What makes funny …

Angst makes funny … troubled youth makes funny … and today I want to do funny with Gail, the first version of her, before she went into her dream state.

At the moment, she’s in her unconscious, I-don’t-remember-my-name state.

Maxine.B01

The original draft of Gail’s story … if you can remember … was titled:

Does Anyone Out There Miss Ronald Reagan? 

                        Or … How I Survived The 80’s, YUPPIES and Six Blind Dates 

It was what one of my critique partners called “episodic” or “stream of consciousness” … in other words … like Candide, Gail tripped from one manic mess to the next, clueless almost until the very end when she is rescued by the Pizza Guy.

In the first two drafts of this book, I did lots of political satire, poked at the romance genre, and of course, trashed women’s lib.

For whatever fun it is worth … this is the original opening …

Here I sit, with my Diet Pepsi, waiting for candidate number one. I spent five hours choosing the perfect dress and matching high heels, applying acrylic nails and having my hair straightened.

My sister has decided my main problem is I don’t pay enough attention to my appearance. I pay attention. However, I think a girl is entitled to get a little plump in her middle years and bury her sorrows in a tub of comfort food. It is either that or bury a hatchet in my ex-husband, Ben’s head.

Try though I might, I can’t stop them. It has become our family mantra.  How the hell can we get Gail married off again? 

Gail. That’s me. Gail Sylvia Goldblum-Silverstein. Jewish girls should never hyphenate their names. I mean, Goldblum-Silverstein is not the same as Carter-Smythe. With a handle like Lizbeth Payton Carter-Smythe you can walk into Saks and abuse salesgirls, charge up the American Express, take a cab cross-town to your Upper East Side, newly refurbished co-op, and hold your over-pinched nose in the air with the best of them.

Me? Well I don’t live on the Upper East Side. I don’t even live on the Upper West Side. No, I live in Washington Heights, a place most Manhattanites consider the Bronx. It doesn’t matter that Kissinger’s mother lives only one building from us, or that Dr. Ruth is one floor below her.

Wait … let me go back three weeks and explain:

In the summer of 1981, exactly six months after my divorce from Ben, my mother and sister begin their search.

My mother stands in the doorway of the kitchen in her gym position, feet spread twelve inches apart, hands on hips, head held high, at the ready for whatever crisis comes her way.

This is Miriam Goldblum. She is a take-charge kind of gal. She waits for my sister, Elaine to arrive. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.

My father winks, his small round glasses perched on his prominent nose. “Don’t worry, Gail, we’ll finish our puzzle first.”

“This is hardly the time for levity, Ira.” No self-respecting Jewish mother allows her divorced daughters to remain unmarried for more than one year.

My sister Elaine saunters into the room and drapes her Burberry jacket on the back of a chair. “Mom, let’s face it, Gail is not getting any younger.”

My mother turns back to me. “Gail, you should be grateful we’re here.”

It’s not that I’m ungrateful. Every damn day I’m grateful. Counting my blessings, I would have to be grateful for Elaine, my younger, thinner, sister, the one who married well and whose disposable income is equal to the national debt.

Of course, there’s Bubbie, who was kind enough to move into a home so I can inherit her rent-controlled apartment. How could I forget my parents? They live two floors above me in another rent-controlled three-bedroom, retired from my father’s hardware business so my mother can devote more of her time to Mahjong, while my father walks the neighborhood in baggy khaki pants, muttering about how ungrateful we are.

Dad and I are working on a ten thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle and munching on Doritos.

In one swift motion, my mother slaps the Doritos out of my father’s hand and answers Elaine. “And it wouldn’t hurt if she lost a little weight.”

I would answer, but it doesn’t matter. Elaine and my mother ask rhetorical questions or talk exclusively to each other. The last thing they want is for me to spoil their fun with an answer. I look up at Dad and wave a small yellow puzzle piece. “They’re going to start again. First Bubbie, and now me.”

He grabs the piece. “I can’t believe you found the link.” He shrugs his shoulders and puts the key piece where we know the rest of the border will soon follow. “Dates for you, homes for Bubbie. Next they’ll send me for tennis lessons.”

Elaine concurs. “Yes, it’s high time we got someone for Gail.” She taps the table with her fifty-dollar, French import pen. “Let’s make a list.”

“Sure, sure, we can call your Aunt Rachel. She mixes with the best podiatrists on the Upper West Side.” They start a list.

I look over at my father and moan, “They won’t stop.”

He nods in agreement. “I know, bubulah. Go on a couple of dates and make them happy. Then go out with your friends and have some fun.”

“Dad, I’m not exactly in any shape to have fun.”

He rolls his eyes. “Shape, smape. You’re not an old maid. Do something, Gail. Go out and act like the gay divorcee you are.”

I know I will cave in as usual and meet this poor soul. Why not? I’ll stumble out into the world, trip on my high heels and push my blind date off the curb where he’ll be flattened by on-coming traffic.

New Yorkers stop for no one.

*****************

Gail was only my second novel after the Third-Eye with Antoinette. Both of them are my fledgling attempts at both funny and mysterious … although as most cozies will attest … it is a hoot when you combine the two.

I don’t know that I’ll ever do anything with her other than snip here and there in the blog. However, each time I return to something I wrote when I first put fingers to keyboard, I get a tickle. Then I get a rash at how awful some of it was.

Remember that somewhere in there, even in your worst draft and your most awful first attempts, there is something special about what you said.

I believe that is what causes most writers to return to their first baby, even after the third or fourth novel. There was something magic about the first time, be it the first kiss, the first love, the first time you wondered at a child’s smile … and for writers, certainly our first books.

That was the time you found out who you really were and had the courage to let one or two of your imaginary friends say it for you.

Tell me …

Has your first book gotten into print?

And if not, have you promised yourself

that one of these days it will?

fOIS In The City

Note:  I have adopted Maxine as my alter-ego. She is most perfect for my Gail. You can Google or go to Pinterest to find dozens of her.

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The blog of it all …

The first part of this is a reprint from an earlier post.

Blogging-for-Fun-Fame-and-Fortune

Graphic Credit

 How it all started … 

In the Spring of 2009, my daughter decided to drag me into cyber space and created pages for me on Facebook and My Space.

This was for a time, an interesting way for me to become a voyeur, peeking at those cute little graphics, those marvelous family photos and the endless threads of conversation.

Actually, reading the internet on any given day will give one the impression there is not a single soul on planet earth, including our president, who does not wish to render themselves splayed out for public consumption.

It impressed some of the Generation X kids who wandered through our rooms in Washington Heights during the Eighties.

However, when a girl from my kindergarten class requested to be in my network, I realized my daughter had unleashed a beast I was not about to battle.

Who wants to hear from the kid whose braids you stuck in the ink well?

 

Journey.01

In October, 2009, she put me on yet another path and started my blog.   

I am fOIS In The City … a crazy Italian who had too much time on her hands between writing projects.

One major advantage of a blog is format. There are no rules and you don’t have to go from Chapter One to Chapter Whatever. Mostly because there are no chapters. Feel free to roam around, flip through categories or concentrate on one section or not.

This stuff is mostly fiction, people. So I am allowed to exaggerate, embellish, and wax melodramatic about anything at all.

Moving on …

To get back to the present.

I believe in deadlines. I give them to myself because I know if I do not, I will stumble through the day and into the night with no direction or purpose. I will go from one decoupage project to a book, from a book to decorating a tree, from decorating a tree to finishing the next chapter.

The next chapter did she say? Yes, I am working on another book.

In the time-worn debate … do you ascribe to the plotter or pantster method of writing a book?

pantser-or-plotter-writing

Graphic Credit

If I may digress. I was born on the cusp of two astrological signs … Virgo and Libra. Two very good signs I must say … yet they are in most ways like the moon and the sun. They might be part of the same universe, but they will never be at the same place at the same time.

I was born left-handed … to this I owe my natural genius, being able to throw with both hands, and tripping up steps.

For years, I’ve tried to understand the nature of how I do things. I cannot. And my writing is no different.

I am neither a panster nor plotter … I am a pantplotter.

Plain and simple. I go from day one to “the end,” and never look before I dive into the rabbit hole.

When I have eighty thousand plus words, I sit down and read. I reorganize, take out my many and numerous repetitions, rewrite, edit, rewrite, send to my precious readers … stop crying after I read their critiques and rewrite some more.

My deadline to finish this current project is the day after my next birthday at the end of this month.

If you will pardon the pun … I’ll keep you posted.

An executive decision …

Thankfully, the blog-of-it-all does not include learning how to query, or submitting posts to publishers, or handing over posts for pre-publication critiques.

I can do anything I please. Therefore, my executive decision is to continue with my snippets and my one thousand word stories.

It’s okay if you don’t want to send me prompt sentences. I think I’ll pick up random thoughts from one of those web sites that offer daily prompts and from time to time use one of those to wow you with my amazing creative talent.

So as I continue to decorate table top trees and mini bottle brush trees, holiday wreaths, baby cakes and baskets, and every other thing I do on Etsy … I will also continue to edit, perfect my current WIP, and find interesting stuff for you to read.

And it won’t cost you a cent. Just a dime’s worth of your time.

Does anyone care about what happens to Viola and Aunt Lucille?

Will Gail have another disastrous blind date?

Tune in next time for the answers?

What projects occupy your time these days?

And how do you handle deadlines?

fOIS In The City

 

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Assignment-How I Spent My Summer Vacation …

Does anyone remember those hokey essays your teacher gave you the first week back to school?

 Summer-vacation-cartoonGraphic Credit

How I spent my summer vacation … remember you always counted those words. “Teacher, teacher, how many words?” So you counted the words in the title, didn’t you?

Blah, blah, blah.

Don’t get hung up with details … I did tons of things … let’s leave it at that.

Another year begins …

And as another year begins, I am clueless as to what I should say and do on the blog, today, next Wednesday or all the other Wednesdays to come.

This morning I thought to jump into a first person satirical monologue on the dangers of mass hypnosis, the plague of yellow journalism, the phenomena of the “talking heads,” and the truth behind Big Brother.

Needing a good laugh, however, I’ll spare you.

And in the spirit of fair play, to preserve the mantra of our super heroes, and for the sake of “truth, justice and the American way,” I will borrow from my alter-ego, Antoinette.

Television advertising for instance …

Do you suffer from RLS?

What the hell is RLS you ask? It’s Restless Leg Syndrome. Happily, the ABC Drug Company has the cure.

Along with RLS there are also a plethora of neurotic ills that plague our fellow citizens … consider if you will COD, ADHD or any combination of dyslexic, anorexic, bulimic, bi-polar disorders, more fascinating than alphabet soup.

Then, of course, there is my new favorite … PD.

Think about your granny or your old maid Aunt Mabel sitting with their knitting. They hear the strains of romantic music and look up with a smile at their twelve-inch RCA to see a man and a woman gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes.

Do you or your mate suffer from penile dysfunction?

You can’t make this stuff up folks.

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Cartoon credit

Neurosis is what neurosis does.

Phrases anyone?

“Being in the moment.” Like I have a choice or maybe I could wiggle my nose and not be in this moment.

“This has been the worst day of my entire life.”  Oh, so you’re going to drop dead now?

“I have never been so insulted.”  Wait, I’ll try better next time.

On the dark side …

Antoinette is not only my alter-ego, she is my best friend and partner. She came to me in my late twenties, when my little girl was but a babe, when life was still a promise yet fulfilled, when it seemed easier, simpler.

Now she prods and pokes at me, her laughter mocking my efforts to stretch my psyche across the page for your entertainment.

This month, when we reach the first day of fall, I will begin another decade in my life. The page will turn in the giant book and I will have a new blank space to fill.

Some choose not to turn the page, they defy the devil that is Father Time and summarily jump off the merry-go-round.

Some of those we have loved left us all too soon, but their light lingers, trails through the sky like the tail of a comet.

I loved Robin Williams. In a virtual sense as only fans can every love a performer. He spoke to something in all of us. He was one of the few who could make us laugh and cry at once.

I wish he had decided to stay and turn to the next page with me. But like the others in my actual family, his time here was done.

In Robin’s honor and to remember all those  we have lost, I would like to share one of my most beloved poems by Emily Dickinson.

Ample Make This Bed

Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.

Where to go from here …

The next few months will be jam packed with my off-centered perception of this life we all live. As the planet continues to spin on its axis in the universe, as the sun continues to rise and fall, and as I find my way to another crossroad … I will reach out for your hand.

Hold on tight and we’ll have a jolly good time. Thanks for coming back.

Pray tell me readers, did you have a slammin’ good summer?

Any great plans for the new season?

fOIS In The City

 

Remember those that have gone before you. Keep them in your heart and they will have true immortality. RIP Robin

 

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