Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Blinking Day!

It's a brand new holiday. It combines the better features of Boxing Day (an event whose name I know if not its purpose) with Linking Day (an event I just created, because there's no point doing a blog entry of links right before Christmas- not even I in my most glorious egotism think anyone would be interested just then).

So put on your boxing gloves. I'll do the linking.

For starters, I'm going to be one of the authors at the USA Science And Engineering Festival and Book Fair Sunday, April 29 in Washington DC. There are going to be tons of writers there, all of whom know considerably more about science and engineering than I do. Actually, I know nothing about engineering, and not much more about science.

Being invited to such an extraordinary event has given me pause to think about whether my Junior High School science teachers are spinning in their graves or not. When you're 13, all grownups look pretty much the same age (old). But if they were 20years older than me, they could well be enjoying themselves without any thought of grave spinning. Even 30 years older, they could still be alive and kicking. But no matter how old they are, they would never have anticipated my being invited to talk at a festival devoted to science. Trust me on that (without links to my junior high school report cards).

A couple of interviews I gave have slipped past unlinked to. Well, we can't have that. In this first one, I talk about blogging, a dangerous thing to admit to on this my very own blog. In the second one, I list the three books I'd take with me if the world comes to an end, none of which, as it happens, I wrote.

Finally, while I don't have a link for this, I know you'll all be happy to hear that on my brand new computer my FreeCell winning percentage is a glowing 100%, and I intend to keep it that way. Failure is impossible at least in one tiny aspect of my life!

ETA: Whoops. I was visiting my mother when I realized I'd forgotten to mention that I got an email from my publisher saying the paperback of Blood Wounds will be coming out in the fall of 2012. It'll cost $7.99 (so much less expensive than $8.00), so I'm giving you at least 9 months to save the necessary 799 pennies (more if you have to pay sales tax).

My mother is fine and sends her regards!

Monday, December 19, 2011

In Germany, August Is Right Around The Corner

Only because the holidays are rapidly approaching, I'll spare you the long version of how my computer died so I bought a new one and the new one didn't work so I took it back to Staples which refused to believe it was the computer's fault, and made me bring in the new monitor I bought to go with the new computer, even though I told them repeatedly it was the computer not the monitor that was faulty, and then after I brought in the monitor, they attached a new monitor to the computer, and by golly, I was right and it was the computer, so they finally agreed and let me exchange the computer, but they thought I should get a new monitor to go with the new new computer so I got a new new (and slightly bigger) monitor, and ironically enough, the monitors cost the same, and but the computer was on sale this week, so I actually saved $40.

Trust me. That's not the long version.

Long or short, it's comforting to have a working computer. And two good things resulted from all this.

The first is I have a whole new new computer to play Freecell on, and since it doesn't remember the tragedy of my previous losses, I'm now at a 100% success rate, which will remain forever, since there's no reason to lose at Freecell, given I can erase any games I'm in process of losing.

In 2011 I wrote two books, neither of which will ever be published, so I'm particularly in need of a 100% success rate at something. I'm not fussy about what.

The second good thing has to do with my perfectly healthy morning ritual of checking my Amazon and Barnes and Noble numbers. So when I bought the new new computer, I had to find all those numbers to make favorites of them.

This was not difficult or time consuming. But because I'm internationally renown (at least in my fantasies), I also check the French and German versions of my books every morning. Therefore, I zipped over to Amazon France and Amazon Germany and put Pfeffer into their search boxes and located my books.

But while doing this, I discovered the German version of This World We Live In is available for pre-order.

I never would have found that out except for the new new computer, since the book isn't coming out until August and I wouldn't have thought to look for months. Silly me.

The German title for This World We Live In is Das Leben, das uns bleibt, which my beloved Google Translations informs me means The life that we are left, which is actually a good title.

I saw the cover when I was in Germany, and it's my favorite of the three German covers. And while it makes no sense for me to check the Amazon number for a book that isn't coming out for another seven and one half months, we all know I will anyway.

So join me. Here's the listing for Das Leben, das uns bleibt. What better way to start celebrating the holidays!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Three, It Turns Out, Is The Best Number For A Trilogy

My publisher and I have mutually decided not to pursue a fourth moon book. I won't be writing any new versions of The Shade Of The Moon.

This decision was decided so mutually that I don't even know who mutually decided it first.

I've been a writer for a long long time, and during that long long time I've figured out what I can do and what I can't. I can do rewrites. I may gripe and complain about the process, but I've worked with quite a number of excellent editors who've helped guide me as I've tried to make my book better.

What I can't do is write to please someone else. It's simply not a skill I have. Even when I've written books pretty much just for the money, they've been stories I've enjoyed figuring out, with characters I've wanted to get to know better. For better or worse (and it can go either way), I write for myself.

Emily Bronte wrote a poem that has a couple of lines I've always loved.

I'll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide

I could devote the next few months of my life to trying to figure out an approach for a fourth moon book that would please my publisher, but frankly, I avoid being vexed. Therefore yesterday afternoon I dug through my file cabinet, found the unsigned contracts for the fourth moon book, and mailed them back to my agent. This wasn't a foot stomping whining tantrumy decision. It was simply an awareness that a fourth book wasn't going to work.

So if you want to know what happens to Miranda and Alex next, you'll have to decide for yourself. Maybe they'll be happier in your mind's eye. Maybe they'll be sadder. But either way,you'll take them where your nature would be leading. And that's just where they should go.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Crass And Commercial? Not Moi!

The New York Times had an article today about how bookstores are doing an excellent holiday business.

The article focuses on sales of adult books, and I don't write adult books (lacking, as I do, sufficient adult genes), but it still made me jealous of all those writers who get a holiday season boost.

I'm not totally oblivious to what it is I write, and I do understand that in my last four books, I've killed off all humanity in three and an entire family in the fourth. And while Christmas isn't my holiday, I have reason to believe books where all humanity and/or entire families get slaughtered may not automatically appeal to the holiday spirit shopper.

It's too late and I'm too lazy to rewrite all four books, so I've decided instead to give them holiday-appropriate titles. That way people won't notice all the suffering and horror.

Life As We Knew It With Santa

Sleighbells* Ring For The Dead And The Gone

This World We Live In At Holiday Time

Blood Wounds But Really Nice Gifts Heal!

I can hear those cash registers jingle with that happy holiday sound!

*Get the clever play on words? Sleighbells? Slaybells? Maybe it's too subtle for the harried holiday shopper.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Here's A Writing Contest You Might Be Interested In

I'm not giving you much notice, since the deadline is Dec. 12 (and I apologize for that), but if you're 13 or older, and you'd like to write an essay about a family gathering and you're willing to have me judge it,scurry to this link and find out all about it!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

As Virtues Go, Patience Is Severely Overrated

Think about it. Have you ever heard a eulogy that includes the phrase, "And the deceased was truly patient." Or a politician saying, "I don't want to blow my own horn but I'm a lot more patient than the other candidates."

In fact, I don't even think we'd know patience was a virtue if there wasn't a cliche declaring it one.

Bad cess on patience. That's all I've got to say. Well, bad cess on patience and on the possibility of 2-6 inches of snow tonight, especially since just yesterday, I was bragging to a friend of mine in California about how mild a December this has been.

Way way back, all the way back to two full days ago, I patiently pointed out that no decisions are made in December about books or the suchlike, and I knew, because of how extremely and nobly patient I am, that I wouldn't hear anything until 2012, which is three weeks from now, if not more, given that New Year's Day is on a Sunday, which practically stops the new year from starting until Jan. 8 at the earliest.

Patient Griselda. That's what they call me. Except for the Griselda part. And the patient part.

All right. I know better than to expect my editor or my agent to let me know how wonderful my story is, since it would take them at least 5 minutes to read it (maybe 7 minutes if they sneeze in the middle and don't have a tissue on them). Add another minute to write me an email to say how wonderful it is, 2 minutes if they need to use the thesaurus for additional awe inspired adjectives (sure, I know marvelous and fabulous and the greatest thing ever written, but editors and agents might need a little extra help to come up with them). Fine, 3 minutes, if they need to pick and choose, and there's always a chance that they get so involved in the subtle differences between fabulous and marvelous that they forget who they're sending the email to, and have to look it up.

Seven minutes with sneezing and three minutes with searching and forgetting, and it still adds up to ten minutes, which the last I saw, was a mere 1/6th of an hour, and not very much time at all.

In reality (stop giggling; I know what reality is), I don't expect to hear any words of praise or loathing (I'm accustomed to both) for a while, especially since it is December, and nothing happens in December. But I'm a tad peeved that neither my editor nor my agent has bothered to send me an email to say they got the story and summary. That's a one minute event, even with a sneeze (assuming they have a tissue on them).

So if you should happen to run into my editor or my agent, could you suggest to them that they email me to say the story and summary arrived, and it's positively breaking their hearts that they won't get a chance to read it until 2012, and possibly even 2013, given the Olympics and the election and other time consuming events, like having to buy a box of tissues?

Severely Patient Griselda would appreciate it!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Scooter, Guardian Of The Spoilers

I tidied up my Alex story and wrote a one page summary of what I intend The Shade Of The Moon Short Story Version to be, and zipped them off to my editor and agent.

Now it's up to my publisher to decide, and given that this is December, a month where no decisions are made, I doubt I'll hear anything definitive in 2011.

But I've done my part, and can resume obsessive playing of Freecell (my winning streak at a tidy 606) with a clear conscience.

For those of you who are curious, I'm going to put the one page summary here. For those of you who might regard the one page summary as a spoiler (although how it can be a spoiler when there's no guarantee the publisher is going to say yes, and even if the publisher says yes, who knows what changes might be made between now and when I write the book, and then it'll take at least a year before the book is published, by which time you will have surely forgotten every single word of the summary except my name, which I trust even a year from whenever you'll remember and know how to pronounce, like Pepper only with "F"s, I don't know).

But for the sensitive to spoiler ones amongst you, I'm going to put a brand new taken for just this occasion picture of Scooter. If you want to be spoiler free, or you just don't care to read anymore, then say hello to Scooter and leave my blog behind (at least until the next time I have something to blog about!).

The Shade Of The Moon Short Story Collection
Susan Beth Pfeffer

Ever since the publication of This World We Live In, I’ve received daily requests for a fourth book, one that tells what becomes of Alex and Miranda.

I want to know what becomes of them also. But it’s very important to me that any fourth “moon” book be different in structure, if not style, from the other three books.

What I’d like to write is a volume of “moon” stories, focusing on four teenagers, Miranda (from Life As We Knew It) , Alex (from The Dead And The Gone), Lark Frasier, a British girl left stranded in the United States, whose life intersects with Alex, and Shawn Delaney, a boy who has had to fight for every moment of survival, that Miranda meets through her friend Sammi.

The book would be chronological, with each story indicating who the main character is and when the action takes place. The stories will be independent of each other, but the volume will interconnect, leaving the readers with a strong sense of what the world has become, and what Miranda and Alex’s future will hold.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Story Is Written! It Is! It Is!

No amount of dawdling kept me from writing the sample Shade Of The Moon short story. And believe, me, I'm top notch at dawdling.

It's an Alex story and it takes place a few months after the end of This World We Live In, and it would be nice if it had a title, but currently it doesn't. I'll polish it on Monday and send it off, and maybe before I do, a title will come to me. Something better than Alex Story.

Then again, almost anything would be better than Alex Story. That's a label, not a title.

I know you won't be shocked to hear I love the story. If you know me, you know I love everything I write, at least for the first ten minutes after I've finished. But this one I'm going to still love on Monday.

After that, it's up to my editor and publisher to see if they love it like I do!

Monday, November 28, 2011

There's The Bulle. Now Where's My Brain?

The Buxtehude Bulle (or, as I tend to think of it, My Buxtedude Bulle) has been wandering around my apartment since it got here, waiting for someone strong and tall to put it on top of a bookcase. This weekend I had a visit from someone strong and tall, and up it went.

I feel sorry for the Horrified B Movie Victims. It used to be they only had the Bride Of Frankenstein to fear. Now they have a giant (and very heavy) Bulle as well.

And since you're admiring my bookcase, isn't that picture of the solar eclipse fabulous? It's one of my favorite things in the world. I found it in a junk shop bin and paid a dollar for it. It's from the January 24, 1925 eclipse.

It's good that the Bulle is where it belongs. I wish I knew where I put my brain. I used to be able to use it whenever I needed, but lately it's developed a mind of its own.

I've been thinking about short stories, in case I write The Shade Of The Moon The Short Story Version, and in an effort to understand how they work, I read an anthology (Wandering Stars, edited by Jack Dann). I have a better grasp of them now (they seem, for the most part, to be extended anecdotes, with beginnings and middles and most of the time ends), although I still don't have a grasp of how to turn a bunch of short stories into a cohesive volume.

Also, last night I was remembering one of my story ideas (a Miranda story), and I remembered the beginning and the ending, but, alas, completely forgot the middle. My guess is middles are important in short stories (in books, you can kind of tap dance around them if necessary), and it would be helpful, should I write that Miranda story, to know what happens in between Once Upon A Time and They Lived Miserably Ever After.

Then, this morning, I was thinking about how many stories and how many characters and all that, when I remembered that my editor had suggested my actually writing a story and sending it to her to see if a volume of short stories was a good idea after all.

Now if she doesn't think it's a good idea after all, there's no reason to worry about middles and cohesiveness and how many characters and all that. As you can see, my brain isn't what it used to be, and there's no point sacrificing my limited number of brain cells on a project that might die aborning. Or shortly after aborning.

Therefore I'm going to write a single story and send it to my editor and see what happens next. I know a lot about the story already. It's an Alex story and I sort of remember its beginning and middle and end. Tomorrow I'm bringing my mother her clean laundry and Wednesday I'm going to New York City to see an exhibit about the Dead Sea Scrolls and a matinee of Follies. But there's minimal reason not to write a story on Thursday, and no reason whatsoever not to write one on Friday, so I think I might just do that and send it to my editor and find out whether she likes it or not and whether I need to worry about cohesiveness, etc. or whether I can spend the winter searching for my brain, which I probably put in the back of the closet, along with my extra blankets and pillows.

Anyway, that's the plan. Since I've committed to it in a place filled with Anonymouses who are waiting for me to do something, I have to go through with it.

Assuming the Bulle doesn't fall on my head first!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yes It's Hokey But The New York Times Endorses It

The New York Times had an article on Tuesday about how being grateful for things improves your life. These kinds of articles show up regularly around Thanksgiving. I love them, just as much as I love the articles on how to survive your family during holiday get togethers.

This particular New York Times article says if you write down five things you're grateful for a mere once a week, then after two months you'll sleep better, exercise more, and have a greater chance at winning the lottery (okay, I made the lottery part up).

As it happens, Scooter has no problem with sleeping or exercising. I'm the one with the problems, since he sleeps when I'm awake and exercises on my bed when I'm trying to sleep. Still, I felt I should ask him to make a list.

Scooter's List:

1. Cat food
2. Cat food
3. Cat food
4. Cat food
5. Cat food

Scooter is nothing if not a traditionalist.

To be honest, I could make a list of ice cream, cake, cookies, candy, and caramel coated popcorn, but that's probably not what the New York Times has in mind, even if I do regard caramel coated popcorn as a health food. So I'll limit my five things I'm grateful about to five non-fattening things that are every bit as wonderful to me.

Susan's List:

1. Everyone who reads this blog
2. Everyone who votes on one of my polls
3. Everyone named Anonymous who leaves a comment
4. Everyone named something other than Anonymous who leaves a comment
5. Everyone who emails me about my books (well, except for some people who email to tell me how they don't like my books, and I bet they have terrible times at holiday family get togethers and it serves them right)

Whoops. See how easily I slip from grateful to cranky!

So let me add how grateful I am to all of you for putting up with this cranky but deeply appreciative freelance children's book writer. You mean more to me than you can ever imagine.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Die Verlorenen Von New York (The Dead And The Gone) Is Nominated for A German Award

When I checked my emails this morning, I found that Die Verlorenen Von New York (a book I think of fondly as The Dead And The Gone) has been shortlisted for the prestigious German book award, Der Leserpreis- die bestern Buecher 2011, in the Krimi (Crime Thriller/Thriller) category. It is one of 35 books in that category, and the others all look very impressive.

Here's what Google Translation told me, since I still haven't learned German.

Voting for the Readers' Choice Award

Up to 20 November you had the opportunity to nominate a book for each category proposed. The rush was tremendous! Numerous books have earned the title of your opinion and have been proposed - a big thank you!

Among the many entries we have now asked to choose the books that were mentioned most frequently, to be exact, 35 per category.

You now have the opportunity to 27 To vote in November per category for your favorite book!
Note: each category can be voted only for a book. Think twice before he kicks your voice.

What is the Readers' Choice Award?

On the bestseller lists are books that sell well. Critics prizes books that a jury finds convincing. The reader, however, determine price alone readers, what books they liked this year very well. Join us and become part of our judges!

Why the Reader's Choice Award?

The Reader's Choice Award is a thank you the readers to the authors who enrich with their exciting, touching, entertaining and disturbing stories of our lives.

Books offer fans "The Reader's Choice Award" an orientation, a recommendation by readers for readers who clearly says that in 2011 books are really worth reading.

The Reader's Choice Award will be awarded this year for the third time. The reader response Awards 2009 Reader's Choice Award and 2010 was enormous: Nearly 30,000 votes were cast last year. This makes the Readers' Choice for biggest, awarded by readers

If you want to see the list and cast a vote, here's the Krimi Category.

And if you're curious about all the books nominated in all the different categories, start here.

Even if Die Verlorenen Von New York comes in 35th out of 35, I'm still delighted it was nominated. And maybe now I'll learn how to spell Die Verlorenen without having to stare nervously at the book jacket (I'm pretty good at the Von New York part!).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Bulle And I Are Home

Generally, I'm one of those people who has no interest in looking at anyone else's travel pictures. As a result, I try not to show my pictures to too many people. But that's not going to stop me now! Here are some pictures, and a couple of teeny tiny videos, from my recent trip to Buxtehude, Germany.

Pretty much as soon as I got off the airplane, I was taken to the unveiling of the Buxtehude Bulle Award Plaque for Life As We Knew It. That's the mayor helping me out.

Then it was off to my hotel room, which had a spectacular view.

I was kept very busy during my time in Buxtehude and Hamburg, but I did watch a little bit of TV. Thanks to the various time zone differences, I got to watch some figure skating live from Japan. The only thing I didn't like about the hotel was the bathtub, which I called The Bathtub Of Death. Every time I climbed out of it (don't panic- no one took any pictures), I knew I was risking my life.

(You know, if people showed me travel photographs of their bathtubs, I'd be delighted to look at them).

In Hamburg, I was taken to meet my publisher. It was there I finally came to understand that German and English are two different languages.

Here are two tiny videos of me receiving the Buxtehude Bulle from the Deputy Mayor. You might want to lie on your side for the second one.

For those of you who prefer a photograph of the event, here it is:

If you're looking for an article in German about the event, here's one that showed up on Twitter.

The Bulle was given its own very pink suitcase to go to America in.

I think it preferred the view from my dining room table.

Of course Scooter was happy to see me when I came home. And he always likes making new friends.

I feel as though I made many new friends both in Buxtehude and in Hamburg. The trip was a once in a lifetime experience, and a memory I'll cherish forever.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Bulle is Mine!

I am now officially the proud winner of the 40th annual Buxtehude Bulle Award. And they weren't kidding when they said it weighs 25 pounds.

Not only did they give me my own bull, but they also gave me two certificates for my Wall Of Ego, a check, and an extremely pink carryon bag for the bull to travel in. Clearly this is a bull secure in his masculinity.

I had my own surprise for those in attendance. I gave my multi-paragraph thank you speech in German. Given that I don't speak German, this was quite a challenge. I couldn't have done it without the saintly assistance of my friend Renee. I wrote out the speech and then she translated it. But even more importantly, she taught me how to pronounce the words, and she endured rehearsal after rehearsal, including one a half hour before I left for the ceremony.

I have never been so nervous in my life. But the speech seemed to go well. At least they let me keep the bull!

Today I'm being taken on a tour of the area, and tomorrow I go home. Be prepared for lots of pictures of Buxtehude, bulls, and extremely pink suitcases!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I'm In Germany! I Am! I Am!

I'm actually writing this in a German newspaper office, because I didn't bring the right kind of plug converter to use with my little portable computer. So I'm using a German keyboard, and the Z is where the Y should be and vice versa. You never realize how many Ys you use until you start seeing Zs all over the place.

So far everything has been wonderful except for the weather which is kind of grey (or grez as the case may be). The flight was smooth and easy and all my planning was for naught, since they gave every single one of us our own pillow and blanket. I did get a little bit of sleep, which was a good thing because as soon as I reached Buxtehude, I was taken to meet the mayor, and then to the incredibly fabulous Plaque With My Name On It ceremony. I am delighted to report that the plaque is right in front of a bakery, which given my fondness for baked goods, is extremely appropriate.

It occurs to me that part of this Y problem is because of my fondness for the word My. But I don't have the energy to switch to the Regal We.

Today I visited at a high school and this evening I'll give a talk at a library. Tomorrow I'll visit another school and go to Hamburg for another appearance. Friday I get a tour of Buxtehude, and in the evening I get my award. Saturday I go on a tour of the area, and then Sunday I fly back to America, to Scooter, and to keyboards with the Y where I'm used to it.

Be prepared for a much longer report then and lots of pictures. And just maybe the Regal We!

PS- I'm not sure how to spell plaque (I keep thinking maybe there should be a C in there) so I just used spellcheck, and the only word it says I spelled right is Buxtehude. This really is a German computer!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I'm Off To Germany Tomorrow To Get The Buxtehude Bulle

So I'm writing this blog entry tonight.

Don't expect coherence. I've already packed it.

First of all, thank you for your thoughtful comments and for voting on the poll. I found the votes really interesting. The majority of both age groups favor keeping Alex alive (so do I at this point), but not by enormous margins.

Poor Alex. My guess is if I'd put up a comparable poll about Horton the cat, a lot more people would have demanded his survival.

Oh, I put something new on the right side of the blog, a link to a really good essay about using Life As We Knew It in a science classroom. My ninth grade science teacher would have been stunned (I flunked Rocks. I'd flunk it again if I took it again).

Here's what I bought for this trip: A coat, a jacket with a lining to double as a pillow, six pairs of socks (I'm only taking five of them; the sixth was a bonus), a pocketbook, a ladybug luggage tag, a passport holder, the most expensive one of those things you need to plug American stuff in European sockets, plastic bags to put little plastic bottles in, and a suitcase, because when I went to pack everything in my suitcase I discovered I didn't own a suitcase. Did you know suitcases can cost $400? I didn't, and I'm relieved to report I found one extremely discounted for $90.

Also I've learned how to say thank you and please and good day and sausage in German. I don't like sausage, so now I know how to avoid it. But since I don't know the names of any other foods, who knows what I'll end up eating.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my Christmas cactus has six buds, and my Freecell winning streak is at 504. Now that I can undo all bad Freecell moves, it's kind of impossible to lose.

I'm hoping to be able to blog while I'm in Germany, and if I can find where I packed my camera, I'll take pictures to bore you all with when I get back. In the meantime, enjoy yourselves. I know I will!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I woke up at 5:30 this morning and instead of concentrating on important things like should I take brown shoes and black shoes to Germany or two pairs of black shoes, I started thinking about stories for the possible Shade Of The Moon Story Version.

I'm not opposed to thinking about stories, since I'm hoping to write one today. That, laundry, and the neverending exploration of my closet for travel clothes are the only jobs I have scheduled.

But the story idea that popped into my mind even before Scooter popped onto my bed was very La Ronde, moderately Lulu, and all kinds of bleak and dark. Naturally I loved it, but sadly it involves the death of Alex.

Since not a single word has been written, I'm not committed to anything (truly not committed; the contract remains unsigned in the file cabinet, where it's being buried by other unfiled papers). And the previous ending I'd worked out for the possible potential maybe I'll write it maybe they'll like it volume of stories has Alex alive and at relative peace by book's end.

But I do love this bleak dark story, which also ends with Alex at peace. And both versions of the book's ending (for those who worry) have Miranda going on with her life (she has nothing to do with Alex's death, should he die)

Anyway, I figured I'd put up a poll. It's only going to be until Sunday, since I don't know how much checking up on things I'm going to do next week. And it's just to give me a sense of how willing you are to have Alex die at the end. I'm going to divvy the poll into 4 possible answers, yes and no, and under 18 and 18 and over.

Feel free to leave comments. Again, this is just to get a sense of whether this story idea is worth working on, or whether, like several other ideas, it should die aborning.

And no matter what you respond, thank you!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Instead Of Thinking About Writing I'll Write About Thinking

Every morning Scooter offers me the option of lying in bed for half an hour and thinking about a sample story for The Shade Of The Moon The Short Story Version. This is very generous of him, since what he really wants is for me to get out of bed and feed him (a message he communicates by a great deal of purring and head butting and stroking and clawing and biting).

But I'm finding it hard to concentrate on stories. At least not my own stories. I'm reading constantly these days. I read nothing all summer long, and now all I want to do is read.

It's not like I'm reading great literature (although I did reread USA by John Dos Passos, which is my intellectual achievement of the past 3 years give or take a decade or two). In the last month or so, I've read memoirs of Paul Henreid, Dorothy Hamill, and Mel Blanc, and (how I wish Blogspot would let me underline- that and really deserves special emphasis)a biography of DeForest Kelley.

Sadly, these all get kind of smooshed in my brain. I seem to remember Bugs Bunny skating pairs with Ingrid Bergman on the Starship Enterprise (you'd be astounded how far those throw triple axels go in a gravity free environment).

When I'm not reading, I'm obsessing over raincoats with removable linings. To be honest, this obsession is roughly 24 hours old, but it's really taken over what little remains of my brain. As you know, in a week I'll be flying over the Atlantic (and I'm delighted to report not only will they feed me dinner, but something resembling a breakfast, and how I wish I drank coffee, because I'll sure need caffeine to keep me awake when my body is yelling, Hey it's 2 AM!). Given that it's an 8 hour flight (I thought it was 6 because I subtracted wrong), I'll definitely want to sleep, which is close to impossible when you fly 99% Class. But rumor has it airlines no longer offer blankets and pillows, since they figure 2 meals and not crashing is sufficient to satisfy us lowly folk.

So I figured that if I got a raincoat with a removable lining, I could use the raincoat as a blanket and (another and worthy of underlining) remove the removable lining and use it as a pillow.

Is that not the cleverest thing ever?

Today I went to Burlington Coat Factory to examine their raincoats with removable linings and while they had a few, none of them fit me. There was one that was super big on me (I call those Dondi coats), and if I can't find one that fits, I guess I can buy that one. These are essential decisions, because I bought a new pocketbook to take to Germany, and while it's more than big enough under ordinary circumstances, I'm not sure it can hold a sweater to use as a pillow, which is why the removable raincoat lining is such a darn brilliant idea.

Let's hope Kohls/Marshalls/Sears/Penney/Macy's has one that fits.

Ooh. If I can fit a pillowcase in my pocketbook, I can stuff it with the raincoat lining on the flight over, and then I can put the pillowcase in my suitcase and shove my dirty clothes in it.

I'm so smart it scares me. Well, I scare easily.

I also have yet to figure out what clothes to take with me, although I did discover I owned a black blazer, which has been hiding in my closet for at least 7 years.

The thing is I have to look presentable Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and that's asking a lot of a wardrobe that generally doesn't have to look presentable for more than two days in a row. And while the temperature in Buxtehude should be about what it is here (without, I trust, mid-autumn snowstorms), I don't know if the buildings will be well heated or moderately heated or not heated at all. So I have no idea what I should wear under that black blazer.

Then there's figure skating season to focus on and excitement that one of the Presidential debates is going to be held in Hempstead, Long Island (a mere 8 miles from Woodmere, where I grew up), and trying to analyze why it is I'll believe that anyone on death row is innocent while any Republican accused of anything is guilty, guilty, guilty.

This is actually quite a lot to preoccupy me, and it doesn't even include making a list of all my passwords so if the plane crashes and I have to swim across the Atlantic Ocean in my raincoat without lining, someone I love and trust will be able to answer my emails as I do the backstroke to Greenland.

Well, at least there's one thing I can cross off my list. I don't have to decide what to send Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries as a wedding present!

Monday, October 24, 2011

It Might Be Easier Just To Learn German

I'll be going in a couple of weeks to Buxtehude, Germany to receive the Buxtehuder Bulle Award for my novel Die Welt, wie wir sie kannten, which I usually think of as Life As We Knew It. On a scale of 1-10 in personal excitement, this is roughly a 12. I'm already devoting vast amounts of time and energy on shopping for the trip and trying to figure out what to take and will the airline feed me (the answer to the latter is yes, so now I'm trying to decide if I want one of their regular meals or a kosher one or a vegan one).

But I'm not alone in my excitement. Google is thrilled for me also. It lets me know about German articles that mention my upcoming trip (although they don't mention that the airline is going to feed me). Since the German articles are invariably in German, I take them over to Google Translations and let them tell me what's up.

The only problem is sometimes the translation could use a translation. Here's the translation of the first article I saw, last night:

An awards ceremony with pizzazz

Buxtehude Bulle: On 11 Susan Beth Pfeffer November is celebrated on the stage Halepaghen
Hannelore Aldag Buxtehude.

On Tuesday, 8 November, flies Susan Beth Pfeffer in Hamburg. Will spend a short week, the American in Buxton, where she was winner of the 40th Bulls will be celebrated. For the ceremony, on Friday, 11 November, starts at 19:30 on the clock Halepaghen stage, has put together the cultural office one intriguing program with interesting protagonists.

Susan Beth Pfeffer learned this summer that she has for her thrilling science fiction novel "The world as we know it" the won with 5000 € prize Buxtehuder children's book prize, she got joy ecstatic: "This is fantastic I am. very happy to Germany. "

With readings in high school in the South and the 63-year-old writer Halepaghenschule the conversation with the young people will seek. A dialogue with the adult Susan Beth Pfeffer leads on Wednesday 9 November, at a public lecture, which begins at 19 Clock in the town library. There, visitors dive into "The world as we knew it," Miranda learn and know their family and their desperate struggle for survival. An asteroid strikes at the moon. The Earth's satellite is catapulted out of its orbit. Extreme weather changes, floods and earthquakes are ravaging humanity, whose blue planet has fallen overnight from the joints.

When it comes to the infinite reaches of space, he knows his stuff.

With Professor Dr. Erich Übelacker the Cultural Office of the awards has won one award presenter, who has made himself a name with his profound knowledge. One of the many milestones in his professional vita led the scientists to Hamburg, where he headed from 1975 to 2000, the planetarium and in that time for the tripling of the number of visitors saw - a result of its innovative management and planetarium concerts, lectures, navigation courses, children's shows, exhibitions and even weddings under the stars. Erich Übelacker hosted TV shows about astronomy and space, the combination resulted in an NDR report and starry sky, wrote for magazines and newspapers and has written for children and youth-oriented textbooks on the subject of stars and space.

They "verrappen" classic press and masters such as Goethe, Schiller, Heine and Fontane their own personal stamp on - with great success. And it happened: On a Sunday morning, the Casper family sat at the breakfast table and Nicola was the poem "It's him" recite by Edward Möricke. Then the girl had absolutely no desire to. Nicola found it much more fun to give to verse in a kind of chant for the best. Quickly she had supporters behind him and shortly afterwards "The young poets and thinkers" were born, four young people from the area of ​​beech wood, bring to the awards ceremony an unusual program to Halepaghen stage. The audience experiences the "Erl King", the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" and "Mr. von Ribbeck on Ribbeck" with a difference.

Staying in Buxton Susan Beth Pfeffer also leads to the neighboring city of Hamburg. There she reads on Thursday evening, 10 November, as part of the series "Young American literature in the Harbour City" from her new novel "The Lost New York", a sequel to "The world as we know it", which is also in the Carlsen Verlag. Before the New Yorker on Sunday 13 November, will fly back to the States, her on Saturday, 12 November, once again honor. Then, on a bronze plate Buxtehuder BULLEvard sunk with their name on the pavement.

Admission to the reading and during the awards ceremony is free. Who wants to secure a seat for both events should be on time cards in the Cultural Office at City Hall, get into the city library in the street and in the fishing town in the Viverstraße information.


Fortunately for me, there were additional articles this morning. Thanks to this one*, and to Google Translations, I think I have a better idea of what's going on (except this one leaves out the bronze plate, which on a scale from 1-10 is a minimum 14):

Buxtehude. Susan Beth Pfeffer, this year's winner of the Youth Book Prize "Buxtehude Bulle" is on Friday 11 November, the award in the form of bull sculpture personally accept. The American woman has succeeded with its World Under goose scenario "The world as we knew it," which was published in 2010 in the Carlsen-Verlag, to appeal to the primal fears of the people and to remind them of their helplessness before the forces of nature.

Presenter is the longtime head of the Hamburg Planetarium

As a presenter for the awards ceremony, which begins at 19:30 on the clock Halepaghenbühne, Konopkastraße 5, won the Cultural Office of the Buxtehude astronomer and longtime director of the Hamburg planetarium, Erich Übelacker. For the accompanying program provides the group "Young poets and thinkers" from Hamburg.

The group consists of children and young people who enjoy it, and classic poems by Goethe, Schiller, Heine and Fontane not only to recite, but to bring it as a rap on the stage. Well known are the "young poets and thinkers" among others from the film "Rabbit Without Ears".

In addition to the evening event is Susan Beth Pfeffer, which on Tuesday 8 November, arriving in Buxton, is read in high school on Wednesday and Thursday at the South Halepaghen school from their work. Live she is in a public lecture on Wednesday, 9 November, experience of 19 clock at the town library in the fishing road 2. She is also on Thursday 10 November, from 19 to clock in Hamburg America Center, the Sandtorkai 48, a guest. There it is in a public lecture about her sequel "The Lost New York".

Admission to the ceremony and is free to the readings. Tickets are available at the Cultural Office of Buxtehude, phone 04161/501 23 23 04161/501 23 23, in the town library, telephone 04161/99 04161/99 90 60 90 60, and in the city Buxtehuder information, phone 04161/501 23 48 04161 / 501 23 48, available.

The decision to nominate, pepper novel with the bulls Buxtehude, is already on 28 June this year appealing: the jury awarded 83 points for her novel, 36 of which came from the young people and 47 from adults. "The world as we know it" is the first book published in German by the author who in the U.S. has already published more than 60 books for children and young adults.

Winfried Ziemann has set the price in 1971 to life

The prize of 5000 € Buxtehude Bulle is one of the most prestigious German literary awards. He was initiated in 1971 by the late bookseller Buxtehuder Winfried Ziemann. Every year since then, the best narrative, published in German youth book awards. This year the award is the 40th Given time. The aim of the prize bull is to move young people to read, while promoting good children's books. The town of Buxton has agreed to take ownership 1981st (tau)

So this is what I know is going to happen. In thirteen days,I pack my camera and prepare to say "danke schoen" and "guten tag" every chance I get. I eat (badly) on the airplane, and then I arrive in Hamburg and am taken to Buxtehude, where the mayor will greet me (approximately a 16 on the 1-10 scale). Then I go to sleep so I can be ready for school visits and library visits and award winnings over the next three days. On Saturday I'll be taken to see the sights and on Sunday I fly home, to be greeted by Scooter who already seems somewhat concerned about my leaving him.

And in the thirteen days before I go, in addtion to more shopping and packing, I have to obsessively check ten day weather forecasts for Buxtehude, and clean my apartment, including the downstairs hallway, which has cobwebs you would think are Halloween decorations but alas are real and genuinely yucky, and finish reading Dorothy Hamill's memoirs (she just won the Olympics and there's still half a book to go) and buy some euros and maybe write a Shade Of The Moon short story to see if I can do it.

Cobwebs notwithstanding, on a scale of 1-10, I'm a 20 in joy ecstatic!

*The link no longer works for me, so you may have to take it on faith.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Looking For Answers In All The Wrong Cookies

I took my mother to Dr. Hearing Aid this morning (she has successfully adapted to her new hearing aid and no more appointments are called for), and afterwards we had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant.

Since my life is a neverending succession of questions (What book should I read next? Should I hold it against the Texas Rangers that George Bush goes to their games? Will I ever get around to cleaning the downstairs hallway? How much more can I shove into the freezer?), I naturally turned to the fortune cookies for answers.

Here's what my mother's cookie said:

Slaying the dragon of delay is no sport for the short-winded.

My mother, being 100 years old, is kind of past the dragon of delay situation.

Here's mine:

We treat this world of ours as though we had a spare in the trunk.

Now that's probably very profound, and no doubt I could learn something from it, if I understood exactly what it meant. Do we drive the world over nails and shards of glass? I never drive my tires intentionally over nails and the suchlike, and even worse, I never learned how to change a tire, and nowadays they don't put really good spares in the trunk anyway, just those scrawny scary things that you know aren't going to last until you can get your car to someplace that knows how to change a tire.

But I am very good about recycling, and I think the fortune cookie should give me some credit for that.

Speaking of recycling (this transition is so brilliant I'm darn near dumbstruck by it), I've been thinking about recycling some of the characters from Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone and This World We Live In in The Shade Of The Moon Take Two, if I ever write it.

One of the characters under consideration is Miranda's friend Sammi, who leaves midway through LAWKI, never to be heard from again. I've always been interested in what becomes of Sammi, and a couple of people have left comments on this very blog suggesting a Sammi story, should I write TSOTM Take Two volume of short stories.

This morning as I snuggled with Scooter, I thought about a Sammi story, and I realized two things. The first, and most dazzling, was that Sammi specifically tells Miranda she's going to Nashville, which is in Tennessee, the same state that Sexton, Tennessee is in, even though I made up Sexton, Tennessee and didn't make up Nashville. I've been very reluctant in my ponderings to have characters bump into each other, since that feels far too coincidental, but if Miranda is in Tennessee anyway, she could legitimately decide to look for Sammi in Nashville.

With that in mind, I tried to work out a Sammi/Miranda story and here's the second realization. If I tell the story from Miranda's point of view, it's a chapter. If I tell it from Sammi's, it's a story.

Last night, mostly to see how things stand, I made up a listing (I can't call it a chapter outline, since I'm hoping to have stories, not chapters) of the stories I sort of know about. This morning I added Sammi to the list.

I have minimal concern about people reading this list and figuring out the plots of the stories because most of the things on the list don't have plots yet, and even if they do, my handwriting is so bad there are a couple of words even I can't read, and I wrote the list less than 24 hours ago, so you'd think I'd remember what I wrote.

Oh well. The dragon of delay doesn't stand a chance against me. Whatever else you might think about me, I am definitely long-winded!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Short Story Collections, It Seems, Put Scooter To Sleep

Of course, one advantage for Scooter in napping is it allows him to wake up at 6:40 in the morning and subject me to some rousing (in both senses of the word) purring. Since it's against this particular self-employed person's code to get out of bed before 7:00 AM (I mean, what's the advantage of being self-employed if you have to get out of bed before 7 AM), this gives me some time to nestle with Scooter (it's the only time of day he's even remotely affectionate)and ponder.

Lately what I've been pondering is Shade Of The Moon short stories. I have several things to work through before I even begin to remove the unsigned contract from its happy home in my file cabinet.

First amongst these things is the difference between a story and a chapter. I'm good at writing chapters. I've understood chapters ever since one of the many excellent editors I've had the good fortune to work with explained to me that characters have to do something in each chapter. It's not enough for the characters to talk about what they did in the previous chapter. The characters have to continue to do things.

Of course in stories characters have to do things too. So here's the difference between stories and chapters. Stories have beginnings, middles, and endings, while chapters are mostly middles, with a little bit of an ending, enough to either give the reader a chance to go to the bathroom or to make the reader decide to read one more chapter before going to the bathroom.

For me the real difference is chapters are easy, stories are hard.

But that doesn't mean stories aren't fun to think about, especially with a purring cat curled up beside you. I have completely arbitrarily decided there should be 14 stories, plus the prelude and coda (previously known as the prologue and epilogue, but prelude and coda are prettier words and much easier to spell).

This is what I have in my mind so far (I have nothing on paper, or computer, or whatever):

1 story about a boy who lives in a house that's being taken over to be used in a safe town and the Marines are doing it so the boy meets Alex's brother Carlos. This is the only one of the stories that has a beginning, a middle and an end.

2 stories about Alex's friend Chris Flynn, who's the character I most want to know what happened to. One when things are relatively okay for Chris and one when maybe things have gotten a whole lot worse.

2 stories about Alex, one with Miranda and one without.

3 stories about an as yet unidentified girl who seemingly has no connection with any of the characters, but at the end of the third story there's some kind of surprise connection. For a while there, the unidentified girl was a Duke's daughter, and while she might not end up quite so noble born, I do think she'll be a child of privilege and possibly not an American who happens to be here so she's stuck. Dukes' daughters, by the way, are Ladies and not Dukettes (I did research).

1 story about Miranda, because there's got to be at least one story about Miranda. Or maybe 2, if Alex gets 2. But don't ask me what the stories will be about because I don't have the slightest idea.

While I'm willing to turn my back on the vast majority of The Shade Of The Moon First Effort, there are a couple of things I mention happening while the family was on the way to the safe town that I would prefer to keep. One was Matt and Syl going off on their own and the other was Dad dying before they get to the safe town. So I'm trying to work those things in. Dad dying is particularly tricky, since I don't want to devote a story to it. Or maybe he won't die. I don't know.

What I do know is for any of this to work, I'd better figure out a whole lot more beginnings and endings and a whole lot less middles!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Would Take My Brain To The Dumpster But It's The Only One I've Got

Hmm...Change "brain" to "heart" and there might be a country song there.

What I should do is take the unsigned contract for The Shade Of The Moon to the dumpster, because my bad wicked brain is coming up with short story ideas and book structures and all kinds of things that take time and energy and bring back insomnia. Not stress, because the contract after all is unsigned (and probably already buried under a pile of things in the file cabinet, which isn't the tidiest place in my apartment).

I don't like insomnia and I'm still trying to regain my energy, and while I have plenty of time, I ought to be spending it on cleaning my apartment and atoning and useful stuff like that. Not in making up Rules For A Volume Of Short Stories, when I'm the one writing the stories, so why do I need to make up rules?

Wanna hear the rules? Every story has to have a character with a stated connection to a character in Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, or This World We Live In. For example, a story could be about Alex's friend Chris Flynn (that's one of the ones giving me insomnia), or it could be about a figure skater who casually mentions knowing Brandon the figure skater. And the stories will take place over a 2 year (give or take) time frame, so it can end with Miranda and/or Alex making it to the safe town, because lots of people want to know what happens to Miranda and Alex. The stories would be chronological, and have some kind of date (like March Year 2), so the readers will have a sense of when it's happening. I even have a prologue story and an epilogue story in mind and I remembered a moment ago a middle of the book story that would connect in its way with the prologue and the epilogue, but I'd almost forgotten it, which is what happens when you have insomnia and an unsigned contract and you really really need some time off.


Anyway, there's a big difference between coming up with ideas for stories and actually writing stories, and then there's another good sized difference between writing stories and having your publisher like the stories you've written. So the contract will remain unsigned (although I did notice when I took the file cabinet pictures that it's right on top of the files, and easy to locate, at least for the time being).

Oh how I love killing off all humanity. Which is probably something I should seriously atone for!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Status Report (Low On Status, High On Report)

As you know, because I griped about it all summer, I had a Sept. 1 deadline for The Shade Of The Moon, my title for a fourth moon book (the first three, in case you've forgotten, having been Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In). As you also know, because I crowed about it at the time, I met the Sept. 1 deadline and submitted the manuscript to my editor.

Then came the waiting time, which no doubt, felt longer to me than to you.

I've been writing for a living for over 40 years now, and I've learned a thing or two in that time. I've learned the checks never come as fast as you want them to, and that editors dawdle about telling you bad news, while generally telling you good news pretty swiftly.

So as the waiting time progressed and my editor told me nothing, I figured out she and my publishing house didn't like the book. Maybe they were trying to like it. Maybe they were trying to figure out how to tell me they didn't like it. Maybe they were trying to figure out what could be done to make it a book they would like. Lots of maybes, but all leading to they didn't like what I'd written.

During the course of September, the contract (contracts move as slowly as checks) finally arrived at my apartment. But I'd had enough time to think about it to decide whenever it came, I wasn't going to sign it.

My reasoning went as follows (and it never changed): My publisher doesn't like the book. If there were no contract, they'd simply reject it. Because there's a contract, they have to figure out what to do about it, and that's going to mean a lot of rewriting and time pressure and general dissatisfaction both on my part and theirs. But if I don't sign the contract, there's no contractual obligation on anyone's part. So what if they reject it? I've had lots and lots of rejections in my life, and most of them have come at moments far more financially vulnerable. I've got money in the bank and Social Security beckoning and why should we all be miserable?

I guess what I did was reject the rejection.

I left the contract on the kitchen counter, gave myself a weekend before emailing my agent to let her know my intentions, and waited to hear from my editor. A week or so later I did. She sent me two lengthy, well thought out emails about the manuscript, with lots of suggestions about how to make it work. She assured me Houghton Mifflin Harcourt wanted a fourth moon book. The email was pretty much as I imagined it would be.

I gave myself a few days just in case I was going to change my mind, and then I emailed her back and said the contract was unsigned and would remain unsigned and no one had anything to worry about. What I didn't tell her was my biggest worry was how I was I going to tell all of you.

My editor emailed back and said she'd call me in a day or two, and in a day or two, she did call. We had a very nice chat. She said they really want a fourth moon book and I should feel free to sign the contract. I said the contract had made its way from the kitchen counter to the file cabinet, but I wasn't going to sign it unless HMH and I were all on the same page about what a fourth book should be like. I said the one thing I knew about a fourth book was it had to be completely different from the first three, and the only thought I had was one I'd played around with for quite a while and that was a volume of short stories, some of which would have Miranda or Alex or other characters from the books and some of which wouldn't.

My editor said that short story volumes were a hard sell, but teachers and librarians were always asking for them and in this case it was an established concept and she liked it.

I said that was good but the contract was staying in the file cabinet. Then we talked about family and the suchlike.

So that's where things are now with The Shade Of The Moon. Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while may remember I had a completely different third book that I rejected before anyone had a chance to read it. These books are a lot of fun to create, but they're very hard to get right. I see the world as darker and darker and darker still, and I get way too dark and violent and depressing (while having a darn fine time doing so).

What I do know is I'm very close to brain dead right now. Between pushing to meet that Sept. 1 deadline and dealing with serious mother stuff, I've been on a high stress level for several months. Now my mother is settled in at the nursing home, and I have no professional obligations other than going to Germany to get my award, and staying in touch here, and answering emails.

If my brain starts coming up with short stories, I won't stop it. I'll write one or two or three, and if I think they're good enough, I'll send them to my editor. But I'm not pushing myself. There are books to read and movies to see and I've been neglectful of my friends for months now. I have to do my mother's laundry (not to mention taking her to Dr. Hearing Aid later today and to the dentist tomorrow morning). Not to mention Scooter's current obsession with twist ties, which don't toss themselves.

So thank you all of you for your support and interest in The Shade Of The Moon. If there's a fourth book, I'm keeping the title. And if there isn't, I'm keeping the title anyway. It's a part of my life, just like you are, and I don't give up things I care about easily.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Wall Of Ego Has A Lovely New Addition

I went to Tennessee this weekend for the Tennessee Association Of School Librarians annual conference and while I was there, picked up the 2010 Volunteer State Book Award Young Adult Division for Life As We Knew It.

This was not a coincidence. They were kind enough to invite me, and even kinder to me while I was there. I had a great time.

I've known for a while that the Wall Of Ego was going to need some redecorating with the new arrival. It is the 2010 Volunteer State Book Award, after all.

So this afternoon, and after a mere 7 additional nail holes, the Wall Of Ego has been completed.

Well, completed for the time being. My ego is ever expansive, and I suppose the Wall Of Ego could expand accordingly!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

May We All Have A Happy And Healthy New Year

Tonight begins Rosh Hashanah for the year 5772.

Speaking only for myself, 5771 was a complicated year, certainly filled with its share of joy and celebration, but maybe a little more difficulty and aggravation than I would have cared for.

You'd think after 5771 years, they'd have worked out the all pleasure no pain concept.

But until they do...have a wonderful new year, filled with good news, good ideas, and good times!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Discussion Topics For Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In

When I was writing Life As We Knew It, I fantasized about its being used in book discussion groups. To my delight, after it was published, I found that to be the case.

I thought it might be interesting if someone were looking for book discussion topics about any of the moon books to get some ideas from their author (aka Me). So last night I worked on it, and came up with 5 discussion topics for each of the three books. Feel free to use them or to use them as starting off points or to refuse to use them because your own ideas are better!

Life As We Knew It

1. Does Miranda's family do enough to survive? Is there anything else you can think of to do that they didn't?

2. Matt, Miranda, and Jonny are all athletes. Do you think that helped them? If so, how?

3. What everyday thing would you miss the most? What would you be most worried about?

4. How would things have been different in Mom hadn't made them stockpile all the groceries and supplies on Crazy Shopping Day?

5. Did Miranda skate with Brandon? What do you think the author thinks?*

* The author thinks they did skate. She was actually surprised when she learned some people thought it was a fantasy. Then she reread the book and discovered Miranda wasn't so sure herself!

The Dead And The Gone

1. Alex has an older brother Carlos who is in the Marines. How would the book have been different if Carlos were still at home?

2. New York City was being kept alive so valuable books, paintings, and documents could be saved. If you could save something that represents the world you know, what would it be?

3. Would you have sent Bri to the farm? Would you have let your aunt and uncle take Julie?

4. Alex learns there are places rich and powerful families can go to. Do you think there's a way of saving everybody in such a disaster? If not, who would you protect?

5. Are Alex's parents still alive? What do you think the author thinks?**

** Sadly, the author thinks both Mami and Papi are dead. She was actually surprised to learn some readers thought one or both might still be alive.

This World We Live In

1. Miranda learns that Dad and Lisa wanted her to go with them when they made their abortive trip out west. What might have happened to her if she'd gone?

2. Electricity comes on long enough for Mom to play some music. If you hadn't been able to listen to music for months, what would you play?

3. How would the book have been different if Matt hadn't brought Syl home?

4. Miranda takes on the responsibility of what to do with Julie. What would you have done?

5. The book ends with the characters starting their journey to Tennessee. What do you think happens to them?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yay! An Excellent Review For Blood Wounds

My editor forwarded this review to me just now, and I love it!

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books - Oct. 2011

Pfeffer, Susan Beth Blood Wounds. 
Harcourt, 2011 256p ISBN 978-0-547-49638-2 16.99
Reviewed from galleys  

R r. 8-12

"We’re a happy family,” states Willa’s stepfather, Jack, and Willa agrees. Or she thinks she does at the time, but soon her blended family is thrown into chaos: Budge, the father that sixteen-year-old Willa barely remembers, goes on a murderous rampage, killing Willa’s never-met half-sisters and finally being shot dead himself by the police. Willa horrifies her family by traveling back to small-town Texas for the memorial and to learn about the relatives she never knew, and in the process she finds herself questioning the price of her seeming family happiness.

Pfeffer’s had some interesting science-fiction explorations lately (Life As We Knew It, BCCB 12/06),but this is a return to her classic form, with headline-worthy melodrama a vehicle for exploring family dynamics widespread even in more ordinary households. Willa’s dawning understanding that she’s been “Quiet-Never-Make-A-Fuss Willa,” going along with her mother’s acceptance of the fierce inequities of her household in order to keep the family together, unfolds subtly but effectively.

Pfeffer avoids reductivity, however, making it clear that Willa’s mother and stepsisters have paid their own price for the family bargain, with unfairness being spread around so thoroughly the situation almost comes back around to being fair. There’s also the looming tacit reminder, in Budge’s truly horrific crime, that there are worse things than having fewer advantages than one’s stepsisters.

The sheer drama of the plot will draw readers, and they’ll stay for an insightful exploration of the way families go both right and wrong. DS

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's Done Is Done And Cannot Be Undone (Except When You Play Free Cell)

Not having heard yet from my editor about The Shade Of The Moon (notice how I cleverly avoid beginning this blog entry with a certain pronoun I'm unduly fond of) I (there it is) have been keeping busy with jobs that must be done.

The most important of said jobs (am I in a classy mood or what) was clearing out my mother's apartment. Fortunately for me, and thanks in part to the power of my whining, my brother and my friend Marci did more than their share (well, Marci didn't have to do any, but did because she's a good and true friend). Thursday morning I'll officially turn the keys over. Then I'll go to my mother's room and swap her clean clothes for dirty ones. Apartments come and go but laundry is forever.

I've also spent a certain amount of time marvelling at my goddaughter Allison's new business. Allison is a national award winning cheese maker, and already quite a number of restaurants and gourmet shops are carrying her Ricotta.

When I'm not doing my mother's laundry or cheering Allison on or winning at Free Cell (thanks to the Undo button, I have a 281 game winning streak), I've been cleaning out the outside storage closet (aka The VCR Burial Ground). One of the things I took from my mother's apartment was her paper shredder, and for a while I was shredding old electric bills and the suchlike. Eventually I got bored with shredding and simply dumped all the old bills at the neighborhood recycling center (for any of you interested in stealing my identity the papers are on the bottom of Bin Number 2).

But in the midst of all the old bills, I found my even older account books. I recycled the pages devoted to how much I spent on electricty, but I kept the ones that had the records of my (pathetic) earnings. Here's how I did in 1977-79:

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to find out I'd earned royalties for Whatever Words You Want To Hear. As you can see from its current one cent pricetag, it wasn't the most successful of my books.

Let's hope my current books do a tad better. I enjoy being able to spend money!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blood Wounds Is Now Published

Today is the official publication date for my newest book Blood Wounds.

I read a blog review that said Blood Wounds is a love it or hate it kind of a book. Personally, I love it and I hope you'll at least like it.

Amazon likes it. They named it one of their best YA novels for the month of September.

As my way of showing my appreciation for your support, I had new bookplates created just for Blood Wounds. If you'd like one, for yourself or your library or your bookstore, email me with your name and mailing address (and if you need multiple ones let me know). I'll sign it and off it will go.

It's an exciting day for me. But I am kind of sorry to say goodbye to the countdown clock!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Dead And The Gone Is Alive And Right Here

I'm pleased to report that my copy of Chroniques De La Fin Du Monde L'Exil arrived the other day.

I have every reason to believe it's a Poche Roman. Which kind of sounds like it should be a character on Happy Days.

Thanks to the back of the jacket, I know what the French version of This World We Live In will look like, a stress reducer right there.

Naturally all the versions of The Dead And The Gone decided to get together. I did what I could to help them along.

Scooter did his part as well.

For a book with such a sad title, these are happy days indeed!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September First Fell On A September This Year

I am very impressed with September's ability to fight off August's efforts to appropriate a few of its days. Bravo September, plucky 30 day month.

September is always a significant month in the Pfeffer family, since it hosts my mother's birthday (100 years of birthdays to be celebrated Monday Sept. 5) and my brother's birthday, and my parents' wedding anniversary. In addition, my father had emergency open heart surgery on Sept. 7 and regarded that as a second birthday. I used to spend a lot of money in September on gifts.

Speaking of my mother and my parents' anniversary, my job for September is to clear out my mother's apartment. She has made the official move to the Health Center, where people look after her and bring her three meals a day and comment regularly about how cute she is.

Clearing her apartment out is a good stress reducing job for me, since it distracts me from thinking about my editor reading The Shade Of The Moon. My editor had been under the impression that August had an extra 5-7 days attached to it, so she was taken by surprise when the book arrived on schedule.

My new term for The Shade Of The Moon is domestic dystopian, and my new excuse for anything my editor might object to is, "It's all Princess Summerfallwinterspring's fault!" I always like being blameless.

Back to my mother's apartment, which is where I'll be going back to soon enough. We have 30 days minus 2 at this point to clear it out. It's not that bad a job, because my mother had done a great deal of downsizing throughout the years, so it's not like an 8 room house with a hundred years of memories. And there are the hidden treasures that make this sort of job worth doing. I have found over $1.57 in loose change already (I think it was $1.58, but I didn't count the pennies too carefully). We found some kind of silver coin collectible that my brother priced on the open market, and if the market is open enough, we stand to make at least $12 from it. And my mother has an extraordinary collection of slipper socks from her various stays in hospitals. Green and grey are the favored colors.

What I did find are my parents' ledger books from the time of their engagement and marriage. Apparently they wrote down every penny they spent on groceries. Boy, did they use a lot of butter. My mother said she gained 20 pounds that first year of marriage, and now I know why. The ledgers were kept in marble composition books, full of useful information on the back. The English pound sterling was worth $4.86.65 and 24 sheets of paper=1 quire. Who knew?

Here's a list of purchases my parents made to set up their kitchen. Notice how they bought two different kinds of can openers and a flashlight. They knew someday their daughter was going to write Life As We Knew It, and encourage those kinds of purchases to people around the world (granted, not including their daughter, who waited about five years after the publication of her novel to buy a flashlight to call her own).

Now if only I could find that 10 cent square grater. I'm certain it could bring in at least 2 bucks on eBay!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

L'exil (The French Version Of The Dead And The Gone) Finally Has A Cover

It's probably had a cover for a while now (since its publication date is Sept. 1) but now I can look at it on French Amazon.

I love how the Harcourt designed covers look with French words on them. Tres elegant!

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Very Short Post Irene Report

Scooter and I and the apartment we share are fine. One small unattractive tree that I can see through the window is sideways, probably not the best direction for a tree to be.

My little impatiens garden, which earlier this summer suffered a vicious groundhog attack, got battered by all the rain.

My brother and sister-in-law, who live in New Jersey, didn't have electricity for much of yesterday, but it's back on.

My mother's nursing home has lost telephone service, so I haven't spoken to her today. I'll be seeing her tomorrow and Wednesday and Friday, so (bad daughter) I'm not driving over today to reassure her.

My flashlight, which I didn't have to use, is still working. I have lots and lots of batteries, except Ds, which for some reason are hard to find. I did buy a couple of those weird square ones, in case I had a desperate need to weigh myself in a blackout.

My kitchen seems to have been declared a fruitfly evacuation center. My hope is when they find out they can go home again, they'll pack their bags and get going. Neither Scooter nor I will miss them!

Friday, August 26, 2011

I've Got A Working Flashlight. I've Got A Radio With Batteries.

I've got a completed manuscript.

Yes, in honor of the upcoming Hurricane Irene, I finished The Shade Of The Moon and sent it off to my editor approximately 8 minutes ago.

There's nothing like an impending hurricane to make you beat a September 1 deadine.

Have a good and safe weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blood Wounds Doubled Its Sales!

Thanks to Amazon's Author Central, I can proudly announce (and show you) that my not quite yet published novel Blood Wounds doubled its sales in a single week.

See. It went from 1 book sold! to 2 books sold!!

If Blood Wounds continues to double its sales every week, my estimate is I'll be able to buy the New York Yankees in 27 years!!!

Watch out A.J. Burnett. Your 9,855 not including Leap Years days as a Yankee are numbered!!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thirty Two Days Has August

Those of us in the northeast think it's very kind of January to sacrifice one of its less necessary days to August, which on the whole is a month that can use a bit of expanding.

At least I feel that way as I come up against the infamous September 1 deadline for The Shade Of The Moon.

The first draft is actually completed and on Sunday, I edited/polished/rewrote the first 62 pages (the length of the book keeps shifting but it was at 293 pages when last I looked). Perhaps because of my current Hurricane Irene obsession, I've decided to add a weather element.

It gives away no spoiler information to say The Shade is written in two parts, Part One and (you'll never guess it) Part Two. Even I thought those parts would look nicer if they had names, so one of the first jobs I'm going to do today (after I play Free Cell a few more times and eat some more) is going to be naming them. Part One will be named something like The Faint Glow Of Sun, but Part Two's name I know: West Winds.

Alas, after I name Part Two, I'll have to put some west winds into the book itself. Le creative sigh.

Speaking of names, and speaking of reasons I'd actually like it to be September 1, Google was kind enough to tell me (no one else has bothered) that the French version of The Dead And The Gone is scheduled for a Sept. 1, 2011 publication, which the last I looked is a little over a week from now, whether I want it to be or not. I'd love to know what the cover design is, but since the design they gave Au Commencement was the Harcourt cover for Life As We Knew It only with a lot of classy French words,

probably the cover for d&g will follow suit.

I do admit to finding the Google translation of the information a bit disconcerting.

Here's what it says in French: L’exil, le second tome de Chronique de la fin du monde de Susan Beth Pfeffer, le 1er septembre

And here's what Google translation claims it says: Exile, the second volume of Chronicle of the late Susan Beth Pfeffer World, September 1

I really like the L'exil/Exile part of it, but the not quite late yet Susan Beth Pfeffer would prefer to stay that way, at least until August 33!

ETA: I felt the earthquake. I was sort of hard at work on the rewrites and the computer monitor shook a tiny bit and my chair shook a tiny bit, enough that I looked beind me to see if Scooter was using the chair as a scratching post. I had a Cleveland Indian baseball game on TV and they felt it and were wondering what happened, and then they said it was an earthquake. So now I'm watching CNN and not getting any work done.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Blood Wounds Sold Its First Copy!

Yes, I should be starting the rewrites on The Shade Of The Moon, and I have an embarrassing number of emails I need to answer, and the fruit flies are back (trust me, I didn't invite them), and the apartment is one week overdue for a cleaning, and Scooter remains Scooter,

but I'm ignoring all that to announce the sale of the first copy of Blood Wounds.

I'd tell you who bought it, but I have no idea.

This is how I found out. Amazon, bless its sweet little heart, has this thing set up where writers with a healthy (i.e. obsessive) interest in their book sales can go on Thursdays to find out how their books sold the previous week.

I put in my fabulous secret password, and Author Central lets me in. It claims it knows 75% of all the previous week's book sales, only I don't think it includes ebooks or institutional sales, but what do I care. A number is a number.

Since the vast vast extremely vast majority of the collected masterpieces of Susan Beth Pfeffer don't sell anything, I only look at the three moon book titles. Then I add their sales and divide it by 2 and create a make believe royalty number (it's make believe because royalties aren't based on how many books actually sell in bookstores but by how many books bookstores buy in the first place, but I never allow reality to get in the way of a good Ooh I'll Be Able To Retire! fantasy).

Of course I don't only check on Thursdays. Up in the right hand corner, the sweethearts let you know if the book's Amazon ranking has gone up (pretty green numbers) or down (nasty red numbers)in the past hour.

But Thursday is the big day. They even sort of tell you where in the U.S. of A. the copies are marching out of bookstores (or in this case the copy is marching out of a bookstore). They have it sorted by 99 major American locations and everyplace else, which they call Combined Areas.

The very first sale of Blood Wounds happened in Combined Areas, my new favorite part of the country.

Oh, and see that big blue bar towards the bottom of the page? The graph runs from 0 all the way up to 2, and since Blood Wounds has now sold 1 copy, that bar goes exactly half way (my guess is James Patterson's graphs don't start at 0 or end at 2, but then again James Patterson probably doesn't have the harsh reality of fruit flies to deal with, nor most likely does he have a really ugly black spider in the middle of his shower curtain and even if he does, I prefer not to imagine how he looked when he discovered it).

I wouldn't mind the spider nearly so much if it were eating the fruit flies.

But back to Blood Wounds and its many sale. According to my conveniently located calculator, Blood Wounds now only has to sell 11764 copies (down from 11765) to earn out its advance and start paying me royalties.

Now if I can only convince Scooter to move, maybe I'll start working on those rewrites!