Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why I Should Have Written Prose Fiction When I Was 8

I'm in one of those Let's Get Rid Of Stuff moods that should always be exploited since they don't happen nearly often enough, and I spent a certain amount of this afternoon going through the pretty boxes that line the top shelf of my closet. I'd started thinking about those pretty boxes when I needed one of them a couple of days ago, having gone through two big boxes of stuff in my outside storage closet. I decided to keep some of the stuff in one of the pretty boxes, and I knew there was an empty one. I didn't find it until today though, when I discovered that inside the empty pretty box was a smaller equally empty pretty box.

Apparently, you can never have too many pretty boxes.

While I was going through some of the pretty boxes, I found a poem I wrote when I was8 and in 4th grade. My one vivid memory of 4th grade was I was desperate with desire to learn how to use quotation marks, since I knew my career was dependent on it, and my teacher refused to teach me. I have no idea why, since I was pretty cute, but she said there were grownups who didn't know how to use them properly, so there was no point teaching me. I dunno. Maybe she was one of those didn't know how to use quotation marks grownups herself. Anyway, when I told my father, he got really angry at the idea of a teacher refusing to teach a student something (I inherited my gift for righteous indignation from my father). Ultimately my big brother taught me how to use quotation marks, and they have been a big help to me professionally.

This poem doesn't have any quotation marks or need for them, but it is such a piece of fictional baloney (this being a G rated blog), that I decided to share it with you.

In case you don't feel like squinting, and with the utmost of embarrassment, here's the transcription:

The End of the Day

When evening has come
And father shall say
Now we will say the prayers
For this is the end of the day
After that's done we pop popcorn
Then we sing, dance, and play
Most of the things are more fun
at the end of the day

Susan Pfeffer
Nov. 29, 1956

For starters, we didn't say prayers at the end of the day. We said prayers (chanted them really) at Friday night dinner, but that's it, and that wasn't the end of the day. It was the start of the Sabbath. So my father never said anything about saying the prayers for this is the end of the day. For that matter, I didn't call him father. I called him by his first name, Leo, which would have scanned every bit as well as father, but would have cut down on the universality of the poem.

It is true that we sang songs after supper on Friday nights. But we never ever danced, and frankly, at the end of the day we were all a lot more likely to be watching TV than playing. Not that my brother and I (and my poor beleaguered mother) didn't play. My mother and I played endless rounds of my favorite game, Park And Shop, but mostly in the middle of the day.

And we never, ever popped popcorn. Frankly, I'm surprised I even knew popcorn got popped. In the summertime we roasted marshmallows, and I spent entirely too much of my childhood eating Wise Potato Chips, but we were not a singing, dancing, playing, praying, popcorn popping kind of clan.

It's all a big fat lie. And I, alas, am a big fat liar, the direct result of all those marshmallows and potato chips I ate in the beginning, middle, and end of the day!

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Tres Belle!" dit Miranda

Google was kind enough to give me the link to a French blogger with the cover of the French version of Life As We Knew It.

The cover itself is very similar to American LAWKI, but the title is fabulous: CHRONIQUES DE LA FIN DU MONDE, with LAWKI itself being called Au Commencement. I can practically hear Charles Boyer murmuring it.

Assuming 3 Mars 2011 is March 3, 2011, it should be out pretty soon. Maybe I'll even get a copy before then.

But at least now, I know what it looks like. Very very belle indeed!

Tomorrow Is The Next Day Of The Rest Of My Life (Give Or Take)

When I failed to meet my deadline of a completed messy first draft of Hart by my birthday, I had to do some thinking.

I always meet deadlines. I have a dread of missing one, which is a direct result of having not liked school as a kid but feeling the need to graduate so I didn't dare let myself get an incomplete in anything. When I have a job to do, I get it done.

Only I didn't get the first draft done, and the reason was pretty obvious. I was writing and rewriting and rethinking and working out new plot twists and throwing out old ones and the material controlled me and not vice versa.

I don't mind being obsessed by a book when I'm working on it. I kind of like it. And I don't mind being obsessed by a book that I'm writing on spec. I had the best time imaginable writing Life As We Knew It, without any assurances that it would be published (and certainly no idea that it would meet with the success that it has).

But at some point yesterday, I decided I needed a break from the incomplete Hart. I need to decide if I've gone terribly wrong with the writing and plotting, or if the book is a stillborn, or if most of it is salvageable if I only think things through in my own good time.

It's not like there are any deadlines with Hart, or any obligation to get it written at all. Officially the only person I've told about it is my agent, who I haven't heard from since (that's not really true; I sent her the Valentine's Scooter picture and she emailed back to say it was cute, which it certainly was, and if you need proof, my agent doesn't even like cats). Anyway, no one in the publishing industry is telling me they want to see Hart once it's done, so any deadline pressure is self inflicted.

So instead of writing and rewriting, etc. I'm going to read
Death and the Virgin Queen by Chris Skidmore, and then I'm going to read American Idol The Untold Story by Richard Rushfield, which my cousin Ellen gave me for my birthday. I'm also going to go through boxes of newspaper clippings I found in the storage closet the day I pulled out the bag of old cat toys, which I have some regrets about pulling out, since Scooter played with his favorite on my bed this morning at 5 AM. I will also do my tax prep work to send to the office of Mr. Imagination. And instead of worrying about my mother, I'll try to do some constructive things for her.

And when and if Hart is ready for serious revision, I hope to be ready to do it!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Presence In The Present

Here's what I should be writing about.

I should be writing about Borders Bookstores filing for bankruptcy and how I'm relieved that the Borders near me doesn't seem to be on the list of 200 stores they're planning to close.

Or I should be writing about how it's mostly a moot point because thanks to people stealing books by way of the internet, writers can wave bye bye to earning money.

Or I should be writing about how I just signed up on Twitter (under the name of susanbpfeffer because for some reason why I tried to be susanbethpfeffer, it came out as susanbethpfeffe and I figured it was better to sacrifice beth than sacrifice the sacred name of pfeffer), but can't get the link to link properly which is why there's no link (not that what I tweeted was particularly interesting).

Or I should be writing about how I'm not going to get the first draft of Hart finished today because, among many other reasons, I discovered an important section I'd thought I'd written I hadn't, which is what happens when you write a book in bits and pieces and don't pay all that much attention to what you've actually gotten done. Other reasons include constantly changing motivation and events and lots of other stuff that should have been worked out before I began writing.

Instead, I'm going to write that tomorrow is my birthday and I bought myself a pot of tulips (which Scooter already knocked over) and a copy of Death and the Virgin Queen by Chris Skidmore. I'm not a big Queen Elizabeth The First fan, but this is one aspect of her reign that has always intrigued me, so it seemed like an ideal present to give myself.

Unbeknownst to him, Scooter celebrates his birthday on Feb. 17 also, and he treated himself to an early birthday present (no doubt his early birthday celebration was knocking over the pot of tulips). Yesterday, by happenstance (let's pause for a moment and admire a paragraph that has both unbeknownst and happenstance in it), I located a bag of old cat toys (most likely belonging to my late old cats, Alexander and Emily) in the outside storage closet and brought the bag in, intending to go through it for possible Scooter usage. Scooter saw no point in waiting, and went through the bag himself, picking and choosing amongst the many goodies. I came home from errand running to find quite a number of the old toys scattered around, and Scooter madly in love with one in particular.

Last year, when I had the best birthday ever, it snowed. Tomorrow, when I'll be celebrating a very low key birthday (lunch at Charlie Brown's with Marci and Carol and maybe Pam), the weather is supposed to be February lovely (temperature above 50). Maybe I'll spend my birthday trying to figure out the Twitter link, or writing some more in Hart.

Or maybe I'll just watch Scooter enjoy his presents!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why I Write Prose Fiction

Today's the day to be Valentined
And read my books (if you're so inclined)

Not many poems have parentheses
It's still quite cold (try not to freeze!)

Happy Valentine's Day From Scooter And Me!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why I Write Fiction

I found myself yesterday in a very good mood.

I'd been in a good mood the day before, but the day before I'd finally seen The King's Speech, a movie I'd really been looking forward to seeing and which I enjoyed every bit as much as I thought I would. In fact, I liked it so much that I didn't even mind having to do a mother job that turned out to be fruitless and probably will have to be done today as well. That's the sort of thing that can ruin a week for me nowadays.

But Tuesday, even though I'd run the fruitless errand the evening before and I didn't have a movie to go to and the weekly snowstorm was replaced by a sleet storm, which made it extremely treacherous to get to my car, which I did to run an errand at Macy's, which also proved to be fruitless, and then even though some gentleman decided to stroll across the road right in front of my car, forcing me to brake pretty abruptly, which caused the car behind me to rear end me, I still was in a very good mood. I can't say I liked the street crossing gentleman, but the young man who rear ended me was very nice, and once I had assured both him and me that neither my car nor I was damaged, I resumed my trip home, still humming "I just called to say I love you," which isn't even a song I like, but is kind of jolly. It got replaced by "Tzena Tzena" in my mind, which is extremely bouncy and not at all the sort of song one usually whistles after a great deal of fruitlessness and being rear ended.

I had no trouble determining why I was in a good mood, and that was because I'd figured something out in Hart. Hart, for those of you just tuning in, is the gothic romantic noir psychological thriller novel I'd been playing at writing for entirely too long now. Unlike every other book I've ever written, I started Hart in the middle, then muddled my way to the end, and only on Sunday did I begin the beginning. All the work I usually do before I write I'm doing as I write, and as a result, I'm constantly changing things, and getting rid of things I don't need, and occasionally getting rid of things it turns out I do need. In other words, I have no control over the material, and since I have no control over my life, as a general rule, I like having control over the material. It's kind of compensatory.

But what is fun about Hart, and it's fun about the whole writing process for me, is the solving of the puzzles. Smack on my way to The King's Speech, I solved what had been a significant problem for me, kind of a What Does Hart Know And When Does He Know It issue. Pieces fell into place. The whole of the book started to reveal itself. It began to make sense.

So I smiled when I ran my fruitless mother errand and I smiled when I ran my fruitless Macy's errand, and I smiled when I got rear ended (or at least I smiled at the very nice young man who rear ended me). I smiled and I hummed and I whistled.

The real proof of how much I'm enjoying writing this particular piece of puzzling fiction is I intended to write this blog entry yesterday, but instead went right to work on Hart.

And I'm still smiling!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Hopes Of A Nation Rest On A Single Groundhog

Well, not an entire nation, since Hawaii probably doesn't care, and for all I know, Punxsutawney Phil is married.But everyone I know is going crazy waiting for this winter to end. It's the longest January on record, since it started right after Christmas, and seems to be going smack into February.

February has enough problems. It doesn't need to be annexed by greedy 31 day long January.

I like February, even if nobody else does (and it rarely wins popularity contests). It's a teeny tiny month, and fewer babies are born in it than any other month of the year (which makes sense because it has fewer days, but it also seems to have a fewer babies per day ratio as well), and, of course, my birthday falls just past the halfway mark. So I have something to look forward to until Feb. 17, and then after Feb. 17, I have spring to look forward to. I firmly believe spring starts on March 1, although it never seems to work out that way.

This year my goal for my birthday is to get the first draft of Hart finished. I'm really getting tired of outlining and reoutlining and rereoutlining it. Last night, I spent hours trying to shove the material into some kind of chronological order. For a book with minimal chances of publication, it's burning up a lot of energy (alas, not a lot of calories, which at least would justify the amount of time I'm spending on it).

I had thought I'd be doing a lot of writing on it this week, especially since I'm spending most of the week being snowed/sleeted in. But my mother managed a trifecta on Monday. Her hearing aid broke, she set fire to the microwave, and she fell. I don't know how long she'll be without her hearing aid, but Marci is going to bring her a used microwave tomorrow, and my mother wasn't hurt when she fell. So it could have been a lot worse, but it still took a great deal out of all of us. Which is my excuse for outlining rather than writing.

Oh well. I keep looking out the window trying to find some sunlight. At least there was none for good old Phil. That's one bright spot in this otherwise dreary week!