Saturday, June 30, 2007

Virgin #1093 Always Bagged Her Own Groceries

Through my continued obsessive Googling of Life As We Knew It, I recently found that Barnes & Noble doesn't think LAWKI is going to win the highly coveted (by me at least) Quill Book Award.

I discovered this heartbreaking fact by following the Barnes & Noble LAWKI Quill link to three pages of Quill nominees. In each category, one nominee was featured, complete with minature book cover, and the other four (LAWKI, alas, included) were casually listed to the right, under Oh Yeah Other Nominees.

Barnes & Noble! Which shares a common ancestor with the dead & the gone on their & side.

Naturally enough, my thoughts immediately went to St. Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins. For those of you who failed to take (or took and failed) Northern Renaissance Art First Semester, here's the story of St. Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins.

Way back in the fourth century, the father of the then Princess Ursula sent her off to marry Conan Meriadoc of Amorica. Ursula and her 11,000 BFFs (who, based on the phototgraphs I've seen, looked just like St. Ursula only a lot smaller) packed their bags and left. After a few adventures more interesting to them than me, their boat crashed, and they met some Huns, who, prepping up for the 20th century, beheaded them all. Only Ursula got to be a saint, because she was the only one with a first name. The other 11,000 virgins, every bit as saintly as Ursula, simply became Oh Yeah Other Martyrs.

If you ask me, and the Vatican has not, the real saint in this story is Conan Meriadoc of Amorica, who was willing to have his future wife's 11,000 girlfriends move in with him. Even if he'd arranged marriages between them and his 11,000 best buds, there were still bound to be problems. What if Best Bud #9024 married Virgin #2872 but really loved #4467? What if Best Bud #876 really loved Best Bud #5599? And why hasn't HBO turned this into a series?

Writers, with the possible exception of Emily Dickinson, don't go into the business to become Oh Yeah Other Anythings. We all want to be St. Ursula, only not beheaded. It's bad enough being reviewed by Kirkus.

Because of my extraordinary maturity and winsome desperation, I am willing to negotiate with Barnes & Noble. If they feature LAWKI on their Quill page, I will rename its companion volume, the dead & the noble.

That's what Conan Meriadoc of Amorica would want me to do.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Bridesmaid Wore Black

I got a phone call the other evening from Leo Tolstoy. I guess restraining orders only go one way.

"Heard anything new about the Arizona Young Readers Award?" he asked.

"Not yet," I said. "Why?"

"Because it doesn't exist!" he proclaimed, in that pre-Russian Revolution way of his. "It was replaced by the Grand Canyon Reader Award, and your stinkin' book wasn't even nominated!"

Although devastated, I wasn't about to let him have the last word. "Life As We Knew It is still nominated for five statewide awards," I said. "You're just jealous because you never won the Nobel Prize For Literature."

"Like you have," he said.

"Maybe I haven't," I said, saving my zinger for last. "But I'm still alive. You're dead, so you'll never win."

Either that made him really mad or his cell phone connection conked out. I stood still for a moment, holding my now silent phone in one hand, while wiping away tears of anguish with the other. If I'd had a third hand, I would have gotten some chocolate.

What if Tolstoy was right? Only the dead know Brooklyn, but that doesn't mean that's all they know.

I put the phone down, wiped away the last of my tears, rammed some medicinal chocolate chips into my brave and courageous mouth, then went online to see how this terrible mistake had been made (and to find someone to blame while I was at it).

The first thing I did was confirm that there really had been a link saying that LAWKI was nominated for the Arizona Young Readers Award. And there was. I was deceived, not deceptive.

Then I checked out the Grand Canyon Reader Award. Sure enough, it had replaced the Arizona Young Readers Award, and indeed, LAWKI, masterpiece though it is, wasn't nominated.

A fresh bout of tears and chocolate chips ensued. But I soldiered on, and after hours on line, devoted exclusively to resarch and Sudoku, I discovered what had happened.

The Amphitheater school system, in Arizona, had most generously nominated LAWKI for their own award, the Amphitheater Young Readers Award. And Yahoo (curse you Yahoo) had decided to label this the Arizona Young Readers Award, no doubt for the nefarious purpose of embarrassing me and increasing the value of their Hershey's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip stock.

So it is with great sadness (and a smear of chocolate on my upper lip), that I erase from the left side of my blog the Arizona Young Readers Award listing.

Lucky for me, I still have a shot at the Nobel.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Red Damask Drapes Are On Order

I've done a little redecorating on the left side of this blog.

For starters, I've eliminated What I'm Currently Reading. It's summertime, so a less cluttered look is desirable. Besides, it felt too much like homework.

I did finish reading Love And Louis XIV. In an interesting coinicidence, Louis XIV , Peter Lorre and Lady Jane Grey all died at the end of the books I read about them.

The moral of that story is if you want to live forever, make sure no one writes your biography (hey, I'm safe!).

I also added another appearance, May 20 at Middletown Thrall Library, in Middletown, NY. People may wonder how such a reclusive writer like me (I was mistaken just last Thursday for Thomas Pynchon at my neighborhood Shoprite)gets so many invites. Well, I demanded Middletown Thrall let me in, and since they're my library, they had very little choice in the matter (although they were explicit that the appearance will be cancelled if I have any overdue books).

The Cornwall library visit was pretty easy to come by, since I was a bridesmaid at the wedding of the woman in charge of their mother/daughter bookclub. Of course she had to let me be a bridesmaid since I hosted her wedding, but that doesn't matter. What does is they're still married and she's still talking to me.

Washingtonville was the toughest, since that involved strangers. After some protracted, occasionally heated, negotations, they agreed to supply the cookies. That's something Thomas Pynchon always insists on.

The other new item to the left, to the left (I am so au courant in pop music; it comes from my pathetic addiction to American Idol) is an addition to the list of awards Life As We Knew It is currently nominated for. Yes, it's back up to seven, with the Michigan Great Lakes Great Books Award nomination placed in perfect alphabetical order between the Kentucky Bluegrass Award and the Nevada Young Readers Award.

I didn't go to elementary school for nothing.

Speaking of school, while I agree this shouldn't give me any unfair advantage, my brother got his Master's Degree from the University Of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Michigan (whose library system doesn't have any copies of Life As We Knew It, not that I'm complaining, mind you).

According to Wikipedia (and who should know better), not a single one of Leo Tolstoy's siblings ever went to the University Of Michigan. Rumor has it one of his brothers was a redshirted quarterback at Ohio State though.

I'm off to tea and cookies and a little decorating talk with J. D. Salinger. If Tommy Pynchon or Leo Tolstoy drop by, I'll give them your regards.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Clement Snares A Low Line Drive Off The Bat Of Andre Norton

Those of you who love the smell of schadenfruede in the morning have noticed that the list of awards Life As We Knew It is nominated for has shrunk by one. It didn't win the Hal Clement Award. It already didn't win the Andre Norton Award (yes, there are many many awards it didn't win, but at least it was nominated for the Clement and the Norton).

It's quite possible LAWKI will be a bridesmaid of a book, occasionally nominated but never winning. But as a wise man would have said if he'd thought of it, better to be a bridesmaid than to be Stella Dallas.

And simply by having my book nominated for the Clement and the Norton awards, I was able to discern that Hal Clement and Andre Norton both sound like baseball players.

Meanwhile, I am pleased to report that LAWKI now has 30 reviews on its Amazon page, while War And Peace remains stuck at 276. Leo Tolstoy (sounds like a chess player) must be calling all his friends and relations, begging them to post ("You don't have to read it, just give it five stars and call it a masterpiece").

Not that I'm speaking from personal experience, mind you.

In other good news, I'm getting e-mails over at, which makes me very happy.I love the comments posted here on my blog (thank you, all who have written) and I love reading about LAWKI on other people's blogs (thank you, all who have written), and I love getting mail from people who like my books (thank you, all who have written). I never knew writing a book could be so much fun.

Finally, The Dead And The Gone is now officially the dead & the gone. The title, no capitals and & included, has passed muster with the muster passers over at Harcourt. I'm very pleased about this, since I can't imagine thinking of the book any other way. I realized with a start that the dead & the gone has only existed for seven or so months. It's hard for me to remember a time without it.

Of course once I get the copy edited version, I'll rue the day that meteor ever met the moon. But until then, life as I know it is just fine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I suppose I could blame George Bush

Early on in my career, I was hired to do a writing job, which I guess I didn't do too well, since my work was never used and I was told (in the most polite of terms) never to darken their doorstep again.

I felt hopelessly inadequate.

Shortly thereafter, I read an article in the New York Times that changed my life. It said that when women failed at a job, they took full responsibility. When men failed at a job, they blamed someone else.

Instantly I understood the benefits of the male perspective, and thereafter have always found someone else to blame. Sometimes it's a challenge, but there's usually someone around to take on the responsibilities of my failures.

Trust me. The system works.

The other day, I discovered a most likely negative review of Life As We Knew It. I can only assume it was negative, because I didn't read the bulk of it. I never read bad reviews of my work, a policy which has enabled me to maintain my peaches 'n cream complexion and robust ego.

I did notice in my rapid perusal that the author of the review claimed if she were confronted with the end of the world, she'd think to buy rice.

I'd give you a link to this review, since my editor has been kind enough to try and teach me how, but I'm not about to start linking with something that most likely has very little good to say about my book. However my editor has earned a pass on bearing responsibility for my failures (at least for as long as it takes me to write this blog entry), and thus, although every instinct I have says, "It's all my editor's fault Mom didn't buy rice!" I can't foist blame on her. Drat.

But it's clearly not my fault. Someone should have noticed the great rice shortage. I didn't, because I don't much like rice (although I can hardly stand to be in the same room as a glass of milk and Mom did see to it that they bought milk, which is proof, if any is needed, that one is more likely to remember something that one loathes than to remember something that one has only mild disdain for).

Still, a lot of people work at Harcourt, and one of them should have said, "Why didn't Mom buy rice and thus in the future no one will be able to write a bad review of Life As We Knew It and mention the lack of that particular staple of human existence?" That's their job, after all. My job is to maintain my peaches 'n cream complexion, and I certainly don't ask Harcourt for help with that.

On Monday, I got an e-mail from my editor saying the official title for The Dead And The Gone is now the dead & the gone. At least for the time being.

Every part of this title is my choice. I named the book The Dead And The Gone in the first place, and then when I saw my editor referring to it as The Dead & the Gone, suggested keeping the & and dumping the capitals

I find being fully responsible for anything very uncomfortable. Success, as far as I'm concerned, has but one mother, and failure as many parents as I can come up with.

The possibility that the title will be loathed and there's not enough rice in the book is enough to make me desperate. Soon I'll be stopping strangers on the street, pointing my finger at them, and crying out, "It's all your fault!"

Oh wait. I do that already...

Friday, June 8, 2007

Politics And Religion

As I may have confessed already, I live over at Google, searching for comments about Life As We Knew It. I only read the favorable ones, which ordinarily would be quite the time saver, except LAWKI has gotten so many that I now have a Twilight Zone kind of relationship with my computer, scared to leave it even for a moment, just in case someone somewhere is posting something nice about my book (yes, I know the comments don't just vanish, but why take chances).

The other day I had the good fortune to stumble onto another favorable comment, which I would provide a link to except I don't know how (I tried, believe me, I tried). An actual college professor wrote about LAWKI, saying she'd listened to the CD (which is wonderful, by the way. A young actress named Emily Bauer does the reading and she's just astonishing). The professor said many nice things about LAWKI, and then she wrote,in reference to Miranda's mother calling the president an idiot and the only member of the clergy portrayed in the book being not such a nice guy "...a couple of things...that are very inconsequential but do reflect Pfeffer's views on politics and religious demagogues."

I would have gotten all nicely indignant except LAWKI does reflect my views on politics and religious demagogues. I just don't remember ever having said so in public. Doesn't mean I didn't, just that I don't remember (which qualifies me to be Attorney General, at least during this administration).

I actually feel I've gotten off very easy in the politics/religion department, as far as LAWKI is concerned. My editor never even hinted that it's not nice to call the president an idiot or that a kindly rabbi might make a nice addition to the story. The Junior Library Guild and Scholastic have both taken it for their book clubs. And none of the big guy reviewers (SLJ, PW, Horn Book, etc.) mentioned a thing.

When I was working out the details for LAWKI, there were a couple of things I knew. One was I wanted Mom to be a real person, with real attitudes. The other was I didn't want the family to be religious. Since I was writing the book for my own entertainment, I wrote it exactly that way. If I regret anything, it's having the president come from Texas. He needed to come from a non-coastal southern state, but there are plenty of those, and not all of them have volcanoes.

I felt a strong desire to have The Dead And The Gone be as different as possible from Life As We Knew It, while still being a YA novel. So in addition to the main character being a boy in New York City, he's a very religious boy, from a very religious family. Alex (you might as well get on a first name basis with him) doesn't depend on his faith to save him or anyone he loves. It's just a part of him, something that offers comfort and support.

And the worst I say about the president this time is that he's very optimistic.

Meanwhile, in the title department, my editor is still thinking about new possibilities, but has taken to writing it as The Dead & the Gone. I think &s are kind of sexy, although they are a nuisance to type. I e-mailed her a little while ago, suggesting the dead & the gone for the jacket, which I think would be tres dramatique (that's French for really really sexy).

And The Dead And The Gone, The Dead & the Gone, and the dead & the gone got its first review. I asked my cousin Ellen to read it and she loved it. Granted she's blood kin, which might make her partial to me, but she's also Ellen Conford, who could write about a meteor hitting the moon, causing earthquakes and volcanoes and tsunamis and epidemics, and make it laugh out loud funny. So here are some of her highly edited quotes (taken, without permission, from her e-mails to me):

...the characters are excellent...
The outdoor scenes, the physical struggles, are amazing...I felt the cold and the strain.
Very rich plot, extreme suspense.

If you don't believe me, subpoena the e-mails. Try to get Karl Rove's while you're at it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Great War And Peace/ Life As We Knew It Death Match

A number of people (okay, nobody, but zero is a number, and if it isn't it should be) have contacted me to ask if War And Peace were nominated for a Quill Book Award in the Teen/Young Adult category, as Life As We Knew It is, which one would be more likely to win.

Not having read both of these books, and thus freed from the obligation of using literary merit as a criterion, I will employ the same highly objective system, previously demonstrated in blogs just past, to determine the answer.

Number Of Amazon Reviews

Currently War And Peace has 276 Amazon reviews, while Life As We Knew It has 28. So on the face of it, War And Peace wins in that category.

But wait! War And Peace was published in 1869, while Life As We Knew It was published in 2006. So War And Peace has had 137 years to accumulate reviews on Amazon, while sweet innocent Life As We Knew It has had less than a year.

Dividing 276 by 137, one sees that War And Peace is averaging a mere 2 reviews a year, while Life As We Knew It is averaging 28. Thus, 137 years from now, one can assume that Life As We Knew It will have 3836 Amazon reviews, while poor little War And Peace will be limping along with a mere 552 reviews.

Length of Book

Life As We Knew It is 337 pages long. War And Peace is 1424 pages long.

However, the primary reason why War And Peace is so long is because of the names of the characters, Ivan Ivanisovich Junior and Napolean Napoleanovich The First. But the characters in Life As We Knew It, Matt, Mom, Jon, and I, all have very short names.

Through the miracles of modern computers, I changed all the characters' names in War And Peace to Matt. Having done so, War And Peace is now 297 pages long, making it a little harder to follow the plot, but much more desirable for book reports.

The Misery And Suffering Quotient

Listed in the order of misery and suffering:

The Mattonic Wars plus some unhappy serfs (War And Peace)

Tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanos and epidemics and not having a date for the prom (Life As We Knew It)

Ha! I win again!!

Be sure to tune in next time when Life As We Knew It takes on the tag team of Madame Bovary and The Winston-Salem North Carolina Yellow Pages!

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Mighty Quill

When I first began this blog, lo these many hours ago, Life As We Knew It was nominated for six awards. But on Saturday, Google was kind enough to inform me that a seventh had been added, the Quill Book Award, in their Young Adult/Teen category.

The Quill Award is, as Winnie The Pooh would put it, A Very Big Award. You can tell because the award ceremony is black tie and shown on TV. Further proof is that among this year's nominees, although fortunately not in the Young Adult/Teen category, are Al Gore and Nora Roberts (my mother's dream ticket).

The five books nominated in the YA/Teen department are American Born Chinese, The Green Glass Sea, Incantation, Life As We Knew It, and Sold. A pretty darn classy list.

Since I haven't read all of those pretty darn classy books, I decided to evaluate LAWKI's chances of winning by means other than literary merit. I went with three highly objective criteria.

1. Number of Amazon Reviews

At 28 reviews, Life As We Knew It has the most. Of course Review #26 only gave LAWKI one star, but we're talking quantity, not quality.

2. Length Of Book

Weighing in at 352 pages, Life As We Knew It is far and away the longest of the five books. Why it's twice as long as Incantation, suggesting (although perhaps it's not for me to do so) that LAWKI is twice as important a book.

If you have any doubts about that particular method, then consider that War And Peace at 1472 pages is 23 times longer than The Dream Life Of Balso Snell (a mere 64 pages) and practically every important literary critic around regards it as being exactly 23 times more important.

I don't make this stuff up, you know.

Okay, last but far from least:

3.The Misery and Suffering Quotient

Listed in order of misery and suffering:

American Born Chinese (racial prejudice)
Sold (sexual slavery)
Incantation (the Spanish Inquisition)
The Green Glass Sea (World War Two)
Life As We Knew It (tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanos and epidemics leading the the end of civilization as we know it)

Ha! I Win!!

Here are some other great things about The Quill Book Award. The award itself is big and impressive looking and can be used as a doorstop. Also they announce the winners in September, but don't have the Televised Awards Ceremony until October, giving the winners (I don't think any of the losers are invited) a full month to lose fifty pounds and buy a new dress (both of which Al Gore could stand to do).

And finally, the Quill Awards specifically say they're rewarding "entertaining and enlightening" books. I think this is a wonderful phrase, and have decided to put it on my tombstone (although not, I hope, in the immediate future). It will replace the current epitaph of "Nice If Unexceptional" which came from a review of one of my books (thank goodness, I've long since forgotten which). I even like it more than the sentimental favorite, "Could Do Better If Tried Harder."

I promise I'll try harder next time (although I make no guarantees about doing better).

Friday, June 1, 2007

Meteors, Moons, and Me

I have no idea what I'm doing. But when has that ever stopped me?

In October 2006, my 74th book, Life As We Knew It, was published, and I was introduced to the joys of following the successes and failures of a book on the internet.

Before then, I'd get reviews and royalty statements and fan mail and that was it. But since October, I've had the unmitigated joy of reading what people say about my book in their blogs.

Okay, mildly mitigated joy. But mostly just high quality delight. All those people I've never met reading and liking my book. And admitting so in public. Where I could find out, just by begging Google to let me know. What a world.

Of course the irony to this is Life As We Knew It is about the destruction of that world. With the power that comes from writing fiction, I hit the moon with a meteor (actually an asteroid, but I love that alliteration), and pretty much destroyed life on earth.

Naturally enough, I had a wonderful time doing so. I wrote Life As We Knew It purely on spec. I didn't even tell most of the people I know (including my mother, who has never let me forget it) that I was writing the book. But my agent found a wonderful home for it at Harcourt, and the next thing I knew I was trying to figure out a way to keep writing about the destruction of all humanity.

So this winter I wrote a companion novel. Its working title is The Dead And The Gone, but my editor is threatening to come up with a different title, so I can't exactly make a grand announcement, except that whatever it ends up being called, it's scheduled to be published on May 1, 2008 and it'll be my seventy fifth book and I'm gonna have a party. Which the Swedish rights to Life As We Knew It will pay for (the Scholastic advance for LAWKI will pay for my trip to L.A. for the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships; I am a very practical person).

Meanwhile, this morning I sent, by internet magic, the second (and I sincerely hope final) set of rewrites for The Dead And The Gone to my editor. Next step should be copy editing, which renders me homicidal (always nice to have something to look forward to). Somewhere along the way, I'll find out what the book'll be called, and then I'll just sit back and let everyone else do the work. Only I'll be working too, writing this blog. Oh, and learning how to do that neat Amazon link thing. And letting everyone know what book I'm currently reading (a biography of Lady Jane Grey, since you ask, because I watched the movie Lady Jane a week or so ago, and felt a strong desire to see what really happened). And boasting (but in a charming, self-deprecating way) about what's going on with LAWKI and with The Dead And The Gone.

All right. I need to stop. I've written books shorter than this. I'll press Preview, hope for the best, and go off to Amazon to master that linky business.

Wish me luck!