Sunday, 30 March 2014

Synopsis and first scene... Enjoy!


As you may know, some dear person is writing about my time in the backwoods of Florida during the Great Recession. Having recently received some advice from a published author who's climbing the Amazon charts as we speak, this dear person realized that she needs to share some of my story with potential readers to figure out what works and what doesn't. And so, without further ado, here is the summary.

I, Jane Q. Phoenix, bought a townhouse in Florida in 2007 that, over the course of the following 5 years, lost half of its value. I also had a *bit of trouble* making friends, working, making ends meet, and dating during that time. However, through it all, I had the support of my good friend Diva and a few others I met along the way. So, it's a book about friendship and dealing with whatever life throws at you... like Sex and the City, but without sex and without a city. I wonder if I should call it No Sex in the Country but then have to wonder why anyone would buy a book with a title that starts with No Sex. It is a quandary.

Without further ado, here is the first scene I will share with you. It's at a point when I am trying to meet people in my new adopted town, Winterville:

The flurry of moving to town and closing on my townhouse kept me busy, but as more things were unpacked, I realized how much time I was spending alone.

Diva had worked for a company that had an office in Winterville and vaguely knew of a few fun people there that I should meet, so she offered to introduce us on Facebook. I jumped at the chance, as I had chosen not to socialize with coworkers outside of work and had not had luck meeting people otherwise. events, which were few and far between, were usually cancelled or took place when I was busy working. Without anyone to introduce me to people in Winterville, I wasn’t sure how long it would be until I could find stuff to do in town.

This guy Jason knows everybody. He can introduce you around. I’ll message you both on Facebook, Diva wrote.

I answered: Thanks, honey, you are a pal. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to meet people around here. This is really helpful!

The next morning, I saw her email to Jason and me:

Hi Jane and Jason! Jason, Jane is new to town and doesn’t have any friends there yet. I wanted to introduce you to each other. Be sure to include her in Happy Hour!
-Diva (Lexi)

His reply to both of us was totally above-board and seemed fine:

Hi ladies. Welcome to town, Jane.

Then he sent me separate message:

Can you meet up at Bennigans? I’m going there after work for a drink.

I wrote back: OK, I get off work at 5 nearby. See you shortly after then.

I hoped this could be a person who would enable me to socialize locally, but I did worry; after all, Diva had never met him in person, and I didn’t know what to expect. Still, he seemed to be approachable in that already-taken-by-another-woman sort of way. He was separated from his wife and dating someone new; this was something I’d confirmed either with Diva or on Facebook. He also had a daughter.

After work, I drove across the main highway of town and parked at Bennigan’s. Upon entering the dark entryway, I saw the familiar brass handrails and the dark wooden steps up to the bar.  After being greeted by a pimply hostess, I looked around the restaurant.

Only a few customers were belly-up to the bar at 5:10 p.m. I looked for a tallish, brown-haired man that matched Jason’s profile picture and found one watching the door intently. He looked right through me, really.

“Jason?” I asked as I approached him. He looked at me, startled. There was one empty beer glass in front of him and a full glass beside it.

“Lexi?” he asked. “I mean, Jane?”

“Yeah, that’s me,” I said. “Hey. It’s nice to meet you.” I sat down on the barstool next to him.

“Don’t you have long hair?” he asked, perplexed.

This was interesting: my only picture on Facebook featured me with Diva at a rip-roaring St. Patrick’s Day celebration in a bar in a faraway city.  I wore a basic outfit with my usual flat hair and slightly buzzed expression. Diva, however, was in a dramatic pose and sexy dress, showing off her curves and sporting a green feather boa. Diva’s hair was long in that picture; mine was not. I guess he didn’t recognize her, since her hair hadn’t been that long for a few years, and they knew each other by phone and email, never in person, through work.

“Ah, my hair changes all the time. I am a woman of many looks. But I think you thought I was Diva.”

He looked disappointed, but then shrugged and said, “Well, I never met her in person, so there you go.  So, you are Lexi’s friend. She left to go back to school, right?” he asked.

“Yes, she’s in the process now. I’m happy for her.”

“How did she get the name Diva?”

“Her name is Alexandra Bellini. Doesn’t that sound like an opera singer’s name? And besides, she has a flair for the dramatic. Diva’s her nickname from college.”

“That’s cool.  So, what brings you to this lovely burg?” he asked.

“A new job.  I’m a technical writer, and work for an engineering firm.  What do you do?”

“I work in finance.  Our company is based in Miami but has offices everywhere. That’s how I met your friend. Over the phone, at least.”

“Cool.  What do you go out and do around here? I’m trying to get my bearings.  I’ve seen a few things going on but wanted to ask you about them. What about the Improv? Have you ever checked it out?”

“I don’t know much about the Improv, but I do know that there are a lot of good restaurants around here. They could make for some good nights out,” he purred. His glance lingered on my boobs.

Oh, Jesus, I thought. Not this. First of all, trying to make eye contact with my boobs wasn’t going to earn him any points. Secondly, since I was single, I didn’t want to hear about any “outings” that would require a date. I didn’t have anyone to date, and I most definitely wasn’t looking to date a man with a girlfriend and an estranged wife.

“So Jane, what do you do for fun?” he added in an overly friendly tone.

Was he serious? Did people use that line anymore? I wondered how I should respond. I get naked and swing from the chandeliers? I enjoy pottery, hiking, and outdoorsy pursuits? I like sunshine, puppies, and long walks on the beach?

One would think with 3 women/ girls in his life, that he wouldn’t have time to try to add to the collection. Well, maybe that’s just what I’d think. I have to wear bangs to conceal the tattoo that reads GULLIBLE on my forehead.

“For now I leave town, Jason! I don’t know how to answer that question.” I crossed my arms in the attempt to camouflage my chest.

“OK, well, what do you like to cook?” He was either very sexist or grasping at straws to come up with a conversational topic.

But seriously, was I auditioning to be Woman #3, or perhaps Alice from The Brady Bunch? I didn’t sign up for this! I figured I’d cut to the chase.

“Food, Jason, I like to cook and eat food. What is up with these questions? You are acting like you’re flirting with me. Don’t you have a girlfriend? Aren’t you separated from your wife?”

Stop. Stammer time.

“Oh, oh, well,” he said, looking flustered, “my girlfriend and I are on the outs.  And my divorce will be happening soon.” He turned and took a long sip from his full beer glass.

“Really? That’s not what Diva told me last night.”

“Oh well, you know, I don’t like to tell people at work my business. It’s not professional,” he continued, staring at the bar in front of us now.

He looked glum.  It wasn’t clear what made him sad: woman problems most likely, or perhaps something on the job. Emptying the first glass of beer by 5:05 p.m. wasn’t a good sign.

“OK, well, I need to go. I have a meeting that starts in a few minutes. Thanks for the invitation to meet here.”

“You’re going out right now? I thought you didn’t know anybody in town.”

“Yep, it’s dinner time. I gotta go,” I responded. I didn’t want to come across as bitchy, but I also wanted to get away.

“All right, well... it was great talking with you, Jane,” he said, trying one more time to sound endearing. He extended his hand and I shook it. His hand was wet and sticky from beer.

“Thanks, Jason. Bye.”

“Take care of yourself,” he answered back.

What a confusing encounter, I thought. He was creepy one minute, sad the next. It was impossible to know what was going on with him, and it didn’t seem like it was my job to find out.

As for my appointment, I had a meeting with a miniature pizza, hot from the toaster oven, just a few minutes after I got home. I called Diva after dinner.

“So, Toots, what do you like to do for fun?” I asked her.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Introducing my story- over 57,000 words!!!!

Friends, over the past few months, I've had a chance to really concentrate on my writing for the first time in forever. Diva and I have talked extensively about how to get it all together and incorporate all of her witty asides, because she's read through various incarnations over the past few years and sprinkled in her spicy comments throughout.

Yes, I left my job and moved across the country to be with the man I love. There was no ticker-tape parade waiting for me when I got here, no job offers when the first uncomfortable feeling of, "What is my purpose anymore?" surfaced. Along the way, I've joined a lot of writer's groups and submitted work for critique week after week. I've done some freelance editing and looked for more work along that vein, along with freelance writing gigs. So far, loving to write has turned into an expensive hobby, one that I'll probably subsidize with some temp work soon. Even though I lack the structure that work has always provided, I've had time to work on the book I've wanted to write. It became like a part-time job, taking up my afternoons after my job posting opportunities have been exhausted.

I'm excited to say that right now, the story has over 57,000 words! And I am going to share snippets with you along the way. A few of these vignettes are ready to slip out of the vault and into the world.

Please feel free to share any observations with me about them via email or, if you see something on Facebook that you like, click the Share button so more people can read about my ridiculous life.

Sincerely yours,
Jane Q. Phoenix

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Moody, anyone? If so, spill. I hope it isn't just me.

Wow. The last few days have been up and down. I'm not sure if it's tied in to the weather: cold, damp, dreary, and killing my instinct to exercise (or do anything but mope and nap).

I generally have to take a step back when I start to wonder what I'm doing with my life. Either I have no time to pursue what I like because I am working so much or I have no job and get to fixate on that, creativity be damned. The last few months have been chock-full of changes, and my career isn't moving ahead too quickly now, although I hope it will soon. I would like to be self-employed. We will see how that goes, as getting started is something that one improvises. (I am finding this out now.)

The past few years have flattened me like a steamroller. I happen to have a friend who acquired some hang-ups from working for an employer that essentially worked her too hard. I wasn't too affected by that particular employer (we worked for the same company) but then I went to work for a nonprofit and it was like, Zambonis, start your engines. I've never been asked to work so hard at a place that had no opportunity for advancement and no incentive to make more money. My reward for doing a good job was more work and zero flexibility from my employer at a time when I really could have used it.

Being overworked has had this affect on me, and perhaps my friend, of making me suspicious. I look at a new potential workplace and try to imagine how I could fit in to the culture, learn my position, and then wonder if I'd have to constantly assert myself to have a work-life balance.

I've never been one of those people who could rationalize working all of the time. I've always had a body that needed exercise and the need to socialize with friends and family. I think it's important to have boundaries. No one's going to wake me up in the middle of the night or keep me at work 3 hours late with a "writing emergency." Sorry, but such things don't exist, and don't try to tell me otherwise! I don't log in at night to do more work. That's when I eat, exercise, and relax. If that makes me unfit for the modern workplace, then perhaps I should work for myself.

I read somewhere in my horoscope that I'll never work as hard in my whole life as I worked in 2012, and I wouldn't be surprised if that turned out to be true. It's 2014 already and I don't think I could work that hard now. It was such a tough year.

Combining that with my current creative project means that the tears have started to flow. In order to work on my current project, a book about life in the recession in Florida, I have to go back to that state: overworked, with no hope of promotion or raise, tired all the time, dealing with health issues, and upside-down and underwater in a home that I couldn't get rid of yet.  Although I met some nice people there, most were busy with their own marriages or families and I spent a ton of time alone. I also met some people there who were available to hang out, but they tended to be oversolicitous married guys or really strange people. Of course, there was also the parade of hostile townies and the horny old men. I didn't have a choice. It was the long, dark night of the soul.

I suppose everyone goes through that at some point of life.  It seems most of my single friends have gone through it in their thirties; as for the ones who've stayed married and/or had children, I don't know if they are exempt from it or if this is a universal condition that they too will experience. I suppose keeping people around you can keep the long, dark night at bay in most cases, but probably not all the time.

Anyway, friends, even revisiting the bad old days is enough to get me boo-hooing. I hope the sun comes out soon and distracts me from this!