Autumn Doughton's Blog
December 10, 2015
As we were buying the candles, my favorite checkout lady said, "I didn't know you were Jewish."
"We're not," I answered. "But Lucy's stuffed tiger, Peanut, celebrates Hanukkah."
If you don't think that ideologies and religions can coexist, come to my house and let my girls teach you something about tolerance and understanding.
And Happy Hanukkah from Peanut and the whole crew XOXO
May 12, 2015
From October 2012 to August 2013 I released three books. You may have noticed that since then I've only released two books in almost two years. It's not that I stopped writing or working. It's so much more complicated and also simpler than all that.
When In This Moment came out in August 2013, it was a huge success for me. The story's reach exceeded my wildest expectations and it continues to do that to this day. So many of you connected and so many of you shared and I can't even begin to tell you what that has meant for my life and how much I appreciate that.
I've always wanted to be a writer and before ITM, I thought that having a book "succeed" would change things, maybe even somehow validate me. ITM did change things, but not in the ways that I anticipated.
As I watched the book climb through the sales rankings and crack the top 100, I felt thrilled and also a little... I don't know exactly how to describe it... bereft. It was weird. There was this sense of, "Okay, this is so amazing, but now what?" Look, I'm not belittling it or saying that it wasn't great to pay off some of my husband's student loans or fix the foundation of my house. I'm saying that it didn't feel how I thought it would feel.
I cried. A lot.
I know that sounds crazy. I wasn't sad. I was confused. Why? Because I was so excited, but at the same time, my whole world was shifting and my perspective on life was being turned inside out. I'd been working toward this huge, epic moment and when it arrived, as always, I was just... me. The same me that was there the day before. I was avocado-eating, dog-loving, movie-watching Autumn. I wasn't different. I was just myself.
In a way when I look back it seems a little silly. I mean, of course I was the same. It's so obvious. But how many of us do this? How many of us put today on hold for the idea of tomorrow? How many of us get our hearts set on something and expect that thing... that event... that person... to somehow change us or make us better or make us feel entirely different?
For me, it took wishing and getting to collide in a big way to realize something huge. Because what I learned after ITM came out, was that no event, no person, or thing could ever validate or define me. Just like failure could never define me. My life is not happening tomorrow or the next day or when I publish my next book or when it hits a certain number on Amazon. My life is happening as I sit at my desk typing this post. And my happiness and my me-ness don't hinge on big moments or external successes or other people. Who I am is not the same as the titles writer, mother, friend. My wholeness is reflected in the way I feel about myself when not one single person is looking at me.
What a freaking revelation. And I have all of you to thank for that.
So, for those of you that wonder what's taking so long, I promise I still write. I write constantly (actually, I'm writing an amazeballs story Erica Cope right now). I write to tell a story and to connect and, sure, to pay the bills. I love to write, but I no longer write as a means to some kind of mythical version of success. I am slower because the successes I now strive for are different than they once were. I no longer focus on book sales or how many novels I can push out in a year. I focus on getting to all my daughters' school events, making my best friend laugh, meeting my husband for lunch, spending the morning with my pups, and writing the stories that I really want to tell.
Every day I wake up in this body and in this life and I've made the startling discovery that THAT is enough.
April 2, 2015
We have an awesome GIVEAWAY for you guys!!
A Storiarts Pride and Prejudice scarf and a paperback of Steering the Stars signed by both Erica and myself. Here is how we came up with the idea...
Erica: I have been coveting these Storiarts scarfs for AGES! Then after Autumn wore hers to NOLA in January I decided I MUST have one. I told my husband it was what I wanted for my birthday this year and it would be perfectly fine with me if he got it a little early (*cough*now*cough*).
Autumn: If it wasn’t obvious from my posts, I LOVED working with Erica on StS. Writing with her was like being at an extended slumber party. For months and months we chatted all day while we exchanged ideas and worked—her from Missouri and me from Florida. We were already good friends but co-writing the book solidified what I already suspected… Erica and I are destined to be lifelong friends and we make each other better. As we got closer to release date, I wanted to give her something symbolic to express this feeling and I remembered that she loved my Pride and Prejudice scarf. So I ordered one for her and got an adorable card and planned to send it to her house so it would arrive before the StS release. No joke, right after I ordered the scarf, she posted a photo of the exact same scarf on Facebook encouraging her husband to get her one for her birthday. My eyes went wide and I immediately messaged her hubby and said, “DON’T GET THE SCARF!”
Erica: So I had no idea that Autumn was so sneaky and wonderful and this beautiful scarf was on its way to me. If I did I probably would've sent her something WAY cooler than the outer space socks I found at a museum in KC that reminded me of her. Right after the release of the book, Autumn got the socks in the mail and asked if I had received a package from her yet. I hadn't. A few days later and still no package...
Autumn: I was getting so frustrated! Erica and I had both had the idea to get each other surprise gifts and hers had arrived (and btw, I luuuurved the socks because I am a space/NASA nut so they were perfect), but mine had not reached her and it had been well over a week since I’d mailed it. And, of course, I had sent it regular mail so there was no tracking for me to follow up with.
Erica: Finally, Autumn broke down and told me what I was supposed to be waiting on. I was even more excited and I checked the mail eagerly every day but the days came and went and NO SCARF!
Autumn: Weeks passed and meanwhile I heard from several people that I had mailed things to at the same time I mailed the scarf that either, 1) their package never arrived, or 2) their package arrived but it was damaged and parts were missing. Now, I’m not one to claim that I love the post office but I’ve never had a problem with it. In fact, say what you will about the cost of stamps but I still can’t believe that for less than fifty cents I can send a piece of paper to Montana. But having four packages go missing or get damaged in less than a week was bizarre and driving me crazy. I’ll admit that Erica and I may have gotten a little obsessed during this time.
Erica: Every day, Autumn and I checked in online about the case of the missing scarf. At first we assumed it had just gotten lost in the mail. Then more of her mail went missing and pretty soon our imaginations ran wild. She became convinced that the people that work at her post office extension (which she claims is really just a counter in a QuickMart??! WEIRD.) must be taking her mail and may have decided they wanted the scarf. We started planning how we could catch them.
Autumn: My husband works with computers so I seriously started hounding him to help me install a camera in the bottom of a box so that I could mail it to myself. He thought I was completely crazy but he’s used to my crazy so he went along with it. It’s not that I even wanted to get anyone in trouble; I just NEEDED to know what happened to the scarf! Also, by this time, more than a month had passed so I caved and just bought another Storiarts scarf for Erica and this time had it sent directly to her.
Erica: One weird thing is that Autumn and I talk every single day but we never talk on the phone. We message each other constantly. We text. We might even Skype, but I think in the years that we’ve known each other, we’ve talked on the phone maybe once. But one morning my phone rings and I look down and I see her name.
Autumn: Erica’s right. We never talk on the phone. But on this morning I had this weird compulsion to call her. I even questioned it and wondered if she would think me calling was strange, but I called anyway. Mostly, I wanted to tell her that I had just bought another scarf and it was on its way. So there I was standing on my front porch and telling her that a new scarf had just been purchased and was on the way after a month of waiting. As we were laughing about this, I see a mail truck turn the corner. This was odd in itself because my mailman always comes in the afternoon. He parks in front of the house and I see that it’s not my normal mailman and I just knew. I KNEW that he had the scarf. So here he comes, up the walk, looking ashamed with this completely destroyed package—seriously, the envelope had been taped up so many times that it looked like it had been through the apocalypse and both the addresses were illegible (I still have no idea how they found me), AND there were international stamps on it so I knew the scarf had been places. But the point is that it arrived.
Erica: We both laughed hysterically. And we knew right away that the scarf was special and it was meant for one of our readers. Autumn and I both have one and now one of you can have a Pride and Prejudice scarf and a paperback of Steering the Stars signed by both of us.
Autumn: Seriously, now the three of us can plan matchy-matchy outfits.
Erica: Click here for a Rafflecopter giveaway
to win the missing scarf and the paperbackand... GOOD LUCK!
Autumn and Erica
December 16, 2014
Here is the beautiful cover for my upcoming young adult book co-written with Erica Cope. I have such mad love for it that I have been trying to talk Erica into matching tattoos on our foreheads.
The story behind the story goes like this:
Almost two years ago, Erica and I were chatting about our favorite old movies and something sparked us to have the same plot idea for a novella at the exact same time.
"You should write it," I told her.
"No, you should write it," she told me.
"Noooo... I think you should do it. It seems like you."
"See," she said, "I think it seems like you."
The conversation went back and forth like this for a while until we agreed to shelve the idea and talk about it later. At the time, we were both working on other things so, really, there was no rush.
Then, this past summer, our schedules cleared up and we fell back into the old refrain of, "You should... No, I think you should." Finally, one of us (I'm not sure who) had the genius idea of doing the novella together. A few weeks into writing, we realized a couple very important things:
1) We loved writing together.
2) We weren't working on a novella, we were working on a novel.
The precise release date is not set, but you should look for Steering the Stars in early 2015!
And you can add it to your TBR shelf HERE.
Two girls. Two stories. One journey.
Be careful what you wish for…
Aspiring writer Hannah Vaughn worries that she is doomed to live out the rest of her existence in a sleepy Oklahoma town. For as long as she can remember, she’s dreamed of something more – adventure, excitement, intrigue. When her sister invites her to London and she’s accepted to a prestigious writing program at The Warriner Academy, she jumps at the chance. But will it be epic or an epic fail?
You’ll never know if you don’t try…
Nothing ever happens to straight-A student Caroline McKain and that’s exactly the way she likes it. With her best friend in London and junior year looming on the horizon, all she wants is to remain invisible. So when she is suddenly thrust into the spotlight, she must ask herself: Can an invisible girl really take center stage?
Follow Hannah and Caroline as they navigate the complexities of first love, family and growing up. As their bond is tested, the girls will learn that being apart can ultimately bring you together. Steering the Stars is a fresh, heartfelt story about fate, discovery, and the magic of friendship.
**COVER MADE BY OKAY CREATIONS**
November 24, 2014
A week and a half ago, I was sure the book I was writing was the greatest thing ever.
I couldn't stop telling people about it.
I LU-HUUUVED it.
I felt like some sort of late-blooming genius.
Then, I woke up on a Tuesday and I read through what I'd written and it was like, I don't even know you! This is terrible.
I felt sure that I was some sort of late-blooming idiot and spent the rest of the week watching 90s TV shows and "all of the" musicals, making different kinds of brownies (for research purposes--HA), and lamenting my waste of a life.
Then I woke up today and I looked through the exact same manuscript and I thought, "Hmmm, this is pretty good. Maybe I should write more."
This is the process.
3. Self hate
You get through it one word at a time. I repeat, one word at a time.
ps: Did I mention I'm working on something new?
July 22, 2014
This book has been a long time coming. It's been through about a thousand and two versions of itself. I've changed locations, characters, plots. Basically, I wrote ten different books this year. But in the end, none was right until this one.
Here is a sneak peek at the very first chapter.
We said it from the beginning.
No strings. No regrets.
We lay, tangled in a web of sheets,
Limbs and anemic light,
And we passed promises back and forth like slippery stars.
You told me you were recovering from
A broken heart.
I told you I was recovering from
A broken life.
Fair enough, we agreed and laughed.
We wrote stories on our bodies.
Middles and endings
Etched onto our feet and the palms of our hands.
Our hopes were lettered in black and silver
On a background of stark white flesh.
We traded words on our tongues like tiny drops of melted sugar.
In the beginning, you said, there was only water.
This is how you unraveled me.
Thread by thread.
Until I was bare,
Wearing nothing but
Surf Life Magazine
Where is Landon Young?
Surfing fans have been asking themselves this question since Young was disqualified from the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour nearly two years ago and lost his five-year endorsement deal with surf wear giant, Hurley.
Young had long been considered a front-runner for the title position after being voted Rookie of the Year, taking home the third and second spots in consecutive years, and consistently wowing crowds and judges with his innovative aerial maneuvers and his reputation as a guy who would do anything to win.
But, during his final season on the ASP Tour, the surfing phenom’s behavior became increasingly erratic. He missed several scheduled events and was said to be losing his edge. Then, in a move that sent the surf world reeling, Young initiated a fight with a fan during the Hurley Pro at Trestles. A week later he was arrested on an unrelated charge and was subsequently disqualified from surfing on the tour for a period of one year.
So, where is Landon Young today? Insiders are reporting that after a trip to rehab and a twenty-month sabbatical, the superstar has been spotted on the beaches near his hometown of San Diego, California. Does this mean that Young is making an attempt to return to the competition life? The ASP is staying mum on whether or not they are in discussions with Young. One thing for certain is that supporters around the world are keeping their fingers crossed.
Early morning. Wednesday. The fiery tips of the sun are just starting to crest the horizon. With every passing second, new shots of light rocket upward, weaving thick flares of fumy gold and pink across the smoky landscape.
I’m driving toward the beach with my board strapped to the top of the car. The music is cranked up to full-blast and the windows are down letting in a kick of salty air. It snaps the ends of my hair into my face and stings my lips and eyes. Fucking perfect.
By the time I pull into an empty street spot and kill the ignition, the whole world is a blushing pink sky. I look out over the dark gravel and the rise of the pasty sand dunes to where the open water is glowing metallic like a bucket of copper coins.
I start to reach into the backseat for my wetsuit but change my mind. It’s early November but the mild offshore winds are telling me that it’s still warm enough to go without it. Decided, I strip down to a tight-fitting rash vest, remove my shoes and tuck my car key into the small zippered pouch I keep tethered to my waist. Then I’m crossing to the beach and crunching my way through the hard sand until I’m ankle-deep in the frothy swash of the Pacific where the tide kisses the shore.
I drop my squash tail and stroke out belly-down past the rolling whitewater and the shallow sandbar to where everyone is waiting. There are only six of us on the break this morning—a light crew for the dawn patrol, especially considering these conditions. The water is up and waves are pushing into the beach in the tight, glassy sets I like to see this time of year.
I settle in and check out the lineup. Beneath me, the water lifts and falls until it becomes a familiar rhythm. Above me, the new sun is still pulling itself up, working through a screen of early morning clouds.
The guys are going through the unspoken rotation—Brett, Quinn, Nico, Parsons, Toby, then me. But this isn’t a heat and I’m not out here to slit throats. I’m taking my sweet time, hanging back on the shoulder, waving them on one by one.
“You up?” Brett slings the question at me.
“Not yet,” I shoot back. I’m waiting for that wave—the one with the perfect shape that’s going to suck me right into the slot and charge me toward shore.
“You’ve got that one, Young!”
I’ve got it.
Anticipating how the wave will move, I squint, my eyelids splitting the light, and I give myself a straight count.
Each number hits with a heavy thump behind my ribs.
Wait for it, Landon. Wait for it.
My arms start working fast, propelling my board forward through the churning water into the takeoff. The wave rises, the momentum almost dragging me back into the trough and under the opening face. But I tighten my abdomen and flatten my palms on the deck. Every muscle in my legs is clenched in anticipation.
That’s when it happens.
All at once, I snap up. My feet are anchored. My body is centered. Beneath the board, the lip of the wave caves, forcing me to dig in with my toes, whip my head around and pull my weight tight and fast to one side. My pulse quakes fiercely. My right hand grips the rail of my board for control. I lower my body to the left, my fingers tickling the silky green surface, kicking up a spray of salt.
I am the air
I am the wave.
I am the ocean.
Everything is blurry with sunlight and briny foam, but I can still make out the edge of the beach. The top of the wave curls under and the world around me goes liquid and blue. For a quick second I am free. This, I think. This is it. The moment I crave. It’s a kind of magic—the only kind I know of that exists anymore. This is my body coming apart, coming alive—breaking into thousands of droplets of glistening water.
On the Down Low
We have just learned that Ren Parkhurst, your favorite Howl werewolf, and his longtime girlfriend, Gemma Sayers, are calling it quits. A source close to the couple is spilling the beans and saying that the pair has been on shaky ground since this summer. The source claims twenty-one-year-old Sayers has moved all of her things out of the Los Angeles home she shared with Parkhurst and is staying at an undisclosed location.
This should come as no surprise to those of you who have seen the NSFW(not safe for work) video of Parkhurst and a still unnamed woman that was leaked last week.
We have contacted reps for both Parkhurst and Sayers, but were told that no statements are being made at this time.
The first thing I’m going to make clear is that this isn’t a story about my past.
You won’t need to memorize the list of my childhood fears or hear the specifics of the time I spewed chunks in a movie theater when I was six. It was humiliating and smelly. I’m over it. The end.
I’m not going to waste your time articulating all the reasons I moved to L.A. in the first place. Was it the siren’s call of fame? Stupidity? Residual grief? Some strange form of rebellion against my hippie, earth-spirit parents?
Does it matter, really?
And considering the circumstances, I’m not going to chronicle the last two and a half years of my life. You don’t need to know about the rejections, the failed auditions or the crappy apartment on Lorena Street where the water ran dirty brown and I was lulled to sleep every night by the angry music of souped-up cars and the arguments of my on-again, off-again roommates.
I’m not going to relive my first encounter with Ren or tell you how things were in the beginning. I’m not going to explain why I thought our relationship was something golden and tangible I could tuck inside my pocket and guard forever because, frankly, I don’t want you to laugh at my naivety.
Most importantly, this isn’t an exclusive tell-all or a three-hundred-dollar-an-hour therapy session so the particulars of the incident, our fight and subsequent breakup are off-limits.
What you do need to know is this: Time moves differently when you’re getting over something big. For me, it slows—limping along on creaky wheels until the rusty engine blows and I’m here, stranded with nothing but a masking tape colored sky to look at.
It feels like a century has passed when, in reality, it’s been five days.
Five messy, awful days.
I’m on my back lying on a scratchy polyester blend bedspread with a flat pillow under my head and another propped under my feet. My earbuds are in and a song, melancholy as a waning moon, swells in my head. My eyes are wide and I’m staring up at the water-stained ceiling in an attempt to hypnotize myself with the dusty blades of the fan.
When the track fades out and a new one starts, I yank the earbuds from my ears and roll to my side. My arm shoots out to the bedside table, knocking over an empty water bottle in the process. With my fingers curled up like crab legs, I feel around for the black remote I know is buried somewhere beneath a disgusting mound of candy wrappers and balled-up tissue paper.
It takes a second for the TV to come alive, and when it does, I see that a new segment on the Home Shopping Network has just started. Perfecto. In this installment they’re selling an at-home massage chair with a built-in sound system, eight pressure settings, a seat heater and two drink holders.
A seat heater?
Well, color me intrigued.
Ignoring the nausea swimming in my gut and the unpleasant taste of soggy cardboard burning up the back of my throat, I sit up and press myself into the cool wood of the headboard. My eyes focus on the small screen where the host is sinking slowly into a black leather chair. With a loud sigh, he raises his feet and closes his eyes in satisfaction.
I might need that chair.
The camera pans over the set and zooms in on the face of an audience member. Predictably, he’s invited to the stage to test the chair and everyone starts to clap. As he trots up the steps, I start to wonder if he’s a plant. Perfectly parted hair, close-shaven goatee and suburban-dad clothes. Most likely a faker. I mean, who in their right mind irons jeans to go sit in a studio audience?
“I think he’s a plant,” I murmur, glancing in Weebit’s direction. “What do you think? Real or fake?”
He doesn’t respond because… well, chinchillas are known to be phlegmatic and slightly aloof like that.
Onscreen, the host is asking the chosen audience member questions. There’s a lot of head nodding and polite laughing going on. Then a girl in a slinky white dress and too much stage makeup shows up to turn on the massage chair.
Now, the camera artfully zooms in on the audience member’s face. Jesus. I don’t care if he is a plant because there’s no way he’s faking that expression. His eyes are rolling toward the back of his head and he’s grinning like someone is giving him the best handjob of his miserable, buttoned-up life.
I really need that chair.
Five minutes later and eight hundred ninety-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents plus tax poorer, I hang up the hotel phone, arch my back and check the time on the digital clock next to the bed. Though you wouldn’t know it by the malignant veil of darkness and the sickly scent of liquor cloaking this hotel room, it’s ten o’clock in the morning.
Folks, welcome to Heartbreak City. Last week, I was elected Mayor.
With a slushy exhalation, I scoop my laptop from the floor to look through my email account. It’s jammed with blah, blah, blah bullshit and a few panicked messages from Julie. You haven’t been answering your texts… Where are you? Are you alive? Gemma, I’m stroking out here!
She’s worried about me and I get that. Except for an embarrassing visit to my doctor’s office to get checked out for a bevy of deceptively melodic sounding diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea and syphilis, and a few trips to the hotel vending machine, I haven’t left this room since Friday night and Julie knows it.
According to her latest email, if I don’t let her know within the next hour that I’m still breathing, she’s sending out a search party. With my recent luck, the search party will turn into an FBI raid and I’ll wind up on one of those badly-produced crime-stopper shows that air on cable in the middle of the night.
I pull in a breath and tap out a quick response, hoping my best friend will appreciate the sickness of my humor.
I spent the morning wandering the streets of L.A. in my bathrobe, shuffling my feet and asking strangers if they know how to get out of the matrix. The good news is that I’ve only thought about drowning myself in the toilet bowl three times today. I’m calling it progress.
Next up, I sort through a bunch of spam and at least a dozen inquiries from reporters.
Not surprisingly, there’s nothing new from my parents. On Monday they sent me an email encouraging me to use this time as an opportunity to explore the “essence of my individuality” and work on my heart chakra.
Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather scribble bad breakup lyrics on every single bathroom stall in Los Angeles.
I figure that’s the last I’ll hear from Mom and Dad for a while. They’ll be in Africa until mid-February and as far as I know, they have no running water or electricity in the village where they’re living. I’ll just assume that keeping up-to-date on the Hollywood gossip sites for news of their daughter tends to fall low on the list of things to do when they do manage to get online.
My eyes move over the next subject line and my stomach twists. Termination documents attached. It’s a message from my boss at Ever After, the fairytale-themed amusement park just northeast of the city where I have worked for the past year.
As per yesterday’s phone conversation, your final paycheck will be direct deposited on November 7th. If you have any further questions, please direct them to Sarah Ridley in Human Resources.
My days as Princess Penelope—the most popular royal at Ever After—are officially over. Yesterday, the higher ups decided “thoroughly devastated” was not a sufficient excuse for missing four consecutive days of work.
“I can’t say that I blame them,” I mutter to Weebit.
Just as I’m about to close out the account, my laptop pings to notify me that I have an incoming email. I cringe when I see that it’s from a reporter.
It starts: It’s been five days…
Five days since my world imploded.
Five days since I stumbled upon my boyfriend screwing our waitress in the bathroom of the restaurant where we were having dinner.
And, still, every time I picture the sight of their heaving bodies smashed up against the marble wall as they panted greedily and moaned into each other’s mouths, my stomach lurches like I’ve just downed liverwurst dipped in bile and seasoned with batshit.
Did it help that one of Ren’s fangirls was in the next stall filming the whole thing on her camera phone?
Does it bring me solace to know that our breakup is now a YouTube sensation?
Not a bit.
I give a low groan and hurl one of the bed pillows across the room. It collides with a floor lamp and falls to the ground with a soft thump. This makes Weebit startle in his cage. He hops toward the metal bars to stare at me with wide eyes.
Five days of being marooned in a hotel room with all of my belongings stuffed into garbage bags and a few suitcases.
Five days of ugly crying.
Five days of lousy television.
Five days of skipping work and sleeping too much.
Five days and my guts are shredded. I’m full of yuck and artificial coloring and way too many preservatives.
Sighing heavily, I jam the earbuds back into my ears and scroll through my favorite playlists until I find another thoroughly depressing collection of woe-is-me songs. I hit shuffle then fall back to the bed and close my eyes.
Dear World, You suck. Love, Gemma
May 30, 2014
I don’t normally write blog posts about my kids but I just had a moment. A very ah-ha moment a la Breckin Meyer in Clueless when he abruptly realizes, “Okay, like, the way I feel about The Rolling Stones is the way my kids are going to feel about Nine Inch Nails so I shouldn’t torment my mom, huh?” And, for the first time in months, I felt like blogging and I figured it was a feeling that should not be ignored.
It all started earlier today. Someone posted a link about Stargate the movie being remade even though it’s only twenty years old and how sad it is that Hollywood is recycling these stories instead of taking leaps of faith on wholly new concepts. Obviously, in theory, I agree with this. But as I was reading it, I couldn’t help but comment (in my head) that most kids don’t ever see anything older than they are so it’s not really recycling to this generation of new moviegoers.
Fast forward an hour or so. My daughters and I were in the car on a mission to find Furblings, which are the offspring of Furbies. For those of you who have never encountered a Furby… count your blessings. Discovering a Furby is like coming across the love child of Elmo and Jar Jar Binks. Sure, the thing is cute as a button, but after five minutes you’re looking around the house for a fork to stab in your ear to end your hearing. Think high-pitched. Think nails on the chalkboard. Think annoying.
So there we were, on a mission, but we needed food too. We stopped to eat and were discussing the value of friendship using Willow and Zander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as our reference point because the girls and I are slowly working our way through all of the seasons. After about ten minutes, our waitress asked us if Willow and Zander were Twilight characters that were in the book but got cut from the movie. Okay, there are many things wrong with this. Obviously one being that she saw a movie without reading the book first (inappropriate!!), but the second is that she didn’t know about Buffy and she was at least twelve years older than my daughters.
I didn’t scream or anything like that and I left her a great tip, but inside I was a tangle of what-in-the-hell. Intellectually, I know (as stated earlier in the post) that most people don’t watch stuff older than they are and that the waitress was too young when Buffy was actually on air to appreciate or be familiar. I get it. I do. I didn’t have a eureka moment about teens and their lack of interest in “vintage” things or about Hollywood or the entertainment industry. I had a eureka moment about parenting in general.
Now let’s go back a little (or a lot) further.
I was a typical kid of the 90s I guess. I went to see MC Hammer and Janet Jackson in concert. I watched 90210. I had slap bracelets and remember that mixing Pop Rocks and coke was a thing. I had a freaking perm.
I also am familiar with almost every episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I’ve seen The Moody Blues perform live three times and I was in the audience in 1995 when The Who went on tour. And if you have an interest, I can quote Pillow Talk and Roman Holiday and most of the Alfred Hitchcock movies for you.
I’m not bragging. These are not things that have given me an up in life. They haven’t made me money or won me any contests. I don’t have more friends or sway over the masses because I know the full catalog of I Dream of Jeannie. What I do have is something better. I have my mom and my dad and my aunts and uncles and my grandmothers. I have these little pieces of them inside of me. And I have those pieces because they put them there.
Growing up, it was standard practice for my uncle to give me the movies of his childhood as gifts (VHS of course). It started when I was young, before I'd developed a pre-teen disdain for any and all things adult-related and then it became a habit. Something I did because I'd always done it. I’d watch them and we’d talk about them and what we liked/didn’t like. Note the important part of that sentence: we’d talk.
I can think of dozens of nights when Mom and I were sprawled across the couch, the TV washing us in hues of blue and silver while Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore got up to shenanigans on the screen. At first I watched because I was too young to demand control of the TV. Eventually I watched because I got it.
Similarly, I can picture myself in the car with my dad, his music coming through the speakers, the windows open and the sun streaming in. I learned the words. I learned the sound of his taste and even now, I'll hear something and I'll absently say to my husband: "My dad would love this." I know it because he made sure I knew it.
And I remember the first time I saw The Moody Blues play live. I was with my uncle. I was probably eight or nine. He sang along with the music. His fingers moved through the air as if he were playing the guitar.
These memories aren’t about the shows or the movies or the music. They are about the people who shared these things with me. The people who are rooted in my childhood. The people who stood there and said, “Autumn, this is who I am. These are things I know about. And maybe they are old and uncool, but they matter to me and I hope one day they’ll matter to you.”
Why is this the exception rather than the norm? Why aren't adolescents in 2014 familiar with The Matrix or Total Recall (the Arnie version) or The Smiths or Inspector Gadget? Why haven't they seen Bewitched or listened to DooWop or read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret? Why don't they understand life before cell phones and computers and Amazon deliveries? Why are old things forgotten?
This isn't the younger generation's fault. What eight or twelve year old actively seeks out old stuff? This is about parents creating connections with their kids. This is about starting young (before they can bitch and moan too much) and letting your kids know what you're like--not as a mom or a dad or an aunt or uncle--but what you're like as a person. This is about shouting, "I don't get Justin Bieber and pleather parachute pants but we still have stuff to talk about, okay?"
My husband and I keep a running list of things we know are important to share with our girls. Back to the Future, The Golden Girls (because I watched this with my grandmother when I was a kid and then again with my college roommate),I Love Lucy, Nirvana, Humphrey Bogart, Tupac, Hunter S. Thompson, Frankie Valli, John Hughs, 90s Johnny Depp, Led Zeppelin. Our list is so long that we will never get through it. We know this but, still, we add to it. And we tell our daughters things like: This is what we listened to when we were in elementary school and This is the first movie I remember seeing in a theater and When I was fourteen Papaw took me to New York and I discovered this band. We tell them about us. We tell them about what our lives were like before them. We tell them about their grandparents through stories and movies. We make sure they understand how deep and far into the earth these roots of pop culture go. How deep their roots go.
So I sit here and I watch Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies with my girls not because I want them to understand the intricacies of the Angel-Buffy-Spike triangle. In the grand scheme of things I know that it doesn’t make difference whether or not they agree that Cordelia's character was really annoying in seasons one and two but got better in season three. We don’t watch because I want them to know Buffy. We watch because I want them to know me.
November 14, 2013
Now, away we go to the BLOG...
I was going to start this post off by writing something like, I feel like I haven't done a very good job keeping you all updated on what's going on with me. But that's all wrong. The truth is, I know I haven't done a very good job keeping you all updated on what's going on with me.
There's a reason for this actually. When I started the blog, I decided that it didn't matter what I wrote about--it could be funny, sad, embarrassing... whatever... The only requirement was that it had to be HONEST. And to be completely HONEST, I didn't really feel much like talking about my life.
The past few months have been strange. Not bad. Just strange. After I released In This Moment, I decided I had to start another project ASAP. Because, that's what we do, right? We find small successes and then we start tacking on the pressure to be better, be more, go further. I had two ideas and I would sit down every morning pumped. About noon, I would inevitably start in on the self-hate and the doubt. I suck. I shouldn't be doing this. This isn't as good as last time. Maybe I should look into beekeeping. (This was an actual thought because I was reading a book with a character that is, in fact, a beekeeper.)
I didn't write. And whenever I did write, I deleted.
I researched beekeeping.
This went on for more than a month... Me, waking up, stressing, throwing shade at myself, not get anything accomplished, plotting out where in the backyard I should station the beehives. Gah! I had the stories but no WORDS! For a writer, this is the ultimate frustration... The ultimate failure.
Then I received a message from a reader. She read my book, but more importantly she read the THIRTEEN THINGS blog post. She wrote: Autumn, thank you for this list. I've had a rough year but reading your blog reminded me that I don't have to be perfect, I just have to be me.
I don't have to be perfect, I just have to be me...
I thought, That is some damn good advice Sabrina from Montana. I really think you might be on to something.
I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to release a book every five months because Jennifer Armentrout and Abbi Glines are able to do it. I don't have to have my Christmas shopping done by December 1st or get the laundry put away this week or get 10,000 steps on my FitBit. I don't have to prove shit to anyone. All I have to be is me.
I decided that the best way to be "me" was to date myself. So that's what I did.
And what I found over the last month is that I'm not cut out for beekeeping (I actually have a slight allergy to the venom, so that was always going to end as an epic FAIL). But I'm also not just a writer. I'm a mom. A music junkie and a dog lover. A reader. A daughter. A foodie. A lover of fantasy and romance and zombies and bad 80s movies. A person who collects old-timey photos of animals doing silly things. Example:
This is me with my favorite people:
And this is me last weekend:
This is me at an October book signing with the lovely Komal Kant, Erica Cope, Anna Walker and Heather Diemer:
This is me with my dogs:
And the thing I discovered while getting reacquainted with ME?
I discovered the WORDS again.
I'm happy to report that I found my groove and am writing now. I'm not as fast as I was last year, but that's okay.
I've got a story to tell and that's what counts.
On that note, I think you guys are going to fall in love with these characters. The plot is one of my original ideas with some major modifications. I can't say much except that it's New Adult-ish romance. No blurb yet, but I do have a playlist started. And I hope (crosses fingers) I found my cover photographer last week. Woohoo!
The bottom line is that I won't be releasing a new book this winter, but I will be releasing one and when that day comes, you all will be the first to know.
Books read: Night Owl, M. Pierce; I Will Save You, De La Pena; Letters to a Young Poet Rilke; Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank.
Shows watched: I wasted a whole week watching all of Homeland (go Claire Danes) and all of Too Cute, that Animal Planet show that follows the lives of kittens and puppies. It's completely addictive.
Movies: Saw Thor and Gravity and finally watched This is the End.
September 11, 2013
As I'm sure you've already guessed, September 13th is always a festive day at our house.This year it happens to be especially fun because of the fact that it falls on a Friday. There's something exciting and a little unnerving (in a good, stomach-burbling way) about your birthday falling on Friday the 13th. I'm sure that Leap Year babies feel the same. It's something different. A change from the mundane. It's an event.
We've talked about it and Lucy and I have decided that our idea of perfection is ordering pizza, stuffing our faces with sweets and staying up late to watch scary movies until we either puke from sugar overload or fear, so that's what we're going to do. The whole family will probably spend the weekend in pajamas, which sounds like a decadent birthday treat, but the truth is that I'm a writer and my husband is a computer programmer so we pretty much live in our pajamas every day.
If I were to break this year down into a montage set against the beat of a soulful indie song, it would be obvious that this has been the best of my life. I mean that. It's not just about the books or any sort of traditional success as I sashay into middle-agedness. This is the year that I figured shit out. In honor of my favorite number, here are thirteen realizations I came to this year:
1. I can do whateva I want.I hate to sound like Cartman from South Park because he's an asshole, but the guy also had a point. Will people think I'm stupid if I put out a book? If I wear this, she's going to think I look like a flake. Is my hair all wrong? Are they judging me? My voice? My tattoo? My opinion??? God. That kind of thinking can you make you crazy and you know what? The answers are probably YES,YES,YES, YES! People are going to judge you! They are going to talk about you behind your back and think your shirt is too wrinkled or that your book is a load of crap or that your parenting style is all wrong. What you have to ask yourself is this: Are you willing to give up the life you want to live because you're worried about what people might think? I hope that you can answer that question with a resounding NO. If not, message me and we'll talk.
2. You know how you can never get eyeliner the same on both eyes and that drives you crazy all day but no one else seems to notice? Yeah, so life's a lot like that. Generally the things that you think you've screwed up or botched to smithereens fly under the radar, so stop stressing. As my six year old says, "CHILLAX."
3. (I've always known this one, but it's an important one so we'll go over it again.) You catch more flies with honey. It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice. blah, blah, blah... There are a lot of overused sayings about being nice, but the truth is that being nice makes people happy and it doesn't cost you a thing. So, you know, do whateva you want but be nice about it.
4. There are some who do not prescribe to the "be nice" plan and I'm done making excuses for them. I feel like I've spent decades analyzing people and coming up with all kinds of complicated explanations as to why there is a faction of the population that suffers from intense SUCKAGE. Low self-esteem, mommy issues, weren't breastfed, were breastfed too long, etc. Enough! I'm done with all that. I got screwed over this year by someone who I thought was a friend... someone I treated well...trusted. And you know what? It wasn't okay. It wasn't something that could be explained away. On the whole, I like to think the world is good, but I've accepted that there are people out there that take advantage, that confuse kindness for stupidity,that sink their fangs in and suck others dry. There are people (luckily few and far between) that just aren't nice. They make passive aggressive comments that belittle others. I'm not obligated to grant escape clauses so that these jerks can "feel better about themselves" and neither are you.
5. Psychics might be legit. (explanation to follow in future post)
6. Instead of being sad, be rad. Seriously. Do you have any quasi-friends on Facebook that are forever posting depressing statuses that leave you feeling like you've got a gaping hole in your gut? I mean, what exactly are they trying to achieve? Are we supposed to "like" those updates or validate them in some way? These folks have taken the "do whateva you want" attitude one step too far. Social media is not the proper forum to lament about your cheating spouse, your kid's bowel movements, or to get seriously introspective about how you think your entire life is circling the drain and your dreams have turned to shit. If you think you might be guilty of this, I have to tell you something... STOP! I don't want you to become a sad sack with no friends. It's not too late to stop the madness and bring on the radness!
7. It's okay to start disliking people you barely know because of their lame Facebook updates. (see #6) This may seem contradictory to #9 (wait for it) but that's another part of the lesson... You're allowed to contradict yourself.
8. Follow the call of the disco ball. This is a really good all-encompassing phrase that can be used in place of exclamations like: HAVE FUN! or SEIZE THE DAY! It could also be thrown out as encouragement to another who is hesitant to A) dance B) sing karaoke. (Just so we're clear, the answer to karaoke or dancing is always YES.)
9. Be curious, not judgmental. Walt Whitman said that more than a century ago and I think we can all agree that he was on to something.
10. Not everyone is going to like you. (See #1)
11. Dude, be the bigger person (except for when dealing with the people I discussed in #4).
12. This week I read a great blog post by Caitlyn Moran and I'm so glad that I did because it's now part of my year of profound truths. Best advice to help you through trying ordeals? Life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES.
13. All your tomorrows start here. This line is from a short story written by Neil Gaiman. It's my favorite quote, my motto, my next tattoo. It doesn't matter where you are, who you are, or how many birthdays you've had... Every minute, hour, every tomorrow that you will ever experience starts right now. Let that sink in.
Books read lately: I totally went on a bender and read every single installment of Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series. Some I loved. Others not as much, but that's to be expected in a 12-part series. Also read: Joshua: a Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane, and Joyland by Stephen King.
Shows: Right now I'm halfway through season 1 of Justified. Timothy Oliphant is my new TV boyfriend.
Movies: I saw Beginners with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer a couple of years ago and I remember really liking it. Something reminded me of it this week so I decided to re-watch. I can honestly say that it was even better the second time around. Lots of great lessons in there about acceptance, sexuality, alienation and family without being too preachy.
September 2, 2013
**Disclaimer #2:This is not a post about books or reading or writing. It's a post about FUN and how, exactly, to bring it on.**
***Disclaimer #3: The fact that I felt the need to write even one disclaimer proves how much we all need to embrace silliness whenever and however we can get it.***
So, you know how when you're a kid, it seems like on all of your favorite shows and in that one movie you watched last week, spontaneous food fights set to fast-paced bubbly music seem to be the norm?
Yeah, well, it never seems to happen in real life. I've been polling my friends. Pretty much no one I talked to has actually participated in a food fight. Seriously. This seems to be a major oversight in the upbringing of our youth. Where have our values gone? Are we not raising future generations to throw limp spaghetti and french fries anymore? Is all hope lost? Are we no longer embracing freedom?
As my friend and I discussed this travesty, we were both struck with a sudden inspiration (we may or may not have been drinking). We realized that with a little bit of effort and prep, we could actually make this happen for our kids without getting them expelled from school or stuck in the hospital with a fork in one ear and a broken leg.
The kids thought they were going swimming and then we hit them with that little note. Needless to say, it was unexpected.
Husband went along with it because he's long past trying to talk me out of goofy ideas. Especially not ones that I concoct with my friends. And, really, there's nothing like mashed potatoes stuck to your tresses and syrup in your bra to bring family and friends together.
We used noodles, whipped cream, jello, apple sauce, mustard, overly ripe fruit, chocolate, maple syrup, stale cereal, soda... you name it. Water guns and shaving cream were also put into play. We had a 1990s themed playlist that included DJ E-Z Rock, Salt-n-Pepa and MC Hammer (who I actually saw in concert when I was in elementary school. Vanilla Ice was the opening act. Let that sink in for a moment).
I had flashbacks to afternoons of watching Double Dare on Nickelodeon.
It was slimy, sticky, slippery.
It was disgusting.
It was glorious.
My older daughter, Lucy, told me that it was her best day ever. Mission accomplished.
From my house to yours, I hope that you had a happy, safe, and SILLY holiday weekend! We only get so many minutes... Make them count! (And then take a very long shower)