Merry Go Round

An original song by MJ Hopkins has me listening hard to the lyrics because they sure ring true for me, especially the part about faking it till you make it. Some days, it feels like we all end up doing just that in today’s world and before we know it, we get too caught up with everything and we forget why we’re really doing that thing we’re doing.

Fake it till you make it
that’s what you said to me
I’m trying, baby, 
but I’m just a wannabe

I’m summoning the will
without a magic pill
so hard for me to make decisions
when I can’t think so clear.

It feels like I’m stuck
on a merry-go-round.

It’s spinning out of control
with nothing I can hold
I want to see a time I can stand
without losing my mind. 

On the writing front, I’ve started writing! And it’s not the story I thought I was going to write either! But looks like the characters have long percolated from last year and seem to be ready to go. Why my characters don’t work when they’re supposed to beats me, but I’ll take what I can get.

Here’s a sneak peek of the first draft:

I see her on my way back to the table, her long brown hair falling over her shoulders. There’s also that skipping of my heart followed by the clenching of my belly when she raises her hand to tuck her hair behind her ear and I see her face.

“Hayley?” The name emerges from my mouth before I can stop myself and she looks up, her eyes narrowing before they widen in surprise. “It’s me, Shane. We met last year at…” I pause, struggling to remember the name of the bar where we’d met.

“The Tipsy Cat.”

“Yeah, that one.” I grin, my mouth turning dry. “So how are you doing?”

“I’m good. Catching up on paperwork.” She gestures to the file folder in front of her, her glasses sliding down her nose.

“In a bar?”

She slips off her glasses and sets it down on the table. “Why not? What about you? You work around here?”

“I work down at Fire Station 7, just a few blocks from here. I’m here with my buddies over there.” I don’t bother to point for the guys make their presence known by hooting and hollering.

For a few moments, our eyes lock together. When she bites her lower lip, I swallow, suddenly out of words of to say. “You look great.”

“Thanks. You look great yourself,” Hayley says as her phone vibrates, its display flashing. “It’s really nice seeing you again, Shane, but I have to get this.”

“No problem. See you around,” I say before making my way back to the table, the guys watching me knowingly. I know I’m not going to hear the end of it—who is she, how did we meet, what’s the status—but I ignore their looks and sip my beer.

“So you gonna tell us who she is?” Kev asks. “She’s hot.”

“Not wearing a ring, too,” Brad says. “Older though. Maybe forty?”

“Who the hell cares how old she is? She’s still hot as hell, man,” Jerry says, elbowing him. “Did you know women get hornier the older they get?”

“Come on, guys, are we really gonna do this?” Reduce her to words like hot and older and whatever else they were about to say before I cut them short, I almost add but I don’t. I realize too late I just sounded defensive. “She’s just a friend of a friend, alright? I wasn’t about to pretend I didn’t know her.”

Kev’s eyes narrow. “So I gather she doesn’t have your number?”

I shake my head incredulously although it’s more a defensive reaction than anything. “Why would she? You gone deaf all of a sudden, man? She’s a friend of a friend.”

“You sure didn’t look at her like she was just some friend of a friend.” Kev pulls out his wallet. He takes out a ten-dollar bill and slides across the table. “Ten bucks says you don’t have the guts to walk over there and give her your number.”

I scoff. “What do you think I am, chicken?”

Brad lays a ten-dollar bill on top of Kev’s. “If you weren’t turning as red as a tomato right now, man, I’d stay out of it. But you and this chick got something going on even if you’re not saying anything.”

“Who made you some kind of mind-reader all of a sudden? She’s just a friend.” Another deflection. Too bad we’ve all worked with each other too long for them not to recognize what’s going on. Hell, even I don’t know what’s going on. All I know is that my heart is beating a mile a minute.

“Ah, hell, you are turning red,” Jerry chuckles, peeling a ten from his wallet and sliding it toward the two other bills. “I’m in.”

“You guys know you’re each gonna be ten bucks short tonight, right? Because this is gonna be the easiest thirty I’ll make in ten seconds flat,” I scoff, wishing my face isn’t burning with embarrassment the way it is now. Too bad being the youngest guy in the firehouse has its price and this is one of them.

“Like we care about that. It’s only money,” Kev says, laughing as I take a napkin from the holder and Jerry hands me a pen. “But watching you hand your phone number to that classy lady over there that had you bugging your eyes the moment you saw her? Now that’d be priceless.”

“You guys need to get out more,” I mutter as I scribble my name and my phone number down on the napkin and get up from the table.

From the corner of my eye, I can see Hayley slipping the file folders into her briefcase. While a part of me wishes she’d left minutes before the guys dared me to hand her my phone number, another part of me is thanking them. Sure, a year has passed since we first met but maybe that’s the way life works. Some people simply show up again in your life and it’s up to you to figure out what you’re going to do about it. In my case, the guys did it for me.

“Hey, Hayley,” I say, my voice almost cracking as I approach her table. I don’t know why my heart is racing but it is, just as it did the moment I saw her. “Thought maybe you and I could get together sometime.”

She frowns, almost surprised. “Shane, I…”

“But instead of me asking for your number, I figured I’d leave you mine.” I slide the napkin over the table toward her before she can continue. “You don’t have to do anything. You can leave it here, toss it on your way out. Or you can keep it, just in case.”

As her gaze goes to the napkin on the table, I don’t wait to find out if she picks it up or not. I turn around and walk back to the table where the guys are surprisingly quiet. As I sit back down on my chair, I’m glad my back is to her so I don’t have to see what she does with my number.

Is she gonna toss it? Slip it into her purse? Leave it on the table?

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Winter Has Come… and Gone

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And just like that, Game of Thrones is over, and it was… underwhelming.

One of the greatest series in the world simply dropped the ball and rushed through the ending. Honestly, if D&D were in a rush to direct the Star Wars project and couldn’t give us one more season of GOT, they could have at least given this final season three more episodes to get the character arcs fully realized and at the very least, get the characters acting like themselves, much like they did in the last seven seasons. In character. But they didn’t. Instead, we got some nice speeches to lead us to the finish line, a lot of fan service, and a montage of the major players still in the game that is no more.

The soundtrack, though, was superb as always and the editing was gorgeous. But the story itself… well, they didn’t stick the landing.

But that’s just me. Maybe George R. R. Martin will finish the books but I’m not holding my breath. At this point, why would he bother?

Speaking of writing, I need to go back to writing…

It’s All Good

I wrote a post earlier today only to delete it. It was simple: just a graphic that said Happy Mother’s Day. Then I realized I was only posting it so I had something to post.

Not the way to blog, to be honest. I’m too old to play games like that.

So I’m going to blog about the state of affairs that is Liz Durano, the brand.

For the past few weeks (or months), I’ve been going through an identity crisis of sorts. Who is Liz? What type of stories does she write? What does she want out of this whole writing gig? 

Like many authors, I’d like to sell more books. More books mean more income. And so at the beginning of the year, I set out to join projects that seemed wonderful at the time for the sole purpose of making “more money.” The projects were easy. Write X number of words, follow an outline to a letter, and assign the marketing to a third party to handle since the projects would also go under a different pen name, not Liz’s.

Only it didn’t turn out as easy as I thought it would. Before long, I started failing deadlines, both for my own books and the side projects. When I did write my own books, they were lackluster and rushed. So rushed. When I wrote the side projects, I couldn’t even tell you who the characters were because I. Did. Not. Give. A. Shit. About. Them.

I ended up not writing for weeks. Sure, I’d “write” but only to meet a word count, not to write a good story. Writing for the word count sucks donkey balls. Writing to market is my Waterloo and it was slowly killing my love for storytelling.

So this month, I finally told myself it was time to quit.

At the moment, except for the Steamy Shorts, the other side projects are no more. I hated having to quit them but I hated failing more. I hated not having anyone to tell all this to because I knew I was letting so many people down. But it was eating me from the inside out to the point that I could not finish writing the simplest story. Not even one.

And through all this, I was not kind to myself. The self-talk was all negative. You’re a loser. You’re a failure. You are a terrible writer. 

Then yesterday I decided enough was enough. I had to stop the negative self-talk. I had to stop comparing myself to others.

I had to find my happy, and so I did. The kid and I went to the pool and later, to the beach where a beautiful boxer dropped her ball at my feet waiting for me to throw it for her.

It was at that moment I decided to be happy. I even wore purple. And I got sunburned. But that’s okay.

I’m back in the game with a lot less baggage.

Even better, little by little, word by word… I’m writing again.

And this time, I’m loving it.

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May You Be In Love Every Day For the Next 2,000 Days…

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Facebook reminded me that three years ago, I posted this quote on my timeline. I’ve always loved this one and it’s a nice reminder for me to focus on the Creative Muse and not get bogged down by outlines, especially when I like to give my characters some free rein within their stories.

I also need to get out more, and that’s what I did this weekend which meant not much writing.

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Yesterday, the kid and I went to the Uptown Village Market. I was visiting my friends at Floral Essence Gifts who had a booth for Friday and Saturday. And since their flyer said there was going to be a Lego Station, what better way to entertain the LilDude, right?

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Alas, the Lego Station was only for Friday night but he had fun coloring with the wonderful folks at CreativeFlowArt.org and sculpting with soft-as-air air-drying clay from CraftyClayShop.com.

Today, we all went to our local Farmers’ Market (and spent way more than we budgeted). We met some amazing people including the folks (again) at CreativeFlowArt.org who were doing live screenprinting of canvas bags to give away, Heather from iHeartEikhornBakery (eikhorn is an ancient grain I’ve been really interested to check out), Michelle from Purely Natural where we got our very first CBD Pain Relief Oil (their gemstone looking soaps got me into their booth), and David, the VeganWonka who also happens to be a massage therapist.

David creates raw chocolate and with me being a chocolate fiend, he was speaking my language and so I have a stash of them hidden in my purse because I sure as heck am not sharing it 🤣🤣🤣

It felt great to be out and about even though I’m so behind on all my books. Now I’m back home and the kid is hanging out with his dad for the rest of the day while I try to catch some words on paper. Here’s hoping I’ll be, as Ray Bradbury says, “be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And… remake a world.”

If you have time to visit my new friends’ sites, please do so. Follow and check them out as well!

Floral Essence Gifts – locally-grown, harvested and distilled floral waters (hydrosol) for skin care and home

Vegan Wonka – Vegan chocolate bars that are diabetic friendly, doesn’t melt, and can be used as a meal replacement.

Creative Flow Art – This wonderful couple gives back to the Long Beach Community through art where children are invited to paint and color

Purely Natural – offering soaps made with vegan oils and CBD products

Writer’s Block and Spring Break

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It’s been three weeks since I last posted on my blog and I guess it’s time for me to say it: I’m going through a tough case of writers’ block.

Unfortunately, it’s actually more like a symptom of a bigger issue called alignment. Somehow, my current projects (steamy shorts and that reverse harem novel) are not lining up with what my brand is all about, including the stories I actually want to write.

In my attempt to “sell more books” for 2019, instead of writing the stories my readers have been waiting for, like Gabriel’s story and Gareth’s story, I’ve been gallivanting around the place with new characters and totally off-brand projects. As a result, the whole “sell more books” for 2019 has backfired.

And now my characters refuse to talk to me.

I also can’t blame them. If I wasn’t dabbling on other projects, I was also dealing with other things like the Lil Dude’s science project and this week, Spring Break. I just can’t believe it’s over.

We did get to do a few things like go to the beach and also spend a day in Los Angeles where Lil Dude got to see the Cathedral of the Lady of Angels (or is City of Angels?) which looks nothing like what a cathedral is supposed to look like. There happened to be an organ recital when we were there and it was pretty interesting to hear the music reverberate through the various alcoves.

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Afterward, I took everyone to Philippe’s, a restaurant known for French dip sandwiches and has been a Los Angeles staple since 1908. The place is a Los Angeles classic with its original wooden stools, sawdust-covered floors, a hand-painted menu board and a row of telephone booths with their original telephones still intact (but they no longer work). Their menu hasn’t changed and coffee is still just 50¢.

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We also went to the beach and LilDude had a blast. With summer fast approaching, I have to get everything together for those trips to the park and the beach. Soccer ball, basketball, hand pump, beach towels, etc. And hopefully a few playdates with friends here and there.

Now it’s back to school on Monday and I hope my imaginary friends talk to me I can get my mind back to writing again. I’ve got another steamy short scheduled to go out in time for Memorial Day and I honestly don’t know how I can do it AND get my planned full-length novels out at the same time.

But first, the Game of Thrones third episode where I’m keeping my fingers crossed my favorite characters survive!

After all, priorities!

Am(Not)Writing

I am recovering from a cold and therefore, cannot think clearly. And heaven knows I’ve tried. But nada. Nothing comes out. Or if something does come out, after a paragraph, it’s gone and I find myself wondering what I was going to write next… or whose story I was writing, for that matter.

So I’m hoping maybe tomorrow is a better day. Maybe I’ll have a clearer less stuffy head tomorrow and write because I’ve got a deadline. Two of them, to be exact.

I’m also tired and I want to take a nap.

Do you know how difficult it is to take a nap when you have a cold knowing you have to be awake in two hours to pick up the kid and then head to the school for their STEAM fair where he plans on launching his water rocket that he hopes you help him build just before the main event?

Yeah, so no nap.

But we did get to hastily build his water rocket with last year’s calendar and he had a blast with it. Even when an older kid brought his amazing duct tape rocket along and it shot all the way past the fence (twice), LilDude never once doubted his rocket was the best.

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I know how to make my rocket next year…

Flashback Friday: New Mexico

While doing some spring cleaning yesterday, I came upon a set of negatives in an art folder and figured I might as well check out what was in it. After debating whether I really wanted to scrounge around for materials needed to make my own film lightbox, I found an iOS app called Film Developer that does it for you.

It’s not perfect but I just needed to see what were on the negative, in some sort of color. I also should have done a better setup so the pictures would end up clearer but this is a quickie version.

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Yup, that big butt on the right is mine, shopping for piñon nuts right before driving over the Gorge bridge

This was my first visit to New Mexico around 2004. I didn’t even know where it was on the map then and I had no idea what the Rio Grande was. It certainly didn’t look grand from the air because they looked like tiny streams.

This was also the first time I visited Taos and my friend took me to check out the Earthships at the Greater World Community. You can see it in the middle left where there’s a guy sifting gravel on the side. I remember how enamored I was of the sagebrush. They were everywhere!

The day before, we’d gone on a hike in Santa Fe and were totally unprepared. I thought he said we were going on a stroll but it turned out to be this hike and we ended up getting lost and then on private property and then accosted a herd of cows that didn’t look too welcoming. I felt like a city girl transplanted in who-knows-where and the altitude got me during that hike.

The guy in question’s long gone—as in moved on, got married, and we don’t talk anymore. But if it weren’t for him, I would never have written my New Mexico stories at all or discovered the Earthships where A Different Kind of Love series is firmly rooted. I also would never have seen just how vast and beautiful the New Mexico sky is.

I always knew I had stopped at a piñon stand during that trip but thought it had to be my imagination. Glad to know it wasn’t and there I am with my big butt jeans having a grand old time buying beef jerky and piñon nuts to take home with me to California.