A Conversation with my mother the day I told her I finished my novel.
ME: “Well Mom, it’s done. I finally finished it.”
MOM: “Finished what?”
ME: “Uh…my novel. The one I’ve been working on for the past year. Yeah, it’s done.”
MOM: “I had no idea you were writing a book! What is it about?”
ME: (sighs) “It’s a young adult novel about a teenager named Sawyer Hayden who–”
MOM: “Sawyer? Oh I don’t like that name.”
ME: ”Well it’s too late to change it now. ANYWAY…he wants a basketball scholarship so he–”
MOM: “Basketball? But you don’t play basketball! And why are you writing about boys anyway? You’re a woman who lives in New Hampshire! I know what you should do. Join a writing group and try to make friends with that woman writer there…
ME: Please don’t say Jodi Picoult.
MOM: …the one who writes all those nice cancer books. You know who I mean.”
ME: (sigh 2x) “Her name’s Jodi Picoult, mom.”
MOM: “No, that’s not it. Well, whoever she is I hear her books are very popular.”
ME: “FINE! WHATEVER! JUST LISTEN!” (deep breath) “In my book Sawyer asks his brother River to help–”
MOM: “RIVER? Oh I don’t like that name either. Why did you pick such ugly American names? With so many nice names in our family to choose from you–”
ME: “HOW ABOUT RAPHAEL? THAT’S WHAT I NAMED THE DAD SO HOW ABOUT THAT?”
MOM: “Finally a name I like! It’s about time you remembered you’re Italian.”
ME: “Ok…but just so you know, I made the dad Spanish.”
MOM: (appalled) “NOW WHY DID YOU DO THAT?! WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST MAKE HIM ITALIAN? HOW AM I GOING TO TELL THE FAMILY IN ITALY THAT MY DAUGHTER WROTE A BOOK ABOUT SPANIARDS AND NOT ITALIANS?!”
ME: “I’M IRISH TOO, MOM! WHY DON’T I JUST MAKE HIM IRISH LIKE MY DAD, HUH? HOW’S THAT SOUND?”
MOM: “Spanish is fine.”
ME: “CAN WE FOCUS NOW? PLEASE?!”
MOM: “Yes, yes. Continue.”
ME: (sighs, molto frustrato) “So SAWYER leaves his father and moves to Nebraska–”
MOM: Bites lip.
ME: “NOW what’s wrong?”
MOM: “Well…why does he have to live in Nebraska? It’s a land locked state.”
ME: (rubbing temples) “What does Nebraska being a land locked state have to do with anything?”
MOM: “I don’t trust the seafood in land locked states. It’s too expensive. What you’re really paying for is the truck to have it delivered. They don’t fool me.”
ME: “Fine. You know what? I’ll change it to a coastal state–”
MOM: “OOH! You should make it Hawaii! I’ve always wanted to go there. You know they filmed that show LOST in Hawaii. But then you couldn’t use the name Sawyer. Hey! Now you can change that too! I always liked that doctor Jack–”
ME: “MOM! It can’t be Hawaii because Raphael is a long haul truck driver and that’s how Sawyer gets to Nebraska to live with his grandfather so he can get a basketball scholarship.”
MOM: “Well why does he even need a scholarship? With the price of seafood nowadays the father should have no problem paying for–”
ME: “You know what? Forget it. I didn’t write a book. I made a quilt.”
MOM: “Oh don’t be so sensitive. Tell me what the grandfather’s name is. Something good I hope.”
MOM: (flinches, thinks and then says) “So SAYWER leaves a man named RAPHAEL to live with a man named GUS?”
ME: “Yes but mom, Gus is awesome. He’s a biker and a southern rock roadie with…bad…ass…tattoos…”
MOM: (near tears) “What happened to my dainty daughter who used to love to read books and write stories and listen to music?!”
ME: “She changed her name to Sawyer.”
FOR MORE MIND-NUMBING MATERNAL MASOCHISM VISIT:
Every so often there comes a moment when we see ourselves through another person’s eyes. Determining whether that’s good or bad depends entirely on what we see. Most of my epiphanies are delivered in the form of my sister telling me my ass looks fat in my jeans, whether I ask for her opinion or not.
Commentary on my fat ass or bad breath I can handle, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the reality of personal feedback in the form of reviews for my novella, Reapers With Issues.
Before I begin I’d like to state that every reader who reviewed my work negatively did not condemn me personally for what I’d written, despite not particularly enjoying the book. I’ve read reviews of other books where the reviewer took the author to task, and I am happy to say I’ve been blessed with a classy group of readers who didn’t feel the need to blast me.
I guess what confounds me most is that I expected there to be more blow back for subject matter. Portraying Jesus as a closet homosexual and writing a scene where Genghis Khan violates a shi-tzu wasn’t going to win me an audience with the Pope, and I knew that going in. I also prepared myself for a critique of the quality of the writing itself, which as it turns out I didn’t receive much of. What I did get was essentially the same question, asked in so many words, of what kind of person could conceive of the Reapers idea at all. Again, good or bad depends entirely on what we see.
[enter the dreaded introspection process]
The first thing I did was try to answer the question of what kind of person I am. Despite an obscene amount of navel-gazing I am no closer to that answer now than I was when I began. My motivation to write Reapers With Issues was just as strong and the subject matter just as easy to conceptualize as Gods of Asphalt’s was, so identifying a specific default in thinking didn’t pan out. The truth is that I’ve got a hundred different stories buzzing around in my head; everything from harmless children’s stories to British comedies to even more Reapers sequels (oddly there’s nothing milling around in there that remotely smacks of Erotica, but that’s a post for another day after an hour on a couch).
So after an even more shameless bought of self-contemplation I began to ask myself a different question, “Why do any of us write what we write?”
Do we choose our genre or subject matter because of who we are, or because of what we make of the world around us? I imagine it’s no coincidence that Reapers With Issues was written during the darkest hours of a friend’s battle with cancer, or that Gods of Asphalt was written while stuck in bed, listening to my two teenaged sons bicker amongst themselves and argue with their father.
It is also not lost on me that I wrote Reapers With Issues from a third-person point-of-view, allowing me to observe at a distance the story of a Reaper whose best efforts to gather souls are thwarted by a Savior, or that the overall theme of Gods of Asphalt is how brothers cope when their mother isn’t around.
I suppose in the end what we choose to write comes from the harmony of both who we are and what we see. I’ve learned that whether my writing is received as harmony or dischord depends entirely on who’s doing the reading, and no amount of alteration of my “music” will accommodate everyone.
For the record, I’m fine with that. I am a Jazz fan, after all.
It’s time once again to celebrate our favorite Brit’s birthday, Megan from VeryNormal!
I’ll admit to having a heck of a time trying to figure out how to top last year’s send off, but this year I think I’ve got it covered. When I imagined what I’d likely be doing if I were in England right now, the answer became instantly clear. Why I’d be drinking, of course. So this year I’ve decided to create a drink specifically for our Megan, and name it accordingly. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you:
The Induced American
Named because you will likely be driving on the wrong side of the road after you knock one of these babies back. Here’s the recipe:
Ingredients (sorry they aren’t metric)
1 very thin sliver habanero pepper (because she is so spicy!)
2 slices fresh ginger root (because I like her with red hair best)
1 1/2 fluid ounces gin (because gin is British)
3/4 fluid ounce lime juice (because…well, because I like lime juice)
1/2 fluid ounce simple syrup (because she is so sweet!)
1 cup ice cubes (just because)
Muddle habanero pepper slice and 2 slices fresh ginger together in a cocktail shaker until pulverized, about 20 seconds. Add gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and ice. Cover and shake until well chilled. Strain with a fine mesh strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a thin slice of ginger on a toothpick. Drink a toast to Megan and the Queen!
Happy Birthday, Megan! Have a drink for me!
TO WISH MEGAN A HAPPY BIRTHDAY VISIT:
FOR THE FULL COCKTAIL LIST VISIT:
This time last year I put up a post entitled Why No NaNoWriMo which chronicled my need for self-distraction whenever I sit down to write. How I accomplish writing a blog at all I’ll never know. Needless to say, this year has been no different and I’ve yet to finish the second novella in my REAPERS WITH ISSUES series. What’s got me blocked this year is:
The Oakland Raiders – Walking Dead – Firefly’s 10th anniversary re-release – Coconut Rum – my promotion – Tom Elias – raising a daughter as stubborn as me – learning to love Scifi – wristsaroundtheworld – Junior’s shenanigans – Frank Stallone’s faulty brakes – Prince Charming’s charm – and this little ditty right here:
For those of you who may not know, NaNoWriMo stands for NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH which basically describes an online community of writers gathered together to practice their craft. You can create a page similar in style to Facebook where you connect with others and draw support from the world of writers.
Anyway, it’s NaNoWriMo time again, and I of course have signed up to fail. The good news here is that I have my second novella, REAPERS WITH FANGS to finish, so I am determined to be successful this year. Who wants to be my buddy and
crash and burn succeed with me? I promise it will be a glorious disaster success!
If you’ve already joined up, leave a link to your NaNoWriMo page in the comments. For blog posts penned by folks far more dedicated to their craft than I, please visit:
Even though I’ve been taking a break from SPaM in order to write the REAPERS WITH ISSUES series, I had to come back today in order to introduce to you all someone truly special. For those of you out there who may not know, there is a rockin’ chick among us who is somewhat new to blogworld. I’ll let her About Me page speak for itself:
Essa Alroc is an Orlando, Florida based freelance writer who published works include “The Blurb About Freshness on the Back of Your Deodorant” and “Understanding Your Utah 529 Plan”. When she’s not at work, fantasizing about setting her cubicle on fire, she is working on her first full length novel. It is not about deodorant or financial aid plans.
1. Your writing style is edgy, to say the least. What influences do you attribute to forming your particular writing style?
I was born and raised on heavy sarcasm and using humor in the place of emotions. My life’s motto is if your going to bitch about something, at least make it funny. That way people will actually listen. When I was growing up, I was an overweight kid with bad teeth, who wore my brothers hand me downs. If it wasn’t for my incredible ability to hurt someone’s feelings, I would have made one hell of a target. Luckily for me, the weight came off, the teeth got fixed with braces, but I never lost the ability to come up with some seriously scathing commentary. I also still wear my brothers hand me downs.
2. You live and write in Florida. How does living in the south influence what you write?
Florida both fascinates and horrifies me. I have a theory that something to do with the heat makes the people here crazy and violent. What I like about this state is that things that would be ridiculous anywhere else seem normal in Florida. I draw on a lot of my experiences here for both my fiction and non fiction work and I never seem to run out of things I write about it. What I dislike about Florida is all the rapes and murders…and lack of Jack in the Boxes. I miss their curly fries.
3. Your page MAKE ME YOUR BITCH speaks to your ability to write for hire. How does writing for someone else’s project differ from writing your own, and what can someone expect in the way of services?
My first love is humor writing, but in today’s market, it’s not a viable career option. Luckily, thanks to the plethora of jobs I’ve had, I’m able to write about a large range of subjects and still make them readable (and g-rated). My goal when I’m writing someone’s page is to get them SEO hits and at the same time, give value to the reader who was searching for their page in the first place. When someone types a query into a search engine, they’re not looking to get sold something. They’re looking for an answer to their question. My goal is to answer that question and still make my clients page come out on top. At the same time, I have to keep it free of my personal opinion and four letter words. Sometimes it’s easy, like when I’m writing an article about medical marijuana. Sometimes, it’s impossible, like when I’m trying to come up with 10 things I like about Mitt Romney. Number 1 was his hair.
4. Tell us about STRANGELY SOBER.
Strangely Sober was a novel born of frustration. Frankly, I was tired of reading about unworldly heroines who need the hero to show them how things are done. I’m not like that, and I don’t think most women are like that. Having a vagina doesn’t make me a bumbling, clumsy, insecure mess who can’t handle life on her own. I’ve lived a full life and I think a lot of people have. I created my protagonist, Angelica Salvatori, AKA Sal, because of that. She drinks too much. She smokes too much. She lives everyday like zombie apocalypse is right around the corner. She adapts and re adjusts as necessary. Personally, I think that’s what life is all about.
5. Tell us about ASYMMETRIC ANGELS.
I wrote Asymmetric because I didn’t feel ready to let go of Sal. There were some loose ends to tie up from the first novel and I didn’t think her story was over yet. Asymmetric has been a challenge to write, because it’s got some strong religions undertones in it, despite the fact that I am not remotely religious. It’s a sequel to my first novel and its where my heroine, Sal, tries to create a shaky opinion on faith and at the same time, tries to adapt to a world that is constantly changing for her. Asymmetric is a novel about getting to know yourself. It also has explosions, a high body count and a recurring Gary Busey hallucination. Can’t disappoint my readers while I’m trying to be artsy.
6. How does blogging effect writing, if at all?
Blogging is a release for me. Its entertainment writing in its highest form. I don’t use my webpage in my portfolio, because it’s my hobby. I don’t allow marketing on it, and even my own marketing blurb for my business is kind of a joke. I don’t want my readers distracted by ads. I want them to laugh. I don’t censor myself and I don’t want to do that for a sponsor. All my blogs are born out of an everyday experience that can be made ridiculous using the right words. The world is a ridiculous place, and the ability to laugh at that ridiculousness makes us powerful. I laugh at the Westborough Baptist Church, the economic crisis and child prostitution because I understand the power of humor. I go by the lessons I’ve learned from George Carlin and Richard Prior. ANY topic can be made funny when given the right delivery. That approach makes me fearless in my writing.
7. What have you learned most from writing your novel?
Be prepared for change. When I originally wrote ‘Strangely’, it was called ‘Unforgettable’ and it was written about a schoolteacher with eidetic memory. Two days before I released it, NBC released a show called “Unforgettable”, about a cop with eidetic memory. Instead of releasing it anyway, or trashing the whole series, I adapted it, changed it, until it was a completely different novel. Now, I’m glad that happened, because ‘Strangely” is about 10000 times better than what it was originally.
8. What advice would you give other would-be novelists?
Put your novel away for 6 weeks after you finish it and then read it again. It’s like being a first time reader. Maybe you realize your novel is, in fact, genius. Maybe you realize its crap. Maybe NBC puts out yet another shitty crime drama show and you have to start all over. Either way, you’ll be glad you did it.
9. Who are your favorite authors?
I love Jacqueline Susann, because she made trash literary genius. Read “Valley of the Dolls” closely and you realize that Neely O’Hara is Scarlett O’Hara. I love Piers Anthony because he makes sci-fi/fantasy a commentary on politics that hasn’t been met since Orwell’s “1984”. Finally, I love Tim Dorsey because he writes about Florida with tongue in cheek humor that delivers both admiration and disdain for this wild and crazy state. If Serge Storms were real, I would totally be stalking him.
10. Where do you see your next project taking you?
Well, the final book in the bar series, Gio’s Gift, is already breaking my heart because I’m murdering off a character I’ve grown very attached too. After I’ve uncurled myself from my sobbing emo ball, I’ll be working on something I’m calling the Dark/Light series, which I’m hoping comes to par with some of Anthony’s more political novels. It will be my first foray into science fiction and is loosely based on Nietzsche assertion that God is dead. Personally, I don’t think God is dead. I think he’s a sandwich artist at Subway…at least, he will be in my book. I hope eventually to make enough from my humor and fiction projects to focus on them full time. I think as long as I keep typing away and putting my best literary foot forward, it will happen.
Or I’ll wind up a sandwich artist at Subway.
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