Thursday, February 28, 2008

His Working Title was Story Of O In Iambic Pentameter

I've been hard at play on the Possible Third Book (aka PG47 Story Of O Without Sex). I can't say I've been hard at work on it, because I've been having far too much fun to call it work.

Yesterday, when through sheer willpower I didn't write anything, I came up with one or two new scenes. I've already written 135 pages, which is a lot in ten days, even for me. Days like today, when I really have to do my recycling and have lunch with my mother, break my heart. I just wanna be writing!

I have to admit that in the neverending battle between me and the bleakity bleak, the bleakity bleak is in total control. Caitlin, my poor beleaguered heroine, is rivaling St. Sebastian for martyrdom, although I think she has more of a sense of humor about it.

The real problem (okay, one of several real problems) is that I've gotten it into my adorable delusional head that what I'm writing is, how can I put this, acceptable. Not necessarily to Harcourt, or any other publisher on the face of the earth, but rather in terms of straightline story telling.

Then again, I hear tell that William Shakespeare felt the same way about Titus Andronicus, with its rapes and mutilations, fourteen murders, and Mrs. Andronicus being chopped up for supper and served to her children.

Shakespeare's editor made him cut out the line about the children asking for seconds.

It occurred to me (as these things do) that while I'm a complete illiterate in young adult literature, much of my slowly gained readership is quite well versed in it. Some of you, I know, came to this blog from a sci fi background, and no doubt a handful are here simply because of my extraordinary artistic skills, and of course I can't forget those friends and family who read it because they feel they have to. Smooches to all of you.

But the rest of you actually know something about contemporary YAs. So those of you who do (or those of you who simply want to fool me), can do me a big favor. Could you, either in the comments, or if you're shy, through that darling "e-mail me" box on the upper left, tell me what's acceptable in YAs these days? What little I know suggests that they're mostly about vampires or cliques (and presumably cliquish vampires). Or Nazis. Or sexual slavery. Just about all of which, except for the vampires, P3B flirts with.

Okay. "Flirts" is a bit of a euphemism.

I don't see myself having the willpower to change direction with P3B while I'm writing it. All the new material I come up with increases its quota of ghastlihood. But I figure there's a chance that Harcourt will never choose to read it, and even if it does, it won't be for a few months, which will give me the time to come to my senses and do a major overhauling. That's assuming your comments give me a strong sense that P3B is way over the top (as opposed to only being moderately over the top, which I know is but a dream).

So I really would appreciate it if you'd let me know what becomes of characters in today's YAs. Degradation? Rape? Torture? Murder? Eating their mommies?

Billy Shakespeare and I would both be very grateful.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Just As Long As It Isn't A Charles Colson Book Club Choice

I've been working hard on the Possible Third Book, or as I've taken to thinking of it, Story Of O Without Sex, but even the most hardworking of writers has to throw the garbage out occasionally (that's actual garbage, not P3B garbage, although I've thrown out my share of that as well). I opened the door and what should I find waiting outside but a box with a dozen brand new bright shiny paperbacks of Life As We Knew It.

I knew they were coming, but I didn't expect them quite so soon. A very nice person at Harcourt had told me she'd mailed them out the end of last week. And here it is, the beginning of this week, and what a nice beginning it is.

I scanned the front and back jackets and the neat page inside with all the lovely quotes. For some reason it scanned in black and white (it is a dark and depressing book, although compared to what I've done with the PG47 rated Story Of O Without Sex, LAWKI is Gilligan's Island). In real life, the cover is the exact same shades of dark and depressing blue as the hardcover we all know and love.

Here's the best part. It's embossed! Just like the first hardcover printing of LAWKI, the first paperback printing is multi-dimensional. The moon feels like an orange and the title and my beauteous name feel like a high class wedding invitation.

It is my sincerest hope that the embossing is limited to the first paperback printing, because then all true LAWKI collectors (i.e. me and my mother) will have to run out and buy a second printing just to have a complete set. Well, at 96 my mother doesn't do a lot of running, so I guess I'll be the only one who actually buys a second printing just to have a complete set.

For those of you who don't feel like pressing your face against your computer screen and squinting, the back cover has three quotes from places that end in .com, and a whole list of LAWKI's accomplishments. My favorite is "A CCBC Choice" since I have no idea what that means.

Oh, and on the front of the jacket it says, "The weather finally broke...for good." Which I'm pretty sure Harcourt stole from the UK version (I don't blame them; it's very nifty). And how could I have forgotten- on the back it says: READ THE BOOK EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT:

I'm not sure, but I think EVERYBODY is a pseudonym for Anonymous. We know how popular LAWKI is with Anonymous.

And on the back it also says which if you type into the Google box, takes you right over here! Without even knowing it, my darling blog became a dotcom.

Inside the book, the front page has More Praise for LIFE AS WE KNEW IT, which mostly comes from respectable magazines. In real life it doesn't look nearly this smudgy.

Can you stand even more fabulousness? You can skip reading the entire book and go smack to the end, and there's a sneak peak (don't blame me; that's how they spelled it) for the dead and the gone. First there's a page telling you about it (READ THE VERSION THAT TAKES PLACE IN NEW YORK CITY), and then there's that actual sneak peek- I mean peak- the Saturday May 21 section (Alex goes to church and then to the pizza parlor; compared to Story Of O Without Sex, it's Three's Company).

Guess what? You can look for online discussion guides at ttp:// If you type that into the Google box, it takes you right here also. I'd better start working on those discussion guides (let's discuss how wonderful the dead and the gone is. Also how beauteous its author is).

The rest of my mail wasn't nearly as interesting, but at least there weren't any bills. It's insights like that that make the dead and the gone discussion guides so useful.

I'm off to make my poor heroine suffer some more. She only has one more desperately bleakity bleak event to go before she starts coasting into the fun stuff, like armed battles, tornados, and a whole town with nothing but dead people.

Charles Colson will love it!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

You Have To Kiss A Lot Of Drogs To Find A Prince

Boy, writing books is hard.

Who knew.

I started Possible Third Book on Monday, and zipped through, completing 30 pages by some point on Tuesday. Then Wednesday was volunteer work day and Thursday and Friday I spent rewriting the first 15 pages and completely rewriting 16-30. I think I'm on page 39 now, and once I'm through here, I'll return to work (okay, maybe I'll eat lunch first).

A lot of the reason why I had to rip things to shreds and start all over again is because of my neverending struggle against the bleakity bleak. As of the moment, the bleakity bleak is winning all the primaries and has the lion's share of super delegates. All I can hope for is that the bleakity bleak doesn't plagarize, since most likely I'll be held responsible if it does (life is so unfair).

My new plotting philosophy is I can have one terrible horrible bleakity bleak scene that can be used as a set up for a second terrible horrible bleakity bleak scene, but no matter how tempting a third terrible horrible you know the rest might be, I must say no to it and move on. It's the only power I have over the bleakity bleak, but it's causing me to lose lots of really ghastly moments and a fair amount of sleep (these scenes tend to pop up in the middle of REM cycles). Of course, having only written 39 pages, I can't guarantee that I'll be able to maintain such control. Bleakity bleak is startlingly seductive.

Another reason I did so much rewriting is because this five year after the start of Life As We Knew It the dead and the gone world is still evolving in my mind. I feel like I have the whole thing worked out, and then I start thinking (never a wise move) and I end up adding something or subtracting, and have to rewrite.

For example, I've known since d&g that the post moon world is status based, and if you're on the low end, you are really on the low end. That's pretty much what the story of P3B is about, how Caitlin moves from upper end to lower end and then to upper end again (as I was vacuuming yesterday, I remembered how much I'd enjoyed Sister Carrie, when I read it multiple decades ago, because I loved seeing her move from job to job, promotion to promotion. Of course, it's also a show biz story).

But sometime between Tuesday night and Thursday morning I decided there had to be a term for the lowest caste people, some unattractive word that anyone reading the book would understand to be a term of denigration.

You think naming a character is tough? Try making up a word. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, every single combination of letters has been used for something. And I have standards. I decided I couldn't use a word that kids (theoretically kids might someday read P3B, although if the bleakity bleak takes full control no person under the age of 47 should be allowed anywhere near it) would recognize and not understand in a different context. Like mule or grub or sludge. Sludge in particular is an unattractive sounding word (so is gallbladder, but I couldn't use it either).

So I spent a lot of time over at looking up synonyms for Workers, but none of the possibilities sang to me. I had a fine time checking out Dregs as well. Sometimes a word would just jump out at me (Mung! Go with Mung!), but it never held up to scrutiny. Then I started putting "er" at the ends of things (Munger! Sludger!) but I wasn't thrilled with any of them either.

Thursday night I settled on Drog. It has a nice sci fi sound to it (I can picture laborers on Star Trek the Original being called drogs by one of those full of themselves races with bad hairdos). It's short, punchy, and while it does have something of a Google history, it's not nearly as well used as Plog, which I also considered. I taught drog to my spellcheck, and a good thing too, since I'm prone to typing brog instead. I reversed "b"s and "d"s when I first learned the alphabet, and apparently I still haven't mastered them.

So Caitlin is a now a drog. Although she identifies herself as ,"A drog and an understudy."

I guess by book's end, she'll be saying, "I'm a drog but what I really want to do is direct."

It's what Sister Carrie wanted also!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rice And Famous Part Two

Here's how you can tell the difference between a professional (anything) and an amateur (anything). A professional (anything) can learn from her mistakes.

After people started reading Life As We Knew It, a number of them (more than one, less than 38,000) commented that the family should have been eating rice all along. Not enough rice in the book! they clamoured. Was it a coincidence that they all were card carrying members of the American Rice Association? Well, that's not for me to say.

But today, when I took a break from writing Possible Third Book to buy kitty litter and other essentials at the supermarket, I took a quick stroll down the Bagged Long Lasting Foods section. Lots of rice, lots of beans. Having learned my lesson, I decided that the traveling troupe of players would eat rice and beans for breakfast every single day, for the length of the book.

Only then I remembered that rice grows in rice paddies, and rice paddies are swamplike places and I've thrown the Planet Earth into a four year long drought just because I can. So I have a feeling in another couple of hundred pages, the rice is going to run out, and all those members of the American Rice Association will be clamouring once again.

Unless P3B doesn't get published. In which case, I'll be saved from the wrath of the American Rice Association. Not a bad trade off.

This afternoon, in an effort to inspire me, Google News sent me an alert. Publishers Weekly had an article online about upcoming kids' sequels and follow up books, and one of the ten books discussed was the dead and the gone.

It was definitely a great article. There was a little bit about people wanting galley copies ("I told you so!" the Bolivian Hat yelled from the bathroom wall). There was a sort of actual number of copies of LAWKI in print (close to 40,000). There was an actual number of copies for the first printing of d&g (40,000). Both of those numbers were news to me. To put both of them in perspective, LAWKI's initial print run was 10,500. So Harcourt is either wildly optimistic about d&g or totally insane (and I'm not going to run a poll to determine which).

Here's the link to the entire article. Feel free to notice that the numbers for LAWKI/d&g are the smallest ones of the ten books listed. I noticed for free, but decided not to fret. They're so beyond any other numbers I've ever had that I'm still excited beyond respectability.

Meanwhile, P3B is 30 pages long, mostly double spaced (for some reason my computer decided to do 1 1/2 space for a page or so). Poor Caitlin has endured so much in just 30 pages that I'm considering calling the book The Hell She Chose (I wrote a line where she decides better the hell she chose than the hell chosen for her. I am such an inspirational writer). And if it weren't for the fact that I am absolutely committed to watching American Idol tonight because I have a pile of newspapers that remain unread, and AI is almost as good as baseball for reading, I'd be working on P3B all evening long, since it's so much fun.

Pain. Suffering. Rice. Life is grand!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Post (Birthday) Mortem

I had a very nice birthday. I don't recommend eating birthday cake for seventy though.

The wonderful Becky has published an interview with me. For any of you who might be interested, here's the link:

The poll on whether I should post the possible third book outline ended last night with the majority voting that I should. I'm going to keep it on the blog for a week, and then delete it.

The rules are simple. Don't post comments about the outline. Don't e-mail me your thoughts or comments. I doubt any of you will be inclined to blog about it, but just in case, I'd appreciate it if you didn't (Google tells me everything). It's not that I don't value your opinion. It's that I value it too highly.

There are a couple of references in the outline to characters from Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone. If you think of such things as spoilers, don't read the outline.

I'm posting the outline because a lot of you helped me when I was working through the plot, and I thought you might be interested to see how I incorporated your ideas. Keep in mind, the outline is an organic part of the writing process for me. I changed things in it as recently as last night. If P3B ever gets published, there will be many things that aren't in the outline and a few things that are completely different from it.

Posting the outline will make it easier for me if I blog about writing the book, since I'll assume you'll understand the references to characters and story.

And speaking of writing the book, once I get these blogs posted, that's exactly what I'll be doing. Wish me luck!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Seventy Faces Of Sue

The nice people over at Harcourt (beloved publisher of Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone and just maybe of Possible Third Book) got it into their collective heads that I'd be happy knowing how big my blog's slowly gained readership actually is.

I demurred, but they persisted. So at their collective insistence, I joined up with a service called Feedburner that claims to tell you this sort of stuff. I spent a minimal amount of Wednesday evening signing up, and Feedburner promptly assured me that not enough time had passed for it to give me the numbers I wanted, so I shouldn't feel upset when it said absolutely no one ever read my blog.

The next morning, when Feedburner still informed me that absolutely no one ever read my blog, I decided to play a little trick on it. I went to my mother's apartment, turned on her computer, and went to my blog. I even showed my mother the poll I had going. She oohed and ahhed in appropriate maternal fashion, and then we went searching for Jewish cemetaries in Orange County, New York. We oohed and ahhed over those as well.

This morning I raced over to Feedburner, and it said, in a kindly yet somewhat condescending way, that absolutely no one had ever read my blog.

Well, Feedburner must know. Harcourt recommended it. But there were 28 votes on my poll, which might have suggested that at some point 28 people had visited my blog long enough to vote Yes or No.

It was then that I realized what must have happened. I'd instructed Feedburner not to count any visits from my own computer to my blog. So I must be absolutely the only person who had ever read my blog. Therefore it stood to reason that I have multiple personalities, two thirds of whom thought it was a good idea for me to publish my P3B outline, and one third who didn't.

I decided to search even further for my various personalities, so I made a list of all the names used on comments since this blog began. I found seventy of them, with the three most dominant, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Anonymous, and Marci. I have no idea how I'm going to break it to Marci that she is merely a figment of my neurotic personality.

And while Norman Bates was satisified just being his own mother, I have been my mother, my brother, and my sister-in-law. I guess Norman was an only child.

Wanting confirmation of this extraordinary discovery, I raced to a mirror, and took a snapshot of what I saw reflected back at me.

Apparently seventeen of my personalities were camera shy. Either that, or it was a very small mirror.

While I am perfectly healthy, Personalities 19-32 woke up at four this morning coughing, and instead of falling back asleep, came up with a fabulous bleakity bleak addition to P3B. I'm pretty sure the Fourth Row From The Bottom Third Personality From The Left was responsible. But while I love this new bleakity bleak addition, it got me thinking that maybe P3B should take place five years after the meteor crashes into the moon, and not four. The longer things are bad, the more bad I can make things (or so Top Row Right Most Personality tells me).

While it was nice fantasizing that actual people (albeit mostly named Anonymous) actually read my blog on actual occasions, I've adjusted pretty easily to the idea that my slowly gained readership consists of me and my sixty nine alternate personalities. If nothing else, that means on Sunday I get to eat birthday cake for seventy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Questions And (No) Comments

My focus yesterday was on the Possible Third Book and shopping and I left a couple of other things out.

First off, the great state of Georgia has been added onto the list of states where Life As We Knew It is nominated for a young readers award. That brings the current total to thirteen states and one city in England. Well, two cities in England for the moment, but the Coventry Award will be announced tomorrow. My guess is they'll splat a ceremonial tomato on the First Runner Up (98% likely to be LAWKI), so that only the winner in each category remains pristine. Oh well. It's been remarkable LAWKI remained unsplatted for so long.

By the way, if my spelling of late has been off, it's because spell check has up and died. I think the last bleakity bleak did it in.

I'm about to set up a poll for all of you. The question before the house is whether you'd like me to post the outline for P3B on the blog, as I did the notes for the dead and the gone. If a majority says Yes, then I will; if No rules supreme, then I won't.

There will be one condition and that is no comments about the outline will be allowed (although you can certainly comment on whether you think posting the outline is a good idea or not). At first I thought I'd just say no bad comments, but then I realized if there weren't any comments, I'd figure everybody hates the outline. In theory you could post comments and I could not read them, but I don't trust myself that much.

If I can get the poll to end Sunday night, I will, and if the vote is Yes, I'll post the outline on Monday, before I begin work. I'm so crazed with desire to start writing P3B, that I'm hoping for a snowday tomorrow, so I won't have to do my volunteer work. Although a few extra days before writing isn't a bad idea. Last night I added a whole new scene to the outline. My traveling troupe of players is going to do the halftime show for a football game.

Okay. I'm off to set up the poll. I'll be interested to see what the result is.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's All Kelly Clarkson's Fault

I got an e-mail from my goddaughter on Saturday saying she'd read my most recent blog entry and while she didn't want to reveal too much about my birthday present, I should think hard before shopping over the next few days.

I took that to mean that she'd either gotten me a business outfit suitable for California and Florida or red earrings.

My money was on the latter, so off to the Galleria I went. Apparently their management had read the same article I had on about how people who are sad and self-absorbed spend more, because they played "Because Of You" while I strolled to Macy's.

Coincidence or not, I purchased an pants suit- aqua colored jacket, short sleeved grey sweater with aqua trim, and grey slacks which fit perfectly just as long as I don't exhale.

Naturally, as soon as I came home, I turned the internet on to look for weather forecasts for Saturday. Accuweather has moved the cute little snowflakes to Sunday (my birthday, but since I have no plans for the day, what do I care). Yahoo has the little snowflakes on Saturday, but you could see its heart wasn't in it. So maybe Janet was right telling me not to obsess.

After I'd checked the important stuff, I looked for e-mails, and what should I find, but one from my poor beleagured (and very smart) editor. She read the outline for Possible Third Book and she liked it. Out of deference to my neuroses, she had a lot of questions, mostly about very small details and all of which I could have answered (I didn't, because she's beleagured enough). She did remind me the dead and the gone is going to have to do well and not be the dud and the gone for the P in P3B to vanish, but she thought it was helpful that P3B is set three years after d&g and Life As We Knew It. She specifically liked the plot twists and she didn't even seem to mind the bleakity bleak.

I told you she was very smart. I may even have to remove those ().

Because of feeling sad and self-absorbed, I didn't start writing today, and Wednesday, of course, is volunteer work day, and I made a lunch date with my mother for Thursday, so there's no point starting P3B on Tuesday. Or Friday, because Saturday I'll be dodging snowflakes in NYC with Janet, and I'm certainly not going to work on my birthday. So I guess I'll begin P3B on Feb. 18, a national holiday for most of you, but just another Monday (albeit without mail) for me.

Ooh. No mail on Sunday (my birthday) or Monday (the day after my birthday). I'm starting to feel sad and self-absorbed all over again. I'd better hide my MasterCard before I single handedly pull this country out of recession, and push it instead where it belongs, into a time of drought and famine and volcanoes and tsunamis and earthquakes and epidemics.

I'm feeling better already!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Red Earrings Should Show Up Nicely In A Blizzard

My friend Janet, to whom the dead and the gone is lovingly dedicated, is taking me to the ballet the day before my birthday. We have the whole day planned, a visit to the Frick, which has a one painting exhibition I'm eager to see, dinner at a Japanese restaurant near Lincoln Center, where Janet and I ate once, and they brought us a plate of appetizers even though we hadn't ordered them, and then when the waiter realized his mistake, he took the appetizers away from us and gave them to the people who had ordered them (and who were blissfully unaware that Janet and I had begun eating them), and then the New York City Ballet, which will be performing Serenade, one of my all time favorites.

So as soon as Feb. 16 started showing up on 15 day weather forecasts, I began looking. And once I saw those cute little snowflake pictures appearing on the date, I let Janet know about them.

After the second time, she e-mailed back, "STOP OBSESSING."

Janet is an incredibly nice and easy going person, but she simply didn't understand. I guess I couldn't expect her to. Her birthday is in September.

However I do intend to follow her Stop Obsessing advice when it comes to what I'm going to hear from my poor beleaguered (and very smart) editor about the Possible Third Book. Because I already know what I'm going to hear. Forty years of being a freelance children's book writer have taught me many tricks, including reading between the lines. My poor beleaguered (and very smart) editor doesn't like what she's seen of P3B, and at some point is going to have to tell me so.

Here's how I know. I sent her a quick one paragraph e-mail to let her know the basic direction of P3B Wednesday night. Thursday morning she e-mailed me back to ask what conditions would be like in this post Life As We Knew It book and why would any sane person want to read it. She didn't word it quite that way, but as a between the lines reader, I knew that was what she meant.

I promptly responded with a multi-paragraph (more than three, less than twenty) description of P3B, stressing what the world would be like and why sane people would be interested. I also mentioned my plan to write an outline of P3B that afternoon. Which I spent many happy hours doing, while checking e-mails every five minutes.

Finally that evening, she e-mailed back to say she hadn't yet had a chance to read my multi-paragraph response. She'd read it that night.

When I hadn't heard from her by mid-afternoon yesterday, I e-mailed in a charming, yet forceful, manner to let her know I was waiting to hear. Her response was, she didn't know, she wasn't sure, could I send her the outline.

My poor beleaguered (and very smart) editor hates reading outlines.

I sent it to her anyway, and haven't heard back, which, theoretically since all this happened Friday afternoon, could mean nothing. But I know what it means. It means she doesn't like this approach for the P3B. My guess is she finds it unsettlingly different from LAWKI/d&g. And even though I worked hard to keep the bleakity bleak under control, in a twenty page outline, that's what's most prominent. You can't see the subtle gradations when you go from attack in the woods to cholera victims to threat of hanging. It's all high points in a twenty page outline.

As it happens, I feel a strong moral obligation not to take responsibility for my failures. Last night I watched Walking With Dinosaurs and at the end, poor Mama Tyrannosaurus died in a volcano poisoned world, only to have her ill tempered but adorable babies killed by one nasty meteor (don't tell Mike Huckabee any of this). Suddenly I felt better. Three years after LAWKI/d&g, the world would be pretty darn bleak. My vision may well not be what Harcourt wants, but that doesn't mean my vision is wrong. However P3B turns out (and just because this go round didn't work doesn't mean I won't be making other tries), it's going to be the world I created with characters I care about.

Either that, or I really will be retired.

Meanwhile I read an article on that said people who were sad and self-absorbed were more likely to spend money. So I plan to stay that way until Monday, when I'll go shopping for a new outfit appropriate for ALA/FAME (black with red pinstripes is too winterish). And I'm determined to find a pair of red earrings. If I can't find red earrings right before Valentine's Day, I really will be sad and self-absorbed.

If by some chance I've completely misread my poor beleaguered (and very smart) editor on the subject of P3B, I'll certainly let you know. But I have a feeling my next few blog entries will focus on bragging and shopping and not on writing.

Be prepared, oh poor beleaguered (and very smart) readership!

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Quick Request For The Dead And The Gone ARCS

I'm hoping to do a blog entry about the Possible Third Book, but I haven't heard back from my poor beleaguered editor yet, after I e-mailed her the answers to her not unreasonable questions of What Is This Book About? and Why Would Any Sane Person Want To Read It?

I have, however, received a request for an ARC of the dead and the gone, and I know of at least one other person who would like to read it (for purely professional reasons).

Does anyone have a copy they have no sentimental attachment to (i.e. would be willing if not flat out eager to dump?).

If you do, could you use the cute little e-mail link to the left to let me know? I am actually down to one and only copy myself, and oddly enough, I don't intend to part with it (stop hissing).

Okay. I'm off to do my recycling and have lunch with my mother and get our hairs cut, so if I get the okay on P3B, I'll be ready. Should my poor beleaguered editor e-mail me with the go ahead, I'll blog about what I intend to do with the story.

If not, at least I'll have gotten a good haircut.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I'm So FAME-ous!

As mornings go, I'd have to say this has been one of the top five of my life (don't ask me what the other four were, since I have no idea; I just don't want this one morning to get too swelled a head).

To start with, I received an e-mail from Florida, asking if I could attend their FAME conference this September. That's The Florida Association for Media in Education (but you all knew that).

I took my time before responding, since my happy dance lasted at least five minutes (and no doubt disturbed my downstairs neighbors, who may not be regarding this as one of their top five mornings ever). But then I e-mailed back my acceptance with so much grace and dignity, none of you would have recognized me.

Meanwhile, my dear friends at Google sent me an e-mail, just because they'd noticed Life As We Knew It had been mentioned somewhere in this darling universe of ours. I followed their link, and discovered that LAWKI has been nominated for a young readers award in Sheffield, England. The same country as Coventry, only this award doesn't seem to involve tomato splatting, thank goodness.

All right. I'm off to e-mail my poor beleaguered editor. I sent her an e-mail last night with a one paragraph summary of Possible Third Book, and she e-mailed back just now asking a few basic questions (What is this book about? Why would anyone in their right minds want to read it?).

I know the answer to her first question. The second one is a little tougher. But if I can do the happy dance while avoiding being splatted by tomatoes, I can think of something!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Caroline Made Me Do It

I think I now have a blog at MySpace. I think my name is Susan Beth but maybe it's susanbethpfeffer.

I have a new friend. His name is Tom. He is considerably younger than I am.

Beyond that, I have no idea what I'm doing there. I can't even figure out how to list my interests and all that stuff.

Not that I'm hinting or anything, but HELP!

ETA: I figured out how to do some of the listing stuff, and have informed the world that the person I'd like to meet is Jean Renoir. He seemed like a very nice guy and I thought it would add a touch of much needed class.

Tom remains my only friend there. This is after several hours. On JacketFlap I got two friends right away, and one of them is even willing to sell me office supplies.

If that isn't a definition of true friendship, I don't know what is.

Monday, February 4, 2008

May I Be Struck Dead By A Tomato If I'm Bragging

Now that I think about it, I killed off a lot of characters in a lot of different ways in Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone, but not one of them died from a vicious tomato attack. Let alone a kindly tomato attack.

Both Anonymous Glen and I have noticed a sudden dearth of comments for my most recent post. My theory is you've all tired of my endless discussion about the Possible Third Book. I can hear murmurings of, "Shut up and write," wafting in the distance.

And to think I was going to tell you that there's a chance that Will will neither be hung nor sent to the coal mines. But I guess no one cares (sorry, Will).

My life is very strange these days, or at least my time sense is. LAWKI seems like something in the long distance past, yet there's always news about it. d&g hasn't even been published yet, but I feel like it's been around for ages. My mind is completely focused on P3B (okay, yesterday, it was focused on my friend Geri's surprise birthday party, and the Super Bowl, and watching the European Figure Skating Championships because I was too nervous to watch the Super Bowl. Oh and politics. My mind's been focused on politics too. And maybe a few other things, now that I think about it, like cookies. My mind is always focused on cookies).

I do have some LAWKI announcements to make. For those of you who don't obsessively count the number of states that LAWKI is nominated for young readers awards in (and to the best of my knowledge, no one obsessively counts that), the list to the left is up to 12. I snuck Illinois in one day last week (or maybe the week before; even I don't obsessively count), and last night I added California. I'm particularly pleased about CA, not merely because it's big and glamorous, but because it limits its nominations to three per category. This gives LAWKI a mere 2 in 3 chance of losing, as opposed to Illinois, where it has a 19 in 20 chance.

Speaking of awards LAWKI has not yet lost, thanks to the ceaseless efforts of the Knife Club, LAWKI is one of the last two books unsplatted by tomatoes over in Coventry. I'm delighted and surprised it's made it that far, and I'll be stunned if it makes it any further- it's up against an extremely popular book. My thanks to everybody around the world who voted to save LAWKI from tomatodom.

As a result of my not quite obsessive googling, I found out today that the audiobook of LAWKI, read by the incredibly talented Emily Bauer, was named to the YALSA 2008 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults List. 21 audiobooks are so listed from a two year period.

And I really am going to ALA. I got a confirmation e-mail today from Harcourt. They've already arranged my accomodations, two nights at the Bed Bug Motor Inn.

I'm itching to get there!

Friday, February 1, 2008

And Hast Thou Slain The Bleakity Bleak?

I'm in an frabjous mood.

About an hour ago, I was in anything but, since I had a plot problem with Possible Third Book that I was finding very aggravating. It was the direct result of how I've been working this book out, figuring out a bit of the story here and a bit there. I'm pretty sure that's how I worked out Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone, since all three books are similar in structure (big set pieces surrounded by little incidents).

The problem today was this morning I aligned a number of the set pieces so they made structural sense. Only once I got everything neatly in place, I realized the set up I needed for the very big set piece of Will gets taken to town and maybe even hung was totally shot.

I whined. I pouted. I answered e-mails. I started and stopped a blog entry. I complained to total strangers. I ate lunch and then whined and pouted some more.

And then, of course, I solved the problem. Which is why my mood is so frab.

The challenge with P3B, as I have said ad nauseum, is keeping the bleakity bleak to a socially acceptable level. What I may have only hinted at to you, oh beloved slowly gained readership who's been helping me a lot with your comments, is what Caitlin's position is as understudy in the troupe. I've been keeping it to myself because I've had to figure out how much bleakity bleak I could put in and how much was excessive even by my standards.

It's like this, or at least I think it's like this. In LAWKI and d&g, the main characters suffer like crazy. Hunger, disease, loss of loved ones, cold, misery, and general bad times. But the stuff they go through is pretty much the stuff everyone is going through. d&g is more class conscious than LAWKI, but no one has it easy.

In P3B, my set up has always been that Caitlin comes from a privileged family. whether her father's been a dentist or a doctor (he's back to dentist), or whether she's had a stepmother or not (currently not). I've expended a vast amount of energy (not calories, alas, but energy nonetheless) on how to show just how privileged Caitlin is in this three years after LAWKI ends world. But the more I showed it, the more bleakity bleak things got, and while I was clearly having a great time showing the suffering of 95% of humanity so we could see how lucky Caitlin was to be in the other 5%, it really wasn't furthering the story along, and it was certainly making things seem less realistic than LAWKI and d&g.

So I cleared much of that bleakity bleak out, simplifying the set up, and making things more family oriented. Caitlin still joins the troupe to avoid marrying a man so dreadful that his working name is Mr. Hinkler, but it's more a teenage act of rebellion against her father than a reasoned approach to her situation. And the suffering masses hardly figure at all in it.

But what happens next is Caitlin discovers (as do the readers) that being the understudy essentially puts her in the same league as those suffering masses. In some ways, she's an understudy as we would know the role- she learns the lines and the songs and has to be prepared to go on stage with very little notice. But as the understudy, she's also expected to do the grunt work ( like washing everyone's clothes, a job she never had to do before). In addition, this group of six teenagers is a clique that she will never be able to be part of. Partly this is because these kids have been on the road together for several months before Caitlin arrives. But mostly it's because she's the fourth or fifth (I haven't decided yet) understudy. In a world where 95% of humanity is starving and cold, it's not that hard to find teenage girls who are willing to carry a tune and a bucket of water in exchange for food.

This is why Caitlin is sent into the woods, with or without a knife, in spite of the fact the woods are dangerous. No one really cares if she's going to come back alive. If she does, fine. If she doesn't, they'll simply get a new understudy the same way they got her. It's like she's a private and everyone else is a colonel or a general. They're all in the same army together, but the private gets the KP.

Getting the balance so that Caitlin is both part of the group yet outside it has been very tricky. I didn't want the book to be Caitlin The Suffering Understudy Slave (if you want a quick laugh, read that in a Daffy Duck voice). But it was essential to the story that I want to tell for Caitlin to discover she' s expendable, exactly the same as all those suffering masses she never gave a moment's thought to. The fear she feels has to be different from that of Miranda and Alex. They're loved and Caitlin isn't.

I think I have it in place now. I've been writing notes on the computer (similar to the notes for d&g I have that link for), and I believe I'm ready to do the equivilent of my chapter outline, using pen and paper to write down each big event in chronological order. The characters are finally falling in place (although I do have to say Tyler has no redeeming social value at this point, and I'd better give him some or else there are going to be a lot of angry readers that he survives and Will gets carted off to the coal mines). There's still room to maneuver and places for me to surprise myself, but I can see starting to write P3B as soon as ten days from now.

And that's pretty darn callooh callay.