How Starbucks Just Changed My Life

I know I’ve talked about education on this blog before. Hell, when I first created this thing I was in my final year at Chandler Gilbert Community College. This blog has followed me through classes, graduation, and every idea I’ve had about my intellectual future since then.

I considered going to Western Oregon University, or even OSU, but when I crunched the numbers, I just couldn’t do it.

We all have our stories. Our reasons why going to college just isn’t possible. For me, it just didn’t seem worth the debt. Almost every person I know who graduated with their bachelor’s is now crippled by student loan debt.

That’s not how I want to start my life. I want to get married, by a house, and write my fiction. And I’d convinced myself that I could do all that without a college education.

And, yes, I could.

But, thanks to this amazing company that I work for, I don’t have to.

Starbucks announced late last night that it has partnered with ASU to provide full tuition reimbursement to Juniors and Seniors. There’s even more awesome details and benefits, but this is the part that applies to me.
cc82bc9e9f0547b7aaca360fef62c0e5

I graduated from CGCC with my Associate’s, and had always intended to finish my Bachelor’s. I even applied and was accepted to ASU once upon a time. But, through some wonky credits and an Astrology class from Hell, I never truly enrolled.

A decision that changed the course of my life.

If I’d taken a science class over the summer, I would have graduated from CGCC in 2010. I would never have completed the Creative Writing Certificate, and I wouldn’t have met so many wonderful writers and Instructors. I would have missed out on so much learning.

And I probably wouldn’t have moved to Oregon when I did.

My life would have followed a similar, yet truly different path.

But now, four years later, I have re-applied to ASU for their online English degree program. And Starbucks is going to pay for it. All.

That’s right. Starbucks is going to completely reimburse me for the cost of tuition and any fees associated with my courses. The only thing I pay for out of pocket are the required textbooks.

Can we just take a moment to understand that?

The Online Degree Programs are valued at about $10,000 a year. Starbucks is going to give me a scholarship, I’m going to fill out FAFSA, and hopefully get more money, and then Starbucks pays the rest.

That’s a huge chunk of money. A huge investment in me, from the Company with a Heart.

Like I said before, I convinced myself that an education wasn’t important to me. That I could live my life and follow my passions without it. And I can. But, finishing this degree is for me. I don’t want to do it so I can get a better job. I love my job, and Starbucks gives me the flexibility to work on my fiction.

I have said this time and again. And it’s still true. But, as I watched the announcement video, and the Partner Open Forum, I couldn’t keep the tears in check. Because, ultimately, finishing my degree IS important.

It’s not about getting a better job, it’s about my self-worth.

I’m done telling myself it isn’t. I’m done pretending that I’m not disappointed in myself for never completing my Bachelor’s. I’m done settling. Because that’s what I’ve done.

I worked hard for four years to get my Associate’s in Arts, and my Certificate in Creative Writing, both with Distinction. I worked two jobs, and went to school full time. I paid for my education out of pocket, and looking back, I’m not really sure how I did it. But, when I look at my Diploma, sitting on top of my bookshelves, I feel an unparalleled sense of pride.

And for two years I’ve languished. Sure, I’ve worked hard on my fiction, and I’ve completed two novels. I’ve had four short stories published. I’ve been working full time at the Bux, and have been promoted.

But, I haven’t really worked on myself. Pursuing this degree is what I’ve been avoiding. I let fear, and doubt, and financial insecurity convince me that I didn’t need it.

Today Starbucks reminded me that, if I wanted it, I could achieve it. The life lesson I’ve always touted. How did I let myself forget?

My dad told me when I was very young, “If you want something bad enough, and you’re willing to work hard enough, there’s nothing that can keep you from it.”

I’ve applied this life philosophy to my Starbucks life. I’ve applied it to my fiction. I’ve applied it in my personal life.

And it’s time I stopped hiding it from my Intellectual Life.

This fall, I start classes online at ASU. I’ll be completing my Bachelor’s in English. There’s no concentration option, but I basically already have that, thanks to my Certificate in Creative Writing.

I’m not letting anything hold me back. Not money. Not distance. Not me.

Not anymore.

 

BZ

 

To read more about this incredible program, and the company and university that are making it possible, click here.

Insomnia and the Trouble with Endings

It’s one of those nights. When thoughts trickle in through the seams of my brain, persistent like the drip of a leaky sink. The nights that curse me once or twice a month. Blame it on the caffeine, or over stimulation. Or call it by name.

Insomnia.

By definition I’m convinced that every person in the world struggles with insomnia. It’s not just the inability to fall asleep, but also difficulty staying asleep. Who hasn’t dealt with that from time to time? I will say that, once I’m out, I’m down for the count. Very little can interrupt me once I’m asleep. But, I’ll hear phones vibrate on the night stand, and awaken immediately for my alarm. I am not a snooze button kind of girl. However, I still consider myself a sound sleeper. I usually feel rested in the morning, and I don’t wake up sporadically.

But, there are nights, like this one, where the inner monologue just won’t stop.

This blog has seen its fair share of late night musings. They tend to be more poetic than the posts written during the day, but they also tend to make a lot less sense. Ramblings is a good term for them.

So. what has me riled up tonight?

You’re going to think me silly. I slipped up. I let myself play Mass Effect before finishing ‘Cards’. That’s right. Only one chapter and an epilogue left to write, and I didn’t do it. Instead I’ve spent about 10 hours finishing my second play through of my favorite game of all time. For those of you not in the gaming world, the last installment of the Mass Effect trilogy was a bit controversial. You see, most fans found the ending to be vague, and disappointing. And while I agreed with them from a player’s perspective, I saw the vision and the beauty from a writer’s perspective. This unique blend of perception allowed me to appreciate an ending to a most beloved series that the rest of the world hated.

They hated it so much that they took to the internet and demanded the developers fix it. We can stay up all night discussing the implications of such behavior, but that’s not what I’m really here for tonight. The development team stood by their ending, refusing to alter it in any significant way, but they did release DLC (downloadable content) that would add a few more cut scenes and more dialogue to deal with some of the ambiguity.

This game was released in March of 2012. The Extended Cut, as the revised ending is called, was released in June of the same year. Over the past two years I’ve downloaded all other available content, and have finally played them all. And tonight I was so excited to finally get some answers. I was ready. I could play it again, and ride the roller coaster of emotions that is the end of this trilogy. And so I played for almost six hours straight tonight. Only to discover, as the ending played out before me, that I never downloaded the Extended Cut.

This is what has me so pumped up.

How? Why?

I thought I downloaded it, obviously. But, as I think back, now that I know the DLC isn’t there, I remember thinking, “I’m not ready. I don’t want to play it yet, I’m not ready.” And so, out of a sense of emotional unpreparedness, I never downloaded the augmented ending. But, since we moved we haven’t connected the XBOX 360 to the internet, because we’re on the XBOX One much more. Without the internet, I couldn’t check to see what DLC was still available to me.

What this means is that I will have to play another additional three hours, after downloading the Extended Cut.

I’m trying to tell myself this isn’t a bad thing. It means I get to play again. I get to see all these wonderful characters, and interact with them. Again. But the thing is, the last three hours or so of Mass Effect 3 are hard on my soul.

I don’t want to get into details, because if you don’t know the characters, you won’t care. Some day, I’ll forgive you for that. But, there are two characters that I cherish more than any others. They are my wing-men. And one of them is my character’s romantic interest. They go on every mission with me, in every single installment of the game. My boys. And to go into the end sequence, which we all know is more than likely a suicide mission, is just downright painful.

Goodbyes, and lingering glances laced with things left unspoken.

You’re thinking I’ve lost my mind. That all of this can’t be in a video game. But, there are those that say these same experiences aren’t in books, and we both know they’re just flat out wrong. That’s the beauty, and the pure tragedy of good characters. They come to life in our imaginations. Spend enough time with them, and suddenly you know their movements, their every facial expressions, and their exact response to any given situation.

You know it’s true.

And so, playing this ending is painful. Even more so now that Bioware, the company that develops Mass Effect, has officially confirmed that the next installment in the franchise will be with all new characters.

There’s another silver lining I’m trying to convince myself of. All new characters to fall in love with, and new adventures to be had. I did have a thought today though that bolstered me on this subject. I’m a broken record, but I thought of Mistborn. The original trilogy was filled with characters that really moved me, and I loved each of them. The end of that series drives me to tears every time. When Alloy of Law, a book set in the same world, but 300 years later, came out I was excited.

And skeptical.

I could never love these characters the way I loved Vin and Elend. Or Sazed and Kelsier. Never.

Except I do. And would now even venture to say that the Alloy of Law is my favorite book set in the world of Mistborn. Yes, saying goodbye to Commander Shepard and her stalwart crew is painful. It always will be. But, these new characters, and their new adventure? I can’t wait to meet them. To grow to love them all, as much as I love the characters in the current games.

For tonight though, I’m angry and disappointed. All at myself. I spent so much time, only to experience the exact same ending for a second time. The game gives you options for how the game truly ends, but because I thought I had the DLC I chose the same option, in order to see the difference. Well, that didn’t work out.

So now I have to play again, and pick the same ending. Again. Because it’s my ending. The way my heart says it has to be. In the future, with other incarnations of Shepard, I’ll make other decisions. For curiosity’s sake. But, for now, it’s got to be this ending.

I’m supposed to be waking up for work in about four and half hours. Yeah. Another one of those nights. I find that, as I age, sleep just seems less and less important. I can get by on two hours of sleep. In fact, I did it just Tuesday. I slept nine hours last night, but had been up for a straight 22 the day before. And now I’m here, hoping that this post will get the rambling echoes of thought out of my head. That maybe now I can put my head to the cool side of the pillow and feel relaxed.

My eyes are starting to feel sluggish. Unwilling participants in this little exercise. And my head does seem calmer. The sentences don’t flow in that same harried pace, and I can pause to consider my thoughts. But, there’s still a spark in there. I know what it is. It’s the hint of creation. I want to write a Mass Effect fanfiction, but I know better than to go down that path. Fanfiction is the product of obsession. But, I can use this spark. The character that’s caught my eye, that is begging to be written…

I can use him. Not really him, obviously. Not his name, or his abilities. But his essence. I can take the characteristics from him, the things that helped me fall for him in the first place, and put them into someone of my creation. And I have an idea for who.

But, this is a dangerous topic. I’m not quite finished with ‘Cards’ yet. I can’t start working on something new until it’s done. That’s how this writer thing works. At least for me. I’m off again Monday. I’m aiming for completion then. I know it won’t happen before then, since I have to see this Extended Cut, and Trevor and I are both off Sunday.

Monday is the day. I’m feeling good about it. Well, not literally. In fact, I feel rather guilty for putting it off. But, that guilt will help me sit down and write it, once Monday rolls around.

I’m not completely cured of this wakefulness. But it’s definitely better. And this post blossomed into something much larger than I originally anticipated. My mind is settling, which means it’s time to get some sleep.

I’ll see you Monday, Blogland.

 

BZ

The Homestretch

Sometimes I think I should be a little more structured with my blog. When readers come here, they never really know what they’re going to get.

One day I may have some insight into writing itself, but most days I just blather on about my personal life until I can feel the writing juices are flowing.

This blog is my equivalent of Vonnegut’s scribblings. Except he had the decency to throw them away. Here I am posting them for all the world to see.

But, I’m not too motivated to change the way I blog, because it works. I’m not here to have thousands of followers, or to try and make a living. I don’t even understand how that works. How do you make money from putting your personal musings on the internet?

Weird.

This blog is here as an outlet. A place where I can sit down every morning and talk about whatever strikes me, in order to wake up my brain and prepare for the hours of fiction writing ahead of me.

And let me tell you, it works.

Yesterday I wrote 3,727 words. In one sitting. I finished chapter 18, considered ending the day there, and then wrote another 800+ words for chapter 19.

And I am so excited about that! You see, my book is only 20 chapters, plus an epilogue. Today I will finish chapter 19. Do you see?

I am almost done with my second novel! And this one is actually a novel length! Well, it’s still small, but publisher’s would actually look at this one!

It’s going to cap out at about 60,000 words.

So, a week or so ago, I knew I was getting close to the end of my journey with ‘Cards’, because I started thinking about the next project. I want to work on a large fantasy piece, that’s set to be a trilogy. There are a ton of characters, all with their own point’s of view and plot lines, and I’m really excited to start it.

But, I know from previous experience that once I’m done with ‘Cards’, I’m going to need a break. Last time, I went into a sort of writing hibernation. I disappeared for the better part of six months, and I don’t want to do it again.

It’s just such a waste of time.

So, in my ‘non-writing’ time, I’m going to finish the first round of edits of ‘Vessels’. I remember liking how they were going, I just got distracted. And, if I’m not writing, I should be editing 3 chapters or so a week.

I want to get it done before the wedding. We’ve got just over a month until we say “I Do”, and I want to have this novel, and the edits for ‘Vessels’ done, so I can honeymoon guilt free.

And I still have wedding stuff I have to think about! Gah! So much work to be done!

But, I’m feeling good about it all. I finally think things are under control.

I’m off to work on this novel. I’ll talk at you later Blogland!

 

BZ

Technology, or My Lack Thereof

So, I was considering getting a new computer.

Trevor’s building his own gaming desktop, and it got me thinking about how old my laptop is, and how much work it needs.

I’m currently doing all my writing from a 2008 Black MacBook. It was a gift from my mom when I graduated high school. I’ve really never had a problem with it. I mean, there was that one time when the Operating System stopped recognizing external devices, and I had to install an entirely new OS, but since then it’s been a trooper.

But, it’s six years old, and it shows. The battery is toast. It does not charge, and so the computer only works when it’s plugged in. That kind of ruins the mobile aspect of working from a laptop. I’m limited by outlet space, all the time.

But, ok, say there is an outlet available. Well, my charger is broken too! It’s an apple charger, so it’s stupid shaped, and one day Trevor tripped over the cord and pulled it from the wall. Except the prongs stayed in the wall, while the rest of the charger didn’t.

So now, when I am plugged-in in public, I have to worry about sharing an outlet. The charger will drop from the wall with the slightest provocation. And if it falls from the wall the computer dies.

Luckily Scrivener autosaves pretty frequently, and I’ve yet to lose any work this way. But it’s still shocking, and abrupt to be completely absorbed in a project only to have the screen go black.

So, I spent this morning perusing laptops online.

Yeah…

I’ve discovered that I’m cheap. And quite honestly, I’m a little hesitant to go back to Windows. Though I no longer have an iPhone, and I do love my Android, I’m not sure I’d want to work on a non-Mac.

I’ve been trying to talk myself out of apple for a while now. I keep telling myself that the computers and the software are restrictive. There’s so much you can’t do on a Mac.

But, what is it I really want to do?

I want a simple, straightforward computer that allows me to compile all my music, photos, and writing. And I need to access the internet. Duh.

I don’t need anything mind blowing. In fact, I’d prefer if it wasn’t mind blowing. I don’t have time to learn all the bells and whistles, and I don’t want to get distracted by features I really don’t need.

But, I don’t want to spend $400 on something like that.

And so, after a small search I realized what I’ve always known. I should just spend the $150 to get a new battery and charger for my Mac.

Why mess with a good thing?

With that put to rest I can get back to work. Yesterday I wrote about 400 words between laundry runs, finishing chapter 17 and getting a few words into chapter 18.

I don’t think I’ll finish 18 before heading to work, but I’ve got a good solid three hours ahead of me. If I can keep focused, we’ll see how it comes along.

Wish me luck!

Writing From Home!

Blogland!

Today is the start of something new!

We’re moved into our new place, and though a lot of stuff still needs unpacked, we are, for the most part, done. The couch actually fit, which was a source of anxiety for several days. It fit well enough to allow for a coffee table in front of it, and a new desk behind it.

Yes, a new desk. A small writing desk with clean lines. No drawers, but one pull out keyboard tray. Trevor spent the better part of three hours putting it together, but it’s beautiful.

And the best part?

When I want to use it, I put the desk top’s wireless keyboard and mouse in the tray to hide them away. I have a functional space for my laptop, which means I have a real place where I can write from home!

And that’s why today is so exciting! Starting right now, I no longer have to go to Starbucks to write! I can sit in the solitude of my home while Trev’s at work, and just plug away.

Now, I don’t really think I’ll get much done today, but I will finish chapter 17, since I was interrupted by a friend the last time I sat down to write.

Speaking of last time, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Well, I knew it would be. But I didn’t know I’d spend four days battling a fever and a cough. So not only were we moving and unpacking, but then I got sick, and so the unpacking has been slow going.

But, I’m feeling a lot better. I’m doing laundry as we speak, and was already busy in the earlier part of the day getting things to snack on while I sat here writing at my new writing desk!

Have I mentioned how comfortable the chair is? It’s cushioned well enough to allow for long hours, but straight-backed to promote focus. It’s perfect. Just perfect. I can’t wait to finish this novel at home!

20140602_123003

Anyway, just wanted to let you all know that, starting today, I will be back in action. Now, I have laundry to move over and a chapter to finish!

A Case of the (Happy) Mondays

Let’s just start with the fact that today is already awesome!

I’m not sure if I ever mentioned it here, but the lovely Ileandra, fellow blogger/author, and a follower of this blog, held a 100 word Flash Fiction contest, in honor of her birthday.

I entered on a whim, with 100 words from a scene from ‘Cards’. The scene does not exist in the novel, it’s just a blip from the world. A moment of thought.

Apparently it was a good thought.

My 100 words were chosen as the winner of the competition! Not only can I add that particular feather to my cap, but the piece is now posted over at Ileandra’s page, and I get a $10 amazon gift card as a prize!

Now, I don’t have much of a bucket list, but the few things I do have on there are writing related. One of them is to receive payment for a piece of fiction.

What do you think? Does this count?

Even if it doesn’t, it won’t diminish the awesome feeling that came with that email this morning.

So, I languished in my awesomeness, which was really just me not wanting to leave the comfort and coziness of my bed. I read some blogs, tooled around Facebook, and generally wasted time until Escape Fiction opened at 10.

Escape Fiction is an amazing bookstore that’s been hiding just down the street from my apartment. If you’ve ever been to or seen Powell’s City of Books in Portland, think that, but on a much smaller scale.

It’s still this intense maze of winding shelves and conjoined buildings, and while they carry books of every possible fiction genre, they seem to specialize in Sci-Fi/Fantasy. In fact, while most books are used, they have a section dedicated to new SFF.

I discovered this hidden trove of books only  last week, and I’ve already been twice in my quest for The Dark Tower. Today’s trip landed me books 3 and 4 of the series. And only for $8. I’d say that’s worth it.

Anyway, that’s been my day so far, and that’s why it’s been awesome.

But, I do have to admit that I didn’t get any writing accomplished after my last post. Wedding stuff was just too in my face to ignore any longer.

So, instead of working on chapter 17, as I’d planned, I emailed caterers, and booked our honeymoon! The five day stay in the Disneyland Resort Hotel is booked, though not quite paid for. That’ll take a while.

Today is really my only opportunity to write, because we get keys to the new apartment tomorrow. For the next two weeks or so, my free time is going to be spent packing, cleaning, and moving all my belongings.

I want to finish chapter 17 today, that way, once all the moving’s done, I can start fresh on chapter 18. Still so close, I just have to push through to the end.

I’m feeling pretty good about it. In fact, I’m just feeling pretty good.

Catch you later blogland!

 

BZ

The Payoff of Hard Work

My drive home is short, as far as commutes are concerned. 20 minutes across town. My work is on the north side of town, and I live out south. Last night was mild, and humid as clouds rolled in, which let me drive home with the windows down.

I don’t consider myself an outdoors-y person. Hikes are nice, but I’d rather sit under a tree and read. I’ve always dreamt of kayaking, but it also scares me a little, because I find large bodies of water discomforting. Also, in nature I have to deal with that whole bug pandemic. I’ll pass.

But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t love the outdoors.

I crave the sensation of wind swirling around me, ripping at my hair. Of the sun shining down warmth that my skin will harbor for days. And of that salty fragrance coupled with seaweed that is the ocean.

It’s the details of nature that captivate me. And when I do find myself camping or doing uncharacteristic outdoors activities, I tend to turn into an extreme introvert.

Perhaps I should start by explaining that I am naturally an Introvert. Not uncommon for writers, I would imagine, since we spend a bulk of our time alone. What does that really mean? Introverts gain energy from time alone, spent thinking introspectively, whereas Extroverts gain energy from other people. The more people around, the more energetic the Extrovert becomes.

Yeah, just thinking about more than four people in a room talking to me is exhausting.

But, the quiet of nature, and the totally different perspective of animals, untouched by man, sets my brain buzzing with deep philosophical ideas and questions, and usually, with new fiction.

I’m not the most fun person to have around the camp fire.

Anyway, bringing this thing back around, I drove home with the windows down, inviting the night in to envelop me, and I did some pretty good thinking.

Yesterday I wrote about 2,800 words. I finished chapter 16, started chapter 17, and outlined the end of the book. I reached 49,500 words.

I started seriously working on ‘Cards’ in January. It’s May. I’ll give you a moment to count on your fingers, like I did.

So, that’s not quite five months.

‘Vessels’ ended at 47,704 words, and it took just over 6 months.

So, I felt pretty damn good last night when I realized that all this work is really paying off. I’ve written more words in less time. I am getting better at this novel writing thing, and at sticking to a routine.

I write about four or five days a week. I sit at the computer anywhere from 4-5 hours a day, but I probably only  seriously write 2-3 of those hours. Sometimes less. That has me writing about 8-12 hours a week. If I’m being good.

There were two weeks where I didn’t write a word. Boy was that a mistake.

This is one of those days where I really wished I were writing full time. I could get so much more done! Gah!

But, I had another thought last night that made me feel better in this regard. Brandon Sanderson wrote 13 novels before his 6th one was published. That book was Elantris, the book he’d written for his Masters Thesis. So, if he followed the schooling timeline perfectly, he was probably about my age when he wrote Elantris.

He wrote another SEVEN books before one was published.

I’m on my second book. All this work I’m putting in is for my learning. This is work to get accustomed to pumping out thousands of words a day, and not consider it work. These novels are the early ones, the ones that I’ll look back on fondly, and probably with a little embarrassment.

Maybe.

Or maybe ‘Cards’ is better than even I think. Who knows?

Anyway, what’s left?

Finishing chapter 17 is my goal today. It’s the last chapter before all hell breaks loose in the book. I have until 6pm to write, and I’ll probably finish 17 and get a good chunk of 18 done, if the past few days are any indication.

There are 20 chapters and an epilogue outlined. I’m getting so close to the end!

But, my brain isn’t quite ready to dig in just yet. I ate breakfast, but haven’t had any caffeine. Maybe I should. I’ve emailed caterers, and am scheduling a tasting with one for next week.

There’s so much other stuff competing with my writing time. I’m excited for when this wedding is done, and I can write with less distraction. Plus, I just want to be married already!

I’m still reading at a good rate, which I believe is directly connected to my writing success. If I stop reading I stop writing. And I definitely haven’t stopped reading. The Dark Tower is a fascinating series, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Anyway, I have work to do.

 

BZ