Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On Refrigerators, Birthdays and Onion Dip

by Janis Patterson
My refrigerator died Friday. After being coddled and fixed and theoretically repaired, it simply gave a loud bang, blew a wisp of smoke from underneath and quit completely. The Husband and I scrambled to clean it out and save what we could before we rushed out to buy another. Talk about sticker shock! We paid more for the new refrigerator than I did for my first car.
Friday was also my birthday. It was a big one, and I would have been depressed if I hadn’t been rushing about trying to save a refrigerator’s worth of food. Neither was it fun to spend the day after my birthday moving furniture so that when the retailer finally decides to deliver the new fridge they will be able to get it into the kitchen.
Also on Friday, before the refrigerator’s suicide, to celebrate my birthday I released one of my backlist, a traditional Regency romance called THE FAIR AMAZON. Moving by how quickly my previous self-published books went up, I did a boatload of publicity. Lots of sales? Huh? Every other book I’ve published has gone live within a few hours, but this time Amazon would not play nicely. There’s been some change in the genre notations – changes Amazon did not notify its authors about, at least not this author – and the book was hung in some vague never-never-land of pixiliation until Monday, all the while fans, having seen the release announcement, chastised me that the book wasn’t available on Amazon.
Needless to say, this last clutch of days has not been particularly fun for me nor for my work in progress. I haven’t made my word count in days.
If that weren’t enough, The Husband and I were at a long-planned meeting on Saturday. (I would have rather stayed home and nursed both my accruing years and aching muscles.) And the unspeakable happened.
I was at the buffet, happily noshing on jumbo shrimp, which I love, when this person comes up and says he’s heard I write books. This is not an unusual situation, so I said yes and prepared to answer the same, somewhat banal questions of “Where do you get your ideas?” and “How do you keep all the characters straight?” and suchlike that people always ask as if they think they’re being original.
“Boy, have you got a soft job,” he said in a civilized snarl, scooping up half the onion dip on a single cracker. “Most of us have to work for a living.”
“Soft?” I asked. “Writing is hard work.”
He laughed enthusiastically, showing the unlovely remnants of his mouthful of onion dip. “Sure it is. You sit at home in your pajamas and churn out a bunch of words for an hour or two and then run play all day while most people are doing real work.”
Being a mystery writer, it’s not surprising that my first thought was homicidal. The butter spreader in the onion dip was too dull, the cheese knives too short. Even the toothpicks in the shrimp were too flimsy to be of any real use. Drat. I considered dumping the onion dip over his head, but after his second scoop there wasn’t enough left to make a statement. There was no way I was going to sacrifice the shrimp (I love shrimp, did I tell you?) and flinging peanuts at him would be plain silly, like something out of the Three Stooges.
At last my abortive murderous rage abated somewhat and I was able to answer in honeyed tones, “Then I wonder that you haven’t written a book.”
He winked at me as if we shared some cosmic secret. “I’m going to – just as soon as I get time. Maybe I’ll knock one out over my next vacation.”
I didn’t tell him I wasn’t going to hold my breath. At least he didn’t make a thoughtless and blatantly ignorant comment about how all writers were filthy rich. It would have made an interesting experiment in just how lethal a butter knife could be.
Some people never learn, do they? No matter what it looks like, writing isn’t easy; creating worlds and people out of nothing more than caffeine and imagination is as hard or harder than any profession in the world. Still, real life happens. Refrigerators blow up. People get sick. People get older. Accidents happen. Families need attention.
Every instance of life that happens happens to writers, but still we write.
We have to take precious writing time to do publicity, but still we write.
The ideas dry up, we become nothing but stuttering jackdaws, but still we write.
The car develops an ominous squeak, Aunt Violet comes to visit, Mother breaks her arm, Junior needs a chaperone for a school trip, we get pneumonia – but still we write. It’s hard work, but still we write.
And even sometimes in our pajamas. So what? We still write.


Unknown said...

I don't know why some people think writing is a cush job. Sometimes after writing all day I feel so mentally exhausted that I can barely talk cohesively!

Book Readers said...

Belated Happy Birthday!
I admire and thank all you authors for hard work and giving enjoyable times for us readers.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Those of us who write know what a hard job it really is. I am often told by people who don't write that they have a wonderful story they think I should write. I always tell them to try writing it for themselves.

Kathleen Kaska said...

Congratulations for staying so calm, Janis. However, you might have the beginning of a new mystery--Murder at the Buffet Table.

Pamela Stone said...

Good job, resisting the urge to attack. Most of the time I find the comments amusing, but occasionally one hits me wrong. Usually when the story isn't going as well as I'd like and I'm in one of those, everything I write sucks modes.

Non-writers don't always get it. Some certainly appreciate it more than others, but I know I didn't fully get it. Even though I'd completed multiple books, I didn't understand until I started learning what it took to polish said books and get them in any sort of publishable format. Some are still under the bed. It's hard. But loving what we do helps. Still, having spent years in corporate America, I'm working harder now at my writing with no guarantee of a monthly paycheck.

Sorry about your birthday, the fridge, and the jerk. But hey, like Kathleen said, it's novel fodder. Put the jerk in a book and laugh all the way to the bank. Ha.

Morgan Mandel said...

When the power went out at 9:30 pm one night and didn't come back on until 3:15 the next afternoon, I was in panic mode, but at least I could keep my stuff in the refrigerator.

When the fridge goes out, that's big trouble!

And that guy - It seems no one realizes the work writers do. Even if I'm in the middle of figuring something out, the DH has a feeling I can just stop and go grocery shopping right then because his TV program is on later. I go with him, just to keep peace in the family. (g)

Morgan Mandel

Mary Ricksen said...

I think pulling out his fingernails one by one, is an appropriate punishment.
And after I stopped laughing, for an over extended period, if he was still standing there, I'd have slapped a, 'totally clueless', sticky note on his back...

Rose Anderson said...

I find major appliances go through mass suicides. I can always count on at least one clock bumping itself off in sympathy. Enjoyable post Janis. Happy birthday too!

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

Hi, sweetie. I have to have normal surrounding me or I can't work so well. Fridge going? Yeah, that was last summer and I spent 3 weeks waiting on a new control panel for a seven year old one. I'd already put two icemakers in it. They say appliances last 12 years. That doesn't seem so long sometimes.

Unknown said...

Belated happy birthday, Janis. My sympathy for the dying fridge incident. Appliances always find the worst possible time for pulling these drama acts on us! Thanks for sharing and I'm glad you were able to stifle the homicidal urge.

Susan said...

Thanks for all the comments - just had to tell you that the fridge (all 368 lbs of it!) arrived today and was quickly installed. The nice two young men who brought it also moved my big freezer as well as hauling away the dead carcass of the old one. I also had to get rid of my mother's old freezer up/fridge down unit that has been running since 1982 - I mean, just how many refrigerators etc can one family have? The group was starting to look like a herd... Anyway, I gave the old working fridge to one of the young men who delivered the new one and he was overjoyed. That fridge might run for another 20 years, so I'm glad someone will get some good out of it.

Janis, aka Susan

Unknown said...

It's really the most nerve wracking about refrigerators: they cost a lot. They cost a lot when you buy them the first time, and they consume a lot of electricity. We need these things, so heh. In any case, hope the new fridge is well-calibrated at every level now, because it's in its construction where the faultiness would often arise.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Wonderful post, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I congratulate you first on the fact that you did not decorate the irritating man with the remains of onion dip. Second, belated congratulations on your birthday. Pretend tomorrow is your actual birthday and plan a pleasant day with your husband and celebrate. You deserve it after the weekend you endured!