Daring Tales of a Determined Woman: I Love My Car!

If you read my posts, (and a few people actually do,) it may come as a surprise to find out that I love my car. Me, the blogger who blabs about what it means to be a good person. Me, the loudmouth who claims that winning the lottery is an evil that no one should have to suffer. Me, the one who crabs endlessly about how fast the average American drives. I love my car? You have to be kidding!

Now, here’s my disclaimer. I’m not one of those people that have some hot sports car that a drop of dust can’t fall on. See, my car is twelve years old now, she has 145,000 glory-filled miles on her, and frankly, she’s starting to get kind of crotchety. Stuff is needing replacement to the point that someone else might run to the nearest car lot and get a new set of wheels. But not me. Because remember, I love my car.

Here’s my secret: in my entire half century on earth I’ve only owned five cars. And of those five cars I still have two of them. I once owned three cars at one time. And my last three cars have visited 30, 40, and 42 states, respectively. You might say that I buy cars that are built to last. Because it’s not like I’m that easy on them. While I may not be a speed demon, or drive incessantly just for the sake of driving, my cars go the distance in every sense of the term. Nine thousand mile road trips, driving through Midwestern floods, climbing steep mountain passes in Wyoming or Colorado, creeping through Death Valley in 120 degree temperatures…my girl has done it all. In fact, she’s been places most people I know have not been to, and has also been places that she probably should not have been to. Let me introduce you:

Boog

Ain’t she sweet? Yeah, I agree.

She may not look tough, but that’s just a cute disguise. She’s a killer.

I’ll admit, my cars are like family members to me. We’ve been through some poop together. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, so it’s only natural that I have a real affinity for my vehicles. Which is why it isn’t as easy for me as it is for others to go to that car lot and drive another one out. The thought of having a car payment holds little to no interest for me, even if it means having something that others are envious of.  I’d rather travel several times a year and fix the one I have when necessary. And let’s face it, there are only so many cars out there that fit the criteria for my rides: compact, adorable,  good on gas, convertible. Lastly, they obviously have to be durable. Because we’re going places!

Anyway, my little darling gets a lot of attention even if she isn’t new, shiny, and costly. Mine isn’t the only face she brings a smile to. I think that people are reminded of the blue Bugs of old when they see her. It’s a nostalgia thing. She’s got it going on.

To many, cars are a status symbol. To me, my cars are history. Not only do they have it, but they have my past wrapped up in them. I retired my last car, a metallic pink Geo Tracker, with 193,000 miles. Forty states, twenty some-odd National Parks, (most of them with my beloved mother in the passenger seat,) five years exploring the nooks and crannies of California from my Los Angeles home base, twelve years total, and I bought her used with 20,000 miles on her. How much life did that car see? A heck of a lot.

The Bug has this on her resume: 42 states, even more National Parks and Monuments, ten years of seeking and finding hiking trails from coast to coast, rock concerts. We once stumbled upon a fresh murder-suicide in Arizona. Crawled up Pike’s Peak amidst gigantic SUVs. Floated through the aforementioned flood in the northwestern corner of Ohio (yes, my wheels left the ground!) A lifetime in twelve years.

So yes, I’m getting out my credit card later this month. Giving my little Bug some new guts. Getting her back to fighting shape. Merry Christmas, baby! Here’s to rolling 200,000 miles!

And making some new history.

 

Daring Tales of A Determined Woman: Cover Reveal for My Sixth Book

It’s that time again: my sixth cover reveal! Hard to believe that I’ve written and published five books. Such a dream come true!

I talk a lot about my Girls of Glam Rock Series, as it’s so close to my heart and so much fun to write. Two Sides to Every Story, however, is from my “other” series, Women Like Us. Without further adieu, here’s the cover:

Two Sides to Every Story Kindle Cover

This may be my favorite cover of all my books. Took my breath away when I saw it! Shout out to my cover artist Syneca Featherstone.

I’m in the proofing stage right now, and plan to release the book on Monday, December 17th, just in time for a last minute Christmas gift. Two Sides to Every Story is the first novella I’ve ever written. Here’s how the back cover reads:

Meet Carla and Molly.

Carla’s marriage and family are devastated when her husband Bob blindsides her with the demand for a divorce. Molly is the “other woman,” so in love with Bob that she’s ready to take him and his four children in, regardless of the consequences. Carla and Molly are living the same story. Or is it different?

Every story has two sides. And sometimes, those two sides become one, in the most interesting of ways. Just ask Carla and Molly, women with grace under fire and courage when they need it most.

Women like us.

Women Like Us, you say? Here’s how this series came about.

Remember those old magazines True Story and True Confessions? Several years ago I heard they paid pretty good. I had no idea they were even in existence anymore, and I had to go all the way to New York City to find one! But I poured through the copy I got, found the “formula” for writing them, and ended up selling thirty of them over a seven year period. Unfortunately, the magazines are indeed defunct now. However, writing friends of mine thought I should publish similar stories. The Women Like Us Series was born! While I satisfy my need to relive the hair metal 1980s in the Girls of Glam Rock Series, the Women Like Us books are about the here and now, and deal with everyday women with everyday problems. It’s a great mix of characters in my repertoire!

Check out all my books here:

https://brendakstone.com/welcome/books/

Thank you ahead of time for your support!

 

Daring Tales of A Determined Woman: Slow Down!

Road Rage

In my humble opinion, everyone is allowed to have at least a handful of pet peeves. I haven’t been all that shy about writing about some of mine in the past several weeks. The Christmas craze, lottery madness, and confusing beliefs about what makes someone a good person are bound to make my blood pressure rise and my fingers move madly on the keyboard. But if you want to know what really gets me going…well, I’m going to tell you whether you want to know or not! It’s the way people drive. And what better time to expound on the subject that a few days before Black Friday and right after I bash Christmas?

I spend a lot of time behind the wheel not only of my car, but of rental cars and the cars of other people. Though I choose not to drive in foreign countries, since it’s bad enough to maneuver in a familiar environment and on the side of the car and the side road we drive on, I have driven in forty-nine out fifty states. (I wasn’t blessed with the keys to a rental when I visited Hawaii.) The things I’ve seen drivers do to get one car length ahead of someone is flat out embarrassing. Here are a few of my big favorites:

*Crossing over two or more lanes on an interstate or divided highway from the passing lane to exit.

*Passing on either side when a red light is clearly up ahead then throwing brakes on after sliding between me and the car in front of me, so that I have to slam mine on to avoid a rear ending that will be my fault.

*Accelerating and whizzing past me when one lane turns to two, only to end up next to me again at the next stop light. (I fantasize about this one. Expect a toot and a wave from me, perhaps even a thumbs up, because you deserve it. You beat me to the red light. Good for you!)

*Tailgating. Don’t even get me going on this one!

Truth is, perfectly nice people turn into animals when a steering wheel and four tires are involved. Add a cell phone and the ante goes through the roof. Add a child or two and the whole equation gets plain scary.

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I’m always questioning the motivation behind someone who will cut me off within inches of my life and theirs, too, when there isn’t another car behind me for half a mile.  Here are my theories: Impatience. Ignorance. Competitive spirit. Lack of control over one’s life. Anger. Unhappiness. Stress. “It won’t happen to me” syndrome. Or simply, boredom. Clue me in, crazy drivers. What makes you slow down only long enough to get a gander at a deadly accident, then put the pedal to the metal? What makes you drive over curbs and fail to stop for your fellow worshipers in a crosswalk five minutes after you leave a holy dwelling? How about the brainiac that runs a red flashing school bus sign? What, may I ask, is the gain?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m no angel when it comes to road rage. But I’m usually reacting to someone getting in my five-miles-over-the-speed-limit comfort zone. Case in point: the poor lady with two kids hanging out the window that decided to tailgate me, then proceeded to swerve and toot and giggle after I touched my brakes to back her off. Did I intentionally switch lanes when she tried to get by me? Check. Did I offer her some sign language lessons? Check. But my crowning achievement was when she pulled up at a fresh stop light behind me, still having herself one hell of a good time at my expense, and I swaggered out of my VW Bug cop-style with pen and paper in my hand, and pretended to write down her license plate number. She wanted to get away from me for a completely different reason after that little event. Score!

Listen folks, I give myself enough time to get places. I break for squirrels. Like the cutie at the top of the page, I’m not above slowing down to piss you off. Because here’s the message: IT AIN’T ALL ABOUT YOU!!

As we head into this holiday season that most people have forgotten the meaning of, do the world and yourself a favor and slow down. That person you’re flipping out on could have just buried a loved one. Or had a session of chemotherapy.  Or was degraded by someone who is supposed to love them. Or just decided not to commit suicide and instead, to face another day. With that thought in mind, is it really that important to beat them to the next red light?

And hey, Happy Thanksgiving, too.

 

Daring Tales of a Determined Woman: Not Everyone Loves Christmas

Christmas Valley of Fire

It’s that time of year again: the Halloween decorations are in the bargain bin and the Christmas trees decorate the front entrances of every store in America. Catalogs you wouldn’t dream of ordering from litter your mailbox, (and later, your trash bin) and department store employees are teetering on ladders, stocking shelves with junk that shoppers will soon tear each other part to get at before the next person through the door. Oh, and my all-time favorite: we’re fighting for that all-important parking space so we don’t have to take too many steps to get to the automatic door. Happy Holidays!

Are they? For some people, maybe. I’m not one of them. For all the above reasons and more. In fact, Christmas is just another reason for me to escape to parts unknown. Been doing it for fourteen years, and I just booked escape number fifteen. It’s the only way I can tolerate said holiday. My contribution to Christmas is packing my Santa hat and taking pictures in some cool place. (Above, the Valley of Fire, north of Las Vegas.) I might even coin some really witty phrase on social media like, “You: Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Me: Rocking Around the Joshua Tree.” That’s about as good as it gets.

Here’s my disclaimer: Thanksgiving isn’t a challenge to me. Someone else cooks and I eat. What’s to complain about? And New Years is probably my favorite holiday, because I love setting goals that I’m never going to accomplish. But the form Christmas has taken in this day and age is a topic of disgust for me, as is the behavior of people in stores, parking lots, and on the roads of America. If I can leave the country altogether, that’s the best case scenario. My favorite experience was in Fiji, with Santa floating up on a white sand beach in a rickety wooden boat. But if I decide to stay in the country, as I have this year, it has to be somewhere that I know isn’t hardcore Christmas. Like, one year I climbed Mount Lee (of Hollywood sign fame) in L.A. I can always count on people in my old stomping ground to have a totally bored attitude about a holiday that has lost so much of its luster. Christmas: so yesterday!

As a teacher in an urban school setting I see exactly what Christmas isn’t. I see children being bought expensive gifts so their parents don’t have to deal with them. I hear the same kids swear that the primary purpose of the day is so they can get presents. Two years ago I tested my special ed high schoolers to see how many of them knew the actual traditional meaning of Christmas. Out of forty eight of them only one knew it had to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, and they marveled at the fact that the word Christ is the first six letters of the name of the holiday. How about that. Not a coincidence, kiddos!

Part of my lack of interest in Christmas is due to the fact that many of the people who love me most in the world are gone, but not all of it. This year, add in the extra burden that I’ve made yet another poor attempt at finding someone special to share some time with, and that a beloved family member is ailing, and there you have it: a recipe for escape. I’ll be on the road alone through the dreaded day, and by the time I land at my first major destination it’ll just about be over until next year. Cactus and sand, not pine and snow, will be my landscape. To say that I can’t wait is the understatement of 2018.

Until then, I’ll be searching for the perfect gifts for people I love but hardly see, and those I’d like to see a lot less of. Trying to get everything done before the stress-induced road and parking lot rage starts. And dreaming of sliding into my plane seat and buckling my belt, the only sure sign that my work is done for another holiday season.

Call me a scrooge. I call myself a realist. Christmas ain’t what it used to be, and ain’t what it’s supposed to be. I’m out!

Daring Tales of a Determined Woman: First Major Book Review

Live Vicariously Through Me Kindle Cover

I love blogging about traveling, hiking, and my life philosophies. But once in a while I have to share book news, and today is the day!

I’ve written previously that the third book in my Girls of Glam Rock Series, Live Vicariously Through Me, is my favorite story with my favorite characters. A pleasure to write, and dreaming up the plot was so satisfying. That’s why I chose it for promotion when I started working with the ladies over at Chick Lit Cafe, who recently wrote my first major book review. It’s also one of the featured books on their site. Here’s the back cover synopsis:

Before there was sexy rock chick Em’rald there was homeless waif Emily Jane Darlington. Before there was devilishly handsome and brooding heavy metal guitar shredder Nikk Saffire there was battered kid Niko Saffros. And before there was glam hair metal quartet the New York Gems, Cartier rings, and mega stardom there was loss, rejection, and the wild fantasies of two unwanted children.

Emily and Niko meet in a Bronx women’s shelter when they’re four and five years old. Sustained by the strength of their determined mothers, they endure growing up in a stolen car, murder, and drug addiction. Along their long, dark road Emily and Niko secure the skills that will eventually take them to the top of the rock and roll heap. When Emily is discovered in Central Park by a rich photographer who becomes their benefactor, the world as they know it is changed forever. But the heavy metal highway isn’t paved in gold, and even their longstanding love isn’t guaranteed in the decadent world of 80s rock.

I’ve waited a long time and worked countless hours to become a published writer. This is a tough business, and I’m only just starting out. My partnering with Chick Lit Cafe is a pretty big step toward the success I hope for. Here’s the review:

This rags to riches story truly portrayed the life of a young girl’s struggle and the story of a life behind the scenes before becoming a hip 80s rock star. At times I felt a sadness for Stone’s main character, Emily Darlington, which really connected me with the heroine of this book. In and out of homeless shelters with little to eat and only the clothes on Emily and her mother’s backs, this is a tried and true tale of rising from the ashes and becoming something amazing. Jam packed with danger and drama Live Vicariously Through Me kept me captivated until the very satisfying end.

The fantasy and appeal of drugs, sex and rock n roll fuel Emily and Niko throughout their journey of hardships and catastrophe. A bond is formed between them, and the question if that bond is strong enough to withstand their destitution, constantly hangs over their heads. I really enjoyed this book. It was well written with cool characters and a sexy vibe. Live Vicariously Through Me was enjoyable and entertaining, a great story that really made me want to read the rest of the Glam series!

Brenda K. Stone has a unique way with words that draws the reader in and won’t let go. Her exceptional descriptive writing gave me a keen sense of being on the scene and watching the story unfold. The characters are great and relatable. They are fully developed with personalities that have strengths as well as flaws, making them very real to me.

Live Vicariously Through Me is engaging and fascinating. This is one book that I could definitely read again. Chick Lit Café highly recommends this captivating book to all readers that seek a worthy escape in a book.

Reviewed by Beatrix Bloom for Chick Lit Cafe

Interested? Please visit my Books page to purchase on Amazon or Smashwords. Live Vicariously Through Me and all my books are available on most digital platforms, and in print.

Thanks for your support!

 

Daring Tales of a Determined Woman: I Can’t Win Because I Don’t Play

Lottery

I didn’t intend to write on this subject today, but I had to. Lottery fever reached an all-time high this week, and I’m sorry to say that I just wasn’t interested. The old sales pitch goes, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Good, because I wouldn’t win the lottery for a million bucks.

Wait a minute. Scratch that. I’d take a million, just to make things a little more comfortable. But these ridiculous jackpots that are out there now? Nope. No thanks. I’ll stay broke. Since I don’t have my choice to win “just” a million, I don’t play at all.

What sends us to the tickets machines is the age-old belief (again) that money is going to make us happy. I shot that thought down in a recent blog. The abuse of money is all over social media and television. Do I look? Yes. It’s like the car accident scenario. And I read Celebrity Net Worth. Because what people do with their big bank accounts is an area of high interest to me. I’m disgusted by some of the things I see and enlightened by others. Boxers, poker players, celebs, reality TV stars, visionaries, and entrepreneurs post their exploits all over Facebook and Instagram. Some of them are, literally, exploits. Why is it that when certain individuals acquire money they think it’s okay to pose with fifteen half naked women, brag about the island they own, or open a strip club? Personally, the things they do to prove their “richness” doesn’t look like all that much fun. In fact, I have to question the self-esteem of anyone who has to screw with others to have a good time. Which means that I have to question the self-esteem of those who aspire to be them.

At the same time, I have a lot more respect for people who make their own fortunes. Is there anything worse than watching a heiress pretending that she actually had something to do with her wealth? Kind of like someone who suddenly has a whole bunch of cash on their hands from buying a ticket. I dare you to look up and read about what the lottery really does to the folks who win. Many of them go broke. All of them have a lot more friends than they started with. Who needs that? Even if you’re in one of those states that you don’t have to publicize your win, someone is going to find out. And when it comes to moola, word carries fast. I’ve never seen people act as crazy as they do when it comes to money. It’s like a magic elixir for bad behavior. Thanks, I like my life of having a few real friends and working hard for what I have. Meaning: the way it is.

One lottery article I read recently stated that the winner of the next Mega Millions jackpot will have a net worth larger than Taylor Swift. Now, I’m not a big fan of her, but I have to say that I’m not wild about this concept, because she has a lot more talent and biz smarts than the average Joe, and way more of that than the average lottery winner. She, and people who make their own fortunes, have the benefit of knowing what it’s like to NOT be rich, and as their bank accounts get bigger they adjust to it accordingly. It’s a lot healthier than that ticket buyer having nothing one minute and the world at their feet the next. Maybe I’m nuts, but I wouldn’t be comfortable having nothing to work for anymore. Struggle makes things interesting. And I’ll say it again, the nicest, most generous human beings I’ve ever met in the world have been the poorest, without fault.

In conclusion, may I also point out some very sad facts. Billions of dollars didn’t save neither Steve Jobs nor Paul Allen from passing away from cancer. Houses and cars don’t make people happy in the long run. Just because the outside has the trimmings of perceived happiness doesn’t mean the inside is feeling it. And that’s where it really matters. Not some colorful little balls floating around in a box and causing the citizens of America to have sweaty palms.

Peace be with the unfortunate individual in South Carolina who holds the winning ticket this morning. Better you than me.

 

Daring Tales of a Determined Woman: Autumn Hues and Blues

Foliage

It’s that time of year again, the season when leaf peepers with cameras and iPhones flock to the roads of New England to marvel at our foliage. A lot of locals turn their noses up at the barrage of cars and motorcycles seeking the perfect trees, and the spectacle of  foliage in general. I’m not one of those people. I have a major appreciation for the wonders of Mother Nature and I say, come to New England! See our trees! It’s a very busy time for me as a hiker, because peak foliage is such a short and unpredictable span of days, and I want to get all the pictures I can. The foliage has peaked in the past several years around October 20 where I am in Massachusetts. You’ll see fancy maps and articles to the contrary, but take my word for it, in a normal year peak foliage weekend is the weekend closest to the 20th. This year it’s going to be later, probably next weekend, so I have to adjust my hiking schedule.

What follows the high of foliage season tends to be pretty tragic for me: bare, dead trees, the death of the earth. Yeah, as great as fall colors are, this juncture in the four season schedule ushers in other feelings. I’m a summer girl, no questions asked, so seeing the last vestiges of warmth dissipate is very emotional for me. There’s nothing much worse than putting away my shorts and taking out my sweaters. Or, bringing my plants in from the porch and finding places for them in the house. Sure, I could go live someplace that has two seasons. But the interesting truth is that, on the flip side, there’s nothing much better than opening the same storage receptacle of clothing in the spring and rejoicing when I take my shorts back out! In the not so distant future I plan on chasing summer right down to the Mexican border, but until then I’m going to continue with the ritual of the death and life of the landscape, and mourning my shorts.

My hello autumn, good-bye summer depression starts in August. Being a teacher cruelly plays with the concept of what exactly summer is. We head back to school in the later part of August, so when the calendar summer is still in full swing the stirrings of having to be serious again start to hit. When those feelings are conquered by reality the even stronger emotions push in. My beloved mother passed away in the fall. Another coveted summer of my life is in the past. I’m not getting any younger. Time is running out, in the big picture and the smaller one. I wonder if the same thing will still happen, even when I’m free of the restraints of the four seasons? I’m itching to find out.

I’m not a super fan of winter, so I always get a jolt of realization when one of my friends professes love for the coming snow and cold. Some people actually look forward to this stuff! Truth is, I’ll take the white stuff over the crumbling brown landscape of post-foliage autumn. At least it’s pretty, but for me there are conditions to its glamour, the top one being that I don’t have to drive in it. Though I revel in thoughts of my next road trip, you can’t talk me into doing unnecessary traveling in snowy conditions. Nevertheless, I’m not so anti-winter that I can’t find the love for a bright, sunny day with an unbroken blanket of white and temperatures in the mid-thirties.

Thankfully, all these crashing thoughts are temporary. Because then I remember all I have to do and everything I have to look forward to. Writing books. Taking cool trips. Cuddling my bunny. Spending time with people I care about. Planning for a bright future. And, oh yeah, spring. The great thing about the four season calendar is that no matter what winter pulls, life always returns to the earth, it always wins. Warmth always conquers ice and snow, even if winter wins out late in the year. Right now, I’m bracing myself for winter to take over. But first, foliage.

Let’s go, trees! Let’s see some magic!

Foliage 2