I AM THE UNRELIABLE NOVELIST

Apology/Funny Story

A few months ago, I had a long chat with my college ex-boyfriend Jason, wherein he provided some very useful legal advice. (92% of my ex-boyfriends are lawyers. It’s the place talented writers go to…make a decent living.)

In return I offered to write him into the novel, under the potentially humorous premise that in her time of need, Tess would call upon ex-boyfriends like a series of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? lifelines.

I told Jason he could pick any human power he wanted. He chose being a really good cook, a Krav Maga expert AND a fencing champion.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how any of those talents would be useful to Tess at this juncture.

Thus Jason became the proud owner of Blink Home Security.

Sorry Jase. If any of your preferred skillsets becomes available, I will switch your name out with a quickness.

Plot Poll #12: Spice Up the Stakeout.

(Catch up on the plot here. Meet Tess and Kee here.)

“I do like my kit,” Kee posed in the mirror with her hands at her hips, fingers at fake gunpoint.

Tess was still suiting up. On her way back to the hotel, she had made a few phone calls. First to Kee, to con her into flying up. Then to her boss, Bill, to get a few days off. And finally to her ex-boyfriend, Jason. He was now happily married with 2.4 kids, living in the suburbs and running his dad’s behemoth nationwide home security company. At first she’d just wanted to borrow some gear, but he had a better idea. Well, ‘better’ might be a stretch. At least it saved them on car rentals. After a long shower, some room service and twelve comatose hours in her big white hotel bed, she was ready to put the plan in action.

“It’s not the worst disguise, all things considered. The bar is surrounded by strip clubs. They all have bouncers.”

“Scrawny blonde birds from…Blink Home Security?” Kee said, straining to read the patch on her shirt.

“Whatever. They’re just going to see we’re not cops and ignore us. And you’ll be in a residential area anyway. You’ll fit right in.”

“Operation No Means No is a go!” Kee breathed into her walkie-talkie.

After a protracted route negotiation involving step-by-step Google Map satellite views and a pinky swear from Kee that under no circumstances would she go Bullitt on the operation, they took off in their respective patrol cars. The plan was that Kee would watch the front door of Neal’s building, while Tess kept an eye on 15 Romolo. They would maintain contact via walkie-talkie, not because iPhones were insufficient, but because Kee insisted on authenticity as a term of her involvement.

Broadway was quiet. Tess decided the best vantage point for surveillance was the residential area at the top of the hill. Nobody approached the bar from up there, so her extremely conspicuous car would be as inconspicuous as possible. She found a spot right on the corner, two alleys up, with an unobstructed view of the door. She cranked the wheel, pulled the parking break and pressed the button on her radio.

“Barmaid paging Housekeeping, over.”

“I can’t believe you get to be the Barmaid, dude. We both know I’m the Barmaid.”

“Housekeeping, are you in position?”

“Yes and it’s bloody uncomfortable. Ford Focus was the best he could do? I thought he was totally in love with you in college. And what happens if I need to pee?”

“Dude, do you have the car parked?”

“Yes I have the car parked. But apart from a few bums sleeping off their benders, nothing’s happening down here. By the way, I hadn’t noticed how dodgy this neighborhood is. I thought you said his apartment was all lux…”

“HOUSEKEEPING! Is there anything else you want to share with the Blink Home Security network?”

“Oh. No that’s it.”

“Good. I’m here if you need me.”

“Ditto that, Roger 10-4 Good Buddy.”

Tess tried to settle in. The bar opened for lunch at 1 pm, and closed for the night at 2 am. It was going to be a long day. And she had never been very good at waiting.

**********

Stakeouts last forever, so vote for as many of these as you want. Or better yet, add your own ideas.

Things You Should Know, Week 17

I have received many sweet emails and helpful suggestions since this weekend’s post.

Such as:
-describe the body sensation, not the intellectual examination of the feeling
-can the feelings become metaphors? like demons, sharks, sea otters?
-find the core thought behind the feeling and work from there
-connect your playful banter to your heart, not your head
-ask your readers to give you a series of feeling challenges!
-watch this video of your cat over and over again: how does it make you FEEL?

Yoko pulled her carnivorous koala Drop Bear routine on us again this morning from the shelf above my bed. But this time her curiosity got the better of her.

Which made me laugh and laugh and laugh.
And simultaneously feel concerned for her. (She’s fine.)
And eventually feel like hey, the worst I can do is fall down, look stupid and get right back up again.

I’ll post some stakeout slapstick tomorrow to tide you over while I work out my feelings.

In the meantime, how are YOU feeling?

My Inconvenient Truth

I’m not good at writing about feelings.

In fact, I’m not just ‘not good.’ I suck at it.

Deep down I have always known this. I avoid writing birthday cards because whenever I’m faced with expressing sentiment, my ability to turn an original phrase disappears POOF! into thin air, and the words come out like I hired Stephenie Meyer as my ghost writer.

There’s plenty of emotion in the non-excerpted parts of this novel, but I know it’s sub-par. I just figured I’d have time to go back to it later. And in all the excerpts I’ve posted, my secret pre-posting editor (aka best friend) has red-lined every smattering of emotion I’ve layered into the scenes with lovingly straightforward notations like “schmaltzy” “too pat” and “I don’t think you need this.” I took it as a matter of course and figured I would recognize the right time to give Tess a moment of contemplation.

You know, like the endless hours of waiting involved in a stakeout.

And thus came my moment of reckoning. As you might imagine, not being good at describing EMOTION is a bit of a HANDICAP when you’re trying to write a book that involves ROMANCE and SELF-DISCOVERY.

I’m also just plain blindsided by the realization. I thought writing was the one skill I didn’t have to worry about in this gig. Plot development, character development, story arch, continuity of voice – I was scared shitless about all that stuff. But turning out able-bodied prose? I blithely assumed I had that part in the bag.

So now I don’t know what to do. Revise the tone and maybe even the plot to play to my strengths? Or practice practice practice until I can write an emotion as authentic and unique as my humor?

And what about you guys? How am I going to amuse you while I figure this out?

I SUPPOSE THIS IS WHY MOST PEOPLE DON’T WRITE NOVELS IN REAL TIME ON THE INTERNET.

Am I Bipolar? Yes/No*

Self-diagnosis courtesy of US National Library of Medicine
Hypochondria courtesy of maternal gene pool


MANIC MONDAY: 13 out of 16
Increased energy: nahnah nah nah, nahnah nah nah..buhbuhbuh buhbuh buhbuh…CHECK
Easily distracted: wait, what was I doing again? CHECK
Little need for sleep: yeah yeah totally no problem okay awesome let’s do it! CHECK
Poor judgment: wow this character development is *amazing* CHECK
Binge eating, drinking, and/or drug use: cake/chips/guacamole/wine CHECK
Spending sprees: shit! where did this new dress come from! shit! CHECK
Very elevated mood: SUPER AWESOME HUGE FANTASTIC INCREDIBLE INCONCEIVABLE MAGIC BESTEST PERFECT CHECK
Excess activity (hyperactivity): I’ll go here & then here & then here & also there CHECK
Racing thoughts: When I Do you Where are CHECK
Talking a lot: uh YEAH CHECK
Very involved in activities: uh OBVI CHECK
Very high self-esteem (false beliefs about self or abilities): WRITING A NOVEL IN PUBLIC ON THE INTERNET CHECK
Very upset (agitated or irritated): everyone who doesn’t agree with me about everything or gets in my way or drives like an idiot FUCK OFFFFFF CHECK
Poor temper control
Reckless behavior and lack of self control
Sex with many partners (promiscuity)


TERRIBLE TUESDAY: 10 out of 12
Daily low mood or sadness: why why why am I so bad at this and also what is the meaning of life? CHECK
Difficulty concentrating/remembering/making decisions: where did I park my car again? CHECK
Eating problems: a soy chai latte makes a fine lunch CHECK
Fatigue or lack of energy: I’ll just take a second nap CHECK
Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty: this scene don’t make no sense and I don’t have no business doing this CHECK
Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed: I know! I can quit writing & open a food truck – in Peru. Or just lie here – forever. CHECK
Loss of self-esteem: the only reason my cat still loves me is because I feed her CHECK
Trouble getting to sleep or sleeping too much: epic fail stress dreams CHECK
Pulling away from friends or activities that were once enjoyed: sorry I can’t make it to your dinner party because I’m crying while watching episodes of Parenthood on the internet CHECK
Loss of appetite and weight loss: I don’t feel like eating anything HALF CHECK
Overeating and weight gain: but my body will store any/all calories on my hips anyway HALF CHECK
Thoughts of death and suicide


*For the record, I don’t think bipolar disorder is funny at all, and I have utmost sympathy for the people who struggle with it. I’m making fun of my paranoid hypochondria.

Things I just learned about San Francisco That Are Totally Irrelevant To My Novel

There are still places in town where gentlemen of a certain age drink wine at lunch, maintain 40-year inside jokes, and order the lamb special on Wednesdays.

The reason for all those strip clubs on Broadway is that topless dancing was INVENTED here. And those Twin Peaks of Carol Doda’s are not only still alive (it was somebody else who was crushed by her piano at the Condor), they still get around town, providing chaste accompaniment to her cabaret shows and holding court at her lingerie shop on Union Street.

Thelonious Monk recorded an album at Club Fugazi, the theater where Beach Blanket Babylon has its permanent home.

The Hungry I launched the careers of just about everybody, including Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand, who performed as unknowns on the same bill in 1963.

And Ernie Beyl has an encyclopedic knowledge of the city. He’s also a really fun lunch date.

Things You Should Know, Week 15

Nothing much to report around here, except that Oscars fashion and celebrity gossip have provided many delightful breaks from writing the STAKEOUT SCENE. Not that I’m counting my chickens before they’re hatched or anything, but it’s the clear frontrunner, and I just want to be fully prepared for said awesomeness should it in fact prevail. 

Neal Becks was at the Oscars, but for some reason I prefer him here. Could it be the suit? The squint? That chubby little Harper Seven? 

ANSWER: ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Things You Should Know, Week 15

Nothing much to report around here, except that Oscars fashion and celebrity gossip have provided many delightful breaks from writing the STAKEOUT SCENE. Not that I’m counting my chickens before they’re hatched or anything, but it’s the clear frontrunner, and I just want to be fully prepared for said awesomeness should it in fact prevail.

Neal Becks was at the Oscars, but for some reason I prefer him here. Could it be the suit? The squint? That chubby little Harper Seven?

ANSWER: ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Current List of People I Occasionally Wish I Was Instead of Being Me

1. Keith Richards and/or Anita Pallenberg circa 1967 

2. actually, Keith Richards circa anytime

3. Miranda July whenever she’s thinking because I MUST KNOW how her brain works

4. Salman Rushdie obviously always and forever and ever, but especially when he was married to Padma Lakshmi because then BONUS! we could dish the dirt about Top Chef

5. Angelina Jolie whenever she is in bed with Brad Pitt

6. Janet Jackson for the duration of the All For You video OR Beyonce during Crazy In Love because who doesn’t want to rock that booty shake but I still think Janet is the better dancer overall and yeah okay Britney in Slave 4 U

7. Tina Fey when she’s at Amy Poehler’s house just like, hanging out

8. Carrie Brownstein in Sleater-Kinney days but also during that one Portlandia skit where Aimee Mann is playing their housekeeper

9. I still want to be Ricky Schroder in Silver Spoons because HE HAD A TRAIN IN HIS HOUSE.

10. Ryan Gosling’s dog, George, because then he would always love me

Saturday Snail Mail Submission

I just received this delightful package from my friend Phil.

(I mean seriously, have you ever seen such an artful arrangement of stamps IN YOUR LIFE?)

Phil’s not so much with the social media and the interwebs, but he had contributions to make nonetheless. Including this HILARIOUS GQ article about sexy time in the era of internet porn. PLEASE, if you do nothing else this weekend, read it. My favorite line:

"I’m supposed to play the pixelated girl acting like your penis is about to produce a slice of pizza and I haven’t eaten for a week."

(Does this mean Phil thinks I should add a money shot to my sex scene?)

And as Phil’s note demands, I can’t write about spy chicks and not know Danger Girl. Heretofore I have had only the vaguest knowledge of her. Anybody have some back issues I can peruse? Phil says the old stuff is the bomb.

Plot Poll #11: Decision Time For Tess.

Mad props to Tracey Briones, our Write-In #3 winner! Thank you, old buddy old pal, for putting Tess’s feelings into badass words.

Really, ALL of the texts were amazing. Jean, the threat of not returning the shirt was diabolical. And Ken, the next time I need a ghost writer for my own social media repartee, I’m calling you, Dude.

Thanks to everybody for a great week of novel-writing. If not for you, I would be on my second Bloody Mary by now.

****************

(Catch up on the plot here. Meet Tess and Neal here.)

She stared at her phone, chasing confusion with booze and coffee.

She was too proud to plead with him. Too mad to be nice. And too invested to let it go.

She hit send before she had time to second-guess herself.

“Brian, I’m gonna need another shot.”

“No problem.” He refilled their glasses, this time from a bottle on the top shelf. “Slainte.”

“Slainte.” Whatever it was, it burned like holy hell.

“I hope I’m not prying or anything, but how did you meet Neal?” Brian asked.

“Um, let’s just say Santa Monica.”

“Huh. And when was that?”

“About three weeks ago.” She registered his surprise. “How long have you known him?”

“Oh, maybe six months. He comes in a lot. Always really nice. I think he works around here.”

His office! She hadn’t thought of it. “But you don’t know where, exactly?”

“No, sorry.”

“Does he come in alone?”

“Nah, he’s usually with these two Russian guys.”

“Anybody else?”

Brian hesitated.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to go all Law and Order on you.” she said, catching herself.

“It’s okay. I totally understand.” He wiped down the bar for the fourth time. Tess sensed an answer she had to know but wasn’t sure she wanted to hear.

“So…anybody else?”

He kept his head down. “There’s a woman. Also Russian, I think. Very tall, bright red hair and…beautiful.” He paused, then added. “Not very nice.”

The room was buzzing now, as if someone had turned up the volume. “When’s the last time they were here?”

He started rearranging glasses. “Maybe Thursday?”

“Oh.” The day before she had arrived. “And are they…together?”

He paused again. “I don’t think he’s into it. She’s doing all the work.”

Tess plied herself with rational thoughts. They’d only been on a few dates. It’s not like they had agreed to be exclusive yet. But the facts didn’t line up with her feelings.

“Thanks Brian. I hope you don’t feel like you sold out your friend.”

“Not at all, actually. After what you’ve been through, he’s lucky you still care.”

“Can I ask you one last favor? If you see Neal, or this woman, or those two Russian dudes, will you text me?” She scribbled her number on a napkin and handed it to him.

“Sure. No problem.”

“And…don’t tell him.”

“Tell him what?” Brian smiled.


New plot poll this afternoon! In the meantime, I’m curious…

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve asked your best friend to do for you?

My answer is in the “stalk or otherwise harass” category: while dressed as a giant pumpkin for Halloween, my bestie hauled off and slapped the dude who had broken my heart. 

It was AWESOME.

New plot poll this afternoon! In the meantime, I’m curious…

My answer is in the “stalk or otherwise harass” category: while dressed as a giant pumpkin for Halloween, my bestie hauled off and slapped the dude who had broken my heart.

It was AWESOME.

Dudes, I am seriously impressed! 

Not only with the turnout – 14 texts, which is twice as many as we had yesterday at this time – but with the fine quality and wide variety of the retorts. They’re so good that I’m having a hard time picking just one! Gonna have to write the scene a few times to figure it out. 

As promised on FB and Twitter, I will honor your awesome efforts by writing custom poems for all 14 of you. You can redeem your prize by emailing unreliablenovelist@gmail.com.

Please provide the following details in your missive:Who is the poem for? 
Provide the name and relationship (if it’s not you).Select a poetic form. 
For sanity’s sake, all poems will be limited to two stanzas.Select a topic, occasion, and/or mood. 
Provide as much or as little detail as you like.

The next plot poll featuring Tess’s text response will post tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it’s yours!

And thanks for participating. This WAS a Fun Contest! High-res

Dudes, I am seriously impressed!

Not only with the turnout – 14 texts, which is twice as many as we had yesterday at this time – but with the fine quality and wide variety of the retorts. They’re so good that I’m having a hard time picking just one! Gonna have to write the scene a few times to figure it out.

As promised on FB and Twitter, I will honor your awesome efforts by writing custom poems for all 14 of you. You can redeem your prize by emailing unreliablenovelist@gmail.com.

Please provide the following details in your missive:
Who is the poem for?
Provide the name and relationship (if it’s not you).
Select a poetic form.
For sanity’s sake, all poems will be limited to two stanzas.
Select a topic, occasion, and/or mood.
Provide as much or as little detail as you like.

The next plot poll featuring Tess’s text response will post tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it’s yours!

And thanks for participating. This WAS a Fun Contest!