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!