Bad Boys, Writing and Poison Ivy

This week has been a strange mix of highs and lows. It seems like they all kind of balance out in the end… but still it’s been somewhat exhausting.

 Monday was incredibly hectic at work.  With just one other person in the office, we had about 6 customers between 10-11 Monday morning, all of whom demanded some special attention (usually all at once).  Generally it’s not an issue.  But being so short staffed, and since we’re supposed to always have someone available to answer the phones, it got a little crazy.  And by special attention, I don’t just mean they asked for a price or two.  Usually working in an antique shop is fun.  And rather easy.  The people that come in are generally content to walk around and see all of the amazing pieces that we have.  But Monday was a different story.  Everyone needed to have something moved or opened or lifted or have photos taken of something.  We were measuring and opening tables and searching for keys for cabinets and digging out sconces.  It was insane.  (And also the first Low on the scale)

BUT I got to see my favorite one of our shippers (who I may or may not have a crush on).  When I first met him 8 months ago he made a joke about us going on a date.  I don’t know… I’ve kind of liked him ever since.  Plus, he’s sweet… and you can tell just a major teddy bear kinda guy.  And in a place where no one calls me by my preferred first name (really long story), the fact that he does is kind of a breath of fresh air. (Definite high)

HOWEVER… Monday, I also discovered that I have poison ivy.  BADLY.  It’s disgusting and oozing and last night I got so fed up with how DEFORMED I look, I broke down and cried.  Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so emotional about things.  But I choose to blame the prednisone. (MAJOR LOW).

OK, so maybe they didn’t exactly even out… I feel like there were more lows than highs…. but I’ll live.  I got to spend time with one of my bestest friends over the weekend.  We went with a group of friends to see Hunger Games (which was definitely amazing).  I made some new friends and have a great new source for book recommendations.  The hour and a half drive to MA really isn’t that bad, but I admittedly don’t make the trip as often as I’d like to.  Sometimes I wish things weren’t so busy all the time.

Anyway- enough wallowing.  What I really want to talk about today is characters.  Well, one type of character in particular.  I know I’ve touched on this before- but now that I’m back into writing my story, I really want to explore this a little more.

You see, for as long as I can remember, my literary boy dreams have been about one particular type of guy-  The bad boy.

Well, more like bad boys that are really good.  (Because really, bad boys with no redemptive qualities are just… bad.)

When I was younger, it was as innocent as Mr. Darcy- with his brooding ways and perceived pride by Elizabeth.  He was never actually a bad boy, but he and Elizabeth always had that opposites attract thing going on that really just stuck with me.

And then there was Gilbert Blythe.  *sigh* 

He may not have really been a bad boy either-  but you could always tell that he enjoyed the mischief he caused.  I mean look at that picture.  You’re picturing him whispering “Hey Carrots!” right now, aren’t you?  I know I am.  Anyway…. Gilbert had that innate quality that made you want to scream at him and run to his arms all at the same time.  At least- that’s what I always wanted to do thought Anne should have done.

Through the years, my interest shifted from good boys that act bad: Michael from Grease 2… (stop laughing.  It’s a guilty pleasure movie), Sam from Supernatural (the early years), to bad boys that have something redemptive in them.  Jess from Gilmore girls, Damon from Vampire Diaries.

 

Michael from Grease 2

For some reason, I’ve always had a thing for Michael.  He’s like the geek of all geeks because he finds a way to get the pretty, popular girl.  I think there’s something in me that relates to him and his struggle.  The one person he really wants is looking for something so completely opposite of who he is.  He’s the smart, studious Teacher’s Pet.  And as Stephanie so oddly sings about…. she wants a bad boy, a ‘cool rider’.  I like that song.  I know, there’s something so wrong and cheesy it’s not even funny.  But she says “if he’s cool enough he can burn me through and through.”  So Michael decides to become a bad boy for her… and in the end, she realizes that she really likes both aspects of Michael when she finds out who he really is. Blah- I’m admitting way too much about the absolute geek that I am here. ha.

Sam from Supernatural (the early years). 

Before Sam got himself hooked on demon blood steroids (let’s just make this a don’t ask/don’t tell type deal, K? K.), he had so much potential. In college studying law- no one would have known that he spent the first 18 years of his life learning how to hunt all of the things that go bump in the night.  His easy smile and quirky, geeky ways were so charming.  And then he’d turn around and kill some nasty urban legend baddie (like Bloody Mary or the Wendigo) and turn into a completely different person.  I was in love.

Jess from Gilmore girls

Despite being messed up by both his absent father and his jumping from one bad relationship to the next mother, Jess turned his tortured childhood into the ultimate snarky, bad boy with a good heart.  It always amused me how strikingly different he was around Rory than anyone else.  Granted, it made it difficult for anyone but her to see the good in him, but eventually most people came around. 

Damon from Vampire Diaries– (insert swoon here). 

There’s something about Damon… He’s snarky and sarcastic.  He’s passionate even though he doesn’t always let it show.  He’s conflicted and flawed.  So often characters on TV are portrayed as someone that’s unattainable.  And despite the fact that the whole vampire thing IS unattainable, there’s something about the humanity of Damon that is intriguing.  He hides his true feelings.  He buries them and pushes them down because even though he’s in love with this girl, he knows that she can do better than him.  But at the same point, he’s dark and dangerous and you never know what he’s going to do.  (Can you tell I have a thing for him? haha)

 I could probably go on for days listing all of these amazing characters.  There’s just something about them.  They’re conflicted and unpredictable.  It’s almost like being drawn to the beauty of a flame.  You know if you get too close, you’ll run the risk of getting burned.  But sometimes you just want to see how close you can get.

So, it should probably come as no surprise that my main character, Dallas, has a lot of these characteristics.  In my head, I can see the way he acts- the way he keeps everyone at arms length.  I can see the snarky attitude and the dark and dangerous unpredictability.  He’s actually gotten a lot clearer in my head recently.  I’ve been going back over my 50,000 or so words that I’ve already written.  And I can see so many places where I’ve boxed him in.  I’ve made Dallas someone that I want him to be instead of letting his character just be.  I’m reminded of the quote that goes something like “people who follow the rules rarely make history.”  Dallas and Lia and their friends… they become history makers in this story.  And in so many instances, I’m making them follow the rules.  I’m keeping them tied up in a nice neat little box and just letting them out when I want to.

Hopefully this all doesn’t make me sound too incredibly crazy.  It’s hard to say “I want to let my characters be their own person” when they’re not really people.  But they kind of are… all stuck up there in my head.

But regardless of all of that, I want this story to ring true.  I want it to be authentic and not fall flat.  And in so many of the scenes that I’ve written, I feel like it’s falling flat.  The characters don’t have the depth that they should.  And I’m finding myself more and more discouraged that I won’t get it right.  I want someone to be able to picture and envision my characters the way I have with books since I was little.  Before Jonathan Crombie, Gilbert Blythe was in my head.  I could see him.  I knew who he was.

And I just want my characters to have that same ability.

I know that writing takes time.  I know it won’t happen over night.  And I want to be the best writer that I can.  I don’t write to become published.  I write because I love words and the effect that they can have.  I just want my writing to matter.

Maybe I need to work on taking my own advice and
Be Brave,

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Chapter 1-A

Since one of my ‘bucket list’ items is to finish this book that I’ve been working on writing, I’ve decided I want to start posting things here.  Maybe it will give me the motivation and accountability that I need to actually work on it.  I’m hoping to post a section a week.  Maybe more, if I’ve got it done.  So far, most of chapter one is finished.  I’m kind of working on quick editing as I go, so if something is a little off, I haven’t really completely edited yet.

The title of my book is called The Mapstone Chronicles: The Alliance of the First Oath

My dream cast is >>>> Right there.

Quick preview:  Lia and Averi move to their grandfather’s house when he passes away.  But who is the strange boy who seems to know more about their grandfather than they do?  When secrets are spilled and unnatural things begin to happen, they could have never imagined the reason behind it…. or why they’re so connected.

I’ll keep all of the chapters together here.

Okay… so here we go. (Constructive criticism is always welcomed and encouraged.)

Chapter 1-A

Aurelia Collins stepped out of the car, letting the door shut behind her and reached for her sister’s hand.  Averianna, her twin, had always grounded her- always been her rock.  Tightly clutching Averi’s sweaty palm was the first indication to Lia that her sister may not be as pulled together as she had thought.  Lia dared a look at the face that matched her own and instantly regretted it; she could feel the tears brimming just beneath the surface as she met her sister’s watery gaze. 

Despite Lia and Averi being twins, the only thing the same about them was their piercing green eyes.  Averi was outgoing and bubbly.  She fit into the cookie cutter cheerleader pyramid with ease- which wasn’t hard since their mother was the new coach of the squad in Sloane.  Averi had spiral-curl blonde hair that she dyed lighter- working under the assumption that if men prefer blondes, they must adore platinum blondes.  Averi had her pick of any guy at school and usually dated two or three at once.

Lia on the other hand was the shy bookworm of the two, seemingly taking after their father.  Her hair was a chestnut-brown and fell in loose curls halfway down her back.  Lia was the studious one of the two; caring more about her school grades than her popularity.  She took an interest in things outside of school; choosing live shows of underground bands over school dances.  Lia preferred things that she could do solo- reading, poetry, photography.

Turning her glance away as they made their way to the gravesite, Lia watched as the pallbearers gathered at the back of the hearse and lifted the casket.  She felt her stomach tighten into a deep knot and clenched her jaw to hold back the tears.  From one of the corners of the casket, her father met her eyes and gave her an almost imperceptible nod.  That small gesture gave Lia the courage to finish the trek to the grave site.  Lia stopped beside the open grave with her mother and her sister, each with a rose in their hand.  The sisters released each other’s hands and moved to put reassuring arms around their mother.

Lia didn’t hear most of what the minister said.  She expected it was a lot of “ashes to ashes” and crap about living their own lives, adding that’s how George would have wanted it.  Lia wanted to scream about how the minister would never know what her grandfather wanted, but she refrained.  Swiping at a stray tear as it rolled down her cheek- Lia glanced around.  It was a small gathering of people.  Lia wasn’t sure if she had expected more people to show up or not. 

It was then that a stray movement caught her eye.  Fifty yards from where the funeral was being held, a man dressed all in black.  He had his head down and his wild, dark, curly hair obscured his face from Lia’s view.  Lia squinted her eyes, his hair triggering some distant dream or memory long since forgotten.

“Lia,” her mother whispered in a voice that cracked and broke with sobs.  Lia glanced over, seeing her sister lay her rose on their grandfather’s grave.  Following Averi, she took two steps forward, leaned down and pressed the flower into the bouquet on the casket.  After a few moments, her father’s steady hand rested on her shoulder, but she couldn’t move.

“I’ll catch up,” she said quietly, and then his hand was gone.  Lia stood there for a long time- the memories of her childhood replaying themselves in her mind.  All the best ones seemed to have her grandfather in them.  Sitting in the comfortable quiet of his office at the bookstore.  She would always sit on his lap, him with one book, her with another.  All of the hours they spent in the woods.  He had always been such an interesting man, and Lia couldn’t imagine that big house or the cozy bookstore without him.

Glancing up again, she noticed that the man in the distance was gone.  In fact, everyone else was gone.  But Lia couldn’t bring herself to leave.  For the longest time, she wasn’t sure she could move her feet if she wanted to.  Because leaving this place, it made it real.  This was meant to be the final goodbye that Lia couldn’t bring herself to say.  She wanted a way to bring him back to her, to hug him one more time, to hear one more story.  But that was never going to happen.  And this realization made Lia’s tears fall even harder.

She heard footsteps in the scorched, rain deprived grass and knew someone was coming back for her.  Averi- if she had to guess.  Their mother was no doubt anxious to get home.  People would be stopping by throughout the remainder of the day to give their condolences, and the house needed some last-minute cleaning before guests could be received.

The goodbye that played itself over and over in her mind never seemed to reach her lips.  Instead, Lia allowed her sister to lead her from the open grave back to the car.  Her eyes were trained on the casket as they lowered it into the ground; the final image of her grandfather forever burned in her brain.

Sliding into the back seat of the car, Lia leaned her head back to rest on the warm leather and closed her eyes for the drive to the house.  Her grandfather’s house.  It didn’t seem right to call it home yet, even though all of their things were packed and ready to bury her grandfather’s possessions along with him.  She didn’t want this to change; to lose the haven that the house had become on their summer breaks from school. 

Lia wanted everything to stay the same in that house.  The personal library that had been accumulated in the back den.  The smell of laundry on the line the way their grandmother had perfected it over the years.  The worn leather chair in what would become her new room, with it’s identical twin in the office at the bookstore.  These were things that she knew had expiration dates, some of which had already passed.  It only made Lia’s yearning for one more day with her grandfather that much more unbearable.

The remainder of the day passed slowly, with too many people she didn’t know offering condolences that she didn’t want.  After a few hours, it became more than Lia could bear and she made her way to her new bedroom.  Currently there were boxes of books covering most of the floor and a large portion of the furniture as well.  Most of these boxes would end up at the bookstore where they belonged, but it made Lia wonder what they were doing in the house in the first place.  She knew that her grandfather loved books, but his collection was downstairs in the library.

Opening the first box, Lia was surprised to find leather-bound journals.  Some had her grandmother’s familiar scrawl, while others were written in a choppier short hand, which she assumed to be her grandfathers.  Opening the next box she found issue upon issue of Reader’s Digest from 1973.  The next box was full of National Geographic and Reader’s Digest from ’88.  Well, at least that explained what they were doing here and not at the book store.  She couldn’t imagine they were worth much, even as the whole set.

She stashed the box of journals in the back of the closet, which she had cleaned out the day before, and stacked the other boxes in the hall.  She could do a quick search to see if any of the periodicals were worth anything, but she doubted it.

The sound of voices no longer carried up from downstairs, and Lia wondered if the majority of the guests had gone.  She had never been the type to handle either large gatherings or depressing topics very well.  She much preferred to be doing something useful, and she was grateful for the time she had been able to spend in her new bedroom.  It helped her to keep her mind away from the more painful memories when she really couldn’t bear to think them.

Lia changed into her pajamas and readied herself for bed, feeling the emotional exhaustion finally taking it’s toll.  It wasn’t long after she had snuggled under the covers with one of her grandmother’s journals that she heard Averi come into the room.  Even though they would have separate rooms once they moved in, for now they shared the queen size bed in the guest room.  Both of their new rooms were going to need to be emptied, cleaned and painted before they could move in.

“Hey,” Lia said quietly, placing the book on her lap.  “How did everything go?”

Averi shrugged.  “I guess I can’t exactly say it went well, can I?”

Lia shook her head.  “No, I guess not.”  She sighed and moved over as Averi climbed into bed beside her.  “You holding up okay?”

“Yeah.  I’m doing alright,” Averi replied, sliding into the cool sheets.  “But I wasn’t as close with him as you were.  How are you?”

Lia was quiet for a moment before answering.  “It’s hard to really process it, you know?  I mean we didn’t see him that often, but the thought that we’ll never see him again hasn’t really sunk in yet, I don’t think.”

Averi covered Lia’s hand with her own.  “It will be okay,” she said quietly.  Her eyes shifted to the book on Lia’s lap and her brows pulled together.  “What’s that?”

Lia turned the small leather-bound book over in her hand, revealing the handwritten pages.  “I found a box of old journals in my new room.  This one, Grandma wrote when she first met Poppa.  She’s writing about how she thinks that he as a secret he won’t tell her about, but she’s determined to find out what it is.”

“Intriguing,” Averi said, her interest obviously piqued.

Lia smiled.  “Yeah- listen to this…”

Holding Out For A Hero

I’m not really sure why people put so much stock in the whole Valentine’s Day thing.  It’s just another day of the year.  A day to show appreciation to the person that we love most.  Is that really so terrible?

And yes, I can find mushy couples just as vomit-inducing as the next single girl, but I have to admit that when it comes to being in a relationship on Valentine’s Day, it’s not so bad.  Granted, it’s been years since I’ve actually been in a relationship on what some people call “Single Awareness Day”  but that doesn’t change the fact that being in love has a lot to do with people’s attitudes on this particular day.

That being said, you have to wonder how our society has built so much of an empire on days designed for individual people.  Shouldn’t the people that we care about always feel special and loved?  And I’m not just talking about our significant others.  Mothers Day, Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day.  Why is it that every other day of the year is a day that we can take these people completely for granted, and think we can make up for it with a bouquet of flowers or dinner?

Anyway- little rant over… this post is more about what I’m looking forward to in the future.  The kind of man that I want and the kind of woman I want to be.

Last Saturday we had a “Valentine’s” dinner at my church.  Every year we do a ladies appreciation dinner where the men cook and serve and the women can relax and enjoy each other’s company.  This year, instead of doing a ‘newly wed’ game or something similar, we watched a movie.  It was a movie that I saw with the last b/f in the theaters and cried my eyes out at.  It’s also an amazingly powerful movie and says so much about what Godly, God fearing men should be.

The movie is called Courageous.  Basically it’s a story about 5 men (4 of them cops) and their determination to become better husbands and fathers.  They each take a good long look at their lives, and they sign a resolution to make each day count.  It’s a touching story about hard choices and love.  About life and loss and how we handle each decision we make.  The final scene is a powerful portrayal of one of the men standing before his entire church.  Here is his speech:

   “There are some men who, regardless of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, regardless of what our fathers did not do for us, will give the strength of our arms and the rest of our days to loving God with all that we are and to teach our children to do the same—and whenever possible, to love and mentor others who have no father in their lives but who desperately need help and direction. And we are inviting any man whose heart is willing and courageous to join us in this resolution.

God’s Word shows us that God desires for every father to courageous step up and do whatever it takes to be involved in the lives of his children. More than just being there for them or providing for them, he is to walk with them through their young lives and be a visual representation of the character of God, their Father in heaven. Who will accept the responsibility of providing and protecting my family? Who will ask God to break the chain of destructive patterns in my family? Who will pray for, and bless my children to boldly pursue whatever God calls them to do? 

In my home, the decision has already been made. You don’t have to ask who will guide my family because, by God’s grace, I will. You don’t have to ask who will teach my son to follow Christ because I will.”

So where are you, men of courage? Where are you, fathers who fear the Lord?   It’s time to rise up and answer the call God has given you and say, I will! I will! I will!

I think that quote packs enough punch to knock anyone down a peg or two.  It was enough to cause me to take a look at my own life, and think about what choices I’m making now that could help me become the wife and mother that I want to be some day.

I also think that this movie is a great indication of why I’m waiting.  Of why I’m taking this year off of men.  I always thought that I knew exactly what I wanted in a guy.  How many times over the years have I daydreamed about Gilbert Blythe or Mr. Darcy or Danny Zuko?  Too many to count.

And even though I always thought I knew what I wanted in a guy… this movie made me doubletake with one major line.  During a conversation, Adam (one of the cops) explains that he wants to be a better father.  His partner looks at him and says “You’re being too hard on yourself.  You’re a good enough father.”  Adam’s reply is what really struck a cord with me.  He said “I don’t want to be good enough.”  There’s something very alluring about being ‘good enough’.  Not in the sense that we all want to be ‘good enough’ for something, but in the sense that sometimes we do as little as possible.  We do just enough to get by.  We settle for being ‘good enough’ when we should be specatcular.

I think so often in life, we let our schedules dictate our lives.  We focus on the most demanding, the most pressing matters above anything else.  And sometimes, that’s good.  We all have things that we need to do.  But those things aren’t the only things that matter.  Because work and school and hobbies don’t have souls.  But friends, family, kids- those do.  We need to remember to invest our time in people- because in the end, people are really the only thing that matter.

I just recently started re-reading through the book called Captivating: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman’s Soul.  It’s a book about women, why we have the needs and desires that we do, and understanding that having these desires is not wrong.  In fact, God made us to have three big desires in our souls.

1. To be romanced
2. To play an irreplaceable role in a grand adventure
3. To unveil beauty

There are a lot of things about this book that leave me wary.  It paraphrases Scripture more than it actually uses it.  But at the same time, I think it points to some major issues that women deal with, and things that tug at our heart strings over and over again.  It tries to explain the constant longing we feel for the three ‘big desires’ of our hearts and how God specifically made us that way.  It’s not another 12 step “How to be a better woman” book.  It’s more of an encouragement that we are fearfully and wonderfully made just the way we are.  It’s a book that acknowledges how hard women try to be perfect, to be everything.  It explores the feelings that we have of constantly being ‘not enough’ but at the same time feeling like we’re ‘too much’.  We’re not strong enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough.  But we’re too emotional, too careful, too caring.

I think every woman has felt this way before.  And I like that Captivating is a book designed to help us feel secure in the person that we are.  It’s not meant to be a fix-all.  It’s an attempt to identify the places in our hearts that God has made especially for Himself to be like Himself. 

Being single on Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be hard (despite the fact that I work across the street from a florist).  Sure, it may not be my favorite day of the year to be single on… but whose to say I can’t still get flowers and chocolate?  Spend an evening cooking myself a delicious meal and watching a sappy movie.  Maybe today is the perfect day to daydream about Gilbert Blythe and Mr Darcy and Danny Zuko.  So long as I don’t lose sight of what is really important.  Because all three of those guys have something in common.  They’re great stories, but as far as a Courageous, Godly man go… I’m not quite sure how they stack up.

On a better note, I’ve been adding more to my story.  What’s that you say?  You want a sneak peak?  Okay… I suppose I can do that.  But I’m only sharing two paragraphs.

Lia dragged the bag of clothes down the hall to the door at the very end.  She turned the handle and pulled; both the door and frame swollen from the heat refused to budge.  Dropping the bag and gripping the knob with both hands, Lia pulled again, harder until the door yielded to her demands and swung open.  She hadn’t expected it to actually open and the force of her pulling on the knob left her off balance when it finally gave in.

Flipping the light switch on just inside the door, Lia sighed when nothing happened.  She wasn’t all-together surprised.  Who knew when the last time was that anyone was up there?  Backtracking to the linen closet down the hallway, Lia found a flashlight in the emergency kit and clicked it on.  Shining it up the stairs into the attic, Lia began up the stairs, pulling the garbage bag full of her grandfather’s old clothes with her.

So what happens next?  Well… it’s a secret.  But you’re more than welcome to guess if you want.  I finally have momentum with this story again.  I’m really excited to see what happens.  I think it’s going to be good!

To all my single ladies out there…
Be brave,