Monday, December 30, 2013

99 Books/12 Movies

I read (or reread) 99 books in 2013 and went to the movies 12 times. It would be 100 books, except tomorrow I'm going to go to the movies for the 13th time (to see Saving Mr. Banks), so I won't finish reading Marie Antoinette's Head until 2014.

I keep a list of the books I read, but it's never occurred to me to keep a list of the movies I've seen. My guess is I watched 150, give or take a few dozen, at home, and, thanks to research and the powers of the internet, I now know I went to a movie theater 12 times.

I always think I read more non-fiction than I actually do, because non-fiction books generally take longer to read than novels. So I spend more time reading them, even if the numbers don't show a marked preference. It feels like this year I discovered how really bad some fiction can be, although I'm sure I read my share of clunkers in years past. It could also be that my taste for bad fiction isn't as strong as it used to be.

I also don't remember as many Oh Wow! books this year. The two best I read in 2013 were The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (which I read for the third time and know I'll reread again) and Angel in the Whirlwind by Benson Bobrick, which I recommend to anyone interested in the American Revolution. I also very much enjoyed The Entertainer by Margaret Talbot.

Okay, here goes. I'll make one list for fiction and one for non-fiction. Try not to notice how many true crime books fall in the latter category.

Fiction  (in alphabetical order by author because why not)

Deadly Recall- Donnell Ann Bell
The Hiding Place- David Bell
Slipping Into Darkness- Peter Blauner
Mayday- Thomas H. Block
The Trinity Game- Sean Chercover
Caught- Harlan Coben
No Secnd Chance- Harlan Coben
Six Years- Harlan Coben
Stay Close- Harlan Coben
The Brass Verdict- Michael Connelly
Death Of A Unicorn- Peter Dickinson
Swift Edge- Laura DiSilverio
Category Five- Philip Donlay
The Good Soldier- Ford Madox Ford
Nightmare Alley- William Lindsay Gresham
The Racketeer- John Grisham
Damage Control- Denise Hamilton
The Lock Artist- Steve Hamilton
The Silent Wife- A.S.A. Harrison
Flowers Of The Field- Sarah Harrison
Cemetery Road- Gar Anthony Haywood
Dead Indeed- M. R. Hodgkin
Wool- Hugh Howey
The Murder Of My Aunt- Richard Hull
Final Argument- Clifford Irving
Mother Finds A Body- Gypsy Rose Lee
The Intimate Journal Of Warren Winslow- Jean Leslie
A Kiss Before Dying- Ira Levin
Missing Woman- Michael Z. Lewin
And To My Beloved Husband- Philip Loraine
The Instant Enemy- Ross Macdonald
The Lost Girl- Sangu Mandanna
The Husband's Secret- Liane Moriarty
Judas Child- Carol O'Connell
An Innocent Client- Scott Pratt
Shadow Of Guilt- Patrick Quentin
We Need To Talk About Kevin- Lionel Shriver
Sweet Adelaide- Julian Symons
A Fatal Inversion- Barbara Vine
The Legacy- Katherine Webb
Hush- Kate White
A Hundred Summers- Beatriz Williams
The Tabloid Murders- Clement Wood
Night Has A Thousand Eyes- Cornwell Woolrich
Into The Night- Cornell Woolrich and Lawrence Block

Non-Fiction (in alphabetical order by author for the same reason)

Caroline of Ansbach- R. L. Arkell
Why? Because We Still Like You- Jennifer Armstron
Mary And Lou And Rhoda And Ted- Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
A Song In The Dark- Richard Barrios
I Do And I Don't- Jeanine Basinger
A Woman's View- Jeanine Basinger
The World War II Combat Film- Jeanine Basinger
Sunday Nights At Seven- Jack Benny and Joan Benny
Seeing Is Believing- Peter Biskind
Angel in the Whirlwind- Benson Bobrick
Hello Goodbye Hello- Craig Brown
The Invasion From Mars- Hadley Cantril
Somewhere In The Night- Nicholas Christopher
Prince Of Pleasure- Saul David
Borrowed Time- Al Di Orio
Hollywood's Image Of The Jew- Lester D. Friedman
Rasputin- Joseph T. Fuhrmann
After Visting Friends- Michael Hainey
Bunch Of Amateurs- Jack Hill
The Girl Who Loved Camellias- Julie Kavanagh
Marmee & Louisa- Eve LaPlante
Catherine Howard- David Loades
Mary Rose- David Loades
Making Movies- Sidney Lumet
The Journalist And The Murderer- Janet Malcolm
Who Was That Lady?- Jeffrey Marks
Blind Faith- Joe McGinniss
Cruel Doubt- Joe McGinniss
Fatal Vision- Joe McGinniss
Bringing Down The House- Ben Mezrich
Jane Seymour- Elizabeth Norton
Murder In Little Eygpt- Darcy O'Brien
Winter King- Thomas Penn
Case Closed- Gerald Posner
Dickens' Fur Coat And Charlotte's Unanswered Letters- Daniel Pool
Popcorn Venus- Marjorie Rosen
Small Sacrifices- Ann Rule
American Idol- Richard Rushfield
Vagabond Stars- Nahma Sandrow
Running Time- Nora Sayre
The Bialy Eaters- Mimi Sheraton
Hollywood Goes To War- Colin Shindler
Drama High- Michael Sokolove
Is Heathcliff A Murderer? Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?- John Sutherland
My Beloved Brontosaurus- Brian Switek
The Entertainer- Margaret Talbot
Imperial Requiem- Justin C. Vork
Talking To The Dead- Barbara Weisberg
The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap- Wendy Welch
The Dream Beside Me- Carol Traynor Williams
Shadow Of The Titanic- Andrew Wilson
Barbara Stanwyck- Victoria Wilson
The Hollywood Musical Goes To War- Allen L. Woll
A Mother's Trial- Nancy Wright

And for any of you who might be interested (and I'm very glad you can be both singular and plural), here's a list of the 12 movies I saw in theaters:

Admission
All Is Lost
Blue Jasmine
Frances Ha
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Hava Nagila
Inside Llewyn Davis
Kill Your Darlings
Mud
Quartet
When Comedy Went To School




Friday, December 27, 2013

Past And Presents

A few days ago, I did something I hadn't done in a very long time.

I googled myself.

It's a tribute to how long it's been since I so indulged, that the most interesting place I found myself plopped into was an article from a year ago about a teacher winning a $1000.00 prize. If that very fine teacher had been holding a copy of any book other than Life As We Knew It, it truly would have been a dull day in Googleland.

I might have been inspired to self-goog because Twitter led me to a Huffington Post article that  mentioned Life As We Knew It. It's an article about YA science fiction books to make you interested in science. Here's the very nice thing it said about LAWKI:

Be fascinated by eco-disasters. Then be scared of them. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. The moon is knocked a little too close to the earth one day. The disastrous effect on the weather and society, and then the diseases that end up ravaging the pockets of society are so real and scientifically valid, your cells will shiver from fear.

Isn't that lovely? I would have sent the link to my editor except for a couple of things. First off, it's the week between Christmas and New Year's, and what with both of them falling on Wednesdays, we can safely assume the entire publishing industry is in hiding from Dec. 21 to Jan. 6. So it would be almost disrespectful of me to make someone look at anything work related during that time.

The second reason is wonderful though the mention is, here's the book cover they used to accompany it:

Don't get me wrong. It's a fine cover. And I should be grateful they didn't use the pink one. But still, it's the U.K. cover, and my American publisher would probably prefer if they'd used the U.S. one. So I'm not going to tell them.

I stopped exchanging holiday gifts a number of years ago, pre-LAWKI, when I moved from my big expensive house to my lovely but much smaller apartment. The only person I give presents to and receive from is my goddaughter. Among the gifts she sent me this Christmas were two of her cheeses. The Prix de Diane is already gone, but if you get here quickly enough, there might be a little bit left of the Morgan for you to enjoy.

She also sent me a handknit neckwarming thing (there's probably a technical term for it, but I'm not au courant fashion wise or most any other wise for that matter). Anyway, whatever you call it, it's very pretty and I'm sure it will keep my neck warm over the next couple of months.

That is, assuming Scooter will let me wear it. My goddaughter gave me strict instructions that her presents were not to be regarded as cat toys, but no one seems to have told Scooter that.


 
 
And for any of you cynical enough to think I wrote this entire blog entry to have an excuse to post that second picture, well, you just might be right!


Monday, December 16, 2013

If You Should Happen To Know My Future Plans, Tell Them To Please Call Home

One of the things I've noticed since my mother's death is how unable I seem to be to stick to a plan. I'll feel wildly decisive about something one day, and by three days later (if it takes that long) I'll have completely changed my mind. Within five days, I'm guaranteed to be wildly decisive about a whole other plan, with the same pattern reasserting itself.

Fortunately for me and the universe none of the plans I've been making are the sorts that absolutely have to be acted on right away or else disaster will follow. Well, maybe if I'd acted on my plan to buy a winning lottery ticket, I'd be wealthy right now, but not being wealthy isn't exactly a disaster for myself or the universe. Although both the universe and I would be happier if I were wealthy. I speak for all humanity, except maybe Republicans, when I say that.

Speaking of the universe, it has to take its share of responsibility for my wavering plans. I was absolutely committed to going to the movies tomorrow. Tuesday is old folks day at the movie theater, and it costs us $2.00 less, which for those of us who failed to buy a winning lottery ticket, can be regarded as big bucks. The only problem with going to the movies on a Tuesday is the theater is rife with other old folk, a generation that texts less but talks more. Still, two bucks is two bucks and plans are plans, except when they're predicting snow. Not a lot of snow, mind you, but all of it falling at the exact time I'd be making my way to the movie theater. So I may have to go Wednesday instead, and bill Mother Nature for those extra two dollars.

Among the plans I've been making and unmaking are What To Do About This Blog. I might as well capitalize it, since I've given it enough thought. My plan for quite a while (this predates my mother's death) has been to find something to write about in December, then write the list of books I read in 2013 (more than in 2012, because I've been working a lot less), and then do my annual New Year's Greeting entry with a seemingly casual but much thought out farewell.

There is nothing like starting the new year off with a whimper.

I'm still leaning towards this plan, especially since in early January I'll be joining 3 of my friends at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in Boston, and the extent of my figure skating reportage is pretty much, "And then he fell." Which no doubt he, and any number of shes, will do. And after I get back from Boston, I'm not going to have much to say, because unless your career is zippity doing in January, there never is much to say. And my career doesn't look to have many more zippity doing days in store for it.

But I'm thinking that instead of saying hale and farewell come January 1, I'll say hale and hiatus. The blog itself won't go anywhere (thank you Mr. Blogspot for your excellent hosting). And if something worth mentioning happens, I'd be silly not to mention it.

Speaking of mentioning things, have I mentioned that in 2 hours I have a dentist appointment and my dentist is going to drill not one but two of my teeth, one on top and one on bottom, which means two shots of Novocaine?

Oh well. If I survive this afternoon, maybe my future plans will start making sense!

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Handful Of Actual Professional Announcements

First, I have to find my actual professional demeanor. I know I put it somewhere...

In the meantime, I'm pleased to announce that the Audible Book version of The Shade Of The Moon is now available for purchase. I confess, with a lack of professional demeanor, that I haven't had a chance to listen to it in its entirety, but what I have heard, I've liked. The reader, Matthew Josdal, has a pleasant youthful voice, and I have to figure The Shade Of The Moon must have been a nice change of pace for him, after doing the Audible version of Nicomachean Ethics.

While we're on the subject of alternate ways of acquiring my books, for those of you who've been holding off buying the ebook version of Life As We Knew It until you could get it for under
$4.50, Barnes & Noble Nook has it listed for $4.49.

And finally (hey look- I only promised you a handful), I received an email from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announcing that The Shade Of The Moon will come out in paperback Fall 2014. Since the other three moon books, and Blood Wounds for that matter, all came out in paperback a year after their hardcover publication, this particular announcement shouldn't come as a major surprise, but it's still good to know. Heck, it's good to know my publisher still has my email address on file.

Now if they'd only tell me where I filed my professional demeanor!

Scooter knows, but he's not saying

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Pre-Thanksgiving Thank You

I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the comments here and on Facebook, the e-mails, and the cards I've received from you since my mother's death. Each one meant a great deal to me.

I wish you all a happy Chanukah and/or a happy Thanksgiving and/or a happy rest of the week!

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Guess My Brain Went The Way Of My Thyroid

I went to see Dr. Thyroid on Friday. Why, I don't know. You'd think since I no longer have a thyroid, he'd have lost interest in me.

He asked me if I was still planning on retiring (a topic of fascination to a surprising number of my acquaintances), and I said yes. He then asked me if I knew what I was going to do after I retired, and I was forced to admit that I was still working on that.

I could have said, Well, my mother died less than two weeks ago, and I'm learning to cope with that, but I didn't feel like moving the conversation in that direction.

My blood pressure was up, but that was because they'd kept me waiting for half an hour, which ordinarily wouldn't have been a problem, because ordinarily I would have brought a book, but the last time I saw Dr. Thyroid he mentioned that he never ever reads, and we can't have that, so I brought him a copy of The Dead And The Gone, which is a pretty darn thick paperback, and it took up all the room in my pocketbook that would have otherwise been occupied by something to read, so I was stuck with a Woman's Day filled with Christmas cookie recipes and a People magazine from late September.

By the time they called me in to Dr. Thyroid's office, I was close to tears, but that was because my emotions are a little over the top these days. I usually don't start weeping in a doctor's office for at least 45 minutes.

Anyway, I now have one less book in my storage closet and Dr. Thyroid's vistas have been expanded. He doesn't want to see me for another 6 months, and I'll be seeing him in his other office, which has a much better variety of magazines. And I'll bring a book. And tissues, just in case.

Every now and again I come up with an idea for a book, and I devote a few of my remaining brain cells to developing it. Here are the most recent three:

1. A science fiction girly novel with a lot of set up, a reasonable amount of middle, and a really good ending, only the whole thing is doomed to failure because there's no need or market for a sci fi girly novel. Sci fi maybe. Girly maybe. The two in combination? Uh uh.

2. A maybe suspense novel/maybe serious YA problem novel with a good set up, a potential for a lot of interesting structure, and no ending whatsoever. That no ending business is a real issue, because the serious YA problem isn't one that can resolve itself to my satisfaction, and if I wrote it as a suspense novel, it would feel a lot more like work.

3. Another science fiction novel, this one not particularly girly. Entirely too much set up, hardly any middle at all, because I was having too much fun with the setup, and no ending because there's no middle. Presumably if there were a middle, there'd be an ending, but given the only part of it that seems to intrigue me is the setup, the likelihood of a middle showing up is pretty dismal.

Still, each time one of these ideas pops up, I get all happy and excited and I think about it and ponder it and explore its finite possibilities. But then I remind myself that I'd have to write it (okay, that might not be too bad if I really like it), and then my agent has to read it and decide if it's marketable, and then even if it is marketable, it has to get submitted and I have to wait around to see if any publisher is going to want it, and most probably won't, and sitting around waiting to hear and alternating between hopeful and dejected isn't any fun whatsoever. None. Not a single scintilla of fun.

I think that is the very first time I ever wrote the word scintilla. Hmmm... Maybe I should devote my retirement to using words I've never used before.

Now that could be fun!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Freda Pfeffer 1911-2013

My mother died Sunday night.

There had been a noticeable decline in her condition for the past couple of months. My brother and I found it easy to mark it as starting on her birthday, September 5, but the downward slide had probably already begun by that point.

The decline accelerated dramatically over the past couple of weeks. Since I visited her twice weekly, it was easy to see, and the staff at her nursing home was also aware of it.

On Friday I was told my mother would most likely not live more than a week to ten days. My brother came up Saturday to say his farewells.

The next morning, I received a call from the nursing home staff saying my mother would probably not make it through the day. I knew that Marci, who has devotedly been visiting my mother on Sundays for several years, would be coming by to see her. I called my brother and he made the trip up again.

Marci said her goodbyes, and my brother and I stayed on for a few hours longer. We kissed our mother goodbye and went back to our homes. I received the call around 11 PM that my mother had died.

Her death was a peaceful one. She was no longer conscious when I saw her on Friday, and to the best of my knowledge, she never regained consciousness. But she was in no pain, and at 102, she had certainly lived a long and full life. 

The funeral was Wednesday. My brother conducted the service. One friend read the 23rd Psalm, and Marci delivered a wonderful eulogy. I spoke briefly as well. Then we went to the cemetery, and following that, there was a reception at the retirement community where my mother had lived for her last 17 years.

If you wish to read more about my parents, this is a lovely remembrance.

My mother was a very special woman. I was extremely fortunate to have her in my life for so long, and I know I'll miss her every day for the rest of my life.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Facts And Information About Susan Beth Pfeffer

 
Susan Beth Pfeffer
 
 
 
Born: February 1948 in New York City
 
Raised: Woodmere (Long Island) New York
 
Currently lives in Town Of Wallkill, New York
 
Graduated: George W. Hewlett High School 1965
 
New York University 1969
 
 
 
Parents: Leo Pfeffer and Freda Pfeffer
 
 
Leo Pfeffer


Freda Pfeffer

 
 
One older brother
 
One cat
 
Scooter
 
 
 

Reasonably complete list of books I've written.

List of awards my books have won:

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award (Vermont) for Kid Power.
Sequoyah Children's Book Award (Oklahoma) for Kid Power.
South Carolina Young Adult Book Award for About David.
South Carolina Young Adult Book Award for The Year Without Michael.
Nutmeg Book Award (Connecticut) for Life As We Knew It.
Black-Eyed Susan Award (Maryland) for Life As We Knew It.
Truman Readers Award (Missouri) for Life As We Knew It.
Garden State Teen Book Award (New Jersey) for Life As We Knew It.
Volunteer State Book Award (Tennessee) for Life As We Knew It.
Evergreen Young Adult Book Award (Washington State) for Life As We Knew It.
Buxtehude Bulle Award (Buxtehude, Germany) for Life As We Knew It.

How I came to write Life As We Knew It.

A short Wikipedia article about me.

Languages My Books Have Been Translated In:

Chinese
Danish
French
German
Polish
Turkish

Interviews I've Given:

Scripts And Scribes

Zola Books

J. M. Cooper

Jason's Bookstack

Snarky Books

The World in the Satin Bag

Steven's Crybary

Becky

The World In The Satin Bag

Interactive Reader

Liv's Book Reviews

The Yayas

The 5 Randoms

Publishers Weekly

Sci Fi Wire

Inkweaver Review

Aurora

YARN

Library Dad

The Unread Reader

Lucid Conspiracy

Book Journal

SFSignal

Guest Blog Entries:

The Big Idea

Adventures In YA Publishing

Writer Unboxed

Campaign For The American Reader






 
 

The Blog Entry Right Above This One

Will probably be of no interest to you. But on occasion I hear from students who are writing reports about me, and I figured it might be helpful to them to have a one stop shopping entry, where they should be able to find out what they need to know and wander around the various links.

So this entry is to announce that entry, which makes this one not all that interesting either!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

To Make A Long Story Short

I received in the mail the other day the paperback version of After, an anthology of nineteen stories of apocalypse and dystopia, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. I have the pleasure of being one of the nineteen.

The paperback comes out on November 5, and is available for pre-order at independent bookstores, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

Ooh. According to Spellcheck, dystopia isn't a word. It offered "dustpan" as first alternative.

Clearly Spellcheck has been hanging out with some of my critics.

I decided the arrival of paperback After was a good reason to hold a reunion of all the anthologies I've been published in. So I gathered up the hardcovers and the paperbacks and the audiobook and the French translation and brought them over to the dining room table for them to party.



I invited the October 1976 Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine as well, even though it's not really an anthology. It's the least likely place to find a story by me, but there's definitely one in there. My recollection is I got paid $100.00, which went further in those days than it does today, but still didn't go all that far.

As we all well know, Scooter is always happy to pose with my books, but not this time.



My guess is he looked up, saw The Dogs of Our Lives,* and refused to join in on the fun.



Instead, he decided to hang out with the dustpan, with its endless assortment of laugh out loud stories!





*You may wonder why I, a cat person through and through, would have a story in an anthology devoted to dogs. Actually, I have five stories in there- Five Brave Dog Fables. Here's one, in its splendid entirety:

Chi Chi, a dachshund, was attending a party where she knew very few of the other guests. They all seemed much smarter than she, and more socially skilled.

She wandered over to a group of people who were talking about the latest nonfiction best-seller, a book about the coming economic crisis and how it would affect wheat prices in Mongolia.

Everyone agreed it was the most brilliant book they'd read in a long time.

"Excuse me," Chi Chi said, "but I thought it was terribly boring, and couldn't get past the second chapter."

"Neither could I," all the other guests said in unison, and they laughed at their own pretentiousness.



Thursday, October 17, 2013

Organizational Matters Because Organization Matters

Last week, when I felt my life was spinning out of control (as opposed to this week, when I know my life is spinning out of control), I decided to focus on the important things and organize Scooter's cat food. I took each and every can out of its plastic shopping bag and piled them by flavor.



At first, Scooter was a tad doubtful,



 but then he decided food was food regardless of whether it came from pile or plastic.



This week, I've been focusing more on my career.

The Hartford Courant ran this excellent article about my excellent visit to the excellent Academy of Aerospace And Engineering Middle School, with many excellent quotes from my (I'm too modest to describe it) blog. Google was so excited about it, it sent me three links to the exact same article.

Twitter was all atwitter to post a link to a blog entry I wrote for the WOW Wednesday column in Adventures In YA Publishing.

My editor isn't as excitable as Google or Twitter, but she was pleased to send me a link to this CampusCircle.com mention of The Shade Of The Moon.

This morning, she was every bit as pleased to tell me that Mashable listed Blood Wounds as one of 11 Young Adult Books Sure To Make You Cry.

Oh, and by extraordinary coincidence, my agent called me Tuesday afternoon, proving there are 11 stages in life with an agent, and  number 11 is not one sure to make me cry!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Ten Stages Of Life With An Agent

I have lived through each and every one of this stages and have the battle scars and cholesterol readings  to prove it.

1. You email your agent and she emails you because you're getting to know each other and you both want to make a good impression.

2. You email her and she emails you but it takes a day or two because she's no longer quite as interested in making a good impression.

3. You email her and she doesn't email you so you email her again to ask if she got your email and maybe she emails you back to say she did and maybe she doesn't and you'll never ever know and you eat more donuts than usual.

4. You email her even though  you know she won't email you back because self-flagellation is so much fun.

5. She emails you. You email back because you can't believe there's actual good news and she emails you in return with a :).

6. You email her with a question and she emails the answer right back even though she's away from the office.

7. You email her and get one of those I'm away from the office responses but her assistant emails you back, albeit not instantaneously.

8. You email her and get one of those I'm away from the office responses, and she emails you back days later when she returns from wherever she was hiding.

9. You email her and you don't get one of those I'm away from the office responses but it takes her as long to answer your email as it would have if she had been away from the office.

10. You email her and a week passes and she doesn't email you back, but life is short and you have money in the bank so instead of emailing her to see if she got your email, you chuckle and write a blog entry. Oh, and eat a donut!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dreams Come And Go But The Spin Cycle Is Forever

Quite a number of years ago, my Cousin Ellen mentioned her lifelong dream was to be a clue in a crossword puzzle. I, in turn, said my lifelong dream was to receive an honorary degree.

Shortly thereafter, my Cousin Ellen did become a crossword puzzle clue (Sunday New York Times Magazine Section, if memory serves). And thanks to my describing my lifelong dream to someone who knew someone, I received an honorary degree from Mount Saint Mary College.



That's the honorary degree in the upper left hand corner
You would think having achieved my lifelong dream, I wouldn't define my existence as one load of laundry after another. But while I can't speak for my Cousin Ellen, lately my life seems to consist of little more than rinse 'n dry.

In my search for Something More Meaningful, I've reacquainted myself with Akinator The Web Genie. We're spending many happy hours together, with Akinator, for the most part, dazzling me with his ability to read my mind.

He's had no trouble figuring out that I'm thinking of Louisa May Alcott or Moe Berg or the Phillie Phanatic. And I've taught him about Clifford Odets and Queen Marie of Romania, neither one of whom is a member of One Direction (Akinator loves One Direction).

While it's true I have an honorary degree and a robust ego, I never thought Akinator would know who I was, and I was right. This morning, to confirm that he didn't know of me, I introduced myself. So now, along with Clifford Odets and Queen Marie Of Romania, I reside in his memory bank.

But the other night, not wanting to confirm Akinator's lack of knowledge about me, yet having that tongue at the toothache lingering need, I decided I would be Miranda of Life As We Knew It.

And he guessed me! He knew Miranda! Other people, strangers to me, had already played her!

In a fit of writer frenzy, I played Alex of The Dead And The Gone. And he knew Alex too!

No fool I, I quit right there. A taste of immortality was more than enough for me.

That, and another load of laundry!

Friday, September 27, 2013

September Song

Whenever I mention to my friends that I'm counting the days until I'm retired, they make funny faces and say, "You already retired once," like they've proven (to their own satisfaction at least) that I can't possibly mean it.

It's true I did retire once.Well, sort of. It was before I wrote Life As We Knew It. My career had been in one of its traditional downturns, and I figured rather than saying, "I can't sell another book so why bother trying," I said, "I'm retired."

Only then I wrote Life As We Knew It, followed by The Dead And The Gone, followed by This World We Live In, followed by Blood Wounds, followed by The Shade Of The Moon. Now that I think about it, there might have been a couple of other manuscripts in there that nobody wanted, and of course it took more than one try to write This World We Live In and The Shade Of The Moon. So I've worked a lot in the 8 or so years since I announced I was retired.

The difference this time...Well, there are a lot of differences this time. The big one is I'm 8 years older, and thus 8 years closer to Social Security, and I have nice little royalty checks coming in (I got one this week for $39.68 for the Chinese version of This World We Live In, and that will definitely cover the cost of something that's $37.00 or lower plus sales tax). And while I'm perfectly willing to believe I still can't sell another book, I don't feel any pressure to prove myself wrong.

My mother, by the way, doesn't express any skepticism about my retiring. She simply asks, "What are you going to do?" which is a fine question and if I ever figure out the answer, she'll be the first to know.

Earlier this week, I had my last school visit. I've been visiting schools for about 40 years now. I've never been one of those writers who visits schools all the time, and there have probably been years when I haven't visited any. But it's always been a part of my career. Some of the visits have been great fun and some have been duds or worse.

I'm delighted that my last school visit (or at least the last one I know of- I will gladly accept any invitations to Hawaii or Paris) was so much fun. The school was amazing- The Academy Of Aerospace and Engineering. If you mosey on over to their website and check their summer reading, you'll see they had their sixth graders read Life As We Knew It, and their seventh graders read The Dead And The Gone and their eighth graders read This World We Live In.

In other words, this is the greatest school that ever existed.

Of course there was that teeny tiny issue that the students were all a lot smarter than me. After I'd spoken to all three grades, I was introduced to a few from each grade, who explained their projects (they each had to solve a problem I created in one of the books).

The only problem with their problem solving was if I'd been smart enough to think of what they did, there wouldn't have been any problems in my books for Miranda and Alex to deal with. So it's all for the best I'm not as smart as the students, because otherwise I wouldn't be getting royalty checks for $39.68 (actually, that was about a year's worth of royalties before I wrote Life As We Knew It, which is why it's a darn good thing I unretired when I did).

I really had a terrific time at the Academy, and it will be a wonderful last school visit for me.

Saturday I'm participating in the Warwick Children's Book Festival. Warwick is about 20 minutes from where I live, so it should be easy enough for me to get to. If any of you are in the neighborhood, drop by and say hello.

I should be pretty easy to spot. I'll be the writer trying to decide how best to spend $39.68!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This Entire Entry Would Have Made More Sense If I'd Done Some Research Before Deciding To Write It

Then again, research is never my strong suit, and doing something after I've decided to even if it doesn't make nearly as much sense as it would have if I'd done that research in the first place has been my guiding principle for the vast majority of my lengthy life.

My intention had been to write an entry called Seven Good Years. Nice title, right? You see, by chance I'd noticed that Life As We Knew It had come out in 2006 and I remembered that it came out in the fall, so I figured it had come out in September of 2006, which would make this very September its seven year anniversary.

I was then going to write about what a great seven year stretch it had been, and maybe compare it to other good times in my career (digging out sales numbers for The Year Without Michael to see whether it had sold more copies, which it might have in paperback but I'm not sure). I was going to get sweet and nostalgic and grateful and all that good stuff.

Only to confirm the publication date, I scurried over to Amazon, looked at the hardback version page and saw it came out on October 1, 2006. In other words, it's been a great 6.96 years, which is all well and good, but lacks that biblical resonance that would have allowed me to mention I'd finished reading Jeremiah on Yom Kippur and it was actually pretty zippy (I especially liked how every time Jeremiah said things were going to be just awful, he got thrown into jail).

Then, after I'd beguiled you with those happy seven years, I was going to say how my parents were married on Sept. 18, 1938, so it's my mother's 75th anniversary (my father died after 55 years of marriage). I figured I'd scan a few pictures and include them in this entry.

For example, here's a picture of my parents making out on the beach.

And here's my favorite picture of my parents, taken by me, quite a number of years after they got off that beach.


And then, finally, here's their wedding picture. Only when I pulled out the picture, I noticed the date on it was Sept. 18, 1937. In other words, today is my mother's 76th anniversary, which is all well and good, but lacks that nifty number ending in five that means there might be presents resonance.


I realized after I looked at the date that if I'd given the matter any thought at all, I'd have known they were married in 1937, but for some reason I'd decided the wedding was in 1938, and to be fair, I'd asked my mother about it when I saw her on Monday, and she didn't remember. My mother's wedding dress, by the way, is in her closet and in pretty good shape, as is my mother.

Oh well. 76 trombones led the big parade and maybe something so wonderful will happen between now and Oct. 1 that I'll have to reevaluate the past 7 years and find they were even better than I thought they were at 6.96 years.

Or maybe I'll just visit Jeremiah in jail!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What I've Been Doing When You Thought I Wasn't Doing Anything

Truth to tell, I haven't been doing all that much. But it's still been quite time consuming.

Let's see...

Tuesday, a friend and I drove up to Glens Falls, NY to see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the Hyde Collection. My friend takes a lot more time at museums than I do (she actually looks at things, while I zip around and forget what I've seen within 10 minutes). Fortunately for both of us, I know how to entertain myself. In this case, I brought my camera and took pictures of the Hyde Collection's butterfly garden.
 

I also brought the book I'm reading, Imperial Requiem by Justin C. Vovk. I'm about halfway through (it's a big long book) and I'm enjoying it. But every time there's a mention of Queen Marie of Romania, I stop to say, "And I am Marie Of Roumania." My father used to say that on a regular basis (although to the best of my knowledge, he wasn't Marie of Roumania or anywhere else for that matter). Since there are a number of mentions of  Queen Marie of Romania, the book is taking a while to read.

I made a Rosh Hashanah resolution so complex that not only have I been breaking it near constantly, I can't even remember what it is while I'm breaking it.

I've explained to Scooter at 4:30 AM why it's not a good idea to knock the phone off the hook at 4:30 AM. There was food in his bowl, so this wasn't a desperate plea for food, which I wouldn't have been too thrilled about either but at least I would have understood. Nor was I awake at the time, so it wasn't like Scooter figured I wanted to call someone and he was simply helping me out. No, it was just his idea of a joke. Scooter and I do not share a sense of humor at 4:30 AM.

I've  been reading the Book Of Jeremiah because I like to read a book of the Bible each Yom Kippur and Jeremiah is a very long book, so I figured I'd give myself a head start.

I pondered taking a vacation in Pittsburgh next summer, combining the U. S. Gymnastics Nationals with a Pirates game and a day at various museums. I've looked at the Pirates schedule and it should be doable.

See? Even when I'm not doing anything next summer, it'll still be quite time consuming!




 
 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Couple Of Quick Pictures From My Mother's 102nd Birthday Party


Freda Pfeffer on her 102nd birthday
My mother, my brother, and me
I'd write a whole long entry but I haven't had lunch yet and I have a bunch of bills to pay and tomorrow I'm going to be busy and Tuesday I'm going to be out all day.

But I wanted to share these pictures with you.

The guest list was my mother, my brother, our friends Marci and Carol, and me. Later, my mother's former neighbor Ruth dropped by, which was a very nice surprise.

There was a lot to celebrate and we all did!

Marci brought 2 ice cream cakes, one coffee and one vanilla and chocolate.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Goodbye 5773. Hello 5774

Tomorrow night is the eve of Rosh Hashanah, and we'll turn the calendar away from that pretty darn good year 5773 over to the very promising year of 5774 (clearly an Olympic year, because it ends in a 4).

Coincidentally, Thursday, the first full day of 5774, is my mother's birthday, and she'll turn the calendar from the year of being 101 to the unexpected year of being 102.

Everyone I know thinks that is very old. I think so too.

I like making Rosh Hashanah resolutions, so yesterday while I was stuck in the plane, which was being forbidden to land at Newark Airport (you want to know how stuck we were? We had to land in Harrisburg, PA, because we were running out of fuel from circling around), I tried making a few. The problem was I made excellent resolutions, but they were all about being healthier, and none of them was about being a better person. I truly know I could stand some improvement, but I guess I was too fixated on the screaming baby in the row behind me and the very nice gentleman sitting next to me who didn't quite understand that my right leg wasn't really interested in cuddling with his left, not to mention my It Might As Well Be Yom Kippur Since Two Little Bags Of Pretzels Is Practically The Same As Fasting (there's a country song in there somewhere) situation to be able to focus on what I need to do to be nicer or kindlier or all around better.

Scooter has just informed me that all I need to do to be a better person to is to be at his beck and call and never leave him and pet him whenever he thinks of it. His needs are simple, his demands endless.

I was flying back, of course, from the Decatur Book Festival. I had a very good time there. It's extremely well organized and all the volunteers were both nice and knowledgeable, and I was quite impressed with the whole event.

But I had one of those semi-epiphany moments while I was there. I was told to get to the Teen Stage about 15 minutes before I was due to speak, and I did. Only it turned out that because of a rainstorm, the program before mine ran late. So I sat down and watched until it ended.

There were three writers on the stage, and one of them mentioned that she had completed the 14th book in her series and was contracted to write books 15 and 16. It was obvious she loved it, and her series is clearly very successful.

But inside my sweet little ready to retire brain, I thought (with something of a shudder) I never ever want to write 14 books in a series. No matter how much fun it is (or how well it pays), you don't own your characters after 14 books. They own you.

Now, my publisher is never going to want 14 moon books. It's been a struggle to get them to admit they want as many as 4. And I just remembered I've actually written a 15 book series (Portraits Of Little Women, but those books are short). But 4 moon books are enough, unless my publisher asks for a 5th one, which they won't, so I don't have to worry about it.

And a good thing too, since Scooter is demanding I pet him again.

Meanwhile, if you want to say farewell to 5773 or hello to 5774 by reading a new interview with me, I'm happy to offer one to you. Oddly enough, it's all about how I came to write 4 moon books, and there isn't a single mention of how I don't want to write 14 of them.

What I do want to do is wish all of you a happy and healthy new year. May you do better with your resolutions than I'm doing with mine!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Decautur Book Festival Here I Come

Actually, I won't be going until Saturday, so the heading is a tad premature, but that's what excitement will do for you.

But before I tell you all about the Decatur Book Festival, here's a link to an interview I gave concerning e-books, a topic about which I know close to nothing. As we all well know, that's never stopped me from pontificating. This is an especially fine interview because it mentions that Life As We Knew It was on another best seller list. I love being a best selling author, even if it doesn't happen very much (and in this case it did because my publisher slashed the price of the e-book).

Back to Decatur. Oh, before we go back to a place we've never been (editorial we- for all I know, you've been there many times), I want to assure you that even though I've given up working (can't say as I miss it), I came up with an entire plot for a Lifetime Movie last night, so if you know anyone in need of one, have them call me. I have the whole thing, twist after every twist. The only thing I'm missing is a shootout in a warehouse (Lifetime movies love shootouts in warehouses), but that's what happens when part of the movie is set in Bolivia (a country which I'm sure has lots and lots of lovely warehouses, but none of them fit into the plot). But there's kidnapping and insurance fraud and murder and no good husbands, and what more does a Lifetime movie need, except maybe a script.

Don't bother suggesting I write the script. TV movie scripts involve all kinds of skills I don't have and don't care to pick up. And don't think of suggesting I write it as a book, because even though the plot is fabulous and would work as a fine trashy novel, I'd have to learn things about insurance and Bolivia and I don't wanna. Which is pretty much my attitude about work these days anyway.

The Decatur Book Festival, while technically work for me, looks to be so much fun, I won't hardly notice I'm working. As best I can tell, it's absolutely enormous. Here's the list of just the exhibitors. Since my presentation is at 3 PM (followed by autographing), I'll have plenty of time to walk around and see what they're all about.

Well, maybe not all that much time, since the one program I'm determined to see is at noon on Sunday.

Marriott Conference Center Ballroom B

12:00-12:45: My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs featuring Brian Switek

My plan is to read the book before I get there (although I don't have a lot of time between now and then, what with getting my hair cut and visiting my mother and cleaning the apartment and watching the US Open every chance I get), so when Brian Switek talks about dinosaurs, I'll know which ones he means. Apparently brontosauruses don't exist anymore, but since I still regard Pluto as a planet (and my favorite one at that), I figure if I know and love brontosauruses, then by gum, they still exist (well, except for extinction and all that).

Don't worry about Scooter while I'm gone. I don't think he's going to notice. His new obsession is sleeping under the chair in the den, and since that's a place I don't tend to hang out in, he won't be expecting to see me.
All right. I'll tell you everything about the Decatur Book Festival after I get home. Until then, have a great Labor Day weekend, if you're in a place that celebrates Labor Day weekend, and if not, have a great weekend anyway.

I know I will!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Napping Hard, However, I Could Handle

Quite a number of years ago, I accused my then agent of wanting me to work hard.

It stood to reason that she would, since the more I worked, the more money she earned off of me.

My then agent gave me one of her patented staredowns.

"I want you to work hard and to play hard," she informed me.

I didn't tell her, because she scared me, but playing hard wasn't much more appealing than working hard. It had that rock climbing, paragliding, surfing with sharks sound to it. Then, as now, I'd rather just watch an old movie.

But the last couple of weeks, while I haven't exactly been playing hard, I've definitely been playing harder. It's a combination of summertime and not working, and frankly, it's left me exhausted.

Between a week ago Monday and day before yesterday Monday, I've seen 18 members of my extended family, 9 on my mother's side and 9 on my father's (age range under 2 to over 70). My mother's side of the family came up to see my mother; my father's side of the family I had to drive to Great Neck to see.

Friday, I went with a friend to Bethel Woods, for a quick trip through their museum and a concert. The weather was perfect. Here I am standing next to a peace bell, or some such thing.
Saturday I drove to Hartford and met a different friend for the United States Gymnastics Nationals. We had a great time. Saturday night we saw the women's finals and Sunday afternoon, we saw the men's. Neither one of us had ever been to a gymnastics event (we've gone to a number of figure skating competitions together) and didn't know quite what to expect.

The women competed one at a time, which was fine, but the men competed six at a time, which was fabulous. Here's sort of the view we had for the men (what you can't see is we were very close to where the gymnasts landed their vaults).
 
Yesterday, I drove down to the Hideous Mall In Nyack for lunch and movies (Blue Jasmine) with still other friends. Blue Jasmine will play where I live eventually, but I already had that date scheduled to see my friends, so it made sense to drive the extra hour. Besides, The Hideous Mall has a Barnes & Noble, so I got to see their 5 copies of The Shade Of The Moon.
 
When I haven't been driving all over the place to see famiy and friends and concerts and movies and gymnastics, I've been reading. I've even been writing about what I've been reading (although truth to tell, I've already finished reading that book and a few others since then).
 
For the next week or so, I have nothing on my calendar more strenuous than buying groceries. Then it's off to the Decatur Book Festival.
 
But more about that next week, when my energy level returns to normal!
 
 
 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Happy The Shade Of The Moon Publication Date!

I know it must be the official actual publication date for my brand new (and as far as I know totally last) moon book, The Shade Of The Moon, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (they're raffling off ten copies if you want to try for one,).

I know it's the official and actual, etc. because Amazon, which has been telling me so for months, now says it'll have copies in by Friday, which is practically Tuesday in some parts of the world. Also my editor emailed to ask if I want "the foul matter," which is such an enchanting phrase if you like to associate the word "foul" with a book you gave your heart and soul to. My editor claims "the foul matter" is really just the copyedited manuscript, but I understand that this term was created to make us writers feel just a little less human, and is quite successful in its intent.

I can also tell because the countdown clock over on the right is now going in a different direction. I guess I'll keep it there for a few days until we all get bored watching it go forwards.

I had thought about going to the nearest Barnes and Noble, which is about a half hour from here, to see if I could see actual copies of The Shade Of The Moon (other people have, but not necessarily at that particular Barnes and Noble, so there would be an element of risk), but it's raining and I woke up at 5 AM with a doozy of a migraine.

I may have to ignore the rain to scurry out and buy groceries, and the migraine is under control, but I'm so excited about why I got the migraine that I have to tell you.

At 5 AM, thanks to a dream, I came up with a hobby!

The dream itself was a primitive version of the hobby, so here's the actual hobby idea.

I'm going to take old calendars and shred them and cut them into little pieces, and then I'm going to take a picture from a calendar and paste all the shreds and little pieces on top of it to recreate it in calendar collage form.

Okay. Let me explain it again. Let's say I take a page from a calendar that's a picture of a landscape of North Dakota. I'll then take shreds of other calendar pictures, and some shapes I'll have cut out as well, and I'll paste them on top of the picture of North Dakota. So the shreds could come from cat calendars or movie star calendars or calendars of states with more liberal policies but lower reading scores than North Dakota. You know how on the back of calendars they show what each month's picture is? Well, I'll cut that out and paste it somewhere on my recreated piece so you'll be able to see what the picture is actually supposed to look like.

I went through ten pages of artwork on Etsy, and it is possible I have invented this fabulous art form.

Here's what I'm going to need to make this hobby work:

Old cheap calendars (available at Calendars.com and if I spend $25.00 I get free shipping).
Really good scissors and paste.
Tracing paper (so I can trace the picture I'm going to be recreating, to give myself a better sense of what size and shape shreds I'll need).
A compass (so I can cut really round pieces) and a cutting edge (I'm not so hot on straight lines)
A hobby for Scooter, because whom are we kidding, he's going to think this is irresistible.
Oh, and a 57th Street Gallery for my first showing. But that should be no problem.

The great thing is if I start right now, I'll have enough of these incredible pieces of art for Chanukah and Christmas presents for every single person I've ever met and a few I've only heard about through rumor and innuendo.

I understand that now that I've put this great idea out on the Internet for the entire world to see and steal, I could end up with a, in the immortal words of Gertrude Stein, "We did it first and then they did it pretty," situation. There are artistes out there who are better at cutting straight lines than me.

But what the hey. As long as they don't plagiarize The Shade Of The Moon, I'll be happy!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Shade Of The Moon Has Arrived!

My first copy arrived today.

Priority mail too. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt loves me.

I know you know exactly what The Shade Of The Moon looks like, but here's what it looks like on my dining room table.
 
Here's what it looks like meeting its fellow Houghton Mifflin Harcourt moon books.
 
 
Although Scooter had many opportunities to read the book on my computer, he held out for the hardcover.
 
Whilst spoiled himself, Scooter does not like spoilers.
 
Since The Shade Of The Moon will be coming out in paperback and Chinese and audio, I felt it should get together with Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In in hardcover, paperback, Chinese and audio.
 
 
Then I remembered The Shade Of The Moon Survival Kit Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had created.
 
 
 
 
And while Scooter enjoyed the book itself, the Survival Kit green whistle was a lot tastier.
 
 
I hope on August 13, you'll like The Shade Of The Moon as much as you'd like a green whistle!
 
 

 
 
 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Never Write. I Never Call.

Life is just summerish around here. And unless I have a real reason to work in the summer, I tend not to.

So I've been hanging out with friends and reading a lot and visiting my mother and playing with Scooter and trying to keep up to date with emails and scolding myself when I don't.

But to be honest, I don't even scold myself all that fervently.

At some point, something noteworthy will happen, and when it does you'll be the second to know (presumably I'll be the first).

In the meantime, I think I'll use Scooter as a role model and take a nice long nap!

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Gun Is Quick But Google's Quicker

Now that that Harry Potter dame has confessed all, and the sales of her "Oops, I never meant for you to find out" mystery novel have skyrocketed, the time has come for me to admit that I, Mickey Spillane, better known as the feared, and let's face it, venerated tough guy author of Kiss Me, Deadly, have been masquerading as children's book writer Susan Beth Pfeffer for the past 45 years.

Yeah, it was me, the feared, and let's face it, venerated, author of I, The Jury and The Girl Hunters, who wrote Evvie At Sixteen and Meg Makes A Friend.

At first, the deception was easy enough for a feared, and let's face it, venerated tough guy author such as myself. I picked the name of some going nowhere NYU student, and began to write Just Morgan. Just Morgue is more my style, but what you think is a joke ends up being a secondary income you come to depend on for those little things in life like private jets and acting lessons.

But as the years progressed, the lies piled on top of lies. It wasn't enough to be some NYU grad with no past and not much of a present. I had to flesh my creation out. Not that kind of girly voluptuous flesh I'm used to creating either. More like nearsighted and dumpy with hair that goes nowhere. Just to keep from going crazy, I added a few details. 101 year old mother. Grandfather who was a rabbi in Transylvania. Make believe friends with funny names like Marci.

The giveaway was the phony cat Scooter. An homage, as my French worshippers, would say, to my gal pal Ayn Rand.

Not really a cat


 By now everybody knows she spent 1941-1956  (with a little time off for WW II) playing shortstop for the New York Yankees under the moniker Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto. "Aynie sweetie," I said to her once. "Why shortstop? Why not center field?"

She lowered her seduce me eyes. "Even an Objectivist dame needs to lay down a sacrifice sometimes," she moaned.

I hadn't counted on that Booklist reviewer being on the one to blow my cover. But when she called The Shade Of The Moon "brutal," it was game, set, and murder. You google "Mickey Spillane" + brutal, you got 289,000 different places to call your own. "Susan Beth Pfeffer" + brutal nets you less than half that. Anyone with a search box and a gat was going to know.

Oh well. 45 years was a good run.  'Course I'll never match the Marquis de Sade's record of 145 years masquerading as Louisa May Alcott. The old kinkmeister always liked his broads little!



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Another Good Review For The Shade Of The Moon

It comes from Booklist Online (well, technically, it comes from my editor who took it from Booklist Online).

Booklist Online requires membership before you can read their reviews, so I won't put the entire review up here, just the nice complimentary part*:

   
  Shade of the Moon.
 
  Pfeffer, Susan Beth (author).

  Aug. 2013. 304p. Harcourt, hardcover,      $17.99 (9780547813370). Grades 7-10.
REVIEW. First published July 3, 2013 (Booklist Online)

The pampered and weak Jon is not a particularly likable character, but in some ways that intensifies the story, as the moral choices he makes become successively more complicated. Pfeffer’s well-written take on what life might be as it returns to “normal” is sometimes brutal and always depressingly real. — Ilene Cooper
 
 
Of course, I don't think of Jon as weak or even all that pampered, and I like him, but then again, he wouldn't exist without me and if I don't like him, who will (don't answer that).
 
Anyway, I'm pleased the book is "well-written," and since "brutal" and "depressingly real" are terms no one who knows me ever associates me with ("cuddly" and "absurdly optimistic" are more often bandied about), I am very pleased with this review, and hope is the second of many such.
 
 
*The rest of the review is pretty much plot synopsis. I didn't leave out a single negative word.

 
 
 
 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I Always Thought Bloodsucking Was The Publisher's Job

The other day, having nothing better to do, I googled my grandfather, Grandfather Rabbi Pfeffer. Much to my delight, I found an entry about him in Orthodox Judaism In America: A Biographical Dictionary And Sourcebook.

Now I knew Grandfather Rabbi Pfeffer was an important rabbi and Talmudic scholar. Once or twice, I've been asked if I were related to him, even though he was dead more than a decade before my birth. But what I hadn't known was that my father, the last of the Pfeffer children to be born in the old country, was actually from Bitchkov*, Transylvania.

My father always said he was born in Hungary. He never said Transylvania.

My brother scoured Wikipedia, and assured me that Transylvania at that particular point in history was in Hungary. But still. You think you know a man, and he ends up coming from Transylvania.
Not to mention that this makes me one quarter Transylvanian. I remain uncertain which quarter, but I do like my hamburgers really rare.

Now if I were into genealogy, as many of my friends and relatives are, I could have found this Transylvania stuff a long time ago. No doubt Grandfather Rabbi Pfeffer is in Who's Who In Bitchkov, or Great Transylvanians I Have Known And Loved.

But while I really understand the appeal of genealogy, I've never been particularly curious about my ancestral geography. Bitchkov, Transylvania, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, it's all the same to me. Neither of my parents ever expressed any interest in returning to their birthplaces, so they don't have much aura of mystery to me.

However, the having nothing better to do is of interest and concern to me. I've been thinking about my life a lot lately, and it's occurred to me that I'm in need of a hobby.

As it happens, I have a lot of interests. I'm always reading articles online about new dinosaurs or ancient burial grounds. But an interest isn't a hobby. An interest is when you read an article. A hobby requires actually doing something. Maybe even leaving the house to do it.

Only I can't think of any hobbies that I really want to spend time (and possibly money) on. So I decided to turn to you and ask if you know of any good hobbies. Maybe one of your suggestions will be perfect for me. Maybe it'll get me thinking about something I've never considered before.

So do me a favor, and tell me about hobbies. Your hobbies, your friends' hobbies, some bizarre hobby you read about once. I'm open to all possibilities, except for those that involve spending a lot of time with the undead!


*My father never met a pun he didn't love, but I don't know how he would have felt about being called a son of a Bitchkov, which is why I'm putting this as a footnote.



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Hair Held Up Better Than My Tire

I had a great time at the American Library Association Conference.

You expected anything else?

There were no thunderstorms in either direction on Thursday and the flight was smooth and easy and on time. I took a shuttle bus to the hotel, where my room was waiting for me. I ate the world's most expensive room service hamburger for supper and made phone calls and read and relaxed.

Friday I ate an equally expensive breakfast, then took a shuttle bus with one of the many helpful and really nice Houghton Mifflin Harcourt people. We got to my panel discussion early enough that I could say hello to the librarian son of one of my best friends.

Then I got on the panel. Here we are:


Cory Doctorow, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Marie Lu, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dressen


 

After we finished paneling, I convinced Mr. Doctorow and Ms. Lu that they were willing to have lunch with me. We scurried over to the Hyatt Hotel restaurant (nothing like eating local). Mr. Doctorow and Ms. Lu discussed working for Disney, gaming, and fighter piloting. I waited my turn, then regaled them with the story of Mrs. Fitzherbert and George IV, and the exact circumstances of Queen Victoria's conception. Oddly enough, Mr. Doctorow and Ms. Lu left almost immediately thereafter.

I then found a cab and asked the driver to take me to the Art Institute Of Chicago. He refused. It seems that having a parade with over 2 million people in attendance affects which streets can be driven on in Chicago and which cannot. So he left me about a half mile away from the Art Institute and told me to keep walking straight. The Art Institute would be on the right, and there'd be statues of two lions to let me know I'd gotten to the right place.
 
I hadn't expected the lions to be hockey players, but in Chicago that day, everyone was a hockey player or a librarian. Those were your only options.
 
The Art Institute is a phenomenal museum, which I would have enjoyed even more if my feet hadn't hurt from having to walk a half mile to get there. But the weather was beautiful and the walk was fun and I saw paperweights and miniature rooms and pictures of naked people and famous Impressionist paintings, and the Art Institute is the kind of museum where you can't possibly see everything and everything you do see is well worth the seeing.
 
Saturday was my big autographing day. First I went to the conference and walked around looking for free stuff. I mostly limited my free stuff to carrying bags to put the free stuff which I didn't take in. I don't know why I was so carrying bag obsessed, but I brought home about a half dozen of them, none of which I've put away, since I don't exactly know where to put them.
 
But then came the autographing, which is one of my all time favorite things to do, and which was even more fun than ever before because I got to meet Ing and Nora Durbin and Mr. Cavin. Ing had already begun reading The Shade Of The Moon, so I tested her on where she was in the book, while Mr. Cavin put his hands over his ears so he wouldn't hear any spoilers.
 
You have no idea how exciting it was for me to meet people who read my blog. You guys are legends to me, and it turns out  at least three of you are actually real.
 
I autographed for a tad longer than I was supposed to, because I'm prone to chatting with people who tell me they like my books. Also it takes a while to write Accept The Impossible and Susan Beth Pfeffer and June 29, 2013 in books.
But eventually the fabulous people of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt pushed me out of there, and I promptly got a cab that took me to the airport. My flight left a little late, but got to Newark on time, there being no thunderstorms to deal with. I carried my suitcase and all the empty bags to my car, and within fifteen minutes of arrival, got a flat tire.
 
If you ever have a choice between spending three wonderful days in Chicago, meeting authors and librarians and people who read your blog and going to a museum and eating expensive room service meals or sitting in your car at twilight on the side of a highway where everyone is whizzing past you at 70 miles per hour while you wait to be rescued, choose the former. Trust me on that.
 
But eventually I did get rescued and I drove home safely, where Scooter greeted me by telling me repeatedly how glad he was that I was there.
 
He wasn't alone. My time in Chicago was wonderful, but I was just as glad to be home as he was to see me!