Monday, 9 November 2015

Baby Boomers... sigh...

Hi friends:

As many of you know, I adopted the alter ego of Jane Phoenix a few years ago when my life was in the toilet. I wanted to write the truth about my life, much like Bridget Jones, but the truth was hard to look at... therefore, alter ego.

I started writing down adventures in 2009 and ended my story at a happy point in 2012, which was parallel to my real life, even though Jane's story diverged from my own and in fact I added a bunch of crazy hijinks that actually happened to other people and made these odd events happen to Jane because it was fun. I've been writing and rewriting stories about that tough time, and sometimes I think it's been therapy for me.

I recently had the opportunity to have my work critiqued by two Baby Boomers. One is an angry gay man. Another is a Northeasterner that I don't know very well, but her writing was about the same time period and I saw some parallels with my own work, so I thought perhaps she might understand.

Sigh. They didn't get it.

The angry one got hung up on phrases here, and language there. And then there were other things that he totally didn't comprehend, so he'd say they didn't make sense or ask odd questions. In one installment, when Jane gets a migraine at work, I wrote something like, "I managed to look busy for the rest of the day," because in the story, Jane had to wait for her carpool buddy to go home.

Red-faced, he declares, "I would have fired her on the spot! Fired her! My old assistant was always fooling around on Facebook..."

"But I didn't write that she was fooling around on Facebook," I replied.

"I would have fired her! Why didn't she just take a pill and get back to work?" he continued.

"Because her pills were 50 miles away at her townhouse," I explained.

But he wouldn't listen. It was useless.

The other gave some good input, but couldn't get over how selfish and mean Jane was. Since I'm writing from the perspective of myself, and since I experienced many things firsthand, I have to wonder: am I mean? Or are they just programmed to hate people in my generation?

The term "whiny crybaby" seems to get kicked around whenever an older generation scrutinizes a younger one. This is why I'm doing my best to love the Millenials. Sure, there's a few I'd like to slap for being stupid, unfocused, and obnoxious (really, just two that I've worked with in the past), but for the most part, they have it worse than my generation, the Xers, do. They deserve our help and compassion, not our scrutiny.

More than that, I don't want to be like the Boomers. I don't want to sit up on high and judge everyone else. I don't want to laugh with derision when I see younger people worse off than I am. That's not fair, and that's not cool. My generation may be invisible, but at least many of us aren't a$$holes.

The root of why I bought a townhouse, and got stuck in "Winterville," can be boiled down to a few factors, the first being: Baby Boomer Bravado.

Older generations were sold on the idea of buying a home because it always appreciated in value, or at least has since the 1930s.

When I was new to Winterville, I rented a room from a realtor and, while she is a delightful Boomer, I felt like I couldn't get away from the pressure... from elders... from my own roommate. I was literally surrounded. So I bought something to shut everybody up, and I told myself it was an investment.

The other factor was my lack of a spine and my inability to judge a situation from a logical standpoint. If I'd been honest with myself, I never would have bought a place and I never would have gotten stuck. It's as simple as that. And it's why I was so angry with myself for so long.

When the home value careened downward, and my job went into the crapper, it was Despair City. I met a few of the most scathingly horrible people in my attempt to "make the best of a bad situation." If it hadn't been for Diva, I'd have been completely alone. I couldn't trust anyone else. It was madness.

I don't know if this book will ever be released or published, because in many ways it's a note to all the people and societal influences that steered me wrong. See how bad I had it? it asks. See what you talked me into? So I have to take a step back, leave it alone for a while, and come at it from another angle. A more comedic, less freaked-out angle.

Yours truly,

Friday, 7 August 2015

Nobody ever tells you it'll take this long

Hi friends:

I'm still working on the Book of Jane. It covers 2006 through 2012 and it's an epic at 130,000 words and growing. In fact, as of this post I'm naming it Epic Fool. Because it's an epic, and a fool is what Jane was (and maybe still is!)

The mythical fool is the person at the beginning of a journey who's unaware of the road ahead and who basically plunges headfirst into it. There's that, and the regular interpretation of the word Fool. Generally, I pity the fool.

Diva and I share login info, and I didn't use mine to log in, so it looks like she's writing this post even though I am (Jane/author).

I'm sorting through this blog to use bits of things I wrote for the blog that's featured in the book. In addition to the character list, I have to ensure that blog posts, sinkholes, and book club meetings are thoroughly covered in the book, since they all move the story forward!

I'm hungry and it's time for lunch so I'll be going now. Thanks for stopping in!


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Digging in the Dirt

As you all know by now, I've been working on my tome about the Great Recession since it was underway. I've mostly concentrated on the moment of terror when I realized my HUGE mistake and the digging out from it after that, but at a recent writer's meeting, I was told that I really need to give the background leading up to the TERRIBLE MISTAKE so that the audience can empathize. They need to see me go through the process of wanting to leave one town, feeling secure enough to buy a place in Winterville, and then run through my money so that when the recession starts, my terror and fear are justified.

Well. If I must.

(Oh yeah, and one of the reviewers said I used the word "well" too often; when I brought this up to Diva, she said, "Well..." Ha ha ha, I can't get away from it. It's the way we talk in Florida!)

(Another one of the reviewers said, "There's just no way that a sinkhole could swallow a road! Maybe a small chunk of it, but a whole stretch of road!" I'm going to email him some pictures. Seriously. And how is there ever "a small chunk of road"? I give up.)

So take a wild guess as to the side effects of my recent efforts. Choose from the following list:

1) Periods of mental concentration, followed by recalling details of my former life that I'd repressed. Examples: 1) recalling the popping sound of the wood frame of my townhouse as it "settled." Would not have been so traumatic if I hadn't been surrounded by sinkholes. 2) the hilarity of finding out that not only had I lost tens of thousands of dollars in value over the first year I owned my place, but also that they cheaped out on the fire alarm batteries so that they started chirping at me after about 8 months in my "new" place on a day that I was, naturally, home sick from work. 3) calling the builder to fix a roof leak twice in the first year. 4) seeing the guy who sold me my townhouse driving around in a new BMW shortly thereafter. Glad to know my stupidity lined so many peoples' pockets! Sigh.
2) Fitful sleep, from which my husband wakes me up and tells me I had shallow breathing and writhed around as if in a wild panic.
3) Illness descending upon me from who-knows-where. An actual need for an afternoon nap (putting it off wasn't an option).
4) Finding respite in sleep. Looking forward to it as much as I did when I worked full-time. Getting lots and lots of sleep. My time now is part unemployment, part writing work, and part therapy (without the benefit of a therapist, but with the benefit of playing my ukulele, which is probably better for me in the long run anyway).
5) Realization that the surgery and post-surgery drugs haven't erased my memories of 2011-2012 completely, but they did a good job of hiding them for a while!
6) All of the above.

So this is where I'm at right now. I wanted to get the book out by early summer but it may take longer, and if I've learned anything in this crazy life, it's that I can't rush things. Anyone who got engaged at age 40 knows that you can't hurry love. You can't push the river, they say. But hopefully the words will come and flow out in the right order!


Friday, 30 January 2015

The Recipe for Drama- REVEALED!!!

Hi friends, it's Jane here again, home from a long week of my "day job" and gearing up to tell my story for an upcoming peer review. I was inspired today on the drive home as I realized there are so many things in this life that fit into the six main points I've outlined below. When I write new characters (that somewhat reflect the real characters I've known, who inspire my writing), I have to think about their motivations. And what motivates people more than conflict?

Enter drama. Drama, drama, drama as we say. When it comes to throwing up roadblocks or setting up situations that can't possibly be resolved in a perfect and complete manner, I have to give credit to some people who've crossed my path, over and over. Well, the light bulb's gone on and I have to say, THANKS! I'll know who to avoid whenever I see these warning signs:

Recipe for Drama

  1. Inflexible parameters are a must. Make up lots of obstacles, just because you can, and then tell people whom you've chosen to jump when you command it, "If you can't such-and-such at a time that I find convenient/agreeable/whatever, then you are a despicable person!" Use manipulation to keep people around; they'll be miserable, but they'll stick around! (Until they can find an escape, that is.) (I'm thinking of YOU, Patricia! Do you still read this blog?)
  2. Spend your energy telling other people about your problems (instead of working on solutions for your problems) in the hopes that these other people will come along and fix your problems for you. BONUS: if they fail, you have someone else to blame. YES! MORE DRAMA!
  3. After spending much time complaining about a problem, wonder why it hasn't magically improved. After all that work you did... complaining. 
  4. Make other people feel included and useful; what's the point of having a problem if you can't share it with others? Misery loves company. (Someone I knew in Winterville had lots of problems, including a health problem that racked up a lot of hospital bills. She literally came over to my desk one day and dumped her stack of bills on my desk. I told her to take them and put them somewhere else; I already had no money and a townhouse worth 10 cents with a giant sinkhole in the backyard and hadn't been on a date with a decent man since 2006. I didn't need other people's problems hanging around me too!) (Hi there, Suzie! What can I say? YOU MADE THE LIST!)
  5. If your problem persists, realize (and name) all of the things wrong with everyone else involved in the situation. Add this to your complaint rotation and repeat often. If it weren't for everyone else's many flaws, you wouldn't even HAVE that problem in the first place!
  6. For extra fun, get upset with people who are unable to READ YOUR MIND!
What can I say, friends? I've learned from the best. 

If I ever shoot you a sunshiney smile, shake my head and say, "I'm sorry about that. I don't know what to tell you," chances are you're being just a TAD bit dramatic and need to chill!

Your amiga,
Jane Q. Phoenix

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Well, at least I captured enough conflict to affect one reader...

The author of my story belongs to a writing critique group, and a newcomer who had to cancel attending a recent meeting had this to say about the Jane Phoenix story:

Sorry, I couldn't handle reading the story set in Florida. I just recently moved from Florida and I'd like to forget about my entire experience there.

I don't know about you, but this made us laugh. It's ironic that we want to forget about so much that happened during that time, but yet that's what we're writing about it!
Have a happy weekend, friends!