ALMOST PARADISE

Marguerite Quantaine

Marguerite Quantaine


During the 27 years we’ve lived in Florida, we haven’t made any in-the-life friends. 
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It’s not that ‘our kind’ doesn’t exist in small towns here. (We do.) And it’s not that we’re ashamed. (We aren’t.)
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It’s that, excluding most metro areas, if you (a) want the police to respond to your call for help in a timely manner, and (b) you want to receive the finest healthcare when you’re injured, or sick, and (c) you want to keep your pets out of harms way, and (d) you want to keep your car from being vandalized, and (e) you want to live in an area where the neighborhood watch looks out for your home, and (f) you want the person working on your teeth to be gentle, and (h) you want to be able to make a living, and (i) you want to avoid having your license plate recorded when attending a Pride event — then you don’t risk outing others whom you think are kindred spirits by drawing attention to their personal lives, even in an effort to make friends.
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That’s why The Pulse in Orlando was a Mecca for resident and visiting gays alike. It provided a safe haven for fulfilling the need to feel an instant camaraderie accompanying the demonstrative joy of others.
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Truth be told, we’ve never actually been to a nightclub because, while there was a smattering of NYC lesbian bars during the 60s when we were young, the mixed genders of nowadays nightclubs with  multiple rooms, live bands, separate stages, decks and professional disc jockeys didn’t exist.
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What we did have (aside from a Seebring juke box at one-gender venues) were summertime tea dances at Cherry Grove and the Pines on Fire Island, mostly male, but with a sufficient showing of Coppertoned women to complement the communal glee being shared as disco music blared, connecting us to every outdoor dance floor.
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Nearly fifty years have past. You wouldn’t think it’s now imperative to note, in March, Governor Rick Scott’s HB 401 bill died in committee. 
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Had HB 401 passed it would have allowed doctors, nurses, healthcare providers, and hospitals to refuse treatment to lesbians and gays without fear of facing liability in Florida courts. Based on religious freedom to discriminate, HB 401 was to have taken effect on July 1, 2016.
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As a resident of Florida who’s been subjected to discrimination, misdiagnosed, nearly killed and double billed for it, I hesitate to ever seek help here.
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Which begs the question: Why do we live in Mother Nature’s perfect place among such people?
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It’s because we believe Orlando’s healthcare providers and facilities are better — so very much better — than disingenuous leaders and sanctimonious legislators.
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And because we believe the inherent good in people will always outweigh the acquired bad. 
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And because we believe when vice endeavors to infiltrate, virtue counters with massive resistance. 
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And because we believe, if deceit sits down on the dais, multitudes will arise to defy demagoguery.
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And, too, it’s because we know we shall weep before we sleep tonight, and intermittently weep again for weeks to come, or maybe months, or years — or through however many broken hearts it takes to prevail.
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But love will triumph.
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Because it must.

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and novelist.

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IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true story
by Marguerite Quantaine

PANTS ON FIRE

Marguerite Quantaine

Marguerite Quantaine


I’ve been lying to my partner about something-or-other for 45 years. I consider it an essential ingredient in the recipe of happily ever after.
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Oh sure, I know lying has been a ‘don’t’ on the Top 10 for nearly 58 centuries, and (no doubt) good books will be thumped in outrage at me for being an avowed fabricator.
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No matter. I maintain that the best way to stay hopelessly devoted is to — subjectively and selectively — lie.
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Case in point: Regardless of the fact that my much better half has enough clothes to restock the shelves of a small boutique, she doesn’t wear 95% of her wardrobe. Instead, she dons the same outfits, day in and out for an average of 2 years running, because each shirt, pair of slacks, sweater, sweatshirt, pajama top, tee, and jacket in a revolving variety rack of, sa-a-ay, 2 garments per category, is proclaimed to be her favorite.
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This is where bleach becomes my buddy.
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I accidentally splash bleach, or spill bleach, or mistake a spray bottle of Soft Scrub for Shout, or add Clorox instead of Downy to the rinse-cycle of any garment (including my own) that I cannot stand to look at for a tub-of-water longer.
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In fact, hearing her scream from the laundry room “You idiot!” is like music to my ears and triumph to my eyes.
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Saving her from potential harm (like when she insists it’s safe to clean the car mats lying on the ground in the pouring rain because she’s using a dry/wet vacuum) requires more creative lying.
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That’s where a commercial artist comes in handy. Because almost all interviews written about her favorite celebrities can be (1) altered to reflect safer choices made on any given topic, and can be (2) printed out, complete with stock photos. It gives me comfort to know she’ll always listen to the advice of Doris Day, Angie Dickinson, and Cher. (Bless their little borrowed hearts.)
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There was a time when too many knives presented a challenge here because she can’t grasp the idea that every good cook has her own set of knives, knowing the size, weight, and feel of each in her hand, it’s purpose and degree of sharpness for meat, vegetable, bread and bone.
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But my darling has a dire need to buy every plastic handled five-and-dime knife at garage sales that “look just like” my wood handled German and Japanese cutlery. (They don’t. Not even close.)
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So, I filled a small kitchen drawer with her knockoffs. Now, every time she comes home with a knife I act excited, steal a kiss, and quietly deposit the knife in the garbage. If she asks about the newbies, I point her towards the drawer.
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Speaking of vegetables (as in overbuying them), that’s what the lidded bowl on my Kitchen Aide mixer hides. So far, the neighbors haven’t figured out who leaves fresh veggies in their mailbox late at night — but no one’s companied either.
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Except for her.
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“I wish someone would leave me free tomatoes in our mailbox sometime,” she said.
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“How come we never get left any free Chiquitas?” she asked.
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“Apparently the fruit fairy doesn’t like you,” she decided.
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“Me?” I dare. “Not you?”
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“Don’t be silly. Everyone likes me.”
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True.
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In all fairness, I did once sneak an apple into our mailbox. She bemoaned that it wasn’t a donut.
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Inanimate objects are also factored in. Semiannually, she’ll want tickets to an Oldies But Goodies concert advertised weeks in advance of the event. I’ll squeeze her hand, promise we’ll go, and hurry off to write the concert on the calendar as a reminder before returning to her with a treat — a dish of ice cream, cookie, popcorn, or such.
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But I never record the event because (a) she invariably forgets about it, and (b) it only took our attending one of those dreadful $40.00 per ticket concerts to teach me to … well … lie.
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And so it goes.
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Personally, I don’t understand those who always need to be right when an argument erupts, or prove a point, or stand on principle, or choose to hold others to a higher standard of truthfulness than they practice themselves, or insist that communication is the key to a good marriage.
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Because, while she and I are seldom diametrically opposed on any issue, if she isn’t going to budge, I’ll always acquiesce, convinced that — unless conversation is salted with sincerity, peppered with levity, and garnished with good intentions — it isn’t communication at all.
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It’s just babel.
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That being said, I must confess it wasn’t true when I wrote, “I’ve been lying to my partner about something-or-other for 45 years.”
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I’ve actually been lying to her about something-or-other for  45 years, 11 months, and 4 days.
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And for this I am, truly, grateful.
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IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love story
by Marguerite Quantaine
http://www.amazon.com/Imogenes-Eloise-Inspired-true-love-story/dp/0940548011/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434585436&sr=1-1&keywords=Imogene%27s+Eloise

A SIBLINGS SURVIVAL GUIDE

Marguerite Quantaine

Marguerite Quantaine


I never liked Peter of Rabbit fame. I was always more of a Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail girl, convinced that boys were little more than unreliable annoyances in my life.  

Sidebar: (1) By ‘boys’ I meant brothers. (2) I have three, all older by 7, 5, and 3 years, respectively.

In fairness to him, my oldest brother was an adolescent who had pretty much disappeared from sister matters by the time I entered kindergarten. He was off playing baseball and basketball with his buddies, present only at dinnertime when, with 6 kids at the table, if you didn’t cram all the food on your plate into your mouth at once, he’d claim eaters-keepers by forking whatever failed to fit.

Sidebar: (1) I still look like a chipmunk when I eat.

The middle brother of the three was my favorite, teaching me everything a girl needs to know about come-ons, intent, betrayal, and eventual self-deprecation. A charismatic then (and still, to some degree), he’d talk me into (what the family still refers to as) Kit-tricks. 

“I bet you can’t ride my bike down this hill without falling off, Willish. Trust me, I can.” 

Sidebar: (1) He nicknamed me Willish. (2) His bike was twice my size. (3) He neglected to mention the bike had no brakes. (4) The hill was in a cemetery. (5) I took the bait. (6) I hit a tombstone head-on. (7) I lost the bet.

“I bet you can’t climb to the top of this ladder without falling off, Willish. Trust me, I can.”

Sidebar: (1) We stood in the middle of the yard. (2) It was a lean-to ladder with nothing to lean against. (3) I took the bait. (4) He held it until I got to the top before letting go. (5) I hit the ground head-on. (6) I lost the bet.

Each dare (not all of them a risk to life and limb) I took, knowing better than to accept. But I was ever ‘willing’ and eager to please and felt up to the challenge. 

Sidebar: (1) Perhaps that’s why I understand both Lucy Van Pelt and the Piper-Alex allure.

The youngest-older brother enjoyed movie star good looks and was into role-playing. He once had me dragged, kicking and screaming, to a makeshift altar at the top of our second floor stairs where I was held in place while he acted as a pastor and married me off to our back door neighbor, Mikey.

Sidebar: (1) Mikey and I were 6 years old. (2) The only vow we both took was never to marry. (3) My brother went on from this gig to become an accomplished actor before giving up thespianism for the cloth. (4) During my getaway I tumbled down the stairs, hitting the bottom head-on.

But I digress.

Because this post wasn’t begun to be brothers-intensive, or name The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter as being the first book my mom gave me, containing the story which planted the seed that grew into my love for the written word.

It was supposed to be about how the culture, sense of humor, politics, spirituality, dreams, habits, strengths, weaknesses, convictions, ambitions, priorities, and emotions behind whatever mask a reader dons is often revealed through the choices of books she makes.

And, how presenting someone with a book you love is like opening your heart.

Sidebar: (1) A book is the quickest way to establish a rapport. (2) A book is a gift that leaves an impression long after the final page is turned. (3) A book demonstrates something worthy about both the giver and the receiver. (4) A book is a terrible thing to waste when you have no one to share it with. (5) There’s a book that falls within the budget set by every gift-giver.

So, take the bait. 

Give a book to your dopey brother …

Sidebar: (1)  … and all others on your important person list who turned out ‘splendiferously’ in spite of, you know, all-the-unforgotten-is-forgiven things.

As long as you approach your book choices head-on, you cannot lose.

Trust me.

It’s got Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail written all over it.

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Copyright Marguerite Quantaine © 2015

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.
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“WOW. Oh how I wish my publishing house had found this book first! Congrats to Marguerite Quantaine for a marvelously written novel, chock full of delicious detail about the characters and the setting…it’s romantic and heartfelt, but so much more than a satisfying love story. It’s a detailed history of an era, a place, a chosen family of friends who are wickedly funny, deliriously dishy and smart, smart, smart. Not only is the story unique and vivid, but the writing is simply grand. Quantaine’s dialogue alone is genius. This book captures an era brilliantly and puts readers in the midst of closeted (but frisky!) GLBT life in my NYC of the 60s and early 70s…dive into the worlds of Imogene and Eloise, along with their fascinating friends and family. Three cheers for author Marguerite Quantaine!
— A&M Books reviews Imogene’s Eloise
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“… crisp…clever…unique…saucy humor…delicious writing…fabulous…funny…historically accurate…genius debut… This will be a classic; buy it now. ”
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— SHE Magazine Reviews IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love

Every Woman Should Run For Public Office Once Or Twice

I'll Get That Vote Yet!

I’ll Get That Vote Yet!


“There’s never been a colored, a Jew, a Democrat, a Yankee, a queer, or a woman as Mayor of this town and there never will be!”

I glanced up from my notes to study the odd little man in his Oshkosh overalls, Penny’s plaid shirt, knee-high Frye boots and Tom Mix hat.

His cohorts called him Red. I don’t know if he was christened that, or nicknamed for the color of his neck — but it certainly didn’t stem from embarrassment by him, or any of the men at that district Republican Committee meeting rewarding him with whistles and a rousing applause as I sat alone in the far, back corner of the small auditorium, recording the  forum as a favor to the (absent) president of our local Republican club.

And, all I could think was —  what luck!

No, not because I was a committee member and could object. I wasn’t.

But I was born in the small town that hosted the first Republican convention, “Here, under the oaks, July 6, 1854” where an obscure granite rock with a bruised bronze plague once sat on a tiny patch of treeless grass, three short blocks from where I spent my most misinformative years.

Back then, the rites of passage included adopting both the religion and political party affiliation of your parents. My parents were protestant and Republican. I’m neither, but during my juvenescence, I feigned being both.

The reality is, religion and politics have never been roadblocks for me. I tend to accept that we’re all going to believe what we need to believe in order to survive our slippery slope slide from here into hereafter.

However, the pretense of politics alarms me, and is the reason I encourage every woman to run for public office.

I have.

It’s easier than you think, and more satisfying than you dare imagine.

Votes for Women

Votes for Women

After filling out the simple forms with the Americanized spelling of my last name and paying a nominal filing fee, I learned you aren’t required to raise money, put up signs, hand out cards, take out ads, stand on street corners in inclement weather inhaling exhaust while  waving to commuters — or even to serve if elected.

Which I did not do.

Instead, I entered the citywide race for Mayor because I could.

And, because the Mayor of our town is in charge of the police force that was alleged to have created computer software profiling every resident according to age, gender, race, religion, political affiliation, marital status and coded lifestyle.

I ran because the Mayor had the power to veto city council legislation.

I ran because the personal voting records of all residents, their addresses, and phone numbers are made available to campaign camps via their candidate.

I ran because it’s possible for local elected officials to access sensitive census information about their neighbors.

I ran because I’d be invited to all candidate gatherings, lunches, forums, debates, and media interviews with equal time to speak, followed by unlimited time to answer questions. Places where I could tell the people about the alleged profiling, the veto capability, the reality of records, and the potential for both discrimination and profiteering to detriment of the electorate should the (professed private) census information be misused by unscrupulous officials with a personal agenda to advance.

Liberty+scales
But primarily, I ran because I was told:
“You cannot.”
“And yet, I can.”
“You can’t run as a Republican.”
“Unless I’m registered as a Republican. Then I can.”
“It’s a nonpartisan race, so no one will know.”
“Unless it’s leaked.”
“You won’t have the backing of the Republican Party.”

Aye, there’s the sub rosa.

Most of us like to think we’re supporting a candidate who shares our convictions and has our best interests in mind.

Go on.

Run for office.

That’s when you learn it’s the RNC (Republican National Committee), the DNC (Democratic National Committee), and corporate funding that dictates the conversation, feeds the media, and virtually runs this country in a Charlie-McCarthy-meet-Jerry-Mahoney-manner, where those connected contingents funnel all the money solicited from donors into the war chests of the candidates they’ve preselected to win.

I kid you not.

The nominees of both the RNC and DNC sign a Party platform pledge to toe the Party line, in order to receive the financial clout of the RNC, or DNC, because the chances of winning an election for those who don’t sign — even on a local level — are zip, zero, nada, and nil.

And, get this: Those war chests can be used to funnel funds for phone banks to robo-call citizens who have a voting record history of going to the polls on odd, even, and ‘off’ years.

They can funnel ‘independent’ surveys with contrived questions for the ostensible purpose of suggesting nonexistent improprieties practiced by the opposing party.

They can funnel for spamming newspapers with testimonial templates to praise one candidate, or deride the other, or push an agenda, or create confusion, or imply majority support, with each letter signed and sent by a party faithful — so it appears to the public as an original thought and legitimate concern rather than a parroted message.

They can funnel for business owners to be visited by party members offering recommendations on which candidates to support, along with a friendly suggestion of how valuable it is to have a customer base of political party members.

They can funnel for whisper campaigns, leaked to small presses, controlled by deep pocket party pleasers, linked to online sites willing to post the disinformation.

And, get this, too: The strategies for beating your opponent are all recorded (or was when I ran) in an instruction manual detailing how to sway an election to a preferred candidate with news stories clouded by opinion. Where inserting the words of ‘could, might, rumored, alleged, contend, claim, suppose, may’ and ‘if” in news coverage to replace ‘is, are’ and ‘will’ as indicators of truth. Where technical corrections to falsehoods are buried in places no one reads. Where editorials aren’t required to be factual.

FlagHat
This old maxim still holds true:
The most dangerous person in the world is the one who can’t be bought.

That’s where running for political office serves as the American dream. Because running to lose by telling the unmitigated truth assures that your voice will be heard.

And isn’t that what we all want? To be heard.

When I ran for office, my words were so well heard — by the time election day rolled around they’d been stolen and used to further the campaigns of others running for even higher offices.

So, ladies, that’s how you make change happen. Not by sitting behind a safe screen, typing out rhetoric about what’s wrong with the country and who’s to blame. And, not by writing a check, convinced your donation will contribute to making this nation better and stronger.

Instead, run for office.

Attend every avenue available for you to get up and speak. Recognize that freedom of speech for the priceless gift it is. Say what’s in your heart. Ignore naysayers. Concentrate on connecting with real people. And experience the exhilaration that comes from putting your mouth where your mind is.

In the final analysis, the financial reports required to be filed by all candidates indicated the incumbent spent around one hundred and twenty-five dollars per ballot cast in favor of him to wage his campaign against me.

I spent next to zero, zip, nada, and nil.

I lost by less than 75 votes.

No, not once.

Twice.

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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine, October 8, 2015


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I’m all eyes and heart.

Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her book, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.

“… crisp…clever…unique…saucy humor…delicious writing…fabulous…funny…historically accurate…genius debut… This will be a classic; buy it now.”
SHE Magazine Reviews IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love

WRITING LIKE THE DICKENS (Or, not.)

CharlesDickensPix
If you think there’s anyone in America who doesn’t know the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, you’d be wrong. As a test of cultural literacy, a typed text of the novel is often submitted under different titles to publishers, only to be rejected without recognition. (The same can be said of David Copperfield and Great Expectations.)

Perhaps that’s because we’re living in a time when authors are told to “cut, cut, cut” every extra word from their manuscripts before submitting them, presumedly due to the lack of time and short attention span of late 20th, and early 21st century readers.

I’ve often wondered if this rigidity to writing is fair of educators to teach, software to program, and editors to demand at the expense of readers, who have learned to judge a book by industry standards, choosing instant gratification and pure entertainment value over an enduring emotional commitment.

Because that’s where Dickens marvels. There is a poignancy to his stories and a lasting love of his characters.

True, Dickens was paid a penny a word as an incentive to write more. But he didn’t sacrifice the allegory by being prolific; it didn’t dull the impact of his words.

While I don’t encourage any writer to adopt Dickensian excess, I do wonder if we’ve gone so far in the opposite direction that — regardless of how good the story and exemplary the writing might be — most publishers now discourage the submission of a manuscript that exceeds 85,000 words, and as many refuse to even consider novels exceeding 100,000. (Note: A Tale of Two Cities was 135,420.)

But it goes beyond that.

There are readers who will automatically reject a lengthy book (exit Gone With The Wind at 418,053, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at 145,092, The Grapes of Wrath at 169,481, Sense and Sensibility at 119,394, The Lord of the Rings at 455,125). Conversely, there are those who purposely choose books over 400 pages, intent on making an impression while getting their money’s worth.

I don’t fault the decision of either mindset, but wonder if  both haven’t lost the true purpose of reading, that is, to ponder, to learn, to understand, to feel, to evolve, to remember, and to make the best use of what little time we’re given by experiencing the world of others through the beauty of words.

Of course, the flip side of the book coin is in restricting the word count to ensure a tome is programed to be even more profitable for the publisher, often at the expense of both author and reader. Because book length equates to paper and ink expense to the publisher.

But to the reader the equation is even more evident. Here’s how it averages out before tax and shipping are included:

A 200 page paperback priced @ $15.00 before tax and shipping averages 7.5¢ per page to read.
A 400 page paperback priced @ $15.00 before tax and shipping averages 3.75¢ per page to read.

The cost factor is kinder on Kindle:
A 200 page eBook priced @ $4.95 averages 2.5¢ per page to read.
A 400 page eBook priced @ $4.95 averages half that, 1.25¢ per page to read.

Comparatively, it makes balancing the content and caliber of writing with the size of the book essential, especially when disposable income is tight.

Online purchases from Amazon have made that easier. By offering a Look Inside to anyone selecting the option above the illustration of the book’s cover, you can read up to the first 2 chapters of a book for free. The try-before-you-buy offer provides protection against buying a book that doesn’t hold your interest prior to the outlay of cash.

I offer my own novel as an example.
LookInside!
As a paperback measuring 6×9 inches and numbering 396 pages, it runs nearly $22.00 to own at the online checkout. As a result, I urge everyone to read the first chapter(s) for free on Amazon before making the investment.

Make a habit of doing with all books. Then, have a calculator handy to add the tax and shipping onto the cover price, before dividing by the number of pages, to determine the calculated reading cost. You’ll find it can up the cost to an average of 5.5¢ per page for a 400 page book, and 11¢ per page for a book with a content half the size.

Both appear to be hefty prices, nevertheless, serving as the primary downside to buying paperbacks, often accounting for the closing of bookstores nationwide.

But there are incomparable advantages to buying paperbacks:

(1) You can’t lose your place in a paperback, or lose the book entirely by flipping a switch, or pressing the wrong button.
(2) You can highlight passages in a paperback and write in the margins.
(3) You can pagemark the book rather than having to wait for your partner to be free before reading a special portion of the paperback aloud.
(4) You can feel the story as you grasp the cover of the book.
(5) You can fall asleep on a paperback without scratching, or cracking it.
(6) You can place a paperback on the shelf of your bookcase as a reminder of how many books you’ve read that added to, or changed your life.
(7) You can have a book autographed by the author(s) you admire.
(8) You can be reminded to buy the book for a family member, or friend during the holidays, or as a birthday gift, or as a coming out present, or as an encouragement to those struggling with their identities, or to give to a teacher, or to share with your spiritual leader.
(8) You can express yourself, your ethics, your emotions, your interests, your beliefs, and your joy through the sharing of a paperback that has touched your heart, or enhanced your life.

(By the way — you can do all that with hardbacks, too.)

But again, you’re urged to take advantage of the up to 2 chapter free read of all books before doing the simple price per page math — whether you’re ordering an eBook, or a paperback.

Personally?

If I was Charles Dickens and being paid to write the opening lines on how to buy a paperback book in the 21st century, my Chapter One would begin:

“It is the best of times. It is the best of times.”

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by Marguerite Quantaine © September 7, 2015
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her book, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.
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“… crisp…clever…unique…saucy humor…delicious writing…fabulous…funny…historically accurate…genius debut… This will be a classic; buy it now. 

—— SHE Magazine Reviews IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love

SEE YA LATER ALLIGATOR

Author of  Imogene's Eloise

Author of
Imogene’s Eloise


The first time I spotted the alligator in the murky waters of a man-made lake framing luxurious condos on one side and a city park on the other, I worried aloud for the safety of the mallards, Muscovy, and white, waddling ducks, the snapping turtles, giant goldfish, flock of pristine egrets, and wading blue heron, making their homes in the marshes there.

“And, the kids who play in this park,” my sweetheart added.

I didn’t respond. Not that I would ever want a person of any age to be harmed by an alligator, but there was no imminent danger in that. Only the nature-preying-nature lurked.

The lake is more for show and tell by realtors looking to justify pricey units with a view. There’s no swimming allowed, and since it’s illegal to feed wildlife in Florida outside of a reserve, observing nature in this park is mostly done from a deck built 15 feet above, and stretching 20 feet out over the water, where picnic tables are placed for brown baggers wondering what so many thieving sea gulls are doing there, some sixty miles inland. 

At first, all I saw were the mammoth marble shaped alligator eyes, trolling the lake’s surface, leaving innocent ripples of water in his wake.

“Or,” she said when I pointed out the marauding eyeballs, “it’s a submarine.”

“No, hon, I’m pretty certain it’s an alligator.”

“But, I’m thinking —  if it is a submarine…”

“It’s a gator, okay?”

“I’m just saying what it could be,” she persists, as the tire tracks of its back emerges. “Or, maybe one in camouflage to look like an alligator, so no one would suspect.”

Really, who am I to say otherwise? I thought.

We only visit this particular park once a year, in September or October, depending on what date the High Holy Days fall.

I won’t expound on the significance of these 10 days for those of you who aren’t Jewish, but I will share the custom of casting bread upon the water (tashlikh) as a symbol of one’s transgressions being disposed of. Unlike other religions, Jews don’t believe in original sin. Instead, we’re born pure, acquiring our indiscretions with age, intent, or ignorance along the way.

But, if we’re sincere in saying “I’m sorry” to those we’ve wronged, and have done good without expectation in return, and made an earnest effort to mend fences, the sin slate gets wiped clean on Yom Kippur, giving each of us another chance to get life right, and do it better.

The disclaimer appears in the setting of the sun, symbolizing the closing of the Book of Life, when even nonbelievers (secretly) want their names, and those of their loved ones inscribed therein — although no one learns who makes the cut until the High Holy Days roll around again the following year. (Because only those remaining in the here and now know if they were inscribed back in the then and there.)

For the record, I’m very disorganized about organized religion, to the point of anti-it.

But I do like everything about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the culmination of 10 days of introspection, taking stock of one’s life, offering amends, being grateful for whatever cards have been dealt, making promises and looking forward while witnessing the sun sink behind the trees, or beneath the ocean, or into the hills.

Of course, I’m pulling for more than family and friends. I want my pets to be included in that Book of Life, too, and mercy shown for all the animals on earth. I want children to be protected, and hurts healed. I want every woman to fall in love with the person who has fallen in love with her. My list is long. I ask a lot. It takes me the full 10 days to catalog all the hope in my heart.

“Watch out,” we were warned by a couple dawdling nearby. “The flora and fauna police are on duty.”

I glance over at the retiree in khaki shirt and shorts, feeling powerful on his unpaid patrol.

“I’m prepared,” I assured them. “I filled my pocket with stale bread, pre-pulverized in my Cuisinart to melt any evidence upon impact. Would you like a some?”

They showed me their cut up crusts of kosher rye. “No thanks. We’re good.”

As the sun began its steady decline, I confidently hurled a handful of crumbs to flutter like tiny confetti into the water below — forgetting that the brass ring  containing the keys to the car, our home, my sister’s home, the metal license tags of our dogs, and a silver kitty charm carried for good luck was also in that pocket.

It went with.

“I’ll be,” she said, looking down at the unintended snack. “It is an alligator!”

~

To paraphrase a verse in a song from the original, Broadway cast album of The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Your prayer was answered, the answer was ‘no’ — She heard you all right.

Most of you who follow this blog, or my Facebook page know that I lost my kid sister in May, 10 weeks after she was first diagnosed with everywhere-cancer.

What I haven’t shared as much is, in that brief period (and since) I also lost both of my dogs, Buzzbee and Sparky, and a Russian Blue, tamed-to-my-touch, feral cat, Sneaky, twin brother to Pete. And, my car bit the dust.

When the last loss happened, I recalled the words attributed to Virginia Woolf upon being asked by her niece why the bird she’d found had to die. Woolf answered, “To make us appreciate life more.”

I’m not sure I concur. I don’t think I could appreciate life any more than I do.  My gratitude is fierce and deep and never falters — even when the answer is, indeed, ‘no’.

Because I see, and hear, and recognize the loss most others endure, daily, is so much greater than my own; the worldwide despair and hunger of millions in the dark of every night, the destruction of homes by flood and fire, the assault on nature by ignorance and greed, the ongoing slaughter of innocent and innocence, the intentional harm inflicted on the undeserving.

It doesn’t lessen the depth of loss I feel, but it does lessen the length of time I spend, struggling.

The High Holy Days come earlier this year and I’m on tenterhooks about it, to the point of being mindful of the fact that the ritual of tashlikh is to happen on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, not on Yom Kippur as I’ve always chosen to observe it.

We’ll be returning to the man-made lake, regardless — this time with an entire loaf of challah for the alligator.

We hope it was written into the Book of Life.

We hope we all were.

#     #     #

by Marguerite Quantaine Copyright © 2015

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her book, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available on AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.
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“… crisp…clever…unique…saucy humor…delicious writing…fabulous…funny…historically accurate…genius debut… This will be a classic; buy it now. 

SHE Magazine Reviews IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love story.

IT’S ALL ABOUT HOW WE LOVE

Love Post2

How we find and lose love. How we hide and expose love.
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How we name and number love. How we facilitate and foil love.
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How we let love go.

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Because you are in this book,
as the person you were, are, or wish you’d been,
with people you know, knew, or wish you’d known,
all in the pursuit — and each
touched by the joy of
love.

~

IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love story
by Marguerite Quantaine
383 Pages
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37 Spectacular reviews
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NOW ON AMAZON
at the Kindle nearest you.
Also available in paperback.
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