Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Writing Process

In school, the writing process was a dreaded chart that we had to fill out with lame details about some lame paper we were writing. I hated that chart. Who's with me? Hopefully you remember what I'm talking about, or else I'm preaching to no one here.


I've found that, even as I got older and my writing has become more my own, I still don't use any sort of writing process. I just simply write. Outlines? What's that? I get an idea in my head, and I run with it. Sometimes the path I'm taking leads me straight into a brick wall and then I have to back track. Sometimes it leads me into an open field full of flowers and I get distracted (it happens easily.) Sometimes I'm not running at all and well, it takes a lot longer to get where I'm trying to go.
But sometimes the words come, the rhythm flows, and then bam.

The character in my novel Toxic came to me a long time ago and has been simmering in the back of my sub-conscious ever since. I met a lady one day, who told me she had a daughter named Logan. Immediately, I fell in love with the name. The lady went on to tell me about how raising Logan was a battle of wills, how she had to learn to pick her fights, and how she eventually became something more than a mother; a friend, an ally when the time was right. I began thinking about how some mothers choose to pick every battle, and how some leave their children to fight their own. And that was that. It wasn't until recently that I wanted to tell my own Logan's story.

When I was nine years old, my mother became sick and spent months in and out of the hospitals with nothing to show for it but questions and pill bottles prescribed to her. The doctors finally diagnosed her with MS and we thought things would get easier; we thought we had our answers. It wasn't until I was older when I began to understand the consequences of prescription drugs. The ups and the downs, the highs and the lows. The difference between needing and wanting.
My mom was able to pull herself out of that hole. She was able to differentiate between necessity and addiction and came out better than before on the other side. Not everyone is as lucky.

Logan's journey through life with an addicted mother, and a seemingly unavoidable similar life for herself, is something that I've wanted to write about for a long time. As I wrote, Logan came to life. She made decisions, jumped to conclusions, assumed and presumed and never asked what-if. Maybe if she had, things would have ended up differently. Maybe if she would have fought, picked her battles, life wouldn't have been so hard.
But then again, everything happens for a reason, right?

And so Toxic was born and grew into what is it today. And like so many fellow authors that I've spoken to, Logan came to life for me. I hope she does for you too.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Nashville Notes, Part 2

Despite the fact that we hadn't returned to our room until almost three in the morning the previous night, Rachelle, Arielle and I were up and downstairs for breakfast on Tuesday by 9 a.m. It was free food, after all. We couldn't pass it up. Especially because we were on a budget and determined to stick to it.

After eating and returning to the room to exchange our pajamas for society-acceptable clothes, we walked outside to find that not only was it absolutely freezing, but it was also raining. Cue the moans and groans. How were we going to walk around and explore when the weather was miserable? The answer to that was that we weren't. So we settled on doing something indoors; Country Music Hall of Fame.
We set off, excited with our plans and the fact that we would be inside, where it was warm and dry. But of course, it took us forever to find the place (construction and detours= a nightmare for tourists) and then when we did find it and somewhere to park, we had to walk half a mile in the freezing rain to get there.

With our heads held low and our teeth chattering, we walked into the foyer and shook off the cold, literally and mentally. We weren't about to let the weather dampen anything but our hair, unfortunately. United under one roof were the names that had invented and changed country music. From Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash to Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift. Decades of history, three stories of information. We were there for hours. And when we left, it was still cold, but not raining. It's the small things.

Lunch at a pub downtown followed, and then we were heading back to our room to prepare for the night ahead of us. Following the suggestion of our server from the night before, we ventured into locals territory, past the flashing neon lights of downtown and into the modest buildings of Midtown, where we were forced to chose between Losers and Winners. But not before we ran through the snow flurry that had decided to show off.
Losers won, but ended up losing because they didn't serve food. The next stop was Country Cafe, because of course a cafe would have food, right? But no, they didn't either. We left with promises to return, and ventured into Winner's territory, where it was indeed a win. Live music, friend pickles and two beers later, we were headed back to Country Cafe.

Where we were greeted as if we were long lost friends.
Where the manager officially dubbed us West Palm Beach and checked every five minutes to make sure we were still there.
Where we heard, hands down, the most talented artists and wondered, why aren't they famous?
Where we sat for hours, until the last number was done and the friends we'd made invited us back to Losers with them.

The live music continued, the friend making resumed, the beer drinking waged on. We were passed from one person to another, constantly explaining that we left the warmth and sunshine willingly and, why wouldn't we come to Nashville? The night ended with hugs all around, because Tennesseans don't shake hands, and a sober goodbye to the hole-in-the-wall bar that felt just a little like home.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Feature Presentation

It's official. I'm famous.

Okay, maybe famous is pushing it, but I am known. Somewhat. By, like, one person in Canada, and Spain, and a few in the UK. That's close to famous, right? That's almost worldwide recognition, right?
Just kidding. I'm still just little ol' me.
BUT...My book did reach over 120 adds and 10 reviews on goodreads. That's like, huge. People like me, they really like me! Actually, they like my book, which is kind of an extension of me, so it's the same thing, right?!


So, again, thank you to everyone who has supported me. I wonder if you'll ever get tired of hearing thank you?
A very special thanks to fellow blogger and author, +Alexandra Lanc for featuring my book on her blog. If you've got the time, then check it out! If you don't have the time, check it out anyways. For me! Because I'm famous! And everyone does what famous people tell them to do!

And just in case you haven't been outside yet (guilty) it's cold! Put on a sweater! If you own one...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nashville Notes, Part 1

 If people didn't already know we were tourists by the Florida license plate on Arielle's car, than they found out when we drove down Broadway for the first time, and Rachelle just had to stick her head out of the window and yell, NashVegas baby!
Oh, did I mention that it was below thirty degrees? And that she insisted on keeping the window down for at least fifteen seconds? It doesn't sound like very long, but it was. Florida girls=turn the heat on, full blast!

I must say, driving down that strip for the first time is something I will never forget. I mean, yeah, it's just bars and bars on deck, but it was honestly an amazing sight. Neon signs lighting up every inch of street, people from all parts of the world coming together and uniting under cowboy hats and boots, stray musicians every few feet. The three of us watched in awe, forgetting that we still had to find our hotel and were starving. 

We did find our hotel, by the way, and lucky for us, it was literally a hop and a skip away from Broadway (aka downtown.) Once again, our hotel was decent, the room was spacious, and we did not feel immediately threatened by our surroundings. After getting dressed and destroying the room, we took off for downtown. And man, those neon lights are even better when you're walking underneath them. When the people in cowboy hats are bumping into you and saying, pardon me, or holding doors open for you. And smiling. 

Our first stop of the night was at a recommended BBQ place called Rippey's. As soon as we walked in, live music and a completely full dining room greeted us. On a Monday night. It was then that we began to understand just what was in store for us. Awesomeness. 

The music was amazing. Outstanding. Beautiful. The food was simple, yet incredible. We couldn't help but eat every last bite. When we were sufficiently stuffed, we sat back, sipped our beers, and listened. I honestly don't know how long we were there, but by the end of the night, we had made friends with the son in the band, whose name was Klinton, and had invited him to go bar hopping with us. 

And bar hop, we did. I'm pretty sure we went to at least four bars just that night, and each one was more impressive than the next. We brought a little bit of West Palm Beach line dancing to each, and couldn't help but be surprised by all of the nice people. 

At the last bar, Honky Tonk Central (yes, it's called Honky Tonk Central. Awesome, right?) Arielle and I got offered jobs as accountants in Minnesota at 1:30 in the morning and we officially decided that we never wanted to leave downtown. Except that everything closes at 2, so we had to leave anyways. But it was okay, because our first night there was epic and we all decided that the only way to go from there was up.

Thanks for the pictures, Shell! :)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kickin it in Knoxville

March 2nd

The drive from Athens to Knoxville was only five hours, which was infinitely better than eleven, but five hours in a car is still five hours in a car. It sucks.
We got there around 8, found a nice hotel not too far from downtown, and got ready to hit the town. Even though it was freezing. Like, ears falling off, frozen tears, freezing. But we weren't gunna let it keep us inside. We were on vacation, dammit!

Yeah, that enthusiasm didn't last long. After walking through downtown, taking pictures of the infamous Tennessee sign, and trying to decide where to eat, we were ready to just get inside.
I will never, ever, yell at another snowbird again. I now understand wanting to escape that horribleness they call winter.

Just as we were about to cross the street, into one of the places that looked more lively on that frozen Saturday night, we were stopped by a drunk college guy being herded into a car by his very sober friend. Unlike in South Florida, the guy was nice and funny, and totally not creepy. We didn't run the other way like our instincts told us to, and I'm sure glad we didn't. He was hilarious, told us we were the most beautiful girls he had ever seen, complimented Rachelle's red hair and Arielle's yellow jacket. We won't ever forget you, drunk college boy from Knoxville.

The next day consisted of exploring the town, finding apartment complexes and enjoying the rollings hills and the crisp air. Everything is just so different up there, from the people to the buildings, even the way the sun shines! (Or doesn't, lol)

That night we found an awesome brewery with the best pizza, drank my very first (and definitely not last) cider beer, played pool and darts like a bunch of boys and left Old City, Knoxville just a bit happier.

Monday was our last day there, and we decided to walk around the town while the stores were open and in doing so, we found a local radio station that played live music, for free, everyday of the week. We popped in, listened to some seriously talented artists and finally decided that West Palm Beach was just the wrong city for these music loving girls. But it was time to go. We could hear Nashville calling our names and little did we know that the best had yet to begun.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Adventures in Athens

March 1st

The alarm clock goes off at 4:30 a.m.
You wanna know my first thought; is this what early morning looks like?

Arielle pulls in at 5 a.m. We pick up Rachelle by 5:30. Everything's going smoothly. We're right on time. Ten hours didn't seem so bad when we were two hours in, but ten hours is hell when there's only two hours left. Especially when there's stop and go traffic.
So we decide to pull into the closest hotel with the best rating. It's in the downtown Athens area, close to where we plan on spending our stay, but it's shady looking, rundown and not in that artsy vintage type of way.
The three of us walk in to pay ($62 a night; not bad, right?) and then we're on our way to our room. Except that there's no elevator, and each of us has a 50lb bag on us. But it's only on the second floor and we're not pansies, so we lug our stuff up and make it to our room in one piece, all the while hoping the room doesn't smell funny. And it doesn't, thank God. But it's gross. And there's no lock on the door.The bathroom is barely big enough to sit in and the shower is non-existant. But there's a large flat-screen TV so HALLELUJAH. Just kidding. We booked it outta there faster than you can say bless your heart. 
The lady gave us a refund without question, in fact looking relieved that we were leaving. That solidified our decision.
Until we drove down the road and stopped at a much nicer looking Holiday Inn, and the front desk receptionist proceeded to tell us that there were no rooms available at any hotel in Athens. "There's a school convention," she told us. Of course.
Finally, after honing my skills of persuasion, we managed to snag a room at a decent Days Inn.

The smell of a hundred wildflower fields hit us like a brick wall upon walking into our room.
"They're trying to hide something," Arielle said.
Hungry and desperate to walk around, we got back in the car and went downtown to find some food. But it was only 38 degrees outside, and these Florida girls were not prepared.
It gave us an excuse to walk into any open building, which led us to find some pretty cool places.
We ate at the best mexican restaurant ever. (How is it that Georgians do Mexican better than we do?)
Had classic lemon drop shots at the Georgia Bar. Played pool at the Boar's Head Lounge.
Made up fake names and fake occupations at Whiskey Bent.
It was a successful night in downtown Athens.

Back at the hotel, the smell of flowers is gone, replaced by a totally different kind of plant smell- marijuana. I swear we were getting second-hand high from our neighbors.
And to make matters worse, they decided to let us know how much they loved each other.
Nothing a little bit of banging on the wall on our part didn't fix.

The next day consisted of walking from the hotel back to downtown, finding some really cool shops and really nice people, and the best fried chicken and collard greens in the south.
We were back on the road by 3 p.m. and headed to Knoxville.

Despite the cold, Athens melted our hearts.