Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hope Is The Thing With Tar And Feathers

What can I tell you. I spent the morning watching the latest Alberto Gonzales hearing.

Last night, however, was considerably more fun. I went to the Moffat Library in Washingtonville, NY (go to Chester and make a left) for their Life As We Knew It discussion and cookies (home baked, chocolate chip with almonds, seriously yummy).

It turns out having people sitting around listening to me go on and on and on about one of my books is great fun (at least for me). In addition to the cookies, there were several high points. In attendance was a boy named Carlos, which is the name of Alex's older brother in the dead & the gone and extremely coincidentally, that very morning I'd decided what had happened to Carlos if I get to write the third book (if I don't, I still know what happened to him).

Then there was the moment where using only those methods of persuasion Alberto Gonzales thinks aren't legally torture, I got a couple of the mothers to admit they cried while reading LAWKI. Fool that I am, I forgot to ask them when and how many tissues they'd gone through. Instead I cackled gleefully while releasing them from the rack.

Carol, the librarian (she has a last name, but I'm always loathe to identify people unless given permission and I forgot to put her on the rack to get it) led the discussion with great skill and tact, even if that did mean I didn't get to talk 100% of the time. She also provided us with fliers on emergency preparedness, and a grab bag of food mentioned in LAWKI. Much to my sorrow, someone else got the high class chocolate. I got the Lime Jello.

Now for the moment you've all been waiting for. How did I inscribe the books?

I ended up with Always Have Hope. I like it for a lot of reasons, including the fact that I make a really nice "y." Also when I sign copies of the dead & the gone, I'll inscribe them Never Lose Faith, although now that I think about it, my capital "F"s could use some work.

You think Emily Dickinson didn't worry about those things? You'll never see a copy of The Shortest And Therefore Bestest Poems Of Emily Dickinson inscribed "Fondly- Emily Dickinson" on ebay, because her capital "F"s weren't so hot either.

But if she e-mails me, I'll let her know what happened to Carlos. And offer her some Lime Jello.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Problem With "For Esme- With Love And Squalor " Is Not Everyone Is Named Esme

I have a problem, and I'm hoping the readers of this blog can help me out.

In less than a week, I'm making my first Life As We Knew It public appearance. It will be at the Moffat library in Washingtonville, NY, and I've been looking forward to it (and the cookies I've been promised) for months now.

Following that, I'll be dropping in at the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, VT. And I found out, just a few minutes ago, that I'll be a guest of Harcourt for NCTE in New York City in November.

I know from my obsessive googling that the Moffat Library has purchased ten copies of LAWKI to give to people in attendance (you would think the cookies would be enticement enough). And those ten people are going to expect me to inscribe their books.

It wouldn't surprise me if someone at the Flying Pig wants an inscription as well. And the word "autographing" was used in the e-mail Harcourt sent me about NCTE.

So here's the problem. I have never found a phrase I really like to use when inscribing my books. I like the To Fill In The Blank part (I enjoy trying to guess how people spell their first names), and I'm quite comfy with Sue Pfeffer and the date. It's the in between stuff that I have trouble with.

I used to inscribe "Keep on reading" although I don't remember who suggested it to me, and frankly I never liked it. I went through a "I hope you enjoy my book" stage, but that's a lot of words and besides it makes me sound emotionally needy. My brother's message on his answering machine a long time ago was "Peace and joy" and I borrowed that for a bit, but it's a little weird to inscribe. Then I switched over to "Best Wishes" but that suggests that somewhere I'm wishing someone else "Second Best Wishes," which would be kind of rude.

Add to the mix the fact that LAWKI is all about, well, death and dead people and the end of life on earth, and all those happy inscriptions sound even less appropriate.

Now I could write "Impeach Bush" since that's what I write on dollar bills every now and again, but I'm the guest of the Moffat Library and the Flying Pig Bookstore and Harcourt, and it's within the realm of possibility one or more of those worthy organizations might not approve of the inscription (regardless of how they feel about the sentiment).

So I'm turning to you. I figure everyone reading this blog has either inscribed a book or had a book inscribed or knows someone who inscribed a book or had a book inscribed or dreams of inscribing a book or having a book inscribed or dreams of knowing someone who inscribed a book or had a book inscribed. Forgive me if I left anyone out.

So could you please, either in the comments section or if you're shy by e-mail, come up with some suggestions? The more the better, because I'd love to have a choice. If I go with any of them, I'll announce it. Knowing me, I'll even tell people as I'm signing my books. I'm never reluctant to share credit.

But the cookies are all mine.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Fine Art Of Titling A Blog Entry...

will not be demonstrated this time. Frankly, this hardly counts as an entry. It's more like a business report.

First off, there's a new entry in my upcoming appearances. I'll be visiting The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vt. on Thursday, Aug. 2. I'm very excited about this, since it will be the official debut of the dead & the gone. I'm planning to read a selection from it. I'm pretty sure I know which one too. There's a food giveaway scene in Life As We Knew It and there's one in the dead & the gone and they make a nice compare and contrast. So that's what I'm leaning towards.

I'm also very excited because the owners of The Flying Pig Bookstore seem incredibly nice. LAWKI has been supported by the independent bookstore owners throughout America, and I am very grateful to them. Also Vermont in August sounds real nice to me.

The second, and final, bit of business is about the audio books of LAWKI I offered to all of you. One's been sent off, one is waiting for the person to e-mail me a name and address (you know who you are, which is more than I do) and one remains on my kitchen counter.

Don't be shy. I have a lot of them. I'm low on mailing envelopes, but I can always buy more.

See. Brief, concise, and businesslike.

That'll never happen again.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Bronx Is Up And The Battery's Drowned

I've been spending the past week doing the absolute final this is it I won't do any more rewrites on the dead & the gone. Although I am of the Maynard G. Krebs school when it comes to work, I actually kind of liked doing the rewrites, and I'm sad to say goodbye (at least until the copyedited version of the manuscript shows up) to Alex and the other characters I've been so involved with for many months now.

My editor suggested that since people in Pennsylvania had an immediate response to the asteroid striking the moon, perhaps the people of New York City ought to as well. Reluctantly, I had to agree. So this rewrite I put those reactions in, and let me tell you, that was a lot trickier than you might think.

For those of you who have never driven in Manhattan, some avenues go uptown and some downtown and some have two way traffic and then there's Broadway which goes downtown and uptown and sideways to boot.

My own personal reality is I drive on West End Ave. when I go into the city, and West End goes two ways, which is very thoughtful of it. But I needed to know which way the north of Central Park avenues go (south is easy- 6th goes uptown and 5th goes downtown and the rest pretty much follow suit), and it was suprisingly difficult to find that out. But I couldn't have the terror stricken New Yorkers drive downtown, because that's where the water is, just the kind of mistake those nasty reviewers pick up on, along with characters' failing to buy rice.

Finally Wikipedia (what a great joint) gave me the answer. Amsterdam goes up and Columbus down or vice versa. I put it on a post-it, but now that the rewrites are finished, I've thrown the post-it out.

I realized last night, during a bout of post rewrites insomnia, that of all the characters I've written, Alex is the one least like me. He's a boy, for starters. He's school smart, ambitious, hard working, responsible to a fault, unthinkingly sexist (which drove my edtior crazy), religious, and he really likes rules. Put him in the Regency romance novel, The Insufferable Lord Summerville, and he'd lower his defenses only when he falls in love with the beautiful and quick witted Miss Hackensack.

In spite of the fact I have no friends like Alex and would probably loathe him if I ever met him, I love him as a character. Put a character like that in the worst of all possible situations, and he's scared and vulnerable and desperate. I miss him already.

I'm delighted to report I'm not alone in my Alex love. Marion Lloyd Books, the British publisher of Life As We Knew It will also be publishing the dead & the gone. And Listening Library, which did the audio version of LAWKI, will be doing the same for the dead & the gone (although I assume they won't be able to use Emily Bauer, who did such a great job with LAWKI, as the reader).

In celebration of knowing there's going to be an audio version of the dead & the gone, I'm going to give a still in shrinkwrap audio book of LAWKI to the first three people who e-mail me to ask for one. Keep it or give it to the worthy organization of your choice. Use that neat little link to the left, and just write to say you want one. I'll reply and ask for your name and mailing address and then you'll reply with the info and then the next time I go to the post office, towards the end of the week thunderstorms permitting, I'll mail it off. I've already put them on my kitchen counter, so the rest is up to you.

I'm off now to write an outline for The Insufferable Lord Summerville. Recycling is good for the planet, you know.