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Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages, the Soundtrack

Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages takes place from 1988-1991, and since music is so important to Drew, my protagonist, I’ve pieced together a soundtrack based off mentions in the book, as well as my personal memories of the time period, for better, or sometimes, worse. Seriously, a few of these songs are awful, but they’re true to the time period. I wanted to make a public playlist in iTunes, but apparently that is no longer an option, so you can enjoy my inclusion of videos instead. Now you get a taste of the fashion too. Let’s hope most of it does not cycle back around.

A great big thanks to Youtube, our modern day MTV.

Skid Row’s: Youth Gone Wild

My favorite band around eighth grade. I was in love with Sebastian Bach and jealous of his hair.

 

My hair now.

My hair now. I swear it’s just a coincidence.

Bon Jovi: Bad Medicine

Speaking of hair, anyone remember when Jon had all that hair?

 

Marcia Griffiths: Electric Boogie

Flashbacks to gym class and school dances.  Nooo!

 

Poison: Nothing but a Good Time

The epitome of glam rock.

 

Milli Vanilli: Blame it on the Rain

Or maybe blame it on the lip synching.

 

Faith No More: Epic

The fish at the end of the video caused quite an uproar, but we were assured no paraphyletics were harmed in the filming of this video.

 

Warrant: Heaven

A humorous note here: their semi-coordinated stage outfits remind me a bit of stormtroopers. A sad note: I believe the front-man, Janie Lane, died a few years ago.

 

Guns N Roses: Welcome to the Jungle

The first time I heard this song one of the skater kids in my class (probably 6th grade?) brought it in and talked the teacher into letting him play it for us. I had no access to music like that back then, but I wanted it!

 

Bad English: When I See You Smile

This song was out not long before I moved and somehow it became the song my best friend and I used to remember each other (my Bridgette, Drew’s Belle)

 

New Kids on the Block: Step by Step

What I hated most from pop-culture of this time period was those stupid NKOTB t-shirts with the florescent handprints, and I believe their signatures.  They were everywhere!  I forgot this song existed until a grown man played it recently in my presence.  Weird. And all these years later… I still find it just as cheesy.

 

Poison: Every Rose has its Thorn

Still a sing-along song for me if it comes on the radio while I’m in the car.

 

Billy Joel: We Didn’t Start the Fire

I didn’t appreciate this song at the time, but I did like the video (even though I wasn’t supposed to be watching any videos)

 

M.C. Hammer: U Can’t Touch This

I think these pants are trying to come back in style. Please don’t let it happen.

 

Vanilla Ice: Ice Ice Baby

Turns out I have the same birthday as Robert Van Winkle, which many young girls were jealous of at the time.  Personally, I was insulted. He moved on to flipping big houses in Florida.  Who knew?

 

Thanks for going old school with me for a bit.  Share it if you like it.

 

 

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Coming up for Air before I Dive Back in

I didn’t write a single post last week.  Yep, neglected the entire blog.  I was writing though.  In fact, I was doing something possibly more important:

finishing my sequel.

I struggled to keep on track while writing this follow up book to Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages.  I even resented it at times.  I loved my characters but regretted letting them grow up, much like a parent would, I guess.  At times I even questioned why I was writing a sequel.  Sequel success is a gamble.  It might be a terrible follow up, causing me to lose the loyal followers I actually have, who would begin to loathe me and my inadequate sequel writing abilities, possibly blaming me for global warming… ok, that last part is a bit over the top, but you get the idea.  It was pressure, and I wasn’t sure my heart was always in it.

This is how I sometimes felt through the process.

This is how I sometimes felt through the process.

Then I would reread portions of the book and remember that I loved what I was writing.  And I was inspired even more around the time of writing the last quarter or so of the book when I read something about “finding my awesome” in a Jon Acuff book (Start).  I don’t have the book handy right now, but I know there was a question about whether you would do the thing you were doing regardless of anything else, just because it’s who you are and what you do.  I write.  It’s what I do, so one day I sat down and started writing a book.  After I finished the book I had no idea what to do with it, so I did nothing for a while.  Then I self published it and other people started reading it and asking if I was writing more about Drew, and I decided I wanted to know what was going to happen in her life too, so I started a second book to help create her further existence.  I wanted to do it anyway because I like Drew.  So I wrote a sequel, and last Friday I put the final words on said sequel.

Now I wait.

I have some editors who need to read the book.  My book cover designer is trying to translate my requests into something that looks awesome.  I desperately need to figure out this whole self-promoting thing. Then I will need to go back and make corrections based on my editors’ suggestions and my own need to constantly seek perfection.  Then, finally, I will release my sequel into the world and allow others to judge my worth as a writer, my sequel writing abilities, and Drew, my beloved character whom I would like to shelter and protect forever.  This is not an easy task.  What if people don’t like her?  Sure, I know she’s fictional, but she’s also me and my creation.

At this moment my release goal is mid to late May.  I’ll update that here as the process continues and I know more specifics.  But I’m going to take a complete break from Drew now, at least for a couple weeks.

Christmas in October, a Peek at Drew’s Freshman Year

Chrsitmas in October

While many people are attempting to write a book in one month, I’m admittedly a bit slower.  I’ve been working on my sequel to Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages since June, and I’m not halfway there yet.  I’m ok with that as I would rather take my time on this project.  I have mixed feelings about the continuing story of my heroine Drew, and I just want to get it right and keep the integrity of her character, even as she stares high school in the face.  She will not be tainted by the horrors of teenage angst!

To prove that life does go on for Drew, here’s an uncorrected excerpt from Drew’s Halloween.  Remember, the year is 1991.

Christmas in October

My friends and I all met at Joey’s Pizza Palace the Saturday night before Halloween so we could plan our attire for the day and for the collection of goodies that night.  We all landed on the theme idea of Christmas, mostly at the prodding of Adrienne and me, who had recently amassed a collection of crazy Christmas socks and planned on wearing them as often as possible.  We only had until Thursday to gather our costumes, and none of us could drive, so we had to be resourceful, and this seemed like a theme we could pull off.

Amid the scary masks and cutesie prep costumes, the red and green splendor my friends and I brought to campus was jolly indeed.  Since Adrienne and I had been wearing our Christmas socks for about a month already anyway, we knew we had to add color and accessories.  I wore red leggings under a pair of black shorts and a green silk blouse hanging loose over that.  I couldn’t decide between my dancing reindeer or Frosty socks, so I wore one of each.  Adrienne and I had both streaked our hair with alternating green and red food coloring stripes, wore wreath earrings, and decorative garland as boas.  When my friends all gathered together that morning we all had to congratulate Anne for actually showing up dressed as a Christmas tree, adorned with ornaments, lights, and strung together popcorn.  “Excellent costume. Nice trunk,” Shane said as he pulled off a piece of popcorn, tossed it up and caught it in his mouth.

Anne tried to playfully slap his hand, but without full range of motion, she simply swatted at air.  “Don’t eat my popcorn, Shane.”

“Yeah, ok.  It’s a little stale anyway, I think,” he replied, gagging a little for effect.

By lunchtime, Anne had only a few random kernels of popcorn hanging on.  “I kid you not.  A bird dive-bombed me when I was walking between buildings.  I will never wear food again.”

Halloween is pretty much an eat junk and do nothing in school day, so my good mood could not be ruined, not even by Chip and Mr. Bunson or Mona and Violet.  I had gotten back my first set of journals for Ms. Finch’s class and received an A and an encouraging note about my writing talent potential.  It was a good day.

Mona was wearing a New Kids on the Block t-shirt with a balloon stuffed underneath.  We made regretful eye contact when I entered chorus.  “Ugh- what a scary costume ya’ll have’on. Yer givin’ me th’ begeevers, yer mask is sooo frightnen’!”

“Ugh- your insult is sooo unoriginal.  And what the heck are you anyway?” I asked, because in spite of myself, I was curious.

“Jordan Knight’s preggers wiyfe, obviously,” Mona exclaimed, holding up her left hand and flitting her ring finger at me, on which she had placed a silly plastic dress-up ring.  I hated to admit it, but it was original.  So I only admitted it silently and to myself.  Audibly, I simply grunted acknowledgement as I turned and flung my silver tinsel garland over my shoulder, purposely hitting Mona in the face with it.

While I scanned the costumes in the room after entering photography, Freddy Krueger snuck in behind me and placed his creepy blade-fingers, which were thankfully just plasticy-rubber, on my shoulder.

“Dustin?  That better be you, so I can punch you.”

“You don’t like my costume?”

“Freddy gave me nightmares and I never once visited his creepy Elm Street either.  I hate horror movies!”

“You’re pretty passionate about it.”

“Yes.  Just the previews to those movies always freak me out, and there’s a poster up at the video store where his eyes follow you around,” I shivered.

Dustin laughed a bit at my misfortune.  “Sorry. I was trying to decide between Freddy Krueger or Freddie Mercury, but I was out of wife beaters and spandex, and I already had this dingy red and black striped shirt.  And it looks like you both, what, robbed the Polar Express?” he added, indicating Adrienne and I with a wave of his hand.

“Something like that,” she responded with a smile, pressing a button on her reindeer necklace that started playing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

(Just in case you’re wondering, yeah it’s copyrighted.)

Regrets?

There’s just today left for my free ebook promo for Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages.  Yeah, I feel a little cheap just giving the book away like that, but I have to believe everyone will still love and respect me once they actually read the book.

I did the math, and it just didn’t make sense.  Normally I get a 70% royalty on an ebook sale, but 70% of zero is nothing, right?  I was always more of an English girl than a math whiz, but I know I took a risk with this.  And I went back and forth on it, like Gollum.

Gollum-Smeagol-smeagol-gollum-14076882-960-403

Me:  But it’s my precious.

Other Me: Well, nobody will be able to read it if they don’t know it exists.

Me: How will I feed my husband, myself, and my dogs if I give it away for free?

Other Me: Maybe people will love it so much they will all write up awesome reviews on Amazon.  Then it will be more visible to shoppers and sales and ranking will increase.

Me: Do you swear it?

Other Me: I swear it on the precious!

Yeah, it was all really creepy.  In the long run, Other Me won and now we both wait to see if it is correct.  This whole self-promoting stuff is all new for me and each decision I make is a new risk.  I don’t like to think of being a writer as running a business, because it’s art, but if I want people to read my art, I have to promote it.  Giving away freebies is a classic technique in bringing in business, right?

Go ahead and take a chance with me and download the book for free this one last day.  Then if you love it, or even just mostly like it, please take a minute to write up a review for me.  Maybe this will encourage me to finish the sequel faster.  My goal is to have it ready for Amazon by Christmas.

I can’t have regrets.  I have to keep moving forward.

Madonna-ing My Book

MADONNA-b-620x250

It has often been said that Madonna is the Queen of Reinvention as she has managed to reinvent herself time and again, continuing to hold her original fan base and finding a way to grab newbies.  This means she learns how to take on a new approach in image and audience, and I need to do the same.  I need to Madonna.

That’s right.  I just made a celebrity into a verb.  I can do that sort of thing because I’m a writer.  Shakespeare made stuff up all the time.  Comparing myself in any way to Shakespeare may seem like sacrilege, but that’s part of my point.  Reinventing myself means I may need to add a little sass and sauciness (as the bard would say) to my approach.

Don’t worry.  I don’t plan to strap black party hats onto my bosom and vogue or anything, and in fact that would be quite inappropriate for my target audience, but I’m going to be bold and reach out with a new confidence to them.  As far as I can tell, adults are the ones who have been reading my book, which is great because of its nostalgia factor, but the feelings and emotions of the book are better suited for current middle school girls, which keeps my book more relevant to them than adults.  This also means they are more likely to want to pass on a recommendation to others, since it is more impactful to them, thus keeping my book in the spotlight.

Of course, I don’t really hang out with a lot of girls in middle school, so I need help from those adults to pass the info on to daughters, cousins, young sisters, neighbors, random kids in the grocery store- whatever.  That’s part of being bold: asking people to spread the word, like asking you to share this link with someone you think might enjoy my book Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages.

Another part of reinvention is that my confidence in my product must be obvious. Drew Hotchner is one of my favorite young women ever, even if she is a fictional character, and I’m proud of the witty voice in my book, so I need to create awareness of this, probably by sharing short excerpts or one-liners, like the one a friend of mine brought to my attention that other day as one of her favorites:

“After all the time that had passed with Danny and I flirting and calling each other, I was still no closer to making him my boyfriend than Milli Vanilli were of singing their own songs.”

See, that’s good stuff, so I’m going to start tweeting, facebooking, and tumbling this stuff until I’ve completely Madonna-ized my book by giving it the attention it deserves.

Rant and self pep talk complete.  I feel much better.  Carry on.

Secular Writing or Not?

A question I’ve struggled with almost since the moment I knew I wanted to be a writer is, “As a Christian, am I obligated to write only Christian material?”  Other questions stemming from this idea include: What are our limits in the realm of entertainment?  What is right or wrong for a Christian to create in any type of art?  Do I have some sort of responsibility to teach biblical principles in all my writings?  Am I allowed to just write for the sake of fun entertainment?  If we are to do all things to the glory of God, am I allowed to take any credit for my masterpieces?

This is an area that really held me back in my writing for a long time.  For one thing, I never considered myself to be in any standing to “preach” to people; I just want to write because I enjoy putting together words, weaving tales, and creating characters.

Since Drew Hotchner, my protagonist in Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: the Middle-ish Ages, is modeled greatly after me and I grew up as a Christian, is it wrong that my book does not center around her Christianity?  Honestly, I wanted to create a lighthearted book with identifiable issues for almost any young girl, and when I was Drew’s age, I didn’t really live a good Christian life.  Drew isn’t a bad influence, but she isn’t making her own clothes at home school outings and preaching to her heathen friends.  The book is clean because that was important to me.

I’ll do my best to answer my own sub-questions here in order to see if I can answer the main one, but the truth is, I’m not sure if most my answers are correct.  You may disagree, and as long as you are nice about shaming me, you can even tell me where you think I’m wrong.

What are our (Christians) limits in the realm of entertainment? and What is right or wrong for a Christian to create in any type of art?  These two are closely linked, so I’ll deal with them together.   I certainly believe we must try to set good examples, but we also need to be real people.  That whole idea that all Christians are hypocrites comes from us trying to puff ourselves up to perfection when the truth is that we struggle with right living every day ourselves.  Showing we are trying but admitting we have vulnerabilities too is probably a good message to send, in all reality.  Telling dirty jokes on a stage or stripping are good places to draw a line.  We are not of this world, but we are living in it now, right?  So, keeping it clean and not using it to judge others might be a good rule.

Do I have some sort of responsibility to teach biblical principles in all my writings?  God gives us talents that He wants us to use to “further His kingdom.”  So, I should probably use my writing in some way to get the Good News out there, right?  And I do that sometimes right here on this blog.  Not everything I write has a spiritual message, but some of it does.  When I feel inspired, I write it.  Closely related to that is:

Am I allowed to just write for the sake of fun entertainment?  Again, if God has given me a writing talent, as a Christian I should probably try to see how I can use it to His glory, but I really don’t feel every single word I write has to be a bible lesson. But even secular entertainment often holds some biblical truths.  Most Christians have jobs that keep them in secular settings, because they are regular people who need to make a living and not everyone is called to be a preacher.  No matter what you do, whether it’s cleaning office buildings, putting out fires, cashing people’s checks at a bank, or being a lawyer (this one is more questionable though), you do it to the best of your ability and set an example.  And that leads to the last sub-question:

If we are to do all things to the glory of God, am I allowed to take any credit for my masterpieces?  I think we are not meant to brag about how great we are, but to give the thanks and credit to God for giving us the abilities we have.  I do proclaim self-awesomeness from time to time, and that’s probably wrong.  Of course, when I do I’m usually being silly anyway.  I do not take compliments well (I respond to them so very awkwardly), and I don’t really know how to brag about myself seriously anyway.

Did all, or even any of this, work to help answer my original question, “As a Christian, am I obligated to write only Christian material?”  I think so.  As long as I remain open to writing what I feel inspired to write, I’m sure from time to time those inspirations will be leadings from God to write something to help others.  And honestly, who is to say that Drew can’t be that vessel to teach others something good?  We should use good judgment in our entertainment, but I truly believe God wanted us to have enjoyment in our lives. If not, He never would have given us bacon (if you are Jewish, replace bacon with chocolate- both are big loves of mine).

Here I Go Again

On display at Chumley's in New York.

On display at Chumley’s in New York.

It has now been almost a year since I self published my book Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: the Middle-ish Ages, sending it into cyber space, with no equipment, to mostly fend for itself.  I discovered later on exactly how cruel that was. The thing is… I went about it all wrong.  I wrote the book over the course of a couple summers off in the first few years I taught.  Then it just hung out on my computer for a few more years.

My first mistake:  Since I was a kid I had known I would write books.  Most of the people around me when I was younger knew that was my dream as well.  Then I grew up, moved a few times, started a new life, and I stopped talking to people about it because it wasn’t a practical way to make a living and I was writing less anyway.  I don’t mind bragging or talking about myself on social media or in my blog, but in the real world, I’m an introvert and I don’t really know how to bring up stuff like this.  Therefore, few people in my world had a clue that I wrote, let alone that it had been a lifelong dream to publish anything.  Since nobody knew, nobody was there to encourage me.  Not even my husband knew what this meant to me.  You’ve got to tell people your dreams.

My second mistake:  I felt like maybe as an adult I should forget holding onto childish dreams.  Many people claim to be “writers,” but that doesn’t mean they’re any good at it, and I was so afraid of finding out I was in that category.  I let go of my dream.  It was easier than putting myself out there and getting hurt.

My third mistake:  Impatience or desperation or cluelessness.  I do not think I made a mistake in self publishing an ebook, but I do feel I should have known more about it and all my options first.  I really wanted to publish my book with a “real” publishing firm and be able to smell its pages and hold it in my hands, but as I began to research the industry I was disheartened at how long it could take to see that happen and how the physical book publishing world seems to be changing so much that the odds of getting a book published that way seem even closer to impossible than they were previously.  Nobody takes unsolicited manuscripts anymore; you must have an agent.  The process of getting an agent is as time consuming and difficult as getting a publisher used to be, and then the agent must work on the publication submissions and rejections, and he or she gets a cut of whatever the writer makes, and the writer still has to do his or her own promoting. This whole process began to feel more and more hopeless, and I began to wonder who could get anything published these days.

That is when I began thinking more seriously of the ebook idea.  At least I could get my book “out there.”  It was doing no good to anyone just sitting on my computer, collecting virtual dust and reminding me of the dream I let die.  With the exponential growth of technological advancements, it seemed like my only reasonable and timely chance.  The thing with changing technology (which, by the way, is a big part of why the print publication industry is changing so rapidly now and becoming more difficult to navigate), is that ebooks are only now really catching on and the know how of it is still new.  And so, I had no know how.  I really didn’t have an inkling of where to begin and I only had my summer months off to figure it out, which is not much time in the grand scheme of things.  I consulted a friend of mine who had self published her own ebook (Sarah Reckenwald and Flames in the Midst) and she was quite helpful and supportive, but she was still just learning too.

I felt the pressure of my quickly fading summer, as if the small spark of hope to revive my dream was again fading as well, and I just went for it.  A week before I had to start back to school for my pre-planning week, I  launched Memoirs onto Amazon’s Kindle, of which there is absolutely nothing wrong.  The part that became my mistake, was that other than creating an author page on Facebook and spreading the word about my book via my own Facebook profile, I did little else.  Remember, I never talked it up to anybody, so for most people I knew, it came out of nowhere.  Also, I missed so many opportunities to hype it up ahead of time and to keep the excitement up because I did not know how to promote myself.  I just wanted it up and hoped people would stumble across it because I knew it was awesome.  But that is NOT how it works.

So now that I have no current day job, being a writer and a self promoter has become my day job, so I am taking a step back and learning more about putting myself out there.  I’ve only just begun; there is much to learn, but I’m excited to do it.  I will care for and nurture my book, and it will have a fresh chance.

I do get a decent following on my Facebook author page, considering I’ve done so little to promote myself.  I just launched into the world of twitter as @DrewHotchner (my protagonist), and am looking into other places to publish Memoirs, including the possibility of doing a print on demand option since I tend to get some people who are still afraid of technology but do want to read the book.  I’ll keep you all posted.