Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hart To Hart

I keep writing and rewriting my gothic psychological romantic noir thriller novel Hart, and it has occurred to me that one reason why I'm writing it is to avoid all reality in my life.

Now you might legitimately wonder what reality I am choosing to avoid, given that I never leave my apartment because it's either snowed or is going to snow or is threatening to think about going to snow, and while I'm in my apartment, all I do is watch Australian Open tennis on TV (Rafa lost- now there's a tragic reality for me) and skating online (US Nationals last night, Europeans this morning). This is not what you call a low quality life, although I do have to say in defense of my January blues that Scooter has proven to be unusually sensitive to the lengthening of the days, and wakes me up each morning a minute earlier than the day before. By April, there'll probably be no point in going to sleep at all.

Because I've been writing Hart in sections, and thus having to rewrite it endlessly when I change the action in an earlier (or later) section, it's been hard to get a sense of what I've actually accomplished. So this morning, in between men's short programs, I did the third and I trust final chapter outline. It seems to have a lot of chapters, but that's because the chapters are very short. The little dashes indicate I haven't written that chapter (very few and mostly in the beginning). I don't seem to remember if I've written Chapter 7 (I definitely wrote Chapter 5 many times over). One chapter remains a question mark, and at the top right I put Glory Calls (?) because I have written a chapter where Glory calls, but it'll have to be rewritten in its entirety and I don't seem to know where it goes.

Hart is actually a lot of fun to write, which is a good thing since I have absolutely no idea if it will ever be published. I've given myself permission again to go bouncety bounce over the top, which I just love doing. And it's a book where things don't get explained right away, so I'm constantly shifting the revelations to try and improve their dramatic impact. Yesterday, for example, I put a big reveal in the dinner party scene, but this morning I thought I should move the reveal to the as yet unwritten announcement of dinner party scene.

I think some of these endless rewrites will come in handy when I actually put the first draft together and begin to polish it. My hope is some sections are close to where they need to be, just because I've rewritten them so often. You'd think by accident at least I'd have gotten some of the material right.

So here, using up two more sheets from the Speech Language Pathologist notepad, is the final chapter outline for Hart. Don't worry about being spoilered. Even I can't figure out what half my scribbles mean!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Despoiling De Spoiler

As you may recall, I was a tad annoyed that the Amazon product description for my upcoming novel Blood Wounds revealed a major part of the plot of my upcoming novel Blood Wounds. Not that I would have wanted it to reveal a major part of the plot of some other novel, mind you. I simply felt it told more than I wanted potential readers to know.

So I asked my editor to ask whoever needed to be asked to ask someone or something at Amazon (I have no idea if people or robots handle the Amazon busywork) to change the product description. And my editor asked whoever who asked someone or something and indeed, there's a brand new product description with the vital piece of plotting gone, gone forever, until you read Blood Wounds (which, of course, I hope you ultimately will):

Product Description

Willa is lucky. She has a happy family—Mom, Jack, her stepsisters Brooke and Alyssa, and Willa—all living together in peace and contentment. But a frantic phone call from her mother's best friend from her hometown of Pryor, Texas, shatters that calm and stability. Willa's birth father has murdered his second wife and two daughters and the police think he is on his way east to find Willa and her mother.

Questions abound as Willa realizes that her mother has held on to many secrets. As those secrets begin to spill out, Willa is compelled to seek the truth about the family she never knew existed. In dusty Pryor, away from the peaceful home life she’d always known, Willa begins to find her roots and question the meaning of blood ties. Only by looking at all of the pieces that make up her life can Willa discover her strength and independence—and realize what family ties really mean.

My mother always told me it never hurts to ask. In this case, not only was she right, but it didn't even hurt to be answered!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cherry And Garcia Are Two Words Right There

In spite of an onslaught of bad weather (aka New York in January), things here have been pretty good. The Jets won. The Dead And The Gone was shortlisted for an award in Australia. I am still an Aquarius. And did I mention, the Jets won?

The New York Times had a very interesting article today about a dog named Chaser with a vocabulary of 1000 or so words. I was particularly intrigued since my own vocabulary is also 1000 or so words, with 12% being the names of ice cream flavors.

Naturally Scooter, as a cat, speaks flawless French, and he's been giving a great deal of thought to German, in preparation for the German publication of The Dead And The Gone.

It's a given that since Scooter is a cat, he'd be smarter than any old dog, but I figured I'd give him a little test to make sure our lingua francas (that's a new Baskin Robbins flavor) matched up.

So here are a few phrases I use regularly with him and his what he believes those phrases actually mean.

You are the cutest cat ever.

If George Clooney had four legs and a tail and whiskers, he still would come up short compared to you.

I love it when you purr.

I love it when you destroy my furniture.

Eww, you used your litter.

Ooh, you used your litter.

It hurts when you scratch me.

Pain and suffering are necessary adjuncts to spiritual growth.

Scooter, don't bite me!

Scooter, bite me!

I love you, Scooter!

Well, of course!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Facing Facebook

I'm on Facebook. A lot. And like so many other things in my life, it's not my fault.

Let me start by saying I don't really understand Facebook. I understand Twitter, even though I'm not on Twitter. Twitter makes a certain kind of sense to me. But Facebook seems a bizarre blending of a high school yearbook, Silly Putty and The Blob (the one with Steven McQueen in it). Now, I like my high school yearbook and I like Silly Putty (actually I love Silly Putty) and I like The Blob, but I've never sought out all three together. One at a time suffices.

If you scroll down the right side of my blog, really really scroll, you'll see that Harcourt set up Facebook pages for both me and Life As We Knew It. It was very nice of them and I'm quite appreciative. And if that was where my Facebook existence began and ended, I'd be more than happy. I'm always happy when people do things for me. In fact, if somebody brought me some Silly Putty, I'd be very happy indeed.

But on occasion, I do things for other people, and that's where this Facebook situation took a turn for the worse. I belong to a very nice very tiny very local good deeds organization, which was founded in the early 20th century and hasn't made much progress since then. So I offered to set up a Facebook page for them.

Well it turns out the only way you can find out anything about Facebook is to be registered with Facebook. Maybe I was already, since my name was, but I think (or at least I thought at the time) that I had to set up my own personal Facebook account, which means, like it or not, I had to set up my own personal Facebook page. So I did, for the sole purpose of being able to create a Facebook account for The Children's Enrichment Committee of Orange County New York. It's not the world's fanciest Facebook page, but I still maintain it's better than nothing.

When I set up my own Facebook account, I couldn't even do it under Susan Beth Pfeffer, since Susan Beth Pfeffer already had a Facebook page thanks to Harcourt. I went with Susan Pfeffer, and I don't know, maybe I told someone or maybe people figured it out on their own, or maybe people are trying to "friend" me over at the Harcourt page or maybe I was inheriting friends of other Susan Pfeffers.

All I know is every now and again I get an email telling me someone I don't know wants to be my friend. And when I go to the Susan Pfeffer page (which I never do) there are all kinds of comments and pictures, which I've had nothing to do with. They just show up.

My resistance to this could well be generational. The other day, while trying to figure out what possible benefit Facebook could offer me, I Facebooked in my high school graduating class, and found it has a page with a grand total of 4 members. This suggests to me that approximately 400 of my high school graduating class have no interest in being on Facebook and I don't blame them.

So here's the deal. You want to "friend" me, fine. Friend away. I promise I'll accept anyone who offers me Facebook friendship. It will be a totally one sided relationship, but from now on I'll press that "accept" button with only minimal hesitation.

And while you're busy on Facebook, I'll be playing with Silly Putty!

Monday, January 10, 2011

He Said. She Says. I Sneeze.

I have the sniffles. I am just sick enough that if I still went to school, my mother would keep me home. Instead, I'm keeping myself at home, although tomorrow I'd better be well enough to move myself out of the house, since the last I heard it was going to snow again on Wednesday.

I'm still doing rewrites on Hart, as opposed to doing actual writes, which might constitute work. People with sniffles don't have to work, because sneezing and blowing our noses is very energy consuming.

One day last week, pre-sniffles but possibly during the tiny snow storm we got, I invented a whole new medicine to be used exclusively by characters in Hart. Well, at the time, it was only going to be used by one character, my poor beleaguered heroine. I gave the medicine a name (this is the kind of stuff I love doing when I'm writing, working out names for completely made up medicines), and even gave it an additional side effect, although it's really more like two effects and no sides.

I know there are those of you here who are very sensitive to spoilers, which I think in this case is even sillier, since I'm talking about a book that has no beginning and no end, just a lot of middle I keep rewriting. It's not like the publishing industry is knocking on my door, begging to see what I've got.

But I love all of you, even those of you who are spoiler sensitive, so I'll only say about this medicine that it affects memory. But because my heroine takes it, and her memory is affected, I had to change the book from past tense to present.

At some point, early on, I had considered writing Hart in the present tense, which is a tense I rarely use. But since the book is first person, if my heroine can't remember certain things, she can't write about those things in a past tense voice. That's pure gothic romantic psychological thriller logic.

Now my favorite verb is "said." My characters go around saiding all the time. So I figured I'd take advantage of the cleverness of computers and tell my document to change all "said"s to "says," a true time saver.

It almost worked great. But it definitely had a negative impact on some of the dialogue:

"I love you," he says.

"I love you too," I says.

Sounds a little Ma and Pa Kettle.

So I still have to go around editing those says, but it's still something of a time saver.

Last night, in between sniffles and Philadelphia Eagles missed field goals, I changed the ending the book, to make better use of the medicine part of the plot, and also because I had a really good image that I wanted to exploit. Between sneezes and waking up at 3 AM, I worked out a new ending (so it's a good thing I never wrote the original one). My concern had been that the ending I had, while nice and dramatique, left my poor beleaguered heroine kind of passive, and even in a book as crazy as this one, I do believe main characters should act and not just be acted upon.

But at 3 AM, I figured out what she could do that would leave her in control of her own destiny. I love it. My book is no longer a gothic psychological romantic horror novel. It's a gothic psychological romantic horror noir novel.

Now if I could only stop sniffling long enough to actually write it!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blood Wounds Is Now Available On Amazon!

Fantastic Fiction was fantastic enough to email me and let me know, so I promptly scurried to Amazon to see if it was true.

And it is! Blood Wounds now has an official price ($16.99) and publication date (Sept. 12, 2011). No cover art yet (I've seen a preliminary sketch but that's it) and of course no ranking, since I'm the only person whow knows about it. Oh, and a tiny bit more plot than I would have cared for, but nobody asks me anything (at least not about how much plot I would like to have revealed in an Amazon listing).

I just counted and Sept. 12 is a little over 8 months away. That means it's less than 9 months from now! All I have to get through is a few more snowfalls and March misery and the glory that is spring and an excess of heat and humidity, and Blood Wounds will truly exist.

Hey. If I made it through the stomach virus, I can make it through that!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Putting The Ick Back In Gothic

You know how people always wish you a happy and healthy new year? Well, apparently the healthy part only extends so far. Because the last week of December (i.e. last week) my mother got a stomach virus, and then unselfishly gave it to me.

Not that I wish to complain (well, no more than normal), but two of the four pounds I lost from the virus have found their way back. The other two are no doubt hovering in the wings.

Up until last week, I'd been busily writing Hart, my working title for the book which I can't say I'm working on, because what I've been doing hardly constitutes work. I write whenever I feel like and whatever I feel like. I've written about 150 pages, but I've yet to write the beginning, the ending, and a certain amount of middle. Instead I write whatever brilliant idea for the book (if it can be called a book, seeing as it doesn't have a beginning)I've come up with that morning. And then whatever I put down that day requires me to rewrite things I've already written, since this is all being done in gleeful incoherence.

I've never written a book like this before and I can certainly understand why.

But between looking after my mother and looking after myself (Scooter fended for himself), I didn't do any writing or rewriting. Instead I pondered what I had written and asked myself, more than once, what the heck was I thinking.

I mean, I knew what I was thinking. I was thinking it was a lot of fun to write something that no one had any expectations of, not even me. Without a beginning (although I know what happens in the beginning) or ending (although I know what happens in the ending). It's been play writing, rather than work writing.

But when I write like that, I start to think there's no top I can't go over. Hart is kind of a gothic psychological romantic horror novel (if William S. Hart ever knew how I borrowed his name for this thing, he'd turn over in his grave, which would not be all that inappropriate), and when I write gothic psychological romantic horror novels (which I never have before), I tend to get a bit carried away. Or a lot carried away.

Then I tell myself it's fine to get carried away because there's no point writing an understated gothic psychological romantic horror novel. That would be like a kitten only being a little bit cute (an analogy Scooter just provided me with).

Still, I'm enough of a professional to know that no matter how much fun a gothic psychological romantic horror novel might be to write or even read, there ought to be some level of sanity to it. Let alone a beginning and an end.

So yesterday, I worked out an approach that allows me to keep much of what I've already written (albeit with polishing and rewriting and the suchlike) and tell the story I plan on telling but clearing out some of the excess. In honor of my insight I wrote out a new outline. The phrases that have little dashes after them indicate sections I've already written.

Now it's true I could be writing some more of Hart today instead of redecorating my blog (doesn't it look pretty), and maybe I will later. Tomorrow, I'm planning on seeing Black Swan (which should feed all my gothic psychological romantic horror instincts quite nicely) and Wednesday is being devoted to mother obligations. So I have a few days to rethink my rethoughts before writing (dare I even say it) the beginning of the book. Or cleaning my apartment.

Whichever seems less like work is much more likely to get done!