Monday, September 29, 2008

Coherence Is Overrated (Or So I Hope)

I seem to have redecorated the blog. I thought it would be nice to have my Best Seller Cap on permanent display over to the right, and the pink of the cap didn't really go with the green and the gold. So I changed colors. Would that all life were that easy.

I had a long, good talk with my editor about the soon to be upcoming third book. I have tons of thinking to do about it, but figuring stuff out is my favorite part of the process.

I can tell you this much (ooh, that's three paragraphs starting with I). Book Three will be a sequel to Life As We Knew It. It will start very shortly after LAWKI ends (maybe a day or two later, maybe a month or two later). It will start at the LAWKI house. One character from the core family of the dead and the gone will be in the story (we're leaning towards Julie but that's in flux). And we're comfortable with my developing the plotline of some combination of Dad, Lisa and the baby showing up at the LAWKI house, with a d&g character in tow.

You now know pretty much what I know. I still need to consider the contract offer, but that will wait until after Rosh ha-Shanah. In the meantime, I'll blow my nose, admire my bruises, and work on a plot.

Let's hope your life is more interesting!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'll Try To Be Coherent But I Make No Guarantees

You know, I'm not even going to try to be coherent. A person should know her limitations.

Isn't the cap fabulous? My goddaughter sent it to me. My guess is she had it made specially for me.

Life As We Knew It is going to be on the Oct. 5 New York Times best seller list, moving from 10 to 9. I don't know if it fell off the list this week or if there wasn't a children's paperback best seller list this week, just that next week it'll be on. I am astounded and delighted that it's made it for a second week.

FAME and Florida were great, and I would tell you all about it, except that would require coherence. Also, I came home with a cold, and yesterday, for about five seconds, the cold migrated to my stomach and I was in so much pain, I collapsed (I don't think I fainted) and fell against the wood trunk I use as a coffee table in my living room. I bit my lip. I assume that's where the streak of blood on my cheek (tres dramatique- it looked like a dueling scar) came from. I have black and blue marks in unusual places and I think I bruised my ribs, since bending and coughing and sneezing hurt. It really could have been much worse, but I'm a very healthy person and I find it exciting when anything unusual happens to me.

My agent e-mailed me my publisher's offer for a third book contract, but between exhaustion, unpacking, blowing my nose, and answering e-mails, I haven't had the time to really think about it.

If I don't blog tomorrow (and my guess is I won't, which is why I'm blogging somewhat incoherently today), I'll wish all of you a happy and healthy new year today. I love that Rosh ha-Shanah falls in fall (even though I fell in fall and I'm not all that happy about that).

I'm off to make my Rosh ha-Shanah resolutions. And to wear my fabulous new cap!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Almost FAMEous

I'm off tomorrow morning to the Florida Association For Media in Education (FAME) Conference, so before I go, I figured I'd bring you up to date on things.

I'll start with the personal stuff. My mother and I went to the Orange County Arboretum this afternoon. Two months ago, she fell in a parking lot pothole and suffered a rib fracture. She is now back to her 97 year old health and happiness. Here, in lieu of a thousand words, is a picture.

She isn't riding a motorcycle-that's her walker.

Before we went to the Arboretum, we had lunch at her assisted living dining room. On the menu was Sole Francoise. Since my mother keeps kosher, I figured I'd better make sure there was no shellfish in the stuffing, so I asked the very young waitperson what the Sole Francoise was.
"Sole is a fish," the very young waitperson replied.

It turned out to be shellfish free and very tasty.

Those of you who look at the list of where Life As We Knew It is nominated for young readers awards will have noticed that Australia is no longer on the list. It was long listed for the Inky Award, but didn't make the next cut. So I wiped the entire continent off the list. I may have wiped the entire continent (or at least its most populous cities) off the map in LAWKI; I really don't remember. I'm sorry to see it go from the list though. It made LAWKI seem so international.

Speaking of LAWKI, Harcourt sent me congratulatory flowers on Friday. I took two pictures of them. One picture is clearly superior to the other, but the less great picture has the Congratulations card in it, so I'll include both. Think of it as two thousand words.
The sofa, by the way, is curved. I bought it when I moved into the apartment. My late cat Alexander used it as his own personal scratching post.
My guess is while I'm at the FAME conference, someone is going to ask me if there's going to be a third book. Until about an hour ago, the answer I intended to give was, "Beats me." But my editor called me this evening and said that Harcourt really truly does want a third book. That may be a paraphrase, but there was a lot of sincerity in her voice.
What's the third book going to be about? Well, you don't expect me to know everything. The plan is for my editor to call me Monday afternoon and we'll discuss third book possibilities then.
If my editor asks, I'll even tell her what sole is!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thank You From The Invisible New York Times Best Selling Author

I scurried downstairs this morning to get my New York Times with its Sunday supplements, but the Book Review Section didn't include the children's best sellers this week.

Naturally I was disappointed, but then I reminded myself that Dewey beat Truman in a newspaper and a fat lot of good that did him. I immediately cheered up.

Before I offer visual proof that Life As We Knew It really is a New York Times best seller (imagine how much pleasure it gives me to say that and then multiply it by a zillion), I want to say thank you to each and every one of you. I don't know for sure how this truly astonishing thing happened, but I don't think it was because LAWKI is a classic or because it's a tie-in to popular movies or because (no insult to Harcourt) it's been heavily promoted. I think it's a good book, but there are an awful lot of good books out there competing with it.

What Life As We Knew It has had almost from the beginning is the support of people who loved it. You've blogged about it, recommended it to friends, shared it with students, fellow teachers and librarians, given it to family members, reviewed it in newspapers and magazines, and encouraged your book groups to read it.

When I wrote LAWKI, I was as involved with it as with any book I've ever written. I loved going to work on it each morning and had trouble stopping each night. I hoped other people might feel some of that involvement, but I never dreamed it would meet with the response that it has, or that I would be so fortunate as to be able to witness how much people I've never met have supported me and my work.

Okay. Before I start getting all weepy, here's a link to the New York Times Children's Best Seller Lists of the week:

And here's what the list looks like (Number 10 is my favorite):

PAPERBACK BOOKS This Week Weeks on List

1 THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. (Candlewick, $7.99.) A mouse, a rat and a girl on a magic trip. (Ages 10 and up) 33

2 THE BOOK THIEF, by Markus Zusak. (Knopf, $11.99.) A girl saves books from Nazi burning and shares them with a Jewish man in hiding. First Chapter (Ages 14 and up) 53

3 MATH DOESN’T SUCK, by Danica McKellar. (Plume, $15.) A girls’ guide to middle-school math. (Ages 9 to 12) 6

4 BATTLE AT TETH, by Kirsten Mayer. (Grosset & Dunlap/LucasBooks, $3.99.) Clones vs. droids; a “Star Wars” book based on the movie “The Clone Wars.” (Ages 4 to 8) 7

5 THE NEW PADAWAN, by Eric Stevens. (Grosset & Dunlap/LucasBooks, $3.99.) To his chagrin, Anakin has a student; a “Star Wars” book based on the movie “The Clone Wars.” (Ages 9 to 12) 7

6 The iNHERITANCE CYCLE, by Christopher Paolini. (Knopf, $19.99.) Two fantasy novels, “Eragon” and “Eldest,” packaged together. (Ages 12 and up) 1

7 THE ALCHEMYST, by Michael Scott. (Delacorte, $8.99.) Twins must help an immortal alchemist protect his book of spells from an evil sorcerer. (Ages 12 and up) 3

8 RULES, by Cynthia Lord. (Scholastic, $6.99.) The challenges and rewards of life with an autistic brother. (Ages 9 to 12) 2

9 THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY, by Trenton Lee Stewart. Illustrated by Carson Ellis. (Little, Brown, $6.99.) Gifted kids on a mission. (Ages 9 to 12) 6

10 LIFE AS WE KNEW IT, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. (Harcourt, $6.95.) A girl’s diary reflects the catastrophe that ensues when a meteor hits the moon. (Ages 12 and up) 1

Thank you again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Even My Mother Is Having Trouble Believing It

I just got an e-mail from my editor saying Life As We Knew It will be the number ten book on the New York Times Paperback Children's Best Seller List this Sunday.

I will now and forever (well, now and forever starting on Sunday) be able to refer to myself as a New York Times Best Selling Author.

Monday, September 15, 2008

For Those Of You Who Live In New Jersey

New Jersey, a very high quality state, has a One Book New Jersey voter selection process for the next few weeks, and Life As We Knew It is one of the young adult choices.

Should you live in New Jersey and be interested in voting for it, or any of the other books in any of the categories, here's the link:

Yes, I confess, I voted once, even though I don't live there. What can I tell you. My finger slipped. But more to the point, I e-mailed my brother and sister-in-law, who really do live in New Jersey, so even if you don't happen to live in New Jersey, but your brother and sister-in-law do, they might be interested. Or even if you don't live in New Jersey and neither does your brother and sister-in-law, you might be interested in all the books listed. Or in sponsoring a One Book Name Your State event like New Jersey's.

Anyway, they request that people just vote once, and while they don't say they limit their votes to Garden Staters, I'm sure that's their preference. But I'm delighted that LAWKI is one of their nominees, and if I don't tell you (and my brother and sister-in-law) who can I tell?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Refuse To Blame That Third Piece of Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

I had terrible fierce insomnia last night, most likely caused by entirely too much serious thinking about career alternatives, although houseguests and an unusually high calorie consumption might also have been factors.

In a failed effort to relax myself to sleep, I tried to name all seventy five of my books. I totally failed. I think I got up to sixty five at one point, but I'm not sure of that, since it's hard to keep straight in one's mind all those titles simultaneously (I'd remember one, then forget it, then not be able to remember if I'd remembered it in the first place). This morning I tried writing them down, unsuccessfully, and after my friend Joyce woke up, and I had access to the den, I looked on the shelves where I keep them all and tried to figure out which one's I'd forgotten (unsuccessfully). Then I went online, googling about until I found a somewhat complete list:

Between that and what I'd written down, I think I came up with all seventy five, although I may have hit seventy six by mistake.

I also remembered various books I'd written, gotten paid for, that never got published. There were five or six. In no particular order:

But Seriously Folks: I wanted to write a book about a girl who wants to be a standup comic, so I did. The only problem was the book was completely humorless. I find it incredibly difficult to be funny on demand. My recollection is the book was so helpless that I either didn't submit it, or merely informed my editor that she didn't have to tell me how dreadful it was, since I already knew. Things have to be really bad if I can tell they're really bad. Since I'd already gotten a contract, I wrote another book in its place. I think it was Truth Or Dare, which did pretty well, but maybe it was a different book. Whichever book it was, it did pretty well.

Dieting Is Just A Piece Of Cake: I liked high interest low reading level books, since my vocabulary level died in the middle of fifth grade. I wrote one under a pseudonym, and I'm pretty sure I wrote a second one which was going to be about dieting. But maybe I just meant to or talked to my editor about it and never got a contract. But I do have vague memories of writing it and getting actual money for it.

The First Future Forward- I wrote a book called Rewind To Yesterday about three kids who discover they can go back in time through their VCR. I got a two book contract, with the plan to write a book where they travel to the future. My recollection is there was a bracelet I really wanted to buy and that was why I wanted the contract (I still have the bracelet, although I almost never wear it). The original version of Future Forward, as best I can remember, had the boy character travel ahead in time to find out test results, and somehow, by book's end, he's passed the test and not gotten into any kind of trouble. Even I realized you can't encourage cheating, so I dumped the book and wrote one where he travels ahead of time to find out the winning lottery ticket number. I used to go to schools and ask kids if they thought that was morally wrong. All the kids did, and all the adults thought it was perfectly fine. I learned many lessons from those books, but the most important one is that books date much faster than you ever think they're going to.

By the way, I'm not the only person who remembers Rewind To Yesterday:

And, while I'm feeling nostalgic, I named one of the heroines Kelly Diane Forrest, so her name would be DeForest Kelley, since Dr. McCoy was my absolute favorite Star Trek character. I'm pretty sure I sent Mr. Kelley a copy of the book, but he never responded. I don't hold it against him.

Harry The Sofa King- Definitely my favorite. A picture book about King Harry, who lived in a castle filled with sofas. He tells everyone to bring all their money, and he sells them all his sofas. Then he walks around his kingdom and discovers sofas have become the currency and nobody in the country is happy, since they have to carry the sofas with them just to buy stuff like ice cream. He buys back the sofas, opens a used sofa store for the country next door, and in the course of all this makes friends with the ice cream man and discovers his cat had kittens. The publising house demanded an inordinate amount of rewrites for a three page long manuscript, none of which made the book better. Then they went out of business.

The Princess Of Never Never- Probably my favorite title. I wrote a book called Fantasy Summer about four girls who work as interns on a magazine. Girls loved that book. The plan was to write one book about each of the four girls. A second one, Getting Even, was published, but for some reason things stopped right there. I was looking forward to writing the fourth book, too.

Return To Sender- I wrote a popular book called Twice Taken about a girl who'd been snatched by her father and as as teenager is made to live with her mother, who'd had legal custody. You know me, I like to know what happened next. The publishing house changed its mind about wanting to know the same, so even though I wrote it, and they bought it, it never saw the light of day. I no longer remember what happened in the book, although I recall doing rewrites.

In case you're wondering if there's a moral to this story, it's probably watch how much fudge you eat and never think serious thoughts about your career when you're trying to fall asleep on an air mattress in your living room. Which will never make it onto a sampler, but still are words we should all live by.

Either that, or if King Harry offers to sell you a sofa bed, buy it!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

News From Up North

Unless you live in Alaska or Canada or the North Pole (hi Alaskans, hi Canadians, hi Santa's Elves), Canada is definitely north.

My sister-in-law is now officially a grandmother. Baby Boy Chaz was born on Sept. 8. By a very nice coincidence, that's my brother's birthday, so Chaz and his stepgrandpa can share a birthday cake.

I would tell you Chaz's height and weight but his stepgrandpa didn't tell me.

The other big news from Canada is that Jeffrey Buttle has announced his retirement from Olympic eligible figure skating. Buttle, who is one of my favorites, is reigning world champion. He has several world medals and an Olympic bronze as well.

Not everybody has the chance to retire at the top of their game. More power to him, although I'll miss seeing him compete.

Monday, September 8, 2008

My Father. My Brother. My Father. My Brother.

I'm just back from haircuts and lunch out with my mother.

Ordinarily that would be noteworthy only to myself and my mother. But since the last time we did it, my mother fell in a pothole and cracked a rib, I thought it blogworthy.

Also the woman who cuts my hair marvelled I'm getting more and more blond rather than more and more grey. I felt you should know that.

And because I like to be the first one to announce these things, I got my October TCM magazine and their star of the month for November is Charles Laughton (their star of the month for October is Carole Lombard, and I really hope they show Bolero because I've always wanted to see that, but I haven't had the time to look through the listings, since I wanted to be the first to let you know about Charles Laughton, who would look very silly dancing to Bolero or most anything else).

Since my editor seems to be losing interest in a third book, I spent a couple of minutes last night trying to come up with a plot idea for something completely different. It's hard though, when you've killed off all humanity not once but twice, to find a story that doesn't seem anticlimactic.

So I did what I always do under those circumstances, and thought about previously published works that I might use as a starting off point.

I began with the Bible. A number of years ago, I wrote a story with the best title I've ever had, "Cain And Abel Double Date." It was about Cain and Abel double dating, in case you're wondering.

So I played with expanding it to a book. But I immediately fell into that what do you call the parents problem.

"Hey Mom, that smells great," Cain said.

"I baked another apple pie," Mrs. Adam replied.

Crossing the Bible off the list, I went to the other great work of early YA literature, Antigone, to see what I could steal there. But I ran into other problems.

First of all, there's that nasty business of Antigone's family. The odds are your average twelve year old isn't familiar with the Oedipus story, and every time I tried to figure out how to explain it, I started picturing Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in Chinatown.

Then there are all those (no insult intended to the ancient Greeks) ancient Greek names. Frankly, if I didn't know better, I'd pronounce Antigone like antifreeze. For some reason, I keep getting Antigone mixed up with Electra, and to make matters worse, I have it in my head that Electra's father was named Richard (he wasn't even named Richard in Mourning Becomes Electra; I checked three times just to make sure).

"You must be King Oedipus," the man said. "Antigone's told us all about you." Realizing his faux pas, he immediately added, "I'm Electra's father, King Agamemnon, and this is my better half, Queen Clytaemnestra."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Your Majesties," Antigone's dad replied, sticking his hand out in their general vicinity.

"The pleasure is all ours," Electra's dad said. "And none of this Your Majesties business. All my friends call me Richard."

"They would if he had any friends." Mrs. Agamemnon muttered.

Hmm. Maybe if Cain and Abel double date with Antigone and Electra this might all work out. What a family problem/problem/problem novel that would make!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Personally, I Always Call You DarlingReader

As I've mentioned before, one of the things I enjoy most about my post- Life As We Knew It/the dead and the gone career is learning about things. For example, until I began this blog, I had no idea how many people were named Anonymous.

Sometime, early in LAWKI's existence, Harcourt told me about a place called DearReader. It is a very clever idea, in case any of you are unfamiliar with it. On Mondays through Fridays, they e-mail you the first few pages of a book. They offer many different types of books, so you get to decide for yourself if you want a novel or a business book or a YA or a sci fi or mystery, etc. Then they select the book for the week, and you get a taste of a new book.

On the assumption that you might be interested, or just as likely, that I failed to adequately describe what DearReader is like, here's the link:

Starting tomorrow, their YA of the week is the dead and the gone. I was delighted when they chose Life As We Knew It, but in reality LAWKI gets off to a slow start. My decision, and je ne regrette rien, but it made the first few pages a day seem a little weird. I think by Friday that pesky meteor was about to hit the moon.

The Dead and the Gone starts a bit faster, but I'm curious to see how far along it'll be by Friday. I hope Alex will be out of Joey's Pizza by then.

And because I'm such a friendly, social person, I left the first comment on their d&g thread. I wonder how many people named Anonymous will read it!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Good News Comes Fast. Bad News Takes Its Time

I got an e-mail last night from my editor expressing serious concerns about the new intertwined version of the third book. I wasn't surprised, since I'd figured if she loved it I would have heard by now. E-mails, phone calls, telegrams, sky writing- there are lots of ways letting people know good news.

Sky writing is my favorite, although it's the least energy efficient.

I happen to like this intertwined third book version a lot, although, truth be told, I've liked just about all my different third books a lot, even the ones that I won't let anyone see because they're most likely disastrous. I really enjoy killing off all humanity, and my guess is I'd enjoy it even more this upcoming political season.

But I'd be surprised if I end up writing any third book this fall and at this point I'm not going to be shocked if I never write one at all.

I've had more fun with Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone than I ever imagined possible. They were joys to write and I take real pride in both of them. I'm confident more good things are going to happen to them (and to me as a result) in the months and maybe years to come. In fact, I'm already working on Life As We Knew It! The Musical. Here's Miranda's big Act One number:

My eyes are blue.
My blood is red.
In spite of that
Soon I'll be dead.

It's harder to come up with words that rhyme with gone (so far all I've figured out is Ron and salon), so the dead and the gone! the musical may have to be satisfied with Miranda's big number, only with brown eyes.

Hold on. I feel inspiration striking:

My blood is red.
My eyes are brown.
New York is wet.
Maybe I'll drown.

I'm off to clean the apartment, run errands, and begin design work on the Life As We Knew It/ the dead and the gone coloring books.

See Mrs. Nesbitt.
Mrs. Nesbitt is dead.
Color Mrs. Nesbitt grey.

Life is full of possibilities!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gas Is Expensive; Irony Is Cheap

I intended to start listening to the audiobook version of the dead and the gone yesterday, but I was too engrossed in the Hurricane Gustav coverage to begin. Today, I'm too amused by Sarah Palin (did you know that for two years she was a member of the Alaska Independence Party, which, according to the NY Times, "has at times sought a vote on whether the state should secede") to want to focus on all that dead and goneness.

I did spend a couple of days going through my outside storage closet, planning to cull all that sentimental attachment stuff that I haven't looked at in four years. It turned out I was sentimentally attached to each and every item, including two identically warped fliers for a Milli Vanilli concert. Then I took all my old movie magazines out of the storage closet and piled them on the top of my bookshelf in the den. But I didn't like them there, so I emptied out a cabinet in my bedroom, by putting what was there in the outside storage closet, and moved the movie magazines in. Just think of it as the circle of life.

Remember how I got interviewed by Susan Raab at ALA? Well, Susan Raab and I remember. Okay, maybe Susan has forgotten, but I remember. What Susan Raab most likely does remember, is that she interviewed fifteen other people as well. Here's a link to all sixteen interviews (mine is accompanied by a very very old publicity photograph):

I'm always sensitive to assertions that the science in Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone isn't quite as scientific as it should be, so I should be even more defensive to discover there's a thread on the subject at the Bad Astronomy And Universe Today Forum. But if I hadn't written those books, I never would have known such a place existed. So for the astronomically inclined amongst you, here's the link:

Here, from the Books For Kids Foundation newsletter is an item that has nothing to do with me but is well worth noting:

New Library Completed with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Books for Kids created a library for the Lincoln Park Community Center in
Maryland as well as worked on a special home project for ABCs hit show,
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. On Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,
a deserving family receives a brand new home. The episode featuring
BFK, which will be aired at 7 PM ET on Sunday, September 28th, is the
2-hour season premiere and not only includes the home project but also
our work with the community center’s library. The Lincoln Park Community
Center does very good work within the greater community, and also
served as a special haven for the wonderful family appearing on the
show. Be sure to tune in!

I'm off to google Milli Vanilli and see where they stood (and lip synched) on the Alaskan Secession issue. What a vice presidential candidate they would have made!