Tag Archives: Storytelling

Loving True Crime…?

I put a question mark on that because it’s weird. I know. I don’t ‘lovelove’ true crime, like it’s a good thing. Not at all.  I ‘love’ writing stories about crime, though.  In them I can make the women the victor. I can take down the bad guy. I can create suspense that’s entertaining. I hope. Above all else, don’t bore, right?

It’s difficult to write good crime stories.  But that’s my goal.  I often joke that I wish I could write a romcom because they’re light and about love. Ya know, a woman who doesn’t believe in love anymore or thinks they missed theirs but then the very cute and maybe annoying dude they work with, or are forced to work with, or sells them bagels by day but works as a God-sent guardian for runaway youth or has a dream of opening a diner and she just happen to be the inspiration for him, ya know, with all her quirky but sexy ways… If I was to write this story they’d stumble across a dead body on their first date, he’d be implicated somehow and she would have to solve the crime but quickly because there’s another dead body. And this time it’s a child. There’d be an amazing show of gunshots and racing through dank and dirty alleys that smell like old piss and dying dreams. And there’d be blood splatter when the chick would catch the guy, who happens to run that same organization for runaway youth but does heinous shit to kids cuz he’s working out his own ish. But our lead could give a fuck. She’s taking him down and if that same cute guy still wants to screw then she’d be down for that, too, when she says so.  And then… And then… our lead would get a commendation for bravery which she’s too humble to accept. She goes for street tacos and a cold beer instead.

Hmm…not a romcom, huh?

When I started writing I used to keep a folder of true crime stories that could be inspiration at some point. This made for some interesting looks and conversations if anyone caught what I was printing at the office. I work from home now where I can wrap myself in my mother’s blanket before I read the crime news.

These days I save articles online. Interesting enough, I don’t watch a lot of true crime shows or documentaries.  Hmmm…I’m gonna change that. That’s a creative writing goal I’m adding to 2019.

So, if you love true crime, too…what are you favorites?  Which ones are unique and well-told stories.

Hit me up with your suggestions.

And Write On!

 

 

The love of a story prompt

I gave myself a goal this holiday. For the month that I am spending in MN with my family. That goal was to continue honing my prose writing chops by writing short stories.

I have a novel in works out to beta-readers so I’m sitting on starting revisions or the second book of that trilogy. (I CAN’T WAIT!!! And yes, imagine that in my best Oprah-esque voice) And I have all these characters sorta milling around in my head.

Okay, some of them are more demanding of their stories than others. They’re mostly cops. Female cops in gritty cities or small towns. Badass chicks who have to hunt down some evil POS and do right by the badge they hold dearly. Some are women fighting for their families, for their lives. For the world that may be kicking them in their asses but it’s the world they’re committed to save. So, I guess the image of them milling around, sipping tea and watching holiday baking shows in the afternoon doesn’t really fit them. (actually that’s me when the work is done…lol!)

I needed a way to get these stories to the page so I put the word out to my online writing friends- incredibly talented women who are so far ahead of me in the prose fiction journey, accomplished novelists and authors who have had stories published online in the top journals and in beautiful collections, just all around inspiring, talented storytellers. I found some sites that have prompts to jumpstart a story. And I’ve started popping in on an incredible writing session with book mentor, Ericka Lutz http://erickalutz.com. 

In her sessions, writers would gather in zoom room for a timed writing session. She’d give us prompts if we wanted them or needed them. Set a timer and we’d go. Aside from seeing these other writers at their computer, intense looks on their faces, sipping tea or staring off, however they were creating their magic on the page, I was seeing that they were doing it like me. One word at a time.

These prompts, though! They were like lightening in a bottle. BOOM! I had a line of dialogue that gave me a direction to take my undercover Native cop, Carla Killingbear, to the alley to confirm the dead girl was the missing girl. She and her partners disagree on how swiftly they had to move on a suspect she developing a relationship with but had no concrete evidence. Yet. This story, Skye Isles, will be a longer work of fiction. O MY GOD!! Another novel??! YUP YUP! I’m excited and so is Carla Killingbear. I didn’t even know she was waiting to tell her story until I got the prompt. Joy. Joy. Joy!

The next prompt I used in another session was a place. Ericka said country store and I immediately saw Becky’s. A dusty place Off The Highway in New Mexico. And I saw Stella, a young Native girl, in old guy Coozer’s truck as he raved about how much he loved Becky and that she would be able to help Stella get her car fixed that died on the highway. Stella was on her way to California, on a grief healing journey after her mother’s death. What they didn’t know was who else was in that country store and the murder that was going to happen. BOOM! I WAS SO HAPPY! That prompt opened up a whole new story world with these incredible characters! A short story that moves with intrigue and suspense. More Joy, Joy, Joy!

If you’d like to connect with Ericka, you can find her on Facebook at Spark the Second Fire https://www.facebook.com/groups/sparkfire/.

If you have other links to writing prompts, let me know!

Write On!

Toast! to Inspiration!

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about what I’ve Toasted, so sitting down to share with you, Inspiration is the what I’ve been thinking about and here’s why.

This spring as Peter and I have been gearing up for our first Through the Wilderness, LLC production- a short action film about a Native American cop who is forced to deal with her feelings around miscarriage, motherhood, and justice when a dying hooker leaves her baby in her garage (btw, I LOVE this story but that’s a different posting) – I find myself attempting to develop a business mind while watching for the obstacle to my creative work that I fear this business mind will create.

I get that might not happen and perhaps this is just the work of my critic taking advantage of the change in my life to whisper more shit in my ear. I get that.  Yet, the reality is, the time I spend researching to understand…franchise taxes, accounting practices and deal memos and marketing strategies, is all time that I’m not writing.  And let’s be clear, before all this other business in my life, getting to the page to just write was hard enough to begin with. Sometimes.

But before I can go to the page, I need to be inspired, so what is that and where is it?

I’m at my messy desk, in my robe, blanket wrapped around my feet- yes, this is the glamourous life, and I ask myself where is that inspiration.  I look to books next to me. The Quran, Jon Kabat-Zinn Full Catastrophe Living, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, my bills to be paid, my bowl of nail polishes, crayons and greeting cards, The Ten Indian Commandments on my wall, my empty bowl that held oatmeal and berries, my now cold cup of green tea. Then I hear the birds outside. The hummingbird that flutters to my window and peeks in at me in the mornings has arrived. Outside my window beyond the bush, I see the new bistro size patio table and chairs, the big bright yellow and white umbrella, the expansion of my office. Then my mind travels outside our gate and down the street. The sky soft blue (yes, under the LA smoggy haze but stay with me here…smog is an inspiration, too, different post, different story), the palm trees create a landscape so different than home in MN, which I now see in my mind, the big oaks, the flat farmland alongside the highway to my mom’s, the tall cedars along the North Shore,  all so different than…awww…there it is- the places I’ve traveled this year, the people I’ve seen, the voices and languages, songs and food. O yes, the food. But there’s more that inspires me.

The last couple months have been filled with great joys and opportunities. Celebrations, one after another rolled through my life.  In May my daughter, Bird, graduated from college in San Francisco. Family met us in Santa Cruz for beach time, for little girl laughter and salt water taffy on the boardwalk. And in San Francisco, a beautiful city filled with rolling hills and tall skinny houses hugging at the shoulders, I had early morning moments on bagel runs for the family packed into the hotel suites. And in those mornings, with the sun on my face, feeling grateful for love and support, I felt inspiration, too. I did.

I listened to speakers at SFAI send the graduates out into the world with advice. Some was good. Most was daunting, but I saw fresh and slightly frightened young faces eager to run out and show us their world. And at the gallery, I saw my amazing Bird beaming in front of her painting, revealing to us, her family, what she learned about herself at school. And I was inspired by the depth of her creativity, by the young woman she’s become.

For her graduation gift, we took her to Tokyo. Yes- we are able to travel like that. A blessing beyond our wildest dreams.  While there, oh, the sounds and smells. I was often overwhelmed but yet, I had moments of sheer joy, moments of  being deeply awe-struck by beauty, like in Kamakura, the tiny beach village where the huge statute of Buddha lives.

While there, we walked to the shore. And standing on the “other side of the Pacific” while Peter waded into the water, I looked to my daughter and nearly fell over with love and admiration. The three of us inspires me. Our family in MN and across the country inspires me. Our journey that got us from the the tiny, poor little places we lived in while Bird was a baby, to that moment on the Japanese beach, inspires me. Yes. the memories will keep inspiring me, will keep my creativity alive.

So, the Toast! is to Inspiration whether it’s from the photos on the desk, a song on Spotify, the wee bird at the window, or a breeze that invokes a memory, inspiration is all around me.  And my wish for you is to be inspired by what’s in your life, what’s in your heart, what’s in your memories.

Peace.

 

Toast! to Art That Heals- Blessed the film

This is my desk on some mornings. Many mornings. Most mornings.

I discovered a long time ago that what I write is good for me, for my heart, for taking on the emotions that sometimes seep into the morning from the nightmare that wrecked havoc with my soul.

I appreciate that about writing. I am so grateful I discovered this for myself. I know that when I create a story about a woman who’s fighting for her family, I’m dealing with what it means to be a mom and what I’d fight for. How I’d fight. I also know that when I create a story about loss and grief, that I’m trying to heal my own wounds.

Right now, I’m in pre-production for a short film called Blessed. It’s a story about a cop who is trying to make herself believe she doesn’t want a baby and what happens when her wall she creates to hide behind comes tumbling down… in the most incredible way. She is forced to deal with her pain, her loss…her understanding of her faith and who she is.

It’s a tall order for a short film. It’s powerful and deeply connected to me.

See- my character, Kiona, has suffered her third miscarriage. She’s asking all those questions about why and what has she done to deserve this. Her mother, however, straight up believes that Kiona will be blessed when she’s ready.

Of the many beautiful characteristics of these women, the main one for me is that they’re Native American. So to have Mary Beth state so matter-of-factly that she believes the Great Spirit will bless Kiona when she deserves only deepens Kiona’s exasperation of dealing with her loss. Why doesn’t she deserve?

Grief is grief- that’s what my shrink said when I told her about making this film and how exposed I am. See- I suffer…struggle with secondary infertility. I just found that term and a bunch of amazing women, mothers, who suffer this, too. It may not be the same miscarriage as others but none of us are the same, except grieving the loss of a child who will never be.

I know the incredible joy of creating a child, and carrying her inside me only to give her life…I know how I felt when it dawned on me that God must see that I’m worthy of something grand in this world to give me a child.

Now- I truly believe that is true for any parent, no matter how that child comes into their life. When you are chosen to be a parent, through whatever means, that’s what God is doing. Blessing you. And I know Peter and I will blessed with more children.

For me, right now, though, the wound lies deep inside me. In that place of creation that is no longer capable of creating any life. I went through an early menopause at 43. And have never felt so alone. Because so many women my age are just cool with not having more children. Or at least that’s what they say. Their lives are filled with college-bound teenagers and elementary school-agers…and they don’t seem to ache as much I do.

I had my daughter, Bird, by myself. I was a single parent from pretty much minutes after conception. Seriously. And it was hard at times…and it was lovely. And warm. And I love her in ways I can’t even find the words for. I love her with all that I am, with all my essence. Becoming her mom gave me purpose. Gave me direction. Bird saved my life. She did. (that’s another film – to tell the story of the life I was living before her)

But now, I have a husband who is the most incredible dad. His love for Bird is unmeasurable and I wanted to create a baby with him. When we first met and became friends, he told me that what struck him the most was the kind of mom I am. On one of our first dates a couple years later, he told me this and that he wanted me to be the mother of his children. But I can’t have babies. His babies. I can’t.

The pain is so deep. I’ve lost friends who couldn’t stick around to help me. I’ve lost friends who weren’t capable of showing up. I’ve suffered through newborn happenings and baby showers and birth stories and struggled with balancing my pure love and joy for all these incredible mamas in my life while tending to my wounds. My grief. It was private and personal. Intimate aches.

So last year when I pushed to finish a draft of Blessed I didn’t recognize what I was doing, actually. I didn’t see the healing I was committing. I found a brilliant director who not only dug the story of Kiona, she also appreciates the beauty of Kiona being a cop who believes in laws, justice and strength. My director also is committed to the action and suspense in this story, which apparently doesn’t happen that often – female leads in action films about a more feminine theme. She’s bringing me extremely talented people who are joining us to make this film and they get it, too. And I’m so grateful.

I’m meeting actors who take my breath away. Fierce and strong, and yet so wounded, they are giving this story life so that I can heal. I get to keep healing.

Along with my therapy, my daily writings, my Brene Brown work, my watercolors, my collages, tea, toast and dark chocolate, Blessed, the film, is healing me.

So today’s Toast! is to Art That Heals.

And here’s wishing you all some healing love and magic today.

PEACE

Toast! to...Kicking Fear's Ass with Roses in A Walk Thru the N'hood

When I lived in Minneapolis some of my best mornings began with me rising early, riding my bike 15 minutes along the Mississippi River to the Minnehaha Falls. I’d pass people walking dogs, some on their front steps getting their paper, greeting the day. At the Falls, though, I’d park my bike and stare into the water crashing over the waterfall. I’d say good morning to nature, good morning to Great Spirit.

I felt connected. I feel tiny pebbles of peace that I’d gather and shove in my pockets to hold for later in the day.

When I moved here to Los Angeles, I first blown away by the nature, by plants and trees so exotic for this Minnesota chick to see…on my own street! Beautiful. Living here in Silver Lake I also the joy of the amazing hills. Winding roads lead to breathtaking views that I often feel are peeks into my future. Out there, over the landscape of Los Angeles, my films will come together, my stories will be made. Yes, I am one of the worker bees in this vast city but here I am, looking out over the edge, knowing that I will make it there.

Then there are days when I can’t see the horizon, when I wake with my fears so close I feel their darkness bearing down on my shoulders, whispering ‘nothings..you are nothing….’ with their rancid breath. Yes, I have a really vivid visualization of what my fears look like. I also know that they’re tricky, smart and conniving. They have many creative ways to layer their insults, to shut me down. And those are the mornings when I have to take my husband’s hand and go for A Walk Thru the N’hood…to stop and smell the roses. Literally.

This morning- I didn’t smell them, though. He did, but I realize now I was in full rant mode at that moment. I was purging some negativity and fighting the pain of being kicked aside by an old friend, the sadness of losing another friend and the anxiety around dealing with this grief. Frantically searching for the lesson I’m to learn. Even the time I spend with the most loving friends, I still ache to understand what went wrong with others.

This morning, I didn’t stop to smell the roses. So, I’ve found this photo taken awhile ago, invoking the memory of those roses with me now. They are: love. Love from my partner, my handsome hus-b, Peter. Our INCREDIBLE DAUGHTER, BIRD!, our family in Minnesota, DC, Alaska. “Friend-family” here in Los Angeles and back home. Good health. Our gift of time and support to write and create. And the gift of our ancestors, spirit storytellers who are here with me, always.

My roses are kicking fear’s ass this morning. And I’m taking deep breaths to let them do that.

So- here’s the Toast! to Kicking Fear’s Ass with Roses…in A Walk Thru the N’hood.

Peace

Toast! to Shopping…for creative purposes, only…I swear.

Yesterday I wrote bout five new pages, edited a few minor things and then gave myself the day to go shopping. I often do this while story brews. It’s sometimes a mindless task and not too damaging when I make sure I kick my awareness to full tilt before I actually purchase.

In this case, I was shopping for something specific. We’re going to Mexico in a couple weeks for a wedding so of course, there’s new clothes needed.  But how did this influence my creative process? How was this a part of living the creative life?

I could tell you it was wonderful and that in my head, I fixed multiple hiccups from ACT II and cleaned up blurbs of shit that currently fill my screenplay drafts.  I could spin you a tale about startling revelations of pure literary genius that struck me in the dressing room at Old Navy. I could tell you that detailed arcs of the deepest emotional journeys for my protagonist revealed themselves while trying on boots at TJMaxx. (and yes, I know, I don’t need boots for a wedding on the beach, but a girl can’t help herself sometimes) I could say that the ahhh moment of resolution appeared in a vision while I wandered like a crazed woman through The Americana on Brand.  I could say that I was so deep in thought, so enthralled with the films I’m writing in my head, that I actually walked passed IN-n-Out burger and didn’t even see it until I had crossed the street and realized I had…crossed…a  street.  Okay, this last one did happen.

The rest, though.  Eh.  Nothing major hit me. Nothing surfaced and made itself clear to me.  I still see Dahab sitting at her husband’s bedside, alone and scared. The doctors and nurses eyeing her like she’s the mother of a terrorist, wondering what’s in her bag. I see Cassidy running hard down a country road, forcing herself to look into the cornfields, unearthing the horrors of her memories that lurk there so that she can move through them to find the lost little girls. And Kiona is still holding her arms tightly in front of her, stuck, afraid to hold the infant because she’s feels like she’s barely keeping her head tethered to her grief-stained body. And Tammy…sweet sweet Tammy, I still see her with a gentle smile on her face, watching her new “friend” hum and twirl and love the life she seems to be creating for her son, not knowing what and how terrified her “friend” really is. Not knowing that her smile means love and that it could kill her.

Oh. I see. I took all women, these incredible characters of my films with me. I took them shopping. And although I struggle to make meaning of this all right now, and am distracted by the hummingbird at my window saying good morning–I bought a pair of jeans for $10. And a tiny blue dress for a hot Mexican day.  

Peace. 

Toast! to my…lymph node…?

Toast to…my lymph node…?

Am I really toasting my lymph node? And just one? Yeah, man, I think I am.

I have this one lymph node under my arm that has become the focus of my being this past month. And it got poked and torn a bit for drawing attention to itself. But it also took this writer on a full-on, anxiety –ridden, choking down panic with pastries journey that brought on waves of tears, screaming and…o man, get this…healing.

Beginning of the month I found out that my yearly mammogram revealed a lot of breast density making the mammogram possibly inconclusive.  Okay. News to me. Thank God for a new law stating results have to state this for women so we know this.  Sucks to know, though.  And a wee bit scary because if my mammogram isn’t taking the pictures I need it to, then…what next?  I spoke with my doctor, who I dig because she’s cool and smart and diligent and wears really sweet shoes. We decided I should get an ultrasound to get a clearer picture. So I did that at this beautiful women’s center downtown LA.

While I waited for Lisa, my radiologist technician to review the results with the doctor, she came back in the room and asked if I had just gotten over being really sick, with the flu or something?  I said “no.” and she said “Are you sure?”  When she left the room, I found a tiny spot on the ceiling tile and tried to focus on it. I imagined it growing larger, a tunnel, or was it more of a rock. A pebble on a beach? Or the center of a donut. Yes, it was the dark center of a donut.

Lisa came back with the doctor who explained they had found a lymph node “of concern”.  He asked again about any illness, unexplained infections, etc… And while holding a tiny towel over my breasts, I sat there and calmly said again, “no”.  He told me “maybe, probably…most likely…his best bet…it was nothing.”  Not reassuring words.  Then he said that if it made me nervous I could get a biopsy but he thought it was nothing.

First- you don’t tell a dramatist “maybe it’s nothing” and expect me to not conjure up multiple scenarios of what the Nothing really was.  Shit, you tell any WOMAN, “maybe” and expect her not to take quick tally of her life and see herself telling family, her friends, watching her hair fall out, her breasts removed… for me…the wave of fears rushed at me and I could do nothing but sit there, choking on that shit.

Over the next few weeks I’d come up for air.  I waited four days to meet with my primary doctor to review my choices which meant me telling her I had already made up my mind–I wanted that biopsy. I needed to know what was growing in me and I wanted it out. I needed to know immediately. I needed it gone.   So, she made that call to set up the procedure but due to schedules at the women’s center, I had to wait….TWO WEEKS.  Two.

Peter had an already scheduled work trip to Alaska he had to take so he left. I had a pass to the Los Angeles Film Festival, major deadlines to complete a script about a woman having to wait to see if her son serving in the army was dead or alive, and rewrite a script in pre-production about a mother haunted by an evil slaveowner who wants her son. I had stories to tell, work to do, people to see. Life to live. And the waves came.  I’d go to a film and come home and cry. I’d meet with my director and producer and drive away crying.  I was living a life that could all be swept out from under me because of whatever was growing inside of me.

I was scared and out of control in a way I hadn’t felt since my sister died years ago. I couldn’t save her, so what if I couldn’t save myself? What if I wasn’t strong enough to fight this? I spent hours reading blogs of amazing women who fought breast cancer, who did incredible healing things in their lives, in their communities, who found activism, parenthood, intimacy and healing…healing.  They healed.  And I was so scared I couldn’t do any of that.

I cried to my shrink, my best friends, my husband, my sister, my herbalist. I started saying out loud that I was scared. Inside, the fear was that I would battle this alone, that I was already battling it all alone. It grew to a mountainous size, consuming me with it’s suffocating grip.  This fear of being abandoned, of facing the hard truth that nobody really loved me would not just bubble up  to the surface but would erupt from someplace deep and shower me and my day with darkness. I ate to stop from chewing my own damn arm off, I think.

I made heart-breaking plans. I wrote the script in my head of how to tell my daughter, Bird, I was sick. I wrote the emails I’d send to friends asking for prayers for Peter and Bird and my family but begging them to not post on Facebook. I had long and angry conversations with my insurance about covering procedures. I even asked them to make sure they recorded me as I ranted one morning about the many problems with health insurance in this country and that when women like me needed them most, the fear of not being able to pay thousands of dollars for a freakin scan or biopsy or TREATMENT was like accepting a FUCKIN DEATH SENTENCE!  I shook and screamed a lot. I ate more. I went to cycle class at the gym. I didn’t sleep. I paced. I lifted weights like a dude. I watched sitcom reruns for hours at a time. And I ate more.  And I tried like hell to be present and take on what was coming my way. And I fought feeling like I was victim to that fear.

I already knew about it, that fear, it’s been around for years. Decades.  It’s a bigass monster that shapeshifts at will, that lives under my bed, in the basement through the hot furnace grid of my childhood home, that lurks outside my door, in my showers, in the backseat of my car, down the street, and watches me while I sleep.  I also knew that only I feed it. I keep it alive with my beliefs, my emotions. Life was sometimes pretty awful when I was kid and I see now that my belief was that those I love wouldn’t love me back and they’d hurt me.  I believed that being disregarded, left to be alone, kicked aside, ignored, unheard, betrayed….hurts more than being laughted at, or…hit. Cuz when you’re fighting at least you’re being seen. When you’re hit, at least there’s contact.   I believed that I deserved all that.

BUT…to not let you stay too long in the nightmares of my mind…this is what I DISCOVERED….

The BEAUTY OF FORGIVENESS.  Forgiveness is not condoning the wrong-doing done to you. It doesn’t pacify or deny the pain. It doesn’t mean that you..I am wrong for being hurt. Hurt is my emotion. Pain is mine. And underneath that pain is fear and I am doing the work to take on that monster, to squash its power, to shut its fuckin mouth…I’m doing that.  AND…I have decided that the space that pain held in my heart is mine to fill with love and peace…through forgiveness.   And truth.

So…I finally said out loud the responsibility I have for relationships that didn’t work. I reached out and got real with them. I apologized for pain that I have caused others. I made true apologies based on my need to let them know I was sorry and not a need to know if they were sorry for hurting me.  I defined capabilities and finally saw that what I wish for myself, to be heard, understood and forgiven, are the very same things that they might want and need, too.. I said “I miss you”.  I said “I love you”.  I reached out and HELD ON LIKE MAD to the fierce women in my life! I told them I was scared and I needed them and they showed up.  I didn’t just say “I’m blessed” because I KNOW that…with family and friends, yes, I’m blessed. But I wrapped myself in that blessing.  And…I was loved. Me. Go figure.

Peter came home and as I thought I was forgiving him for leaving for the two weeks, I discovered he never left me and that I was on a journey of healing at warped speed.  I had an emotional eruption, a final push to get me through this cloud of darkness and fear.

I want to see who I am on the other side.  I want to be better than who I was when this all began…and by begin that doesn’t mean just this past month but these past three years of menopause and living in pain, that means further back to becoming a wife, to when I decided to pursue a life as a filmmaker, to when I became a writer, to when I lost my sister, to when I became Bird’s mom, to when I was stumbling through life in bars and making up shit to tell folks that I thought made me cool, to when I was a little girl scared because we were alone.  I want to know who I’ll be now.  I got ready.

Yesterday, I finally found out that the lymph node is benign.   A benign recessive lymph node. No cancer. No cancer.

As a writer, this experience has made it mark on me, on my craft, I know it. I feel it. It will continue to do so as I go on. Of course, I have to quit crying, but those tears of gratitude will taper off…or  maybe they won’t and I’ll just be a fierce, writing, tear-streaked artist mama from here on out.

So yeah, man…today’s toast…?  It’s a  Toast! to my lymph node.

Thank you.

Much peace.