jenn were dating at the time, it was Ashley he turned to for comfort during the first few weeks after everything went down. Jenn never fully recovered from the pain of seeing the man she loved open up to another woman while simultaneously withdrawing from his own girlfriend.

A New Crisis

After moving to a new town and spending the past five years trying to put their lives back together, Damian and Jenn are pulled back into the darkness of their past when Ashley shows up on their doorstep, informing them of another crisis and begging for Damian's help. Jenn doesn't want him to get involved, but Damian feels responsible for what's happening and has to try and fix it. This causes the four of them to once again confront demons they thought were long dead. Along the way they also have to deal with feelings about their complex relationship with each other.

Something of a Love Triangle

A major factor in the story is the fact that Damian and Ashley were a couple before they married their respective spouses. Jenn's jealousy of Ashley and Nick's jealousy of Damian become recurring themes as the story unfolds. Though Damian no longer has romantic feelings for Ashley, still it hurts Jenn to see them together.

Because it is my mother's favorite movie, I saw Gone With the Wind about a hundred times over the course of my childhood. I practically have the whole thing memorized. So it's only natural that I think of Gone With the Wind as I write my own story about an Ashley who threatens the marriage of the two main characters. That's not why I named her Ashley, though. I already had her named before I came up with the love triangle dynamic. I didn't even know that Ashley and Damian had a past relationship until I finished writing chapter two. I certainly was not trying to write a tribute to Gone With the Wind.

Jenn's Greatest Fear

Jenn is afraid of much more than just losing her husband to an old flame. There are much darker forces at work in this story than marital strife. The things Damian is required to do in order to help Ashley with her new problem could prove extremely dangerous and Jenn wants no part of it. She wants Damian to walk away so they can live their lives in peace, but she knows he would not be the man she loves if he did that, so she has to let go and let him do what is in his nature to do, even though she knows it might mean losing him forever.

An Iconic Scene

Back to Gone With the Wind for a moment. Remember that scene at the end when Rhett has finally had enough and decides to leave Scarlett for good? Yeah, I'm talking about the "Frankly, my dear..." scene. It's impossible to watch that scene without feeling all the despair Scarlett feels as she watches her husband, a man she's only just realized she's madly in love with, walk away for the last time. Though you understand why he does it, still you want him to come back to her and tell her everything will be alright.

My Own Scarlett and Rhett Scene

Just this week I found myself writing a scene that kept reminding me of this final goodbye between Scarlett and Rhett. Again, I did not set out to write any kind of tribute. What is happening between Damian and Jenn is pretty much inevitable given where the story has taken them up to this point. I've made it to the scene where he finally understands what he has to do in order to solve Ashley's problem, and he's going off to do it. Jenn is begging him to stay home because she knows how dangerous a quest this is going to be, but he goes anyway, leaving her standing, in tears, in the doorway of their house. As I was writing it I kept closing my eyes and seeing Rhett walking away while Scarlett cried for him to return, so I thought, "Hey, if ever there was an appropriate moment for a Gone With the Wind reference, it's here." So I wrote, "Jenn watched him, feeling a bit like Scarlett O'Hara watching Rhett Butler disappear into the mist. All for the sake of someone named Ashley."

In Tears Now

I don't know why, but writing that line made me cry. I guess it's because I'm already feeling all the tension between Damian and Jenn, so as she watches him leave I'm crying along with her. And maybe it's partly from some element of nostalgia for all those lazy afternoons spent with my mom watching her favorite film. Maybe it's because it is such a powerful scene from such a classic movie. I don't know. All I know is that it has reduced me to tears and has made me fall even more deeply in love with my characters than I already was.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

When You're the Unpopular Kid in School

You Fear Whispering

When you were in school, every time you walked into the classroom the group of girls huddled in the corner would start whispering and giggling and saying mean things about you. As an adult every time you see a group of people speaking in hushed tones and occasionally giggling, you assume they're talking about you. After all, that's what it always meant before.

You Become the Teacher's Pet

The other kids have rejected you, but you know there's one person in that classroom who can't reject you. It's her job to love you unconditionally, so you get to a point where you'd rather stay in from recess and spend time with the teacher than go outside where no one likes you. As an adult you get a job and do everything in your power to please your boss. You work late. You run errands. You go above and beyond what's expected of you because you know your boss doesn't have to accept you. He can reject you at any moment, and you'll do almost anything to keep that from happening.

You Have a Hard Time Delegating Authority

As a kid, every time you went up to someone you didn't know very well, they told you to go away because they didn't want to play with you. Initiating conversations meant guaranteed rejection, and if you happened to make the mistake of touching someone, you also had the pleasure of watching them wipe off your cooties. As an adult you don't like to ask anyone to do anything for you, even if it's part of your job, because delegating requires initiating conversations and initiating conversations means setting yourself up for rejection.

It's Difficult to Maintain Friendships

When you were in school, the question wasn't if they'd stop wanting to be your friend, but when. As an adult, you pray that your friends won't leave you, but you wait for it to happen nonetheless. An unreturned phone call, a cancelled lunch date, or an invitation to your home that isn't followed up quickly by a return invitation are all signs that the person doesn't want to be friends with you anymore. You become so terrified that your suspicions are correct that you stop trying to be that person's friend.

You Wonder What You Did Wrong

You remember that as a kid you picked your nose, or you failed to clean under your fingernails, or you wore a hand-me-down shirt that was a little too threadbare. There was some event that caused all the other kids to abandon you, and you knew you had only yourself to blame. As an adult you look at yourself and see a mature, responsible individual. You're not the same person you were back then, and neither are the other people your age. You're better at fitting in and they're better at accepting the differences of others. So when someone does reject you, you beat your head against the wall and wonder why. Haven't you worked really hard to make sure this sort of thing will never happen again? You're tempted to think that there is some part of who you are that is just fundamentally unlovable.

You Don't Trust What Your Parents Tell You

It's confusing as heck to have your mother fix your hair in the morning and tell you that you're the most beautiful little girl in the world and then go to school and have everyone else tell you how ugly you are. You weigh the word of your mother against the word of everyone else and conclude that it must be your mother who is wrong.

It's Easy to Forgive

Kids are kids, and kids can be mean. You know that you're not the same person you were when you were eight years old, and neither is anyone else. How can you hold a grudge against someone who doesn't even exist anymore?

You Have a Soft Spot for Other Social Outcasts

You have forgiven the people who teased you all those years ago, but you don't have to forgive the people who are still doing it to others now. Nothing bothers you more than seeing someone pushed out of their social circle just for being...well...themselves.

The Grown-Ups Just Don't Get It

Okay, your teacher gets it because she sees it everyday, but family members and friends of your parents don't understand at all. They'll playfully ask, "Do you have a boyfriend?" and when you respond, "All the boys pick on me," they say, "Oh, if they pick on you that means they like you!" Um...no. It most certainly does not mean they like you.

You're Fine, Most of the Time

You don't think about elementary school twenty-four hours a day. You don't have nightmares in which the other kids surround you and sing that song. You know that song. The one where they changed the lyrics so they could sing it to you and let you know what a worthless individual you were. Yeah, you hated that song back then, but now you rarely think of it. After all, everyone has grown up and life has moved on. But sometimes...when you hear whispering...when you're waiting for a friend to return your call...when you catch someone in the wrong mood and they snap at you...you morph back into that scared little kid and wait for everyone to reject you. But only sometimes. Most of the time, you're fine.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Some Thoughts About Peer Pressure


Sally loved to read. There were few activities more satisfying than opening a new book and stepping out on that journey into unknown worlds. She read all the time. In the bed. In the bathtub. At the beach. Even at school. But then one day one of the popular girls caught her reading in her spare time at school and picked on her. Sally never read a book for pleasure again.

Sally loved music. She took piano lessons, but because her family occasionally struggled with money her mother had told her that she could have piano lessons or she could have all the new designer clothes that the kids at school were wearing. At first she chose piano, but one day at school one of the rich girls saw the tattered second-hand outfit she was wearing and teased her. Sally never took a piano lesson again.

Sally loved science fiction. Star Trek was her favorite television show. But one day at school one of the mean girls saw that she had a notebook with a picture of Spock on it and made fun of her. Sally never watched Star Trek again.


Alice loved to read. There were few activities more satisfying than opening a new book and stepping out on that journey into unknown worlds. She read all the time. In the bed. In the bathtub. At the beach. Even at school. But then one day one of the popular girls caught her reading in her spare time at school and picked on her. Alice never talked to that popular girl again.

Alice loved music.  She took piano lessons, but because her family occasionally struggled with money her mother had told her that she could have piano lessons or she could have all the new designer clothes that the kids at school were wearing. At first she chose piano, but one day at school one of the rich girls saw the tattered second-hand outfit she was wearing and teased her. Alice never talked to that rich girl again.

Alice loved science fiction.  Star Trek was her favorite television show. But one day at school one of the mean girls saw that she had a notebook with a picture of Spock on it and made fun of her. Alice never talked to that mean girl again.

The End Result

When their high school graduation rolled around, Sally was surrounded by an entourage of beautiful girls who were willing to worship the very ground she walked on if only she would talk, act, and dress just like they did. Alice, on the other hand, was surrounded by a very small group of girls who all accepted her just as she was.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dear Husband, Can I Please Finish Writing My Book?

Dear Husband,

Yes. I know. Part of this is my fault. It was my idea to read Game of Thrones, and there were a few things I knew going into it. I knew that it was an 800 page book. I knew that reading it was going to be time consuming. I also knew that I would likely want to finish the series once I started it. That's just how I am. And I knew that I would want to watch the television program when I was done. So yeah, to a certain extent I knew what I was getting myself into.

There were other choices I made along the way as well. I chose to watch the first season of the show after I had only read one book. I could have waited. I could have read all the books first. I was impatient, and that's on me. It's also kind of my fault that I have this obsession with always reading the book first. The fact that I had to make sure my reading stayed ahead of the episodes is just one of my quirks, and for that I can't blame you. So yes. A lot of this is totally on me.


What I didn't anticipate was that you would become completely obsessed with the show once you started watching it. I didn't know that you would be begging me to get the season two dvd mere days after finishing season one. I didn't realize that simply telling you, "Whoa, dude, I haven't finished the second book yet," would not calm your hunger for your new favorite show. I didn't realize how persistent you would be in your supplications. So I caved. I said, "Alright. We'll watch season two." I was barely fifty pages into the book at this point. Not nearly enough to take me to the end of the first episode. So after we watched it, I picked up my book and read. And read. And read some more. I made myself weary in my desperate attempt to stay ahead of the action on the show. It was hard. Some of the episodes spanned more than 100 pages of the book, and you wanted to watch an episode every day. Have you ever tried to read 100 pages in one day? Well, I can tell you that it leaves little time for anything else. Especially writing.

Remember my decision to finally take my writing seriously? Remember how empowering that was for me? How satisfying? I would really like to continue on this path, but I can't if I spend all day everyday reading. There's just not time for both. Okay, yes, I can read books and write books at the same time, but not 100 pages a day. That's just insane.

More importantly, do you remember what it's like when I don't have a creative outlet? Do you remember me feeling professionally unfulfilled? In case you've forgotten, let me describe it for you. Picture me huddled in a corner, face streaked with tears, arms hugging my chest protectively, singing Let It Go at the top of my lungs. Yeah, you've seen that picture before. It's probably a good guess that you don't want to see that ever again. And I'm right there with you. It's not pretty.

So please. Just give me a little time. Maybe a week. A week with no Game of Thrones. Let me get ahead with my reading in a leisurely way that allows me plenty of time to rediscover my hobbies so that neither of us has to hear me sing Let It Go again. Let me write a couple of chapters of my own book instead of constantly immersing myself in the world of someone else's. Let me spend some time with the Fuentes family and take a break from the Lannisters and the Starks. Just for a while. And then, I promise, we'll watch Game of Thrones.

Your loving wife,

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Struggle To Keep It Positive On Social Media

Social Media Is a Different World

Everyone is aware that the rules for interaction on the internet are different than the rules for face to face interaction. There are a number of reasons for this. For one thing, when you are sitting in front of a flesh and blood person you can make a statement and they can tell from your tone of voice and body language whether you are being serious, sarcastic, silly, etc. When you make the same comment in an online forum the body language is not there and people will always take your words at face value.

Another difference between personal interaction and online interaction is that the comments you post online don't go away. Okay, you can delete them, but if you don't they stick around forever. What you say in a group of friends might not even be heard by everyone, and the people who do hear it are likely to forget what you said five minutes later. Unless you said something truly offensive, but that's a different thing altogether. When you make a comment online, it's there for anyone to read. And reread. And reread again. As are the replies people make. And your replies to their replies and so on. Yeah, in places like Facebook there are privacy settings, but even with those in place your words are accessible to more people than would typically hear a discreet conversation between you and a friend. Let's face it, the internet is a public place and every time we say anything it's like we're standing on a podium making a speech. Most of us would not make a speech without careful planning. The same should be true for the things we say online.

The Social Media Mudslinging Match

Have you ever met someone with whom you had a difference of opinion? Well, of course you have. We all have. Have you ever engaged in a lively debate with that person? Probably. Face to face debates can actually be fun because, again, you can often judge by a person's vocal tone and body language whether their comments are being made out of anger or whether said comments are intended to be insulting. As long as both parties are in good spirits and are laying out their points in a calm and logical manner, differences of opinion can lead to great discussions. Not so online. Have you ever seen a debate online? Have you ever seen one that looked fun? That seemed to offend no one? That was nothing more than a few people calmly stating their point of view and then sitting back and listening attentively to someone else's point of view? Okay, you actually can have that kind of discussion online, but you have to spend so much time saying things like, "I see your point, but" or "I completely understand how people might feel that way, however" that the actual point you're trying to make gets lost in a sea of apologies. Most people don't take the time to say those things and so online debates quickly turn nasty. And they turn nasty with the whole world watching.

I don't want to get involved in the mudslinging, and so I've vowed to share very few of my opinions online. I just don't want the drama. I don't want people angry at me over a comment that would not have even phased them if I'd said it to their face, but online...well, that's different. I don't want to share political posts to my Facebook stream and invite the kinds of attacks I see hurled as these types of posts every day. I don't want to lose friends because they find out that...gulp...I vote differently than they do. Maybe political opinions have always been an impediment in some relationships, but usually people could get to a point where they would agree to disagree. Social media has changed that. People get tired of having their political candidate, their religion, their ethnic group, or their socioeconomic group insulted over and over by what someone else thought was just a funny Facebook meme. I get tired of those things too, but I don't comment because that would make me one of the mudslingers, and I don't want to be a mudslinger.

The Challenge

I have opinions like everyone else. Some of my opinions are very strong. Sometimes I find myself so angered by what someone else posts on Facebook that I want to write my own angry rant about that topic. Holding my tongue is hard, especially in the face of stereotypes. There are times when I want to say, "Okay, yes I do think that, but I would never do that. We're not all freaks, you know." But I don't say anything because I don't want to open the door to the nastiness that will likely ensue.

There are also some issues facing our society today that make me very angry. While I can usually face a difference of opinion in a spirit of respect, there are some things that will always ruffle my feathers. There are days when I feel an overwhelming urge to post something political just to show everyone else how wrong they are. But again, I don't. Why? Because I know it will not be effective. I mean really, how many people have changed their opinion on an important issue because they read a Facebook post from someone who disagrees with them? Yeah, reading the opinions of others might make us think about things in a new way, which could lead to a change of heart, but quite often it just makes us angry. Quite often it just makes us want to post our own opinion, and post it in such a way that it drowns out the voices of all who disagree.

Going Forward

At the end of the day I've decided that it's not worth it to risk friendships over conflicting worldviews. Actions speak louder than words anyway, so as long as I live my life according to my own values I don't need to be online shoving those values into the faces of others. But I do want to sometimes. I mean, I'm only human, after all.