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My love affair with New York has been a vast and varied experience. From an enraged lady with a wooden stick chasing me along Fifth Avenue in 2010, to serial-killer types with no shoes on in Central Park in 2011.
In both those instances, the true highlight of my visits was buried deep within the blog lines I wrote, so buried in fact, that you couldn’t have even guessed what it was really all about:
Oh yes…the manly embrace, the knee-weakening cologne, the hair-that-does-not-look-as-styled-as-my-hair-so-I-don’t-feel-threatened…the sweet, glorious male specimen!
Somewhere along the way, my “guy component” of New York City was ripped right out of town and equally ripped from my heart, which basically left me in shreds, not unlike the stringy pulled pork revered amongst sandwich enthusiasts. I could have stayed like that, as useless gutted remnants, but God (the very same God who prioritizes rap artists winning Grammys over world issues (“I’d like to thank God, for this award…”)) put my pieces back together, and that’s how I escaped the “dark zone.”
Oh wait…it wasn’t God, it was actually ME, who woke up one day and told myself “If life goes ahead and turns you into shredded pulled pork, then you gotta become the best damn sandwich EVER!”
And that’s exactly what I did.
So even though I smell like stale BBQ sauce and onions pretty much all the time, I turned some bad into some good by converting my troubles into a screenplay then a book (which I have blogged about many times , so I digress).
There was always one tricky thing left to deal with though…and that was a return to New York City (aka “nostalgia nightmare”).
I’d been avoiding a trip to New York City for a good year and a half, always feeling relieved when my planned visits would fall through, and always hoping my friends would be too busy to see me. And who WOULDN’T want to avoid it? The laughter, the endless conversations, the manly embrace I spoke of before, and etc. and etc. and etc. that shall not be named.
Last month though, with an open spot in the back seat of my sister and husband’s car (and an unprecedented chance to annoy them for four days straight by being an official third wheel)…I went back to the city of equal parts dreams and nightmares.
This would be the section where I meaningfully tell you how I overcame my demons, danced through the East Village on a rainy afternoon (with the song “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” playing in the background), and got my groove back by one-night-standing a twenty-year-old sailor.
In reality it was a lot simpler, because New York City made it easy to have a wonderful time, when I followed these few simple steps:
1. Do cardio. That’s right, bike-riding for a couple hours in Central Park released so many “happy” endorphins, that I wanted to be friends with EVERYONE (which is weird because I’m generally not friendly).
2. Eat drumsticks. Or any kind of amazing soul food (though I can now enthusiastically recommend Red Rooster in Harlem). This is the perfect answer to doing a couple of hours of cardio on vacation, because what kind of LOSER does cardio on vacation? And also, because food was like the warm manly embrace I’d so dearly missed (even though a drumstick-hug will nine times out of ten leave me tired…and fat).
3. Look at art, or sarcophagi, or anything else that makes you feel smart, because intelligence is a good distraction from “crazy, stupid, love” (ohhh how I love Ryan Gosling, I’ve waited a year to use that title in a sentence!). I had initially planned to avoid museums, since my memories of New York with the male specimen involved “museuming,” but once I arrived I remembered how much I loved art and history before he ever came along, and dammit you will NOT take that away from me! (but I still went to a DIFFERENT museum, since I’m not a glutton for punishment).
4. Go to a neighbourhood bar in the West Village that’s bursting with charm, and order a drink that’s described AND tastes like liquid cinnamon apple pie. It’s apple pie and it’s a buzz, dude; need I say more?
5. Friends. Friends make everything better. I know I said earlier that I’m not friendly—which is true—but when I DO find people to be friends with, they mean as much to me as baby cubs to her lioness, and/or I would fight to the death in a gladiator arena to defend any one of my friends (I chose both a “cuddly” and “vicious” analogy, to appeal to all blog reader types; you’re welcome).
All in all, New York City is the grandest place of all, a place bigger than all humans, memories, and heart-shredding. It’s a place that can nurture new experiences, while still leaving room for the past, because even though male specimens come and go, the magic while it lasted is a thing to be remembered, not feared (something I finally realized by the time I came home). And now that I’ve overcome my fear, I hope to go back there many more times (and eventually buy a place in the West Village when I’m a bestselling author!).
In other news… I would like to virtually hug all the readers of my “Year of the Chick” series. New York City and living in the moment is what book two in the series is all about, and because of you amazing readers, I should hit 2,000 copies sold of “Last-Minute Love” by the end of September—less than four months since the release! None of these copies were free, oh no, you awesome readers chose to buy them, and for an independent author like myself, a number like that means the world to me! My dreams are coming true every day, but without each and every reader that wouldn’t be possible…THANK YOU!
Right then, on with autumn, my favourite season, because autumn is when I most feel like a writer (since it gives me the chance to wear sparkly scarves, long shirts, skinny jeans and tall boots, a.k.a. the writer uniform!!). Only one question remains: have YOU had your first pumpkin spice latte of the season?
When most women spend extra time in the shower, they’re usually “exploring their bodies” after reading another few chapters from the trilogy that shall not be named (and yes, that series is on the level of “Voldemort” now).
When I, Romi, spend extra time in the shower, I’m lathering my hair for longer than I need to, as I obsess over things that will surely turn into blog posts.
And so, after taking most of the summer off (from blogging, not showering), this post is brought to you by excessive shampooing.
Here’s my issue: I miss the “good ol’ days” of the Internet. You know what I’m talking about; those days back in 1998, when e-mail gave way to curious chat rooms, and guys named “Storm” with hot surfer bodies according to their pics would only talk to you if you offered up your bra size? Remember? And then you’d lie about your bra size to make sure Storm would talk to you, only for your brother and sister to discover your browsing history, and terrorize your teenage self for months to come…ah, glory days!
For those of you disturbed by the similarities between my Internet “glory days” and the show “To Catch A Predator,” let me remind you of more recent and mass-appeal glory days, days which are also lost.
It’s anywhere between the years 2007 and 2010ish. Blogging is the coolest thing around; you and your blogging buddies post two to three times a week, because by golly: you have so many original thoughts! Facebook is also fun, with your friends posting updates and photos that originate from their actual lives. Twitter’s like a bit of a bar scene, where you stand in a corner, put yourself out there with your 140-character original thoughts, and wait to see if someone will notice.
Fast forward to now…and THIS happens:
Items two and three bother me the most, and guess what: I’ve never “liked” or re-posted any of that. Ohhh no, do you know what this must mean then? It must mean:
But wait: that’s not what it means at all!
I have thoughts, feelings and ideas that are original, so I don’t really need to be a pre-packaged, sheep-like Internet user.
And neither do you!
If you still think it’s cool to “like” these photos of random people on Facebook instead of photos of your actual friends, have you ever looked at the Facebook user who posted that photo in the first place? In most cases it’s a teenage dude wearing his hat at a weird angle all thug-like, or a teenage girl making that fish-lips face to the camera. Sometimes they’ll even beg you to follow their Twitter account (“In poor taste!” I cry, “in poor taste!”). Are these really the kind of people you want to represent your Internet thoughts?
And don’t even get me started on Twitter…gah Twitter! Have you taken a close look at Twitter recently? It goes like this:
This is the other sad part about the Internet: you have to LITERALLY be somebody else to make sure you get a huge following. Maybe that was always an alluring aspect of the Internet, but what about the other main draw of social networking?
I’m sorry, but how am I supposed to let people know who ROMI is, if I start a twitter account that’s forever living in the shadow of one of Angelina Jolie’s limbs? (And YES, about two hours after Angelina Jolie wore a dress with a hip-high slit at the Oscars, her leg came to life as a Twitter account).
I will not be reduced to a lone limb or a religious icon, because A: I am Romi Moondi, B: say my name, bitch; and C: even if I only get one hundredth of the followers that a leg gets, and even if my photos don’t represent the best parts of humanity and go viral, all that shit is MINE, and you can either “like” it…or not.
PS: remember when I complained about women posting ultrasound pics of their pregnant uterus’s (or is the plural “uteri”?)? Maybe you don’t remember, because I’m not sure if I blogged about it, but it’s definitely in one of my books. Anyhoo…I now long for the nostalgic days of having to see someone’s uterus, because now it’s gotten worse, in the form of…a pregnancy test with the positive symbol.
Yes, via the powers of modern Internet usage, I am now being subjected to seeing a mild acquaintance’s pee on Facebook.
Well at least it’s their own pee and they’re not sharing someone else’s. I guess. Sweet.
When the sequel to “Year of the Chick” named “Last-Minute Love” said hello to the world on June 7th, whilst dripping in literary amniotic fluid and still attached to the thick corded noodle of my brain (gross imagery, I live for it), I felt so incredibly relieved. Obviously it was weird to have readers flipping through the pages of a slimy book that was still attached to my brain, but it was out there and my work was done…at last!
On the day of the release, I kept telling everyone how I would sleep like a baby for a while. Once our conversation faded out into everyday topics like whether or not gelato is the same as eating fruit (yes it is so we can have it always), I imagined how babies wake up often in the middle of the night, for seemingly endless bodily functions and boob-access.
I can’t remember when I last thought about having access to someone else’s boobs, because A: Growing out of “babyhood” means a plethora of meal options besides breast milk and B: last I checked, I wasn’t a lesbian (I check often via lingering stares towards females on the subway, just to make sure there’s nothing stirring inside—so far, status quo). As for bodily functions, I am accident-free until further notice.
So fine, I slept like an adult who’d been living two lives non-stop to get this sequel released, and who could finally exchange late nights and energy drinks for drool-heavy sleep and black tea (I know, I know, why not green tea? Everyone talks about the benefits of green tea, but let’s be honest, “once you go black, you never go back”—it took me years to finally realize that phrase is in reference to tea).
So here we are…day five of the sequel release, (officially day four and a half), and I’ve got great news to share so far!
First: I’ve sold 100 copies in only five days!
This is a big number for a “do-it-yourself” author like me, especially because it took me two and a half months to sell that many copies of book one! And so, even when sales slow down, I’m confident I’ll eventually out-sell book one, so hooray! I achieved my growth goal by putting on my marketing hat, and making book one free when the sequel came out. This worked out great for me exposure-wise, as well as “I just finished reading book one and now I must read the second”-wise. Therefore, I encourage all self-published authors with a series to try out Amazon’s “KDP Select” program (where in exchange for three months of exclusivity, you can make your book free for five days).
The other great news is the incredible feedback I’ve received in just a few days. It’s amazing to hear from new fans on my Facebook page, as they describe how they stayed up late reading one or both of my books. It is also as intimidating as heck (I love how I say “heck” right now as if I never drop f-bombs in real life or in my books), because suddenly book three is supposed to magically appear….when I wasn’t even planning on writing it until 2013.
And I won’t start writing it sooner, dammit. Not until I move to Paris.
And so, as part of the Romi-out-reach program, please tell your friends about the series in-between your casual conversations about how healthy gelato is, because word-of-mouth is the difference between a nobody and a mommy-porn superstar like E L James!
PS: I don’t think I could write erotica if I tried, so DON’T ASK.
For new readers to my blog who don’t know: the “Year of the Chick” series is about a quest to find love to avoid arranged marriage. It’s full of awkward family moments, blunt conversations on dating, and forbidden love (especially book two!). It’s also *cough* loosely based on real life…
Almost four months ago, I embarked on a journey to write a full first draft in five days. I thought that was the craziest I would ever get.
But then I started the re-write for the book.
It began by running to Starbucks on my lunch hours from work. I’d order a passion iced tea lemonade and furiously embark on the re-write for an hour straight. Once it was over I’d hurriedly return to my desk, armed with a laptop and a smile, cackling all the while because hey: I had a big shiny dream after all, while other people just had…lunch. And friends.
Maybe I have a couple of friends as well, I’ve just been ignoring them for two weeks straight…sorry.
Back to my tale…a series of lunch hours does not a re-write make; I needed more.
And so, as the sun would set and normal people embarked on filthy bedroom deeds and/or watching “Dancing with the Stars” (which in my opinion is the filthiest assault on one’s soul), I would only just begin my re-writing journey into the night. On the most significant of these nights, I cracked open a can of Red Bull at ten p.m. (on a weeknight, mofos!), preparing myself to go “balls to the wall” (I really hope that expression doesn’t mean anything in literal terms, otherwise there are some walls out there that need a serious washing).
I was approaching the thick of my book now, which was unfortunately the part that needed the most serious re-write. My ego would have told me to leave everything as it was, but when you’re fortunate enough to have the smartest story editor in the world at your fingertips, it’s important to listen to their critical feedback.
So fine, my ego was hung out to dry, which meant I seriously had to dive back in…back to the disturbing past which inspired so much of this story. I thought I’d left all that behind in the raw first draft, but if you really commit to a re-write, you’ll know you’re not just “massaging” existing scenes, you’re hacking things apart and asking yourself to make more. This can be especially tricky on the heart, when you’re treading the fine line between reality and fiction.
For most people like me who have written a story that’s inspired by real life, you can understand the emotional regression that occurs when you dig up the past for the creation of art; how it inaccurately glorifies people from way back when, how it makes you wonder if there’s any way to turn it all around for a second chance, how it frustrates you to Hell and back to know you’re not Marty McFly from “Back to the Future,” which means you can’t go back in time to be in love with a younger version of your mother (or something)…well it’s not healthy…to say the least.
In the harshest cases, it’s extremely harmful to a writer’s emotional health to do a re-write from the heart, but we do it anyway, because even if a story is centered around talking dinosaurs or a zombie apocalypse, it still has to forfeit some pieces of the author’s soul, otherwise how will it ever truly connect with a reader? (I’m lookin’ at you, “Twilight”…just kidding, I’ve never even read “Twilight.” It could be Pulitzer-worthy material for all I know).
So I blocked out the world, and with the totally psychotic wings that Red Bull pinned on my back…I went there.
After a few hours of intense cutting of scenes then adding different much-improved scenes (let’s hope), I was too screwed up to continue, or at least I couldn’t continue until I had a little break to express myself as me, the writer. So here, written at two a.m. one night, is the raw and uncut psychotic break:
(I just had to leave this story for a bit, and I can’t stand to open another Word document, so I’m writing this here in the book within parentheses, because parentheses excuse all.
I wonder what would happen if I accidentally left this in the book…or dare I leave it in on purpose? Maybe it could be a new style of writing a novel, like a novel with commercial breaks. Would readers be okay with that? Even if I charmingly described the benefits of a new kind of tampon? Would they find it intrusive? Should I add diagrams? I don’t know…I feel like commercials in books would be a brand new invention I could make millions off of. In which case, I should totally remove this “book interruption” from the final version and keep the idea to myself.
I don’t know why but this book commercial innovation reminds me of Facebook, which is about to go public in just a few days. I still have no idea how Facebook makes money, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never clicked on one of those ads that asks me if I’m interested in getting rid of my “unsightly chin fat.” And yes, that was an actual ad. PS Facebook ad: can’t you see my damn profile picture? My chin fat is under control, thank you very much. Anyway back to Facebook: so apparently that Latin co-founder of Facebook just renounced his US citizenship so he doesn’t have to pay $600 million in taxes…? I’m all for capitalism, but if you’re set to pay $600 million in taxes, that means you made a shit-ton of money too, more than you could ever spend. Besides which, umm HELLO, isn’t the US the very country that harboured you while you were a high-value child-sized kidnapping target for Brazilian drug lords? Or something? If I ever go to Singapore where you’re hiding, you Facebook co-founder man, I will definitely remember to call you a dick.
Also…sometimes I wonder how many potential husbands I missed out on by writing books. Just as an aside.
Also, am I supposed to read “Fifty Shades of Grey” now? Is that like a cultural movement or something? Is it okay if I choose not to read it out of spite, because I don’t like being told what should entertain me? (see earlier comment on “Twilight.”))
There were some additional garbled comments but I’ll leave it there.
It’s pretty clear then, that there are two sides to every re-write:
-The side where you get back into character to make a better story, and the flip-side result where you turn into a bit of an emotionally-stunted fuck-up
With that I say: happy re-writing times to all! The more we re-write, the more we keep psychiatrists like Niles and Frasier Crane in business.
PS: The re-write is done and I’m almost there, with just two and a half weeks left until “Last-Minute Love” releases! (which is hopefully soon enough so that I won’t end up needing a straitjacket)
What romantic comedy WOULDN’T talk about pimp commissions from ho’s working overtime and dead-body smell that seeps from a corpse’s apartment?
Well…maybe all of them wouldn’t. But I don’t write typical rom-com’s, as loyal readers have by now gathered. Besides, AS IF I could post the normal, lovey-dovey, will-definitely-make-you-cry excerpts from the book on my borderline-insane blog? For that romance stuff you’ll have to pay, when the sequel comes out in June.
Meanwhile, after giving away over 13,000 free digital copies of “Year of the Chick” on Amazon last week (who needs money after all? Food stamps all the way), I figured I should probably post some progress from the editing I’ve been doing on the sequel.
Each of the free excerpts I post in the months leading up to the release (June!) will be ambiguous enough to avoid any true spoilers, but interesting enough to fondle the nerve-endings of your giant brain. Or so I hope.
Here, I give you an excerpt from Chapter One of the “Year of the Chick” sequel (and clearly I have yet to come up with a title for the book).
Coolness factor of main character: low to non-existent
Sexual references: one
Decomposing bodies references: two
When I opened the door to the Royal Ontario Museum’s foyer, street sounds were replaced with the excited chatter of museum revelers. The area was packed with school children wrapping up their field trips, and tourists just now piling in. I pushed past all of them, heading straight to the VIP queue.
A middle-aged woman with a long-forgotten grown-out perm (she’s obviously not getting bi-annual perms from her daughter like my mom), an oversized navy museum blazer, and a thin-lipped smile waited patiently, as I fumbled through my bulging wallet. Having a bulging wallet always made me feel important, like a pimp who couldn’t clip his stack of cash in a tidy bank roll, since his ho’s had been working so much overtime. Unlike a pimp’s commission though, my wallet was empty on cash and full of useless “points cards” instead, ones that would earn me a trip to Paris in approximately eighty years. I eventually filtered through the plastic, finding my membership card and handing it to the blazer-wearing lady.
“Most of our year-round members are seniors,” she mused, as her gaze switched from my photo to my not-so-senior face.
She handed back the card and nodded in approval.
It was unclear.
I shrugged my shoulders and smiled as I took in the possibilities. Dinosaurs to my left, South East Asia to my right, and my personal favourites up above (Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt).
I decided to skip the elevator, opting for a curvy stone staircase with a totem pole in the middle. I stared at each face on the totem pole as I climbed the steps, with the full curiosity of the history-book-reading nerd I used to be. At home I had a bookcase stacked with everything from an entire giant book on Van Gogh, to about twenty different books on Ancient Egypt. Meanwhile I’d completely forgotten they existed for the whole of last year, so obsessed I’d become with finding a man. Now that the man-search was kinda-sorta-over (let’s hope), I was finally getting back to my roots. Which apparently made me the only Torontonian under seventy with a museum membership.
I made it to the third floor and entered the hall of Ancient History. Everything smelled a bit dead, but it wasn’t the kind of “dead smell” that would emanate from the apartment of a single person who hadn’t been heard from in days. Instead it was a “dusty mummy linens” and “disintegrating ancient bones” kind of dead. It was basically my aphrodisiac, right up there with a medium-ripe mango.