Friday, February 26, 2010

Irony, Thy Name Is Irony

It snowed.

And it snowed. And it snowed. In fact, it's still snowing.

That's my car up there. It took five people to dig it out (not that I'm going anyplace).

At one point, I got into my car, went in reverse for about one foot,stopped, and couldn't get the door to open. I was literally stuck in my car. I honked and honked and everyone ignored me (they were all busy digging themselves out), until I started feeling like a Stephen King character. Then I realized if I could get into the car, I could get out of it, so I went into drive, drove back the one foot, and rescued myself.

It started snowing night before last, and it scheduled to stop sometime in 2011. My guess is my car will have to be dug out again, perhaps more than once.

This morning, I had scheduled my first video conference. Yes, I can now webcam and Skype and all those other things everyone else can do. I have a loaner webcam from Harcourt, and as long as Scooter doesn't play with it too much, it should last a few more months (so if any school or library is interested in a webcam visit this spring, just email me and ask). I was scheduled to talk to middle school students in Minnesota.

All this was very exciting for me. We had several run throughs, since I had no idea what I was doing, and all systems were go.

That was until my electricity went out last night at 6 PM.

I want to be on record as saying NOT MY FAULT that I don't have a working flashlight. I'd bought one at Target a couple of months ago. Granted, I wondered at the time why a $15 flashlight was marked down to $3, but a bargain is a bargain.

Fortunately, I happen to own many candles. Unfortunately, quite a number of them are scented, and no two scents are the same. Pretty soon my apartment smelled like a multicultural French bordello (not that I've ever been to a multicultural French bordello, or any bordello for that matter, although I have been to France and wish I were there right now, assuming it's not snowing).

I had two major concerns about my lack of electricity. Okay two and a half. I was concerned about going hungry, but I have enough 100 calorie snacks to last until 2011, and potato chips are wholesome and nutritious. So that was only half a concern.

My primary concern was holding up my end of the webcam event this morning, which would definitely require electricity on my part, and if I never got the electricity, letting the school in Minnesota know why I wasn't there.

I had a phone number for the school, but that was in my emails. And my emails couldn't be gotten to (I had no internet access, even on my little portable guy).

I ended up calling my brother and having him break into my email account, find the right one, and tell me the phone number, so I could call this morning if I needed to. Life is way too complicated.

The other concern was that last night was the Olympic women's figure skating final, which only happens once every four years, generally on a night when I have electricity. I knew the final group of women wouldn't skate until 11, but I had no way of knowing when, or even if, my electricity would return.

I called my mother, who had electricity, but no cable. "I'm reading a book," she said. "Wait a second."

I wait, thinking maybe I'll have her read the book out loud to me. Things can get pretty boring without electricity.

"It's name is This World We Live In," she said.

"That's my book!" I yelped.

"Yes, I know," she said, but she didn't say if she liked it or not. Oh well. I know she likes me, which is a little more important.

I stayed up (mostly talking on the phone) until 10:55, at which point, I took my half sleeping pill and brushed my teeth, etc. And just as I'd completed my evening toilette, the electricity and cable came back on.

I vowed that no drugs, not even my half sleeping pill, would keep me from watching the final group of skaters. And no drugs did. I stayed awake until at least ten seconds after midnight. And this morning I found out those wretched miserable curs at NBC hardly showed any of the skaters before 11. I barely missed a thing.

And I never had to call Minnesota. The webcam conference went without a hitch, and I, for one, had a wonderful time.

As Scooter would say, if he could talk, which thank goodness he can't, things are looking up!

Monday, February 22, 2010

News From Germany

My character, Miranda Evans, continues to have a considerably more active social life, at least in Germany, than I do (although I bet I had a better birthday party).

She also blogs more often than I do, although now that I think about it, she has yet to post a picture of Horton, whereas I post Scooter photographs all the time. Which reminds me. I've been watching the Olympics obsessively, but I'm prone to turning the sound off when a commercial comes on, so even though I'd seen the commercial where the bunny rabbit is sickly and the teacher performs emergency surgery with balloons, I only discovered yesterday that the rabbit is named Scooter.

Which also reminds me. When I was watching the compulsory dances the other night, Scooter (the cat) climbed on my lap, taking especial care to step on the remote control mute button. I guess he'd had enough tango romanticas for one evening.

Back to Germany. Miranda posted a new video. You have to scroll down to Feb. 19, because, as I said above, she blogs more regularly than I do (on the other hand, she blogs in German, and I can just barely manage to blog in English).

I love the new video. Dr. Prof. (or maybe Prof. Dr.) Moller talks about something. Probably nothing too cheerful, since there are pictures of volcanoes, which is never a good sign.

But the best part of the video is how the picture goes out at the end. Well, the best part is that the video exists in the first place, part of the astonishing German promotion for Life As We Knew It (whose German name I'll learn as soon as I get my copy). But the second best part is the special effect of the picture going out.

There's a scene early on in the dead and the gone where Alex is watching a newscast, the day after the mooncrash, and a scientist is being interviewed (perhaps Dr. Prof. Moller himself). The newscaster asks the professor something, and I, typing as fast as my pudgy little fingers allow, realize I had no idea how the professor should respond.

So I caused a blackout. Alex loses his electricity, and with it his TV reception, and I was spared coming up with something for the scientist to say.

A long time ago, I read a survey on which super powers people most want to have. My choice, being able to fly, came in second (having access to other people's thoughts was first, a truly bad idea). But when you write fiction, you have the greatest super power of all. You can make volcanoes erupt, and demolish power grids and wipe out entire coastlines, with a mere ten pudgy little fingers (nine, actually, since my left thumb just comes along for the ride).

Of course, you can also make happy things happen with those nine busy fingers. People can fall in love, have babies, win the lottery or the Olympics or both.

But the whole world, albeit a fictional one, is yours to control. Which is an extraordinary amount of power.

Now if I could only use that power over Scooter. I prefer my tango romanticas with the sound on!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Best Birthday Ever

I had the most wonderful birthday imaginable.

My friend Cynthia outdid herself with a vegetarian and vegan meal. Zucchini soup and salad and corn bread and Mexican lasagna and ice cream cake and lots of other dishes and desserts.

See the flowers on the sideboard? They were from my brother and sister-in-law. The florist called just as I was about to leave, so I told them to deliver them to Cynthia's house. And yes, I took them home, once the party was over. There are limits to my wonderfulness.

I also got birthday phone calls and cards, and of course, many messages and emails from you. All of which I loved.

In addition to Cynthia and me, there were six of my friends at dinner last night. And while we were all together, I took the opportunity to announce a couple of things to them.

One was that Life As We Knew It won the Connecticut Nutmeg Young Readers Award. Nothing like winning an award to make a birthday even more special.

Second of all... well, second of all is bit of a long story. But late last week Harcourt and I agreed to terms on a new book.

Here's the rest of the long story. Last summer I wrote a hundred or so pages of a YA novel. I wrote it on spec, knowing that Harcourt had an option on my next book, so they would see it first (and if they accepted it, last).

I sent it off to my agent in the fall, but a lot of things intervened, and it took a while before Harcourt, my agent, and I were all ready to go ahead. But we all seem ready now (except for me, because I'm not getting anything done until the Olympics are over).

I'm not going to be talking about the book here, and I don't intend to set up a new blog to discuss it. People who don't like being spoilered don't have to worry. I anticipate letting you know how the work is coming along, but that's pretty much it.

So here's all I'm going to tell you.

It's a realistic, family oriented, YA novel. I see it as similar to my books About David and The Year Without Michael, although, I hope, better than them, because I think I've learned a lot about writing over the past few decades. It has no sci fi aspects to it.

It's about (and this is as detailed as I'm going to get) a teenage girl who lives with her mother, her stepfather and two stepsisters. Something big and bad happens outside her immediate family circle that forces her to examine her life and reevaluate herself and her family.

Its working title is Blood Wounds.

I'm planning on spending March finishing the first draft. It's tentatively scheduled to be published in the fall of 2011 (a year and a half after This World We Live In).

My friends last night seemed very happy that I was going to be writing a new book. I hope you will be also!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

They Could Use Me In Vancouver

You've heard of The Rainmaker? Just call me The Snowmaker.

As you know (because I've mentioned it regularly), my friend Cynthia is giving me a birthday dinner party on Wednesday (aka my birthday). Cynthia and me and six or maybe seven of my friends (we're still waiting to hear from Linda). I know what the menu is (Mexican lasagna) and what the dessert is (Carol is bringing a Carvel ice cream cake with my favorite ice cream flavors and lots of icing flowers) and I'm so happy about all this that there are no words to describe how happy I am.

So naturally, they're predicting snow.

In this case, the they of they're seems to be everybody. The question is simply when will it start and how long will it last and how much will there be.

I read one report that said it'll start Monday night, then snow until Tuesday morning, with only about four inches (I can live with that). But that selfsame forecast then said there'd be flurries Wednesday night, which means there'll be a blizzard.

Cynthia will have a lot of Mexican lasagna. And Carol will have a lot of icing flowers. And I'll be the grownup crying It's Not Fair! and slamming her bedroom door (Scooter'll love that).

Le highly pessimistic triple sigh. The only thing I'm ever consistently pessimistic about is weather on my birthday. Whenever I have no plans, it's unseasonably warm. When I do have plans, there's a blizzard.

I'd move to Australia where it's summer except they drive on the other side of the street.

But if the IOC wants to send me a ticket to Vancouver, I'd be happy to make it snow in time for all the skiing events. All they have to do is promise me a birthday party with an ice cream cake with lots of icing flowers.

Watch out Lindsey Vonn. Here I come!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Guess What UPS Delivered To Me Yesterday!

I'll give you a hint.

Yes, April 1st, the official publication date of This World We Live In, came early this year. It arrived on the evening of Feb. 9.

Here's the official portrait of Life As We Knew It, the dead and the gone, and This World We Live In. To celebrate, there was a family reunion.

Naturally Scooter was interested in This World We Live In.

In fact, he was so curious about what happened to Miranda and Alex, he skipped to the end.

Then, having read enough, he went bowling!

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Why Me?" Cried The Figure Skating Bunny Rabbit

Because I am self-employed, I feel the need to impose structure on my life, the sort other people might get from 9-5 jobs or plowing through a semester.

Therefore, once every four years, I go to my mother's assisted living complex and give a talk about what to look for at the Olympic figure skating competition.

I bring with me Marci and my figure skating bunny rabbits. This year Cynthia, who'll be giving me a birthday dinner a few days later, is also coming along.

You're all invited too. It's in Goshen, NY on Friday, Feb. 12 at 10 AM. I'm going to be talking about figure skating for an hour and then about writing books for as long as people might be interested. Most importantly, there'll be baked goods and hot chocolate and coffee. Well, the coffee isn't that important, but the baked goods and hot chocolate are enough to get me there.

The figure skating bunny rabbits were a gift from my friend Beth, who said she found them at a yard sale. Bunny rabbit boy is looking a tad frayed these days, and his pants are being held up by a very large safety pin. But that doesn't stop him, or bunny rabbit girl, from demonstrating jumps and spins and twizzles.

This year's talk is going to focus on proper edge technique and those nasty underrotated jumps. Marci has informed me that her knees can no longer sustain triple axels, even the underrotated kind, so it's going to be all the more important that the figure skating bunny rabbits perform to their utmost and keep their pants on.

Unfortunately for the figure skating bunny rabbits, it turns out Scooter's favorite skater is Tonya Harding.

He claims he was just retying figure skating bunny rabbit girl's bootlace, but figure skating bunny rabbit boy and I have our doubts!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ich Bin Begeistert Und Ekstatische (Or So Google Tells Me)

I got an email over the weekend from a person who works at Carlsen, the German publisher of Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone. She sent me this link, which I promptly followed.

Of course, it was all in German. Google, which loves me a lot (I think it's sending me roses for Valentine's Day), translated it for me, or at least some of it. Enough that I catch the drift.

My character, Miranda Evans, has her own Facebook page and Twitter account and posts videos. Well, one video, and it's in German and Google didn't translate it for me, but it's still amazing.

I don't have a Facebook page. I don't Twitter. The only videos I've ever posted were of my cats. Miranda, who, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't exist, has more friends than I do.

There's also going to be a game of some sort called Helping Miranda Evans. There are four teams already, and I'm rooting for Team Miranda.

Part of me feels a bit Twilight Zonish about all this. Has Stephen King written a book yet about some writer's character having an independent life online? Complete with Facebook and Twitter? And more friends than the writer has?

But mostly I'm awestruck by this promotional campaign. And thrilled and ecstatic. Which, according to Google, means I'm begeistert and ekstatische.

And Google loves me far too much to lie!