Monday, March 22, 2010

Revenge Humor and Survival

It's Called a Break Up not a Break Down, Right?

Oh boy, Cactus Man has been sending me sexy texts/emails again lately (after a two-month hiatus). And it's been trying on my nerves. He's in his up-cycle and feeling flirtatious with me again. It's not me he misses; it's the control over me he misses. That of course can be hard on a woman. You miss his touch, his words, but you realize he drove you straight to the therapist's chair.

You can, however, derive some humor from it.

When Cactus Man sent me a lame attempt at a sexy text, I wrote, "If I remember correctly, you didn't want me anymore. How contrary, Cactus Man." Of course, that shut him up completely because he wondered, "What's Cactus Man mean?" Hence, that helped me and it helped me re-gain my dignity. The healing process is so complex. Laughter, of course, helps a lot. And sometimes a playful revenge fantasy helps, too. Sometimes you can act on it. I also sent Cactus Man a short story I wrote based upon his unstable, sad, dysfunctional childhood. Slightly mean of me, yes, I know. But I changed all the names/locations, etc.

My Ideas of How to Get Over a Heartache from a Bad Person:

1. Make up a comic strip about them. Of course, this implies humor and a touch of artistry. Employ a friend to help you and don't forget to do it over a good six-pack of beer. Humor is a MUST. Transform him/her into an animal or object that befits him and what he's/she's done.

2. Write a short story about a character (based on your ex) who has his shortcomings theatrically displayed. Make it over the top. Better still, make it either a sad-comedy or tragedy (but make the character likable, so the story is more tragic). If you're really bold, send it to them, with no explanation at all.

3. Live well. Honestly, THIS revenge is the best medicine. If you hear from your ex, feel free to lie liberally within reason, "I finally lost that ten pounds," or "Doing pretty well. Won a Harley from a drawing at the rally last year." "Doing OK. Got a 30% raise in pay, but I don't want to brag."

4. Shower fantasies. Of course, imagining several fantasies in your head while you're in the shower is always gratifying. My current fave is picturing Cactus Man getting an invitation to my wedding in the mail and imagining the look on his face. And of course, in HIS invitation is a picture of my new man who: 1. has all his hair 2. is better looking and 3. younger than him.

Even though I fantasize it, you can too, and for some strange reason, it's immensely gratifying!

Go ahead. Try it! It works!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Love Stinks

Love Stinks

I thought I'd met a real contender but once again, I was wrong. (Oh, and Cactus Man is texting me again, though I'm ignoring him.) Never a dull moment around here. But anyway, I thought this guy was the bomb. Firstly, he was local! He transferred here from Wisconsin; we have the same unusual hobbies (i.e., ghost town hunting). He was big-n-manly, financially stable, fit, a retired big city cop (how sexy is that?) a great big, confident, funny character. So what went wrong? You tell me. We had almost six weeks of internet/phone/photo-swapping bliss before we met, calling each other every night, long conversations, met, kissed, all looked great. Then a week later and the old, "I have to work on myself and some issues I have. It's not you. It's me." Cripes, you'd think the fool would know that line's famous from Seinfeld.

It all boils down to this: internet dating can lead to a sort of non-existent fantasy idolization on either one partner, or even both. Since I've now discovered this, here are some more red flags.

Top Signs Your Internet Love is Transforming you into a Fantasy and Other Various Red Flags:

1. Says you remind him/her of someone famous. Before meeting me, this dude had it in his head I was going to be just like the country singer Sara Evans. He'd wake up every morning and listen to some lame song she'd written and say it'd remind him of me. Anyone who knows me would laugh at this. Really? Chrissy Hinds, maybe. Stevie Nicks, possibly. Even Lady Gaga or Amy Winehouse would be closer. He'd already built me up to something I could never be.

2. Too many failed marriages. This one I realize is controversial. But THREE failed marriages and a failed engagement? Also, if all the divorces are explained as, "She left me," run for the hills. She left you? Yeah, right.

3. An illegitimate kid or two that the person isn't allowed to see.
You guessed it. I should have ran right there. Big FAT red flag.

4. Admitting to many ugly stories. I wondered if I was supposed to be sitting in a confessional giving him absolution. I mean, he spilled too many beans to me in only a matter of a few weeks. Airing too much dirty laundry too soon, is a big, fat red flag.

5. Procrastinating about meeting you. Sigh. Listen up. This is the truest sign of a "Fantasy Seeker." If someone on the net is procrastinating to meet you, you have to ask yourself this, why? I was procrastinating a bit, too, so he's not entirely to blame, but I was only trying to crash diet and lose 10 lbs. before we met. Even though he only lived 30 miles away, he procrastinated too long intentionally, because many men/women, only want the fantasy, not the real deal of meeting, dating, etc.

6. Claims of False Chastity. This one really ONLY applies to the ladies. You know how it is, men pawing all over you. When you find a guy who says he wants to wait, you think you've hit the jackpot. "Finally," you think. "He really must like me." You think it's because he respects you. This guy was SO clever and knew women so well, that when he pulled this card, I bought it hook, line and sinker. It was EASY to buy, believe me. In fact, this was a FIRST for me. Never heard of this card being played before.

So you're wondering, with all the red flags, how did you get fooled anyway?


That old charm has taken many a man and woman and felled them to their knees. This guy was the funniest, fastest-thinking, wittiest guy I'd ever met.

But I guess, TOO MUCH charisma is also a red flag.

Friday, March 5, 2010

How to Know When You're Healing from a Bad Relationship

How Do You Know When You're Almost Healed from a Past Bad Relationship?


That's how you know. Jen and I play this fun little game every now and then where we come up with metaphors for people we know. We use animals to represent people. If the people are good-hearted souls, they usually get a good animal to represent them and their character. To play, you have to choose an animal that represents their personality, too.

For example, Jen is a dolphin because she loves the ocean and loves to swim, and she's friendly and good-natured. I am a peacock (not necessarily as favorable) because I can be a tad vain and look in the mirror puffing out my feathers.

However, the other day, I asked Jen, what animal is Scott?

She paused before she replied and said, "An animal is too good for him. He's a cactus." We both laughed at this image and how apt it was.

Then, I doodled this comic.

That's when you know you're almost over someone, when you can not only feel pity for them, but can laugh as well.

What animal represents someone from your past? What animal represents you?

Here's to those who've hurt us. May we laugh at them in the end! Cheers!

The following is from Glimmer Train, a piece written by Allison Amend. Humorous hope for us writers awaiting our first major book deal. She speaks the REAL deal. When one of my writing colleagues got COUPON GIRL published, she went on a similar "tour," which involved shacking up with various old college roomies throughout the country, and crashing out on relatives' beds.

Allison Amend was born in Chicago on a day when the Cubs beat the Mets 2-0. She attended Stanford University and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her work has received awards from and appeared in many publications, including One Story, Black Warrior Review, StoryQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Atlantic Monthly, Prairie Schooner and Other Voices. Her IPPY Award-winning debut short story collection, Things That Pass for Love, was published in October 2008 by OV/Dzanc Books, and a novel, Stations West, is due out from Louisiana State University Press's Yellow Shoe Fiction Series this month (March 2010). Allison lives in New York. Visit her on the web at

Instructions for a Do-It-Yourself Book Tour

It is a truth universally acknowledged that book tours don't really sell books. Or at least they don't sell a lot of books in comparison to the amount of time and expense involved. So then why do authors continue to go on them? Well, book tours have ancillary benefits, otherwise publishers wouldn't still send authors on them. Meeting booksellers makes them more likely to recommend your work, or to look forward to your next book. It gives local media an excuse to talk about you. It gives you a chance to travel the country, catch up with old friends, and show your exes what they missed when they dumped you.
But what if your publisher is an independent press with little to no budget for touring? What if your big name publisher doesn't think it's worth sending you out? Plan your own tour.

When my collection of short stories THINGS THAT PASS FOR LOVE was published by OV/Dzanc Books in 2008, they offered me $1000 toward book promotion. I took it on the road (and ended up spending a bit more than that, but I did visit over 17 cities). Here are some helpful tips as you plan your own DIY book tour:

1.What do you want?
Define your goals. Are you trying to sell X number of books? Or are you taking a "victory lap"? Are you visiting certain friends or a favorite old haunt? If you know what you want, you can judge the best tour for you. Then, maybe, it's worth it to drive 300 miles to sell three books to your aunt Gladys.

2.Start here:
Sort your Facebook friends by region or do your luddite equivalent. The places you have the most friends are likely to generate the biggest crowds ("Crowd" in this article is defined as six or more audience members). Obviously, your hometown is a requisite, especially if your parents still live there. If you see that you only know two people in Seattle, maybe it's not worth flying there. No one's heard of you, so it's unlikely that people will come to see you read unless your friends force them to come. Consider also your college and/or grad school, especially if you know professors there who can require their students to attend. (An aside: Try to avoid the reading where only two people show up. It's embarrassing. Know, however, that you will have at least one during your tour. Be happy when it happens; at least THAT'S over.)

3.Set aside lots of time. Make a spreadsheet.
For some reason, planning a tour takes forever. You call, you find out the events person is only available on Tuesday mornings, you forget to call back, etc. Keep a record of where you've called/emailed, who you've talked to and what the follow up action is. You'll be glad you did.

4.Buy (or download and print) a map.
Did you know West Virginia borders Pennsylvania? Me neither. Once you've picked your towns, try to put them in some coherent order. Ann Arbor, Michigan; Los Angeles, California; Oxford, Mississippi; Portland, Oregon is not a good itinerary. This might mean that you don't get to some cities. Oh well. Catch them next time around.

5.See where other authors have read.
Authors post their appearances on their websites, so pick a few authors who were published by indie presses and see where they read. No need to reinvent the wheel. You can even copy their itinerary. Heck, copy mine:

6.Call bookstores. Practice first. (And have your distributor and ISBN number handy).
The first time I called a bookstore, my end of the conversation went something like this: "Hi. I, uh, have a book out, and I, um, am touring. Can I come read, I mean, if you want me to come and read… ." Finally the person on the other end of the line rescued me. "You want Events. Please hold." While the Smiths played "the Bomb" in the background, I regrouped. When the phone was taken off hold, I managed. "Hi, I'm an author with a book. I'll be in the area on my reading tour in October and I'd love to read. At your bookstore."
As though she was filling out her taxes while she spoke to me, the woman asked who the publisher was. "OV Books," I said, "It's a independent press."
"Uh huh." I could tell she thought I'd written a book about my cat and published it on my inkjet. "Who's the distributor?"
I'd like to use my lifeline, Regis. "That big one?" I said. "That begins with a ‘C'— Consolidated? Conundrum?" As I said this, I realized that Conundrum is the name of the press that rejects Paul Giametti's book in the movie Sideways.
"We don't have any free openings in October. Thanks for calling." She hung up on me.
I cried for ten minutes, ate some pasta and found out the name of the distributor: Consortium.
I picked another bookstore and called again. This was Booksmith, possibly the coolest, nicest, most supportive bookstore on the planet. "Oh, I love OV and Dzanc's books," the events coordinator crowed. "What night do you want to read?"

7.Only plan one or two events in each city.
I read three times in San Francisco, which diluted my audience each time.

8.Try to plan your tour around non-writing events: I went to a wedding in the middle. It was great. There were civilians there, and I spent two whole days without talking about writing!

9.Attend conferences and reading series.
These are fantastic, because you have a built-in audience. They take some planning, since they schedule far in advance, but I read at Wordstock and the Wisconsin Book Festival. I met some great regional writers and had a "crowd" even in places I didn't know anyone. At the Gist Reading Series in Pittsburgh, 100 people stood in line in the cold an hour before the doors opened, paid $5, and brought food for a potluck. Now that's a reading series!

10.Be not proud.
In Seattle, I called up a friend from college to whom I hadn't spoken in 15 years and asked to stay with her. She said yes; I saved money on a hotel room (and she had a hot tub in her backyard). I've asked people to arrange for rides from the airport for me, to host book parties, to feed me. Sometimes you can exchange services—I made a huge batch of turkey chili for one busy family and froze it in exchange for their hospitality. I babysat for another friend in exchange for using her living room for a book party. (Her child did throw up on me 5 minutes before the party started, but that may have been my fault for overfeeding him.)
Have any friends who are professors? Are your professors still at your alma mater? Ask them to invite you to speak to their classes. Often they will offer you an honorarium, or make their class buy your book.

11.Contact everyone you know.
EVERYONE. Friends from camp, preschool classmates, people you met on vacation in 1983, former teachers, old babysitters. Sometimes the strangest people will buy your book or come to your reading. That's a good thing. Encourage them to invite/coerce their friends. Offer free booze.

12.Tell everyone. Via email.

Don't tell them 700 times, but twice or three times shouldn't upset anyone too much.

13.Alert the media.
This one is hard. I Googled newspapers in the towns I was traveling to, and tried to call them up to interest them in a profile or review of my work. Sometimes I pretended to be Eunice Pappalardi, my fake publicist. Sometimes I bought Thai food and asked friends to help me call. I sent out press releases and emails to those whose addresses I could find. It worked better when I could tie my book into something local—I'm from Chicago, so it was an easier sell to Chicago-area journalists and media outlets (NPR, Time Out Chicago, Oy Chicago…). If your book has a theme that is of local interest, highlight that when you call. Be prepared for a miniscule rate of success.

14.Get a "reading outfit."
In other words, make your tour as easy as possible. Travel light. I bought myself a dress that could be worn with or without tights and with or without a sweater. It didn't wrinkle. I liked the way I looked in it. Then I never had to decide what to wear, eliminating one source of anxiety. Always carry-on your luggage and a few of your books in case they don't show up in time. Get an iPhone or a similar gizmo that has Google and mapping capability. I might still be in Madison, Wisconsin if it weren't for my little iPhone friend.
Similarly, pick two or three passages you want to read, and always read the same thing. Funny is best, but take a look at your audience before you start and pick the passage you think they'll appreciate most. I usually read from a humorous story about a porn writer, but when my friends brought their 6 and 7 year olds to the reading, I had to scramble to find child-friendly writing.

15.Be careful out there.
I came home with a nasty rash. It turned out to be an irritation from laundry soap, but my dermatologist could barely contain her judgment when I admitted that I'd slept in 34 different beds in the past 6 weeks. I was also sleep-deprived, lonely, chubby and bloated from eating out. Make sure you're not out there too long. Once, I responded to the airline's question, "What's your final destination?" with "That city that begins with M."

16.Don't expect to write.
It's not gonna happen.

17.Have Fun!

You've been waiting for this moment for years, so try to enjoy it, even as you're stuck in the Dallas airport deciding between your fifth Starbucks of the day or TCBY for a bit of protein while waiting for weather to clear in Minneapolis so you can fly to Chicago to drive to Iowa.
No rest for the weary: My novel, STATIONS WEST, will be out in March of 2010 from Louisiana State University Press. I'm getting out the old spreadsheet and practicing my Eunice Pappalardi voice at this very moment.