Donuts In An Empty Field

Did you know?

The very first line in my first book, A Monkee On My Shoulder, was the result of a writing prompt given by prominent author Chuck Wendig during National Novel Writing Month in November, 2014. During the frenzy of NaNoWriMo, many authors volunteer to provide written pep talks. It stimulates the imagination and prods us along to reach our goals, namely 50,000 words in 30 days. “Donuts in an empty field” was Chuck’s prompt. Thank you Chuck !

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A Monkee By My Side

A Monkee By My Side

After eleven months of toiling, the sequel to my first book is available on Amazon. A Monkee By My Side went “live” today. I feel like I’ve given birth (again). I took a few moments this morning and spent quiet time with my husband, Brian, and my friend, Colleen (via Messenger of course, because we’re all scattered about right now) to just revel in the feeling that it was done. I’m very proud of this book. There is a lot more to it, including more detailed characters, and a few scenes involving one of the most beautiful places in Hawai’i – Waipi’o Valley.

And of course, 100% of the proceeds go directly to my favorite charity, The Davy Jones Equine Memorial Foundation (DJEMF.com).

I hope my readers will enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Available here: A Monkee By My Side – Amazon

Of Pads and Pen

Of Pads and Pen

Before I learned to write my name I spent hours with a box of crayons and cheap coloring books. My grandparents were my main suppliers of said drug of choice. I even remember an upstairs neighbor kid showing me how much cooler my coloring would look if first I outlined the area in the color I was going to use for the fill-in part. Wow. I do remember someone criticizing me for coloring outside the lines. I was four. I still say Screw You (or harsher words) about that whole experience. How can people do that to little kids? But that’s for another blog entry…

When I learned to actually write, I would put words down on those big lined sheets you use to learn your letters. Those limited words became stories in my head that I would then act out with my stuffed animals or my Barbie doll. I spent hours alone building “houses” for them all. I would use cheap Lego knock-offs to build furniture for them, and my mother’s “double album” LP covers to form a maze of rooms. Then the stories would go on and on until it was time to clean up. I’d start it all over again the next day.

Once I was actually able to form full sentences, I began to write stories about animals, using a big pad of paper and one of those chunky pencils in my left hand with a giant eraser clutched in my right. My inner editor was quite a tyrant even back then.

Soon my stories became more about people such as Davy Jones and the other Monkees, The Beatles, and the imaginary friends I wished were more vocal. I still wrote about animals but they were more like Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Snoopy.

Sometime in junior high school (now referred to as middle school here in the states), I developed a group of friends who quickly became fans of my stories. Sadly, David Cassidy would figure heavily in these stories (I’m sorry, Davy Jones, but at that point you had disappeared from the magazines and television and this girl was pretty much dirt poor – oh, and there was no internet back then to keep up with all the favs).

Over the course of many school years I wrote thousands upon thousands of pages of stories. You think I’m exaggerating? Well, I remember having to burn about ten or more pads of paper that each said 500 sheets on the front (do they even make spiral notebooks of that size these days?); they were completely filled with words. Not to mention the bazillion pens I went through, the caps all tossed in a shoebox because they just bugged me. My pen of choice? That one up there on the photo – plain, cheap Bic. Why? Because I could tell ahead of time when the ink would run out, so I could be prepared with a new pen even if the drainage happened in the wee hours of the morning.

Then I graduated high school and entered the world of reality. There was no time for stories, sadly. There was typing, yes, but that was at work and it was really boring shit about insurance. But BOY did I read books! I read everything I could get my hands on from the library, my grandmother’s and mother’s stashes of cheap paperbacks, and *gasp* Used Book Stores. Is there nothing better than a Used Book Store? I haven’t found anything yet.

When my son was born, I read stories to him all the time, but my own storytelling abilities had staled. In 2008, when my son was nearly grown, someone told me about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The premise is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Well, I wrote my first and it really sucked. I wrote several more over the years and they too sucked. I’ve saved them all, though, in the hopes that perhaps I can rewrite them into something people might enjoy.

Davy Jones passed in 2012 and soon after, a group of us got very involved in fundraising for his herd and the charity set up by his daughters to care for that herd – The Davy Jones Equine Memorial Foundation (DJEMF.com). I didn’t concentrate too hard on NaNo at the time because we were so unbelievably busy working on projects for DJEMF.

It was a magical moment during NaNoWriMo 2014 when an idea for a new Davy Jones story grabbed me by the writing hand and held them to my keyboard for the entire thirty days. I wondered, could this be a fundraising idea? Would people think I considered myself some expert author, when in fact I’m just a mediocre storyteller? My friends who had been reading parts of my novel encouraged me and A Monkee On My Shoulder was born, published nine months from the first day of that NaNo.

Midway through the editing process (a really grueling process, frankly), the idea for a sequel was born. The working title is A Monkee On My Back and will begin creeping out of my imagination to my hands on the keyboard again. Do I have a second novel in me? I think I do. Can I finish it in the same amount of time? I think I can. What, am I channeling The Little Engine That Could? You bet I am! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

Wish me luck! And if you’re on NaNoWriMo.org, my username is ‘starrling’ – look me up!

Domo Arigato

Domo Arigato

I’m still trying hard to wrap my head around the fact that I actually wrote a book and published it on Amazon.com. It only took me 58 years. Only.

Recently I was shown that my book is now available on Amazon.co.jp – that’s Amazon Japan! And… I actually have wonderful readers in Japan. Still, it was awe-inspiring to see all my book details in those lovely Japanese characters.

So, how did this all happen? No, really – I’m asking you. How did I manage this? Granted, I’m no Janet Evanovich (oh, if only). But people are reading the book and enjoying it. And I’m still scratching my head.

I’ve been preparing for the sequel. I have my basic plot outline, my characters are sketched out, and my tools are in line on a newly-scrubbed computer (don’t ask… it wasn’t pretty. Computer deaths or near-deaths rarely are). What’s next, you ask? A lot of shaking in my boots, biting my nails, and other forms of self-torture. Why, you ask further? Because I’m trying to wait for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to begin November 1 before I begin the actual writing of the story. Why not just start early? Gee, you sure ask a lot of tough questions. I think it’s because I’m afraid I’ll jinx myself and run out of steam – or words. Really… 50,000 words in 30 days? Am I nuts? Well, yes, but you know what they say about nuts…

There is something encouraging about the frenzy around millions of people struggling to finish their novels right alongside me; across the world, my colleagues will be just like me – doubting themselves, eating horrendous amounts of power snacks, and drinking copious cups of tea, coffee, or wine. There will be writing prompts, word wars, and a general sense of fun amidst the angst we will all have in common. We will also be able to cry on each other’s shoulders (virtually, and in local meetings and get-togethers).

So, whether you’re in Japan, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, Canada, or anywhere in this world, I hope you’ll be cheering all of us on. Granted, I won’t be writing the next Water for Elephants novel (did you know that started as a NaNoWriMo novel? Impressive, yes? Also terrifying to have peers that good… but that’s another blog).

Arigato. Gracias. Danke. Merci. Mahalo. Ble mae’r dafarn agosaf?

A Monkee’s Tree

A Monkee’s Tree

A friend sent me these lovely photos recently. A few people might recognize where Michelle is sitting here. It’s a place where many of us gathered to honor Davy Jones on the first summer day of 2015, a place where he often spent leisure time in his Oliver! days on Broadway (pre-Monkees). Near the baseball diamonds and a short walk to John Lennon’s Imagine mosaic is an odd-shaped tree that Central Park estimates to be more than a hundred years old. When I first saw these photos, I felt an overwhelming warmth in my heart, but above all, I felt Davy’s approval.

When we were there in June, Davy’s presence was strong in our hearts and in the atmosphere around us. More than a hundred of us gathered and sang “Daydream Believer” under the branches of Davy’s tree. My heart thrummed when I realized that all the noise of humanity had ceased around us. People stopped to enjoy the spectacle, and strangers exchanged warm smiles. A few even tapped their feet and clapped when we finished.

Even after his passing — Davy, his music, and the memories of his Broadway performances and his later television antics as a Monkee — still seem to bring people together. It is at these moments that, just for the briefest of times, the cares of the world around us slip away. I honestly believe he hugged us all that day. And he was happy.

Aloha

Aloha

Ahh, Hawai`i! During the nine months it took to write and edit A Monkee On My Shoulder I immersed myself in memories of my trips to Hawai`i, and researching current news in the islands as well, thus making those months even more enjoyable and exciting.

The first thing I remember about the 50th state of the U.S. is reading James Michener’s “Hawai`i” way back in the 1970s. My first trip, however, wasn’t until 1981. Reading the 1,000+ page historical novel made me fall in love with the islands’ history and lovely language. It spurred me to learn even more about life in Hawai`i. On my first trip, I purchased several books written by local historians, and the love affair I had with the place grew and grew as I devoured each tome.

But the thing that struck me the most about the beauty of the lands is the melodic magic of the language. One of the shortest alphabets in the world, the native Hawai`ian language has twelve letters: Five vowels (a,e,i,o,u) and seven consonants (h,k,l,m,n,p,w).  The okina symbol between certain vowels ( ` ) indicates a glottal stop or new syllable. The kahako is a line over a vowel and indicates you should hold the sound of it a little longer (example:  a town called Pā’ia is pronounced paa EEya).

Here are some basic words and pronunciations:

Mahalo (mah HAH loh) means thank you

Aloha (a LOH hah) means hello and love

Kane (KAH neh) means man and/or husband

Wahine (wah HEE neh) means woman and/or wife

Keiki (KAY kee) means child

Hale (HAH leh) means house or building

Last night I was having a discussion about the language with my good friend who happens to live in England. We were joking about some of the longer words in Hawai`i like the name for the trigger fish – humuhumunukunukuāpua`a which roughly means “fish with a pig snout” and also a butterfly fish called lauwiliwilinukunuku`oi`oi which means “long-snouted fish shaped like a wili-wili leaf.” After much amusement, we determined that if any of these inedible fish were ever to show up on a menu in the Welsh town of Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch they would run out of ink.

A hui hou (until we meet again).

Help Horses Helped by a Monkee

Help Horses Helped by a Monkee

It isn’t easy to self-promote. I gathered every ounce of courage I could find to have a mini-interview with a reporter the other day. But she put me at ease right away when she revealed she too is a Davy Jones fan. She gazed at his photo for a good long time, which I found quite endearing. So, here it is – and I’m still stunned. A few inaccuracies, but it’s good PR for The Davy Jones Equine Memorial Foundation: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/holdingcourt/2015/08/11/help-horses-helped-monkee/31503239/