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Monday, 4 November 2013

Bringing the pain of real-life into fiction

Sad. Scary. Tragic. (But Funny!)
by
Francine LaSala

I got a call from an old friend the other day. We'd fallen out of touch over the years, but she reached out when she'd heard I'd been through a significant loss. We spoke for a while, sharing memories and getting caught up.

Then she told me the thing I most needed to hear. "Francine," she said, "I know you're going to come through this. Your sense of humor always pulls you through."

77p/99c for ONE week only (ending November 8th) 
I thanked her, as you do when people say seemingly absurd things to you at times such as these. And then I thought about what she'd said and why she'd said it.

I have always been in the awkward habit of laughing when I hear terrible news. Not all terrible news, but those things that are so terrible that sorrow somehow doesn't seem appropriate. That giggling (yes, crazy), somehow makes more sense. It's not schadenfreude. Maybe it is schadenfreude. But whatever it is, it's the defense mechanism that gets me through.


I do it in writing, too. All of my books--the two that are published, and the ones that are in progress and will be published next year--have all been born from some pain or loss. For Rita Hayworth's Shoes, it was the heartache of a boyfriend's betrayal. For The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything, it was the fear of financial ruin, dread of the dentist--among other things. No one would ever call my books "tragic"; they're all totally screwball and silly! Yet they center on various plights of the human condition. Laced with laughs.

I don't think you need to be sick in the head like me to find the humor in any given situation, and then weave that humor into your own stories. Sometimes you can do it with a situation; sometimes with a kooky character you bring in to the situation to help break the tension. The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything is peppered with these characters. There's Char-a'tee Pryce, who continually mocks protagonist Mina Clark for allowing the world to roll over her. There's neighbor Harriet Saunders, who takes all of Mina's "bad mother" anxiety and flips it on its ear. (I wrote a character piece for Louise Wise a few months back that will give you a taste of just how kooky Harriet is.

What I've come to learn is that in any horrible situation, there is the possibility to laugh. To take "Turn that frown upside down" to the extreme in your life and in your books. It feels good to laugh. It pulls you (and your characters) out of the gloom and doom; it helps you take a step back and detach so you can breathe.


Here's just such an example from The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything (which is on sale this week for 99 cents, BTW!):
  “Girl, you in trouble. You better start watching your ass.”
  “What do you mean?” Mina was more than a little taken aback by Kim’s foreboding tone.
  “Have you made any new friends lately?”
Mina had in the past several days made more new friends than she had in years, but she gave no reply.
  “I’m gonna take that as a yes. Okay, well, here’s how it goes. Don’t trust anyone. You hear me, girl? No one.”
  “What do you mean—”
  “What I mean is, the bank’s watching you. You know this. And they got folks working for them. Out in the field and such. Spies, I guess you could call them. Special agents. Could be anyone—”
  “Kim, are you drinking?”
  “Look, I’m not shitting you here. They’re around to keep tabs on you. They’re gonna tell you all kinds of stories, like they’re looking after you—that kind of thing. So you gotta know this. It’s gonna get much worse for you soon, especially if you keep bouncing your payments. You and your family are gonna be in some serious trouble. You gotta watch your ass—”
  The connection cut out. Mina checked the caller ID and tried to call Kim back. She was greeted by a few shrill siren-like noises and an automated message. “The call you have made cannot be completed. Please check the number—”
  She hung up and dialed again.
  “The call you have made cannot be—”
  Mina hung up again. Now she had to pull herself together. This was not adding up. No phone gets disconnected that quickly.
  Why did she have so many new friends in just a short time? Coincidence? Maybe she had decided to open herself up to having new friends. Although all of them . . .Harriet and the other mothers, Char-a’tee, Alex . . .they’d all seemed to steamroll her into being friends with them, hadn’t they? And what of her old friends?   She hadn’t heard from Esther in days. Was Esther still angry with her? Was she pushing Esther away? And how the hell did she get her car back?
  Mina couldn’t think clearly and she began to fear the worst. That Dr. Barsheed might have been right. That knowing too much too soon could take her mind, and now she was in the midst of losing it completely. Was anything any of these people told her even true?
  Mina found Emma in her room, sitting in the middle of the floor, naked. She had managed to find and open a set of magic markers, and had completely covered the entire surface area of her hands in bright green. She had also drawn a giant green circle around one eye. With a red magic marker, she’d colored in her belly button, spilling over to her tummy. It looked like she’d been stabbed.
  Mina sank against the doorjamb and cried. Emma came over to her, snuggled her mischievously marked-up naked body into her mother’s lap, and said, ever so sweetly,
  “Don’t cry, Monny,” before peeing all over Mina’s pants.
  “What do you mean?” Mina was more than a little taken aback by Kim’s foreboding tone.  “Have you made any new friends lately?”Mina had in the past several days made more new friends than she had in years, but she gave no reply.  “I’m gonna take that as a yes. Okay, well, here’s how it goes. Don’t trust anyone. You hear me, girl? No one.”  “What do you mean—”  “What I mean is, the bank’s watching you. You know this. And they got folks working for them. Out in the field and such. Spies, I guess you could call them. Special agents. Could be anyone—”  “Kim, are you drinking?”  “Look, I’m not shitting you here. They’re around to keep tabs on you. They’re gonna tell you all kinds of stories, like they’re looking after you—that kind of thing. So you gotta know this. It’s gonna get much worse for you soon, especially if you keep bouncing your payments. You and your family are gonna be in some serious trouble. You gotta watch your ass—”  The connection cut out. Mina checked the caller ID and tried to call Kim back. She was greeted by a few shrill siren-like noises and an automated message. “The call you have made cannot be completed. Please check the number—”   She hung up and dialed again.   “The call you have made cannot be—”  Mina hung up again. Now she had to pull herself together. This was not adding up. No phone gets disconnected that quickly.  Why did she have so many new friends in just a short time? Coincidence? Maybe she had decided to open herself up to having new friends. Although all of them . . .Harriet and the other mothers, Char-a’tee, Alex . . .they’d all seemed to steamroll her into being friends with them, hadn’t they? And what of her old friends?   She hadn’t heard from Esther in days. Was Esther still angry with her? Was she pushing Esther away? And how the hell did she get her car back?  Mina couldn’t think clearly and she began to fear the worst. That Dr. Barsheed might have been right. That knowing too much too soon could take her mind, and now she was in the midst of losing it completely. Was anything any of these people told her even true?  Mina found Emma in her room, sitting in the middle of the floor, naked. She had managed to find and open a set of magic markers, and had completely covered the entire surface area of her hands in bright green. She had also drawn a giant green circle around one eye. With a red magic marker, she’d colored in her belly button, spilling over to her tummy. It looked like she’d been stabbed.  Mina sank against the doorjamb and cried. Emma came over to her, snuggled her mischievously marked-up naked body into her mother’s lap, and said, ever so sweetly,   “Don’t cry, Monny,” before peeing all over Mina’s pants.
What's the craziest thing you ever thought was funny? Please share by leaving me a comment below.


Introducing...
The Girl, the Gold Tooth
and everything

Mina Clark is losing her mind—or maybe it’s already gone. She isn’t quite sure. Feeling displaced in her over-priced McMansion-dotted suburban world, she is grappling not only with deep debt, a mostly absent husband, and her playground-terrorizer 3-year old Emma, but also with a significant amnesia she can’t shake—a “temporary” condition now going on several years, brought on by a traumatic event she cannot remember, and which everyone around her feels is best forgotten. 

A routine trip to the dentist changes everything for Mina, and suddenly she's not sure if what's happening is real, or if she's just now fully losing her mind... especially when she realizes the only person she thought she could trust is the one she fears the most. 


A Goodreadsgiveaway for the paperback copy is running now through November 8! Please feel free to share the link starting Monday, October 28: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/70037-the-girl-the-gold-tooth-and-everything-a-novel

To celebrate GIRL turning one, the eBook will be 99 cents for one week only. This is a limited time offer that is perfect for your readers to discover this quirky satire for themselves. Please be sure to spread the word!

FRANCINE LASALA has written nonfiction on every topic imaginable, from circus freaks to sex, and edited bestselling authors of all genres.

She is now actively taking on clients for manuscript evaluations, editing services, copywriting (covers, blurbs, taglines, queries, and more), website and blog creation, and developing kickass social media campaigns. 

The author of novels Rita Hayworth’s Shoes and The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything, and the creator of The “Joy Jar” Project, she lives with her husband and two daughters in New York.



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