Thursday, October 29, 2009

But His Speciality Is Onomatopoeia

I spent Tuesday in Houston talking to high school students about Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone (and I told them stuff about This World We Live In, because I can't resist).

The students and faculty were absolutely wonderful and I had a very good time.

The only problem was the students were better educated than I am. That's not surprising, given the quirks of my education, but when people are better educated than I am about the books I write, it can be a problem.

Several of the students asked me about the foreshadowing in LAWKI.

Who knew there was foreshadowing? It was news to moi (see, that one year of French still comes in handy).

In TW, there's a lot of stuff I think of as echoes, which I guess is foreshadowing only in reverse. Backshadowing. Anyway, one thing happens and then later on something else happens and if you think about it (and I did) you can see that there was something earlier in the book that wasn't exactly like it, but kind of sort of like it. Give or take.

But I never thought about that in LAWKI or d&g. I just wrote them.

Scooter, on the other paw, knows all about foreshadowing. He's the kitten king of foreshadowing, as you can tell by this photograph.

While I had a great time every single place I went to the past six weeks, after trips to Virginia, New York City, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas, I'm happy to be home.

I think Scooter and his shadow are happy about it as well!

ETA: This piece from Publishers Weekly on what teens read and why and how is so interesting, I'm providing a link. I'm sure Scooter won't mind.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I'll Be Sitting In The Corner Munching Some Doritos

I spent much of yesterday at Ocean City High School, in Ocean City, New Jersey. The ocean in question is the Atlantic (and a fine ocean it is).

As I was doing my presentation to a group of pleasant, well mannered, highly intelligent ninth graders, I got kind of woozy. I mentioned, in passing, that if I didn't sit down immediately, I would pass out, and one of the ninth graders suggested I sit in an actual chair, which I did (I was sufficiently woozy that I didn't think I could perch on the side of a table and remain conscious, but not so woozy that I was incapable of checking out seating alternatives).

As I burst into a cold sweat and turned grey, I mentioned that given I was at a school, someone really should call for the school nurse.

It turned out they already had called for the school nurse. She had just arrived in time to admire how awful I looked.

So in front of all those ninth graders, she gave me an examination. First she commented on my grey complexion and clammy skin. Then she checked for my pulse in my left wrist. Unfortunately she couldn't find one, which I explained to the students meant I was dead. She switched over to my right wrist, where apparently my pulse had migrated. It was slow or weak or something but it was there.

Then she took my blood pressure. She murmured the number 80, then said she didn't like that blood pressure machine and I should go to her office and have my pressure taken there later.

I had explained to the students that my temperature is always a little lower than normal, so when it comes out normal, that means I have a fever. The nurse took my temperature, declared it normal, and all the students said, "That means she has a fever."

Now if I'd been a student, I would have been sent home. I mean I was grey. They don't keep grey students in school (or at least they didn't when I went to school, which is why I used to try my hardest to be grey, so I could go home). But because I'm a grownup now (and have been for countless decades), I kept saying I was feeling better and better and no one even hinted I should go home. Of course home was 191 miles away, and it wasn't like my mother was going to go to school to get me.

So I went back to presenting, although sitting down in a chair while I did. After the session ended, I went to the nurse's office and she took my official blood pressure, which was 90 over 60. She told me to keep drinking fluids and have some protein at lunch (so I had a chicken salad sandwich, and a pumpkin cookie with cream cheese icing).

By the end of the school day I felt fine, although this afternoon I did take a two hour nap just to be on the safe side. When I woke up, I figured I should find out if I had something fatal, so I went to Dr. Google, and typed in my more attractive symptoms: Cold Sweat Clammy Skin Low Blood Pressure.

Sure enough, many websites offered diagnoses. I picked one, and it turns out that low blood pressure is indicative of low blood pressure. But there was an actual name for my condition, something with three initials, most of which I've already forgotten (I think there was an N in there somewhere).

I have low blood pressure brought on by standing. This mostly affects young people, but maturity has never been my strong suit.

The treatment is simple enough. Don't stand for long periods of time and eat more salt.

That sounds easy enough. I'm glad I didn't search No Pulse In Left Wrist though. I'd hate for Dr. Google to tell me I'm dead!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Report

Oooh, I just noticed this is my 300th blog entry here. Let's party. You bring the refreshments (I'll eat them).

I'm off to New Jersey in an hour or so, and I haven't packed yet, so this will be a short 300th post. But since I discussed earlier what I'd be reading, I felt I should provide an update.

On the flight to Chicago, I became totally engrossed in the latest issue of Films Of The Golden Age, and pretty much only read that. What an issue! It had a great article about the dog who played Asta (did you know the dog who played Asta on The Thin Man TV show was the original Asta's great-grandson? Me neither), and an absolutely wonderful interview with the assistant director of Dracula Vs. Frankenstein. I am not kidding. It was a great, fascinating read.

There was also a good interview with Van Johnson. Oh heck. Even their article about Allene Roberts was interesting.

My flight back was delayed, so I had lots of time to read The Devil In The White City. I made it about halfway through and really enjoyed what I read. But when I got home, I discovered a book I'd reserved from the library had come in- The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah. So I scurried to the library and read it Monday and Tuesday (now I can return it on Friday for the next person who's reserved it).

Those kinds of books always sound better than they pan out to be. It was a good read, but it took what felt like 40 pages to explain who did what and why. I can forgive most of an implausible plot, but I like the solutions to be a tad speedier.

Also when I got back, Google informed me of this question on Yahoo. I really feel for this kid, because there are no physical descriptions of the characters. I hate writing descriptions, so I almost never do (and with a diary format, I didn't have to).

What I do have to do is pack. I'll be taking The Devil In The White City along with me, although I won't have much time to read it or anything else this evening. And my trip to Houston was cut short, so I'll just need something to read on the flight there and back, but nothing for long lonely nights at the motel.

Happy 300th. Maybe 301 will be about the arrival of the This World We Live In ARC. Now that's something I know I'll like reading!

Monday, October 19, 2009

ARC Update

The ARC update is there is no update.

Or more to the point, there are no ARCs. At least not yet. My editor tells me they may come in this week. Which doesn't necessarily mean they'll be on my doorstep (let alone inside my apartment) this week. More like they may come into existence this week.

When I get them, I'll let you know.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Feel Like I'm In A Runaway Balloon

But actually I'm just hiding in the attic.

Things feel chaotic right now, although my guess is that's mostly self-imposed. The Grand Prix figure skating season has begun, so I'm watching skating on There's going to be a point this afternoon where there'll be skating on the net, skating on TV (the Universal station- my mother just got a cable box so she can watch also), and the Phillies/Dodgers game (Go Phillies! What can I tell you- I've got a fierce crush on the Phanatic).

Oh, and I'm going to be on the road for the most part for the next couple of weeks- trips to Illinois (that one is tomorrow) and New Jersey and Texas.

I've had a cold for over a week, an annoying one too, just enough of one so I know I have it, but not so bad that I can't do stuff. Yesterday Marci and I had a theme park day- we went to the Bright Star Diner for brunch and then went to see Bright Star, the movie about John Keats. It was a very pretty movie, but I gotta tell you, I was coughing a lot harder than he was.

I didn't know any of the stuff in the movie (I even thought Keats was 26 when he died, but he was 25), but it reminded me that I went through a stage of reading biographies of the romantic poets and their extended families. I've read biographies of Shelley, Mrs. Shelley, Shelley's mother-in-law, Byron, Mrs. Byron, Byron's half-sister and Byron's daughter. I think I read a biography of a pal of Byron's also, and while I've never read a biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe, I have a vague recollection of how she fits into all this.

I've never read any of their poetry. I don't particularly like the romantic poets. I just like their lives.

Speaking of reading, I'm going to be flying to Illinois and Texas and therefore need stuff to read on the planes (I sometimes think I only read on airplanes). I have four books to choose amongst: The Republic Of Suffering- Death And The American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust, Notes On A Scandal by Zoe Heller (I saw the movie), The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson (I read another of his books while flying somewhere) and Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart (a loan from Marci). And I'll have to buy this week's issue of Entertainment Weekly because it has an article about my favorite Adam Lambert.

So basically the moral of this story is like most Americans, I'm overwhelmed by too many choices.

The advance reading copies of This World We Live In have not yet arrived. When they do, I'll put up blog entries here and over at thirdmoonbook inviting anyone who is interested to email me. I'm 99.99% sure that there'll be more requests than I'll have ARCs, so I'll almost definitely use the lottery system, as I have in the past, to determine who'll get one. Thank you everyone who voted on the polls. It's given me a good sense of interest vs. availability.

Okay. Pairs is about to begin, and I love one of the French teams, so I really need to return to the Grand Prix. When the ARCs arrive, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, stay grounded!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

There's A New Poll Up

I'm still uncertain how many ARCS I'm going to get and when I'm going to get them, but I thought it might be helpful if I had a sense of how many of you might want one.

So I put up a poll last night with several options (including the traditional Go Away Leave Me Alone choice, albeit more tactfully worded), and this morning I scurried to see the results and no one had voted.

Results so far were zero.

A woman's feelings could get hurt.

But then I figured out if no one knew about the poll, no one would respond. So consider yourself informed.

Oh, and I'm not asking yet for emails or anything like that. I won't until I have the ARCs in hand. This poll is just to give me a sense of whether I'm going to need to save some for you or if I can build a playroom for Scooter with them.

ETA: Sorry for the confusion. The other poll is the same poll basically on the thirdmoonbook blog. Some people read one blog, some people read the other.

Friday, October 9, 2009


It has come to my attention that some silly scientists over at NASA have blown a hole or two in the moon for no other reason than to bother me.

They claim they were looking for water, but for that all they need is a kitchen sink. Or if they're really fussy, they could buy some bottled water at the supermarket, and give me the little plastic rings (they're Scooter's favorite toy).

I don't approve of messing with the moon, and I especially don't approve of it if it means the end of life as we knew it. Besides, if they intended to mess with the moon and kill us, they should have done it on Wednesday. I cleaned the apartment on Thursday, and I'd hate to have wasted my time and energy if we're about to be amongst the dead and the gone. Who needs a clean apartment if this world we live in doesn't exist anymore?

In case you think I'm the only one to be concerned about all this (well, I am the only one to be concerned about having cleaned my apartment, but all this covers a lot more than all that), here's a link to the library in Normal, IL, where they understand how worrysome the whole business is.

I am now going to eat an entire bag of chocolate chips. That'll show NASA!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Letters And Emails

I found a one and a half page well written and neatly typed letter from a high school student in Washington State in my mail today.

The only problem is, the date on the letter was January 20. It took over nine months for my publisher to forward it to me.

At the end of August, I got a batch of letters that were sent in March and April. In that case, it was a different publishing house that took forever to forward the mail.

I answer all fan letters that I get, and I do so reasonably promptly, just as I do emails and comments on my blog. I appreciate the time it takes for someone to write me.

The problem with the letters though is the publishing houses don't send them as soon as they get them. I don't know why they don't, but they don't. They just don't.

And I hate the thought of someone (especially a kid) waiting to hear back and not getting a response.

I understand that letter writing is a nearly lost skill and that teachers think writing letters to authors is a good way to practice that skill. I understand that emails aren't the same as letters; they're just not as formal.

But if you're a teacher or a librarian who works with teachers or a parent who speaks to teachers, please get the word out. Letters don't necessarily get to the writers, or if they do, it can be months after the letters were originally written. Months. In the case of the letter I got today, close to a year.

If it's that important that the letter format be used, then email me and we'll discuss what can be worked out. Otherwise, please have your students email me. That way I can respond within a couple of days, and there won't be a disappointed kid in Washington or Florida or Idaho.

Thank you.