I am just a couple weeks out from wrapping up a production of Les Misérables. Not as a performer. Not as a stage manager. As a director!
Never thought I would direct. I took a directing class in college, and for my final project, I had to direct a scene of my choice. I selected the final scene in Stephen Sondheim's Assassins. (I wasn't ambitious or anything...) I hated every minute of it. I felt like a failure. My cast didn't seem to be happy. I don't recall the grade I received, but I don't think it was stellar. I was a stage manager, and I was determined to stay in that lane.
Fast forward to this past spring after I had stage managed a youth production of Peter Pan, Jr. Our producers asked me to take on a huge project--directing Les Misérables (school edition) at a premier theatrical location in our town. I was scared to death, but I accepted.
It's turned out to be the best experience I've ever had. Each moment has filled me with such joy! And today, I thought back to all the directors I worked with that have poured into me and helped me become the director I am today.
In high school, I served as student director (assistant) to Holly Kroncke. She taught me what it meant to be a strong leader.
In college, I worked with Jack Mezzano and Jack Matter. They were creative, fun, smart, sassy, and wonderful.
For a while, I left the stage. Too many other things took over my life. But after getting married and having children, I returned and worked with LuCinda Lounge. She encouraged my writing and gave me opportunities to create stories for others to perform.
Kim Castallenet helped me improve as a performer. She also gave me opportunities to fill lead roles in Mamma Mia! and The Addams Family: A New Musical.
Then most recently, the producers mentioned above have helped me grow as a theatrical professional. I am so grateful to the Mills and Paul families. They've inspired me and given me more than I can ever repay. Beyond that, they have provided community and friendship that I hope will last a lifetime.
I always love the change of seasons. The cooler air of fall whisking away golden leaves before the bitter chill settles in. The tremulous new buds of spring bravely peeking out in hope of summer sun. There's something wonderful about the promises of a new season.
And when it comes to weather, I can look forward to what's coming.
In life, though, we have seasons where we are called to say goodbye. To put off the old. And I'm facing one of those seasons right now. For the past few years, I've performed with a community theater. I've met some great people who felt like lifelong friends. I've been given opportunities to shine on stage. But my time there has come to an end. Changes in leadership and the community itself have made me feel unwelcome. I would never have left on my own, so God intervened. Being there became so uncomfortable, I knew it was time to move on.
Beyond that, I feel like my time on stage has come to an end. A couple of nerve-wracking auditions resulting in bad or no parts has shown me that I'm in the wrong spot. So I am stepping back. I will focus my efforts elsewhere.
Writing has been the same way for me. I've long felt like a fraud in that arena. I never set out to be an author. I don't have formal training or education. But I had characters in my head who just wouldn't shut up until I told their stories. And when I finished telling Jameson Kendrick's story in Star Sailors, I was done. I haven't written anything creative since 2020. (Thanks, COVID, for sucking the life out of everything.) I still have lots of notes of things yet to be written, but I don't know if I will ever get back to that.
This week has reminded me of Antonio Salieri. I relate so well to his mini-monologue at the end of the movie Amadeus, with the exception of his contempt toward God at the beginning. I shall leave you with that...
I never realized how hard it would hit me. A few years ago, this fantastic character popped into my head, whispering his stories. I've mentioned Jameson Kendrick in this blog before. I spent day after day with him, chronicling his every step. He taught me things I never dreamed of. And after five books, he vanished.
And I was devastated.
I finished his last story the same year COVID shut us down. Life came to a halt, and I ended up in a whirlpool of grief and confusion. Oh, that sounds worse than it actually was. But if I am honest, I self medicated with cheesecake and other sugary treats. I wanted to write more. I even tried. But the urge disappeared with Jameson. Notes of abandoned tales remain untouched.
And every time I think I'm ready to get back to it, I get distracted.
But creativity shows up in other ways! I've been playing on the stage. I'm rediscovering my love for stage management while learning a new love for youth theatre. I've spent years performing, and while I still enjoy that immensely, I'm wondering if it's time to move on. To step into a different role and help the next generation embrace all the good things the stage has to offer. So far, I am having a blast, and I look forward to what is coming up next.
And maybe I will get back to writing one day. I need to offer myself grace until I hear those familiar whispers in the back of my head--a new character inviting me into his or her life. Trusting me with the translation. It will come. But until then, I dream of the day...
My daughter planted a few sunflowers earlier this summer. Living in the high desert climate of Colorado, nothing much grows aside from weeds. (Unless you are a true green thumb.) She was really excited about these flowers, eager to see their sunny blossoms several weeks later.
We've had a few good rainstorms, but the last couple days have been hot and dry. The ambitious leaves of the plant wilted. In fact, just this afternoon, I would have pegged that plant as a goner. It looked so sad and pitiful.
As a last resort, we gave it a long sip of cool water.
Hours later, those stems were stick straight and the leaves all perky! I've never seen anything like that before!
And it made me think of our lives. I don't know about you, but all this hoopla with COVID and masks have wilted me into a pretty serious depression. No, I haven't been officially diagnosed, but let's face it - we have been dealt a new normal. There's no going back. Things have changed.
Thankfully, no one in my immediate circle has had it. I haven't lost anyone close. I know people who have, and for that, I'm so sorry. But I have lost things that kept me going. I've lost my writing. I finished a series, closing out the adventures of a character I loved dearly. His departure from my life has taken a toll on any other stories I planned to write. I've lost theatre. The production company I worked with shut down and has yet to come back. And through that, I've lost community. Rehearsals were a great place to come together with my friends.
As this new normal settles in, I'm grateful to have church. SO grateful to have my family. My job. My house. My faith. All of these things have kept me grounded through the uncertainty.
But imagine what a little water could do. A little bit of hope sure could put some life back into all of us. As theatre returns, I'm clinging to hope. Maybe some of those creative ventures will come back to my life and allow me to blossom once again.
I've been living with this guy in my head for four years now. I know it sounds crazy, but ask any author. Voices of our characters speak to us. And in my case, they don't leave me alone until the story is told.
Jameson Kendrick popped into my head four years ago, whispering bits and pieces of his space adventures. He built a whole universe in there...one of luxury space cruisers sailing around the galaxy. And goodness, he started out as a complete reprobate, but somehow managed to turn himself into a shining hero.
But now, he's gone.
I finished writing his story last week. Book Five in his series didn't get written without a fight. I knew the end was coming, and I wanted to hold on as long as I could. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. And Jameson was able to go out on a gloriously high note, happy ending and all.
My consolation came in formatting a bundled volume of his stories as well as a companion book with notes on the series. With those now published and available, I have to put Star Sailors to bed and pick up a new project.
I'm grateful for the time I spent with Jameson. He taught me a lot about compassion and mercy, justice and salvation, leadership and humility. He's a good guy. I hope you'll pick up his stories. They are fun to read! I can't wait to go back and enjoy them from a distance. I imagine it will be like seeing an old friend across a busy street--much love in your heart for that person, but only enough time for a quick wave.
So long, James. Thanks for choosing me to relate your stories. I'm glad we were able to reach a satisfying conclusion. May the rest of your adventures be less troublesome, and may you live out your days in peace. And if any other stories come to mind, you know where to find me...
Tomorrow is my birthday. It's not an exciting milestone year. There's no big surprise party or celebration planned. It's just another day to most people. But as the day approaches, I always remain hopeful that something wonderful will come.
Then I remind myself to be realistic.
My least favorite question is, "What do you want for your birthday?"
How do you answer that without sounding selfish? "Um...how much do you want to spend?" Yeah, that's not awkward...
What I want can't be bought.
The shallow part of me wants a movie deal. To see my characters on the big screen and watch their stories come to life for all to see. To live their moments off the page, fully immersed in a sleek vision with an amazing soundtrack/score.
But I know that's just a pipe dream. A silly fantasy. And deep down, I probably don't want that. I'd hate to give creative control to someone else.
What I really want doesn't cost anything, though.
What I really want is for someone to know me well enough to already know the answer to that initial question. For someone to invest the time reading my books and talking about my worlds and characters with me. For me not to be an obligation or another gift to check off some list.
I also want a million memories with my kids. To know that I have given them a solid foundation that will serve them well in their lives. To see them grow in a relationship with their Heavenly Father. To bestow upon them enough confidence, laughter, love, and light to carry them through their days. While some believe those are gifts I'd be giving my kids, they really are gifts to me. And I treasure them so.
My hope this year is tempered with reticence. Maybe even a bit of sorrow. 2020 has been a crapshoot--heavy on the crap. Last year was so different. I was different. I had a goal. Something to look forward to. A purpose. This year...feels lost. I'm trying to enjoy this season, but I really just can't wait for the year to be over. To move on.
That's a pretty sad place to be on your birthday.
But I'll get over it. I always do. I guess we'll see what tomorrow brings. And if it's blah, I'll dive into the cheesecake I made for myself and leap into one of my stories for a quick escape.
In my previous post, I mentioned writing a series of poems to make my friend Rodger laugh. Today, my family held a mini-memorial service for him. It seemed only right to read a few of the poems. And they were such fun, I wanted to share. The rhythms are off with some lines, but they were intended for nothing more than to be silly.
I miss you, Good King Rodger. And I love you. Be at peace, my friend.
The Kingdom of Dyss Nee
Far in the land of Dyss Nee,
Ruled a king so just and true.
Rodger was the name of this king.
He always wore navy blue.
His people were known as technicians.
They followed his keen fashion sense,
Wearing shirts and pants or shorts,
In that blue that was very intense.
Now Rodger loved electronics,
Lighting, sound, and the like.
His technicians were trained with such skills
As focusing lights or placing a mic.
Throughout the castle and the halls,
Up and down the floors,
Cables, cords, wires, and gel
And oh, there was so much more.
The Great Dining Room
That was used for feasts
Was filled to the ceiling
With drapes, folded and creased.
The courtyard so green
Was strewn with fixtures
To light it brilliantly
For Princess Ashley’s mixers.
Across the meadow,
Reaching to a spire,
A giant idol of Mickey Mouse
Was hung upon a wire.
For Christmas was approaching
And then New Year’s Eve.
All must be in readiness,
King Rodger’s big pet peeve.
While the technicians were hard at work
King Rodger could be seen
Cutting gel and fixing things
Painted red when they should be green.
Rodger never complained,
For he loved his people so.
And they loved him, too,
From his head to his tippy-toe.
They all worked together
In peace and harmony.
Technicians are so happy
Here in the land of Dyss Nee.
The Lovely Princess Ashley
The Lovely Princess Ashley was not born in Dyss Nee.
She came from a land that had no sea.
She lived atop a hill snowy white,
She could touch the sun if she flew a kite.
Her mother and father were both very dear,
But for some reason, which was not quite clear,
She wanted to go out into the world
And meet the barons, princes, and earls.
She left her home, Coll Orrado by name,
And discovered a tutor of unbelievable fame.
The man known as Asu, a great intelligence,
Would teach Princess Ashley and give her confidence.
For now she could speak about many things,
Not just castles and dragons and faraway kings.
She could enter a room with style and grace,
But she didn’t seem happy anyplace.
Asu lived in the vast, dry beyond,
Arri Zohn, of which the Princess was quite fond.
But she knew she couldn’t stay.
Her heart had been led astray.
She could learn no more from her teacher.
He just couldn’t seem to be able to reach her.
He suggested the change, maybe a career,
So off she went, into the wild frontier.
A friend told her of a land,
Of happiness, sunshine, and beach sand.
This is how she learned of Dyss Nee!
With all her heart, she wanted to go see.
She crossed the desert, far and wide.
She finally arrived tired and bleary-eyed.
She reached the castle gate
And knocked, waiting for her fate.
The doors flew open and she stepped in,
But she couldn’t hear anything over the din!
A jolly party was being held,
One that was unparalleled.
She’d heard that the people of this land
Enjoyed a soiree great and grand.
Before she knew it, she was caught in a dance,
Whirling and twirling, here and there a glance.
She finally stopped, dizzy, in the middle of the room.
Surrounded by guests, dressed in costume.
She looked about, blushing, becoming aware
Of her torn dress and matted hair.
“I have been travelling, I come from afar.
I must apologize for looking bizarre.
I’ll leave you now. Thanks for the bread.”
Princess Ashley whispered, bowing her head.
A merry laugh filled the space.
To match the laugh, a merry face
Appeared through the crowd and stepped forward.
“My dear, don’t say another word.
You are my guest, I welcome you here.
I’d like you to stay and share in the cheer.
Let’s get some fresh clothing and a place to tidy up.
Then come back downstairs and join in a cup!”
The king was so gentle, sweet and sincere.
Princess Ashley was amazed and to her eye came a tear.
“Kind sir, I thank you. What is your name?”
“They call me King Rodger, one and the same!”
Princess Ashley just smiled, full of relief.
She’d found a friend in this great chief.
With a curtsey, she said to him,
“King Rodger, I’m honored and filled to the brim.
I am Princess Ashley, new to this land.
I hope that you can lend me a hand.
I came in search of something great,
Perhaps you can accommodate.”
King Rodger listened with a thoughtful ear.
He understood why the Princess was here.
She was searching for adventure, excitement, and love.
He hoped his kingdom could provide thereof.
He sent the Princess, along with his maid,
Up to the guest quarters, on a clothing crusade.
For over an hour, Ashley prodded and primped,
At last, she descended, clean and hair crimped.
The gown she had picked was flowing and fair,
A burgundy color, that matched her hair.
She swept down the stairs and into the hall.
Everyone watched as she passed them all.
She went right to the throne and fell to her knees.
King Rodger just chuckled, took her hand, and said, “Please!
You are a Princess, and a guest at that.
I ask you to join me. Now let’s sit and chat.”
As the party went on, the two of them talked.
They sat and stood and danced and walked.
He showed her around the castle so bright.
They came back to the Hall at the end of the night.
“King Rodger, I thank you. You’ve been a great friend.
I’ll never forget this, even in the end.
Now, I suppose I must say good-bye.
I’ll miss you and think of you when I cry.”
“You silly girl, you cannot leave.
You’ve made my court like you on this fine eve.
I need you here, to help me rule.
Doesn’t that sound pretty cool?”
“I’m hip to your jive, Daddy man!
I’d like to stay, since I can
I’ll help you rule your kingdom so fine
Now let us dance and have some wine!”
And so it was settled, Princess Ashley would remain
She was there to keep King Rodger sane.
And since that night so long ago,
The kingdom’s been great and never low!
A smile can be seen on every face.
The banners are made from ribbon and lace.
Rodger’s installed another throne.
And the kingdom knows they’ll never again be alone!
I found out today...quite by accident...that a good friend of mine passed away. I say good friend, but as I think about it, I didn't know that much about him. But our hearts were connected, and that's all that really matters. I scoured the web for an obituary--anything that might have memorialized him--but I couldn't find anything. So I'm going to memorialize him here. Because he was a good man. A GREAT man. And he deserves some tribute.
I don't even remember how I met Rodger. We worked together at Disneyland. He was a union technician in the Entertainment department while I was a young just-out-of-college stage manager. I believe he was my tech on a little show I managed at the time--Aladdin and Jasmine's StoryTale Adventure.
While working that show, another tech flirted with me. Being young (and stupid), I blindly pursued a relationship with that guy. Rodger was there to pick me up when things went south. He talked me through my feelings and supported me in every way.
I loved making Rodger laugh. He had the best laugh! I wrote a series of Dr. Seuss-esque poems about people we worked with. I'd visit him on his shift in the workshop and read the poems aloud. His approval came in bouts of raucous laughter. Those were some great moments.
He took me out once. We saw Star Trek: Insurrection. He gave me a ride to the airport for a trip home--we saw the Hershey Kissmobile on the freeway. He watched my car for me. Before I left Disneyland, he gave me a walk-through tour of the Haunted Mansion as my goodbye gift.
Rodger and I kept in touch with emails and texts. How precious those are today. He would send me pictures of various installations he worked on--Halloween and Christmas, in particular. And I still have all the poems I wrote for him. I called him Good King Rodger, and he called me The Lovely Princess Ashley. We didn't communicate often, but when we did, our words were full of encouragement and love. I could always count on him.
In 2015, I got to take my family to Disneyland. We visited with Rodger in California Adventure as he worked on the Mad T Party. I'm so glad my husband and kids got to meet this man who meant so much to me.
Oh, Rodger, how I wish I could give back to you all the love you gave.
I don't know the circumstances surrounding his passing. I hope it was peaceful. I hope he found rest. And I hope he knows how dearly I love him. GKR, I look forward to the day when I see you again. I know you'll be there. I can't wait to hug you and thank you for getting me through some pretty rough times. You will never be forgotten, my sweet king. Be at peace, dear one.
The coronavirus quarantine hit all of us hard in many different ways. In my world, I lost two theatrical productions I was part of. That may seem trivial, but being of the creative bent, it jarred me. I love my performing community and sharing my heart on stage.
But creativity will have its way. And imagination cannot be quarantined.
I released Book Three of Star Sailors at the end of April. With extra time on my hands, I was able to dive into revising and get that one done. But Jameson, my lead character, kept nudging me to write Book Four.
So I did.
I started writing at the beginning of May, as soon as Book Three was finished. And I'm proud to announce Book Four is available on Amazon today. Everything just flowed and worked. It's a great story with some wild twists. You can get your copy by clicking here.
And I'm excited to get cranking on Book Five...the last installment of Jameson Kendrick's great space adventures!
When I was in middle school, my mom got into oil painting. While she created masterpieces, my dad would chill on the couch, and they would watch Bob Ross on PBS. (I think my dad mostly slept, but still...)
I've been working on one of my books lately. Admittedly, it's been a while since I've written much. I had other priorities. Quarantine and vacation days freed up some time. So I pulled out the last manuscript I had written with the intent of revising, and it struck me how very much writing is like painting.
At least for me.
I'm sure there are Michelangelos out there who can write the Sistine Chapel in one setting.
While this particular story is mostly finished, I still had some changes to make and layers to add. It's like having some basic shapes on a canvas and going in to pull out depth, dimension, perspective, and detail. I'm finding some "happy little trees" moments and a couple of "oops" splatters that--with the sweep a few bristles--turn into glorious brushstrokes of genius.
Bob Ross would be proud.
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3