If a wife turns up dead...it's almost always the husband that did it. And, vice versa. If you've ever watched more than two episodes of Law & Order, or stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, you know that.
My character, Claire Corrigan, ponders this dilemma: How does love go awry? What would drive a spouse to kill their soul mate?
Funny you should ask.
I have a long, and complicated, relationship with pie crust. It's just not that into me.
My culinary motto has always been - if it tastes better store bought, don't make it from scratch. For years I had myself, and my family, convinced that store bought pie crust was waaaay better than homemade.
Only losers made their own piecrust.
After tasting one too many, better, homemade crusts, the jig was up. I knew I had to master the crust. Remembering it still makes me sweat. I measured the flour, the salt, got carpal tunnel cutting in the cold butter till it all looked like small peas, like it's supposed to. I carefully added the water and a touch of vinegar. I lovingly kneaded this glorious concoction, turned it out onto my floured surface, then rolled it out. NOT.
I tried to roll from the middle out, like they tell you to. The dough stuck to the pin. I peeled it off and tried again. No rolling. More sticking. Again and again. My eyes bugged out, my hair turned to snakes, and I threw the whole mess in the trash.
Later date, same mission. I read all the instructions this time. Mixed up the dough and put in the fridge for three hours to keep it from sticking. After, I gently laid my rolling pin in the center of the crust and rolled it out. NOT. No rolling. More sticking. Hysteria climbed up my arms through my vein bulged neck.
Such is my husband's love for me that he would do anything...I mean anything...including rolling out pie crust, to keep me from melting down. He rode in on his white stallion to...give me a rolling pin demonstration. "See?" He grinned, and spun the rolling pin frantically up and down his thigh. "It's easy."
"Great," I said, "If I can get the piecrust to STAY ON MY THIGH IT'S ALL GOOD."
Now, my husband has two masters degrees. He deduced quickly that the look on my face was not gratitude.
Third time's the charm. For this go round, I consulted the expert - Julia Child. Because her recipes are SO EASY. The woman made jelly out of hooves. Clearly, I was boxing above my weight class.
Her recipe made two crusts. The first met its ugly end quickly, and landed in the garbage. The second one worked! Or, close enough. It barely covered the pie tin and looked like Frankenstein, but it was the best I could do. I filled it with mushrooms, beef filet, cream, butter, onions...all things fantastic. I was even clever enough to use scraps, peeled off the rolling pin, the counter, and a couple from the floor, to make a lattice top.
I presented the freshly baked prize proudly to my man. He was so happy for me. He ate with relish. He made all the necessary yum yum sounds.
I was ecstatic.
Full, he pushed his plate away. He'd licked it clean. Except for the crust.
He'd eaten the filling.
My eyes bugged out, my hair turned to snakes.
Hubby smiled, "I don't really like crust."
There's more than one use for a rolling pin.
If you’ve ever shopped at an Adult Bookstore - and you know you have - you might’ve noticed there’s a real shortage of books. I didn’t see any. I wasn’t necessarily seeking out reading material though. Good thing. I was only there to get a good gander at the film titles for my novel. I swear.
I didn’t know much about porn shops before I started writing The Last Day for Rob Rhino. As every good writer bee knows, you’ve gotta understand your character’s environments. It’s called research. You must do it. I didn’t make the rules, I just follow them. So off I went hubby, and notepad, in tow.
My husband Ed has long suffered for my art. Something about letting his wife trot off to a store full of dildos and blow up dolls alone didn’t sit right. He agreed to accompany me. Someone had to do it.
We had to park in the back. A porn shop anomaly - there is no front.
We snuck in.
The first things we passed in the long, dark entry hall were booths with black curtains. Just like confessionals only different. The bad seventies Superfly music didn’t quite cover up the, oh baby oh baby, groans. I stopped. Ed pushed me along. “What’s going on in there?” I whispered. “We don’t want to know.” He kept pushing.
We moved toward the light and sex kitsch heaven.
It smelled icky, just like you’d think. The guy behind the one small counter looked like a felon, just like you’d think.
“Where do you think the movies are?” I said from behind my hand like a baseball coach.
Ed looked around, over my head, shrugged. For once, I took a page out of his book. Never ask a store clerk where anything is. Ever. If it’s not in the immediate vicinity...leave...and say they didn’t have it.
I saw right away they had items I couldn’t leave without examining, though. The pervy mother lode. I figured we’d stumble on the DVD’s eventually. Ed manned the notepad, I dictated. We went into total covert mission mode. Our fellow shoppers never looked our way, that I noticed.
I didn’t see anyone in a trench coat.
I feared we’d get arrested at any second.
I feared we’d get kicked out by the felon at the register.
I feared someone we knew would see us.
I'm lying. I really wished we had seen someone we knew. I’m a writer, not much shames me. Word of warning to all: If I ever see you somewhere you don’t want to be seen, I will write about it.
After perusing the vibrators, plugs, slings, ben-wa-whatcha-call-its and strap-ons, we found the films. Ed scribbled furiously and we had a good chuckle.
Come on, Sperms of Endearment is funny.
Gripping our notes, we crept out from where we’d come. The dark, long hall with the quasi-confessionals. The oh baby oh baby loop still played. Ed pushed me along.
I really did want to know what they were doing in there.
Maybe we’d have seen someone we knew.
I don't know what I ever did to Tracy Anderson to make her hate me. Okay, I do refer to her as that bitch Tracy Anderson, but she can't hear me. Can she? Here I've spent good money on her exercise DVD's, have done them faithfully (well, faithfully enough), and believed her promises.
I still look nothing like Gwyneth Paltrow.
Old age, bi-lateral hip surgery, and writer's block spurred me on to take up exercise. I've since read, from several sources, that regular exercise stimulates the creative process. I was kinda hoping it might lift my ass off the back of my knees, but that's just me. I do have to admit I've experienced many a creative moment contorted into a praying dog, or whatever the hell, all involving various and painful ways to whack Tracy Anderson.
Let's face it. I'm a writer.
My idea of exercise is filling my pockets with rocks and wading out to the middle of the ocean. I contemplate if I would burn more fat by drinking alone, or with a group. How many calories do I expend walking to the pharmacy for Prozac. From my parking spot. At the front. Crying jags and hyperventilation must be worth something on the exercise scale.
Now that I'm facing book launch day...less than a week away...my anxiety level is heading off the charts. I'm also staring at a blank screen, a third of the way through my second novel. And the back of my knees are still covered.
That bitch Tracy Anderson better deliver.
In a little over a week, The Last Day for Rob Rhino launches. I'm nervous.
What if everyone thinks my baby is ugly?
At first, I was just happy (shocked) to have gotten a publisher. That high lasted a couple of months. Then, I was wrapped up in the pre-launch particulars. Setting up my website, this blog, all the social media, and then those pesky, all consuming, edits from the publisher. Now, all that's done and the countdown's on. The novel I slaved over, cried over, stressed out, and lost sleep over will go out into the world all alone.
What if no one even looks at my baby?
As even non-writers know, its tough to sell a book today. It's pretty much up to the author. Writers, by nature, are typically reclusive. How do you get a following when you never get out of your pajamas or your bed? Well, you could get a following in your pajamas, in your bed...but that's a whole different kind of following. I have fourteen Twitter followers. There are dead people with more. I've had to poach friends on Facebook. I've forced my kids to pimp their friends for my Fan page.
Did I say I'm nervous?
I feel like that kid who isn't gonna get picked for the softball team.
Writers write to be understood, to have a voice. Soon, what I have to say will be out there for all to judge. If it's judged harshly...well...there's always revenge.
I'm a writer. I can put anyone who doesn't like it in my next novel. As a psycho. An ugly one.
The old farts are still gettin' it on.
Sex for seniors isn’t something I think about much. Even though, technically, I guess I am one. Porn for seniors was an alien nation. Who wants to visit it? Imagine my chagrin when the characters in my novel brought it up. I had no choice. I went with it.
What I didn’t know before Rob Rhino is - porn is big in the old folk’s home.
Twenty percent of the over fifties regularly indulge in internet porn, and seniors are the largest growing demographic for the porn industry. My mother can’t even work her answering machine, now she’s surfing the net for porn? I don’t even want to know.
In general, porn is big business.
Every second $3,075.64 is spent on porn
Every second 28,258 Internet users are viewing porn
Every second 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines.
Every thirty-nine minutes a new porn video is created in the U.S.
The porn industry generates $97.06 billion dollars worldwide. More than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Apple and Yahoo combined.
Porn stars have impressive stats. But you know that already, don’t you?
Elder porn is a niche market. I was skeptical myself till I looked it up. I wasn’t brave enough to open any of the sites. I thought my husband would think I was a perv. I thought my computer would get a virus. I thought my hair would turn to snakes and my eyes would fall out.
But, check this out.
Shigea Tokuda (a stage name) is a seventy-four year old Japanese porn star. He’s made more than three hundred and fifty porn films. He’s been at it since he was a spry young man of sixty-four and has continued his lucrative career even after his heart attack. He says his wife and daughter have no idea what he does on the side. Or, from the back. Or, on the bottom. Considering Japan’s less than impressive sex among married couples statistics (almost forty percent of married couples over fifty don’t have sex at all) I’d guess the Missus might not care.
The market for elder porn has doubled in the last decade.
Of course, the men are elderly - the chicks aren’t.
Some things remain consistent..like...truth is stranger than fiction.
If you're interested in seeing this phenomenon for yourselves, just Google porn stats and/or Shigea Tokuda Time Magazine.
I'm not a good influence. I have issues.
But, I love my grandkids. As human beings, they’re superior examples. All of them. I decided early on I wouldn’t be a check writing grandparent, no matter how much I want them to have everything they want in life. I don’t want to be that grandma. I’d like to give them something more…meaningful, more influential. But, what? It’s a particular challenge given we are all spread out.
When we lived closer, my oldest granddaughters cooked with me. They loved it, I loved it. When they’d visit, they counted on making cupcakes, cookies, stirring the pot, whatever. Definitely a grandma-ish activity. Now, those times are few and far between. I had to think of something else.
I’m a writer. I could write something for them. Not about them, but for them. I daydreamed about leaving a written legacy, an exposition that would stand the test of time, and get handed down through the generations.
I narrowed it down to a children’s book.
I’ve got to give a shout out to children’s book authors. They’re brilliant. If you’ve ever tried to hold the attention of a three year-old for more than two seconds, you know they’re a tough crowd. If you can make one laugh, you’ve got it going on.
I narrowed it down to a short story.
I remembered my own mother regaling me with the prayer she and her brothers and sisters (nine of them) used to say before bed. It started out God bless…then she shot out all nine names like an AK-47. It always made me laugh. I thought that’d be a sweet beginning.
By paragraph three a strange man appeared in the woods.
By the fourth, he died - bullet to the brain.
By the fifth, he was in the later stages of decomp.
When the story took its inevitable, incestuous turn, I cried Uncle.
I see through the glass darkly. It’s who I am. Writing a children’s story is not in my future. It’s best for all.
I’ve got to go write some checks.
I went to the gym today. Mostly to get away from my editor and round two of her edits (I suck at punctuation). I thought I'd burn off some frustration and that jiggly crap around my knees too. I was ready to work out in peace.
No such luck. I was violated instead.
Now, I'm old enough to remember when shorty shorts for men were in style. I don't know what's sadder, that I'm so old, or that they were ever in style. Don't scoff. Look through your yearbook if you've conveniently forgotten. That's what I'm talkin' about. These days, even the most fashion challenged men have trashed those, or their wives have made sure they had an unfortunate accident. At any rate, it's a shock to the system to see some geezer in hot pants, legs spread, on a weight machine.
But there he was. I won't mention any names but his initials are, "my neighbor." I've seen him before, and I'll have to see him again. In those shorts, no doubt.
Turns out, my participles weren't the only things dangling.
The flip flops are bad too. Hello? It's the GYM.
Do you think it's on purpose? Does he think he's hot? Is 1970 calling?
I wasn't impressed, to say the least. Let's put it this way...
He's no Rob Rhino.
After I’d finished the final draft of my manuscript, my son read it. Or, started it. He said, “You’re making me uncomfortable. The language…you’re my mother. You also seem to know a lot about pill popping. It’s creeping me out.” I thought he was kidding (he hadn’t even read the really creepy stuff yet). Turns out, no. He’s early thirties, has an irreverent sense of humor, and writes a bit himself. He also dabbles in stand-up comedy, so he's no stranger to a blue reference. I remembered he’d never been keen to see me in his audience. And, frankly, I’d never raced for first place in the ticket line. I guess there’s some dialogue that doesn’t reside easily in the mother-son lingua franca. There’s a reason Chris Rock’s mother doesn’t think he’s funny. I get it.
It got me thinking. I’d noticed myself that writers often talk like truck drivers. I remember feeling taken aback when talking to a woman in her seventies, a writer of novels and poetry, who had a particular fondness for fuck. It occurred to me that writers think of words like doctors think of body parts. They’re necessary. And, when looking at them every day is your occupation, or preoccupation, they lose their shock value. They’re only words. A means to an end. There’s lots of them to choose from, but some are just dead-on for certain conditions, particular characters. A writer can pick a different, perhaps more civilized word, but it wouldn’t be right. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a hoot,” doesn’t work at all.
Same goes for circumstances, situations. A screwed up character makes better fiction. Weirdos, oddballs, addictions, flaws - a writer’s nirvana. We’re the Ellis Island of freaks. We love them, love to write about them. Readers love to read about them, and root for them.
I assured my first born that it wasn’t his mother flinging f-bombs all over the place, but the characters. The words and the drugs belonged to them. They fit. I’m not my characters (not all of them, anyway). I just write them. I do what they tell me. Sometimes they make me uncomfortable.
My editor, a wise soul, says a good writer takes the reader places they don’t want to go. Sons, too.
No one was more surprised than me when a publisher took my novel.
I’m lazy. Not to mention, shiftless. I’ve had real jobs most of my adult life. I liked coming in late, taking long lunches, leaving early. And that’s when I worked from home. Writing anything other than a check, grocery or to do list (for someone else to do) didn’t cross my underused mind until just about the time I started getting AARP stuff in the mail.
For no good reason, I wrote. I’d had some prodding. My friend told me I had some good stories. She kept telling me, because I’m slow on the uptake and didn’t get it. Then, exasperated, she told me she’d steal them if I didn’t start writing them down. She’s a writer too. Then another friend got published, well into his seventies and didn’t seem the writer type. He encouraged me, too. So, with a “if they can do it, so can I,” chip on my shoulder, I started. My husband told me he thought I had a lot of talent. That sealed it. Yep, I’m that kinda girl. My heart skips a beat when my husband likes what I do, so I do more of it. I wrote a pretty bad book and felt too embarrassed to submit it anywhere. Then I wrote another, better one. I hung around other writers, met an agent through them, and here I am. Writing novels.
It was hard - it still is.
Since I started, I’ve read up a bit on the writing craft. Some say they were born writers, never thought of doing anything else. Not me. In fact, since I’ve got a book just recently launched, I can say with truth – I’m a writer. But I think of doing something else...anything else. I often wonder if J Crew is hiring. I usually think this when staring at a blank screen - in my pajamas, cold coffee on the nightstand with bed hair, where I’ve been for days, blinking at the white space in front of me.
Did I say writing is hard?
But there’s something about getting a good sentence on the page. You know the one. You’ve wracked your brain, consulted the thesaurus, tried plagiarizing, rearranged words like so many Legos. And then it comes. That one perfect sentence. And then another one after it. Before you know it, you’re writing. And, that’s not all. Is there anything more gratifying than hearing someone laugh at your jokes? Or, cry at your sentiment? Someone that isn’t your mother? That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
There’s also something really special about acceptance into the tribe of writers. As a group, we’re pretty weird. We belong together, not acting out what we write. I get teary thinking of all those who taught me how to tell a story through the written word, with no remuneration other than the odd roast chicken or hot dog dinner. They encouraged me, criticized me, cheered me on, hurt my feelings, thinned my ego, and thickened my skin. I’ve never been part of a more generous group.
And that’s the greatest gift of all.
I hope you read my book and my blog. That would make me the luckiest, lazy, shiftless writer ever.