Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Looking Backward, Looking Ahead

Friday night, I had a dinner party with my cousin Fran,and my friends Marci (her husband was working and couldn't come), Cynthia and Joel. It was a great success because Marci brought the salad and dessert and Cynthia brought homebaked challah and wine and more dessert, so nobody much cared that the vegetable curry I made had no flavor whatsoever.

I did make chutney that helped hide the flavorlessness of the curry.

We talked and laughed and ate and had an excellent time. But the next morning I realized I'd forgotten to do something I'd planned on ever since I first knew I'd be having people over for dinner that night. I forgot to make a toast in honor of the sixth anniversary of my coming up with the idea for Life As We Knew It. It was Thanksgiving Saturday that I watched the movie Meteor on TV, and starting thinking about what it would be like to be a teenager living through a world wide catastrophe.

Sometimes I think about what would have happened if I hadn't seen Meteor that day, but it's too scary to contemplate. The best I can imagine is that my mind was ready to write, and if it hadn't been LAWKI, it would have been something else. But LAWKI and its companions, The Dead And The Gone and This World We Live In, have been such extraordinary experiences for me, both in the pleasure of actual writing and in the pleasure of actual money, that I can't conceive that any other idea at that moment of my life could have been nearly so successful.

Thanks to the royalty check I got a couple of weeks ago for all three books, I have enough money in the bank to last me for a while (unless I end up spending it all on Big Lots DVDs). I don't know which translated versions will come out when, but I'm awaiting seeing one or more of the three titles in French, Portuguese, Chinese and Bulgarian. And I discovered today, that the paperback of This World We Live In, due for publication next spring, already has an Amazon ranking. A whole new thing to obsess over in the months to come.

Today I mailed off what used to be called galleys and are now called first draft rough pages (which is a lot longer and far less poetic than galleys) of Blood Wounds. I hadn't looked at the book in a while, and I am such a sucker for my own writing that I actually got a little teary at a couple of places. Of course just because I love a book I wrote doesn't mean anyone else will, and I'm keeping my fantasies about how Blood Wounds will do at a very very low level. Not that I'll object to being pleasantly surprised if it does well.

Meanwhile my brain is continuing to play with my new book idea. I did a chapter outline, and it's pretty solid (there's always a little wiggle room in the middle of an unwritten book). I'd say I'll start it on Monday except my mother has a 2 PM appointment with Dr. Eye Doctor, which kind of cuts the day in half. I did decide if I was going to write the book, I'd work in the afternoons, as opposed to saying I'm going to work in the mornings and then dawdling the day away, only to start writing in the late afternoon.

My dream is to get the book written before New Year's, so I can officially be retired in 2011.

That should give me plenty of time to learn French and Portuguese and Chinese and Bulgarian. And maybe even time to learn how to make a vegetable curry with some flavor to it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

For All I Know, Scooter Wrote It

Out of deference to my Cousin Fran's cat allergies, I've been pretending to clean my apartment. And out of deference to my cat Scooter, much of the cleaning has involved searching under the stove and refrigerator and somesuch places, in search of the twist ties he shoves there. Twist ties (especially the black and white expensive ones) are Scooter's current favorite plaything.

While cleaning the den the other day, I searched around under the computer cabinet. I found a couple of pens (Scooter's previous favorite plaything), and I could hear a piece of paper rattling about.

Scooter heard it too (Scooter likes noisy things), so he went digging. He dragged out a piece of paper with typing on it.

I scanned the paper, but I can't figure out how to post the scan here, so I'm just going to type what was on the page, using that nifty blockquote thing to make it look official.


He was a little drunk. I was sure of it. I'd met Trish, once last summer, when Dad and she first began seeing each other, and again over Christmas vacation, when I'd gone for my semi-annual visit, and could tell things were getting serious between them. But in all my conversations and e-mails with Dad, he'd never hinted that he was going to marry her. In fact, he'd expressed some reservations because of Trish's two young children.

"I was just wondering," I said. "What I mean is, why now. Why Vegas?"

"You sound like my mother," Dad said, and I knew that wasn't a compliment. "Megan, Trish and I are grownups. We both happened to have a couple of days off, and Trish's parents were able to take the kids, and it seemed like the best time to do it." There was a pause, and I could see Dad start thinking Daddy thoughts. "Oh honey, are you disappointed?" he asked. "That we eloped? I didn't think. But of course you'd want to be there, see your old man tie the knot."

The noose was more like it, I thought, but I love Dad, and Trish wasn't so bad, not really. "Of course I'm disappointed," I lied. "Disappointed, and surprised. But mostly I'm real happy for you."

"Here. Trish wants to say hello," Dad said, and I could

Here's the thing. I've been in this apartment six and a half years. I was the first person to live here, so I can't assume anyone else wrote that page (besides, it positively reeks of my style). I've written three books here that have been published (Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, This World We Live In) and one (Blood Wounds) waiting to be published. I've written several books that haven't been published, a YA suspense novel (named, I think, 7 Hours) that I loved but never found a publisher, two middle group novels, one of which my agent thought needed work and one I never showed her because it wasn't good enough, and one completely unpublishable version of a third moon book. And this page 6 doesn't sound like my memory of any of those books.

I have no idea what manuscript it came from. There's no point in my going through all my documents because I'm on Hard Drive #3 since moving here, and I'm not one to back things up. I don't know who these characters are, what happens to them next, or even if there's a page 7 floating about.

My brain is currently hard at work (although it feels like play) at the idea I came up with last week. I'm ready to write a chapter outline, to get a feel for if I need more events in the story. If I stay interested, I'll most likely begin writing it week after next (next week I'll spend recovering from November, a long and tricky month).

I only hope if I do write it, that I keep better track of it, and don't let it vanish under the computer station, only to be dug up by a cat searching for his twist ties!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maybe I'll Write It While My Cousin Fran Is Sneezing

I don't seem to have begun cleaning my apartment yet, in honor of the upcoming visit of my Cousin Fran Who's Allergic To Cats. In fact, the apartment seems to get messier and messier, as opposed to neater and neater, let alone cleaner and cleaner.

I'm going with Not My Fault for the messier part. I got a new clock radio and a new telephone and a new heating pad and probably some other new stuff I've already forgotten about, and everything comes in boxes with lots of packaging, and even though I've put the clock radio and telephone and heating pad and probably some other stuff where they belong, I still have all the boxes and cardboard to dispose of.

Also I seem to have stopped reading the newspapers again, so they're piling up.

I did buy a new cordless vacuum cleaner which claims it's pet perfect, but since taking it out of its box would be a commitment to actually cleaning, it remains untouched on the kitchen counter. On top of it are the empty boxes for the clock radio and heating pad and telephone, etc.

I am pleased to report that my royalty check for Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In came today and I can afford everything I bought. I can even afford a new box of tissues for Fran, who'll be sneezing up a storm at Thanksgiving if I don't start cleaning.

Did you know sneezing is an excellent weight loss system? I didn't either, until I made it up just now. I hope Fran believes me though, since it's the best excuse I've come up with for why I haven't started dusting and vacuuming yet.

What I have been doing the past few days is working on that book idea I came up with Monday when I was exercycling. It's been so much fun to plot that that's what I've been doing pretty much every quiet moment. I have the end worked out (it's a book where you have to have the end worked out before you even think about writing it) and a hefty amount of the middle and the beginning isn't that much of a concern for me, since the idea is to get to the middle as fast as possible. The truth of the matter is (is that one of those easily italicized cliches like LOL- TTOTMI?), if Fran weren't coming on Wednesday, I might even start writing it on Monday; that's how quickly it's developed itself

But Fran is coming on Wednesday, and for all I know, by a week from Monday, I might have forgotten all about the book idea. It's going to be a very distracting visit, what with Thanksgiving dinner with my mother and Fran and Marci and her husband Bill at my mother's assisted living facility and then on Friday a trip to the Bethel Woods Museum (devoted to the 1960s) and then dinner for Fran, Marci, Bill and my friends Cynthia and Joel (I'm looking at vegetable curry recipes). Saturday, I take Fran to the airport and don't do anything again for the next four months (aka winter). Or maybe I'll write the book.

But first, I suppose, I should take the pet perfect handheld vacuum cleaner out of its box, and see if I can vacuum up Scooter!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It Wasn't Samuel Goldwyn Or Adolph Zukor

I brought my mother back to her apartment Sunday afternoon. The whole process took several hours, and in spite of her relaxing month in the nursing center, by the time she was settled back in, neither she nor I were any younger.

I was pondering the injustice of all this Monday morning, as I sat on my exercycle and peddled away to last week's episode of TCM's series, Moguls & Movie Stars: A History Of Hollywood .I was in Texas when it was on last week, and my goal is to not fall even an episode behind (I'll watch last night's episode later this week).

Episode 2 was about the transition to Hollywood and the rise of both the moguls and the movie stars. It didn't tell me anything I hadn't at one point or another in my life known, and it skipped some things I did know, like that Tom Mix's death rated a top of the fold front page New York Times obit (I used to have a trivia question where I asked people to name the stars that got top of the fold front page NY Times obits, and he was the one no one ever got). But these kinds of shows are always entertaining, and I was enjoying it when one of the names caught my attention.

That would be a good name for a character, I said to myself as I peddled away. Boy or girl, I asked. Boy, I decided (peddle, peddle, peddle*). So who is the boy with the great name? Well, he could be a...

That's as far as I'm taking you. But as I watched and peddled, and then as I meandered about the apartment and later took my mother to the doctor for her checkup, and did all those everyday sorts of things, my brain worked on this possible new idea for a novel.

Am I going to write it? I dunno. It's outside my comfort zone, so there'd be work involved. On the other hand, this morning before I got out of bed, I developed the plot some more. The characters are talking, and I've visited Popular Baby Names**, so the ones who didn't get named from Moguls & Movie Stars at least have temporary names to go by. I ran the idea by my friend Christy, and she didn't hang up, always a good sign. And I do have a long winter ahead of me with nothing scheduled except football and figure skating and taking care of my mother. No trips, no Olympics.

But whether I write the book or not, I did learn a lesson, and that is fiction exists to distract. That's why people read novels (Christy agreed to this). That's at least one reason why I write them. My woe is me mood vanished as soon as I began thinking about this character and that and where the story could go.

I have to spend the week cleaning the apartment because my cousin Fran is coming for a Thanksgiving visit and she's allergic to cats.*** But dusting and vacuuming aren't nearly so bad if you have an idea to play with!

*That's like a sound effect, which is a very classy thing to have in a blog, and is proof that I was a film major at NYU. The * is also pretty darn classy. In fact, this blog entry would get a higher grade than I ever got for any of my papers at NYU.

**The best website ever.


Purr! Achoo!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

If Only Beverly Aadland Had Played Sandra The High Priestess

While I was away in Texas, my much awaited DVD of Cuban Rebel Girls and Untamed Women arrived. I was too tired to watch it Wednesday night, but last night I devoted myself to it. And since I know you're breathlessly awaiting my review, well, here goes.

First off, I was very pleased with the quality of the DVD (as opposed to the quality of the movies). They looked about as good as they possibly could. And there were some neat trailers included on the DVD, all for movies I'd never heard of and will most likely never hear of again. What was super great about the trailers were a couple of them had exact same shots as Untamed Women, thus suggesting the dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures (which mostly looked like lizards and armadillos), got a lot of work. Although I did have my doubts about the vicious tigers in Africa. Not that I'd expect placid tigers in Africa either.

I watched Untamed Women first and it was exactly as I remembered only more so. The guy from Brooklyn had a lot more dialogue than I'd remembered, and the High Priestess Sandra's disciples danced a lot more (and had fabulous early 1950s hairdos, thus suggesting that even on deserted islands, you can still get a perm). The attacking hairy men (who I had forgotten) were a lot hairier than anticipated. And I was very impressed that all the untamed women said "ye" and "thy" a lot, but turned out to be descended from Druids, who'd left England a couple of thousand years ago to avoid the Romans. Forgive me if that's a spoiler.

What I hadn't remembered was how existential the whole movie was. Or how terrificly the volcano erupted. Or the armadillos the size of elephants (or maybe elephants the size of armadillos). Or what a truly dreadful actress the woman who played the High Priestess Sandra was (and yet, when I looked at the actresses playing her disciples, none of them cracked a smile).

It turns out Beverly Aadland wasn't much of an actress either. I'd never seen Cuban Rebel Girls, so the plot, such as it was, came as quite a surprise to me. Who knew it was a good thing for all freedom loving people that Fidel Castro came to power? Or that Errol Flynn was quite so chunky at the end of his career?

Beverly Aadland played an American Cuban Rebel Girl, who didn't know the difference between Castro and Batista, but her boyfriend had joined the rebels and she wanted to see him. She had long blonde hair, and there was a recurring, unintended, joke, whenever there was a long shot of the rebels marching, with her hair swinging away in solitary blonde perfection.

The easiest way of describing the movie (other than lousy) is by saying it's kind of like Bananas without any of the funny stuff and with Woody Allen role played by Kellie Pickler. And while the Cuban Rebel Girls and Boys did sing a lot, they could have used a few more dance numbers.

An existential armadillo or two wouldn't have hurt either!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The End Of The Road (Trip)

I got back from four days in Fort Worth, Texas yesterday evening. Two days of travel (including driving under the New York Marathon runners Sunday on my way to the airport)and two days of school visits.

I had a great time. I always have a great time doing school visits because everybody is incredibly nice to me, the students have interesting and unexpected questions, and I eat every food substance I normally don't allow myself.

I don't have any more trips planned until April and even then I have a very limited schedule. I'm pretty much saying no to anyone who asks me now. Because as much fun as school visits are, they're also very stressful (the getting there and back is never easy)and I'm less and less comfortable being away from my mother. Not to mention Scooter, who is deeply opposed to my not being around so he can attack me at his convenience.

Today is a day devoted in equal measure to the things I have to get done for myself (that I can get done; some things will have to wait until it's no longer Veterans Day) and things I have to get done for my mother (5 days worth of laundry await). Tomorrow it's going to be more like 75% my mother, 25% me. Next week the balance will go in the opposite direction, since my cousin Fran is coming for a Thanksgiving visit and she's allergic to cats, so a major cleaning is required.

My mother will just about definitely go home this weekend; I'll be talking to the social worker later today about all that.

I've been thinking of November as a lost month for a while now, between the traveling and Fran's upcoming visit. By December though, I hope to have my life is some more calming order. Then I'll take a deep breath, see where I am, and prepare for blizzards. At least I have a working flashlight!

Friday, November 5, 2010

My New Official Publicity Photograph

First of all, thank you for voting on my poll (I sensed a strong preference for one of the pictures) and for all your really nice comments.

Marci and I did the "photo shoot" at my mother's assisted living complex. My mother wasn't there (she's still in the nursing center, but should be going back to her apartment next week), but it was too cold (at least as far as I was concerned) for an outdoor picture, and I knew there were some nice looking rooms at the complex. The pictures were taken in their library. That's why there's no Scooter in either of the pictures.

I decided that much as I loved the picture of me with the golden curtain, I'd love it even more as a head shot. So I asked Marci to edit my arms and hands out of it. Then she emailed the picture to her daughter Alice, who knows how to gussy things up. She did the gussying, and last night I got the completed picture.

So here's what I now officially look like!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Personally, I Couldn't Last A Week Without Fresh Bagels

Publishers Weekly has a wonderful article about people who emulate Life As We Knew It by going without trips to the supermarket.

Read it for yourselves!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Help Me Select A New Publicity Photograph

My editor asked for a new publicity picture for me for Blood Wounds, so I grabbed Marci and made her take pictures of me. She took thousands but these are the two we like best.

I thought I'd see if you have a preference. I'll be setting up a quick three day poll. Vote between the first picture and the second (after I look at them again, I'll describe them a little bit in the poll).

Marci and I both have a favorite, so I can't swear this poll will be binding. But it never hurts to get a second or third or fourth opinion!

Picture 1

Picture 2