Six Sentence Sunday

In this scene from Just Friends With Benefits, as Stephanie hooks up with her crush for the first time, she cannot get her mind to shut down:

I had psyched myself up for being with him the night before, but my bravado disappeared the instant he declined my advances, and fear and insecurity took its place. In the first moments of kissing him, my inner voice expressed an hour’s worth of concerns. Does he think I’m a good kisser? Will he think my boobs are too small or my ass too big? Is my bikini wax still fresh? And I wished I taken the time to read that article in Cosmopolitan.

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Six Sentence Sunday

In this scene from “Just Friends With Benefits”, Stephanie looks to pop culture and God to cleanse her of a sin committed to love interest Ryan.

“When I closed my eyes to go to sleep that last night in the Outer Banks, I imagined asking my fairy godmother to grant me not three, but a measly single wish-that I had never broken up with Ryan. And I drafted in my mind a persuasive essay to Mr. Rourke explaining why I deserved a spot on Fantasy Island; a place where Ryan would certainly forgive me for my sin. And I thought about how great it would be if I could just ask Bill and Ted to make one extra stop on their Excellent Adventure, to 48 hours prior, before I had left that stupid fucking voicemail to Ryan. In a last ditch effort, I sat up in bed and looked up at the ceiling. “Please God,” I whispered, looking over at a sleeping Denise. “Please let there be a message waiting for me from Ryan when I wake up.”

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When I started my first novel in 2008, I had strong feelings for a certain guy who shall remain nameless even though a) I’m sure he’ll never read this and b) he’s kind of a douchebag who deserves to be outted. I had dated this person for about eight months and while I was the one who ended things, it was only because I knew he didn’t share my feelings and nothing was ever going to change. I started Just Friends With Benefits a few months after we stopped dating and, while the book was 100% fiction, I based characters on both him and some of the people I’d met through him. By creating a fictional world around characters inspired by him and his friends, I was able to say/do things I never had the opportunity to do in real life and by the time I finished the book, I was completely over him. Closure. Shortly afterward, I had several experiences where the guy I was dating or thought was interested in me simply disappeared, sometimes permanently and sometimes only to pop back in a few weeks (months…) later as if nothing had happened. One time, I had a guy blow me off in the middle of an email exchange regarding who was cooler – Mr. Furley or Mr. Roper (from Three’s Company). Perhaps my preference for Mr. Furley offended him? These experiences thoroughly frustrated me and quite frankly pissed me off! By the time I finished my second novel (not yet published), about a 26 year old woman who dives head first into the NYC dating scene after a 9 year relationship with her first and only boyfriend only to find it infested with flakes who are interested today and gone tomorrow, I had learned that guys like that are just not worth the angst. Closure.

I didn’t write these novels hoping for or expecting closure but my emotional state at the time drove my creative juices and novels were born. I was pleasantly surprised that in addition to providing me with writer’s high (equally as amazing as runner’s high), writing these novels acted as my shrink!

I am now 90 pages into my third novel and, while I am not ready to go into details, I am wondering if, like the others, it will provide closure on some aspect of my life that requires it.

For other authors who might read this, have you ever obtained closure through the writing process?

Six Sentence Sunday!

In this scene from my published novel, Just Friends With Benefits, Stephanie is trying to convince her mother (and possibly herself) that the nature of her relationship with the object of her affection, Craig Hille, is more than it appears:

“I understand. But do you think Hille will decide to upgrade your status from fuck buddy to boyfriend and girlfriend if you travel across states to have sex with him?”

Finally appreciating the humor of my 62 year old mother’s repeated use of the phrase “fuck buddy,” I laughed into the phone. “For the last time, he’s not my fuck buddy, Mom.”

In between chewing something, my mom said, “Ok.”

“And besides, it could lead to more.”


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pop culture in novels

Fact:  I am somewhat of a television junkie. 

I can make a television reference to almost any real-life situation.  For instance, I’m headed out to Seattle soon and told a friend I was going to hunt down McDreamy and McSteamy (from the television series, Grey’s Anatomy).  If I sneeze in front of my sister, Marjorie, I’ll fake concern that the sniffles mean I’ll probably need to get my tonsils out like Cindy Brady on The Brady Bunch.  If I leave my comfort zone of making a tuna fish sandwich and heating up soup for dinner and attempt something more sophisticated, I might compare myself to Jack Tripper when he prepared his coq a vin at Jack’s Bistro.  (A Three’s Company reference for those of you not in “the know.”) 

I also have a sick photographic memory when it comes to television.  Marjorie once randomly asked me who played the mom in Mr. Belvedere.  I immediately answered “Ilene Graff.”  I just pictured the theme song in my head and her name came to me.  If friends are playing Trivial Pursuit (or more often a drinking game requiring knowledge of pop culture), they’ll often send me a text asking something along the lines of: “Remember that show with that guy who used to be on Mary Tyler Moore and had two daughters and there was some really stupid guy that used to hang out with them?”  And I’ll respond within minutes, “Too Close for Comfort.  The stupid guy always wore a striped rugby shirt and his name was Monroe.”  And they’ll text back “I KNEW you’d remember!”

My love of television dates back to when I was practically a baby.  I remember watching episodes of That Girl with my Nanny Tessie and Poppy Charles on afternoons I didn’t have kindergarten.  And I used to act out scenes from Eight is Enough and the Facts of Life with Marjorie and my childhood friend, Ronni. (Marjorie always got first choice of what character she wanted to be, but we were just happy she wanted to play with us.)  While my older sisters watched Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley with my mom in her room, I would watch it from the hallway.  If my mom had to cross her bedroom to use the bathroom, my sisters would warn me to run back to my room so I wouldn’t get caught being up past my bedtime.  I used to love watching The Love Boat and Fantasy Island while babysitting on Saturday nights.  My sister and I were obsessed with Degrassi Junior High and used to watch it while eating bagels on Sunday mornings.  I rushed home from school on weekdays to watch General Hospital at 3 and Oprah Winfrey at 4.  And my college roommates and I never headed to the bar on Wednesday nights until Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place were over.  And we’d drool over Kyle Chandler in Homefront.  Some of my favorite old shows through the years (in no particular order) included Who’s the Boss, Growing Pains (loved Kirk Cameron.  LOVED), Beverly Hills 90210, Knots Landing, ER, Will & Grace, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicity, Ally McBeal (the first season at least), Party of Five, My So Called Life and, of course, Seinfeld and Friends.

While writing my first novel, Just Friends With Benefits, I inserted a lot of my own characteristics into the main character of Stephanie.  So it wasn’t a surprise to friends and family members who read the book that, like me, Stephanie was somewhat of a television junkie and made many pop culture references.  She met a guy reading a book written by Marcia Brady for peat’s sake!  Throughout the book, there are references to The Brady Bunch, Three’s Company, The Love Boat, Saved by the Bell and 90210 among others.  I really enjoyed including these pop culture references because a) as indicated above, I’m a television junkie and b) I think it added another dimension to Stephanie’s personality.  Additionally, for people on or about my age, the references were probably familiar and brought back memories to the reader.  I know that I love reading books that bring me back to a different, yet familiar, time and place.  And I received many positive comments regarding the fun pop culture references.

On the flip side, the pop culture references likely went over the heads of those readers significantly younger or older than me and I know that if I read a book chock full of references that meant nothing to me, I’d probably feel a bit left out and maybe put off.  Furthermore, 40 years from now, most of those references will go over EVERYONE’s head.  While I never imagined my book to be a “classic”, I’d like my children, grandchildren and great nieces and nephews to read Mommy’s/Grandma’s/Great Aunt Meri’s first novel someday and, in hindsight, wish I hadn’t included quite so many pop culture references from the 1970s, 80s and 90s that will be considered ancient by then.  

It is not rare to see multiple pop culture references in light women’s fiction novels like Just Friends With Benefits.  And my second novel contains them as well, only not nearly as much.  The main reason I didn’t include as many in novel #2 is because the book is also written in the first person and since the main character is not a television junkie/trivia queen, it wouldn’t have made as much sense for her to compare everything to a television show.  Although I didn’t give it much thought when writing my second novel, now that I have more experience as a writer, I think I will include even less pop culture references in my third.  But I’m curious what you all think?  Do you enjoy pop culture references in the novels you read?  Do you get annoyed when you don’t “get” them?  


I’m going mobile

You might have noticed that I haven’t blogged in a while. A couple of weeks ago, I was too busy getting ready for my vacation in Savannah to do much writing, and last week, while on my vacation, writing was not on the agenda. My vacation was fantastic.  I’d been really stressed at work and the week off was heavenly. Now I’m in the middle of my first week back in the office and it’s hellish. I was tempted to skip my Wednesday writer’s group to work late tonight, but as I mentioned in my last blog, I only skip for special occasions and work does not qualify unless I’m facing an urgent deadline. Also, I didn’t want to disappoint my many readers who have already suffered without a post for two weeks :).

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I enjoy writing on my Blackberry. For many reasons, I find it convenient. For one, the Blackberry is lightweight and takes up little space in my bag, making it easy to take everywhere, unlike a laptop. Additionally, I find the task of filling the small screen much less daunting than the large screen on my laptop. If you read Just Friends With Benefits, you’ll recall that the chapters are very brief. That corresponds to my writing style – I tend to write in short snippets/scenes and, with my Blackberry, I am able to compose the first draft of an entire scene while waiting on line at the Food Emporium.

Sadly, when I quit my last job, they made me return my Blackberry device and paralegals are not required to have Blackberries at my new firm.  I did not want to incur the cost of the unlimited plan without any reimbursement from my employer so I’ve gone without for the past four months.  Not having constant access to my work email hasn’t bothered me, but my desire to write has lessened due to the necessity to either write on my regular computer at home or the old fashioned way (pen and paper) on the road. I hate the duplicate effort of writing first on paper and then typing it again on my computer. And so I’ve stopped taking advantage of long lines to write in favor of reading or simply tapping my foot impatiently waiting for my turn (and sometimes cursing under my breath).

Since writing is my passion and favorite escape from “the real world”, this lack of desire concerned me, but since my second novel was already in revisions and I haven’t been writing much new material other than blogs, I initially decided to take my time deciding what to do until I was ready to start book #3. But I worried that I’d never be ready to write book #3 if I did not resolve the issue of writing on the road.

A friend suggested I buy a netbook since they are also lightweight and because he knew I wasn’t in a hurry to trade in my basic phone for a fancy one with apps. I considered the netbook option for a while, but couldn’t picture myself writing on a netbook while waiting on 2nd  Avenue for the M15 bus. The Blackberry was perfect and I missed mine terribly. Although it was the oldest version from the 1900s and I was teased by friends and strangers alike, the keys were the perfect size  for typing and I’d done some damn good writing on it.

So two weeks ago, I decided to join the rest of the modern world and upgrade my basic phone to a fancy device, except I chose the Droid over the Blackberry.  I wanted a physical keyboard in addition to the touch and my choices were limited.  I shopped around a bit and chose the Droid because the keyboard seemed easy to navigate and the screen was a nice size.

This is the first time I am using it to write more than a text message or quick email to a friend/Facebook status update and I regret to report that it kind of sucks. I am typing so slowly, making mistakes up the wazoo and I think I might have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I hope it is just a case of practice makes perfect because the contract is two years!

Some find my writing process – writing first drafts as emails to myself on a mobile device – odd. But it works for me. Or at least it did. I’d be curious whether anyone else does significant writing on a phone. If so, what device do you use and do you like it?  Also, do you have any other “odd” writing habits, for example, only writing standing up (I heard you can’t get pregnant that way), writing only during a full moon or writing naked?

Come on now, don’t be shy – we’re all friends here!