Posted in Fiction, Peek into Stella's Books

Chapters of 34 Seconds

Do you want to read the Prologue and first two chapters of 34 Seconds?

Sign up for my newsletter and grab the first two chapters plus the prologue for free.

PFFTTTTT…..

Clearly this post isn’t done! And it’s getting likes.

And you can sign up. And I think MailChimp is set up to send you a link to the chapters. But I kept pushing this post out…and out…and out because I wasn’t ready.

Clearly, my calendar caught up with me. It’s no longer a scheduled post I need to find time to write…it posted! Just like that.

But it’s okay. I’m okay, And you’re okay too.

And I’m human. So I say sign up – but I have no link.

I’m not ready.

So I’ll put this on my calendar for another few weeks and see if I will be ready then.

In the meantime, thank you for your patience and acceptance for simply being human.

And if you really want the chapters…I’ll send them to you. Just message me. 🙂

 

 

 

Posted in Life stuff

It’s Okay, I’m Okay…

As authors and writers, we are used to rejection. It’s part of the gig. But each submission that comes back with a we read your piece and though it’s lovely, we won’t be using it message, does send some of down a path of self-mutilation.

No, not really mutilating ourselves, but our minds and sometimes our work. I’ve had pieces rejected by one place only to have those same pieces picked up by another place soon after. I have the same piece rejected over and over while only giving rights to publish an accepted piece once. I know I am not the only writer to look at my work after feedback and say, well, of course, it was rejected. It’s shit. Utter shit. Was I drunk and desperate when I hit the submit button?  And I’ve had good pieces that for the life of me I can’t figure out why I’m stuck reading others’ utter shit while mine is sitting in some recycle bin.

The reality is the grass is often greener after some time and space from a piece of creative work. I submitted to an anthology a few months ago. I disliked my piece, didn’t have the time to work on it as I should have, and even more, I knew all of this when I turned it in but still took a chance. While rolling that dice and calling on red, it feels so good…the risk, the chance, the wondering what could happen. And then when you hit the wrong color and the wrong number, you lose. That’s it. Plain and simple.

Loser.

For this particular submission, there were about a thousand entries, and remember, I knew mine needed work. I didn’t even like the title. But when the announcement of winners came back and I wasn’t on it, it was sad. Even though I knew all I knew, I was disappointed.

Just that. Disappointed.

You see, it doesn’t matter if we expect it coming, rejection isn’t fun no matter how you roll the dice.

So, I’m here to lift you up and to remind myself: It’s Okay, I’m Okay.

Rejection from a person, from a spouse, from a lover, from a co-worker, from a boss, from a friend who chose to do something besides hanging with you, from anyone judging your creative work sucks. But it’s okay.

You’re okay.

I’ve been learning a lot about control lately and how our emotions control us instead of us controlling our emotions. Don’t assume you are not of value because someone said no to you. And ask yourself, if that same no keeps happening, is this someone you want in your life anyway? If I keep submitting the same piece to the same editor, should I expect a different response one day? If we keep asking the same friend for a cup of coffee at the same shop feeling rejected each time, should we be looking into asking someone else or asking if coffee is not what our friend enjoys?

Rejection doesn’t always mean we are horrible at what we do. Sometimes it just means we are not a good fit for what we want to give. Learn to be a better fit. And never give up on your dreams. It’s Okay. I’m Okay. You’re Okay. We are all Okay.

Keep believing and understand if you have heard no recently, it’s okay. If you’ve said no recently, it’s okay. Really, it’s okay.

 

 

Posted in Writing

Father, mine and someone’s

He wouldn’t have danced with me, my father. The day he gave me away, I told him we were only having dinner, not a full reception. Ours wasn’t a traditional wedding anyway, so skipping the father-daughter dance wasn’t a big deal to me.

Dancing wasn’t the only thing he wouldn’t do. He wouldn’t have read my screenplays, but he’d happily watch the movies once some Hollywood director ripped apart my words until the idea behind them was all that remained. He would laugh though. No matter what we were doing so long as it wasn’t dancing, he’d laugh with me. A quiet all-knowing laugh that would leave me wondering if my laugh didn’t quite hit the rhythm of the joke. And he’d talk with me.

He’d ask questions, wonder where my life was, where it’s going, and what I needed from him to reach my dreams. He’d listen to my complaints. Funny, I don’t complain about the same things today as I did then. I wish he knew. I wish he knew me today. I could tell him I am closer to the young woman he used to know. Not the teenager who fought him every step of the way. Not the teenager who’d been raped and feared not the consequences but rather telling her father her secrets. All of them. The small girl who picked clovers while singing the song wondering if they were red clovers or merely the color red and clovers separately and the young woman who wanted acceptance, not just tolerance, needed to find that place of warmth in her father’s arms again. I was that girl again, not the in-between girl, while dancing.

But the dance, the journey, began long before. Not in a field of clovers but in the sound of the blooms coming out to live free.

Honeysuckle sweetened the sour air outside my father’s house. Closing my eyes, I inhaled the scent of nectar while twisting the ring I wore on my right hand. Unless he’d seen the headlights from my car rising up through the dust, Dad wasn’t aware I was there watching him. His silhouette in the light of dusk only lit up when he inhaled the carcinogens from the cigarette in his left hand. As had been threaded through my childhood and adolescence, music filled the air. Dad had built a wall unit to hold his stereo several years back. The massive stereo, as esteemed as a family heirloom, was the centerpiece of the room. When we weren’t watching the latest Thursday night sitcom, music was on. It was how I’d spent my childhood. From sitting on his lap as a young girl to adulthood struggles, the soundtrack to my life was Dad’s music. Irony closed in on me as song lyrics spoke thoughts of loving her. Pursing my lips together, I smirked at the song. Tommy James and the Shondells was a band I’d been singing along to since I could make sounds. This was an album my father listened to again and again. When times were tough, when stress was overwhelming, when sadness took over his emotions, the lights went out, a match struck, and Tommy James sang of love and clovers.

This time was no different. I had run. Life doesn’t allow us to run long or far, but it didn’t stop me from trying.  I had to get away to find my support. To find myself. The only thing I’d realized from my choice to run was my life wasn’t a choice, and I needed to be true.

After spending five days in the hospital with her, I’d said my final goodbye. Her death was an awakening to me. Every beat in the song of clovers reminded me of the rhythm of her heart. The one I used to hear with my head on her chest. But only while it still beat. Beneath the tiny feet of squirrels sounded a crunchy autumn of the past, and hanging in the air, the crisp spring scent of honeysuckle mingled with sounds of musical waves leading to me stand in a doorway wondering if I had the strength to tell my father the truth.

“Dad?” The door squeaked as I opened it. A light went on as if his fingers were on the switch waiting for me.

“Hey.” It was all he could say to me.

I did call him collect from nine hundred miles away to tell him I was safe. My dependence on him ran deeper than tolerance.

“You’re home,” he said.

“I am.” Neither of us dove into the conversation we needed to have.

“I’m sorry I left,” I said with a cracking voice. “Maybe we can talk?” The question in my tone asked to be Daddy’s girl again.

“Are you okay?”

“I am okay. It’s been a rough few weeks. She…”

Tears fell from my jawline to the floor. I’d hidden too long. I was exhausted from hiding. Afraid of showing my weakness, I sat. The couch fabric scratched my skin as I pushed my body back. With elbows on my knees, I stared at the carpet below. It was a cesspool of dark hues and stains. Yellow light from overhead dulled the browning cigarette smoke laden carpet below my feet and reflected on the cobwebs draping the walls behind my father’s chair. Our conversation was about as pleasant as smoke stains seeping from the walls.

“I lost a good friend in a car accident, too. When I was your age, I mean.” He was trying. At least he was talking.

“Dad?” My voice cracked each time I said the word. “I’ve lost everything.”

“You have your health. And your job.”

“I’m nineteen. Of course, I have my health. And I wouldn’t have a job if I were back in school.”

“I’m not going to feel guilty for this. You want to go to school, sign up. But study something that will get you a better job than you have now. You need to be in business. Or computers.”

“Dad, I love theatre.”

“Fine. Study business. Join a theatre. If you can get a job in theatre, great. But you need a backup plan. You need a future.”

“I don’t want to argue, Dad. I want to tell you about my trip. About me. About what I experienced. About her.” A tear slipped from my eye, running as fast as I’d run before, soaking into the carpet leaving another dark spot.

“How about you tell me about that tattoo?”

“It’s Pop-Pop’s guitar.”

“You’re never going to get a good job with a visible tattoo.” His words bit. Word after word, sentence after sentence, the space between us grew larger. There was no way we’d ever find commonality.

The music had changed. The silence built between us as lyrics changed from loving her to new days coming. Change. People changing. I had to keep trying. We had to find that place again. That place where I climbed up onto his lap and wrapped myself into security and everlasting love.

“She…” I sobbed. “She wasn’t just a friend. She was my girlfriend.” The words came out faster than my mind could think them.

“What? What do you mean?”

“Dad.”

“The tattoo? You got it for her?” He looked closely at my leg. Names surrounded the shiny guitar still covered in healing ointment.

“No. I got the tattoo for me. I play guitar. Music, thanks to you, Dad, lives in my soul.”

“She was your girlfriend? You’re gay?”

“Yes, Daddy.” In my mind, I’d already crawled up onto the lap I remembered as the warmest and most loving place in the world.

“Well,” Dad said. His eyes didn’t leave his father’s Gibson Sunburst on my ankle. “We finally have something in common.”

“You have a tattoo?”

“No.” The silence sang louder than Tommy James. Dad stood, took two steps, and wrapped his arms around me. “I like girls, too.”

Crimson and Clover played from the wall speakers.

 

Over and Over.

Now he’s gone, my father. But I got to dance. And we laughed. The music blared, disco, then The Temptations, and Sister Sledge. I danced with a man who was not my father. A man who took time to show me steps even my father didn’t know.

“I don’t know how to two-step,” I said bending my neck to view the white hair towering over me.

“It’s three steps,” he said. “Two to the right, one back.”

“Then why is it called two-step?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll show you how.”

I hadn’t danced with a man in many years. But we connected. Sure, it was the Manhattans for me and the abundance of beer for him. He led me to believe the forty years between us kept him young on that floor.

“Forty years! We don’t have forty years between us!” Light above my head dulled as I closed my eyes imagining my twenties as if they were yesterday. I hadn’t moved like this since that time.

“Well, I know you’re a lot younger than I am, whatever the difference is. You’re keeping me young,” he said. My body spun into his. I was getting the hang of letting him lead, which wasn’t an easy feat.

My wife came over with another drink for me and looked at him with a crooked smile. “Your wife wants to know if you want another one,” she said.

“I’m exhausted. Yes, I need another one.”

We sat and laughed. His wife was beautiful. And funny. She and my wife connected. But on a different level. In their world, they could be neighbors. Friends.

Another song came on, and we danced. Sometimes all four of us, sometimes just me and him, and for some songs, I stood back with bourbon in my hand watching my wife’s body do something it does so well. Her movements were like ocean waves. Closer to me, then pulling away leaving me wanting another ride. Between the lights and the music, the bourbon, and the elation, I allowed myself peace watching her dance.

“This is our song!” he grabbed my hand, so I could dance another one. We didn’t have a song. He barely had a name, at least not in my world. But we had a connection. One that I missed because I hadn’t had one like that in the years since the clovers.

For one evening, I connected with someone’s father. And I remembered mine.

 

I lost my father about six years ago. Our relationship struggled for many years before I came out to him. It struggled after for a bit as I tried to find my place in the world. But with three children and an amazing partner, I’d like to think he’d be proud of me today. I settled many times until he died. Then I remembered Kris, my first girlfriend, who never thought we’d ever see gay marriage and who never did because a car took her away before she left her twenties. And with Dad’s death, I decided to live again. In 2012, I promised him I’d publish my novels. And I have. Irony never ceased between Dad and me. The last book he read was Jaws when I was a baby. But, today, I still write for him.

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Life stuff

Why, Stella

I tried to convey some of this in my live video while revealing my new cover for 34 Seconds, but there were technical issues because me and technology…well, that’s all, just me and technology.

I’ve been asked several times why 34 Seconds has a new cover, and why I keep saying I’m relaunching my brand. Those of you who know me or have followed me for the past several years may know I have undergone some of the big life changes in recent years.

I released 34 Seconds, my debut novel, in 2015. It was the start of a new school year and the second year I spent more time researching different schools and districts, including those out of my home state of Colorado, than writing.

After yet another year of incessant teasing and bullying, including being pushed down stairs and into tables and lockers by kids we knew, I pushed for a move for my daughter. I’d always said she won’t see the age of sixteen unless she has wings to fly and be her own person. The high school she was slated to join had lost several kids to suicide. It took the entire school year and into the summer to make the move, but in mid-2016, my family and I moved to Arizona. I could get into how much happier I am, but that doesn’t matter. I could even get into how well my daughter is doing though I am convinced she has pain I may never understand, but that, too, doesn’t matter to the story of 34 Seconds.

Before the school year was too far underway, I discovered something about myself and about what I needed in my world. For the first time in years, I had a support team. Not just a friend or two who listened and advised or nodded heads in an understanding of parental difficulties, but a real team. People who surrounded me, lifted me up, loved me, told me day in and day out that I am worthy. I had been bullied almost as much as my daughter had been. By teachers, by schools, by the people I thought loved me most. I had been told over and over I am wrong, not worthy, and useless. It didn’t take long for me to grasp the good in my world, hold my breath and fall off a cliff into a realm I knew little about.

My family fell apart.

My world spun out of control.

I stared at divorce papers through tears wondering if I’d ever believe the things I’d heard in my new world.

In the two years since the move the Arizona and the six months before, my debut novel didn’t get any love. I couldn’t publish my other work. I couldn’t promote my one novel. So, it sat. Unloved. Unattended.  Unwanted.

A burden.

Like me.

There’s a funny thing about life’s challenges. If we push ourselves, if we build a team around us to hold us up when we are weak, if we allow ourselves to feel every horrible emotion settled into our stomachs, we can come out not just alive and surviving, but better than before.

I can’t say I’m there yet.

But I believe Stella is worth it. I believe my work is worth it. And I believe I am worthy.

And those things are a big change from where I was two years ago.

So, when the time came to allow myself to publish again, I ran 34 Seconds through more edits, more Beta readers, and found a fabulous designer to make a new cover.

And it’s here. Like me. Much the same, but new again. Renewed. Worthy of being out in the world. It’s not the writing I do today. If I were to rewrite this whole book today, I’d probably change quite a bit. Nikki would be stronger. Maybe Will would respect her and not just think he did. Maybe Chris would be the partner a strong Nikki deserves.

But I didn’t change much. This book is already a few years old now. But it’s a story that is so close to my heart, I had to make it worth getting back out into the world.

I will be publishing more again. Just Jules should be ready for beta readers soon. My artist is waiting on cover ideas, so he can get to work. And if you’ve followed me for the past few years, you may know Finding Her and What May Come will follow in the next year to two. I’m also working on a middle school adventure, and I’m excited to bring Zane into my writing world. I haven’t decided what I will do with the LGBT stories I have, but I will share when they are ready.

If you take anything from this, know you are worthy. And stop letting people tell you otherwise.

You know, I’d truly appreciate sharing with your friends and grabbing your copy, so I’m tossing some links in below so you can easily find 34 Seconds. Grab a bottle of wine and some tissues while you’re shopping.

Amazon Print and Kindle

 

Also here if you are a B&N shopper

Barnes and Noble 34 Seconds

 

Stay real and spread love like glitter,

~ Stella

Posted in Life stuff

Another Year

With the titles of all the books I’ve written…

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This cake!

Another year…

This was a big birthday for me, but I’ve learned every birthday is big as long as we are still here to celebrate it.

I wrote a blog that was almost depressing as I pondered my own death and whether or not some would notice my absence at this point in my life. It was sad. It was cathartic. It was a culmination of each big moment I live without those from my life – those I miss. And the end result was to keep living. Upon my demise, I would no longer know if tears were shed, if regrets were discussed, or if I’d been long forgotten before a second thought would be given — or not given.

So, instead of focusing in the negative, I decided to focus this blog on celebration. It was a big birthday. And those I missed were noted in my personal world.

But I was celebrated.

I’ve spent years with my birthday passing without pomp and circumstance. I have a daughter whose birthday quickly follows mine and am used to focusing on her and frankly, being forgotten in the mix. It’s the life of motherhood. I’ve had few complaints, but I have been hurt as July 6th passes with a cup of coffee from Starbucks and not much else in acknowledgement of the day. For years.

Lack of celebration has not been a large deal to me until celebration became the norm in my new life. I told someone yesterday I feel as if I have been celebrating for two years now. I am often floored by the love and support surrounding me each day.

Backtracking a bit, I had a good life. A great home. A family. Fabulous though sometimes challenging children. But I lacked in my world, and I accepted everything I had as somewhat of a compromise. Two years ago, I made a huge change with a move from the snow to the desert. It didn’t take long to realize the core troubles in my world wouldn’t change as a result of a dry heat or an impressive monsoon season. As a result, I made another huge change in my world. It’s been a scariest two years of my life. But also the most enjoyable and eye opening years thus far.

As this year’s birthday came around again, I was reminded of just how much has changed in my world during these past two years. While I was living in memories passed wondering if another year would go unnoticed, the people who love me most today – the people who have filled my world for the past two years – were busy planning another surprise party for me. They did this last year, so this year I didn’t think it was remotely possible they could pull it off again. But they did. I didn’t scream and run away this year as I did last year, but they got me. Not only did I walk into my home filled with people, but I cried.

Cried.

People.

Friends.

Love.

Acceptance.

Balloons.

Celebration.

But what got me was this cake.

This gorgeous amazing cake.

First, I have to give a shout out to Brittany who made this amazing cake. She can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/sweetbbs/

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Did I say amazing?

Second, these people…these sweet, kind, wonderful people who set up, shopped, gifted, decorated, cooked, and showed up to celebrate me…well, let’s just say I’ll never get used to this is my life. And I appreciate it more and more each time I am gifted with anything from you all.

Third, and this is not lost on me. I am an author. I’ve known many of these folks for two years. When they met me, I was an author. I had one book out which was a year old. I had a plan to get these other titles out, but as my life has taken these twists and turns, I couldn’t publish. I’m just now getting back to working on rebuilding – by relaunching my first novel which is almost three years old now. These other titles will be released in the next two years to follow, one by one. But these amazing people in my world who don’t hesitate to celebrate me, celebrate a cup of coffee, the chance at a glass of wine, or just the sun rising haven’t ever hesitated to support my journey as an author despite the fact that many of these books I talk about have yet to be published.

So, cheers to another year. One of moving forward instead of looking behind. One of love and support filled with positive energy and kindness.

And cake!

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