California Girls

We just returned from a trip to Huntington Beach, which is just a few miles from where I grew up. I always feel at home there and it shows in my photos. Hubby took a pic of me standing on the pier, reminding me of my younger, carefree days. And no matter where I live, I’ll always be that California girl.

CAbirthdaygirlI’m also reminded of one of my best friends, Cathi, my partner-in-crime in soliciting yearbook ads. We both wore red dresses (what else?) and some guy hung out his VW Bug and asked, “Where’s the festival?” We never did know what he meant, but we sure giggled.

And then there were the firemen at the fire house across the street from the tennis court and how we’d flirted with them. And the dance where we wanted to change dates (borrowed a line from that for “Candy Apple Red” and “Bad Boy Crushes.”

Years later, after I’d published Real Women Wear Red, I caught up with my friend on Classmates.com and she’d read the book and said, “I could see you in this book.” You know how kids sign their yearbooks, “Don’t ever change.” Apparently, I hadn’t – at least, in the important things.

And so I took a trip down memory lane in my high school yearbook (I was the first editor-in-chief and had the privilege of naming it) and so I had to share the lovely note Cathi had written in my yearbook – don’t think a friend has ever said such amazing things since.

cathiyearbookletter

 

It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again

My copy of Julia Cameron’s latest inspiring book for creativity, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, arrived in the mail yesterday. This morning I sat in the backyard, attempting to crack it open. I didn’t get far because I couldn’t help but notice the weeds that had sprouted during our big desert rainstorm while we were cruising the Mexican Riviera.

Weeding done, I opened the book to the Introduction and began to read and I just knew this is exactly the book I need now. I’d read her previous books on creativity and they always inspired. They’re what motivated me to start writing and then later songwriting when she shared that after years of writing about writing, she began her first piano lessons at age 54.

The focus for this book is for those transitioning out of the work force, wondering what’s next. I’ve been transitioning from the full-time work force for some time. I’ve been freelancing as a part-time contract technical writer, pursuing my novel writing and songwriting. So I do have a hand in the work force, but it is still a transition.

Work is more than work – it’s also socialization. That’s how I socialized for years. With my peers and with those who respected me, knowing what I’m capable of. You wander very far from that environment and the world is totally different. Especially now. Suddenly, I’m at home full-time. Suddenly, everybody is online. Suddenly, people seem to be measuring me differently. Suddenly, it seems to be all about kids and grand kids, even though it wasn’t about that during my working years.

So I had to share these thoughts from the Introduction:

This book is my attempt to answer, “What next?” for students who are transitioning out of the work force, embarking on their “second act.” In this book, you will find the common problems facing the newly retired: too much time, lack of structure, a sense that our physical surroundings suddenly seem outdated, excitement about the future coupled with a palpable fear of the unknown. As a friend of mine worried recently, “All I do is work. When I stop working, will I do… nothing?”

The answer is no. You will not do “nothing.” You will do many things. You will be surprised and delighted by the well of colorful inspiration that lies within you–a well that you alone can tap. You will discover that you are not alone in your desires, and that there are creativity tools that can help you navigate the specific issues of retirement.

I was very inspired by one of the guys who worked for Songu. He was a retired teacher but was now working full-time as a musician, getting placements for his songs in TV and film. It’s given him a second career – it’s his second act or chapter or whatever it is. But isn’t that exciting?

Still, even for those of us who have found or in the process of finding our way toward having meaningful things to do outside of the full-time work force, it’s still a different lifestyle and an adjustment. I’m still working on it.

The cool thing is? “Artists don’t retire.”

 

She’s Not That Good: A WIP

I’ve spent so much time studying, practicing, and writing music that I feel it’s time to get back into writing some fiction. I haven’t neglected it entirely: this past summer I released L.A. Nights, a short story, Raining Men, a novella, and Cougars in Cabo and Other Short Stories, an anthology.

Now I feel like it’s time to get back to She’s Not That Good, a young adult novel. Here’s an excerpt from the draft:

“She’s not that good.”

Four little words that have haunted me my entire life. Five, technically if you count she’s as “she is.” Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if whatever it is I’m not that good at hadn’t been somebody else’s idea in the first place. Like, “You know, you’re really good at singing, so why don’t you try out for the school play?”

I would resist using the argument that having a good singing voice does not make one an actress. But they would eventually wear me down and actually convince me that auditioning for the school play was the only thing to do and that I’d be a shoe-in. I’d rehearse for weeks and finally arrive for my audition.

And there “they” would be, those same people who had practically twisted my arm to audition for their lousy play, huddling together, whispering, until finally their so-called whisper turned into a stage whisper, and nobody could help hearing them all say, as if in unison, “She’s not that good.”

I began making plans to attend college, but every application came back saying the same thing, “She’s not that good.”

You’d think I’d get better at choosing what I was good at, but people misled me. My essays in English class would garner an “A,” and my teacher would convince me I should pursue a journalism degree. But after meeting with a counselor who ran me through the paces, he wrote on my application, “She’s not that good.”

Which brings me to today and the interview I slunk out of where I had to take a writing test, a typing test, and a math test. The HR lady called me into her office afterwards and read the note written on the results. You guessed it. It said, “She’s not that good.”

Everybody thought I should be a writer. Maybe they saw in me some creativity and accomplishment. I was flattered by that, because you see, I wasn’t a complete loser, although it may sound like that to you at this point. The problem was I was good at a lot of things–I wasn’t good enough to excel in any of them.

I wrote good papers. I loved history, so I got an “A” in my history classes and people concluded that I was an intellectual and recommended I become a lawyer or a historian. But even I could tell I wasn’t that good.

To make myself feel a bit better after that job interview, I checked my cell phone for any messages about the other jobs I had applied for. You know, the hand modeling job. Everybody said I had beautiful hands and even the rest of me passed for attractive, but when I sought after those modeling jobs I heard the usual, “too short,” “too tall,” “too fat,” “too thin.” I was starting to feel like Goldilocks never finding the one that was “just right.”

My mother answered the phone and I said. “I thought today was your surfing day.”

My mother kept saying stuff like, “I’m starting over,” when she suddenly began pursuing all of her “childhood” dreams. One day it was hang gliding, then it was drama class, and now it was surfing.

I knew she wouldn’t stick with it–she never stuck with anything to be very good at it. My entire family is like that–mother, grandmother, and even great-grandmother. And they certainly didn’t keep men around. No wonder I had the problems I had. But my mother insisted I not follow in her footsteps, as if by saying it will change this family curse we seem to have.

“Be a writer. That’s who you are.”

Like everybody else? I wanted to say. Who wasn’t a writer these days. But my mother is the one who had wanted to be a writer, and when it didn’t pan out as quickly as she thought it should, she jumped on other so-called dreams, although I really wonder if she ever dreamed of surfing.

She wanted to give me the pen name she always wanted. “Constance Brocade–can’t you see that on the front of a romance novel? Isn’t that the perfect name?”

Only her name was Debbie, so she wanted to name me Constance. I would have died before I would let anybody know my name was Constance.

Thankfully, my grandmother stepped in, and out of spite, my mother named me after her favorite drink–Brandi. I’ve always suspected that’s what she was drinking the night I was conceived. And maybe that would have been okay if our last name wasn’t “Redwine.”

My mother continued, “No surfing anymore. It’s not for me. I think I’m going to start photography next. I can be on the beach without hurting my knees. Don’t wait until you’re 40 to follow your heart, Brandi. Do it now while you’re young.”

“Okay, mom.” Didn’t I tell you?

“So did anybody call for me? You know the hands modeling people.”

“I’ve told you, Brandi, those hands were meant for sitting at the typewriter pounding out novels.”

“Mom, nobody sits at a typewriter anymore. Computer, you mean. And no, I’m not going to be a writer.”

“Well, why not? You lock yourself in your room and read every book under the sun. Why wouldn’t you want to write one?”

My mother couldn’t get past her own unmet dreams to see that my dreams were different from hers.

Running Away: A WIP

The theme of running away is capturing my imagination. I think it started watching Bachelor in Paradise this summer. When Carly was dumped, she wouldn’t even let the guy give her any excuses. She’d heard enough. But she did stop long enough in her tracks to turn around and say, “I can’t hear what you’re trying to tell me.” And then, “I run.” It hit a chord with me.

I was reminded of this when returning to Facebook and a friend said that I popped in and out more than any other friend. And now I’m working on restoring my domain name and blog since I’d deleted the old one. There’s a pattern here that I want to explore through fiction and music.

I’m inspired by a good friend of mine, who saw bits of me in Real Women Wear Red and who inspired my song, Candy Apple Red. I’m thinking this wip will capture some of my friendship with her during that last year of high school in Southern California when my family moved to the Pacific Northwest, much to my lifelong regret.

There’s also a song that is inspiring this story – Runaway by Del Shannon. I’d like to write my own song for this wip, but I’m not there yet – I’ve just started exploring the ideas in my wip.

Cougars in Cabo and Other Short Stories

Cougars in Cabo and Other Short Stories

cabo_coverCougars in Cabo, originally published in the A SHAKER OF MARGARITAS: COUGARS ON THE PROWL anthology by Mozark Press, is my bestselling short story. It is available as a single and as part of an anthology for your Kindle.

Blurbs for Cougars and Cabo and the other 4 short stories are listed below.

Cougars in Cabo

Spurned by the man who was supposed to be her second chance, buttoned-down Barbara reluctantly joins her “ultra San Francisco chic” friend Cherie on a cruise to Mexico. Never quite living up to Cherie’s standards, Barbara relishes being chased by a young, hot, surfer dude. Reluctant or not, Barbara learns to live in the moment as one of the Cougars in Cabo.

Viva Las Vegas

cover_VLV_150Dumped by her husband for his gay hairdresser, Donna cashes in her cruise tickets for two for a solo flight to Sin City to celebrate her 50th birthday. Hoping to discover her true self, she discovers Habanero Margaritas, Elvis, Cilla, Ann-Margret, and the real meaning of Viva Las Vegas.

(originally published in the A SHAKER OF MARGARITAS: HOT FLASH MOMMAS anthology, available on Print and for Kindle by Mozark Press.)

Dear Kitten…

cover_kitten_15050-something Kitty Arness hasn’t been called “Kitten” since her college days. So when a chance encounter reunites her with an old love on Laguna Beach, she realizes she longs to be “Kitten” one more time.

Still hurting from the breakup all these years later, she must make a hard choice: to hold onto her pride or forgive and forget, especially when she reads the writing in the sand.

L.A. Nights

lanights_cover_1501“Some day you’ll grow up to shame us,” Kim’s mother had told her when after she’d stayed out all night, hanging out with her friends in L.A., not coming home until the sun had risen over the San Bernardino Mountains. It had been an honest mistake of her youth. She hadn’t done anything illegal, wild, or immoral, not that night, anyway. Later, she left for San Francisco and vowed to never return to Los Angeles.

But San Francisco had been more than cold—it was heart-less. She’d discovered how impossible it was to warm yourself when you wrap yourself in cold. Searching for the familiar and her long ago past, she follows a lead to a Burlesque club in Los Angeles, remembering those hot, L.A. nights where her past would finally catch up with her.

As the Bullets Drop

cover_bullets_100Debra Hunt’s mother warned her about men like her father. And now Debra is meeting her father for the first time at a remote mountainside cabin. Where her cell phone doesn’t work. And a dead body shows up on her father’s doorstep. And it looks an awful lot like her mother’s dead body.

A police investigation is soon underway and it seems that everybody’s a suspect.

BUY NOW on amazon.com as an anthology for your Kindle.

Raining Men, A Novella

I may be focusing more on writing songs these days than writing fiction, but I haven’t stopped writing fiction completely. I’ve just released a novella called Raining Men.

Raining Men (A Novella)

When California girl Brooke Slade, looking for love in all the wrong places, is presented with an opportunity to move to the Pacific Northwest, she turns it down, refusing to leave her life in Sunny California. But when she loses her job, she decides to give the Northwest a chance for thirty days and discovers it’s raining more than the wet stuff – it’s raining men. Wading through so many Mr. Wrongs, can she find Mr. Right?

BUY NOW on Amazon.com for your Kindle.

L.A. Nights – New Short Story

In the midst of my songwriting pursuits, I’m still writing fiction. My latest short story, L.A. Nights, is now available on Kindle. I also have a novella in the works to be released this fall. So stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s something about L.A. Nights.

“Some day you’ll grow up to shame us,” Kim’s mother had told her when after she’d stayed out all night, hanging out with her friends in L.A., not coming home until the sun had risen over the San Bernardino Mountains. It had been an honest mistake of her youth. She hadn’t done anything illegal, wild, or immoral, not that night, anyway. Later, she left for San Francisco and vowed to never return to Los Angeles.

But San Francisco had been more than cold—it was heart-less. She’d discovered how impossible it was to warm yourself when you wrap yourself in cold. Searching for the familiar and her long ago past, she follows a lead to a Burlesque club in Los Angeles, remembering those hot, L.A. nights where her past would finally catch up with her.

Available now on Kindle.

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