Monday, December 27, 2010

Wishing A Happy And Prosperous New Year

To: Abigail, Alison, Andrea, Anonyous (each and every one), Aoife, Apirl Henry, Arshiya, Bailey, Barbara, Becky, Bee, Beleth, Blueicegal, BookGirl, Brad, Brandi, Brenda Nepomuceno, brian, Bruce, Candice, carbar, carlie, Caroline, Carrie, Carrie Ryan, Chris, Chrystal, C.K., Claus, CubanDiva, danny, Dawn M., DeviouslyCartoonified, diego hoyos real name, die Hexe von Blogspot, donna, Elaine Marie Alphin, Emily, Emily H, exBFF, Farrah, Fear Death By Water, Frank Mochrie, Friendly Neighbourhood Bookseller, Gavin, Gigi, GenericName, Georgia, Gillian, Glen, grrlpup, Hailee, Heather, heather t, HiddenWords, holdenj, Ing, Jack, Janet, Jean, Jen, Jenni, Jen's Quilts, Jessamyn, Jessie, Jill, Jon, Jan van Harz, Judi J, Judith, Julia, KAH, Karen Strong, Katie, katie smith, Katharina, Katherine, Kathryn, Kay Richardson, Kats, Kiley, kkroenlein, Kristin Morales, Kristy, KSSxJonas, Kylie2450, L, Lauren, leacat, Lee, Lemurkat, Leslie, lexi, life as we knewn it,Linda Jacobs, Lisa, lisa-marie, Lisa-Marie Jordan, Liz, Liz X, Lorielle, Lori Pappas, Luker, Lulu, Lupe, Megan, Marci,Madeline, mary sue,Meaghan W., Mindy, Missie, Moe, Moses, Mr. Cavin, Nancy, Natasha, NicktheNinja222, Nicole, Nina, Nora, Paige Y, Phebe H.L., qwertyulop, Rachel Maria, Robin, rock4ever95, sarah, Sarah, Sean, SehvertherhaveTM, SeeYaSoonBookDeal, Sharde (Shar-day), Shirley Shimer, Shweta, Slightlynorsk, S.M.D., Smilinmera, Soccerluv, Sonu, Sophia, Suburbia Public Library, Sunbrarian, Susan, susancolebank, Term Papers, Tez Miller, Think, tigerlily*, Ulrika, Vanessa, Wanda Vaughn, Wendy, Zombie, and everyone else who has happened by ths blog in 2010,

From Susan Beth Pfeffer and Scooter!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My 2010 Reading List

While there's still a week and a half left to 2010, all my spare time (and some time I can't spare) seems to be going into this crazy book I'm writing, so my guess is I won't be reading any more books until January. If I do somehow, and it's worth noting, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, here's my semi-adequate 2010 reading list. In defense of its seeming sparseness, I did write most of Blood Wounds in the winter, and I go through two newspapers a day, not to mention a great deal of internet discussion of American Idol (I may not watch the show, but I do love the analysis). Plus, my current obsession with TextTwist has enabled me to learn many six letter and under words (I still don't know what an ort is, but it comes in singular and plural).

Okay. Here's the list in chronological order. F stands for Fiction and N for Non-Fiction (it'd be a little silly if it were the other way around).

The Lace Reader- Brunonia Barry (f)
Dead Certainties- Simon Schama (n)
The Game- A.S. Byatt (f)
Consuelo and Alma Vanderbilt-Amanda Mackenzie Stuart (n)
Sunstroke- Jesse Kellerman (f)
An Unspeakable Crime- Elaine Marie Alphin (n)
From The Beast To The Blonde- Marina Warner (n)
Notes On A Scandal- Zoe Heller (f)
While I Was Gone- Sue Miller (f)
Ballerina On Skates- Zoa Sherburne (f)
You Call It Madness- Lenny Kaye (n)
Innocent- Scott Turow (f)
A Stranger In The Family- Robert Barnard (f)
The Dead Lie Down- Sophie Hannah (f)
Teresa Of Avila- Cathleen Medwick (n)
The Great Warming- Brian Fagan (n)
Doomed Queens- Kris Waldherr (n)
Madame de Pompadour- Evelyn Lever (n)
Stonewall Jackson- John Bowers (n)
Born To Be Hurt- Sam Staggs (n)
Revolutionary Road- Richard Yates (f)
The Bible Unearthed- Finkelstein and Silberman (n)
The Dive From Clausen's Pier- Ann Packer (f)
The Big Bam- Leigh Montville (n)
The San Francisco Earthquake- Thomas and Witts (n)
Gilead- Marilynne Robinson (f)
The Big Picture- Douglas Kennedy (f)
A Reliable Wife- Robert Goolrich (f)
Henry of Navarre- Henry Dwight Sedgwick (n)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Have I Been Up To, You Ask

I ask myself the same thing.

You may recall a few weeks ago, while on my exercycle watching the TCM series about moguls and movie stars, I was inspired by one of the names I heard. In spite of my commitment to being retired, I couldn't shake off the idea. I woke up thinking about it, played with it during the day, and tried not to think about it when I went to bed at night.

A couple of weeks after I got the idea, I made up a chapter outline.

(I'm not worried that this could be regarded as a spoiler because my handwriting is so bad not even I can read it. And I've changed some stuff. Those numbers on top are my effort to estimate the length of the book [15 pages times 13 chapters]).

But no matter how much I loved the idea (and I did and I do with an unhealthy passion), I couldn't make myself sit down and start writing. You know,Page One Chapter One. That sort of writing.

So I've been letting myself write sections of it instead, scenes I've been fixated on, hoping to get them out of my system. I figured if I enjoyed writing the scenes enough, at some point I'd write Chapter One and all that, and slot the previously written scenes in.

I may still do that. I'm writing more and more scenes. I'm even rewriting some of the material, as my mind plays around with the plot. My guess is I've written 30, maybe 35 pages. No Chapter One yet, or Two or Three. Not even the end of the book, which I know pretty much word for word.

I've never written a book this way before, so I'm not sure I really am writing this one now. Maybe I'll lose interest and never get around to the disciplined writing of Chapter One, Chapter Two. Or maybe I'll decide that much as I love the story, it is a little on the crazy side, and best left in the privacy of my own computer.

But meantime I keep writing and exploring and playing with the story. If this is what retirement will be like, I kind of enjoy it!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dank Sie Anonym

My new best friend, Anonymous, left a comment this morning to announce the name of the German translation of The Dead And The Gone: Die Verlorenen von New York. Anonymous says that means "The Lost Ones Of New York."

As we all know, the extent of my German is "pfeffer" and "Ich bin ein Berliner." So I'm taking Anonymous's word on this (as I'm taking some English/German translation service that Dank Sie Anonym means "Thank you Anonymous," and for that matter, I'm hoping that's German and not Danish or some other language that could be abbreviated as de).

As soon as I learned what the title was, or more accurately, will be, I scurried over to German Amazon to see what I could find.

And then, I actually taught myself how to take an image from the internet (in this case by way of German Amazon) and post it here!

I think this cover is absolutely gorgeous, and I love the translated title. So today I am a very happy and grateful unlost person of New York.

Danke again Anonymous!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Someday I'll Be Sure To Return The Favor

My brain is currently like a kitten chasing its tail, burning off a great deal of energy while accomplishing very little.

So instead of sharing the Santa Claus movie dream I had last night or pondering the effect cellphones have had on hit and run accidents, I'll let the New York Times write this blog entry for me. At least, I'll link to two very different very interesting articles.

The first is about a new website for young writers. If you are a young writer, or know someone who is, you might find this place worth exploring.

The second article is about the effect ebooks are having on romance novels. The ebook phenomenon is of fascination to me. I don't own any kind of ebook reader, since I'm still working my way through the books I already own (I'm finally reading that biography of Henri IV that's been sitting on my shelves for a few decades), but I do understand they're going to change publishing in ways none of us can envision, so I was quite intrigued by this article.

All right. I'm off to do my recycling and have lunch with my mother. Maybe by the time I get home, chasing my tail won't be quite so enticing!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

While We're On The Subject Of Germany

I'm pleased to announce that Carlsen, the German publishers of De Welt Wie Wir Sie Kannten (aka Life As We Knew It) and soon to be German publishers of The Dead And The Gone (I don't know what its German name will be) will also be publishing This World We Live In in the spring of 2012.

I certainly don't know what they'll call it, since De Welt Wie Wir Sie Kannten, according to Google, translates to The World As We Know It, which could add to the confusion. And as we all know, I'm confused enough.

Confused but very very pleased!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

For Anyone Out There In Germany

I received notice this morning that the German version of Life As We Knew It (Die Welt Wie Wir Sie Kannten) has been shortlisted for a readers choice award.

Naturally, I'm thrilled.

If anyone here is from Germany and feels like voting (from Dec.3-10), here's the link!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Looking Backward, Looking Ahead

Friday night, I had a dinner party with my cousin Fran,and my friends Marci (her husband was working and couldn't come), Cynthia and Joel. It was a great success because Marci brought the salad and dessert and Cynthia brought homebaked challah and wine and more dessert, so nobody much cared that the vegetable curry I made had no flavor whatsoever.

I did make chutney that helped hide the flavorlessness of the curry.

We talked and laughed and ate and had an excellent time. But the next morning I realized I'd forgotten to do something I'd planned on ever since I first knew I'd be having people over for dinner that night. I forgot to make a toast in honor of the sixth anniversary of my coming up with the idea for Life As We Knew It. It was Thanksgiving Saturday that I watched the movie Meteor on TV, and starting thinking about what it would be like to be a teenager living through a world wide catastrophe.

Sometimes I think about what would have happened if I hadn't seen Meteor that day, but it's too scary to contemplate. The best I can imagine is that my mind was ready to write, and if it hadn't been LAWKI, it would have been something else. But LAWKI and its companions, The Dead And The Gone and This World We Live In, have been such extraordinary experiences for me, both in the pleasure of actual writing and in the pleasure of actual money, that I can't conceive that any other idea at that moment of my life could have been nearly so successful.

Thanks to the royalty check I got a couple of weeks ago for all three books, I have enough money in the bank to last me for a while (unless I end up spending it all on Big Lots DVDs). I don't know which translated versions will come out when, but I'm awaiting seeing one or more of the three titles in French, Portuguese, Chinese and Bulgarian. And I discovered today, that the paperback of This World We Live In, due for publication next spring, already has an Amazon ranking. A whole new thing to obsess over in the months to come.

Today I mailed off what used to be called galleys and are now called first draft rough pages (which is a lot longer and far less poetic than galleys) of Blood Wounds. I hadn't looked at the book in a while, and I am such a sucker for my own writing that I actually got a little teary at a couple of places. Of course just because I love a book I wrote doesn't mean anyone else will, and I'm keeping my fantasies about how Blood Wounds will do at a very very low level. Not that I'll object to being pleasantly surprised if it does well.

Meanwhile my brain is continuing to play with my new book idea. I did a chapter outline, and it's pretty solid (there's always a little wiggle room in the middle of an unwritten book). I'd say I'll start it on Monday except my mother has a 2 PM appointment with Dr. Eye Doctor, which kind of cuts the day in half. I did decide if I was going to write the book, I'd work in the afternoons, as opposed to saying I'm going to work in the mornings and then dawdling the day away, only to start writing in the late afternoon.

My dream is to get the book written before New Year's, so I can officially be retired in 2011.

That should give me plenty of time to learn French and Portuguese and Chinese and Bulgarian. And maybe even time to learn how to make a vegetable curry with some flavor to it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

For All I Know, Scooter Wrote It

Out of deference to my Cousin Fran's cat allergies, I've been pretending to clean my apartment. And out of deference to my cat Scooter, much of the cleaning has involved searching under the stove and refrigerator and somesuch places, in search of the twist ties he shoves there. Twist ties (especially the black and white expensive ones) are Scooter's current favorite plaything.

While cleaning the den the other day, I searched around under the computer cabinet. I found a couple of pens (Scooter's previous favorite plaything), and I could hear a piece of paper rattling about.

Scooter heard it too (Scooter likes noisy things), so he went digging. He dragged out a piece of paper with typing on it.

I scanned the paper, but I can't figure out how to post the scan here, so I'm just going to type what was on the page, using that nifty blockquote thing to make it look official.


He was a little drunk. I was sure of it. I'd met Trish, once last summer, when Dad and she first began seeing each other, and again over Christmas vacation, when I'd gone for my semi-annual visit, and could tell things were getting serious between them. But in all my conversations and e-mails with Dad, he'd never hinted that he was going to marry her. In fact, he'd expressed some reservations because of Trish's two young children.

"I was just wondering," I said. "What I mean is, why now. Why Vegas?"

"You sound like my mother," Dad said, and I knew that wasn't a compliment. "Megan, Trish and I are grownups. We both happened to have a couple of days off, and Trish's parents were able to take the kids, and it seemed like the best time to do it." There was a pause, and I could see Dad start thinking Daddy thoughts. "Oh honey, are you disappointed?" he asked. "That we eloped? I didn't think. But of course you'd want to be there, see your old man tie the knot."

The noose was more like it, I thought, but I love Dad, and Trish wasn't so bad, not really. "Of course I'm disappointed," I lied. "Disappointed, and surprised. But mostly I'm real happy for you."

"Here. Trish wants to say hello," Dad said, and I could

Here's the thing. I've been in this apartment six and a half years. I was the first person to live here, so I can't assume anyone else wrote that page (besides, it positively reeks of my style). I've written three books here that have been published (Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, This World We Live In) and one (Blood Wounds) waiting to be published. I've written several books that haven't been published, a YA suspense novel (named, I think, 7 Hours) that I loved but never found a publisher, two middle group novels, one of which my agent thought needed work and one I never showed her because it wasn't good enough, and one completely unpublishable version of a third moon book. And this page 6 doesn't sound like my memory of any of those books.

I have no idea what manuscript it came from. There's no point in my going through all my documents because I'm on Hard Drive #3 since moving here, and I'm not one to back things up. I don't know who these characters are, what happens to them next, or even if there's a page 7 floating about.

My brain is currently hard at work (although it feels like play) at the idea I came up with last week. I'm ready to write a chapter outline, to get a feel for if I need more events in the story. If I stay interested, I'll most likely begin writing it week after next (next week I'll spend recovering from November, a long and tricky month).

I only hope if I do write it, that I keep better track of it, and don't let it vanish under the computer station, only to be dug up by a cat searching for his twist ties!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maybe I'll Write It While My Cousin Fran Is Sneezing

I don't seem to have begun cleaning my apartment yet, in honor of the upcoming visit of my Cousin Fran Who's Allergic To Cats. In fact, the apartment seems to get messier and messier, as opposed to neater and neater, let alone cleaner and cleaner.

I'm going with Not My Fault for the messier part. I got a new clock radio and a new telephone and a new heating pad and probably some other new stuff I've already forgotten about, and everything comes in boxes with lots of packaging, and even though I've put the clock radio and telephone and heating pad and probably some other stuff where they belong, I still have all the boxes and cardboard to dispose of.

Also I seem to have stopped reading the newspapers again, so they're piling up.

I did buy a new cordless vacuum cleaner which claims it's pet perfect, but since taking it out of its box would be a commitment to actually cleaning, it remains untouched on the kitchen counter. On top of it are the empty boxes for the clock radio and heating pad and telephone, etc.

I am pleased to report that my royalty check for Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In came today and I can afford everything I bought. I can even afford a new box of tissues for Fran, who'll be sneezing up a storm at Thanksgiving if I don't start cleaning.

Did you know sneezing is an excellent weight loss system? I didn't either, until I made it up just now. I hope Fran believes me though, since it's the best excuse I've come up with for why I haven't started dusting and vacuuming yet.

What I have been doing the past few days is working on that book idea I came up with Monday when I was exercycling. It's been so much fun to plot that that's what I've been doing pretty much every quiet moment. I have the end worked out (it's a book where you have to have the end worked out before you even think about writing it) and a hefty amount of the middle and the beginning isn't that much of a concern for me, since the idea is to get to the middle as fast as possible. The truth of the matter is (is that one of those easily italicized cliches like LOL- TTOTMI?), if Fran weren't coming on Wednesday, I might even start writing it on Monday; that's how quickly it's developed itself

But Fran is coming on Wednesday, and for all I know, by a week from Monday, I might have forgotten all about the book idea. It's going to be a very distracting visit, what with Thanksgiving dinner with my mother and Fran and Marci and her husband Bill at my mother's assisted living facility and then on Friday a trip to the Bethel Woods Museum (devoted to the 1960s) and then dinner for Fran, Marci, Bill and my friends Cynthia and Joel (I'm looking at vegetable curry recipes). Saturday, I take Fran to the airport and don't do anything again for the next four months (aka winter). Or maybe I'll write the book.

But first, I suppose, I should take the pet perfect handheld vacuum cleaner out of its box, and see if I can vacuum up Scooter!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It Wasn't Samuel Goldwyn Or Adolph Zukor

I brought my mother back to her apartment Sunday afternoon. The whole process took several hours, and in spite of her relaxing month in the nursing center, by the time she was settled back in, neither she nor I were any younger.

I was pondering the injustice of all this Monday morning, as I sat on my exercycle and peddled away to last week's episode of TCM's series, Moguls & Movie Stars: A History Of Hollywood .I was in Texas when it was on last week, and my goal is to not fall even an episode behind (I'll watch last night's episode later this week).

Episode 2 was about the transition to Hollywood and the rise of both the moguls and the movie stars. It didn't tell me anything I hadn't at one point or another in my life known, and it skipped some things I did know, like that Tom Mix's death rated a top of the fold front page New York Times obit (I used to have a trivia question where I asked people to name the stars that got top of the fold front page NY Times obits, and he was the one no one ever got). But these kinds of shows are always entertaining, and I was enjoying it when one of the names caught my attention.

That would be a good name for a character, I said to myself as I peddled away. Boy or girl, I asked. Boy, I decided (peddle, peddle, peddle*). So who is the boy with the great name? Well, he could be a...

That's as far as I'm taking you. But as I watched and peddled, and then as I meandered about the apartment and later took my mother to the doctor for her checkup, and did all those everyday sorts of things, my brain worked on this possible new idea for a novel.

Am I going to write it? I dunno. It's outside my comfort zone, so there'd be work involved. On the other hand, this morning before I got out of bed, I developed the plot some more. The characters are talking, and I've visited Popular Baby Names**, so the ones who didn't get named from Moguls & Movie Stars at least have temporary names to go by. I ran the idea by my friend Christy, and she didn't hang up, always a good sign. And I do have a long winter ahead of me with nothing scheduled except football and figure skating and taking care of my mother. No trips, no Olympics.

But whether I write the book or not, I did learn a lesson, and that is fiction exists to distract. That's why people read novels (Christy agreed to this). That's at least one reason why I write them. My woe is me mood vanished as soon as I began thinking about this character and that and where the story could go.

I have to spend the week cleaning the apartment because my cousin Fran is coming for a Thanksgiving visit and she's allergic to cats.*** But dusting and vacuuming aren't nearly so bad if you have an idea to play with!

*That's like a sound effect, which is a very classy thing to have in a blog, and is proof that I was a film major at NYU. The * is also pretty darn classy. In fact, this blog entry would get a higher grade than I ever got for any of my papers at NYU.

**The best website ever.


Purr! Achoo!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

If Only Beverly Aadland Had Played Sandra The High Priestess

While I was away in Texas, my much awaited DVD of Cuban Rebel Girls and Untamed Women arrived. I was too tired to watch it Wednesday night, but last night I devoted myself to it. And since I know you're breathlessly awaiting my review, well, here goes.

First off, I was very pleased with the quality of the DVD (as opposed to the quality of the movies). They looked about as good as they possibly could. And there were some neat trailers included on the DVD, all for movies I'd never heard of and will most likely never hear of again. What was super great about the trailers were a couple of them had exact same shots as Untamed Women, thus suggesting the dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures (which mostly looked like lizards and armadillos), got a lot of work. Although I did have my doubts about the vicious tigers in Africa. Not that I'd expect placid tigers in Africa either.

I watched Untamed Women first and it was exactly as I remembered only more so. The guy from Brooklyn had a lot more dialogue than I'd remembered, and the High Priestess Sandra's disciples danced a lot more (and had fabulous early 1950s hairdos, thus suggesting that even on deserted islands, you can still get a perm). The attacking hairy men (who I had forgotten) were a lot hairier than anticipated. And I was very impressed that all the untamed women said "ye" and "thy" a lot, but turned out to be descended from Druids, who'd left England a couple of thousand years ago to avoid the Romans. Forgive me if that's a spoiler.

What I hadn't remembered was how existential the whole movie was. Or how terrificly the volcano erupted. Or the armadillos the size of elephants (or maybe elephants the size of armadillos). Or what a truly dreadful actress the woman who played the High Priestess Sandra was (and yet, when I looked at the actresses playing her disciples, none of them cracked a smile).

It turns out Beverly Aadland wasn't much of an actress either. I'd never seen Cuban Rebel Girls, so the plot, such as it was, came as quite a surprise to me. Who knew it was a good thing for all freedom loving people that Fidel Castro came to power? Or that Errol Flynn was quite so chunky at the end of his career?

Beverly Aadland played an American Cuban Rebel Girl, who didn't know the difference between Castro and Batista, but her boyfriend had joined the rebels and she wanted to see him. She had long blonde hair, and there was a recurring, unintended, joke, whenever there was a long shot of the rebels marching, with her hair swinging away in solitary blonde perfection.

The easiest way of describing the movie (other than lousy) is by saying it's kind of like Bananas without any of the funny stuff and with Woody Allen role played by Kellie Pickler. And while the Cuban Rebel Girls and Boys did sing a lot, they could have used a few more dance numbers.

An existential armadillo or two wouldn't have hurt either!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The End Of The Road (Trip)

I got back from four days in Fort Worth, Texas yesterday evening. Two days of travel (including driving under the New York Marathon runners Sunday on my way to the airport)and two days of school visits.

I had a great time. I always have a great time doing school visits because everybody is incredibly nice to me, the students have interesting and unexpected questions, and I eat every food substance I normally don't allow myself.

I don't have any more trips planned until April and even then I have a very limited schedule. I'm pretty much saying no to anyone who asks me now. Because as much fun as school visits are, they're also very stressful (the getting there and back is never easy)and I'm less and less comfortable being away from my mother. Not to mention Scooter, who is deeply opposed to my not being around so he can attack me at his convenience.

Today is a day devoted in equal measure to the things I have to get done for myself (that I can get done; some things will have to wait until it's no longer Veterans Day) and things I have to get done for my mother (5 days worth of laundry await). Tomorrow it's going to be more like 75% my mother, 25% me. Next week the balance will go in the opposite direction, since my cousin Fran is coming for a Thanksgiving visit and she's allergic to cats, so a major cleaning is required.

My mother will just about definitely go home this weekend; I'll be talking to the social worker later today about all that.

I've been thinking of November as a lost month for a while now, between the traveling and Fran's upcoming visit. By December though, I hope to have my life is some more calming order. Then I'll take a deep breath, see where I am, and prepare for blizzards. At least I have a working flashlight!

Friday, November 5, 2010

My New Official Publicity Photograph

First of all, thank you for voting on my poll (I sensed a strong preference for one of the pictures) and for all your really nice comments.

Marci and I did the "photo shoot" at my mother's assisted living complex. My mother wasn't there (she's still in the nursing center, but should be going back to her apartment next week), but it was too cold (at least as far as I was concerned) for an outdoor picture, and I knew there were some nice looking rooms at the complex. The pictures were taken in their library. That's why there's no Scooter in either of the pictures.

I decided that much as I loved the picture of me with the golden curtain, I'd love it even more as a head shot. So I asked Marci to edit my arms and hands out of it. Then she emailed the picture to her daughter Alice, who knows how to gussy things up. She did the gussying, and last night I got the completed picture.

So here's what I now officially look like!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Personally, I Couldn't Last A Week Without Fresh Bagels

Publishers Weekly has a wonderful article about people who emulate Life As We Knew It by going without trips to the supermarket.

Read it for yourselves!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Help Me Select A New Publicity Photograph

My editor asked for a new publicity picture for me for Blood Wounds, so I grabbed Marci and made her take pictures of me. She took thousands but these are the two we like best.

I thought I'd see if you have a preference. I'll be setting up a quick three day poll. Vote between the first picture and the second (after I look at them again, I'll describe them a little bit in the poll).

Marci and I both have a favorite, so I can't swear this poll will be binding. But it never hurts to get a second or third or fourth opinion!

Picture 1

Picture 2

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Two Things That Make Me Very Happy

My editor emailed me earlier this week to ask for a new publicity photograph for them to use for Blood Wounds. No, that isn't what makes me happy. If I were thirty years younger and weighed thirty pounds less, it might make me happy, although my recollection is I wasn't all that pleased with how I photographed then either. But I'm willing to go for a new picture, so I emailed Marci to see if she'd be willing to take it. She agreed (because as we all know, Marci is a sweetheart). So today she emailed me to discuss whether Monday would work for me (it will) and in the course of her email, she mentioned that her cat, who had been missing for two months, had returned home.

Marci said given how much weight the cat had lost, she'd probably been to a spa. I should try that spa myself, but I only have until Monday, and I'm not sure I could shed thirty pounds and thirty years in approximately thirty hours.

Speaking of shedding, the other thing that makes me very happy (although probably not quite as happy as the return of the missing cat) is that Barnes & Noble has shed its offer of pretending to let people read my novel About David for free while actually sending them a book about the Constitution of the Great State Of Arkansas. Now, if you go to their ebook page, all you get by me are Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone. It'd be nice if they bothered to put up pictures of the book jackets, but I'll take what I can get in this world, and I got the removal of their mistake.

Now if Marci can just get the magical removal of thirty pounds of wrinkles and body fat, I'll truly be happy indeed!

Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm Not Going To Let The Fact That I Forgot The Incredibly Clever Title For This Blog Entry Stop Me From Writing It

What's really annoying is I came up with that incredibly clever title not once but twice. And both times I forgot it.

But it sure was incredibly clever.

I know the incredibly clever title had the work Book in it because this entry is about books. Or book to be a tad more accurate, that book being Life As We Knew It.

The books part comes from the fact that yesterday, armed with a 40% off coupon, I went to the Borders bookstore at the mall to go shopping for (you guessed it) a book. It's not like I don't already own a fair number of books, some of which I actually intend to read someday. But I have a trip to Texas coming soon, and I'm in a state of low level terror that I won't have enough to read on the flights there and back and in the evenings in my hotel room. So I'm accumulating as much travel reading (i.e. novels) as I can find.

While I was deciding between a paperback novel and a non-fiction hardcover about Edwin and John Wilkes Booth (I opted for the novel), I noticed Borders had a display of books in the front of the store, that said if you bought this book, you could buy a second one at 50% off. There were a number of books with that enticing sticker, and one of them was LAWKI. Another was The Book Thief, so LAWKI was in good company.

I couldn't figure out then, and frankly still don't know, if this is a good thing or an insult (not that I can imagine Borders insulting The Book Thief). Did the sticker indicate that Borders thought the only way to get people to buy LAWKI was to entice them to buy something else at a highly discounted price? Did they have so many extra copies of LAWKI that they put the stickers on to get rid of them?

Or did they pick LAWKI because it's so irresistible they knew it would inspire people to buy, buy, buy.

Ultimately, I suppose, it doesn't matter. A copy bought is a copy sold, and a copy sold is 50 cents give or take in my wallet. Two of those 50 cents adds up to a dollar (minus the 15 cents my agent takes before I ever see it). And there's a lot I can buy with that 85 cents. Don't ask me what, since offhand I can't think of anything, but maybe there's something of interest in the Dollar Minus Fifteen Cents Store.

(Speaking of shopping, I still haven't ordered my copy of Cuban Rebel Girls/Untamed Women. I keep going over to the website and they keep saying it's coming soon and they don't allow preorders.)

Back to Life As We Knew It (the book that allows me to afford my as yet unordered copy of Cuban Rebel Girls/Untamed Women). You know how much Google loves me. They worry so much that I'll feel lonely unless my mailbox is full that they send me email alerts about places that mention me. Lately, most of the alerts are about eBay listings of my books, which aren't all that exciting (like not at all) to me, but I can hardly blame Google for its excessive enthusiasm.

The other day though, they emailed me the following:

Apocalyptic Teaching
Education Week News
My favorite, however, is Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It, a tale of a fifteen year old girl and her family after a meteor knocks the moon out of ...

I scurried over to Education Week News to read the rest, but they wouldn't let me because I didn't have a subscription. Well, that wasn't going to stop me, especially after I saw there was a way of registering without paying money. So I registered, using my real name and everything (under what was my professional connection with teaching, I put Other, always a useful option). I'm glad I did, because here was the complete quote:

My favorite, however, is Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It, a tale of a fifteen year old girl and her family after a meteor knocks the moon out of orbit. Not only is it more feasible than a world-wide zombie attack, it also deals with themes of growing up, examining what we value, bravery and courage—all of which our kids can use in strong doses in these tumultuous days.

I'd give you a link but you wouldn't be able to read the article if I did. So I'll let you know that Dina Strasser wrote the article and I'm very glad she did. It makes me very happy to think of all the teachers and educators and others hearing about my book.

Now if they scurry over to my Borders bookstore, they can buy LAWKI, sticker and all, and make me 42.5 cents richer. And two of those purchases might be just enough money for me to buy a title for this blog entry at the Cheap But Incredibly Clever Blog Title Store!

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Bet In Oklahoma They'd Spell It Sondra

Yesterday, inspired by Scooter's example, I did absolutely nothing.

It turned out I really needed a day like that. Having my mother in the nursing center, where she gets 24 hour a day care, is considerably more time consuming and exhausting than having her in her apartment with zero hours a day care. And I was in New Jersey for a few days, doing school visits, that were a lot of fun but took a lot of time. So I was due for a do nothing day, and I made the most of it.

Well, I can't really say I did nothing. I counted the buds on my Christmas cactus. There are six of them, tiny little things, but harbingers the season, which for my Christmas cactus runs from Halloween to Passover (thank goodness the radio stations don't play Christmas carols that long).

I also read the most recent issue of Films Of The Golden Age, one of the few magazines I subscribe to.

Entertaining though this issue was (and I particularly liked the article about Roscoe Karns), what made my heart explode with joy was an ad from VCI Entertainment, which based on the fact that unless you live in Oklahoma, you don't have to pay sales tax, makes me think they're located in Oklahoma, announcing that coming soon they're going to have an extraordinary double feature available on DVD.

Not taking any chances, they're calling the DVD: Positively No Refunds Vol. 2, but they don't have to worry that I'll be asking for a refund. I can't remember the last time I was so giddy about a DVD release.

The first of the movies is Cuban Rebel Girls. I can't say I've always wanted to see Cuban Rebel Girls, but I can say I've wanted to see it since 1986, which is a pretty long time at this point. Cuban Rebel Girls stars Errol Flynn and Beverly Aadland, his then teenage girlfriend. But more to the point, Beverly Aadland is the daughter of Mrs. Florence Aadland, who with the assistance of Tedd Thomey, wrote The Big Love, which, if not the greatest book ever written, is easily the second greatest book ever written, thus making it greater even than 75 of my 76 published books.

The Big Love is the true and tragic story of Errol Flynn and Beverly Aadland's big love. You can open it up at any old spot and be transfixed. I particularly recommend pages 88-89 where Beverly Aadland tries to convince Errol Flynn that he should use a deodorant (and thanks to his big love for her, he does).

Leonard Maltin gives Cuban Rebel Girls a BOMB rating, which probably means he doesn't think it's very good. But the second film on the DVD is so, for lack of a better word, superduperfantabulous, that Leonard Maltin doesn't rate it at all, probably because there'd be no space for all the stars he'd have to give it if he did. Yes, the second feature is my all time favorite movie of all time, Untamed Women! (! mine, although it's an oversight on the part of the producer that the movie title itself doesn't include one).

It has to have been at least thirty years since I last saw Untamed Women, because I got a VCR in 1980 and I most certainly would have taped it had I had the chance. But who can forget such a masterwork. Without giving away too much of the plot (and it has a lot of plot), it's about these WW2 pilots adrift in the Pacific who end up on a deserted island occupied by untamed women. Untamed men too, but I admit I had forgotten about them. Only I didn't forget the dinosaurs or the volcano, or the leader of the untamed women, The High Priestess Sandra (pronounced Sondra, because these are very classy untamed women). Or the extraordinary plot twist of having the whole story be told as a flashback under the influence of sodium pentothal, and then having proof of the story be revealed by the psychiatrist finding a dinosaur skin in the hero's pocket. Okay, I don't remember exactly what the proof was, but I do remember, and can still recreate, the dance that the High Priestess Sandra and all the Low Priestesses dance to. Not to mention the soldier from Brooklyn. And the dinosaurs. And the volcano.

And because I am one of the truly fortunate people, coming soon is tomorrow! In less than 24 hours, I can tell these strangers in Oklahoma all about my charge card number and expiration date, and then they'll send me this extraordinary double feature.

I'm even thinking about having an Untamed Women party. Then all my friends and I can dance like the High Priestess Sandra in front of an adoring audience.

Later, if we have nothing better to do, we can count Christmas cactus buds and run off to Cuba to become rebel girls.

Life, truly, is full of promise!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meanwhile, I'm Not Sitting By The Phone

You know, I really love Barnes & Noble. I love all bookstores. In fact, bookstores combine two of my favorite words in the world- books and stores (I suppose if you leave the "t" out, they combine books and sores, but that's a whole other topic). I love chains and I love independents and I love street vendors who sell books. So this problem I have with Barnes & Noble stealing my copyrighted material shouldn't be taken as an insult to their wonderful bookselling of my books (or anyone else's, I suppose).

But I have lost a lot of respect for Barnes & Noble The Institution. Part of that is because they stole my copyrighted material, which I take kind of personally. Then there's the fact that according to Elaine Marie Alphin, if you do order my stolen novel About David, they send you the State Constitution of Arkansas instead. Even on their About David page, they have the United States Constitution as a sample of the novel. It's a natural enough mistake, I suppose, but I don't want people to think that About David (winner of the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award) is nothing but a plagarized version of some constitution or another. I don't know this for a fact, but I doubt that the State Constitution of Arkansas ever won the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award (the competition was fierce that year).

I did take another step to correct this whole situation, by calling Barnes & Noble The Instituion and asking to speak to someone in their Copyright Theft Department (which I may have called by its euphemism- the Ebook Department or some such thing). This time their phone receptionist put my call through, and I got to leave a message with someone. I'd tell you who, but his enunciation wasn't all that great. Anyway, I explained in my end of the message that I was concerned about this possible copyright violation and I'd appreciate talking to someone about it.

I still would appreciate talking to someone about it. My guess is I'll continue to appreciate talking to someone about it for quite a while to come. But if I ever hear back, or if it turns out B&N did make a payment and it arrives on Monday, or if they remove the link to About David, I'll certainly let you know. And if none of those things happen, I'll try to solve the problem a different way.

After all, I'd like Barnes & Noble to stay in business. Let's keep them a bookstore and not a booksore!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Good WBShop. Bad Barnes & Noble

Although my mother is getting stronger and healthier every single day, my stress level the past couple of weeks has been particularly high, and as such, I've devoted a great deal of time to figuring out just what movies to watch. Nothing sad, nothing upsetting, nothing too funny. Just the right amount of distraction without emotional overload.

So when I needed something to exercycle to (my summer of doing so to DVDs of Dallas and Knots Landing having just been completed), naturally I turned to my recent acquisition from the WBShop (or WBishop as I continue to think of it): NUTCRACKER Money, Madness And Murder. Three discs, one for each M. A perfect choice.

Alas, NUTCRACKER, etc. skipped all over the place. Lee Remick would be just about to do something even meaner (the fourth M) when the picture would freeze. That didn't stop me from ploughing my way through all three discs, but it definitely cut down on my viewing pleasure.

So this morning, knowing I had to go to the post office anyway, I gave those lovely people at the WBishop customer service office a call. And you know what those lovely people (well, just one lovely one, but I know she spoke for all of them)said? She said, "Don't even bother to send that nasty defective DVD set back to us. We know and love and trust you, Susan Beth Pfeffer, and we'll send you a brand new non-skipping DVD."

Okay, I'm paraphrasing. But the part about not even having to mail it back and they're sending me a new one was absolutely accurate.

I love you, WBishop. I even love you by your rightful name, WBShop.

My problem with Barnes & Noble is a little more serious one, although it only involves Money, and not Madness or Murder. At least not yet.

One day last week while I was making my morning trip through my Amazon and B&N rankings (only for the Moon books, not all 76 of my titles, so stop snickering), I discovered that B&N had available for downloading my book About David.

At first, I was absolutely delighted. A brand new way for me to make money. I didn't even care that its ranking number didn't exist, which led me to believe maybe no one but me had discovered this wonderful option. That could change at any moment.But then I noticed that B&N was literally giving it away. They were charging $0.00.

I have no idea what my ebook royalty rate on a novel published thirty years ago would be. But I do know that anything times $0.00 equals $0.00. Which means unless B&N made some kind of upfront payment for the ebook rights, that no one had bothered to tell me about,they were stealing my book.

As it happens, a few years back, I switched literary agencies, so the one I work with now didn't represent me when About David was published. I could contact the original agency, but I'm reluctant to. I also don't really feel like contacting anyone at the publishing house.

So I figured I'd call B&N myself, and talk to someone in the Department Of Copyright Theft. It took some googling, but I found B&N's corporate phone number, and I called.

I spoke to a very nice woman who gave me an email address to send my concerns to. I wrote a fine professional sounding email and sent it off. It came back undelivered. So I called the very nice woman again, who gave me a slightly different email address (the difference between "publisher" and "publishing"), which I re-sent my email to, and it came back again. Four times I called B&N. Four times I tried to email them. Four times the email came back.

The very nice woman continued to be very nice, but even though she said she'd try to find the real email address and phone me with it, I never heard from her again.

It makes me think B&N's Department Of Copyright Theft doesn't want to hear from me.

My next step may just be asking my brother the lawyer to sue B&N for me. I'm willing to settle out of court for a billion zillion dollars. One dollar of that would be for their stealing my book, and the rest for emotional damages. Knowing that no one wants a copy of About David even for free has been extremely damaging for my ego!

Friday, October 8, 2010

99 Is The New 98

My mother is back in the hospital and I admit to being concerned.

She had a bad weekend and things weren't looking up on Monday, so Tuesday my brother took off from work and came up to check things out. As a result, he ended up again with the nightmarish emergency room detail, and my mother didn't get into her hospital room until after midnight that night.

When I visited her on Wednesday, she mostly seemed all right. But sometime Wednesday night she developed a urinary tract infection (which hadn't shown up on any tests Tuesday), and she became more confused and agitated.

I spent a couple of hours with her yesterday and the antibiotics kicked in and she became more herself (and I got lots of brownie points from the nurses for being such a good daughter). This morning I called and she's still suffering from confusion, and who knows what else.

I spoke to a good friend of mine last night who pointed out my mother has timed this very well; I'm home from South Carolina and Massachusetts and not yet on the road to New Jersey and Texas. Even when she's sick, my mother is an extremely considerate person!

As all of you who have ever had caregiver responsibilities know, it's very draining. I've been trying to get what needs to get done in the mornings, because by the time I get home from visiting my mother, I'm pretty much incapable of anything except watching baseball games (thank you Yankees for winning) and speaking to very close friends, who have lives and problems of their own.

We're coming up on one of the really great three day weekends. The weather here is perfect, glorious blue skies and warm enough temperatures. We haven't had a heavy frost yet and the leaves are changing, so the scenery is just beautiful. I hope all of you who have Columbus Day off (definitely not an international holiday) have a fun filled weekend full of October magic.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Nibbled To Death By Vicious People Eating Ducks

Growl grump.

Hmm... It occurs to me you might be more responsive if I don't start out in such a whiny negative manner. Let me start over.

Laughy smiley growl grump.

Granted it's a grey gloomy day, with a whole week of them forecast, and that summer vanished when I wasn't looking. Granted also that a certain team that shall remain nameless but used to be known as the New York Yankees, played the entire month of September, not to mention the beginning of October, as though they were a certain other team that shall remain nameless but play the same sport in the same city, only generally not as well as the first team that shall remain nameless.

You know I hate to break up such a whiny negative blog entry, but I spent the weekend reading The Big Bam by Leigh Montville, a biography of Babe Ruth, and it was extremely entertaining.

Okay. Back to whiny and negative.

First of all, there's this movie coming out called Life As We Know It. I was watching the football game last night (which the Giants won, and the Jets won earlier in the day, so I can't be whiny and negative about everything, gosh darn it), and I had the TV on mute (I'm morally opposed to watching commercials), so I saw a commercial for the movie and thought it was a commercial for Parenthood, which I've never seen (although I did see the movie). But at the end of the commercial it said it was for Life As We Know It, a movie that clearly has a very big budget for advertising, since Sunday Night Football doesn't come cheap, and neither do full page color ads in the NY Times.

I've known about the existence of this movie for a little while, so none of this is taking me by surprise (except the size of their advertising budget). I haven't been able to find any early reviews, so this could be prejudice speaking, but my guess is it will turn out to be a major stinkeroony that will have no effect on my life whatsoever, except maybe to teach me how to spell stinkeroony.

My hope is that people will flock to the movie in droves and be so enchanted they'll rush to buy any book with a title similar except for one itsy bitsy vowel, and I'll end up extremely rich. But somehow I doubt it.

Then there's the great autographing dilemma. As you know, I had lots and lots of bookplates printed up, which I sent to any of you who asked (and you know, while I'm whiny and negative, I want to say a couple of times I sent vast amounts of them to schools and never heard that they'd arrived safely, let alone a thank you for sending them). But someone posted on an autograph collecting message board that I did this (and included a picture of the envelope I sent it in to confirm handwriting), and now I'm getting asked on a semi-regular basis for autographs and autographed pictures. And these people don't know my books. Most likely, they've never heard of me. To them, I'm just a sucker with a stamp, and I don't like it. I now doubt every request that comes in, including those that seem perfectly reasonable but also include the desire for an autographed picture.

While I'm on the subject of email, I have other problems as well. For starters, a very good friend of mine had her email address corrupted (and not in an interesting way), and now when I get emails from her, they offer me the option of buying Viagra cheap. And if that weren't bad enough, since yesterday evening, I've gotten emails informing me that I've made donations or purchases by way of Paypal to someone named Bob Retolla. Since I had never heard of Bob Retolla, but who knows what I do in the wee small hours of my sleeping pill mornings, I googled the name and discovered this is a vicious international plot to steal money and IDs from Paypal, and I should never ever follow the link to deny the payments, because once you do that, you're doomed.

Well, I'm doomed anyway, but I hadn't followed the link, so I'm probably okay there. Take that, Bob Retolla. Or rather, don't take that, Bob Retolla.

My current plan is to run away from home and go to the mall this afternoon and see The Social Network and try to return those black jeans I was so excited about to Macy's, because I've washed the jeans 12 times and they still have a nasty smell to them. Well, I'll start with the jeans and then go to the movies.

If Macy's takes them back and The Social Network is as good as I'm certain it will be (no stinkeroony it), then maybe my mood will brighten and I'll start mailing out autographed pictures to my new best friend Bob Retolla!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thinking About Not Having Anything To Think About Gives You Something To Think About, I Think

While I was driving to New Bedford, MA on Tuesday, for a school visit on Wednesday (I had a terrific time there, by the way), I wondered what I'd think about during the four plus hour drive.

It used to be during long drives I'd think about whatever book I was working on, or I'd come up with an idea for another book. Or I'd worry about money. That was always good for an hour or two.

But now I'm not working on any books and my brain is quite comfortably dead and I have money in the bank, so none of those were options. I had no concerns about what I'd think about on the drive home, because the Mets played a game that started about an hour after I left, so I let the Mets broadcasters keep me company.

Although I'm hard pressed forty eight hours later to tell you what I thought about during the drive, I do remember the exciting revelation I had.

Are you aware of firefighting arsonists?

In reviewing cases of firefighter arson for this report, it was apparent that one of the primary motives for firefighters who commit arson is to be seen as a hero. They may be the first to call in a fire, the first on the scene, and one of the most eager, excited, and enthusiastic members of the response team. Their main reason for lighting the fire is so they can appear as a hero, either by being the first to spot the flames, or by rescuing people and saving property. Extreme cases of firefighter arson involve fires set in occupied structures. When a firefighter sets fire to an occupied structure, the potential for being a life-saving hero is even greater. In North Carolina, one firefighter would set fire to an occupied house, and then return to the scene and rescue the family. His need for excitement, being worshiped, and getting attention predominated over any concern about the terrible danger to which he exposed the occupants.

Well, my GPS is just like a firefighting arsonist. It behaves itself for miles and miles and then it deliberately gives me wrong directions, just so it can rescue me when I get lost.

In fact, when I was driving home yesterday, listening to the Mets game (which they ultimately lost 8-7), my GPS told me to be on the left when the highway divided, and then promptly told me to make a right turn. Which not only would have gotten me on the wrong highway, but would have caused a multicar pileup, which might have been the GPS's plan, although I prefer to think it had less homicidal motives.

But what do we really know about our GPSs? Sure, they talk to us all the times, in sweet soothing tones, but what are their secret thoughts? Are they quietly mocking us? In the unplugged dark nights of their souls, do they come up with new and more nefarious ways to drive us crazy?

Notice that clever play on words. Drive. Drive. Get it?

Speaking of places I would never let my GPS drive me to, my new favorite term is Goldilocks planet. I've been waiting for decades for someone to discover life on another planet, and I hope this will happen in my lifetime. In the meantime, I find the concept of all those astronomers (not the nasty ones who decided Pluto wasn't a planet, the nice ones who think nine is exactly the right number of planets for our solar system) sitting around at astronomer conventions talking about Goldilocks Planet Number 2732A wildly amusing. Not to mention their having to explain to nice astronomers from non Three Bears countries exactly who Goldilocks was and why she deserves to have so many planets named for her ("but the third bed was juuuust right").

I didn't think about Goldilocks planets on my drive to New Bedford because I only found out about them yesterday. But I'm sure I'll give them plenty of thought when I go to visit schools in New Jersey in October.

Assuming my GPS lets me get to the schools without any quick right turns to Nebraska!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sales Pitch Interruptus

As you may recall, I was getting ready to write a nice long blog entry about South Carolina and sales people and Blood Wounds when blogspot interrupted, rendering me distraught and somewhat incoherent.

I responded, as is my wont, with a picture of Scooter.

Then I caught a cold, and spent the next few days sleeping and sneezing. As is my I don't wanna, but I did anyway.

I'm definitely almost completely healthy again, but a fair amount of momentum has dissipated. A small trade off for spellcheck (which I will now use to see if I spelled dissipated correctly).

So instead of writing about South Carolina, where I had a very fine time doing a school visit, or sales people, I'll put in a link to my most recent blog interview (and thank you Sharde for interviewing me).

But I am going to post what I intended to post before, as well. My agent asked me to do a short write up of Blood Wounds for the agency to use, and then my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt also asked for a short write up, so I got double use out of it. Well, triple use if you count this blog entry.

I called the books the Last Survivor series and mentioned how internationally acclaimed I am, because the summary, as I wrote it for my agent, is going to be used abroad. For HMH, I changed it to the Life As We Knew It series, but kept the part about internationally acclaimed, because I forgot to take it out.

Since I am extremely aware that there are people here who don't like spoilers, and since the write up does contain more information than I've shared here before, I'm going to cleverly put a relatively cute picture of Scooter, taken for just this occasion, as a barrier island. If you don't want to know anything about Blood Wounds , then stop reading as soon as you see the picture. And don't read the comments just in case. There's only so much Scooter can protect you from. In fact, there's only so much Scooter can protect me from, including fruit flies, which Scooter finds very entertaining but that's about it.

I took four pictures, and I'm using this one because Scooter looks most like a barrier island in it.

All text beneath this can be constituted as spoiler for Blood Wounds. Consider yourself warned!

Blood Wounds- Susan Beth Pfeffer

Willa Coffey and her family, her mother, stepfather and two stepsisters, are all part of a happy family. That’s what they tell themselves, although they all have secrets they feel they must keep.

But when Willa’s father, who she hasn’t seen in years, goes on a murderous rampage, Willa, her family and friends, must face the truths they’ve chosen to deny and acknowledge that sometimes blood can wound as easily as it can heal.

New York Times best selling author Susan Beth Pfeffer follows her internationally acclaimed Last Survivors series with a novel of a family torn apart by violence and brought together by love.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Just Because I Can

Three Strikes And I'm Out!

You know, you plan to write a perfectly interesting blog entry about South Carolina and sales people and Blood Wounds, and the next thing you see, Blogspot has changed its format, and even though it swears everything is nice and easy now, it makes you very nervous.

There used to be this cute little box on top which I used to post all those adorable Scooter photographs (and any other photographs or videos I wanted to put here), and now that box is gone.

I had no intention of putting any pictures in this entry, but I still want to be able to. Scooter isn't about to stop being adorable.

Now that I look, there's a way of striking things (big fat hairy deal) but I don't see a spell check, which trust me, I need. Oy oy oy. What have they done to my Blogspot?

I'll post again when my nerves are a tad less wracked!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It Will Never Be lawki To Me

On a whim, I checked Amazon to see if they knew when the paperback of This World We Live In was coming out, and by golly, they did:

This title has not yet been released. You may pre-order it now and we will deliver it to you when it arrives.
Publisher: Graphia
Published: April 18, 2011

I knew it was scheduled for this spring, and my guess is April 18 will be more like March 18, since my publisher tends to get things to stores before actual publication dates. But it's nice to have an actual publication date.

What leaped out at me, in addition to the actual publication date, was the actual price, which is a dollar more than the paperbacks of Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone. For those of you who didn't commit to memory my blog entry about how writers get paid, I get 6 or 7% of the list price of each paperback that gets sold. So if we start at a list price of $8 (I'm a firm believer in rounding up except for my weight), 6% means I get 48 cents per copy sold. But round it up to $9, and suddenly I'm getting 54 cents per copy.

Guess which I prefer.

Possibly coincidentally, a few days ago, I got an email from my editor discussing print type for LAWKI. Notice how only LAWKI has its title in all capital letters.

I think I'm the reason d&g is in all small letters, and my publisher decided without consulting me to put TWWLI in small letters also. My editor said the publishing house was discussing whether to change the print type on LAWKI to small letters as well, to make the three paperbacks uniform in appearance.

There are things I care about in this world, and things I don't, and the print type of the paperback of LAWKI falls into the category of whatever, so I said fine.

But now I'm wondering if they're planning to make the price uniform as well. I mean, they'll have to print whole new covers, so why not accidentally print $8.99 rather than $7.99? Who would notice (except me and my bank account)?

On the other hand, there's no reason for them to print new covers of d&g, since it's already d&g, and not D&G. So maybe they'll keep the price the same for it, or for it and LAWKI. Or maybe Amazon got the price of the paperback of TWWLI wrong.

I guess I'd better hold off on spending that extra 6 cents!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Longest Journey Begins With A Single Step (In Black Jeans)

I was so busy yesterday telling you about all the things I lost that I never got around to telling you about the thing I found.

I went shopping at Macy's and found black jeans. I've been looking for a pair of black jeans for (approximately) ever, and was so excited I bought two pairs.

Speaking of shopping (this is the kind of transition us professional writer types know how to make, so I trust you're duly impressed. Or dully impressed as the case may be), in my emails this morning was a shopping agreement for Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In.

You may be wondering what a shopping agreement is. I certainly wondered about it, even as I pretended to read it before signing and sending it back (by real mail, with the next to last of my Katharine Hepburn stamps).

Okay. Here goes. A small high class movie/television production company wants to make two movies out of LAWKI, d&g and TWWLI, only, naturally enough, they don't want to pay for it (I didn't want to pay for my black jeans either, but I had a gift card). So they've asked my official permission to "shop" the concept around for a month or two and see if they can find someplace that'll put up the money.

If they can find someplace (or someone; I'm certainly not opposed to generous eccentric multimillion dollar backer types) to put up the money, they negotiate their end and my agent negotiates my end and we all go to the Cannes Film Festival together. Although there may be a step or two in between, like options and actually making the movies. I could just really use a vacation, and I hear that Cannes is quite nice and people wear black jeans there for every occasion.

If the small high class movie/television production company can't find someplace or someone willing to pay for making the movies, then in a month or two, we bid a tearful farewell. I get to keep the jeans. And my fantasies.

And Scooter gets to keep the Oscar!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

If You See It, Let Me Know

Tomorrow night is Yom Kippur and I've been prepping up.

For starters, since I fast on Yom Kippur, I ate a chocolate peanut butter cream (or more likely creme) cupcake for supper last night. This falls, as so many things do, into the Not My Fault category. I was in New York City, making my way from seeing the movie Mao's Last Dancer (which I liked a lot) to the KGB Bar, a walk (or in my case more of a limp)of 10-12 blocks (there were some avenues in there). I was scheduled to do a reading along with Scott Westerfeld, and I needed to eat something before I got there, and I couldn't find a single pizza place. Don't NYU students eat pizza anymore? They seem to eat cupcakes, since there were several student looking people in the cupcake shop.

My cupcake was pretty good and quite filling. Also every single cupcake had a calorie listing right in front of it. They claimed the chocolate peanut butter cream/creme cupcake had 550 calories, and I'm sure it did and then some.

The reading went fine (nobody threw anything at me), and I would show you photographs except for some reason in the pictures, I look old and fat. Nasty camera.

I also read a book in preparation for Yom Kippur- The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. I would discuss it at length, except my mother taught me never to talk about religion or politics. But I can say it was a fascinating read, and there was at least one fact that I think I'll sort of remember for quite a while, which I would tell you except I'd probably screw it up. Anyway, it was certainly a Jewish holiday appropriate kind of book.

I also spent a lot of time searching for the Electric Memorial Lamp I just bought two of. I gave one to my mother, because she's 99 and I'd just as soon not have her keeping lit candles around (although I did teach her my trick of keeping the yahrzeit candle in the sink at night), and kept one for myself, because Scooter is no respecter of sinks or anything else for that matter. Yahrzeit candles are very useful to have around during blackouts (when an electric one wouldn't be of much help), but for the twice a year I use one for religious/memorial purposes, I'd rather burn the electricity than burn the cat.

The Electric Memorial Lamp took a while to find because I put it in a no reason for me to have put it there place (on a windowsill since you ask). One of the advantages of living in a three and a half room apartment is that ultimately you find everything, and I now have my very own Electric Memorial Lamp right in front of me, and tomorrow night I'll plug it in and turn it on and stare at it while I fast.

But the great mystery in my life right now is The Case Of The Missing Sock. I concede that unlike Electric Memorial Lamps, lots of socks go missing. In fact, some archaeologist will probably find stackfuls of them and, as a result, figure out just what became of the ten lost tribes (as opposed to tribbles) of Israel.

But it's always personal when it comes to socks. So here's the mystery. I have three pairs of socklets, which I wear to bed in the summer (I suffer from cold feet, although as suffering goes, it's not that big a deal). Naturally enough, I wash them on a regular basis. And naturally enough, one day, where once there had been six socklets, now there were five.

Okay. That happens. But a few days passed, and I noticed that the missing socklet had made its way into Scooter's room. Scooter pleaded nolo contendere, which he mistakenly believes means "feed me already." He pleads that a lot.

I took the newly rediscovered socklet and put it in my clothes hamper, happy in the knowledge that I would soon have three full pairs. Laundry day arrived, as it does quite frequently here, because I have a very small washing machine, and in went the socklet. Wash wash, dry dry. The usual.

I looked forward to returning the socklet to its already clean mate, which had been awaiting its arrival, assuming socklets await, which they probably don't, but if they did it was, but when I opened the sock drawer, I discovered that the original socklet had in the interim disappeared. I still only had five.

My guess is the original socklet, distraught over the loss of its mate, escaped the sock drawer to make a valiant, albeit fruitless, search. One of those irony things that happen on soap operas all the time.

Either that, or it went searching for the ten lost tribbles of Israel!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What I Remember That I Forgot

After having spent days and weeks (and possibly months and years), whining in preparation for the Blood Wounds Copy Editing Massacre, I sure didn't to into much detail about it in my blog entry yesterday.

Well, it wasn't that bad. If it had been, you certainly would have heard about it.

My editor very shrewdly included paragraphs from a cover letter the copy editor had sent her, and while there were certain moderately large changes the copy editor suggested, she also said (at least according to my editor) that she very much liked the book. Indeed, she used the phrase "Great book!"

That put me in a much more welcoming frame of mind, and I didn't object to a single one of her comma/no comma changes. Actually, I ignored them, having finally realized that no book in the history of literature has ever succeeded or failed based on its use of commas.

And I was so enchanted by this stunningly intelligent copy editor, that I even made a couple of the big changes she suggested. Throw a little praise my way, and I can be had.

The other thing I truly truly should have remembered yesterday (the mule would have remembered, I'm sure), is to wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy new year. It doesn't matter what your religion is or even if you have one. Every day is the first day of a new year, and while it's not likely each new year will be better than the last, it's certainly something to wish for!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thoughts On The Mule

I've been thinking about that Rosh ha-Shanah resolution I made a few years back, straight out of the Bible, that should I happen upon my enemy on the side of the road, and my enemy's mule had tripped, I shouldn't make fun of the mule. Most likely though, what I wasn't supposed to do was kick the mule. I could make fun of it as much as I wanted, which is a good thing, because there's something about a mule tripping on the side of the road that's irresistibly amusing, just so long as I didn't make things worse by kicking it.

I think that's a very fine resolution. I may make it again.

I did go resolution hunting in the Bible this weekend, and the best I could locate was not to get a tattoo. For decades, I've had tattoo fantasies. Nothing garish, just a tasteful rose somewhere or another. There are certain fantasies, well, actually there are a lot of fantasies, that stay just that, and my guess is a tattoo is one of those, so that's an excellent resolution to make. Should be a big self-esteem booster.

"Well, it's true I didn't lose weight and I was grouchy to my mother and wasted enormous amount of time playing Sudoku, but I didn't kick that mule and I resisted getting a tattoo. Boy, I'm great."

I was reasonably busy this weekend, in addition to resolution hunting. The copy edited version of Blood Wounds arrived, and since I was asked to get it back by Friday, I devoted Sunday to working on it (I mailed it off this morning).

Sunday was my mother's birthday, and my brother came up to celebrate it with her. Yesterday, Marci and Carol and my mother and I went out for lunch, and then we went back to my mother's apartment where we had ice cream birthday cake (which Marci was nice enough to supply). Speaking of Marci's niceness, last night I decided I really needed to get my printer working again, and in my effort to do so, my monitor stopped working, so I screamed a lot and called Marci. She calmed me down, figured out every single thing I needed to do, and patiently waited as I repeatedly screwed up. Eventually, thanks to her, I did get everything working again.

I also spent a good amount of time this weekend researching arthritis. My right knee was diagnosed with moderate arthritis, and my guess is my left knee is suffering from moderate arthleftis. Arthritis is a real nuisance, but I figure the more I know the better I'll be able to handle it. So I read a lot about it, and now I know arthritis is a real nuisance. Which is exactly what I knew before.

There is a good thing about arthritis though. Should I happen upon my enemy and his mule on the side of the road and the mule has tripped, it'd hurt too much to kick it.

One more resolution I'll be certain to keep!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Calendar Says September (The Weather Says August)

It's hot out there.

Seeing as I live in New York, it's hot and sticky. I just walked over to my mailbox to get my essentially non-existent mail, and I can attest to both the hotness and the stickiness.

I'm still waiting to get the copy-edited version of Blood Wounds, which, when it arrives and I start working on it, will no doubt make me feel hot, sticky, and irritable.

It's always good to have something to look forward to.

September is a very celebratory month in the Pfeffer family. My mother's Extremely Big 99th birthday is on Sunday, followed a few days later by my brother's birthday, which is also his step grandson's birthday (how's that for a nice coincidence), and then a bit later in the month, my parents' wedding anniversary.

In the midst of all this is Rosh ha-Shanah, a holiday I like because it gives me another shot at making New Year's resolutions. I haven't decided what this year's will be.

One year I resolved not to blaspheme, which I had terrible trouble keeping, so I figured I'd be better off finding some other commandment to follow, and my brother said I should just look through the Bible, since they all have equal weight. I found a lovely one that said if your enemy is walking on the side of the road and his mule breaks down, you shouldn't make fun of the mule. Or something like that.

I really liked that as a resolution, and I'll be darned if shortly thereafter I wasn't in a situation where something almost like that kind of happened. Okay, it wasn't my enemy, and there was no mule (there wasn't even a side of the road), but I was in a situation where someone I didn't have any particular positive feelings toward behaved badly (if he wasn't drunk, he was doing a fine impression of it), and I kept my mocking to myself. Well, that's probably not 100% accurate either, since I was with friends, and no doubt on the drive home, I said a thing or two that could have been interpreted as less than charitable. But I didn't do it in front of the guy or his mule, if he'd had one, and I hope he did, or at least that he had a designated driver, now that I think about it.

Hmmm. I liked that resolution. Maybe I'll make it again, instead of searching for a whole other one I'll have trouble keeping.

Either way, barring some unforeseen fabulous career news, or dinosaurs invading my mailbox, I probably won't blog again until after Labor Day, so as per always, I wish each and every one of you who celebrates Labor Day, a very happy Labor Day weekend, and to anyone here who doesn't celebrate Labor Day, I wish each and every one of you a happy weekend plus Monday.

And be sure to say hi to your mule for me!

Monday, August 30, 2010

I'm Sure They Had Nothing Against Foxes

I spent much of yesterday feeling melancholic. I don't know why, since on the whole my life is going very nicely.

It could have been because summer returned, not that I asked it to. I like autumn and I've never been particularly fond of August. But the temperature has returned to nearly 90, which it generally does in time for the new school year (I remember as a kid, how it always drove me crazy that the weather was never better than for the first week of school). Or maybe it's something physical. I've been feeling achy all day today, so maybe I have a little something wrong with me. Or it could just be that every time I checked things online (which I do all the time), I kept seeing pictures of Glenn Beck.

Whatever the cause, I felt mildly sorrowful, which probably wasn't the best of moods to watch a documentary on the Discovery Channel about the demise of the dinosaurs.

I am, as we all know, a total sucker for anything where civilization comes to an end. I wouldn't have written Life As We Knew It if I weren't attracted to that sort of thing. And I love dinosaur shows. It astounds me how they get all those fabulous closeups, which are particularly impressive on my Stegosaurus sized high def TV.

But last night, watching all those cute vicious dinosaurs eat each other and then die anyway really made me sad. Not that I want to coexist with dinosaurs. I like mammals and I'm glad to be one.

But watching that nasty asteroid land in the Gulf Of Mexico (I think that's where it landed; geography isn't my strong suit), and seeing all the disasters spread throughout Dinosaurland moved me to tears (okay, not all the way to tears, but to near tears). Scooter didn't help. He had no interest in sitting on my lap, which would have given me some comfort as the poisonous gasses killed species after species. Or maybe it was the volcanic eruptions. Or the 300 degree temperatures. Or the gigantic ocean wave. Or the nuclear winter. Or all of the above.

This morning, I found an article on what killed off the dinosaurs that says maybe it was a lot of asteroids all at once, or some such thing. Like one wasn't enough.

Most likely though, it was Glenn Beck. The Tyrannosaurus Rexes and Reginas probably got together and decided if what mammals would eventually evolve into was Fox News, they'd rather go while the going was good.

My guess is Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, and many other such mammals, would have felt exactly the same way!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What I've Been Reading

This has been a tricky summer, with a lot of fun stuff and a lot of not fun stuff, but in the midst of it all, I've been reading.

Generally, I do read in the summer, because reading is a good thing to do while baseball is on. I'm at the point in my life where I take my glasses off when I read, but I can't see what's on TV without my glasses, but with my giant new TV set, I can figure out what's happening. Since I tend to read with the TV on, but the sound off (I frequently keep the sound off the TV, even if I'm not reading), it helps if I can kind of make out shapes.

Now that I think about it, I exercise a lot when I'm reading and watching TV. All that pushing the glasses on and off my nose probably burns off 100 calories per page and/or inning.

Anyway, Monday the US Open will begin, and whether I have the sound on or not, I'll be reading less because tennis is the kind of sport you actually have to pay attention to (so is figure skating, but that won't start for a while). So I figured I should let you know all the high class things I've read this summer before the summer ends and I stop reading.

Be prepared to be impressed. After a spring of reading suspense novels, I've moved back to non-fiction.

Teresa Of Avila (Cathleen Medwick)- Teresa Of Avila (who I've always affectionately called Big St. Teresa) turned out to be a lot cuter than I'd expected. She had a real problem with levitating. There was a lovely scene where a nun happened to notice her and St. John Of The Cross having a late night chat while both of them were floating towards the ceiling.

The Great Warming (Brian Fagan)- Who knew things warmed up on earth between 800-1300? Well, maybe you did, but I didn't, and I also didn't know when the Little Ice Age happened (right afterwards, since you asked). If I'd ever had any illusions that I wanted to be a subsistence farmer in medieval times, this book convinced me otherwise. Actually, I never had those illusions, since I've always known life is better with indoor plumbing.

Doomed Queens (Kris Waldherr)- I have my doubts about the historical accuracy of some of the queens, but this book was great fun. Maybe not so much fun for the queens themselves, but definitely fun for the readers.

Madame de Pompadour (Evelyne Lever)- I never got around to reading the biography of Louis XIV's second wife, so I figured I'd read about Louis XV's official mistress instead. She wasn't doomed, but alas, she wasn't all that interesting either.

Stonewall Jackson (John Bowers)- I've had this book on my shelves for a long time and I finally got around to reading it, and I'm very glad I did. Extremely entertaining, although as someone who always roots for the North in the Civil War, it was kind of worrisome to read about Stonewall Jackson's great successes. Good thing I knew how things turned out in the end.

What I am currently reading: Born To Be Hurt (Sam Staggs). This is (or so the book jacket says) The Untold Story Of Imitation Of Life. I'm not a big fan of Imitation Of Life, which I think I've only seen once and that was many decades ago, but any book that talks about Lana Turner and Sandra Dee is all right by me. And I should be able to finish it by Monday.

Hmm... Now that I think about it, Lana Turner starred in Madame X, and she stonewalled during that nasty murder business, which could have doomed a lesser movie queen, and while she wasn't exactly a saint, she certainly warmed things when she wore her sweater.

Suddenly, my entire summer makes sense!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Way You Do The Things You Don't

Recently, LemurKat left a comment asking why I'd written This World We Live In from Miranda's perspective, rather than taking a different approach and writing instead about Alex and Julie's journey through what remained of America.

Also recently, blog regular Fear Death By Water put a link to his own blog review of Life As We Knew It, and he had questions also, wondering (among other things) why there were no marauders to make Miranda's life even more difficult.

Even though I'm a firm believer in Never Apologize Never Explain (Always Complain), I've decided to explain anyway. Complaining is optional (but always in good taste).

I'll start with the marauders question, because I wrote LAWKI first. When I first worked out the plot for LAWKI, I certainly considered a home invasion. But I decided against one, for several reasons.

To start out with, my idea for the book was to put Miranda and her family into a situation of hunger and isolation. I didn't want them to be able to escape, or to improve their situation. That would have been a different book. If they were to be in a situation that seemed hopeless, they couldn't acquire food. That meant no hunting, no trapping.

I covered both of those possibilities very quickly. Early on in the book, the family goes to town and finds the sporting goods store closed and empty. And later on, Miranda walks through the woods and comments on the lack of animal life.

So Miranda and her family are unarmed. Which meant that anyone breaking into their house could easily overpower them, and most likely rape and murder them. Which was definitely not the story I intended to tell.

And if you're thinking, well they could have cleverly outwitted the marauders, then you have to ask what would have stopped a different set of marauders from showing up. As long as there were signs of life, there could have been people breaking in.

No guns, no means of self-defense, no marauders.

When I wrote LAWKI, I was certain there would be a sequel. I wanted to write one, and I felt sure people who liked the book would want to know what happened next. Only my publisher didn't want a sequel. What they were open to was a companion book, same catastrophe but different characters. So I came up with and wrote The Dead And The Gone, always assuming that at some point, my publisher would want a third book that would combine the characters from the first two.

For what felt like a very long time, the publisher said no. I wrote at least one completely different (and completely unusable) third book, which had Julie as a fairly important character and Jon as a minor one. I may have a copy of that manuscript somewhere, but it doesn't matter, since no one will ever see it. But while I was writing it, and for a while thereafter, I pestered my then editor about my getting to write a third book. "No, no, no," she'd say, until one day she said, "Yes, yes, yes." But not a sequel.

I came up with a plot that I thought was brilliant (and I still think was pretty darn good). It was set about a year later, so readers would see what the world was like (pretty lousy), but with a third completely different set of characters. I may have sent my editor an outline, but I certainly didn't get any further than that, when she said, "No, no, no.What we want is a sequel."

Well, that was what I'd wanted to do in the first place. So I couldn't exactly argue. I had suggested to my editor a third book version where Miranda and Alex met on the road, but that was when my publisher was in its "No, no, no," phase, and that was exactly what my editor had said.

I might have tried to work out a different Miranda and Alex meet on the road book except I'd created my own problem, which was that LAWKI ends on March 20 and d&g ends three months earlier than that. Which meant that by the time I'd have gotten Miranda to wherever Alex was, it would be June or later, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why Alex would be someplace where Miranda could meet him.

Trust me. I lost a fair amount of sleep over that.

Then I decided that if I couldn't get Miranda to Alex, I should get Alex to Miranda. I determined that I was okay with returning to Miranda and her diary, and worked out a reason why Alex would have gone back east. Once I was comfortable with all that, I began writing This World We Live In.

While it may not seem like this to you, basically these are the short versions of the decision making process. And a lot of what the long version includes is my personal preferences, the choices I make to tell the stories I want to tell. Those choices aren't necessarily the readers' choices (or the reviewers or the publishers'), and I'd be even more delusional than I am if I thought every choice I made was ultimately the best one. But those choices are rarely made casually. I think a lot about what my intentions are before I ever begin writing, and I consider and reconsider things while I'm writing, and then I even do rewrites to make sure the choices I've made work within the context of the story.

I hope you understand all that. Even more, I hope the copy editor who's working on Blood Wounds understands all that as well. Because the thing I dislike most about working on a copy edited version of a manuscript is the unspoken assumption that I haven't considered my choices and the copy editor knows better than I do what should be done.

Ooh. I think I've moved from explaining to complaining. Thank goodness, that's always in good taste!