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Saturday, February 12, 2011

I Love Rock n Roll (and other stuff too)

I love live music. It almost doesn't matter what kind it is. I get carried away with the sounds of a chamber orchestra, by heart beats with the bass of a hard rock show. I love wandering around the French Quarter in New Orleans, turning a corner and a street musician is playing his heart out to everyone passing by.

I've tried to be "musical" at different times in my life, because I love it so much. I think in 4th or 5th grade I sang in the school chorus, and had one verse of Puff the Magic Dragon as my first solo performance. We went around to some local schools to perform, and I almost died when I realized I wouldn't have a microphone at one of the schools. I'm pretty sure nobody heard me. I had practiced "singing well", not singing loud.

In middle school, I went to my first rock concert: Ratt and Poison (yes, with Brett Michaels before his bandana implant). Most of my singing around that time was to the MTV video countdown after school, where the hair bands ruled; and my performance was limited to The Cruettes, a few of us girls blasting Bon Jovi and the like and air-jamming like crazy!

There was an open spot in my schedule my junior or senior year. I joined the guitar class, sure that my dad's and mom's strumming talents were passed on to me. I showed up for 3 classes. I'm pretty sure my fingers just don't go that way. And my hands are tiny. Ask anybody. (I opted to take a speech class instead.)

The Guitar that Started it All
The guitar gods still had plans for me, however.  I dropped my name into a drawing to win an autographed Fender Stratocaster at the Tempe Music Festival and I won! I think that was in 2004. Maybe now I was ready to learn!

So... a few years later, the lonely Strat sat in its case in the closet of my new home here in Wichita Falls. My sweetheart had told me all about the band he was in 20 years ago. He showed the the video tape. The band called themselves Coitus (yes, I know) and covered such bands as Metallica and Judas Priest. Gellert (my now husband) even had hair back then (as cute as the mullet was, I really prefer the bald look. He's been warned not to grow any hair back, as I will shave his head in his sleep and that's kind of dangerous.) He really enjoyed playing back then, he said. But it had been a very long time, and he had to get rid of all his equipment years ago anyway.

So then I said, "Hey, I have a guitar in my closet just sitting there. You can play on that if you want."

Well. That's why I'm sitting here, early on a Saturday night, wondering what I should wear to the Iron Horse Pub. Since Gellert started practicing on that Fender, he's bought himself a guitar for every finger (it seems); our living room was a jam room for the first part of 2009, including a full drum set; and  he's been in two bands (currently in Jac Damsel). I missed his first performance with Jac Damsel because I was at a writing conference, but unless the gig has been out of town, at the Airforce base, or I've been under the weather, I've been right there, watching my sweetie play!

We've talked a bit about dragging out my barely-Karaoke approved singing voice and doing a husband and wife set at a local open mike, but I haven't quite made it there. We'll see. For now, I'll just get to live a little bit of an old teenage dream when I can say, "Oh, I'm with the band."
Gellert  and I after our performances--he was playing guitar, I was belly dancing. Not at the same time, though.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Combining Passions

Today is Day One of the 21 5 800 challenge. Since I don't speak "twitter" (even though I have one) I wasn't really sure what it was all about until a few minutes ago. The idea is, for 21 days, participants practice yoga 5 times a week and write 800 words a day.

This is chocolate and peanut butter to me, a sweet combination.

I often allow myself to get distracted when I have a few writing projects going at the same time. I open one file, only to think of something that might be perfect for another one, but hey, I REALLY should get this one done, as soon as I do a little research, and oh--what is that, how interesting...

Of course, time gets sucked into this multi-tasking nothingness with little but misplaced enthusiasm to show for it.

Yoga reminds me of the importance of staying present and focusing on the moment. If I am concentrating on grounding myself in tree, I can't concern myself with how I'm ever going to get into crane pose. In my writing, I need to remember to do the best I can with the more familiar work (short essays, blogs) in order for the words to flow easily. If I start to think about the difficulty with the more advanced project (novel), I am making myself struggle unnecessarily. Just as I may fall out of my tree, I may block my own writing with worries about something that isn't even happening yet.

So, for day 1:

Yoga: Gentle Yoga with Julie. Just the right amount of twists and inversions that I needed today-- very cleansing.

Writing: Some editing, but could have done better. Didn't meet the 800 mark (but, I didn't count, either). I'm giving myself a little lovingkindness in that respect--but tomorrow, back to work! I had a long overdue call from my sister, so my priorities shifted. I will at least have an Excuse Editor blog post done by tomorrow night.

Thanks for the idea, Bindu Wiles:)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Too Much Time on My Hands

If you are "old" like me, you now have a Styx tune running through your head.

Enjoy.

In the meantime, I thought I would check in on my lonely little blog. I haven't received the official paperwork, but it seems as if my time with the 2010 Census has come to a close. So now I'm down to the one job--the one that was to take the place of the various, random, part-time temp jobs I was taking. Now I can be various, random, and part-time-ish in one place.

So, technically, I have OODLES (I'm sure oodles is technical) more time for my writing, right? No more having to sneak the writing in by scribbling into notebooks while eating lunch at the same time, no more trying to blog from my phone, no more 4.5 hours of sleep because a new idea showed up after I worked until 10 at the office (and no more needing to go to the office in the evenings just because Gellert's band is practicing in the living room, they've found a new jam pad)-- Nope, some people are that limited but ME-- now I have great big empty slots of time in which to write.

Hmmm, then why do I have great big empty pages staring back at me?

Well, looking back at the past few months, especially the last few weeks, I think it is safe to say my schedule was jam packed. So, I took some of my own advice, and scheduled in my next full writing day.

Word Count: 0*

I let myself be distracted by so many things. I may have just been plain exhausted. Maybe I just needed a Transition Day.

But I have to be careful. Even if I have scheduled my time myself, I still fall into the Procrastination Trap (I can work on that later, I have plenty of time left today). At least when I was working 60-70 hour weeks (seriously?! was I nuts?!) I KNEW that if anything was going to get done, it had to get done NOW-- in this one hour or this half hour, in the 15 minutes before and 10 after something else, whatever. Now, just like a diet plan I heard of recently that consists of eating only 800 calories a day cannot be sustained (seriously?! Are you nuts?! For most, it is not healthy), the quick sprints of writing started to wear me out. I started losing momentum, looking forward to the time I would have more time to put into it. Well, that time is now, and the "extra" time I have  has made writing RIGHT NOW less crucial.

But, the first step is admitting it. Now I can post this as yet another reminder of excuses I've given myself, so I don't repeat them (much).

*I'm not counting scribbled notes about things I plan to write, or a few phrases that didn't even develop into sentences. They were written down, but until they become somewhat comprehensible, they don't get added to the word count for that day.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Day before the Writing Conference

Since December, I have been working two jobs, sneaking my writing and blogging in here and there. (One reason this blog has been so lonely.) Starting tomorrow morning, my focus will be all about writing for two days. I won't be writing, per se, but I will be learning about writing--which I enjoy just as much.

Now that job #2 is coming to a close (within the next month), I will be able to focus more on my own writing, so this conference comes at a great time.

A few goals for this weekend:
  • By listening to various agents, editors, writers, I hope to clarify my writing priorities. I have quite a few balls in the air and my juggling efforts are making me dizzy.
  • Learn all I can about the writing process, types of writing and markets, and ways writers market themselves so I can share on my http://www.excuseeditor.com/ website.
  • Continue to build up a support network of writers.
  • Sell my copies of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, especially the latest: Thanks Dad.
But, before I can do any of that, I need to:
  • Give a few census tests in Wichita and Archer counties.
  • Empty my car so that Paula and I have room for our suitcases and books.
  • Pack
  • Sleep (not much, we'll be leaving before the sun comes up!)
Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 25, 2010

End of the Meyer/Haapala Feud Part 2

Full Disclosure: I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, either.

So maybe it wasn't just the jealousy that kept me away from the Twilight saga. I try to read the type of books I want to write, and I just don't see myself in the fantasy/YA realm at all. Frankly, I'm not sure I have the imagination to sustain a full-length novel of that kind.

And yet, for the past few weeks, I've carried Twilight to my Census testing locations (yes, I'm a part-time government worker again) and tried to explain to anyone who caught me reading it:
It's for my book discussion group.
I don't know why I felt like I needed to make excuses. It's just that the 500 page book and its recognizable cover seemed to call me out-- either as immature or one of those 30-something women lusting over the teenage boys in the movies.

So, that's what finally got me to crack open the story of Forks and its strange inhabitants-- the undying wish to be the good student who reads what she's told to and participates in class. Even though its not a class. And nobody cares if I really read the book or not. But still.

I'm pretty talkative in these discussions. It reminds me a little of Mrs. Bocquin's or Mrs. Levitt's classes back in high school. I loved the chance to reach deeper into a story, to analyze and interpret what a certain phrase meant to me, or for the world. At the library, I love to interact with all of the other people who read the books through their own lenses. Sometimes, it's hard to get me to shut up when I've been especially moved-- both in good and bad ways-- by a book.

I was thinking about what kind of little speech I would give about this book that has been sold millions of copies, in many different languages, and inspired devoted fans throughout the world.

My first thought:
Group: What did you think about the book?
Me: Eh (insert shoulder shrug here). Next.

OK, OK, that's really not fair. And YES, I really AM over the jealousy. But, unlike most other people who read this book, I am not so concerned about when I'm going to read the next one. I'm somewhat interested in what will happen next (although, it's kind of like finding out the ending of Sixth Sense a year after it came out-- I KNOW what happens, I would be a little curious to know the details), but not enough to head to the library to check out New Moon.

The story-- not so bad. The characters-- annoying. However, this may just be because I'm too old. Yes, that can happen at 30-something. All I kept thinking was-- THIS is not your soulmate, Bella. He's bad for you. Not just because he says it's so hard for him to hold back (it's not just the 200 year old teenage vampires using this line), it's because he's a STALKER for heaven's sakes. Would you put up with that kind of behavior from a human-- if your teenage boyfriend wanted to install cameras in your bedroom so he could watch you sleep?! Why is this intrusion of privacy/controlling behavior thought of as romantic?

Yeah, I know-- old married lady, get over it. Fair enough. My novel in progress has a 19 year old female main character-- and she makes some bad choices too. I think why Bella's drive to stay with Edward even when he was, quite frankly, a jerk to her bugged me because they TALKED about it so much.

Again, this is pretty realistic. I can remember the hours of conversation with my high school boyfriend about why we were so wrong or so good for each other, depending on if we were broken up that week or not. Living it is one thing. Reading it is another. It got repetitive.

And the yo-yo of Edward's emotions drove me nuts. Bella had to walk on eggshells all of the time, not able to be herself with him, in case THIS kiss or THIS word may set him off. Let's prepare young Bella for an emotionally abusive relationship, shall we?

OK, that may be a bit extreme. After all, Edward did what he could to save her life, including holding back when it counted most. He's not a total bad sparkly vampire, he just rubbed me the wrong way. Bella seemed too smart to get involved with someone bad for her. But we all did that, didn't we?

I guess I got pretty involved with the lives of Bella and Edward. I guess that means that the writing was good enough to pull me in, and to keep the pages turning. And as a writer nobody to a world-renowned Author, I'd like to officially say to Ms. Meyer: Congrats, good story.

Just because I didn't agree with the actions of the characters doesn't mean I didn't enjoy discovering the story-- actually, my disagreement shows that I was at least engaged.

I can only hope for so much the next time I have a crazy dream I want to write about.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The End of the Stephenie Meyer/Tina Haapala Feud

 I've decided to end my feud with Stephenie Meyer. I'm sure she'll be relieved.

She probably doesn't remember how it started. Well, I do.

I was living in Phoenix a few years ago. I worked at my so-called "real job" while fantasizing what it would be like if I actually had the time to write. I would take a writing class or workshop here and there. I bought a two-bedroom condo, intending to turn the spare bedroom, with the high ceiling and the big beautiful tree right outside the window, into my writing room.

As soon as I got the room painted.
And a good computer.
And learned a little bit more about how to BE a writer, anyway.
Oh, if my job didn't keep me too busy.
Etc.
(See, I really am qualified enough to be the Excuse Editor)

I read the Arizona Republic cover to cover every morning before I went to the office. One morning, I read all about this woman, who was the exact same age as me (actually, I'm 7 months older) who just signed a three book deal. She had never even written or published a short story, an essay, anything. No, she just had a dream one night, and decided to type it out before she forgot. She worked it out in her head as she potty trained and took her kids to swimming lessons. THREE MONTHS LATER, she started submitting Twilight-- a 500 page YA novel. Five hundred pages! That must have been one hell of a dream.

I couldn't finish my breakfast. I had started my novel at least 20 different times at that point, and all I had to show for it was a smattering of pages, stuffed in drawers in frustration. Because I didn't have the time. I didn't want to face the truth. Stephenie Meyer wrote though diaper changes, parent-teacher conferences, and she's Mormon, so probably four hour church time on Sundays-- and I hadn't written a full chapter, even though my only real responsiblity was to clean out the kitty litter box once in a while.

I didn't think about that at all. I was just angry, and sure that Twilight was some kind of fluke. Vampires. Whatever.

I refused to get caught up in the Twilight hysteria. When everyone around me was reading the books, I stood strong. There are too many good Grown up books to read, I'm not going to start reading kid books now.
In the past two years, now in Texas, I watched kids in my sub classes, from 5th to 12th grades dragging these thick books around. I became the only woman I knew who hadn't read any of the Twilight books. My friends raved. My sister cheered between each book. But my jealousy kept me away. I wouldn't face the sparkly vampires freely.

But then, the movie came out, and I had an afternoon to entertain my stepsons.

The movie didn't totally change my mind about wanting to read the book. I actually felt a little good about giving myself an excuse to still not read it-- what's the point, I saw the movie.

But seeing the book reminded me of a few important things, and those things eased my irrational Stephenie Meyer jealousy.

  • In order to finish, you need to start. Nothing was going to happen with my writing until I stopped thinking about it, talking about it-- I needed to be Writing it! The only person to blame was myself.
  • If you are jealous of someone, it is only because you want to do the same thing yourself. Well, duh. I didn't need to take it out on some stranger (not like the lost sale did much to hurt her), it wasn't about her, or any other writer who succeeds.
  • People love a good story. I wasn't thrilled with the movie, but I could see how the themes drew people in-- first love, danger, the struggle to be yourself. Put all that together with a moody Robert Pattison and you can't help but look. (I just discovered that he's going to be in the movie adaptation of Water for Elephants-- THAT was a great book)
So, I ended my feud. I no longer had to avoid Team Cullen conversations or walk swiftly passed the YA section in the bookstore. But what finally got me to READ the book...

Stay tuned, and I'll tell you what I thought, too.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fellow Writer

I've been delivering for Meals on Wheels for a little over two years, so I've had more than a few moments that have taken my breath away because of emotion or laughter. But one delivery in particular has stayed on my mind.

A few weeks ago, I was coming to the end of my deliveries. I walked up to the apartment and saw that the note was still there: "Meals on Wheels, please come in". The last few weeks it had been there. It was too difficult for the woman I was delivering to to leave her bedroom to come to the front door. This was a relatively new stop for me, but I already knew the layout of the apartment. I knew that Mrs. N would be in the first bedroom, and she liked me to place her meal on the shelf of her walker.

I announced myself as usual. Mrs. N was in bed, the TV was chattering away. Maybe Drew and the Price is Right. As I put her meal in the usual spot, Mrs. N asked if I was ready for Christmas.

I'm never ready for Christmas. Or Birthdays. Or Anniversaries. I could blame it on writing deadlines, but that would just be a cop-out. It's just a portion of my procrastination recovery that's still in progress.

I told Mrs. N that I was struggling a bit with what to get my stepsons.

"Oh," she said, "twelve year old twin boys, that should be easy! What sports do they like?"
"None."
"Do they play instruments?"
"No, my husband tried that," I told her. "They've had a drum set and a keyboard in their bedroom, but they are not interested at all."
"Well, what kind of books do they like to read?"
"Oh," I said, "I think they like the vampire stuff that's popular right now...It's just hard to get them off the video games."
She knew all about the draw of the video games. She had a grandson.
We talked a bit about other hobbies we could try and force-- I mean, encourage-- the kids to try. My husband had recently talked them into trying to build a few models and rockets, so that was already in the works. I had glimpsed at a few emails from one of the twins and could see his grasp of spelling and grammar was above his grade level. The other twin had won two writing contests at school in the past few years. So, of course, I wanted to encourage them to write.
"Yes!" she was excited. "That's wonderful. Get them into writing!" She told me that she'd been many different things in her life; a teacher, a nurse "and I've published three books!"
"You're a writer?" Evidence was right there, but I hadn't noticed: a notebook beside her on the bed. It was like bumping into a long lost member of my family. "I'm a writer, too."
"Well," Mrs. N said, "I should sign a book for you." She reached for her walker.
"Oh, that's ok, don't trouble--"
But she insisted. We slowly made our way into the dining room. She guided me to her books in the crowded bookcase. All of those books! How had I missed that before?
"Please," I said, "how much are you selling these for?"
She wouldn't take a dime.

I opened up my signed copy later that night. Her stories are laugh out loud funny. Her collection follows the  antics of the colorful characters in a small Texas town, lead by the new Lady Sherrif/Town Historian who tries to keep them all under control. The only reason I'm not promoting it right here is to respect her privacy, although she said I could give her information out to interested parties. If you want to find out more, send me a private email at tinahaapala (at) gmail (dot) com, and I'll help you out. You can't have my copy, I don't care if it's Christmastime;)