humor

insane in the Maine

You know that friend that drags you to a party that you don’t really want to go to because the only people there will be their old friends from college or their scrap-booking circle or their Menudo addict’s support group and ten minutes after you arrive your friend ditches you next to the dip of questionable origin holding a red Solo cup of brown alcohol while they disappear into some dark corner with the ex they constantly bitch about yet still want to re-enact a nature documentary with?

Yeah. That’s kinda what I did to this blog. Bitch move, I know. But I swear I have an excellent excuse and it doesn’t involve ex-boyfriends, equipment malfunction, meeting a future new ex-boyfriend, locusts, or anything.

I moved nine states away. Completely across the country the up-and-down way not the coast-to-coast way. Athens, Georgia to Orchard Beach, Maine. One thousand, one hundred twenty-one miles. Seventeen hours and thirty minutes driving in a car with four plastic bins full of my worldly possessions and one cat looped out of his skull on kitty valium.

What made me undertake such a journey?

The short answer?

I had nothing to lose.

I know people throw that phrase around a lot, but I mean it literally. I had already lost everything. About a year ago, I separated from my husband of seventeen years and moved into a condo that I could only afford because a wonderful friend offered it to me on the cheap. I wasn’t only leaving him, but my two dogs; my silly, sweet, fuzzy girls. From that moment on, I had to redefine my life. I had to rip out all the future pages of my life’s calendar and burn them. Everything I had planned, everything I had hoped, and everything I had built so far was now ash. For a while, I wallowed in the ruins. Sleepwalked through my days and pantomimed all the motions: sleep, work, eat, wash, rinse, repeat. I made writing the focus of my energy in a way I hadn’t before. On the plus side, I self-published a book and received some great reviews. But I was still reeling. I couldn’t see my future more than forty-eight hours ahead. I had no idea how to plan my new life.

Then I got a call from a friend. He offered me a way to rise from the ashes of my old life and create something entirely new. The prospect was terrifying and, I’ll admit, at first I turned him down. I’m not one to jump into things. I need to think and ruminate and come at from all angles. The next time my friend, Dave, and I talked, I had a few questions, he had reassuring answers. After a few emails and phone calls, I was ready to pull the trigger.

I was ready to move to Maine and work in the nebulous and exciting world of medical marijuana.

Now, anyone who knows me will snort and laugh at my choice of profession. Not that I have anything against marijuana, or “pot” as I’ll call it from now on just to save the keystrokes. I don’t smoke it. I have tried it, but wasn’t impressed. I have no interest in partaking in anything containing pot or getting high. That is probably one reason why Dave wanted me on board: he can trust me around the inventory. Another reason why people laughed at my new job has nothing to do with drugs. Simply put: I hate snow. I think snow is ugly and gross and ruins everything. Yet, I chose, willingly, to move to a state that will inevitably be covered in snow.

So, to recap . . . I decided to work with a product I have no interest in while living in a climate that I will loathe for a large portion of the year.

Crazy, right?

Yes. I agree.

But I was ready for crazy. Open to the chaos in a way that I had never been before. What was another pebble tossed into an already churning lake? Success would mean financial stability as I had never known it before. Failure would mean a slow dissolve back into the life I had left back in the condo in Georgia. Nothing gained, but nothing lost as well. Zero sum.

So, that brings me to the present. I am typing this from my bedroom in my new condo with an ocean view in Maine. In the living room are two nineteen year old boys who share the condo with me (also brought on board by Dave) watching television. My cat, Cain, is snoozing at my feet. Tomorrow, I will drive around and deliver pot to a couple patients, purchase a few supplies, and try to absorb as much information about this business as I can because there is a lot to learn.

I am excited and I am determined and I hope this venture is even a fraction as successful as everyone dreams it can be.

But even if this whole thing goes bust and I have to limp back to Georgia with my tail between my legs, one truth remains self-evident:

This will make for an excellent story.

For me, there is no better motivation.

And I can’t wait to share that story with the world.

 

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hive mind

This Friday, I should hold in my hands a proof copy of the short story collection I’m self-publishing. It won’t be the first time I’ve seen my words printed in a paper and ink book, but it will be the first time all the words in said book are mine, all mine.

I’m excited. And nervous. Really nervous.

I designed the cover myself and it looks pretty good as pixels on a screen, but I have no idea how well those pixels will translate into a six by nine glossy cover. I’m dying to post a picture of the cover for everyone to ooh and ahh at, but if it looks like crap, I swear I’ll just die. Die! Like, I mean it! You, you just don’t understand! Ugh! Runs to room, slams door, and cries into my Benedict Cumberbatch pillow while The Smiths sing in the background (I know, I know, it’s serious).

Okay. Tantrum over.

But because I am still more excited than nervous, I would like to show you a bit of what’s inside the book. I wrote a Forward where I briefly mention either the origins or the motivation behind each story in the collection. Here is a snippet:

One thing you should never say to a writer is, “I have a great idea for a story you should write.” We hate this. Not because your idea is awful, but because we already have a million ideas buzzing around in our brain like a swarm of angry bees. But even though it’s often hard for us to pluck one of these idea bees out of the air and squeeze sweet story honey out of its ass, they are our bees, we cultivated them in our mind apiary with love. The last thing we need is for someone to thrust a strange, misshapen bee in our hand and tell us to milk it. We can’t work with your weird bee. It’s got too many wings and its stinger, is . . . is that a corkscrew?
All that said, when my sister, Tracey, told me I should write a story inspired by her dream where her Roomba ate everything in her house, I took her little bee and ran with it. What resulted is “Nature Abhors a Vacuum” and I had more fun writing that story than almost any other story in this book. Goes to show what I know.

unnatural birth

I think I have mentioned a time or eleventy that I’m self-publishing a collection of short stories.

Well, I’m not all just talk. I’m also flailing hand gestures and raised eyebrows.

The collection is imminent.

Empty, Not Hollow and Other Stories is due to hit Amazon on September 1st. It will be available in Kindle format or as a paper and ink book you can hold in your clammy little hands.

Kind of exciting, huh?

I am excited, but I’m also feeling like a pregnant woman in her fifth trimester in that I’m more than ready to hatch this damn thing. (I may not know how babies work.)

Writing the stories was hard enough, but formatting them for publishing is like a trial in Purgatory. I think I would rather roll a boulder up a mountain rather than spend another moment inserting page breaks or fixing abnormal spacing due to right justification.

Then there are the myriad of important decisions that need to be made and, once made, can’t be unmade. Permanent decisions. Like choosing a tattoo. A tattoo you give to someone else.

What size do you want your book?
I donno. Book sized?

Design the cover yourself or have someone do it for you?
I’ll take “Whichever Option Is Free” for 200, Alex.

Thank everyone I’ve ever met in the Acknowledgements or limit my shout-outs to a few close friends/family and hope everyone else understands?
But the janitor at my office is super nice!

Number the chapters in the Table of Contents or don’t?
*loads revolver with single bullet*

Which font? What size do you want that font? Different fonts for the chapter headings? Chapter headings in ALL CAPS? THE WHOLE BOOK IN ALL CAPS? THE WHOLE BOOK IN ALL CAPS WITH DIFFERENT FONTS FOR EACH CHAPTER? OR NO CHAPTERS AT ALL? ALL STORIES JAMMED TOGETHER WITH NO SPACES BETWEEN WORDS LIKE THE STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS RAMBLINGS OF A STERNO-EATING HOBO? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW?

I crawled into a box of red wine and nursed from the bag until the world went black. Days later, I emerged, sloughing off the cardboard and unfurling my damp limbs to warm them in the sun. My new life cycle had begun. I was ready to fly.

Times New Roman, it is.

misery cubed

This is a post from the deep, dark past of my old blog. Even though I am now free range and no longer work in cube farm hell, I still enjoy this little ramble. It’s kinda like looking at an old picture of yourself with hair teased to within an inch of being a ceiling fan hazard wearing an acrylic rainbow sweater and blue eye shadow. Sometimes it’s good to look back and see how far you’ve come. 

The fluorescents are too bright.  I feel washed-out.
Cave crickets are translucent due to the perpetual darkness.  I am colorless from too much unnatural light.
Even the furniture is painted and upholstered in shades of non-colors: beige, taupe, gray.  All outlined in stark black like an illustration of something that should be real.
Is this life or the manual?
(See Fig. 1 – Female Employee slumped over cubicle desk.)
The coffee is flavorless and the creamer is synthetic.  The sugar looks too white to be trusted.  Much like the management.
The steady rhythm of telephones and the copy machine is like distant drums.  When they stop, the silence is unnerving.
Surrounding me are inanimate objects that demand my attention: blinking monitors, email notifications, stacks of folders and papers.  Yet the living avoid contact and look down when passing in the halls.
The only conversation I’ve had today was with my printer, coaxing it to give up a piece of jammed paper.
Here, all my natural instincts are considered signs of aggression.  I have to remember to speak softly and not show too many teeth.  Sudden movements and off-hand references from obscure movies cause confusion and fear.
(See Fig. 2 – Female Employee fashioning primitive weaponry from  rubberbands, paperclips and hi-liter ink.)
It is safer to not draw too much attention so I keep my head down.  Documents are strewn across my desk, multiple windows opened on my monitors.  Looking busy is my camouflage.
I pretend that I am biding my time, waiting for just the right moment to attack and unleash my fury.  It’s a hard ruse to maintain.  For now it is only about survival.  Towing the line while trying not to hang myself with it.
There is hope, though.  I am preparing a signal fire.  Every day I gather a little more fuel, building it bigger and higher.  When conditions are finally right, I’ll set it ablaze and the smoke will rise above the canopy and  my rescue will come.
(See Fig. 3 – Female Employee dousing cubicle in kerosene exactly three seconds before she realizes that the whole signal fire thing was supposed to be a metaphor.)

my roommate

Last December, I needed a new place to live and a friend of mine needed a tenant for her empty condo. Win-Win.

Well, except that the condo wasn’t exactly empty. Along with a couch and chair and dining room set, the condo came with a cat. My friend and her husband had moved to Atlanta and they couldn’t take him with them. They’d been trying to find him a new home, but had so far been unsuccessful. So the cat, Cain (yes, as in Cain and Able), was living the bachelor life in the condo with his automatic feeder and waterer and self-cleaning litter box. Cain was fully automated.

I love all animals: horses, snakes, lizards, bats, squid, narwhals. I grew up with both cats and dogs, so I had no problem moving in with Cain. As long as Cain had no problem with me moving in with him.

That’s the thing about cats, they have opinions. Strong ones. Not having lived with a cat since I was a child, I’d forgotten most of what I once knew about cat behavior. As the days turned to weeks turned to months, I relearned a lot. Such as:

– Unlike dogs, clapping your hands and saying, “okay, let’s go” means absolutely nothing to a cat. They will continue to lay on your bed and stare into space like you don’t exist.

– Cats will adore you with the entirety of their little fuzzy hearts right up until the random millisecond when they want to rip your face from your skull.

– That “I see dead people” stare they’ll do at a spot right over your shoulder then run from the room like their tail is on fire.

– No flat surface is out of a cat’s reach. I hid a dime bag of cat nip on top of the refrigerator and Cain found it, chewed it open, and ate the entire contents. I came home from work to find him rolling and drooling on the kitchen floor higher than Seth Rogen celebrating his birthday at James Franco’s house.

– Cats show affection by causing pain, i.e., kneading your flesh with their claws while they snuggle and purr and you whimper and cry.

– Cats have a burning desire to chalk your nose like a pool cue with their starfish every chance they get.

– Cats are, basically, assholes.

Like with any roommate situation, there was an adjustment period, but Cain and I have settled into a routine. This mostly involves him doing what ever the fuck he wants and me trying not to trip over him on the stairs and kill myself. It works for us.

Amy and Cain

 

not into girls

Disclaimer: I didn’t intend for this blog to be so writing-centric. I know that many of my dear readers (that’s you) are not writers and probably don’t give two flying monkey shits about what happens behind the curtain. You just want to take your ruby slippers back down the yellow brick road and party with some Munchkins (you know those lollipops are laced with something). But my personal life right now is more in black and white than technicolor, and writing is the only thing keeping the tornado at bay. So unless I’m visited by another preternatural swarm of flies or something equally as amusing/terrifying, I’m afraid you’re getting writerly rants. I feel like I should have worked in a metaphor involving an oil can in there somewhere, but let’s get out of Oz before the Lion remembers he’s a carnivore realizes we’re meat. 

I like men. I, mean, yes, I am a heterosexual female and I prefer my candle-lit dinners and subsequent “fade to black” time to be with the opposite sex (bonus points if he is intelligent, tall, has a British accent, and has played a dark-haired villain in a major motion picture). But, specifically, I like writing about men. Most of my short stories are from a male point of view. My novel has a male protagonist and twice as many male point of view characters than female.

Why?

Well, at the risk of insulting my male friends . . .  Men are easy. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

See, I’ve worked in female-dominated offices for many years and, like life, working with women is like a box of chocolates. Only half of them are filled with angry bees and the box is refilled and shaken every night. Women are a Whitman’s Sampler from the pit of hell. Yes, this is a generalization and a stereotype and as a woman I shouldn’t perpetuate such things, but Odin help me if it isn’t true. Bitches be crazy. And it’s not easy being in a woman’s head. I should know. We think a lot. About everything. All the damn time. It’s exhausting. Writing is hard enough as it is without having to also navigate through the rat king that can be a woman’s mind.

However, you know what you’re going to get with men. If a guy is an asshole one day, it’s a safe bet he’s going to be an asshole every day. Men are a bag of Hershey’s miniatures – there are only five options and they are all clearly marked. Again, this is the broadest of generalizations, but I’m comparing people to chocolate here, so obviously you shouldn’t take any of this too seriously. Men tend to think before they act then sort everything out later. This is great from a writer’s standpoint because you don’t have to delve too deeply into motivation. There’s more action, more doing, more moving the plot forward without stopping to think about consequences.

There is also a bigger reason why I prefer to write male characters. A reason that I didn’t fully realize until I finished writing a short story just last week. The story was about a girl who could fly, but only if no one was watching. Her parents had kept her under constant surveillance since she was a child to keep her grounded. For me, writing is always kinda like pulling yarn from a cat, but for this story the yarn was knotted and the cat had lockjaw. When I’d finished, I instantly hated it. I wanted to drag it into a sub-folder and never look at it again. And it was all because the protagonist was a girl. As a woman, I felt a sense of responsibility toward her. I was compelled to make her story real and relevant. I wanted her motivations to be genuine, her emotions justified. And I failed on every count because writing that is hard, too hard, and that’s not the kind of story I ultimately want to tell.

I want to write silly little stories about suicidal squirrels or quirky dog-loving robots. I want to make people think a little and laugh a lot and maybe go “Ew” a couple times. And I can do that best when I have a man leading the story. A man that I can jerk around and torture a little. A man I don’t feel needs to represent the very best of his gender. I can’t do this with a woman character. What does that say about me as a writer or as a female human? I’ll over-think that one later. Right now I gotta finish writing about a poor guy and his over-zealous robot vacuum.

performance anxiety

It can take me the better part of a month to polish a few thousand dull, lifeless words into a brilliant multi-faceted gem of staggering beauty. At which point, I’ll submit the story to my amazing writer’s group who will gasp in collective awe at my wondrous prose. Eyes welling with tears, they will fall at my feet, lamenting that the story I’d written has ended and begging me to bless them with more words to savor.

I will then snort myself awake, wipe the drool from my chin and blink my bloodshot eyes against the noonday sun streaming through my bedroom window.

Reality is a bitch.

So I stagger downstairs and make myself some breakfast (I don’t care what time you wake up, the first meal you eat is STILL breakfast!) then I crack my knuckles and open up my latest work in progress.

The first part of my narcissistic little dream is true: it can take me a month to write/rewrite/edit a short story. And it’s work. Hard work. Like tagging narwhals for science or re-enacting the first season of Sherlock in your living room with your cat, Benecat Cumpurrbatch, also for science (science is weird).

Once I’m done nurturing and growing my story, preening and pruning it to perfection, I have to send it out into the cold, cruel world. And just that one little action, clicking SEND on the email that will carry my story across cyberspace and time, is enough to fill my gut with snakes and make me want to crawl back into bed.  Because out there, my beautiful snowflake of a story is just mere slush clogging some over-caffeinated editor’s inbox.

Then comes the obsessive refreshing of my email over and over, during every waking moment and even in the middle of the night when I roll over and look at my phone for the time or to double check that I set my alarm for work because I’m obsessive about that now as well. Clicky, clicky, clicky on that little roundy arrow, like an old woman in orthopedic sandals feeding dollars into a slot machine while getting slowly hammered on complimentary Long Island Iced Teas. Only the old woman has better odds and I’m drinking a box of red wine straight from the spout. And after weeks of this routine I have a calloused clicky finger and my liver is sending me hate mail, but I finally, FINALLY, get a reply from the publication I submitted my story to. With trembling hand I open the email to read, “We appreciate your interest, but unfortunately we don’t think your story is a good fit for our blah blah blabbity blah . . . ” After the initial flattening weight of rejection eases up a bit, I take a long draw from my box of wine and send my story out to the next publication on my list.

It's madness

No wonder I self-medicate with red wine.

And as awful as that whole process is, it’s eleventy bazillion times worse when you’re trying to find a home for your Novel. Your Baby. Your One True Hope That All This Writing Nonsense Will Pay Off One Day. That’s where I am right now. Two weeks ago I sent my novel off to what’s basically my dream publisher.

My finger hurts. And I’m out of wine.

 

And I’m gonna try and find an excuse to insert gifs of Loki into all my future posts. It’s my blog and I do what I want!