#PimpMyBio #PitchWars

What happens when you only have time to look at Twitter for 15 minutes in the morn? You miss a whole load of good stuff… including the latest on #PitchWars and what?! #PimpmyBio. Yes, I just spent the last two hours reading tweets and bios and fell for two fellow adult writers—hopefully, you know who you are as I followed you and commented. Well done both of you fellow #menteeshelpingmentees.

Wait this is supposed to be about me! (Insert shot here that might win hearts or at least interest.)

Back of the Hudson

Okay, but random quote… like him or not, The Terminator spoke at my company event (I will not insert photo here) and he said that it really bothers him when people say he is “a self-made man,” because he didn’t get where he is today alone. “It’s not about ‘me’, it’s about ‘we.’”  So all you fellow Mentees and Mentors (insert applause/dancing image ) AS

But this is my bio… so now about me… that’s why you are here, right?

The fun and short story can be found above in the “This is what I am About” link. The Blog Bio. I’ll give the #Pimp version… not too repetitive—and some untold, juicy stuff.

My first book was written and illustrated by me, and published by my kindergarten teacher. One copy only and I own it. Someday it will be in the Trinity Library, not just in a box in my garage. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer.

Fast forward to oh, 10ish and I wrote a story about the smuggling of gold into the U.S. from Canada in candy bars. It was brilliant. Well, it was good.

Shout out to that one teacher in high school (love all you English teachers out there) who inspired me—and I majored in communications and journalism in college.

So about college. I was given the choice of writing about squirrels on campus or music, and duh… I became the entertainment editor of my college paper. Made sense—my boyfriend was in a punk band, all my friends were in bands, and I hung out at clubs. Of course. One of my first interviews was a band from Scotland. I could barely understand a word.

So began a near decade “career” in music “journalism”—one that had me (no name dropping allowed!) waking up in Cleveland on a heavy metal band’s tour bus (“Hello Cleveland!”); jumping out of a plane with one of the biggest grunge bands from Seattle (talk about stepping out of the box!); interviewing one of the loveliest voices that ever lived (and passed far too early) while I was standing in my shower (before you say Hallelujah, he was at his house and I was at mine—he just called when he did and I did what I had to); driving around LA and walking around NYC with the godfather of my favorite music; and that only scratches the surface.

Read my “About” to see why I stepped out of that world… and into my next corporate gig. Still writing, but oh so different. Years later, not saying how many, I’m still there…

Because, drum roll (I prefer Sean Kinney or Stephen Perkins to Neal Peart), I have a son, who is about to be 17. Single mom. College tuition. Do the math.

Finally, my writing. I love to write. I could write stories—or read them—all day. As long as I also had my dogs and tea. My first serious book was a memoir. Love it and may or may not revisit. My father passed and it was far too personal for me to continue. So I tucked it away for the moment. (Insert fave shot of dad and son)

Max and Dad tongues

So I started writing another book in a notebook. And then two notebooks, then three, and another. Mostly on planes. Then I transcribed it. And edited it. And sent it out to an editor (love her) and she helped me. I entered it in a writing competition and it won!! But I felt it needed more work (while being perfect is boring, I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and I was too close. So I tucked it away…

Hi #NaNoWriMo—I did it, really. Spent the last year and half on that book—dual POV mother and daughter story, editing and cleansing and perfecting and then thought, I need a break from Losing Oneself. So hello The Other Side of Normal—I’m back and I have missed you… and I love you!

So for #PitchWars I am selecting The Other Side of Normal. Fiction set in 1980s SoCal punk scene—complete with riots, Mohawks, drugs and mosh pits. Frida hasn’t had a great life—lost her father when she was younger, never fit in as a teen, had some pretty cruddy relationships with guys, and just wants to be “normal.” She falls for a guy (Tom) in a punk band, who is really a “normal” guy—no piercings, boring well-to-do home, studying engineering at university. Of course, the boy next door isn’t always all he is cracked up to be, and Frida also falls for the new singer in his band.

Many aspects of this novel that I love, but mostly the scenery/setting and voice. Frida isn’t really that strong in the beginning, but as she finds herself, and learns to accept her version of “normal,” she grows to be a badass—like her best friend, Kelly, who is the take no prisoners type. I feel for both of these women and believe others will too… and that some of the guys in the book are also really likeable—even those that don’t look like the boy next door. (Insert mock up here!!)

Cover shot

10 quick facts (if I still have your attention), plus the Spinal Tap 11:

  1. Tenses aren’t my strength. I admit it.
  2. Foreign languages aren’t either, but I can speak a few words of many languages as I work with people from all over the world (Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, Scottish (I went there), etc.
  3. This year, I’ve been to Austria, Peru and Chile, and by the end of the year will add Colombia and the UK.
  4. I love to travel, but nothing compares to home.
  5. I believe always learning and growing as a person and writer is key to happiness, success, and being a better person/writer.
  6. I don’t mind public speaking, but don’t like to talk about myself (journalism background)
  7. I was in a punk rock cult movie a lifetime ago.
  8. I still buy CDs. And I still buy books. I have a collection of both.
  9. I also have a large collection of Mexican folk art (Day of the Dead, Frida Kahlo, etc.)
  10. I have dozens of stories I want to tell. Where is the time to write them?
  11. I have two dogs, Kira and Joy, both old and not healthy. It hurts my heart. (insert adorable shot here!)

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Good luck all!! And see you on Twitter or on the bookshelves!

 

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My, My… Too Many “Mys”

I’ve spent the last three days combing MY manuscript for the word MY. With first person POV, it’s like I, over used. A crutch. MY crutch.

Starting from page one, I found far too many uses, but after seeing MY highlighted so many times in a paragraph that it looked like those annoying caution lights on your way home–road closed due to flooding. MY overused three times out of 10…. that’s three times too many.

MY use of MY sometimes aids in a too frequent I sentence pattern.

In this usage, opt for MY over I.

  • NOW: I rolled over to check the time on my phone; just after one.
  • UPDATE: My phone lit two minutes after one.

Check those Is. Remove when you can. We all know you are watching, hearing seeing, listening, etc.

  • NOW: I watched the white peaks come and go in the ocean, almost glowing as they reflected the moon.
  • UPDATE: The white foamy peaks came and went, glowing from the moon’s reflection.

Show not tell.

  • NOW: I rested my hand on her hair.
  • UPDATE: My hand rested on her hair.

Back to MY. MY advice, highlight all those MYs and remove those road blocks when you can.

  • NOW: My mom stirred and I rolled back, resting my hand on her back.
  • UPDATE: Mom stirred; I rested my hand on her back.

One more shot at editing MY.

  • NOW: I tucked the dolls into my suitcase with my books, and lifted the fabric of the suitcase to tuck the letter inside. That’s when I found the notebook, worn smooth as if it had been handled hundreds of times.
  • UPDATE: Before resting the dolls beside the books in my suitcase, I slipped the letter in a small tear in the fabric lining of the suitcase, revealing a notebook, worn smooth as if it had been every day for the last thirty years.

What do you think of the rewrites to Losing Oneself? What are your thoughts to the usage of My and I? I’m open to suggestions and thoughts… and observations.

Gimme Danger, once upon a time

gimme-danger

Once upon a time I was teenager hell bent on seeing Iggy Pop at the Hollywood Palladium only I was also hell bent on drinking and missed most of the show, though I saw a lot of the bathroom. No Fun.

Once upon a time I was a teenager hell bent on seeing Iggy Pop at The Whiskey and I didn’t make the same mistake. What a show! Real Wild Child.

Once upon a time I was in my early twenties and was friend’s with Eric, Iggy’s son, as we all hung out at the same dive of a house. And I had seen Iggy several times by now. Gimme Danger.

Once upon a time I was in my early thirties and I interviewed Iggy. We talked about his son and became friends… dinner in LA, dinner in NYC, Austin SXSW, calls before texts, and then lost touch. Real Cool Time.

And then I saw him years later and he said, “I know you don’t I?” Blah Blah Blah.

Ready for my next “once upon a time…” Lust for Life.

 

Amy’s Army: Poem for a Friend

A year ago Friday I lost a dear friend to a cruel disease-cancer. She was gone before her army of friends could process it… and that army is still wrapping their arms around it. She had such a team behind her, a loving family, and a little boy. Cancer didn’t care. I wrote this poem to honor her, our friendship and the team that surrounded her–many putting their lives on hold without a second thought to fight by her side. All because of her generous spirit and beautiful smile.

az-rocks

Amy’s Army

 

I have this friend, her name is Amy.

I met her 25, or so, years ago.

The moment was unremarkable, so much so, I don’t remember when or where.

Maybe some club on the Strip. Maybe over a drink, or five.

No matter, as how is what really matters.

Her best friend introduced us.

I was excited to share.

Jello shots, Thai Elvis, Palm Springs, pantsuits, orchids, Dan Tanas.

Financial advisors and tax accountants.

Baby showers (both ours), bridal showers (not ours), birthdays.

Sweet as Hell, a T-shirt I once made for her in soft pink.

An hour phone call over a man in another land (mine), a brief conversation over a man at a NYC bar (her).

Encouraging talks from one single mom to a hopeful new single mom (her),

Short concerned calls over our mutual best friend (Kat),

Texts and IMs—AmyDeeZ—about shoes and music and stuff that no longer seems to matter.

And finally, a frightened conversation in the early morning hours on a September Sunday…

It takes a village, she said, more than a little embarrassed.

There’s an entire team behind you, Team Amy.

She smiled the beautiful Amy smile we all know.

Remember, you have an army of friends all here for you, I told her.

We all gave to Amy, because Amy gave to us.

To me, Amy is one of my close girlfriends, because that’s how Amy is.

So many years ago, Amy shared Katherine with me.

Then in short time I met more of her best and closest friends, Jill, Cindy and Mindy.

Her loving family—including her beloved Jake.

And over countless drinks and dinners, I heard stories of her Warner Brothers crew, the Palm Springs crowd, her Minneapolis friends, the tennis and UCLA fans, and so many more.

A year ago, in typical selfless Amy fashion, she shared her Army of friends.

And she did it with a sweet smile.

Amy’s Army became TeamAZ

United because of our love for her and her generous spirit, we are all blessed to call one another friend.

Thanks to our American Girl.

 

Inspiration #3 Read, Read & Read

There is only one thing that inspires me more than life: reading.

With every amazing book I read, I’m inspired to write.

With every well-crafted story, I learn.

With every author’s bio, I believe in the possibilities.

If you want to write, READ!

The "H's" and then some

The “H’s” and then some

The following are a few of my favorite books that I have either found 1) inspiring, 2) learned from or 3) thrilled by the author–and in no particular order.

New(ish) as in I read roughly this past year:

Yes, Yes Cherries, Mary Otis (triple threat)

Johnathan Unleashed, Meg Rosoff (love the character building)

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman (character, character, inspiring, inspiring)

Watching Edie, Camilla Way (POV lesson)

Harmony, Carolyn Parkhurst (POV lesson and voice!)

How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran (gritty character and badass author)

Butterflies in November, Audur Ava Olafsdottir (inspiring and characters!)

The Woman who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle (inspiring)

 

Older (as in I read more than a couple years ago, but not in school):

Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

Geek Love, Katherine Dunn

Anything by Raold Dahl

The Stranger, Albert Camus (okay, I read it in high school, but still love)

Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver (I was living in Minnesota)

Lush Life, Richard Price

Love Medicine, Louis Erdrich (I was living in Minnesota)

The Van, Roddy Doyle (my Irish period)

I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai

 

And the list goes on…. Read on while you write on. The two go hand in hand.

The "Ts" and then some...

The “Ts” and “Vs” and then some…

 

 

 

Inspiration #2 Moments in Life

Palm2Lap top in lap, relaxing as the sun is winding down its day, the shadows from the bamboo cooling the backyard, leaning back in the lounger, I look up and a sea of blue greets me, beautifully broken by my palm tree, whose fronds are gently waving in the breeze.

Deep sigh.

Inspiration #2. A moment so natural, simple, quiet. Awe.

Inspiration #1 Being Open

With an open mind, inspiration can be found, uncovered, discovered, and waiting in virtually every waking (and some sleeping) moment of the day.

I truly believe this — with an open mind, open heart, and good memory (or a pen and paper at hand), I can be inspired by a blade of grass, a glass of beer, or a barely spoken word.

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Inspiring in June 2016:  The sunset over Maas in Maastricht.

 

Inspiration #1: Sunset in a foreign city.

Walking across a bridge in a world away from home, pausing to reflect on the beauty seen for the first time by me, but seen by many others for hundreds of years is breathtaking. The thought that millions of other people have crossed this particular bridge and paused at the same spot to drink in the beauty, hold hands, or even light a cigarette doesn’t cross my mind.  To me it is old, yet fresh–as if I am the first to discover its secrets.

 

 

When Life Gets in the Way… Get Lucky and enter a contest

Lucky capture

Dear Lucky Agent

Dear Lucky Blog,

I think about you several times a week. I do, seriously. You’re like a good friend I haven’t seen in years, only its been a few months.

I’ve been busy, honest. But I still care, deeply.

What has pulled me away. I challenged myself and wrote another book. DOVE in headfirst (thankfully, there was water) and just went for it. HARDCORE. And it resulted in a good book. I mean good. Maybe not perfect, but it will be momentarily.

And I am ready to put it out there. In fact, I am entering it in a really cool writing contest. New Year, New You, New Writing Contest. There are all of them out there now, and some goodies — but this one thanks to Chuck Sambuchino and agent Elizabeth Winick Rubenstein of McIntosh & Otis, is right for me (and maybe you writer friend!): Dear Lucky Agent #21 as its on Women’s Fiction. This is how you enter… http://tinyurl.com/z5njvsp

Go for it! I am….

@WritingsofJClay

Am I Doing Enough?

Am I, as  Elizabeth Gilbert says, “flat out bananas” because I feel like I have not done enough or accomplished enough in my life.

Rewind.

Career as a music journalist covering some mega huge bands in the 90s. Read Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Jeff Buckley, etc.

Corporate move to a high-end computer company as a creative director, and then fast track up the ladder at a fashion company of sorts… etc. So yes, a big job…. or big career that far exceeds the 40-hour work week and requires travel in the U.S. and around the world.

Mother. Yes, I “balance” the career while also raising a fabulous 15-year-old son. Virtually solo. And I have two pups, who also require a fair amount of mothering.

So between work, homework checks, dog walks, dinners cooked (or, let’s face it, ordered), travel, house and garden care–I write. Write to the tune of two books — one I have shelved for sometime and the other I have spent the last two years editing and will be working on the next round shortly after NaNoWriMo. And I have started several others.

A lot on my plate and a great deal accomplished.

So yes, Elizabeth Gilbert, I need to lighten up. I need to EMBRACE my load — and maybe that’s enough. Not that it means I am stopping, but I maybe it’s alright not to push myself and to feel proud about where my life is and the path that it is heading.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/11/elizabeth-gilbert-on-failure_n_6608164.html

The Writing Getaway–aka the Writaway

For the second time, I took time away from the home, virtually alone, to write. I like to call it a Writeaway

The first Writeaway was in Dublin a year ago. I wandered the streets alone for two days, taking notes for a story set in Ireland, sat in bars alone and wrote, and drank, you guessed it, alone.

Now, I am settled poolside in Palm Springs working on a new book, sitting beside my closest friend, bouncing ideas off her, reading the first four chapters and seeking big picture critique, and then rather frantically writing and rewriting in between dives in the cool water.

Writeaways are the right way for me right now to #FindInspiration.

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#amwriting