Workspace or Potential Hoarding Episode?

It is the last day of my vacation. Sigh. I’m perusing my to-do list, and have completely accomplished close to two of the ten items I had written down. Yup. I have to confess that the internet is an evil, evil curse that has me in its vice-like grip on a daily basis. Lest you think I’ve just been shopping at Amazon (ok, maybe a little) and reading about Lindsay Lohan’s latest arrests, most of it has been productive work on my alter-ego’s blog, research, sales promos, putting together and ordering some SWAG, and other social media concerns.

But seriously – I just don’t have time for a job. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for homelessness either, so off to work I shall go tomorrow.

(Random side note: As I am in the process of writing an historical erotic manuscript, I find that the cadence of my prose has taken on a decidedly 19th century lilt. Stuff of nonsense!)

Okay, I’m back. On the plus side, each day as I have forced myself to “close tabs” on internet explorer, I have managed to squeeze out  approximately 16K words on said historical work. 4K more, and I will have reached my vacation goal. It could happen. Remember – sleep is for wimps. The other plus side is that I had a BLAST with my family last weekend when we actually left the confines of our little coastal world and went somewhere. Shocking, I know. We had two eating and shopping and eating, and more eating packed days, first at the Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood –

Reason # 1 for the visit: they filmed the exteriors of The Shining here.

Now we’ve been on the Pacific Crest Trail in California & Oregon. Okay, not for more than a few hours – but it still counts!

There were chipmunks running around the dining room where we ate at their amazing lunch buffet. Gordon Ramsey would be scandalized. I thought they were cute. What’s a little rodent hair amongst friends? And then we continued our frivolity in Portland at the Pittock Mansion

Kashmere with John – Lord of the Manor

 

Living Room/Slash Music Room

And the Washington Square Mall and Cheesecake Factory where much money was spent on doo-dads and smelly stuff from Hot Topic, Spencer’s and Bath & Body Works, culminating with a birthday feast at the Cheesecake Factory. At one point, I was certain I would never be hungry again (as if) – we ate so much.

 

(2nd random side note: I was so inspired by the Lodge & the Mansion, that they are now being featured as locales in my sci-fi romance epic, which, God help me, shall be finished one day. After the other myriad projects. And stuff.)

Which brings us all back to my last day of vacation. On the sad little list is an entry that says “Clean-up and organize workspace”. If I’d had an ounce of intelligence, that would have been the very first thing I tackled. How I get anything accomplished is beyond me. But I realize I’ve always battled the whole ‘paper’ thing. I can remember complaining to someone years ago – prior to the advent of PC’s for every man, woman & child on the planet – that I was drowning in paper. Once the PC came along, I thought all my worries would be solved. Yet – all that has seemed to accomplish is to produce more and more paper. I should write a horror film about the Revenge of the Killer Document.

Alright, prepare to be frightened:

I know its in here somewhere…

You should have seen the office back when I had the record label – now that was epic. Band photos, post cards, lists of distributors, flyers, radio charting, festival lists, record store lists (back when those still existed) and Lord only knows what else. A great deal of it tends to be my frenzied scribbles on scraps of paper whenever anything leaps into my frazzled little mind.

So even though the rest of the house is a well-oiled, meticulously kept clean machine (courtesy of the hubby, who has kindly decided not to divorce me over my little corner of paper hell), this one area needs some serious help. In the interest of heel-dragging and not cleaning it up, I have elected to write this post. But by doing so, I have also crossed one more thing off of my list.

Advertisements

Paper Trumps Digital

I had quite the surprise today on my day off from retail hell – the author copies of my first book showed up at the door. They are shiny, and physically real. I can hold them in my hands, and show them to the neighbor. (I had the sudden urge to spell it “neighbour”, the British English I use when I’m writing is taking over my brain.) There’s definitely something about holding an actual paper copy in my hands of my book. The digital releases have been very exciting; the first time I saw one of my books listed on Amazon – wow – what a rush.

But this is a very special first time. When I was 12 years old and dutifully, and at times frantically, writing my first Wren the Detective stories, I dreamed (“dreamt” in Brit-speak) of the day when I would hold that first book in my hands. It only took a gazillion years and a lot of real-life drama for me to plow through, but it just goes to show ya’ – never give up on a dream. Ironically, I sort of had. Not completely, since I had to have some ambition to get the thing out there, some hopes, but I had let go of the desperation to make it happen that used to drive me. Particularly in the music biz – oh Lord, what a nightmare that was.

Writing for me now has become something I can completely immerse myself in and enjoy. I’m not saying this just because I got published. I’m not exactly burning up the NY Times bestseller list here, but in my own little corner of the world, it’s really nice. In the realities of the entertainment business – and I had already cut my teeth in acting and music – most, and I really mean MOST – people do not make it big. If you survive with your sanity and don’t o.d., you’re doing awesome.

But this feels like a good beginning. It’s a tangible result. I’ve seen some royalty checks from both self-pubbed and traditionally pubbed efforts. I’m going on a year in the writer business, getting paid to write something that I created. Again, not enough for me to run screaming from the crazed, clothes-throwing, subhuman tourists, but enough to be really grateful to receive each month. I’ve had positive reader and review site response. My editor has been wonderfully supportive and complimentary.  I just signed a contract for the new book series I’ve been yakking about, and filled out the book information form for the publishers. The first 50 K installment is turned in for edits, and I’m starting Book 2. So right now, it all feels as though it’s headed in the right direction.

The most important thing to me personally? What is more exciting to me than any other actual event related to the writing? The floodgates have opened. My mind is going constantly in a way it hasn’t in literally almost fifteen years. In terms of fiction writing – more like thirty years. In the last few days, I’ve tossed out another 8 K words on a mainstream sci-fi romance that’s been festering inside of me the last couple months. I jotted the main ideas down, and pushed it aside to make sure that my gay firefighters from Mesa Arizona could get together and live happily ever after. But as soon as I turned that in to my editor, I started going to town on this other one.

It feels GREAT. Maybe something really big will happen with it, and maybe it won’t. All I really care about is getting it out of me and on paper. Okay, so if I do publish it, it will definitely be an ebook. But it will also be in print, because when you’re living your writing dreams, paper really does trump digital.

And as promised, Lord Chumsley, the Wonder Lizard:

Here Lizard, Lizard, Lizard

How long has it been – twelve years or something? Note to person who left me a message on Facebook six months ago – I never remember to check “other” messages, and now it won’t let me reply.

Anyway. The last two months have been…lame. So I’m going to pretend they didn’t happen, and we can just move on from there, ‘kay?

My alter-ego has completely taken over my life (the part that isn’t being taken over by my day gig – oops, I forgot – I wasn’t supposed to go there), so it’s very difficult to remember that there’s this other person named Wren Andre. Sort of like the premise for the Stephanie Meyer book “The Host“, soon to be a major motion picture. Hopefully, the first half of that film won’t be as excruciatingly boring as the book was. It got better after the first four hundred pages. Good thing I don’t give up easy.

I am feeling the need however, to hang on to a tiny part of me, and to not just completely let my Host envelop me. Especially since she spends way too much time contemplating naughty situations and positions for her characters to get in. For those who are wondering my opinion: Yes, I think Fifty Shades is going to help the genre and garner new readers. And despite the level of writing, you have to give credit: she created two characters that transcended horrible copy-editing and rampant overuse of the term “Oh my”. Isn’t that what readers want – to be engaged and lost in the lives of these fictional creatures? Most people don’t read fiction to critique it for an English Lit. class, they read it to enjoy it. Get over your jealousy people. I have. Almost.

With that said, let’s see if I can get back into some nostalgic writing here soon. That’s the plan, as I’m happy to say that my one year-anniversary happened somewhere around now, I’m pretty sure. For those of you following my pod-person’s journey, she has just completed the final line edits to her second release coming out in September, and is wrapping up the submission draft for part one in her three book series. That has been gruesome – I estimated each book would be 30 – 40, 000 words – and the first one comes in at almost 50 K. It’s not even the writing that’s the epic part – it’s the re-writes for something that long. Seriously – one of the characters somehow stole the other character’s Ford Bronco halfway in ( I accidentally switched their cars around – duh), and things like time of day (was it morning or evening?), name of a restaurant, have three or four days gone by – all of it becomes monumental the longer the thing is. No pun intended.

I’d might as well throw this in as well – my publisher has opened up a new line called “Clandestine Classics”. Remember Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Well, take out the zombies and add in smutty scenes instead. They announced it to the world a couple of weeks ago, and the press has been crazy. Yes – my alter-ego made a proposal since they sent out the submission call only to their authors, so we’ll see. Sorry – I can’t tell you which one! Here’s a you tube video with a segment that Jimmy Kimmel live did on CC when the press broke (pretty hilarious):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5ZIlC5vZ48

Finally, the most exciting news of all: I pick up Lord Chumsley, my bearded dragon, tomorrow morning. He’s a big fella’ and will keep me company here by my computer. I shall post lizard photos soon.

Exercising My Right to Freely BBQ

I am so off schedule, it’s up there with completely ridiculous. Obviously, my posting at this blog has suffered greatly, and most of you who follow along on my writing journey know that it’s due to the recent publication of my alter-ego’s first book.

Quick update: Going great – seems like a good response so far. No reviews or royalty statement, so I am currently in Wonderland as to how many units have sold and whether or not people love or hate this thing. For my impatient demeanor, that has been frustrating, yet to be expected. I am moving to phase 2 of promo; after the virtual blog tour for the anthology, I am now setting up – or supposed to be setting up, sigh – the next blog tour for the standalone release on June 11th. More on that later.

That actually brings me to the present, and why I’m even more off-schedule. It’s been a non-stop drama-fest at work for the last week or so with more ch-ch-ch-changes. Some of you will remember that my position was eliminated in a corporate re-structuring (paste my name and face on thousands upon thousands of Americans around the country) blablabla three months ago. Due to my friend and co-worker’s enormously wise decision to escape from Hellhouse, my job has just become available again. Which would mean going back to salary exempt, staying up all hours to write, being exhausted, and not getting to make homemade potato salad and Sopapilla cheesecake pie (thanks for that recipe, very wise co-worker) on a holiday Monday that I get to spend with my family. The financial reward? A few hundred bucks. Not that I don’t need that few hundred bucks (I do), but I still haven’t seen that royalty statement yet. Will it replace that money? And haven’t we survived these last few months without it? And if I don’t make up the money now, won’t a few months down the road (and more completed writing) replace it then?

Enter my boss who swooped down on our little beach hamlet last Monday to grill us all like day-old grilled cheese sandwiches ( I have no idea what that means) on what our workplace intentions were. And to ask if I’d like my old job back. Uh…….hmmmmmmm…well….NO. I need to stay true to my writing path, and my sanity. And, okay, I confess; I did have a little bit of a “HA! NOW you want me! Forget it…” moment. But hey, I’m human, and I have been taking it in a part of my anatomy that shall remain unmentioned, quite a lot lately at this job.

I am now officially the trouble-maker. Or, the worse than ever before trouble-maker. But I need to stay true to my path here, and to my family that is also along for the ride. However, it’s been stressful because since I didn’t make it easy by neatly filling in the gap at work just as we go into our busy season, the boss is not thrilled. I did leave the position available for others – one in particular – who would do great and really benefit from it – but not according to the corporate rules and regulations. In other words, the expected and proper line of ascension up the corporate ladder. Such nonsense. So I say – they are bringing it on themselves, which is why all of this happened in the first place. Had well enough been left alone, my wise co-worker and I might have just stuck it out. But once she got my job – in addition to the essentially two jobs she was already doing – dumped on her, well, there’s only so much one person can take in the name of corporate down-sizing.

But here we are, it’s a nice day, and we’re all celebrating (those who don’t work retail anyway) the freedoms we have because others sacrificed and fought for us. I haven’t had a holiday day off like this in the four years since I took this job, so I’m going to exercise my right to BBQ – and to be with my family for a change. Happy Memorial Day to my American friends out there!

 

But It’ll Learn Ya’…

…way, way better than school. ( Heart – “Cook With Fire” from Dog & Butterfly.)

Yes – I am still on a tangent. Billie and her evil spirit buddies will have to wait a few more days – so I will understand if you fast forward to the future. And if you are capable of that skill – please let me know how you do it. Anyway, here’s a little story from when I was a young pup back in the eighth grade. It was not a more innocent time; frankly I don’t believe such an animal exists. The times have all been varying degrees of anti-innocence. The differences have primarily been the era – and the degree to whether or not fast food was available – in which the lack of innocence occurred.

A few of you had the rare privilege of attending the same crappy private religious school with me. For those few I say: sorry to remind you it existed. For the rest of you, I offer some background. Crappy private religious school in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley: check. Typical awkward middle schoolers fighting for their spot on the ladder of eighth grade society: check. Teachers and administrators kissing up to the parents with the most cash to keep said school from sinking into oblivion: check. Come on everybody, here we go! (Peter Pan)

I’ve always had a not-so-healthy dose of drama bred into me, and even though I was finally coming out of the weird anti-social cloud I had previously inhabited when I was in grade school, I was hardly the epitome of awesomeness. Especially acceptable eighth grade awesomeness. I was a nerd, and it wasn’t until a couple of grades later that I learned how to work my nerdette into some sort of grand – albeit limited – social status. In the eighth grade I was merely one of the faceless masses that slogged through each day.

I longed for more. Like everyone else, I wanted to better my space in the universe. I just never considered accomplishing it by squashing others around me. I had already been infected by the acting bug earlier, and I saw hiding behind another persona a good ticket to escaping from whatever loathsome creature I perceived that I was. The eighth grade teacher – lets call him Mr. Roberts – was a young, blond cutie that most of the girls and one angry, rotund fellow teacher swooned over. We weren’t allowed to lust, it was against the rules. He was somehow put in charge of putting together some colonial play of some sort to support what we had supposedly learned in American history that year. Since I have no recollection of what this play was actually about, it’s rather apparent how compelling it was.

Several of us, including my eighth grade best friend – lets call her Joanie – excitedly got ready for the auditions. I don’t know if I blocked a lot of this play out like a bad Vietnam experience, but I seriously can’t remember the auditions, or much else about the specific play. The events surrounding it however have that memory imprint in my brain the way that some things do from the past. Finally the results were announced – I was in! Joanie, however, wasn’t. She was not at all gracious about her loss and my win. She was actually quite angry and hurt. I felt really bad.

I became determined that I would find a way for her to be involved. There were a lot of ensemble groups – I have a vague memory of a courtroom and jury – couldn’t she just be on stage during one? I mean, what would it hurt? I brought it up to Mr. Roberts.

“I’m sorry Wren. We’ve already announced the cast, and it would be unfair to others who didn’t make it, they would want to be included too. Plus, we are already having trouble coming up with enough costumes for this thing, I couldn’t possibly add another person.”

“Well,” I said, suddenly coming up with one of my bright ideas that have a tendency to kick me in the ass rather than help me, “Her mom is a seamstress. She could make Joanie’s costume for her, and maybe, if her daughter was in the play, she might be more likely to help with the other costumes!”

Mr. Roberts pondered this interesting piece of information. “Let me think about it. I’ll talk to Joanie and see if she thinks her mom would really do that.”

I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to tell my friend that I had gone out on a limb for her, and everything would work out. And it did. For Joanie anyway. One day before rehearsal, Mr. Roberts took me aside. Maybe I was going to get an even bigger part, or maybe he just wanted to thank me for helping out. Joanie’s mom had really stepped in and taken over the whole costume thing.

“Wren, I need to talk to you about something. It turns out that the play is a little too long, and we need to cut a couple of the scenes. Unfortunately, your scene was one of the ones we had to cut. I’m really sorry.”

I was stunned, and yes, my stomach did drop. I’m sure many of you know exactly how that feels. “But, I can still be in the play, right?”

“Uh…I guess you don’t quite understand. I’m really sorry, but we have nowhere else for you to be. And we’re actually going to be needing your costume back so that we can give it to one of the other cast members. It will save us some time and money.”

Since rehearsals took place after school, and everyone – except me – was still in rehearsal, the halls were pretty much empty when I dazedly made my way back to my locker. Somehow the act of turning the combination dial on my locker unleashed a fit of sobs. Cristal, an acquaintance who shared a class with me and Joanie, noticed me and came over to see what was wrong. I told her my whole wretched story. Apparently, Joanie had already filled her in. Mr. Roberts had told her and asked her to be really nice to me – oh, and to make sure she got the costume back from me. Joanie was intimating to the other kids that she was much better than me in the play, and that was why they were using her instead of me.

As you can imagine, I had some pretty hurt feelings, and confused ones as well. Would my best friend, Joanie, really say such a thing? It seemed unlikely. I was thirteen folks, I didn’t fully get yet that we were all in a life rehearsal on how to treat one another. That this kind of crap would continue. And continue. And continue. The one thing I should have been paying attention to, as if I were the protagonist in a horror novel, is how to recognize the cues of bad human behavior, and then how to run screaming away from said human. In novels, it’s a device called “foreshadowing”. In my story, this was the foreshadowing, but I was thirteen and clueless. Unfortunately, I continued to be clueless many a time after that. Thankfully, I’m in clueless relationship recovery, and am a little better these days.

But we’re talking about the eight grade, right? Once I had regained a modicum of composure, I decided I needed to talk to Joanie about it. She was obviously more advanced than me in the intricacies of game-playing and manipulation, and she thwarted my efforts with excuses and such, until finally, it was sort of swept aside. I did notice a change in our relationship. She was often times too busy to hang out after school as we once did, and I found myself spending a little more time with Cristal, who was stuck everyday at the school until her mom could get her after work.

But Joanie was still my best friend, and I was loyal, dammit. I didn’t want her to think I was cheating on her with Cristal, so I made every effort to always choose her first. This held true for the big year-end Six Flags Magic Mountain field trip coming up. We all had to pick a field trip partner, and obviously, Joanie and I would be amusement park buddies. I verified, and re-verified. She seemed irritated that I kept bringing it up.

The wonderful day arrived; we would all get to go to Magic Mountain instead of school. I had been waiting for this trip for months. I arrived at school, and saw the two big buses ready to take us to this Magical – albeit, roastingly hot – roller coaster paradise. I looked for my park buddy, and finally spotted her standing next to Miss-More-Popular-Than-God. Let’s call her Buffy. Buffy noticed me approaching, and elbowed Joanie. We locked eyes, and I saw something I couldn’t describe. She most definitely had an odd expression on her face, one that said she was less than thrilled to see me. I had that stomach-dropping thing going on again.

She walked up to me, away from the other girls. “Hey. Uh, I’m going to hang out with Buffy today. You’ll have to find someone else to go with.”

WHAT?!?!? Someone else to go with?!?! Everyone else already had their buddies! I tried to keep it together. “But…you…we…” I’m not so great at forming sentences when under emotional pressure.

She shrugged her shoulders. “Sorry.” And walked away.

Everyone was looking at me. Would she cry? Would she scream? Would she punch Joanie in the face? I wish I could say I gave them a good show, but instead, I started walking home. Fairly easy to do, as I lived across the street from this portal to the inner sanctums of hell. Fighting back the inevitable tears, I tried to walk as fast as would appear dignified away from there. Shit – there was my mom. How would I explain this to her? She would be lurking at home, ready to grill me and then make it worse by pitching a fit at the school.

Cristal saved me. She ran up to me, and as soon as I saw her face that clearly portrayed how sorry she felt for me, I burst into tears. She already had a park buddy, but that was okay, the three of us could hang out – it would be fun. I was shaking my head, I didn’t want to go, I was too embarrassed. She kept insisting, and being the amazingly funny and goofy person she still is to this day, she got me to laugh, and I went. And we had a good time.

I was held prisoner at that CPRS (crappy private religious school) until I graduated, and even after Cristal transferred out (in a fit of great wisdom), we remained friends. I watched Joanie meticulously work on reinventing her persona to match the expectations of the most holy crowd of popularity, and it worked. To a degree. After she cut and colored her hair, got the braces off, got model head shots, took up cheer leading, etc., etc. she was “in”. As I had moved on with my life, I wasn’t stalking her enough to find out what actually happened, but she and Buffy had some sort of falling out. When I got my agent, and started going out on acting calls, she started sniffing around.

Nope. I had about five minutes in my junior and senior year where I had a lot of confidence and clarity, and knew better than to hook up with a manipulative climber who only wanted what I could offer them at that given moment. I back slid for quite awhile after that, but I saved myself from any further humiliation and hurt from Joanie. The protagonist triumphs!

And as David Byrne would say: Same as it ever was…   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKlrkBJozuc

This is the Working Hour…

…We are paid by those who learn by our mistakes. (Tears For Fears – “The Working Hour”, Songs From the Big Chair)

Bad moods, certain songs, and an internet connection could get one into a lot of trouble. But I will refrain from that and just ask you, my dear readers, are there certain songs, entire albums, musicians, etc. that just take you ‘there’? ‘There’ is that place where you connect with some small part of you that you forget you have most of the time. It’s the alive spot in you that can be released just by playing that certain disc or song.

Sometimes I can connect like that when I’m writing. Sometimes not. If I can get that perfect synergy between writing and playing music, then it’s insane. I used to achieve it by writing music. Writing music and playing music at the same time is counter-productive – and ridiculous –  so I’ve only had this marriage of connection activities since I’ve become so invested in my writing.

Then there’s this other thing. The other thing is related to all of the crap I deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes writing can’t help that; sometimes it is absolutely necessary to help it. But there’s one thing I know for sure that always helps it: music. Certain music. I have a rather lengthy list of varying and sundry artists and songs, but I’m currently on a tangent. You know how that is; it’s when only one type of musical vibe will do. What’s your certain music? I bet you can get a feel of where my vibe is at by my certain tangent right now:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOY_aqkUTxY

The Saga of Crazy Billie Pt. 3 & More Publishing Updates

Here I am again, trying to sort out the confused madness of the last few weeks. I have been glued to my computer, and have figured out how to use my Word 2010 software so that my alter-ego can properly communicate with my publisher and editor, turned in the third – and final – edits of the story coming out May 7th, finished and turned in one of the new story ideas, and began research on the 3 book series that my editor requested a synopsis on. Plus, I have been preparing promo spots for my alter-ego, because yes, writers have to be promoters too.

 

My final comment on my first experience with a professional editor is that it ROCKED. I have learned so much that will make me a better writer. I’ve heard so many horror stories about writer/editor relationships, that I was going into the whole process with a lot of jacked up nerves. My editor was the most amazing, respectful, fun and professional person I could have dreamed up for the job.  Especially as I’m a newbie and we were both working with a slight language barrier. My publisher is in Britain, and even though I did a pretty good job of turning in a British English manuscript, I did miss a few. Then there were also slang and terminology differences, so that part was pretty interesting. In addition to her, the two final line editors were great, and their marketing and promotions person is fantastic. I feel very blessed.

I also feel overwhelmed, and more grateful than ever that I was demoted at my day job. I’m pretty sure my family appreciates it too. This way, they can occasionally interact with me on a personal level. Fortunately, my hubby and I have discovered that the “poke” feature on facebook can be utilized repeatedly in a matter of seconds; we tested that out earlier while he was in the bedroom and I was in the living room.

But on to other things! Billie was such a not-so-hot mess, that I could probably carry on about her ceaselessly. I’ve been going over various episodes with her in my mind since my last post, and it’s going to be tough to just hit the highlights. For now, I’ll pick up where we left off.

The sounds of something charging towards us was getting louder and louder, yet, we couldn’t see it. In reality, all of this happened in seconds. I didn’t even have a chance to say anything, when I felt something brush roughly against my right ear and right leg, as if it had flown past me, and right into the Suburban I was leaning against.

“Something just flew over my head!” yelled out Billie, who was standing to my left.

None of it made sense, we could hear something loudly crashing through the bushes, charging towards us, and running into us from all sides. However, we had seen nothing. I had pretty much reached my tolerance for other-worldly beings, smells and sounds at that point. Valuable garbage or not, I was out of there.

“I’m going home,” I calmly announced.

“Wait! What was that?”

“How should I know? You’re the one with the weird creepy house. I’m not sticking around in case it comes back.”

“Do you think it will?” She was looking at me as if I’d suddenly become the freaky occurrences expert.

“Well, I can assure you that if it does, I will not be here to welcome it. See ya’.”

I left, and fully intended not to go back. I tried doing garbage runs with some other people, feeling that it wasn’t the safest thing to do alone late at night, but no one was really into it like me or Billie. I was putting more time into the yard and estate sales again to stock the store, but people wanted you to give them money for stuff at those places, so it just wasn’t the same as helping yourself to free things. Free has always been my favorite price.

Billie started calling me late at night because she couldn’t sleep. Duh. I wouldn’t be sleeping either. I’d be curled up in the corner with the shivering whippet jumping at every little sound that house made, and apparently, it had now taken to humming. Yes, Billie told me her walls were singing. You’d think after all of the wacky stuff I’d personally experienced, I’d be accepting of it. But I was being Agent Scully to her Agent Mulder. No matter how many times I’d been probed by aliens and seen ghosts and other weird creatures, I couldn’t accept that this stuff was really happening. At least I didn’t behave that way for 8 seasons – I caught on a little quicker.

 

So, I eventually drifted back. After all, it had been late, I was tired. The farther away from the actual event I was, the less dramatic and scary it seemed. It all happened so fast, right? It could’ve been anything. It was highly unlikely that is was some demonic creature that had manifested from beyond. I should just get over it and move on.

Oops.

Still skeptical regarding the whole singing walls situation, I was at her house one evening, and we were just hanging out in her living room. It was pretty late, and one of the things she had said to me was that the later it got, the louder the singing would get. So far, nothing odd had happened – wow – and I was sort of lazily rocking in an old rocking chair she had, while she was sitting across from me in a big easy chair. While she was talking to me in her breathless Marilyn Monroe voice, I heard something to my left, where the living room tunneled into the rest of the the house. To the right of me, was a big front picture window. Since the house had about 3 or 4 steps leading up to the front door, the bottom of the picture window was actually about four to five feet off of the ground. Many Valley homes have that same building design – they’re stucco with wood trim, and are set up on a foundation.

“Did you hear that?” I said.

Billie stopped talking, and listened. We both could distinctly hear a humming noise from the wall on my left. It’s difficult to describe. The way she described it opposed to the way I experienced it was very different from my viewpoint. But it was very much as if someone, a person, were humming a little tune, except that it was coming from the wall. It didn’t seem to move around, it would be in one spot on that particular wall. But then another wall might start to hum as well, but that tone and tune would be slightly different. And she was right. It was getting louder as it got later. There was no doubt in my mind that I needed to leave.

I stood up to put my jacket on, and I was turned so that I was facing the picture window. I froze in absolute terror. It was one of those moments where all you can do is stare. Anyone remember the Amityville Horror movie where the red glowing eyes are staring in the window? Yeah. That was what was happening. I don’t remember any demon pig attached to the eyes – just the eyes. They were in the the middle of the picture window on the outside, so they must have been six to seven feet off the ground. Really tall pig or whatever. With glowing red eyes. And it was outside where I had to walk past to get to my car. Not good.

“What is it?” said Billie in a worried voice.

The red eyes blinked once, and then they were gone. Instantly gone.

I’m not sure how to spell all of the stammering and blubbering that came from my mouth, but at some point I was able to explain to Billie what I had seen. So far through all of the psycho goings-on at her place she had really come across as rather blasé about it all. This might have been the one though, because she was acting very concerned.

It took me at least another half hour to leave because I didn’t want to run into the evil pig from beyond when I went to my car, and she had to promise to stand on the porch and watch me when I left. And leave I did, this time, to never return. But the saga of crazy Billie wasn’t over. Because even though I refused to go back to her house, I was to learn that sometimes the house is not the problem. Sometimes it’s the person in the house.

More on that next time…

 

 

The Crazy Saga of Billie Part Two & Latest Publishing Updates

Okay – I know – it’s been two weeks. So before I dive in with the Billie freak-fest, this is what’s been going on. I finally received my alter-ego’s manuscript with the edits from my editor. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Or am supposed to be doing.  I have never worked with a publishing house before. I AM NOT COMPLAINING. I am just terrified to look like a complete idiot – no easy task at times.

After agonizing for the first few days over this 47 page long document with all of these blue highlights and little boxes with suggestions in the margins, I have figured out that I don’t have current enough software to “track changes” in the document. That dilemma solved, I shall now buy Word 2010. For some odd reason, many people have moved past Word 2002 by now. Silly me. Seems like I just took that class and paid $125 for the textbook. Dammit.

Anyway – this was all just the technical nonsense – never mind any creative considerations. So I have also been trying to figure out the most efficient way for me to go through the editing process, and have it all make sense at the other end. I have been tempted a couple of times to just send it back with her own suggestions and a note that says “looks good to me”. Somehow, I don’t think that’s exactly the partnering process she was looking for.

Just minutes before I received my edits from her, I dropped her a line to tell her about a couple new story ideas I had, one that would involve a 3 book series. She responded positively, woo-hoo! But now she would like to receive synopses for all of them. One has to be in prior to an anthology deadline of April 1st. Have I gone insane? My hubby warns me not to bite off more than I can chew all the time, but I became overly excited when I stepped down at my job and was given more time to write. Plus – I’d better start writing my ass off now that I’ve seen my first post-demotion paycheck. Yikes.

Enough of that. Here is a little more in the crazy saga of Billie:

My life had settled into a routine with Billie. We had the regular Wednesday night trashing, and occasionally we would add on other nights. Thursday was Encino, Tuesday was Northridge, but I liked Sherman Oaks trash the best. One night, we were bringing in such an awesome haul – including big pieces of furniture – that we needed to go unload for round two. After getting the stuff out of the truck, Billie said she had to go in and let out the cats, let in the cats, let out the dogs, let in the dogs – the usual.

I opted for the truck. Her house had been creeping me out lately, and sometimes when we’d talk on the phone late at night, she would tell me about some of the strange things that were supposedly going on there. I sort of believed her, based alone on my first night at her house with the weird light, but then again, there was also the Clint Eastwood and dead husband story to consider. She had reiterated many times since the first telling about how she was waiting for Clint Eastwood, and he was waiting for her. It was that one look while she was standing in line at the movie theatre. No words were spoken, but they both knew. Even though he was with Sondra Locke, and her husband was still alive, someday they would be together.

Wow.

So one didn’t want to take everything Billie said as the absolute incontrovertible truth.

It was pretty late, getting close to midnight, and it was quite dark on the quiet street where she lived. Only one street lamp could be seen across from her corner home, and it was at the very corner of the street. Something caught my eye. In the darkened driveway of the second house from the corner across the street were shadowy figures, maybe three to four feet tall at most, and they were dancing around. I kid you not. I sat bolt upright in the truck and leaned forward. It was absolutely pitch black on her side of the street; her automatic porch light had already gone off shortly after she went inside. The only light at all was the glow from that one street lamp two houses over from the figures.

I squinted my eyes, trying to process what I was seeing. I must be really tired. I needed new glasses. I’d finally lost my mind. All of these seemed much better explanations than actual dancing shadow figures. If I could give a shape or form to them, the best I could come up with is what my perception of a little wood nymph would be. Yep – pretty crazy. I could see pointy, thin limbs and edges, but absolutely no detailed features. They were like dancing silhouettes. Did I mention they were dancing in a circle too? Yeah – super crazy.

That was it. I would face the stench of Billie’s home any day over dancing wood nymphs at midnight in the driveway of suburban San Fernando Valley.

“Billie – I think you should come out here and see this!”

“SHUT THE  DOOR – ARE YOU CRAZY?!”

Why, yes I am, I wanted to say. But I realized that she was mid-cat corralling, and I had almost given those poor creatures their only opportunity of escape.

“Sorry, sorry, but there’s something really weird going on out here.”

“IN!”

The blurred stampede of cat flesh flew by me into the guest bathroom, and she slammed the door.

“Oh my God, what is it?” She ran excitedly over, and threw open the door. I wanted to stop her so that I could give her a head’s up, but she was always up for anything strange and other-worldly, so there would be no holding her back. I followed her reluctantly out to her front yard. It was a cool night; we weren’t into spring yet. I was trying to readjust my eyes to the darkness, and squinting in the direction of where I had seen the figures.

“What did you see?” she whispered at me.

I was still trying to ascertain if they were still there, but I was getting distracted by the fireflies buzzing around. Fireflies?! In California at the end of winter?

“Did you see that?” I asked excitedly, pointing in a couple of directions all around me. Those little buggers were flitting around, there one second, gone the next. It was almost more surreal than the figures had been.

“I know,” she said, “I see them on occasion, but only in my yard. Sometimes I smell oranges too, but the orchards are long gone, and I’ll smell it all winter as well.”

As it turned out, I would experience that with her on a couple of other occasions. I told her about the figures I’d seen, and we stood in the yard, waiting for them to reappear. Obviously, based on what she was always dealing with, she had no problem believing me. After awhile, it was also obvious that we weren’t going back out. Our paranormal hunt had become much more interesting than the local garbage. But I was getting tired, so I was just about to call it a night when we both heard a loud crashing noise. It reminded me of stabby guy. Not again.

As we had been standing there staring intently at her neighbor’s dark driveway across the street, we had gradually moved over to the Suburban, and were leaning against it. The crashing noise was coming from bushes at the opposite end of her yard. Then the automatic porch light came on – but there was nothing there. Yet, the noise was advancing closer to us, and seemed to be coming towards us at a high rate of speed. It sounded almost like horses hooves – without the horse.

That’s it for this week – I will be sure to get the next part of this creepy tale to you next Sunday. Until then – buy something legal that Paypal has deemed objectionable.

Trashing & The Saga of Crazy Billie

“Have you ever gone trashing?” Billie looked at me as we sat in lawn chairs in her toasty front yard one summer, with an expression that indicated she had just asked me the most normal question in the world.

You’d think I’d be used to Billie’s little surprises at this point, but I was still trying to pretend that I had a regular life. Completely giving myself over to the expectation of the weird was something I wasn’t ready for. Yet.

“I don’t know what that is.” The Old Country Store had been plugging along nicely. The only real problem I still had was how to keep consistently restocking a 3,000 square foot building on very little capital. The gay landlords filled it with furniture, but I only received a ten percent commission off of that, and sales on big pieces were few and far between.

“Well,” explained Billie, “I go trashing two or three nights a week. Basically, you go around on trash night, and look for good stuff that people are throwing away. You’d be amazed what you can find.”

Oh God. First I’m placing fake personal for sale ads in the Recycler Classifieds so that I don’t have to pay the dealer fee. Now I’m thinking about scrounging around stranger’s garbage to stock my antique store? No way.

“Uh, I don’t know. That seems kind of…” what was the word I was searching for? The one that wouldn’t insinuate that I thought she was a freak?

“Look,” she said, “I know you’re thinking that it’s kind of embarrassing to do something like that, but really think about it. After all, it’s just going to be thrown away, right? Shouldn’t it be saved and put to good use? Isn’t it a waste to just leave it for the garbage?”

She was very good. Especially when it came to the word “saving”. She was saving the animals. She was saving the garbage. Of course it made perfect sense. Now to explain to my husband what I would be doing between ten and two a.m. that night.

“You’re kidding, right?” He looked at me as though I had finally given up on reality altogether. He fancied himself the philosophical intellectual, and despite our rather meager existence and his tendency towards the slovenly, he maintained an above-it-all stance.

“Look, it’s just for tonight. She swears that she gets great stuff all the time, and I’ll confess I’m curious.”

He gave me the look. That one that always said to me that we were the last two people on earth that ever should have been together. But I would deal with that later. I had trash to attend to.

We set out that night at ten p.m. It was Tuesday night, and the good people of Sherman Oaks were dragging their trash containers to the curb. We waited until then because most people would have taken their trash out, and gone to bed. Less complications, and more pickings.

As we slowly drove down the street in her old-school, bashed up, solid steel behemoth of a Suburban, I felt like the biggest idiot ever known to man. My humiliation barometer was peaking, but I was trapped in the launching pad: the passenger side where I could easily leap out and grab someone’s discarded treasure and hurl it in the truck before I was discovered. This was lame. Why didn’t I have the truck so that I could do the driving, and she could do the leaping? I now understood why she had let me in on the location of her gold mine. She needed someone to do the dirty work.

We spotted out first target. There were the requisite cans, but next to them in the darkness of the quiet neighborhood were larger items of an indeterminate nature. Billie slowed down to a stop. It was so damn dark.

“Go see what it is.”

Shit. That meant me. I sighed and jumped out of the truck. My legs were literally shaking. It was silly really. I wasn’t stealing anything, and even if someone saw me, it’s not as if I’d ever see them again. But at that time I was still so filled with the toxicity of my early years as to not be able to get past certain situations. Anything involving being seen as something less than perfect and respectable was hell for me to deal with. Since I was the farthest thing from perfect on a daily basis, you can imagine the stress without adding digging through other people’s trash into the equation.

As I got closer to the items, an outdoor light flew on. Almost peeing myself in terror, I blindly grabbed an object at my feet and dove into the truck.

“GO,GO,GO!” I screamed at her, and she did the best impression of peeling out that she could in the tank-like vehicle. She drove down several side streets before she slowed down to a stop. We were both breathless with the adrenaline of the moment.

“What happened? What did you see?”

I looked down at the item in my hands. I couldn’t believe it. “Hey,” I said, “Turn on the interior light.”

The light went on and we both stared at the thing I had grabbed. It was beautiful. It was a small wooden, hand embroidered foot stool. It was definitely antique, probably Victorian, and in really good shape. Only one of the legs was a little wobbly and needed to be glued. But it was ours. For free.

“Let’s go back.” I said.

I was hooked. I even got one of my best buddies from high school, who was making piles of cash as the head of a cruise ship company, to go trashing with me in Beverly Hills one night in his convertible. It was better than yard sales. We found jewelry, boxes of old Christmas ornaments, a wagon wheel hanging lamp, more old furniture that could be restored, a box of antique dishes, old books, toys, and tons of little knick-knacks. I might never have to buy another thing for my shop.

There was one tiny glitch that I overlooked however. I was doing this intoxicating new pastime with Billie. The crazy lady. With the weird haunted house. Things couldn’t be awesome forever. The first night something went south on one of our expeditions was when her Suburban wouldn’t start. I was actually surprised every time it did start, but Billie took it very bad. We had my two door Bonneville Pontiac – seventies style – but it wouldn’t hold nearly the loot the Suburban did. Plus – we wouldn’t be able to haul any furniture. It put Billie into one of her dark moods.

She was nasty and snippy when those moods hit, so I would typically leave when she got to that point. They wouldn’t usually happen until she was into her second beer six-pack, but the car not starting thing set her off this particular evening. I needed my trash fix, so I was willing to put up with her.

“Come on Billie, let’s fill up the car, and then we can drop it off and go back out again.”

“Fucking waste if you ask me!” Apparently she had perfected her growling technique from the dogs.

“Okay… well, I could go out alone and…”

“Steal everything for yourself! Oh no. I’m going with you. Let’s get this over with.”

It was destined to be a jolly time. We drove in silence, Billie in the hot seat now with me in the luxurious driver seat. This didn’t help her disposition at all. After we had stuffed an unusually large amount of useless crap in my car – again I was partnering with someone whose perception of “sell-able” greatly differed from mine – we headed back to her place to add to what was now becoming a complete hoarding experience at her home.

My two door all steel Pontiac had these enormously long, heavy doors on it. Due to the supposedly sleek seventies design, when the door was fully open, the bottom corner came to a sharp point, like the tip of a pair of metal wings. Billie was stomping around, yanking stuff from the car, and shoving it into increasingly tight crevices in her garage. I stood by the car door, helping her dig everything out. We finished the first load, and for whatever reason, she slammed the door shut. It turned out I was standing a little too close to the car, and the tip of that metal wing sliced across my shin.

I screamed. I looked down, and blood was gushing out of an inch long cut. The worst thing in my mind about the whole experience, was I didn’t have medical insurance. She was immediately contrite, and flittering around in a nervous, breathless panic.

“Oh no, oh dear, you have to go to emergency. Oh no, oh dear.”

I looked at my leg in dismay. “Do you have a band-aid or something?”

I couldn’t go to emergency. That would suck away all my trash profits!

“Band-aid? You need stitches!”

Stitches. That sounded expensive.

We eventually did go to emergency, and the intern who was there on his first night, didn’t seem too keen on giving me stitches either. We both agreed a butterfly bandage would be in everyone’s best interest. Except for the scar that I have to this day. It’s a nice back line on the front of my leg, a reminder of a night out trashing with Billie.

 

Next week, I’ll go further into my journey with Billie. It continues in the realm of the bizarre, with some of the creepiest paranormal encounters I’ve ever had. Or ever thought would be possible to have.

Ch-ch-ch-ch Changes….

So – I’m interrupting my trip down psycho lane with dear ol’ Billie – to share a little tidbit regarding my current status here on planet earth. It is the Wren State of the Union address. Yesterday, we had a little visit from our District boss to our retail center. We have two sister stores there, and I am the manager of one of them. Or should I say, was the manager of one of them.

Do not gasp too loudly – I still have a job. Just not the same one. Because of the delightful economic climate that all of us are dealing with across the country, the company I work for had to make some decisions, and in several centers where there are sister stores (such as my own), they chose to eliminate one of the manager positions. In this case, mine was the one eliminated. So, it was offered to me to step down into the Assistant Manager position, and go from being salary exempt to hourly, and taking a small pay cut.

The ramifications of this soon set in. You mean, I no longer have to work overtime and not get paid for it? You mean you are tearing away my ability to work ten to thirteen hour shifts to save money on payroll? You are forcing me to get paid for the actual work I do? What? How dare you!

Ironically, since my alter-ego’s writing career has taken off, the amount of time I typically put into my job – an average of 45-50 hours per week, with the occasional 60 -70, coupled with writing deadlines, blogging and promos – has created a lot of stress for me and my family; so hubby and I had already been discussing me stepping down. Now, knowing that I will only be able to work 32 – 40 hours per week, has just created a huge amount of wiggle room that didn’t exist before. The slight dip in income will be unwelcome for a few months, but I am counting on my newfound ability to crank out some more writing to make up for it. This could actually be the best thing that could have happened for me.

Yeah, I’m not the big cheese anymore, but I still have a decent paying job and all my same benefits. It could’ve been MUCH worse, as it has been for me in the past, and is for many, many others.

Alrighty – off to do some more writing and get ready for my last couple days as manager before the big shift change. Tomorrow is my last open to close shift, and we are celebrating with pizza. Go team!