Friday, June 27, 2008

Thank You

I wanted to say thank you for all the e-mails, cards, and comments I've received since yesterday morning. They mean a great deal to me. I admit I haven't had the fortitude to open the cards, but I appreciate the effort taken to select and send them.

Alexander was a very dear cat. He knew his name and would come bounding into the room if I called him. He also knew Emily's name, and would bound in at that sound as well. He loved furniture, regarding my expensive sofa as his personal scratching post, and my reading chairs as hair shedding resorts. He didn't care who scratched his ears. When my house was on the market a few years ago, he'd follow potential buyers from room to room, on the off chance they might pet him. He never outgrew purring. Although he was a year and a half older than Emily, and considerably bigger, he deferred to her. When I had a house in the country, if Alexander knew I was going for a walk, he'd race down the stairs to meet me outside. Emily would come along also, whining and then wandering off on her own, but Alexander stuck to my side as we'd walk up the hill through the woods.

There's no good time for a pet to die, but Alexander's came at a moment when the past was very much with me. The fifteenth anniversary of my father's death was this month; I adopted Alexander from the Humane Society a few months after my father's death. Last week, two nights in a row (once privately, once with my friends) I watched a videotape I'd made twenty years ago of a party I gave. My father was on the tape, as well as two friends who have since died. I hadn't watched the tape in a very long time, and it felt wonderful to see those people caught in that moment, but it was very powerful as well, to see those people I'd loved and lost.

Last night I divided fifteen into sixty several times, and each time it came out four. Alexander had been my cat for almost 25% of my life. He (and Emily) had lived in all four of my homes. So while much of my grief was for the loss of a specific, beloved, cat, some of it fell into the Margaret Are You Grieving Over Goldengrove Unleaving category. Either way, my eyes still hurt from crying.


A few quick professional notes. While I'm not relishing the flight to Anaheim tomorrow, I am very much looking forward to spending Sunday at ALA. I know I'll be meeting Dawn there, and I hope others of you as well (maybe some of the Anonymouses).

I got an e-mail from my editor yesterday apologizing (because she's a very polite person) for not having read The World We Live In yet. She said it might take another couple of weeks before she can let me know if Harcourt will accept it.

Amazon says they have only two paperbacks of LAWKI in stock, with more, they swear, on the way. I have no way of knowing how many copies they ordered originally (it could have been three), but it's nice to know they underestimated the demand.

I'll get home Monday evening, thunderstorms permitting. Tuesday morning, I'll be getting a phone call from a reporter writing an article on teen apocalyptic fiction for Newsweek. I could end up on the cutting room floor. Maybe the whole article will. But it's still exciting to be able to say I'm going to be interviewed for Newsweek.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I spoke to the vet a few minutes ago. He said Alexander's condition was untreatable, and we agreed to have him put to sleep.

I want to thank all of you who e-mailed me best wishes for him.

Before I spoke to the vet, I e-mailed the people who won copies of the audiobook. Those people who need to send me their addresses should. I anticipate spending the rest of today sobbing, since that seems to be all I'm capable of doing right now, but I'll try to get to the post office before leaving for ALA on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

E-mail For A Chance At A Free The Dead And The Gone Audiobook

Just a quick reminder that the Bolivian Hat is still accepting e-mails for a chance at one of six free copies of the dead and the gone Listening Library audiobook, read by Robertson Dean.

The hat remains open through Wednesday night. Just use the link on the right to e-mail me if you're interested.

I would tell you how wonderful the audiobook is but I haven't listened to it yet. My cat Alexander is at the vet's for a few days, and even though I wrote d&g and take full responsibility for every terrible thing that happens in it, I'm feeling too stressed just now to relive it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Return Of The Bolivian Hat

But first a word from our sponsors.

Okay, a lot of words. And I don't have any sponsors.

I'm delighted to report that Harcourt now has a discussion guide for Life As We Knew It, with one for the dead and the gone on its way. I've put a permanent link to it on the ever more crowded right side of the blog. If you scroll all the way through, you'll see an itty bitty version of Marci's photograph of me. But you might want to linger and read some of the questions while you're there.

Also on the right side of the page, I've added some words of praise from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for d&g that Google was nice enough to lead me to this morning.

I've added something to the list of things I'm doing at ALA. In between autographing for Harcourt and autographing for Scholastic, I'll be doing a taped radio interview, conducted by Susan Raab. The interview will be posted as a downloadable podcast as part of the University of Connecticut’s “Teachers for a New Era” program, which is sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation. Teachers across the country can access the interview and use it in classrooms, etc. It’ll also be available via i-Tunes.

That's mostly copied off the e-mail I was sent about it. It's way too complicated for me to remember on my own. Actually it was the i-Tunes part that set my heart aflutter. Not only can't I carry a tune, tunes run away at the very sight of me. And yet, there I'll be on i-Tunes. What a land we live in.

Now onto the Bolivian Hat part of this entry. Approximately ten minutes ago, UPS was nice enough to deliver twenty-two copies of the Listening Library audiobook of the dead & the gone (read by Robertson Dean).

I have a dozen people/places to give copies to, and I probably should keep a few just in case (in case of what I don't know but there might be something), but even if I give away eleven, keep one for myself, and stash four in honor of just in case, that leaves six that the Bolivian Hat can handle for me.

Here's the deal. If you or your library or school is interested in a free d&g audiobook, send me an e-mail via the cute little link on the top right side (or just copy my e-mail address), and let me know. If six or fewer want one, then you'll all be happy. If more than six of you want one, I'll put your e-mail addresses in the Bolivian Hat (currently in residence on the bathroom wall, and very excited at the thought of seeing some action), and pull out six names.

It's Thursday almost evening now, so I'll keep the Bolivian Hat open through Wednesday night, June 25. If I pull your e-mail address out of the hat, I'll e-mail to let you know and to ask for an address to send the audiobook to. I'll try to send some (or all) off by next Friday, since I'll be going to ALA Saturday, and won't see a post office again until July 1.

So if you're interested in listening to 8 hours and 51 minutes of the book the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said was, "utterly gripping...almost impossible to put down," then e-mail me and the hat.

If you're not interested, please don't tell me. The Bolivian Hat is very sensitive to rejection!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It Is Now Pushing Into Fifteen Hours Forty Five Minutes

I've spent the past few days obsessively working on The World We Live In, writing what I've been calling the 18 page outline (you'd think I could look and see just how long the outline is) and approximately 75 pages of book (and yes, you'd think I could look and see just how many pages I wrote).

I got everything written by Sunday night, but then on Monday (aka yesterday), I completely rewrote Eden's opening scene (I kept maybe half a page out of the original six) to make Eden much less obnoxious. A good writer knows that the first time you meet the book's heroine, she really oughtn't to be obnoxious, but it took me a few days to figure that out. And then I had to polish the two chapters I wrote on Sunday (Luke and Will go to the gentlemen's club, where Will tries to find a girl named Catherine, only to learn that she's dead- my fabulous new theory is as long as I use euphemisms for brothels, no one can claim I'm writing about sex- and Eden spends her first day with Miranda's brother Matt and his family and they go to church where she meets James Sinclair, previously known as Linton Heathcliff). Then I polished the Luke's opening scene and the three Luke chapters as one unit, and then the completely rewritten Eden's opening scene and the three Eden chapters as another unit.

Even then I wasn't finished. I went back to the eighteen page outline, changed Olivia Morgan's name to Olivia Edgecomb, since that's what I'd been calling her in the Eden sections (she's Eden's best friend, although now that Eden is settled in at the LAWKI house, I doubt we'll be seeing her again), and rewrote the ending in the outline, making a clever last minute change that I realized this morning makes no sense at all.

On the off chance that someone who might actually purchase The World We Live In is reading this entry, don't worry. I can fix it. Buy the book anyway.

By then it was 6 PM, and I was all set to send everything off to my editor and my agent when the first hint of thunderstorms rolled in. I raced over to the Weather Channel to see if there was a tornado alert (it turns out there may have been a tornado at the other end of the county), and ended up watching a movie on Lifetime Movie Channel (I love movies on Lifetime Movie Channel, because it never matters how much you miss at the beginning or end, or even in this case, at the middle, since I left it around 7 and sent the proposal and chapters off then).

Given that there was no tornado, and it's been been fifteen hours sixteen minutes since I sent the material off, through the magic of internet, I fail to understand why I haven't heard anything.

Okay, I don't fail to. I just think it's a crying shame that the publishing industry is so darn slow.

Not that I want to give said publishing industry any reason to turn down the masterwork, but I have to acknowledge there are a few reasons why they might:

1. The World We Live In is very very different from Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone. Two main characters, alternating viewpoints, less emphasis on natural disaster and more on societal consequences, traditional chapter structure (I thought about putting dates on each chapter, for old times sake, but somehow I just didn't), probably other things if I think about it.

2. TWWLI, purely by happenstance, is a tad noir. Okay, it's full bucket no getting around it, bleak and dark and violent and nasty and brutish. In a PG 13 sort of way. Yeah, three people get beaten to death in the first couple of Luke chapters, but really, who cares? Clearly not me. And you don't see any of the people die; technically speaking they're just corpses by the time the reader sees them. Except maybe for one of them, and he might as well be dead.

Nobody dies in the Eden chapters, although she does notice a dead baby. But that wasn't my fault. Her friend Olivia points the baby out to her, and you can't expect me to control all my characters.

But there's no sex. I don't know what goes on in a gentlemen's club, after all. No one has ever mistaken me for a gentleman.

3. My editor may not like me anymore. While I have no hard evidence for this, I e-mailed her last week to say LAWKI was on the Tennessee Young Readers List, and she never e-mailed back. Not that I'm sensitive to such slights.

4. I forgot to mention in my cover e-mail that I had information that could bring down the entire publishing industry, starting with Harcourt, and unless the entire publishing industry, starting with Harcourt, agreed to publish The World We Live In, I'd send that information to people who'd be very interested to see it (don't ask me who; there must be someone). I had that part of the e-mail all ready in my mind, but then I started worrying about tornadoes (I live in a second floor apartment, and I figured if there was a tornado watch, I'd have to take my two cats and hide us all in the bathtub. What fun that would have been).

Oh well. My rule of thumb is if I haven't heard within the first fifteen hours thirty five minutes, I'm not going to hear for at least another twenty minutes. So I might as well change the sheets and water the plants and go to the bank and buy groceries and visit my mother and watch some more Lifetime Movie Network movies.

I'll let you know when I hear something.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Handful Of Updates

I got an e-mail from a school librarian yesterday (or maybe it was the day before; I don't seem to have control over time these days) asking if I do school visits. She mentioned that neither Random House nor Scholastic provided this information. Since I'm not exactly the biggest fish in either the Random House or Scholastic Oceans, I'm not surprised, but the librarian also pointed out I didn't mention it on my blog.

I am definitely the biggest fish in the ocean, so I have now slipped a tiny little thing on the ever more crowded right side of the blog.

See how open to constructive criticism I am!

Meanwhile, over on the right side of the blog, there's been another state added to the list of young reader award nominations. Yes, you're right, it's Tennessee. I'm pretty sure Life As We Knew It is nominated there; at least that was what Google hinted.

June 10 was the official publication date of the audio book of the dead and the gone. I haven't gotten my copies yet, but rumor has it they do exist. I'm told they won't be sold retail, but schools and librarians can buy them, and I would assume they're available for downloads somewhere or another. I actually Yahooed my way into a library that had a sample, and got to hear the first page or so. Alex and Greg Dunlap of Apt. 12B were discussing where Alex wanted to go to college when the sound drifted off.

I've been trying for the past three days to get the time and energy to start writing the beginning of The World We Live In, to show Harcourt. I've worked out the plot problems I had in the outline (not that I've done the rewriting of the outline, but at least I know how I intend to rewrite it), and I know pretty much how the first couple of chapters should go, but time and I have not been bosom buddies lately.

On a far jollier note, this is DeepDiscount's semi-annual 20% off on their dvds sale time (until June 22), and whenever I have a chance, I go over there and try to figure out just how many dvds I can buy and stay on some kind of budget. I love Deep Discount, which used to be Deep Discount DVD but changed its name simply because it sells things besides dvds. To me, it'll always be Deep Discount DVD, which I find more euphonious. Here's the link if you're interested:

To get the discount, you type in Supersale when it asks for the special promo word.

I'm still eating nothing but bagels. My friend Christy called this afternoon and apologized for making me buy so many. I've been clipping many wholesome and nutritious recipes from newspapers and magazines, but I have to finish the bagels to have room enough in my freezer for all that wholesome and nutritious food that I intend to prepare while I'm waiting for Harcourt to tell me if they're accepting my book which I have yet to write a page of, so I still have time to eat nothing but bagels.

I bought some cream cheese today to further the process.

Okay. I'm off to look some more at the under ten dollar category at Deep Discount. Then I'll have a bagel for supper, and just maybe start writing my book.

Monday, June 9, 2008

There's No Place Like Home (Now That The Air Conditioning Has Been Fixed)

It was a great weekend, and if anyone is interested, I'll put some more details later in the blog (I personally find travel stuff on the boring side, and sympathize with all who agree).

Naturally, while I was gone, a really exciting, can't wait to tell my blog, thing happened, and that is an interview on Publishers You may recall PW gave the dead and the gone a starred review (notice how even if you don't remember, I've subtly brought it up). Every week PW online interviews a children's book writer, and in May they interviewed me (or as I like to think of it, ME!). I didn't know when the interview would go online, so naturally enough, there it was on Thursday. I read it on my cousin Fran's laptop (always nice to have relatives to show things off to; I spent the weekend with my cousins Fran and Nancy), but since I didn't have any kind of usable internet access, I couldn't blogbrag (blag? brog? There ought to be a word).

Note, not merely the wonderful interview but the even more wonderful photo credit under the picture of the real pretty flowering tree and me:

The interviews go online on Thursdays, and I don't know what happens to them after that. So if you're interested, try to read it before Thursday.

Be forewarned-there is a big d&g spoiler in there (honestly, not my fault).

One of the great things about traveling out west for me is waking up between 3 and 4 AM (I go to sleep sometime between Jeopardy and Wheel Of Fortune). Since the rest of the west doesn't wake up for hours after that, I get to do a lot of work. Which I did this time on The World We Live In. It all came together by Saturday morning. I even wrote a chapter outline (although given that I have listed for Chapter 15 Something Happens, it may need a little more work).

There are only three things keeping me from writing an outline that I will include along with the sample chapters for Harcourt to read and accept/reject. I'm still exhausted from my trip, the air conditioning in my apartment only got fixed about an hour ago, so things are still cooling off, and my brain is busily adding new details. I love this time when I'm writing a book. My brain is roaring, and soon even Chapter 15 will have some action.

All right. Here's the travel stuff. Feel free to stop reading:

I reread The Good Soldier on the way there and read about half of The Damnation Of Theron Ware on the way back.

I gambled $18.00, mostly in a Wizard Of Oz slot machine, and won $15, so I ended up losing $3. My mother was very relieved that I didn't develop a gambling addiction.

We went to the Elton John Red Piano Show Friday night. We'd been told it was for mature audiences, so we tried to behave ourselves. Elton John puts on a good show, and I knew all but one of the songs. He said the word that rhymes with truck twice (both times, I think, in reference to Celine Dion), and there was a big screen that showed movies, many of which included women without blouses. There were also big big balloons, and someone in the front row kicked one and it hit Mr. John on his head while he was singing. You could hear the laugh in his voice as he continued performing, which I found endearing.

Saturday we left Las Vegas and Fran drove us to Hoover Dam. We took the expensive $35 tour, and saw all kinds of things people on the $9 tour didn't get to see. Our guide was great. I asked him if there had been damage to the species that lived in and around the Colorado River, which was completely rerouted for the dam. He said the ecological damage was enormous, and they're still trying to correct it. He also said the striped bass will eat anything, and they particularly enjoy feasting on trout (so do I actually).

They're building a bridge over the Hoover Dam. The people working on it must be very brave.

Dry desert heat is very hot. Humid New York heat is very hot. Air conditioning is a great invention, and I'm glad mine is back to work. Soon I will be also!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hello I Must Be Going

Well, technically I choose to be going.

I'll be leaving Thursday morning for a four day vacation, which is probably of little interest to most of you, but I'm trying hard to stay up to date with blog comments (which I love) and e-mails (which I love), and since I don't have a laptop, I'll be out of touch until Monday.

So this is the equivalent of one of those automated e-mail messages that say the person is out of the office and don't expect to hear back from them for years and years. At least that's what those messages say as soon as they realize the e-mail is from me.

Meanwhile my brain and I (I'm starting to think of them as separate entities, since otherwise I can't understand why my brain is being so difficult and contrary) have been hard at work on The World We Live In. Every time I think I have it under control, my brain (bad brain) says, "No! That won't work!" and offers seventy five different reasons why it won't.

I should send my brain one of those automated e-mail messages telling it I don't want to hear back from it for years and years. Although I'm really looking forward to a nice long plane flight with nothing to distract me, while I work through the plot yet again.

The current plan (for the book, that is) is to have alternating chapters- Luke, then Eden, then back to Luke etc. I have killer first chapters for both of them. I decided about an hour ago that Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone really don't have plots. They're both incident driven, rather than plot driven. WWLI is going to be plot driven, so it might as well have normal chapters (I perpetually forget that LAWKI and d&g have chapters, since they were my editor's choice and not mine).

In any event, if my brain goes along with it, WWLI is going to be very different from LAWKI/d&g, which, given that it's a non-traditional sequel, it might as well be. The important thing, as I was told in an e-mail that I loved, is that the readers care about the characters. I'm working hard at making both Luke and Eden flawed but vulnerable, which should make them sympathetic.

d&g, by the way, is getting wonderful blog reviews. And the audiobook of same is officially coming out next week. I haven't gotten a copy yet, but maybe it'll be in my mailbox when I get back.

Have a great weekend. I certainly hope to!

Monday, June 2, 2008

What A Great Party. What A Great Life.

Now that I think about it, the 75th Book Party took approximately as much energy as all 75 books put together. You sit down, you turn on the computer, you write a book. Nice and easy. But parties, parties are tough. But wonderful.

Before I show you all the pictures, I want to say in the middle of the Nightmare That Was Saturday (which made the great whitefish crisis of 2008 look like the happiness parade), I finished reading White Cargo. What a fascinating book. Remember my old favorite fact, that if an indentured woman servant got pregnant, she had two years added to her time of servitude, even if her master was the father? Well, it turns out if an indentured servant man fathered a child, he had three years added to his term of servitude.

I apologize to all who suffered from indenture, but I find that kind of funny. I keep picturing all those indentured guys singing "Billie Jean."

Back to the party. I'll spare all of us a recap of the Nightmare That Was Saturday, and tell you instead that I couldn't possibly have managed without the incredible help of Marci, her husband Bill, and my friend Bonnie. They set things up for me and then did the cleaning afterwards. I must have been doing something while they did all the work, but, fortunately for me, I have amnesia.

I know thirty people came to the party (myself included) because I made thirty party favor bags and got to keep the last one. The bags included M and Ms that said 75 Books and June 1, 2008, so I'm never going to eat mine. I hope M and Ms don't get moldy.

My friend Cynthia made a notebook for people to inscribe and people wrote such nice things in it. Oh, and my sister-in-law Esther made lattes for people, which were a major high point. Also there was enough food to feed five armies, and my friend Christy who told me I'd need four dozen bagels is personally responsible for my brand new 15 Bagels A Day Diet. I figure any food that has a hole in the middle can't possibly have calories.

Onto the pictures. It's amazing how unflattering the pictures are, which is why I'm so glad I didn't take any of myself. But one of the things people kept saying at the party was how glad they were to be able to put faces to names (it's been a while since I had a party). The same may be true for you.
On the right is Carol Pierpoint and Marci Hanners to whom Life As We Knew It is dedicated. They take full credit for its success. Marci is really a lot prettier than that picture would indicate, and Carol's smile looks a tad insincere.
Right below is Janet Carlson, inscribing in the notebook. The dead and the gone is dedicated to her. In the right hand corner is Bonnie. She's a town judge and has run a marathon.

Below is the Pfeffer family, my sister-in-law Esther, my mother (who sat in the same little chair for the entire party, and let people come to her, like a queen) and my brother Alan. It's not a bad picture of Alan, but my camera does no justice to Esther.

Carrying the purple plant is Todd Strasser. My camera is as cruel to guys as to women.

Marci and Carol gave me a window box for my patio. Carol selected the flowers and did the planting.

My friend Linda did the embroidery. This is not a gift you can find just anywhere.
And my friend Tom attended my talk at Middletown Thrall Library, where I explained the movie Meteor got me thinking about what it would be like for a teenager to live through a worldwide catastrophe. The next day he found a video of Meteor and saved it for the party. The little flowers with the bow are from my goddaughter, Allison, who couldn't get to the party.The big vase of flowers is from Randy, a librarian, who told another guest that LAWKI was "huge."

I told you it was a great party!