Welcome 2014!

Oh my God! 2013 is finally over. I’m not the only one who had a tough year. But it’s water under the proverbial bridge. And good riddance.

But here are a few highlights:

Walked with my mother through her last days.

Walked with hubby through prostate cancer.

Totally beaded the bodice of, and completely created my daughter’s wedding dress.

Watched her walk down the aisle with my husband/her father to marry the love of her life.

Had two trips to Pennsylvania. Saw snow in one and went to Maine in the other.

Saw all my siblings at least once. Most more than once.

2013 still was a sucky year and being bogged down in grief for 6 months didn’t help. But it was life, and I survived and it’s over. Thank God.

2014 alfa romeo 4c launch edition 320_320x240 (1)

2014 is shiny and new like this Alpha Romeo.

And 2014 is bright and shiny new.

I have three novels to self publish and more to write.

I’m going to volunteer somewhere to get out of the house and have updated references for my resume. Already started by pre-screening and reviewing short films for the Phoenix Film Festival.

I’m going to finish my screenplay just to say I wrote a screenplay and revise it some and start another.

I’m going to learn how to produce quality copy for websites through online clearinghouses for some income.

I’m going to get health insurance or be fined.

We’re not going to worry about cancer this year.

I’m going to exercise more and eat much less wheat and sugar.

We’re going to trust God more.

I’m going to be grateful more.

I’m going to look for good things, wonderful things, amazing things more.

I’m going to blog more. Maybe.

May 2014 be your best year yet!

Today I Woke Up In Vermont

I don’t want this blog to be a rambling memoir (although it definitely rambles!) of a midlife writer, but here’s a thing from my past.

main st. vermont

We lived in half the 3rd floor of this large house. I liked the bay window. This is a recent photo from Google. Don’t you just love being able to find pictures of places?

I woke up thinking about a church we went to in 1985 when we lived in Vermont. St. Johnsbury, VT was our home from August until a few days before Thanksgiving that year. We were house parents at a group home for developmentally delayed (although the term was still ‘retarded’ back then) teens. My husband was the house manager, and I was his sidekick and helped out. We had just our daughter then, but our son was conceived there.* After our car loan, my student loan and our share of the electricity was paid, we had $10 left from our pay. Out treat was donuts and coffee at a little shop, once a month. Keith was on duty almost all the time. The resident kids went off to a day program so after we helped dress and feed them, we had the morning off until he was put in charge of a guy who was too old for the day program but had no place else to go but stay home. We lived in the third floor, and Keith was on call 3 or 4 nights a week. And there was always a call.

The group home had the name Dayspring in it somewhere and was a branch of a ministry that included a Christian school and a farm in Linden and a director who was a borderline megalomaniac. At least that’s how I saw him. We’d only been married just over 18 months when we ventured away from our beginnings in Maine. Keith talked to this guy about cutting back some hours so he had some decent family time, because that is after all, a Christian value. The guy accused Keith of not loving Jesus enough. We were like, “Whoa.” If anybody loved Jesus, it was Keith.

Even looking on the map now, St. Johnsbury seems like a pretty churchy town. We lived across the street from the First Congregational Church. Every town in New England worth it’s clapboard has a congregational church. And there were a bunch of other mainline churches but as evangelicals, we didn’t give them any thought. We checked out a few others and the one we landed at was a few scenic miles out of town, Passumpic Community Baptist Church, I believe. The pastor had worked part-time where we were, and another young couple, Bruce and his wife and kids, who worked there went to that church. So it was our home church for about 4 weeks.

vt pastor

I believe this is Steve Jewett and his wife, whose name I forget. Funny. I never expected to find his name and even a picture. The church’s historical document said he was called to another church in Vermont in the spring of 1986.

I looked up the church, and it has a history document. I’m pretty sure the pastor was Steve Jewett, or at least that’s what I’ll call him here. He and his wife were in their mid-thirties maybe, older than us, but not too old to have young children. I think their Sarah Elizabeth was six. Ours was eighteen months. They lived in the parsonage right next door. The church nursery was in the parsonage as were several Sunday School classes.  It seems to me there was some kind of work being done on the parsonage at that time, too. Before service, Steve ran through his sermon for those working in classes. Despite our short time there, we did nursery one week.

One Sunday after service, we stayed for lunch with the Jewetts. Many Christians are kind of in awe of their pastors, but this couple was real. And I think Steve had some kind of ax to grind with the ministry we were working with. We told him what was said to Keith about not loving Jesus enough because he wanted time to be a husband and father. Steve said, “Run. The place will eat you up.” He seemed to think the ministry had been a saving grace for the director at one point in his life, and he expected it to be that for everyone.

We talked to Bruce who was living in a small apartment with his family because that’s all they could afford. Bruce felt trapped. There were not other jobs around. We already felt trapped after a few months. We took Steve’s advice, resigned and moved to Pennsylvania.

Honestly, the ministry gave me a bit of the spiritual heebee-jeebees. Maybe it was the control issue and the creepy church that met in a barn that it had that we went to once and never went back to. I didn’t give it much thought over the years because we were busy and got sucked into another church before we were in Pennsylvania even a month.

So, what’s the take away? Well, if you call yourself a ministry you can pay your employees squat. I mean, I think we made $250 a month, the both of us plus room and board. And this fits into my spiritual journey somehow. Maybe unlike Steve Jewett and his wife who lived their ministry 24/7 house and all, Keith and I learned we weren’t willing to do that, at least not in that context. Steve confirmed what we believed we should do.

I have a few great memories from those 4 months. I’ll have to share them next time. (Pheww! One blog topic I don’t have to think up.)

*This summer, while driving around and talking with our son, I finally put together both our kids were conceived in residents for developmentally delayed folks. I found that extremely funny, for some reason.

There and Back Again

I’ve been gone. Probably nobody noticed. That’s okay, They don’t notice when I’m here. Waah, waah.

It’s been a rough year. I was just beginning to recover from my mom’s decline and death when my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. That’s how we roll. Then there was a bunch of other stuff, that when they happen one at a time, they’re a pain in the butt, but when one after another, it’s like being nibbled to death by a duck with shark teeth.

God’s Thumb by Akineko Chan @ deviantart

But hubs is fine. We found a great surgeon through a cancer support group. He had a good prognosis which has lived out. He had surgery last month and is now cancer free, no further treatment needed. I still miss my mom and always will. She’s the person I would have talked to about that.

But the happy thing is our daughter was married in September. I had the privilege of making her dress. We had a great trip back east. It seemed all the bad stuff, especially being sure we could safely time the surgery and still take two weeks away, wanted to steal the joy of getting ready for the wedding. But the wedding was the one bright thing in many dark and uncertain days.

They say bad times are good learning times. And some people say they’re thankful for bad times because of all they learned. Yeah, well, maybe. The rebel in me says I don’t really want to know that garbage anyway so let up on the bad times, huh. And if they don’t let up, let me wallow in my misery for awhile. Let me experience all my emotions.

Earlier this month, I seemed to pass out of that dark fog and back into regular thinking again. As regular as I get, anyway. And while I learned “lessons” I also have more questions. Mostly about God and faith and Christianity. So I might blog about that for awhile.

In the meantime, I’m working on revisions for my second book, trying to figure out book covers and thinking about how to launch it and book one together. I’m still looking for a job.

But I’m still here, so that’s good. God hasn’t pressed his thumb so hard on me as to totally crush me, so that’s good. And I haven’t totally given up on him.

Mother’s Day–sort of.

Mother’s Day is one of THOSE holidays. One of those days set asiMAJ_SHOPPER2de to honor someone and sell greeting cards. Not that moms shouldn’t be honored. Mothering is stinking hard sometimes. I’m a mom, I know. I had a great mom and she sometimes, without directly saying so, let us know how hard being a mom is. Plus, everyone has a mom.

But some people’s moms are no longer with us. My mom died on March 29 of this year. My due date, if I remember what she told me correctly. I’ve barely begun to process it.

Some people have crap moms. Women who could get pregnant and give birth, but couldn’t get their mother act together for some reason and have scarred there children. It’s easy enough for good moms to scar your children.

And some women desire more than anything to be a mom and just can’t get it to happen for them.

Yesterday at Sprout’s, a grocery store, the cashier asked me if I was ready for Mother’s Day. I chose that young women because I remembered her from the last time as personable. (I don’t go out much and like to maximize the experience.) And I’m kind of dorky and don’t always filter what I say. Well, I think I filtered this, but the holes in the mental sieve were kind of big at that moment, so it got through. I replied to her good-hearted questions thusly, “Well, my kids live far away and my mom died in March, so this year is kind of a bummer for me.”

She said something like, “Oh, I’m sorry.” And we talked about the cinnamon crusted pecans I was buying.

I could’ve lied and said, “Oh, I’m all set.”

So, it got me thinking, when did Mother’s Day become like Christmas and is something we “get ready for”?

And what if you had a crap mom?

Or a dead mom? I know about that, now.

Or want to be a mom and can’t be?

Our society isn’t as homogenized as it used to be. And we talk about it, in the interest of parity. We can’t assume everyone fits the greeting card idea anymore. Or wants to.

Some places, in the spirit of No Woman Left Behind, honors all women on Mother’s Day. Ball parks and churches and such.It kind of takes the specialness out of it if you’re a mom. But as someone who feels left behind a lot, I can flow with it. Better than doing away with the whole idea. I guess.

But at the same time, it’s nice to have a kind cashier who wants to chat with you.

Again, at the same time, I love my mom and love that I’m a mom (even though I’ve tainted my kids, just as my mom did me.) But I don’t expect flowers or cards from my kids because I was never very good at remembering these kind of special days. See, tainting your kids comes back to bite you in the butt.

At the same time, I understand why not everyone is thrilled that it’s Mother’s Day.

So, call your mom, hug your mom, give her breakfast in bed if you can. Or maybe work on forgiving her. And appreciate the amazing women around you.

The Lonely Writer Stuff in which I report my unsung acceptance into the World of Real Writers

If you go by this blog, it appears I haven’t been up to much as a writer. Au contraire, dear reader. I’ve been doing lots. Unfortunately, it’s the all been the lonely writer stuff.

First off, I have the results (disrejection thumbmal) of my first writing contest. It’s strange. I got really low scores from 2 judges and a really high score from the third. One judge provided a lot of feedback (which is why I entered, really) and practically rewrote the submission. One said everything was cliche and the other said “No cliches here!” So, whatever. I’ll go over the feedback again more carefully and see what I want to take away. What is a dismal failure to one is a best seller to another. Go figure.

Second, I’ve been submitting Another Place on the Planet to literary agents for representation. And so, I’ve received my first official Agent Rejection, placing me in the ranks of every published author ever. But I’m getting my work out there. This rejection was received 5 days after I submitted the query. I have some more out there, expecting the same from them any day month, year now.

Sort of as a result, even though I was thinking about it before, I’m cutting the first chapter from the manuscript. I love the scene, but it does get the story off to a slow start. I can offer it as a freebee or something when the book comes out for real.

I also unpublished my precious on Amazon and Smashwords. I haven’t had  a sale in months, and agents don’t like published stuff. It may already be too late because I’ve been told I should mention self-publication in the query letters. Oh well. the right agent won’t care, I figure. If there is such a person.

I figure I’ll submit to agents until I run out of them or I get Another Place on the Planet and Places Bright and Dark all shined up. Whenever that will be. It’s actually probably a bad one to start with because it’s a mash up of faith and not, women’s fiction with probably too much romance, but not too much growth to be straight romance. Maybe I need to just tell the characters to take a vacation from my head for awhile so I can write something else. Something either acceptable by Christian publishers or regular publishers. Sigh.trash can

I also started copywriting. I’m taking small jobs that only pay a few dollars until I get quicker at it. Speed has never been my forte. Diligence yes. Speed, no.

I’ve learned so much about writing and publishing this past year, and I’ve screwed up the courage to stick my foot into the muddy river that is traditional publishing. It’s said the only people who don’t published are the ones who give up. And I’m certainly willing to keep learning and working on my craft.

I go through short periods of discouragement, but it hasn’t been that long since I started this. I believe I have what it takes. I just need my best work to meet with some luck. I doubt my best work has been created yet.

A Day in the Life of Lily Mayfield.

I’ve had so much going on lately that this blog hasn’t made it to the top of the to do pile yet, so I asked Lily if she’d mind filling in for me so the blog-o-sphere doesn’t think I’ve fallen off the planet. Not that it would notice. Or care.

Soundstage1_hb406x267

This is something like I imagine on the stage for House of Straw. Thanks to Los Angeles School of Film.

Lily agreed.

Lily:

A day in the life of Lily Mayfield, huh? Hmm…I haven’t had a typical day in a while. Not since Charlie. Anyway, how about today? Actually, it’s quite atypical. I’m here, in a town car being driven to my first day as a real director of a real movie, House of Straw. I’ve only been in L.A. a few weeks. It wasn’t that long ago that I drove on roads that saw far more horses and buggies that Maseratis and BMWs. So I could let it scare the hell out of me–all the money and people with it who think it makes them something special. But there are good people here, too. Charlie, despite himself, has some really great friends that have welcomed me as one of their own. Marvin, the studio executive who’s letting me stay in his guest house; actors Sophie and David; pastors Jim and Josie Castle. I can’t remember when I had so many friends. Seriously. I’ve never been a person that attracts others, I guess. I’m not ugly, and I don’t smell bad. Honest. Just an introvert or something.

I don’t know if this has ever happened before–somebody with hardly any filmmaking experience being given a directing job on a studio feature film. I’m not even is the Director’s Guild so the studio and producers have to find a way make them happy. Probably the credit will go to someone else while I do the work. I don’t mind. They said they can make so I get the credit as an intern or something so I can apply to the guild later. As if. I took a filmmaking minor in college over 20 years ago, never once thinking I’d end up here. Dreamed it, of course. Who doesn’t? All I had to do was fall in love with a preeminent director and sign on to work on his film, have him dump me for a baby mama and go away for the weekend with his friend so he could try to kill himself. An unconventional way of paying dues.

I have to admit, I am good with the actors. It might be the subject matter that I’m so close to. Some of the scenes from this movie are ripped right out of my life with Mike, my late ex-husband who abused me for years. I’ll spare you the hows and whys, but I certainly can relate to the characters and now the actors, Blaise and Sophie. I’d seen them both on the big screen, of course, and recently there they were, hanging on my every word, taking direction from me. Blaise says we’ll get nominated for Oscars. That might just be his wishful thinking, but I do believe the work we’re putting in is award worthy. That scene that Charlie asked me to take so he could spend the morning with his baby mama, I have to admit was powerful. I wasn’t the only one with tears streaming when I called “Cut!”

Well, here we are, at the security kiosk at the entrance to Mythic Studios. If I get to say “Action!” for the first time without puking, I’ll be surprised. The car is taking me to the door of the soundstage like a VIP. I hope I play this right. I think I have it in me to do this, if only I don’t get in my own way. People believe in me. Charlie and others see things in me I always hoped were there but was too afraid to let out. Afraid of the world and how it works, afraid of people. And God.

Time to do this thing! The driver is coming around to open my door. Here’s my chance. I don’t have to be perfect, just have to be my best and give it everything I got. I mean, why would experienced filmmakers hand over a multimillion dollar film with A-list actors if they didn’t think I could produce for them. But I’m doing this for me. For my future so I can at least say I did it. And for my past, to give that pain and suffering  meaning. And for now, for the women and men suffering from domestic violence today. To give them a voice again.

I can do this! I will do this! Watch out world. I’m here!

In Which I Ponder Whether to Take a Writing Risk

I’m approaching the end of the 2nd draft of Places Bright and Dark. There’s a choice I’m going to have to make.

Divine_Intervention_by_Digital_Import

Thanks to Digital Import (Chris) http://digital-import.deviantart.com/

While I can only speak for myself for sure, other writers must encounter this as well. I’m writing along, full steam. Muse is is jumping around, spewing good ideas. I’m in the zone! That zone we writers love, when there is no such thing as writer’s block, when all is right with the world, and if it ain’t–hey, screw it–I’m in the zone. I’m writing agreat scene–Action! Challenges! Conflict! And I have to get the character out of the situation alive. I type the first thing that comes to mind because it’s good. But unrealistic. I mean, I’ve heard of this kind of thing happening when people have been in impossible situations and death is imminent unless the Divine intervenes.

So the Devine intervenes. “I’ll change it when I revise,” I think, and carry on, laughing, hand in hand with my muse.

The time to revise is approaching. I like the divine intervention in the story. It fits. It’s like a reward for the character’s faith struggle, because, otherwise, it’s not rewarded. At least not yet or in the way she wants.

But many readers will say it’s not believable. It’s too easy. It’s deus ex machina.

There might be other ways, regular ways. It’s said in writing first ideas are often not the best ideas.

But I think sometimes the first ideas are the best ones. Sometimes. Often, first ideas are cliche, maybe based on a recently experienced movie or book. But other times they flow from the spirit of the story, from the theme, from what the story is really about. And to mess with that is to diminish it, to make it smaller than what it’s meant to be.

Maybe the whole scene is over-the-top. But we’re dealing with larger than life characters in a world that exists, but most people are not involved with–the super rich when they party. And the supernatural solution can be used in the future as reassurance because it’s going to be needed.

Maybe I need to rewrite the scene to include a realistic solution and run them both by readers.

I’ve written before that writing involves choices. The audience has to be considered in the choice, but the truth of the story must also be adhered to. To go with the divine intervention line is risky. Actually, that entire section of the story is. But what’s the point of writing just another safe romance? It’s not what the book or the Lilyland series is about.

I used to wonder what was meant when a writer or movie director took risks. Now I know.

Airports

I don’t travel nearly as much as I would like to. If I did, I would consider air travel a necessary evil in order to enjoy new places and people, or old places and loved people.

Recently, hubby and I were able to go on a two week vacation to PA and FL, thanks to my daughter. Our itinerary took us through 5 airports, most of them twice. Here is my report.

Phoenix Sky Harbor.Restrooms: nicely maintained as in I didn’t feel like I would contract a disease when I walked into one. I’m not a germaphobe by any stretch of the imagination, but a bad restroom will give me the creeping heebee jeebees.

Signage: not so hot. I think we took a longer way to our departing gate than we had to. Also, why can’t they tell you what terminal you’re in? Your arrival gate may be A5, but I know the terminals at Sky Harbor are not A,B,C, they’re 2,3 ,4. Would it be asking too much to post signs every now and then saying “Welcome to Terminal 2″ or “For the uninitiated, forgetful and inexperienced, you are in Terminal 2.” That way, when you contact your ride, you can confidently say,  “Meet me outside Terminal 2.”  This should apply at all airports.

Water price: about $3.00.

Denver.

HUGE Airport! But nice. New. What was supposed to be a two hour layover turned into an overnight stay because our flight out was cancelled due the a bird strike. We were given a hotel voucher and saw it from the outside on the way in. Impressive looking.

The Denver Airport is supposed to look like the mountains surrounding it. Nice feeling inside, too.

But it is HUGE. Lots of moving walkways. There’s a train between terminals and lots of walking from the train to the lost luggage office of US Airways to get the hotel voucher. It also has brass inlays in the floors of dinosaurs and fossil shapes. Cool!

Restrooms: Awesome.

Signage: Not so hot. Thankfully, patient workers gave us good verbal or written directions. On the way to ticketing in the morning, we walked a good distance in the wrong direction to get to our airline.

Food/Water prices: Before there was a problem, we bought pizza at a Pizza Hut. $17 for 2 personal pan pizzas and water. $14.00 for 2 bear claws and 1 coffee in the morning.

 

Philadelphia.

Restrooms. UGH! Gross. I walked into one, turned the corner to the stalls and didn’t even have to open a stall door to see a toilet of my have-to-pee-s0-bad! dreams. (That’s another post!) Unflushed toilets clogged with paper. OMG. But it was Philly, so I wasn’t surprised.

Signage: Not so hot. Once again, terminal numbers–or in this case, letters–would be helpful.

Prices: didn’t need to buy anything on the way out.

Fort Myers, FL (RSW)

Ahh, at last. Small.

Restrooms: Nice, clean.

Signage: OK. If you’re small, you don’t need as many signs.

Prices: Didn’t buy anything.

George Bush, Houston

Another big one. I looked on the map in the airlines magazine and we would have had quite a trek from gate E14 to C21. But a cart driver recruited us. An older lady with a thick southern accent, very personable. She waited while hubby used the restroom. She sang songs to warn pedestrians her cart was coming. I laughed. It was easy to find a plug for my laptop while we waited.

Restrooms: Clean

Signage: OK, but didn’t really need much, due to the friendly cart driver

Prices: Foot long (well, maybe only 11″) Subway BMT & small drink, $9.00. I didn’t think that was too bad. My grande Starbucks iced coffee was $2.55.

Then back to PHX.

Airlines. We booked through Orbitz and to get the least expensive price, we let US Air and United share us.

Definitely like United better. Their planes all had video, newer seats (or at least covering) and longer seat belts. They also gave us the whole can of our complimentary beverage.

US Air, I always had to ask for a seatbelt extender. No video, even on cross country flights (I don’t usually watch what’s on, but really. It’s 2013, people.

However, we were completely impressed that our luggage, despite being checked into the system by United at PHX, and the cancelled US Air flight at DEN, actually made it to PHL when we did. I would have bet against that. In every case, we didn’t have to wait in long lines to go through security and the TSA folks (whose job I wouldn’t want) were pleasant.

It was over 4 years since the last time I flew. The next time will be in October to return to Philly for my daughter’s wedding. With my aging bladder, it’s unlikely, I’ll be able to avoid the restrooms, there.

The Next Big Thing Blog Tour!

I don’t know who started it, but it’s been going around for a bit. I was tagged by  J. C. Cassels.

What is the working title of your book?

Places Bright and Dark.

Where did the idea for your book come from?

It’s the sequel to my first novel, Another Place on the Planet and the second of my Lilyland trilogy. Because Lily and Charlie have to go through hell before they finally settle down to the business of a healthy relationship.

What genre does your book fall under?

Women’s fiction, I guess. It really is a romance at heart, but not your basic happy ever after kind. The characters grow A LOT after they fall in love and mess up over and over until they finally get it even close to right. It’s a mash up of women’s, romance and inspirational, although I hesitate to use the later. It’s definitely not your usual Christian fiction. The characters struggle with their faith and make choices inconsistent with the traditional prescribed lifestyle associated with modern American Christianity. And I guess I could call it Boomer Fiction, too, a new genre about people in midlife and beyond. Lily and Charlie start off in their mid-forties and the series covers about 10 years.

Which actors would you chose to play in your movie rendition?

I’m seeing it more as a TV series. There is enough material between recovering from spousal abuse, sex addiction, filmmaking, life in Hollywood, etc. to create drama for a few seasons and definitely too much for one movie.

I keep looking for actors that I would cast, but haven’t come up with many. I’d love to have Michael Fassbender, my fake boyfriend, for Charlie even though Charlie starts out a few years older than the actor actually is. I haven’t really seen anyone that strikes me as a character yet.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Despite a glorious start to their marriage, happily-ever-after for Lily and Charlie is seriously jeopardized by a series of misfortunes, poor choices, media coverage and revelations that would challenge any couple, especially one already struggling with recovery from sex addiction.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll start of indie-publishing like I did for Another Place on the Planet, but I’m getting ready to shop the series around to agents.

How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I wrote 2 first drafts. The first got bogged down in unnecessary back story. When I started again, it was at a later part of the story and that took about three months.

What other books would you compare this story to?

I don’t know. I wrote a book I wanted to read.

 What or who inspired you to write the book?

The series is an alternate ending to my first novel which I wanted to be about people sticking out the hard parts of a relationship they committed to. This series, Lilyland, sticks to that despite the twists and turns. My first novel ended in a way that was unsatisfying to me. I wanted Lily to branch out and discover more of herself. I did a bit of brainstorming for a love interest and Charlie, a hottie and accomplished film director walked into my head. He came with lots of baggage! Not that Lily didn’t have enough of her own.

What else about the book might pique the readers’ interest?

Well, there’s movie making, the lives of the rich and famous, addiction, faith, and lots of drama. It’s an involved love story in which the lovers fight themselves more than each other. If you’re looking for meat in your fiction, take a bite.

Thanks!

Writer’s Blog: Breaking Bad

 Happy belated New Year! It’s still January, and the year is still new. 2013 got off to a rough start. My mother hasbrba been very ill and the far off inevitable of her death became a very close possible. She’s doing better now, but the inevitable has just been stalled. It provided me with a moment to step back and see how I handle pain. I used to think I was a warm fuzzy, but when my defense mechanisms go up…well, I learned a few things.

With that going on, it was difficult to focus on writing. I did some creative writing for Lilyland 3, most of which probably won’t stick, but I can’t not write and my mind wasn’t in form for revising Places Bright and Dark (Lilyland 2) because that uses the analytical part of my brain or to say, my weaker part. So I did something I don’t so often–dove into a TV series on Netflix.

I’ve been hearing for years about how good Breaking Bad is. People and websites I respect and admire have been singing its praises, so I decided to see what the buzz is about.

Wow.

The writers don’t pull any punches. A while back I posted  about what sucks me in as a reader and what I’m missing from many books I’m picking up these days. To sum it up, it’s meaty conflict! BB consistently has LOTS. I was well, shocked. Horrified. Entertained. Hooked.

The main character Walt, has major problems, big ones. And his solution–use his genius level chemistry background to make meth and sell it for enough money for his family (pregnant wife, teenage son with moderate disabilities) to be financially comfortable when he dies in less than a year from stage 3.5 lung cancer. Each step he takes becomes more and more complicated, each decision ripples out and involves more and more people. As he becomes painfully aware of some of the consequences of his choices, he is further dragged into the vortex and becomes what he had no clue he could ever be. To the point he difficult to like and relate to. But that’s part of the appeal.

I’m into the fourth season now. It’s graphically violent and the viewer isn’t spared. But that’s the nature of what Walt has gotten himself into. What he thought would be a few cooking sessions has turned into running with–and away from–people so greedy and desperate that taking a life to make apoint means nothing to them.

Even when the conflict isn’t physical or violent, it’s there. Making a tough choice, thinking it’s the right thing until fate intervenes. Family becoming involved. Lying. Premeditated murder. Choosing to take the next step into a dark place that was never the intended destination.

I made a few changes in my plot since beginning watching the show. No, it’s not violence. There are a few scenes I could have wrapped up nicely for Lily’s immediate happiness, but I took a harder road. So Lily has to as well, poor girl. I like a happy ending, sure. But by contrast, a happy ending is happier if it takes a lot of grit and agony to get there. If it weren’t for the dark, we wouldn’t appreciate the light and all that.

But at the same time, I have to be aware of my audience. I don’t claim to write straight out romance, at least I try not to. Readers expect something different then. One reviewer seemed very disappointed in Another Place on the Planet. She said it was  “awkward and depressing.” And I guess it would be to someone expecting roses and unicorns and happily ever after. When you get the aftermath of spousal abuse and the discovery of sex addiction, the roses wilt. Some people don’t like their escapes to remind them of real life. I totally get that.

But I also like to portray strong, growing people. We don’t grow as much when things are easy, even though those are the times we long for. But as with Walt’s dream of security for his family, our good times often come at a cost. Putting a vacation or a big Christmas on a credit card. Not exercising and making healthy food choices on a regular basis. Fun at the time, but at a price to be paid later.

We don’t pick up book and go to movies to see people happy all the time. Happy doesn’t make for interesting  entertainment for some reason. In my writer’s mind, I think up all kinds of things my characters do when life is going well for them. But it would be boring to read page after page or to watch scene after scene of quiet conversations and candlelight dinners.

It’s an interesting phenomenon to me and one I don’t expect to resolve. So, I’ll keep watching Breaking Bad for the entertainment value and the motivation to sock my characters with conflict every chance I get.

As a writer, do you find yourself saving your characters from pain by writing an easier resolution to their problems? Do you have a “won’t go there” line you won’t let your characters cross? Have you watched Breaking Bad? What do you think of it.

If you watch BrBa, here’s a little something