Small Steps

pic-jointer-11I’ve found that I haven’t had much to say lately.  I’m not sure exactly why.  In part it could be because the last couple of months have been sort of strange.  Since that incident at work back in February, I’m happy to report that my shift in focus has remained.  It is weird there though.  I’m more focused on the job I actually want, even though the progress is slow sometimes, I am still moving forward.

I’ve been better about reading, which somehow eluded me last year, and I’ve maintained my one-movie-a-week routine (although I did see the Avengers twice, so I’m small-stepsone movie shy of my goal as I write this).  I’ve rewritten two acts of one of my screenplays, I entered my TV pilot into 7 contests, I’ve come up with a new screenplay idea that I’m excited about (let’s just add that to the backlog of ideas currently nestled in the recesses), and I bought my airline ticket and badge for the Austin Film Festival screenwriters conference.  So…yay!

Not that long ago, we had been broke, The Sis and I.  Not so broke that I was worried we might end up homeless, because we always made sure we paid rent, but poor enough that there were a few times we used a credit card to buy groceries and pay bills.  Not a great place to find one’s self.  Now, I’m in a position to attend a writers conference, one of my goals, and I’m nervous and delighted.

Having this external goal compels me to get my writer’s portfolio in order.  There is no way I’m going to squander this opportunity.  It’s one thing to submit to contests, it’s another to hopefully meet and mingle with people who could actually propel my career forward, and so I have to get my sh*t in order.  No more messing around.  No more excuses.  If I’m going to spend this big shiny penny, I have to make the most of it.

It also helps to keep striving when you receive feedback like this from a contest you entered:

“Vivid world building and unique characters set a great foundation for the series. The dialogue between the characters is distinctive and introduces creative dialects and words that the sci-fi audience will love.”

Thank you, Slamdance!

So I’m committing to this page my goals for the next 17 weeks:

  1. Have 3 full length features show ready
  2. Have my Pilot’s Bible ready
  3. Flesh out at least 3 like-genre scripts
  4. Flesh out 1 out of genre script (will save this to the end 😛 )

DreamsWrittenDownAreGoals

Whew.  I’m at some stage of progress on each goal, but there’s still plenty to do, so I better get cracking.

How are you moving towards your goals?  Please share your small steps and let’s celebrate them together!  Also, are you planning on attending AFF?  It would be great to meet a familiar “face”.  😉

Happy Writing!

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The “One Movie A Week” Challenge

MovieReelOne thing I realized at the beginning of the year was my lack of actual movie watching.  I want to be a professional screenwriter and yet I don’t watch movies?!  

I have a number of excuses, but as with my growing list of things I failed to make time for last year, this falls among them.

So I put myself to the challenge of watching one new movie a week, and so far, I’ve been pretty good about it.  I think I missed the week before Captain Marvel but I did watch The Umbrella Academy.  It doesn’t technically count, I know.  Below, in what I’m trying to remember as the viewing order, is what I’ve watched thus far with a short synopsis and a review.

  1. Arrival: Cool premise – learning to communicate with aliens which results in a greater understanding.  It also presents an interesting question, “If you know how the story ends, do you still take the journey?”  My rating: B-
  2. Ex Machina: Another cool premise – the development of A.I. and its consequences.  It’s a slow moving film, and some of the dialogue is trying too hard to be clever, but in the end I appreciated the story.  My rating: B-
  3. Annihilation: The trailer left much to the imagination, so I was intrigued.  “Alien” object lands on Earth and disrupts the natural world around it.  In an attempt to be female empowering, which, I guess, thanks?, we follow an all woman team into the anomaly.  I felt there was too much lead up to leave the ending so ambiguous.  My rating: C
  4. Ant-Man & The Wasp: There’s a lot to be said about why I almost passed on this movie, but as we’ve all learned, in the MCU, they’re all connected.  With Avengers: Endgame on the horizon, and not wanting to miss any tidbit of information (the quantum realm will be important), I finally gave in, and I was pleasantly surprised, in part because of Wasp not playing sidekick.  At least Marvel is giving the few women it does have both brains and brawn.  My rating: B
  5. Incredibles 2: You just gotta love Pixar.  In a timely fashion, they release a film with a female superhero lead.  And not just any female but a wife and mother of three.  I love the original, and the sequel is nearly as good.  Picking right up where we left off 10 years ago, we get a family film that deals with real issues of supposed gender specific roles and flips them.  My rating: A+
  6. Polar: I love Mads Mikkelsen.  That is all. 🙂  Seriously, I would watch the man “insert mundane task”, so I was excited to see his face while scrolling through the new releases on Netflix.  Based on a comic book, it’s dark, and it has its moments, but it’s not overly satisfying.  Mikkelsen plays an assassin entering retirement in a world that wishes it were more like John Wick’s.  My rating: C-
  7. Ocean’s 8: In an era where films are being unnecessarily remade, despite an all star, all female cast, I wasn’t initially compelled to watch this film because, as I mentioned, it felt unnecessary.  That being said, I adore Cate Blanchett, another actor I would watch “insert another mundane task”, and discovered a fairly clever heist film that desired to capture the magic of the original Oceans 11 and didn’t fall too short.  My rating: B
  8. Coco: Pixar is very good at what it does.  It tells heartwarming (and heart tugging), magical stories that transport us to amazing places.  Coco tells the story of a young boy who desires to be a musician despite his family’s strict anti-music rules, and finds himself in the Land of the Dead seeking validation.  It is a beautiful film to watch, and the heart of the story is quite moving.  My rating: A+
  9. Captain Marvel: Where I failed Ocean’s 8, by not supporting it early on, because as a woman I need to support these movies so they will continue to get made, I couldn’t repeat with Captain Marvel, not after waiting over 10 years for Marvel to finally get it.  Wonder Woman was a huge success and by far DC’s best film, and yet Marvel kept dragging its feet.  And while yes, another piece of the puzzle for the MCU and the final piece before Avengers: Endgame, supporting this Captain was necessary.  And it was a fun time.  Brie Larson’s portrayal was enjoyable to watch, even if the story was not the MCU’s strongest.  My rating: B+

I switched from my star rating system to the old school lettering system…not sure I’ll do that again.  Do you agree with my ratings?  Do you have any suggestions for my next movie?  Do you want to join me in this challenge?  Let’s chat!

Oh, February

Hiddles BdayEven though February is a slightly shorter month, it really did seem to fly by, and it had its moments.  From wanting to quit my job to celebrating my birthday, playing in the snow and buying a new computer, February was a rollercoaster of highs and lows.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I was officially written up at work for a few small things that could have easily been solved with a conversation.  At my current employment, they only start paperwork when they want a paper trail on people they’re getting ready to fire.  I took the hit hard because their accusations implied they thought I was capable of lying and stealing, among a couple of other not so flattering personality traits.  And the source of it all, the one person I trusted.  The person I share a very small office with.

Needless to say, it’s been a difficult few weeks in the aftermath, but it was also an enlightening moment.  Previously I wrote about having taken stock of my life near the end of last year and realized I had become too invested in a job that I didn’t truly care about.  I wasn’t nearly focused enough on my writing and the career I actually want, so having it reiterated to me so effectively was enough of a boost to shift my attitude and focus.

The following week was my birthday.  Dinner with friends and a numerical reminder that I’m not where I wanted to be by this particular moment in time.

SnowDayThen it snowed.  Like a lot.  So much so that the city issued a snow day, well, technically, a black ice warning.  Now, for those of you who live in places where you have actual winters, you may mock us here in the desert, but the truth is, we don’t see snow very often and we are not at all equipped to deal with it.  It was awesome though.

It was during this confinement that I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy a new computer, something I had been deliberating for months.  With the desire to move my writing career forward fueled by the past weeks’ infuriating nonsense, paying a pretty big penny for a new piece of equipment that’s meant to help me suddenly became the easiest decision.

Keeping up the momentum I entered two more screenwriting contests and started the whole “get my professional portfolio in order before the big screenwriting conference”.  Yes, I am going to attend my first conference this fall during the Austin Film Festival.

I’ve found that when we get comfortable, things slide.  I know I’ve had this conversation with myself a number of times in the past, getting my sh*t in order, but then my job gets in the way.  In some way or another.  It’s usually my major source of ire, and whether I  have a job that sucks and spend too much time looking for another, or invest too much and lose focus on what really matters, I get comfortable.

The now tenuous work situation has me looking at things differently.  Maybe my increased maturity 😉 is also helping to streamline my focus.  I don’t want to regret not taking this chance.  I don’t want to only ever say I’m a writer without anything to show for it.  And while I’ve said this a time or two before, something’s different now.

Sometimes we have to let things goAfter shedding a number of tears because the higher ups insulted my character, I said some words aloud on the drive home that were meant to give me perspective, and they did just that.  And that’s when I felt it.  The shift.  I literally felt a detachment occur.

As clichéd as it’s going to sound, life continues to put us into situations that we may not understand at the time, but are meant to help propel us in the right direction when we finally realize the pattern.  This is my moment of discovery.  It’s time to take advantage of it.

What Kind of Screenwriter Are You?

In my time of slack, I accumulated hundreds of emails that required at least a fleeting glance.  In my time of focus, I think I’ve cut that number down to about 60 that will require a slightly longer look-see.  Not too bad given the short amount of time dedicated in that direction.  During this time, I came across a personality quiz for screenwriters from Stephanie Palmer’s Good in a Room site.

writingmemeI feel like I know who I am as a writer.  I don’t outline much; I “generally” know where it’s going to go though, before I sit down.  I like happy endings, my characters are often sarcastic and they’re always do-gooders (the protagonists anyway), and because of my genre choice, I have some freedom to let my imagination run wild.  I listen to my characters.  I alternate between procrastination and binge.  I like to write some things by hand (my fanfiction has almost entirely been written by writermemehand, oddly enough), but the computer monitor allows me more space to “see” (hence, all my screenplays have been written via the modern age).  Plus I type much faster than my hand can write to keep up with my brain (which is why some of my fanfiction looks like chicken scrawl).

I realize that my style of writing will some times write me into corners, but often ideamemetimes, I discover alternate paths and ideas that I never would have seen had I not allowed my story to just unfold.  I have literally found myself astounded with what I’ve unearthed this way.

So I wasn’t surprised by my results upon taking the quiz – Gardener Heartwarmer.  Even the name sounds right.  Here are some of the highlights from the break down:

  • You are good at generating new ideas and following them courageously wherever they lead. You work best when they have the time and the confidence to allow their creativity to spring forth without judgement.
  • You combine new ideas in unusual ways and can make unexpected, quantum creative leaps. You also function well when ideas are in a murkier state – and this is often the case when a screenwriting project is in earlier stages of development.  You create strong, complex characters and stories which contain emotionally powerful moments – the cinematic moments we remember forever.
  • Drama requires conflict, and this means putting characters in the worst possible moments of their lives. This can actually be difficult for you because you are experiencing the emotional journey of your characters so poignantly.

And then there were a few helpful tips.  This one, in particular, struck me:

Your creative work is going to take you to some deep, dark places. Make sure you’re writing at the right time of day (or night) so that you have the freedom and the strength to go where you need to go.

I used to like to write at night, when the world grew quiet.  The Sis would be asleep with the furkids snuggled up beside her, my phone was silent, and there was less likely to be something to sidetrack me because The Sis was asleep and I didn’t want to disturb her.  I’ve been trying to write during the day, and I find too many distractions.  I need to get back to the old routine, where I can be more productive.

So, are you ready to learn how well you know yourself as a screenwriter?  Take the quick, six question quiz here.  Share your results below.

2019 Goals

set and reach goal conceptAt the beginning of every year we each decide what we’d like to accomplish, what we want to change.  The dreaded New Year’s Resolution – gyms are overcrowded for a month, a flurry of spending happens while we’re excited for a new hobby, mentally we prepare for the first of the year as if it were a magic reset button, but usually it’s all in vain.  We say things like, “This year, it will all be different.”  “Kiss last year goodbye and say hello to the new one and all the newness that comes with it.”  We set goals, we make resolutions, only to lose momentum a fraction of the way through the year.

Some years are better than others, but it’s because of this I’ve never been one to make resolutions.  The looming (potential) failure.  And I don’t like the feeling.  The reflection at the end of the year at how little I accomplished.  It’s not that we’re lazy, I think it’s just that we lose passion or focus and the reason why we wanted whatever “it” was to begin with amidst the chaos that makes up our daily lives.  An elusive goal with a slow payoff will usually take a back burner to the things that require immediate attention.

Maybe it has something to do with that mid-life crisis I talked about previously, but I’ve started to make some changes by redirecting my focus.  Side note, I did cut my hair off, and it’s kind of fun and different.  I’m not sure how long it’ll last just due to the sheer amount of work it requires but at least I was finally brave enough to try.  Last year I let a lot of things slide.  I let my focus shift to unimportant things, things that didn’t require the value I placed on them, and the year passed with little to show for it…again.

Price

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t make any resolutions. 😉

I like my day job (most days), but I realized I’m giving it too much attention.  I allowed it to gain too much space in my life, and for something I don’t want to do long term, I needed to shift my focus.  Coming home feeling tired, both physically and mentally, causes me to waste the number of hours I have left in my day to accomplish more.  Reading, writing, watching a movie – there have been too many days when none of those have happened. 

EveryNewDaySo, nearing the end of 2018 I started to reevaluate my situation, and like serendipity my general manager gave me a book, “The Coffee Break Screenwriter” by Pilar Alessandra and a tee-shirt that says screenwriter for Christmas.  

I think it was the the push I needed, and I have thanked him again since the holidays because I’m over half way through the book and I’ve already had some ideas about one of my scripts that needs a rewrite, I submitted my pilot to a competition, and I’m planning on attending my first ever screenwriter’s summit.  I’ve watched at least one new movie a week, I’m reading more, and I’ve decided to do the thing I fear – write down my goals.  It’s my hope that visualizing what I’d like to accomplish, in addition to having some sort of accountability, may help me actually reach them.

Discipline

I’m one for lists, so by creating a path to accomplish said goals, I may find it easier to navigate throughout the year when I start to wane or lose focus.  In the past I wrote about finding external deadlines to help in goal setting.  This was not my genius idea but one I had come across from a number of sources.  It’s one thing to say I’d like to rewrite my script by such and such a date, but having a competition to submit to with a hard deadline will definitely add the pressure, so I’m finding those as well.  

It’s about using my time wisely.  More wisely.  Finding the balance between the day job and the dream job, family, other interests, and the mundane will take some effort.  So here’s to a new year and the newness that comes with it. 😉  

How do you plan to achieve your goals this year?  Want to help each other be accountable?  Share your goal and let’s have regular check-ins to make it happen!

Breaking Down the Dragon Age 4 Teaser Trailer

With the announcement, finally, that there would, in fact, be a Dragon Age 4, fans everywhere sighed with relief.  At least there was confirmation, despite the few years’ wait for its release, and it gave fans hope.  Some have wondered how it was that I had nothing to say about it.  Believe me, I was ecstatic at the news.  As you may have noticed with my limited posts this year, I’ve continued to be busy.

By the way, hi!  Happy Holidays!

So about two weeks ago at the 2018 Game Awards, Bioware treated fans to the following teaser:

To the casual observer, or non-DA fan, it doesn’t seem like much, but for the devoted, myself included, there are plenty of small details to analyze and get excited about.  Fan theories soon followed as each frame of the video was scrutinized, and I have done my best to avoid it all.  After all, I have my own theories.

The Dragon Age games have been amazing at connecting events and characters, history and lore to create an immense, immersive world, and this trailer I believe does that as well.  And while there are easter eggs galore, to explore each one would cause me to write a treatise, I’ll pick 3 topics to break down.

Let the wild speculation begin.

The Opening Image: It looks like a sunrise/sunset over mountains, which is a familiar landscape from Inquisition.  Since the events of the third game were left open ended (which is why fans always believed there would have to be a fourth installment, I mean we just got around to who Solas actually was), this image could be interpreted a couple of ways.  It could be symbolic – a sunrise is often considered a new beginning while a sunset is referred to as an ending.  With the fate of the world dependent on the success of Solas’ plan to return the elves to their former glory by tearing down the veil, a new beginning for some results in an ending for pretty much everyone else.  It could also be representative of a location of the next game.  Skyhold, the Inquisition’s base of operations, is located within the Frostbacks, and regardless of your choice at the end of Trespasser about what to do with the Inquisition, it’s unlikely the keep would have been abandoned, and therefore still an element to consider in the next installment.

The Idol: The camera continues to move across a number of connected pieces – a skull, the pained face of, what looks like, Andraste – evident by the crown upon her head – and then red veins creeping upward.  As the camera pulls back to take in the whole of the twisted idol, fans are offered an “ah-ha” moment that harkens us back to the days of Dragon Age 2.  The red lyrium idol found in a primeval thaig that caused people to go insane is the same idol shown here.  In DA2 just a shard from the idol caused Bartrand, Varric’s brother to do unspeakable things.  What remained of the idol was repurposed into Commander Meredith’s sword, so we know that idol no longer exists, so why show us the idol at all?

Red lyrium was a major factor in Inquisition; the source of it and its effects were explored at length (finding it growing out of people was horrifying), so it’s a good guess that red lyrium, and the images represented within the idol will play a role in DA4.  Andraste is the founder of the Chantry, and one of your companions from Inquisition is now Divine.  Red lyrium in small, measured doses offers superhuman abilities, and is considered an anti-magic substance, and with the tenuous peace between mages and templars, perhaps by using red lyrium, those against mages will try to finally rid Thedas of magic.

The red veins also reminded me of blood magic, a much frowned upon use of magic in Thedas, with exception in the Tevinter Imperium.  With the Inquisitor thrusting a dagger into the mapped region of Tevinter at the end of Trespasser, it’s also possible that the story of DA4 will finally take us there, to not only explore this other world and the magical freedoms and politics associated, but also to see our old friend, Dorian again.  If you remember, he was part of a group looking to reform Tevinter, and we can be sure there are many opposed to the idea.  And powerful mages going head to head definitely sounds like at least a side quest with perhaps another excuse to use red lyrium?

The Mural: The camera draws back further and a painting appears behind the idol; one that resembles artwork Solas once painted upon the walls in his space within Skyhold.  The Dread Wolf appears on one side, the idol remains in the middle, and an elf stands in opposition.  At first glance, I thought it might be Solas warring with himself, but upon closer inspection, the elf is white haired surrounded by fire.  What we learned about Solas aka Fen’Harel during Trespasser was that he’s considered a god, and not just any god but the one that created the veil and tricked the other gods, trapping them behind it.

My guess?  It’s another Evanuris, the god-like Elgar’nan finally released from his captivity.  Known as the all-father and god of vengeance, whose symbol is associated with fire, wouldn’t he be the most logical choice to seek revenge upon Solas?  With the idol between them, the theory that red lyrium could play a major part in DA4, possibly swaying the outcome, feels like an understatement.

I lied.  I can’t end this without talking about…

The Words: And then finally, Solas speaks.  “So, you found me at last.  I suppose you have questions.”  Each game in Dragon Age has a new protagonist, and because of the spoken words in the trailer, words that echo those already spoken to the Inquisitor during Trespasser, I believe we’ll be playing as yet another new protagonist in search of Fen’Harel…among other things.  My reasoning, while I’d love to see my Warden again, that’s a dissertation for another day, is because Solas’ words feel as if he’s speaking to someone he doesn’t personally know.  While Solas will most likely be aware of this new protagonist, they will be searching for him after all, they probably won’t meet until these fateful words are spoken.

And then the teaser ends with #TheDreadWolfRises. ((chills)) Boom!  It’s all about Solas.  I may have squealed a bit. Many fans have a love/hate relationship with Solas, but I find him interesting and the possibilities are so exciting!

A new Dragon Age is on the way!  Eek!  Sorry.  I can’t help it.

Oh, there’s so much more to talk about, and this is already much longer than intended because you know I can talk Dragon Age all day long, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.  Are you excited about what DA4 has in store?  Do you agree or disagree with any of my theories?  What did you see in the teaser?  Let’s chat!

I Think I’m Having a Midlife Crisis

MidLifeCrisisThe next birthday is still a little ways off, and while I’m not that uncomfortable with the number itself, I am a little with the lack of achievement thus far.  I’ve been having a number of thoughts that really only lead to one conclusion…I must be in the midst of my midlife crisis.

No, I’m not compelled to buy a sports car or start something with a piece of eye candy half my age, although I’m not opposed to either, 😉 SnoopyMidLifebut I have been thinking a lot about spirituality, my purpose, and vainly, my legacy.

I also want to cut off all my hair and do something I’ve always been too afraid to do, I want to buy a house, stop hoarding boxes in anticipation of yet another move, paint the walls and make the space my own, and at the same time I want to run away and see the world because I’m not completely weighed down by responsibility.

Maybe some of this has to do with the fact that suddenly because I have insurance, my body had decided to fall apart.  My eyesight is getting worse, I’m fairly certain I have rheumatoid arthritis, and I have tears in the plantar plates of my feet.  I mean, c’mon.

Sorry, back to the topic at hand.

I’ve been watching Joseph Campbell’s mini-series, “The Power of Myth” on Netflix, which I highly recommend to any writer, for the purpose of continuing my education.  I’ve been struggling with a mythologically infused screenplay’s third act for some time, and thought I might find inspiration by “taking a class” with the master. Campbell is known for his books, The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Hero’s Journey, in which he discusses the history of storytelling and the evolution of myths in cultures around the world.

Some of his comments relate to various religions, and even before watching the series, I had been entertaining the idea of studying different theologies more in-depth to not only have a better understanding of them, but to also open my mind up to the possibilities.  I write stories of fantasy; a genre that allows a writer to explore real world topics in an alternate setting, and knowing more of the world can only enhance one’s writing.

Which then led me to rethink my purpose.  I want to be a writer.  Let me rephrase that.  I want to be a professional writer, and yet I have been doing very little to cultivate that goal.  My day job is getting in the way, and slowly, as time is passing, I’ve found that I’m liking it less and less.  Another sign I think I’m amidst the “mid-life”.  I was fairly content, not that long ago, but I’ve been rethinking the hours, which are erratic, and what it is I’m doing with the bulk of my day.  To sum it up, I help people party and ensure their celebration in our venue goes smoothly.  What?!  I don’t even like people.

These thoughts then led to my legacy, and what I would leave behind should my time run short.  Yeah, I’ve been having those thoughts too.  The Sis works for the Coroner’s office, so death is a common subject in our house.  And then someone we both admired, someone, despite his advanced years, a person we hoped to meet, passed away.  Stan Lee.  Seeing the outpouring of affection for not just him, but the legacy he created, struck a chord in me.  Vanity reared its head – I want to be remembered.

Is that so wrong?

I want to create characters that people will admire, and make fanvids about.  I want people to ship my characters, and tattoo my symbols on their bodies.  I want to create worlds that will long survive me and be studied in film classes for years to come.

It’s pure vanity, but I realized that with age comes the confidence to be honest.  At least for me.  I haven’t always had this, and often times I was afraid to say exactly what I wanted for fear of the reaction, but f*ck it.  If I can’t be brave in my own post, where will I be?

Now, I’m not saying I want to be famous.  Visit any social media site and you’ll find that I don’t use my own likeness for the profile picture, but the truth is, I want my life to have meaning, and for me that’s through my work, my writing.

I’m tired of telling people I’m a writer, then being asked if I’ve published anything, because how can I call myself a writer without some accolade, so I have to rephrase and tell them I’m a screenwriter, so publishing doesn’t work the same way, and so I get that pity look, like, you’re over 40 and you think you’re still going to achieve your dream?! which then makes me angry and productive for about a week because I’m going to show them, and then the momentum diminishes and here I am, over 40 and angry anew that I haven’t accomplished what I intended for myself.

MidLifeRecreation

No wonder I’ve been escaping into video games.  I’d like to say it’s the measurable progress, but that’s not entirely true.  There’s so much involved on a hero’s journey that is lacking in my own life, and so, during the last couple of weeks I’ve had an interesting internal dialogue.

I’ve been reevaluating all my writing, I’ve been creating a bucket list, and I’ve come to some conclusions.  One being that maybe this whole “midlife crisis” thing doesn’t have to be a negative.  If I’m feeling the impulse to make changes, move forward, and get off my ass to actually work towards my goal, I should embrace it.  Like the picture says, it’s my midlife re-creation.

Watch out, world!

Rachael Goes on Vacation

IMG_1610Yes, you read that correctly.  In all my years updating my blog for posterity’s sake, I’ve never mentioned a vacation, and that’s because there hasn’t been one, in like 16 years.

And yes, you read that correctly as well.

With the new-ish job (that one I’ve been in for a little over a year now), I learned I got vacation pay.  What?!  I haven’t had that in ages, and it wasn’t even a thought it was available to me.  Side note, if I ever really paid attention to my paychecks, I would’ve seen the accumulated vacation time.  Second side note, I don’t consider little weekend or even week-long getaways to visit family or friends “vacation”.  Sometimes, that’s more work than work.  And remember last year, when The Sis and I went to LA to visit our family, and my new car got broken into and all our stuff was stolen…yeah, good times.

So I decided to spend some of the savings I had been hoarding like Smaug and treat myself to an actual getaway.

The Sis and I talked about where we’d like to go, what we’d like to do and see, and initially, our plans led us to Disney World in Florida.  But goodness is that an expensive trip.  And it sounded like too much work.  All that walking and being around people.  No.  I wanted peace and quiet and solitude and lethargy.

After a recommendation to look into Costco Travel we found what we were looking for…

Hello, Hawaii!  It’s been a while.

Yes, that is a lot of sunsets.  We watched it every night.  It was entrancing.  Because of the way we were situated on the island, we never saw a sunrise, although because of the time change, I was up with it almost every morning.  That was weird.  It also gave me an opportunity to watch a lot of random television.  I’m finally finishing The Office.

It was hot and humid most days, so we pretty much just floated in the ocean or the pool, had pina coladas for breakfast and mai tais for lunch.  We ate very little, because of the heat, so that saved on cost. 😉

We discovered at a neighboring hotel during an off-property excursion that we were actually staying at the same hotel we had stayed at 27 years before on a family vacation.  With my memory, and the fact that The Sis was only 4 then, it was understandable that we didn’t remember it.  In my defense, at least partially, the hotel had changed names.

So, a few things to note as a reminder to myself in the years to come – our rental car was an upgraded version of my current car (made it easy to drive), I wanted to bring home that itty bitty, teeny weeny gecko that visited our balcony, birds flocked to us as if we were Snow White, we saw endangered green sea turtles (there was a reserved spot on the beach for them to rest), a large manta ray, 16th century petroglyphs (the last photo above), and finally it was on this trip that an attempt to eat fish, because, hello, we’re in Hawaii, finally made me turn a corner from a sometime pescatarian to a full on vegetarian because that fish did not like me.

It was a nice getaway, long overdue and not long enough.  Nearly the moment we returned, I was thrown back into work, full force, and the vacation quickly became a distant memory.  So I guess the only way to get another “fix” is to plan another one, and not let so much time pass before we explore another amazing piece of this big world.

Aloha!

That Time I Chose to Become Rachael C Marek

RCM4yrsIt was a little over four years ago when The Sis and I had a conversation.

We were living in Los Angeles, and I had been struggling for nearly a year to find a job.  No exaggeration, I sent out over 250 resumés and only received three responses in return.

I was miserable.  And while writing should’ve given me some solace, I was too concerned about finding paying work, so every time I was on the computer, I felt guilty if I wasn’t doing that.

I barely wrote a word that year.  One of the main reasons for moving to LA – for me to become a professional writer – and I was failing, spectacularly.

It was then The Sis and I had “the talk”.

She was making good money at her job, and she had already been supporting us, so instead of continuing on in such a futile manner, the definition of insanity, I should change tactics and do what I was meant to – write.

It took a little time to become accustomed to the idea that I was being given free reign to follow my dreams, but I realized that I probably wouldn’t have another opportunity like that again, and so Rachael C Marek was born.

I wanted to create a pseudonym, but I still wanted it to be me.  My name really is Rachael (Hi!), and the C is the beginning of one of my middle names, but the Marek, well, that’s thanks to a character I identified with in a book.  It seemed appropriate.

The above reminder popped up last week and it gave me reason to pause.  Had it really been four years since that pivotal moment?!  It made me wonder what I had accomplished in all that time.  I have some writing to show for it.  I still have big dreams.  I still have stories to rewrite, even more to tell…and although I may still be some distance from fulfilling my goal of being a professional writer, I’m in a better place overall and I think that a big part of that started when The Sis encouraged me to become Rachael C Marek.

She deserves a BIG Thank You for years of support of every variety.

And then there’s all of you.  You’ve been welcoming and encouraging, and although I’ve never met you, and maybe never will, we’ve been a part of each other’s journeys, the ups and the downs, and such a community is important to the lowly/lonely writer, so thanks.

xx, Rach

And Then There Went March

Happy-AnniversaryMarch marked the one year anniversary of a turning point in my life.  I had been struggling for some time before then.  I had been unemployed for ever so long, and a move to help us get back on our feet didn’t really garner us any reward.

Until March.

A former coworker recommended me for a job.  From how she talked about it, it was a good one.  And it was.  I was able to buy a car, start putting away for a savings, pay off some debt, and stop worrying about every penny (although, too long worrying about every penny has made me a bit of a miser).

And then I got promoted.

The money wasn’t as good (because any time you move from getting tips to not you’re going to feel it), but it created a path to doing something else, something more.  And I like it.  And I’m good at it.

My boss has become a friend, the work, while generally remaining the same from day to day, varies during events, and I’m meeting people in an industry I always thought would be fun to be a part of.  They’re kind and thoughtful – like on my birthday.  They bought me a cake and gathered around to sing.  Some of them even took me out to dinner and began planning a road trip to help me get my writing career on track.  See, thoughtful.

That’s the work-financial side of life.  The creative side finished the next chapter in the Dragon Age fan fiction series.  What started off as a simple Writing Prompt exercise has grown into 123,000+ words about a girl’s journey to save the world (while falling in love, of course).

The strange thing about fan fiction, for me anyway, is that because the characters aren’t mine, I just sort of write.  It’s freeing and uncomplicated, and that freedom led to a chapter of 41K words that I didn’t outline or plan.  I just wrote it, with very little forethought or editing, and it’s my most well received work on AO3.  And, it’s non-canonical.  So while yes, the characters aren’t mine (except for the protagonist), the story is and that’s a huge boost to my writing ego.

In my own work, I agonize over every word, so there are some days I may only write a page, and that’s a screenplay page – there’s a whole lotta white on those pages.

So March turned out to be pretty good.  I’m in a better place overall and that’s encouraging for the year ahead.

I hope you all are well and still reaching for your goals!

xx, Rach