Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


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Maybe It’s Mercury in Retrograde?

MercuryMaybe it’s because Mercury is in retrograde?

I’m in the final stages of getting my book out; yet, I feel like I’m swimming in mud, slowly churning things out – procrastinating on the massive action I need to make this book happen.

I’m mildly into astrology. Not the daily Horoscope you read in the tabloids or online. No. I believe in it on a larger scale. Planets align causing various degrees of energy fields and forceful pulls. Who are we to say that this isn’t connected to a scientific cause in our make up or the way our week is going? After all, the moon has such a pull on us as proven by tides on the shore. Full moons cause certain moon swings and strange feelings. The invisible waves of energy must mean something. After all, Earth turns in a force field that prevents it from hurling into space like a speeding ball of blue water and clouds.

Sometimes when I feel this strange undertow of fear or reticence, I’d like to take the burden off my own self inflicted actions and blame it on the stars.

However, I can be lazy. And what causes that laziness? Fear.  A flurry of questions stir up. Does this book read well to other people? (I have a few friends who’ve read it – haven’t given it to beta readers because I was concerned the criticism would deter me.) Will there be typos I don’t see? When I changed the name of certain characters, did I replace each mention of the name with the new one? Worry. I almost feel as though I carry this British trait of embarrassment, as I send off these stories I created over the course of the year.

“Um, excuse me. Sorry to bother. But, I wrote this little book, you see. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. But I’d really like you to,” I whisper politely has I bid you adieu as I huddle in the corner.

But no.  This is silly. I’m proud to get this book out there. It’s just that there is much, so much to be done. And I don’t know where to start.

Oh, and I’ve officially entitled my book “Hitting Water: A Book of Stories”. A little change that feels better to me.

So you can see – things are ever changing. I just need to know when to stop tinkering and just let go.

Perhaps I should have faith in the stars?

 


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Book Cover, All Covered

bookcovers

Even though the digital world has given us Kindle and iBook apps, I still do love to read actual books.  You know what I mean – tangible books with paper you feel and pages you turn. Paper that has the lovely smell of knowledge and stories,  tinged with the musty comforting fragrance of a library. Yes -books. And as a book reader who has mulled over the aisle of many Barnes and Nobles, I am captivated by the lure of a great book cover. The old adage “Never judge a book…”? Well, I do. To me, the cover is part of the package. The photo or design usually expresses a subtext undertone of the book’s story, giving the potential reader a feel for the mood. Surrealism always entices me, and it seems the literary world knows how to use dreamy imagery well since I find stacks of book on my shelves dressed up with sepia toned oceans, blue hued dreamy roads to nowhere, pithy minimalistic cocktail glasses in the middle of a spill, suspended in mid-air. I’m still trying to understand the imagery of David Sedaris’ “Barrel Fever” with two guys sticking in hats sticking their tongues out the reader. But no matter – I find it whimsical, playful, iconoclastic – very much like the contents inside.

So, as a self publishing author, I’ve found it important to know what my book is about before getting to the cover.  I’m very visual, and no ordinary photo will do.  So, I finally found the perfect photo off Shutterstock, but the dpi and the various elements in the shot were difficult to maneuver, that is – until I found an actual, affordable book cover artist who’s on the same page, and was able to make the cover into what I wanted – with all requirements included. This is such a relief. My self imposed deadline is approaches. My manuscript finished, with the exception of trying to come up with an introduction and blurb. But I find it so hard to promote myself. It seems that when I’m about to reach the precipice of accomplishment, I slow down -like I don’t want it all at once.

I’m also in the self doubt phase. My book is entitled “Hitting the Water” – but should I have just called it “Hitting Water”? Would that have been snazzier? Too late now since I’ve already received an ISBN. More questions. More answers. More self doubts. More ways to get past them.  And as much as I love physical books, I plan on having my book available for Kindle in addition to a real book.  The best of both worlds.

More to come!


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Attack of the Killer Pigs

cheaper by the dozen house on LorraineJust your average, ordinary neighborhood, where lovely palatial homes with perfectly manicured lawns stretch out to a perfectly maintained sidewalk. If you’ve ever seen the film “Cheaper By the Dozen” with Bonnie Hunt and Steve Martin, this is the house where it was filmed. It’s a few blocks from where I live, and it seems to house a family that is just as boisterous and charismatic as the family in the movie. The kids are between thirteen and seven – all freckle faced and gregarious. Their driveway is parked up with all-terrain vehicles with back hatch bike racks and shiny BMW’s. Nice folks, too. And yes – apparently there is really a pig somewhere on the property. While walking by the white picket fence toward the back part of the house, you’ll hear the low guttural grunts of a porcine piggy. Or – so they say. I usually hear a dog, barking angrily at my hound who just whines and trots away in fear.

And another thought… I was watching this clip from The Fisher King. It suddenly occurred to me that the progress in digital technology has rendered the old video store obsolete. Yes, I’m sure there are some video shops hanging onto the old school love of a video (that is – if anyone still has an operating VHS machine, and I’m sure there are folks who do). So, with the Blockbusters and Mom & Pop shops now turned into dry cleaners or a Whole Foods, what happens to the life-long card carrying members of that dusty old Video Shack? Is a life long membership applicable to the life of the member, or the life of the shop. Details. I bet it’s in the small print on the back of the card.

Lovely scene. Beautiful movie. You didn’t think I could go a week without a Robin Williams moment, did you?


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Fall in Los Angeles

Screenshot 2014-10-17 10.13.49

You can find Autumn in Los Angeles. You just have to look for it. Amid the green trees and freshly layered sod, you can turn a corner and find an entire street lined with deciduous trees, turning brown and yellow, shedding leaves until winter hits and the entire avenue looks like something out of your east coast/mid-west suburban winter memory.  Then you can turn another corner to find palm trees and ficus trees growing like it’s summer time where barbeques are smoking and canon balls are splashing down in a pool.

Fall is my favorite time of year. The chill in the air, the early nights of deep, long shadows that create a lovely feeling in the brain. Nesting, holidays, baking – suddenly we’re seeing jack-o-lanterns and fake web on bushes, and Halloween candy in stores, and the excitement of the onset on Pumpkin Spice season – as touted in the latest Trader Joe’s “Fearless Flyer”.

This is the time of year when I miss New York the most. I envy my east coast friends who are relishing in the “mist and mellow fruitfulness” of the season back home. Yes, they are looking ahead to a tough, cold, snowy winter – but after two years of scarce rain, lack of clouds and no snow in SoCal – I would kill for one flake of snow. (Okay, maybe a light snowfall.)

I left the east coast for the west four years ago because of those horrible NY winters, and yes – my home state got socked with exceptionally bad storm fronts since I left town. But as one LA sunny day folds into another, as one week turns to month after month of no substantial rain, I find the constant state of nothingness in the climate almost deadening. The sun is blinding. The air dry.  The sky always blue – providing a surreal world of perfection to the point where another gorgeous sunny day is mockery. It’s  becoming scary. The ground and trees on the hiking trails at Griffith Park are bone-dry parched.  The smell of dry cedar and dust particles clog your nose and get down your throat. The heat index can rise up into the hundreds, burning the dry soil, baking what were once moist, water filled streams that used to bubble up from the mountains. Screenshot 2014-10-17 10.14.07The sweet, dry smell of heated wood makes you feel that one strike of a match could cause the whole forest to ignite.

Weather. How I miss you. I need the turmoil of a late day summer thunder drench. The soul needs to be fed with the mixture of season, the drudgery, and the welcoming beauty of all that waiting and freezing and dry sky – to find that warm spring ozone air breaking through on a March afternoon. The happiness caused when noticing a crocus poking out of the dark, barren earth. Turning around and seeing a forsythia bush flourishing yellow blooms within the dead brown branches and bark of winter – which is slowly, slowly turning into spring as the promise of green leaves, warm weather, shedding socks and boots for barefeet and flip flops becomes real. Then it’s wonderful, wondrous summer!  The season you’ve earned after shoveling snow and suffering frostbite from waiting at the train station.  Summer – when Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime” makes you weep for joy at the memory of summers past you can relieve in the splash of the pool and the incredible coconut smell of Coppertone.

You don’t get that in LA. It’s always nice – always pleasant. It gets chilly, and you can imagine for just a moment, being back home under the red leaves of an autumn maple tree. You can feel safe in the warm pocket of southern California sunshine when you hear the rest of the nation is buried under ten feet of snow. But one season folds into another – and you wonder if going back into the thick of winter blues may be worth it.

[written in a morning funk kind of stream of conscious kind of way so grammar be damned]


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The Hooch

flamingmartinis

My father was a nightly martini swiller. Beefeater gin was his poison. A splash of dry vermouth in a shaker with a slice of lemon, and he could settle down after a day at his office at IBM – old “Big Blue”- to the mono voice of Walter Cronkite. One drink a day – and that was it.  He coined it his daily “Zoomph”. I never saw him drunk – only content.  It wasn’t until a stroke at the age of 80 took his desire for a daily “Zoomph” away. Concerned about the interaction of pills and alcohol, he called it a day.

Forever my father’s daughter, I carried out the love for the great martini. However, as times moved on, I changed the gin for vodka. The lovely warm rush of alcohol through my veins would ease the stress after a long, hard day. I wasn’t a daily drinker – I’m still not. Although drinking at a lovely Manhattan bar after a long day at work can sink me into a delicious drunken funk, booze at home can make me groggy and slow. A few sips make me sleep, makes the precious few hours I have left before bedtime go to waste. But a nice stiff drink, at the right place and time is an elixir that softens the blow of daily life with a sharp sting of fluid going down the gullet.

The drink helped me the day my mom died. It all happened so fast. I had been talking to my father on the phone that morning.  Some background: They both fell ill together – both committed to long term nursing at the same time. They were both living in the same room.  Although I visited them as much as I could, as a single person who had to make a living, my weeks were spent doing just that – working. Trying hard not to get fired because of the sudden leaves of absence I’d have to take when my parents took a turn for the worse.

On this day, I had just signed the lease to an apartment on the upper east side and wanted to call my dad to tell him the news. Normalcy. I just wanted to bring normal life into his ear. While talking to him, I could hear my mother in the background – in the bed next to him.

“Ann, Debi just signed a lease to an apartment!” he shouted to her.

I only heard her voice. Any words uttered were indistinguishable.

Then, after chatting with my father, we said goodbye.

My next call was about two hours later, when the nurse from the home called to say my mother’s blood pressure was crashing, and they were taking her to the hospital.

I told my boss, who knew of my parents decline, that I think this was it. I had to go.

I boarded the Metro North train to White Plains. Sitting in a daze, knowing that the one thing I had feared since I was a child old enough to know death, was actually coming true. The one person who had been in my life since I was a zygote – was leaving this planet. Life as I knew it before – was gone. Changing. Never the same again.

We went through the underground tunnel that rolls underneath upper Manhattan, and comes up for air near 125th street, where train rolls and dips over an El line within Harlem, then over the East River. You can see Yankee Stadium in the distance. Then, the train pitches and shakes over the Major Deegan until you continue your journey to the suburbs of NYC.  The phone calls must have come when I was in the Grand Central tunnel,  void of any cell phone signals. I must have been at Marble Hill in the Bronx when I saw the voicemail icons pop up. One voicemail from my half brother. One from my uncle. The hospital couldn’t reach me – so they called the next two numbers on the contact sheet – my brother and then my uncle.

I found out my mother died while on the 5:20pm train to White Plains.

The next few days were surreal. I stayed in their condo, the one I had to sell for estate matters. My friend Marie came by with a lasagna. I handled estate issues by phone, and lawyer meetings. The funeral director was young, kind and understanding. My Miami relatives were alarmed. I had my mother cremated – and you don’t do that in the jewish religion.  Then, there was suspicion – because she had been cremated so fast. Like I was trying to hide some weird plot that lead to the death of my mother. Family things. You know.

The one thing I remember was drinking vodka all day. Not martinis – straight vodka. Martini’s require preparation, anticipation of the swilling cocktail hour celebrating the end of the day. No. This was straight up vodka. I sipped it slowly, an oral dose administered methodically.  It started in the morning and flowed through the rest of the day. It lulled me into a cushion of comfort, easing the cutting edge of pain in a medicinal manner.   It continued for a few days, as we arranged memorials and planned. I lived in the sleepy haze of booze until I didn’t need it anymore. Like my dad no longer needed his daily  “Zoomph” – I woke up from the funk and ended my need for the devil’s drink, as they say.  My dad passed away nine months later, and the vodka medicine began again until I no longer needed it.

Today, without my dad around, I don’t enjoy martinis the way I used to. Vodka makes me feel ill and sleepy. The sting of the hooch doesn’t thrill me anymore.

 


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‘Transparent’: Any Viewers of this Show Out There? Please Speak Up….

A scene from 'Transparent' now streaming on Amazon.

A scene from ‘Transparent’ now streaming on Amazon.

…I need to talk it out!

I write this blog post bleary eyed and consumed. I binge watched this fascinating dramedy last night, stopping around 11pm when I had to get to bed. But, the characters and the story made my mind bounce with ideas. Screw sleep. I watched some more. Now I’m tired and consumed with the weird, dysfunctional world of the Pfeffermans.  Has anyone seen Transparent? Jeffrey Tambor is extraordinary as Mort, now Maura, a father, after a life of hiding, decides to come out as his authentic self and live his life as a woman.  As he defiantly reveals himself as Maura, he has to handle his fucked up family’s reaction (mostly positive – one negative) – where, thanks to flashbacks, the weakened groundwork for emotional sink holes were laid down a long time ago.

With every episode running through my head, mishmashed with subtext and psychological elements so deep,  it feels downright icky going into the rabbit hole with this loving, passionate, twisted family lost in a whirlpool of change.  I’m still trying to let every twist and turn sink in before I can even deconstruct the complicated elements of this clan, the multi-faceted mishegas.

Jill Solloway is a genius in creating this fascinating story.

There are still three more episodes on my queue to view. It’s taking all my energy not to watch these at work. (My entire team is in France for a conference, so things are slow) But word to the cubicle dwellers – streaming this show is really, really NSFW.

Any ‘Transparent’ viewers out there? Please comment!  I want to start a conversation.