Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘book’

To Bean or Not to Bean

sambuca

Life has been surreal – stranger than any fiction I could write. And if you have been keeping up with the FB posts – you know I can write some strange shit.

Like killing off my main character over and over again, diverting a river to hide a dead body (weird but true), maiming someone and having them stumble to the Nile to be dismembered by crocodiles (mild to moderate maiming so they can walk after a fashion), falling in love over a string of red beads (carnelian – I would like a love-inspiring necklace), giving birth (no experience, nada, not even watched it on YouTube), ancient Egyptian love-making practices (very little pornography available – had to make them up except for one often repeated line, “Come to me from behind”), and the importance of animal dung in making a poultice (historically accurate but very eeooogh).

I have researched herbal poisons in ancient Egypt (beware people with large rings), marital rights under the Visigoths (surprisingly good for women), bad cop-good cop techniques (may come in useful), animals of the Alps (don’t go hiking by yourself and avoid lizards spraying toxins like from “Jurassic Park”), flowers loved by men (back to the poisons), sexual hallucinations (got to get me some of these), witch hunts in the Dark Ages (just say NO to the Dark Ages), stoning versus burning (neither thank you very much), and the physical attributes of an ancient Egyptian (dark skinned, small, overweight with pot belly and bad teeth not anything near “The Ten Commandments”).

And deliberated over a bunch of How-Tos/DIY techniques; how to distinguishes Black Henbane from other poisons (always smell what you eat and drink), how to fool someone into thinking they had sex with you (lots of info here), how to cross a mountain during the Dark Ages (you don’t), how wolves hunt (in packs – don’t look them in the eyes), and which is the fastest way to bleed out – puncture bite to the femoral or brachial artery (femoral – easiest to get to – keep people away from your inner thighs).

Whoa those are some strange lists.

I am hoping Saturday was the apex of my own kind of strange. It may have to do with going back on painkillers (no, not the opiate but the inhibitory neurotransmitter type). On the meds, I imagine my brain to have the consistency of not-quite-set Jell-O. For example, if you put your hand in the black box of my mind, you could pull out one of the finely detailed topics listed above but not how to make rice. Been making rice, or more correctly unintentional rice balls, for decades.

Three nights ago, I was boiling rice in a bag – a friend suggested this easy fix. All of a sudden I knew, just knew, we needed some Sambuca to celebrate Saturday night. At least my brain did not call for adding Henbane to the recipe or to go watch a crocodile eat my surgeon, anesthesiologist, and/or wound care specialist.

So off to the ABC store, which had moved throwing me into a directional tizzy, to stand before an enormous overly lit ballroom filled with really pretty colors. Sparkling. I got a tad overwhelmed, looked down at my feet to discover, I am standing in a liquor store in my fuzzy slippers. I checked my hair. It had that just napped feeling. Sticking out all over and somewhat matted. Thank goodness all my parts were covered.

“Do you want black or white Sambuca?” I asked my friend.

“Ugh. I’ve only had the white. Black would go nice with your pink slippers … ”

“Did we turn off the rice?”

“Hope so.”

“Okay dokey. We need to get home.” I made an executive decision and grabbed the black Sambuca. Usually I go for the known but on meds I am adventurous!

Back at my house, the rice was soggy in the bag. We got it boiling. Dinner was good. The after-dinner Sambuca proved to be a dilemma.

“One coffee bean?” I asked.

“Three, I think, or seven,” my friend said.

“Gimme that iPad. We’re going with three. Health, happiness, and prosperity. Two out of three?” We looked at my errant foot then added two coffee beans to the liqueur.

“Should we set it on fire?” I asked.

“No I’m sure your foot will get better!”

“Silly Bean. The Sambuca.”

“Let’s ignite it then put it out before we drink it.”

“Or singe our nose hairs … “

“And eyebrows,” he said.

We enjoyed the Sambuca as I explained the next decision point for my almost-completed first draft of the ANCIENT EGYPT book (write on painkillers, edit when off).

“Should she die by fire or by stoning?” I asked.

“Both sound painful.”

“I have the research on how the body dies either way. You know, the timeline for cooking versus crushing. It’s kind of gross,” I said.

“No I don’t know. You did use the Private Browsing setting, didn’t you?”

Oops. Hopefully, my searches have not flagged me for a trip to the police station, with the FBI, CIA or Poison Control. Enough stange/surreal. Maybe I should lower my dosage. Please bail me out of jail if I call you. I’ll make you some rice in those handy-dandy little bags.

Use Your Words

pad-black-and-white Innocently enough, a friend asked if I wanted to hear some bluegrass music. My response was, “Bad bluegrass sounds like a cat being run over by a lawn mower.”

“My, aren’t you the princess of snark?” the friend said.

At which point, I took offense. Snatching my coffee, I moved to another area of the coffee shop.

“Hey, am I the princess of snark?”

People looked down at the stained cement floor, out the caffeine fogged windows, and picked their nails. I narrowed my eyes waiting.

“Okay, when did I become the princess of snark?” I asked.

“I’m not saying you are or anything but it probably happened over the last ten years.”

“Ten years. What the fuck happened at least ten years ago?”

Wrangling with that question kept me at odds with the world until I realized, I stopped using my words after my husband died.

Using words started out as the way I lived an interfaith marriage. The ethics and sweetness of my Jewish heritage, taken for granted at times but overall ingrained, in bone, twirled through my molecules, needed the practice of atonement during New Year, the period from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.

Each Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Rod had little interest in attending services or fasting. Feeling ambivalent about services at synagogue – a double helix of ritualistic pleasure and dyslexic fumbling – we started another tradition.

Every Yom Kippur night, we would go to a special dinner. Order good food and a bottle of wine. Sitting with paper and pens, we would make our individual lists of Nasty Habits and Bad Deeds. Fearfully, we would pass them to each other. Overtime we learned to withhold the little passive-aggressive comments such as,

“I didn’t know you were capable of that much insight,”

“Usually you swim with the minnows in the shallow waters,” or my favorite –

“My haven’t you been busy … duplicitous … mean … manipulative … “

We started to delight in each other’s growth. We made commitments to change one thing. We atoned into nicer, more thoughtful people.

At a point I can’t remember, other people started turning up.

“When’s Yom Kippur this year?”

“But you’re not Jewish.”

“Yes but I want to atone.”

“Really?”

“Yes. It was a bad year.”

“Must have been.”

So friends joined us, wrote their lists, passed around the papers, keeping a flat face when our fears, gossip, and theories were confirmed. To the table, we committed to changing a facet of ourselves feeling vulnerable but connected by our communal confession. Rod would smile and nod. I would sit in wonder. The lists go back to 1987.

When he died, I stopped writing the words that kept me connected to community, kept me honest, held me accountable, and made me go deeper into my humanity. My Russian peasant fatalism had needed to be tempered with Rod’s kinder humanism. I had become the princess of snark.

That is the power of writing. Life can wear us down but writing keeps us honest. It calls bullshit. Words and the process of writing lead us by the hand from the shallows down to the grotesquely beautiful abyss of the self.

So ya’ll, write shit down. All the unacceptable stuff. Everything you want to hide and disown. Find someone or create a small tribe to write with and listen to your words.

Tonight I am going out to hear bluegrass with friends. Friday, Yom Kippur, I write my way into a kinder, gentler princess of snark.

Literary Beatings

Last week I was ready for a fight. A tussle. I put up my dukes but not a soul stepped into the ring. My mood was foul.

My body hurtled through the world giving off the vibe: I am a rebel without a cause. AT&T, Verizon, Gmail, Yahoo, and FaceBook failed to deliver my phone calls, emails, texts, and messages. Friends avoided me. Students left in the middle of my yoga classes. Clients missed appointments.

The universe had picked up on my pugilistic attitude and bad intentions.

After being clobbered with the eerie quiet of disconnection, I started thinking about similar times in my life. The realization popped into my adrenalin-tweaked brain – I needed to BEAT TREES.

Yes, beat trees, not live trees but a grove of dead trees. Wear eye protection, a long-sleeved plaid shirt and thick men’s jeans.

Now where was my bat? Usually the bat was propped beside my bed (you single gals and guys will understand this). A few calls to friends secured a Louisville Slugger.

With borrowed bat, my car propelled me out of town towards the more rural areas west of Raleigh. Behold, my brain seized on the endless line of dead trees on my left. Swerving my car in a rough left turn across oncoming trucks and farm vehicles, I parked my car by my goal. Close enough to walk to the trees. Far enough away for my car to escape the flying debris. Breathing fast and shallow with anticipation, trotting to the trunk, I got out my gear. Bat, check. Eye goggles, check. Leather gloves, check. I must have looked like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Paul Bunyan’s Alaskan mistress in the Field of Dreams.

Swearing, crying, snot flying, sweat slinging, the bat swung, demolished, devastated the line of trees for a good thirty minutes before some brave soul stopped their car. Slowly he climbed out of his truck. Palms turned forward signaling, “Behold I don’t have weapons.” Eyes wide signaling, “But I think you’re nuts.”

“Can I help you little lady?” said the brave Southern laddie.

“No.” I kept swinging.

“Are you okay?”

“Do I look okay to you?” I said, stopping mid swing.

“Can I call someone for you?” he said.

I collapsed on top of the debris. All strength fleeing my body.

“No you can’t. It’s me. I finished my book. What if it’s crap? What if no one buys it? What if they buy it and it’s crap?”

He started to back slowly towards his truck.

“I am so screwed.” I cried. Plentiful body fluids making my words unintelligible. My head dropped down. “I am out of money paying for this publication, publicity, website, whatever. How am I going to eat, pay my mortgage, health insurance, get my toenails done?” The bat dropped out of my hands. “Can I eat the book’s paper? Are the pages tasty? Was it printed with soy-based ink?”

When I looked up, he was long gone – no sight of his car or car tracks on the muddy side of the road.

Trying to breathe through clogged nasal passages, I stumbled back to my car for tissues, eye drops, and my sanity. Sitting half in, half out, with the car door ajar, becoming one with the mosquitoes, it took a while to notice the sun dropping below the horizon. The lake replayed the beauty of the reds, purples and blues wrenching me out of my self-involvement. The situation grew less hysterical, not exactly calm but below hospitalization point.

I was post partum. LITERARY POST PARTUM. People had warned me about this place – the dip, the depression, the pitiful time after the book is done and before the money starts pouring in (hopefully). It’s good to have a name for this process. The sun had set. The world was blue-tinged.

Swinging my legs covered in quarter-sized pink bug bites, my world resumed its hullabaloo. Cicadas made weird noises. A flurry of bats screeched as they blackened the sky. Leaves crackled in a slight breeze.

So what was so bad? The universe had protectively pulled important relationships out of my path. No one had been hurt. I had an identifiable cause for my distress. My reaction was normal. I had beaten the demons. I had beat dead trees. Hold on, dead trees make paper. Paper is a dead tree. I had beaten the paper demons of the trees. My mind sputtered into life again, slower but working. My breathing was returning to normal.

Searching for my bat in the grass, I had a funny feeling that things could work out. Then the cop drove up …

Learning to Read

tsquared330

One dark and stormy night, a few years back, an editor called me. “So we are going to publish your story but we want you to read at some events.”

“Okay.”

Rah-rah to being published but ‘okay’ is not a good negotiation tactic. A vague ‘okay’ can lead to all kinds of shenanigans. And it did.

“Do you want to read in New York?”

“Okay.”

Again, not so good a response. My writing group said I should have asked for more information. A phone call was placed.

“Uh, excited about reading in New York. But where exactly will I be reading?” I had dreams of exciting but small literary salons or at least an independent bookstore.

“At Madame X. The place holds ongoing book readings. We are so excited to get in there.”

Somewhere alarm bells went off. Madame X did not sound like an independent bookstore or a salon…

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