Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fanfic, Your Fic, And Me

I get emails on a fairly regular basis from people asking if I will read their books or stories, and Anonymous Santa Fe brought up the same question in a comment on my last blog entry.

It gives me great pleasure to know my books have inspired other people. I even, with a minimal amount of googling, found a Last Survivors fanfic page. Given that I came up with the idea for Life As We Knew It from watching the movie Meteor on TV one afternoon, I can hardly complain if my work gets someone else plotting away. And it's fun to think of my characters having lives I'm unaware of, sort of like hearing you're in a friend's dream.

But I haven't read any of the fanfic stories, and I always say no when asked to read anything. It's pretty much a hard and fast rule in my life. I figured out a while back that it's easier to say no to everybody than to say yes to some and no to others and have to figure out why I'm saying yes or no.

I don't even read my friends' books for the most part. As a courtesy, I don't give them my books to read either.That kills me sometimes, because I'm the bestest writer ever and their lives would be roughly 1,000,000,000% better if they read my most recent masterpiece. Then again, they probably know the same about their most recent masterpieces and me.

Feel free to take my characters or my plotlines and have fun. Don't tell me what your ideas are though, because I don't want to accidentally "steal" them (I got an email the other day from someone with what was basically a great idea, and I'm relieved that it would never work in The Shade Of The Moon as I'm currently planning it).

So thank you for asking, but the answer will always be no. Of course, if the question is, "Would you like a chocolate chip cookie?" you'll get a whole different response!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Think Of It As Gone With Cousine Mildred

The past few mornings I've woken up at 5 AM, which I can't even blame on Scooter, who doesn't start playing Purr On The Neck until 6. Maybe because I know in an hour I'm going to aggressively adored, I haven't been able to fall back asleep. Instead I play with ideas for The Shade Of The Moon.

Now I've been devoting a lot of brain cells to a book that I've yet to be told my publisher wants. I did that recently (as recently as Saturday) with The Offering, but the difference is if one publisher should happen to reject The Offering, then there are dozens of others to turn to. The Shade Of The Moon is more of a one publisher deal, so I should preserve my brain cells until I'm informed that they were overwhelmed by the two sentence version and want to give me lots of money.

Then again, I wrote 12 pages when all they wanted was 2 sentences, so this is obviously a book I enjoy thinking about.

This morning, as I awaited Scooter and played with ideas, I had a vision of The Shade as a Balzacian novel. Not that I've ever read anything by Balzac, but I did see a Masterpiece Theater of one of his novels. I had actually just created a character that I thought of as a combination of Rhett Butler and Belle Watling (not that I ever read Gone With The Wind but I did see the movie), so I don't know why I thought about Balzac, who, to be perfectly honest, I get mixed up with Emile Zola, who I never read anything by either (but I saw the movie about him). Before breakfast, I googled Balzacian, which turns out not to be a word, and then I googled Zolaesque, which also turns out not to be a word (and then I ate breakfast).

Dickens and Byron get words. I don't see why Balzac and Zola don't. Well, maybe they do in France.

I'm at the stage where I'm creating scenes and developing characters, which is my favorite stage of writing. I do have to be careful though. I heard Lisa (who is turning into a considerably more important character than you might have thought) say that Miranda's daughter Meggie was spoiled, and the next thing I knew, Meggie had morphed into Veda Pierce (and yes, I saw Mildred Pierce and I read the book). That seemed a tad on the overkill side, so I pulled away from Meggie and started thinking about other characters instead.

The trickiest character, by far, is Miranda. The younger generation can be whoever I want them to be. Mom is definitely who she is, and Lisa is someone who the readers of Life As We Knew It and This World We Live In don't know that well. Alex is a little difficult, because I have such a strong sense of who he has become and it's not necessarily what the readers might think, but I figure as long as I understand his motivations and portray him sympathetically, it's okay.

But Miranda is someone the readers know very well, or knew very well, when she was 16/17 years old. Seventeen years have passed, which means half her life (how's that for a weird concept), and she's grown and changed during that time. She's made decisions and compromises that the readers won't have witnessed. I was a very different person at 34 than I was at 17, and I didn't have nearly as much end of the world life experience as she has. In addition, Miranda is going to be seen through the 16 year old eyes of Juliet, and 16 year olds see family members differently than other people do. I have to keep that inner core of Mirandahood in Miranda, all grown up, but to be honest, I don't know yet how to do that.

Ooh, spellcheck is going to have a lot of words it doesn't approve of.

Anyway, the current 5 AM vision for The Shade is that it be bigger (and possibly longer) than LAWKI. Juliet is part of a community that's vital and lively and noisy, and she participates and witnesses and shares what she knows with the readers. I want the book to be read by people who are interested in what happens next to Miranda and Alex and the gang, and by people who've never read any of the first three books. I want it to be part of a quartet, and yet a book that can stand alone.

But mostly I want my publisher to tell me if I should keep waking up at 5 AM to work on it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You Give Them An Encyclopedia, They Ask For A Tweet

My poor beleaguered editor emerged from hiding to say that while she thought it was extraordinary of me to write a twelve page synopsis, full of the most intricate detailing (I could be paraphrasing here), for The Shade Of The Moon, what she really wanted was just a sentence or two. How, she asked, did I describe the book to my friends?

Well, the truth of the matter is, I haven't described it to my friends (present company excepted). Yesterday, it's true, I did talk to a friend, but I described The Offering instead, at twelve page length, full of intricate detailing. And when I've described it to you (present company included), I've described it as Peyton Place The Next Generation, which isn't exactly how I'd like to present The Shade Of The Moon to people who're going to decide if they want to publish it or not.

Not that Peyton Place The Next Generation wasn't fabulous. It was. I can still quote dialogue from it.

"Oh, Betty."

A classic.

Actually, speaking of dialogue, what I immediately thought of when my editor requested twelve pages be boiled down to two sentences was the beginning scene in Sullivan's Travels, which is probably the best beginning scene in the history of everything.

Sullivan: I want this picture to be a document. I want to hold a mirror up to life. I want this to be a picture of dignity - a true canvas of the suffering of humanity.
Lebrand: But with a little sex.
Sullivan: With a little sex in it.

So here is the two sentence version of The Shade Of The Moon. Feel free to put a little sex in it!

Seventeen years after the end of This World We Live In, teenagers related by love and by blood to the families in Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone struggle to find their place in a society that is welcoming to some and forbidding to others.

Sixteen year old Juliet reveals in her diary her feelings of love, jealousy, and yearning, until a shattering truth changes her destiny and that of everyone she loves.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"We Shall Live On And See"

Isn't that poetic? My mother said it to me, and since I've been looking for a title for this blog entry, I decided to go with that.

When my mother got her teeth cleaned a couple of weeks ago, I scheduled her next appointment for October, and realized by then she'll be 100 years old. With no cavities, I hope.

Those nice people at UPS delivered the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Fall 2011 catalog (the one for books that come out after my mother turns 100)with its impressive page for Blood Wounds.

I really like the "Blood can both wound and heal..." heading, since it's genuinely reflective of the themes of the book. And I always like seeing the Marketing plan, especially, as in this case, where there is one.

By now I should have finished the revisions of The Offering, but I still have about 40 pages to go. I'll do them today if I can resist the siren call of a three hour nap. What's kept me from The Offering (other than good old fashioned laziness, the appeal of which should never be underestimated), is The Shade Of The Moon and the plotting thereof. It's been entirely too much fun coming up with plot and characters. So much too much fun that I wrote a 12 page synopsis which I sent to my editor yesterday. I think she found it a bit overwhelming. In fact, if I read between the lines correctly, she has entered the Editor Protection Program and will remain in hiding until convinced I truly am retired.

Relax.I'm not going to ram the 12 pages of plotting brilliance into this blog post. I will tell you that as of this moment (and keep in mind my publisher has not said they want any kind of fourth moon book) all the characters who set off at the end of This World We Live In are featured in The Shade Of The Moon, except for Dad, who I fairly arbitrarily decided has died. But the focus of The Shade is on four teenagers (close your eyes if you don't want to know): Gabe (aka Gabriel, originally thought of as Baby Rachel, son of Dad and Lisa), Connor, Gabe's best friend, Juliet, daughter of Mom and the late lamented Charlie (I bet you didn't see that one coming) and Meggie, daughter of Miranda and Richard (you didn't think Miranda's been celibate all these years, did you?). Meggie's full name is Megan Rebecca, for Miranda's friends Megan and Becky, but Beggan didn't work as a nickname. Gabe and Connor are 17, Juliet is 16 and Meggie is 13. So Matt, Miranda and Jon are Juliet's half-siblings on Mom's side, Gabe is her half-brother on Dad's side, and Meggie is her half-niece if such a term exists.

Hmm... Just writing all that down makes me drowsy. Maybe I should take my three hour nap before tackling those final 40 pages.

Wake me up if the world comes to an end!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

All Work And No Redecorating Makes Sue A Very Cranky Freelance Childen's Book Writer

So instead of doing rewriting/polishing of The Offering, I redesigned the blog (although I did keep the interesting stuff on the right side, where it's been for a while).

I'll work on The Offering tomorrow (along with a half dozen other jobs I keep not quite getting around to).

And while I'm thinking of it, for all who celebrate Passover, Happy Passover! And for those who don't, just pass over this whole paragraph (a little bit of traditional Passover humor).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Going Forth On A Fourth

Like any sensible freelance children's book writer with a cat, I emailed my editor and told her my vet wanted to know if there was going to be a fourth moon book.

My editor emailed back say say she intended to discuss that very possibility with the appropriate person to discuss those kinds of things at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The next day, my editor emailed me to say she had indeed discussed the possibility with the appropriate person and she and the appropriate person were interested in the idea. They particularly liked the concept of setting it a number of years later, so any babies or potential babies from This World We Live In would be teenagers. She suggested as an alternative possibility setting it 3 or 4 years after This World,perhaps focusing on Jon, but I don't like that concept as much.

So nothing is definite, but the next step is mine to take, which is to come up with something resembling a plot. I intend to finish polishing The Offering (previously known as Hart) first, and that's going to take a few more days. Then I'll let my brain focus on possible storylines for The Shade Of The Moon, and when I'm satisfied with what I come up with, I'll write it down, email it out, and see what happens.

No matter what, I'll be sure to tell you and my vet!

Monday, April 11, 2011

If He'd Voted, It Would Have Been 240-13

I took Scooter to the vet this morning. It took 25 minutes to get him into his carrier, and then he yowled the entire trip there. He also yowled the entire trip back, with considerably less justification.

While I was waiting to take Scooter in, the receptionist asked what in addition to his shots and general checkup did I want for Scooter. The exact quote was, "Sue, aside from his shots..." which I heard as a suggestion ("I'll take nooses for 800, Alex").

No sooner do I get Scooter into the examining room then my vet walks in and asks if there's going to be a continuation. It takes me a moment to realize he means is there going to be a fourth book. When Life As We Knew It came out, I thought it would be my last book ever, so I gave copies of it to everybody I know, including my vet, who loved it so much he bought copies of it to give as Christmas presents. Hardcovers at that.

Scooter, by the way, weighs 14 pounds. And my vet claims that when Scooter puts his paw on top of me, it's not to say he loves me, but to let me know he outranks me, which is very silly because every cat knows that and every cat knows every person knows that, so there's no point telling us.

My vet also says the official term for one girl cow getting cozy with another girl cow is nymphomania. I no longer remember how that came up in the conversation, but I'll remember it forever, along with a license plate number that I decided to memorize on the drive home to sharpen my memory skills. Years from now that license plate number will show up in my brain and I'll have no idea what it is and it will haunt me forever like stray song lyrics.

I continue to work on polishing up Hart. Not today, since I'm still recovering from those 25 minutes of Scooter chasing, but yesterday and I hope tomorrow and certainly Wednesday if the weather is bad. I've gotten deep enough into the polishing process that there is now an official Chapter Seven and an equally official Chapter Ten. I decided that there was need for a brand new Chapter Nine, so I wrote that yesterday, thus making the previously official Chapter Ten the equally official Chapter Eleven. The other change I made was the title. It is no longer Hart; it is The Offering. I think The Offering is a lot sexier, and it doesn't seem to be a particularly overused title, so I'm grabbing it.

Oh well. I could try to do some rewrite/polishing now, or I could put the den back in order after 14 pounds of chaos, or I could check out some neighborhood nymphomaniac cows.

It's always good to have choices!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

When The Shade Of The Moon Meets The Sleep Of The Pill

As you may know, inspired by your poll votes and comments, I've been playing with an idea for a fourth moon book. Playing with is clearly not the same as working on, since I refuse to commit to work until I find out if Houghton Mifflin Harcourt wants a fourth moon book. They have standards too, you know.

But I do love playing with ideas, and mostly I've been thinking in terms of setting The Shade Of The Moon 15-18 years later (or as I fondly think of it, Peyton Place The Next Generation). This would allow me to catch up with all the characters while seeing what the world looks like and having teens as my focal point.

But I noticed the character that was intriguing me the most was Alex. I kept picturing him as angry, angry at Miranda, once he finds out the truth, angry at God, angry at the government, angry even at Julie, but most of all angry at himself. Anger like that might not last 18 years, but it would affect who he becomes. I had a glorious moment or two of picturing Alex as a terrorist, but I also thought of him as a community organizer, and also a successful politician.

Last night I bumped into one of those can't fall asleep nights (blame it on the excitement of American Idol's Top 9- Paul's dazzling teeth alone could cost one an hour's sleep), and I got to thinking about Alex again, and what becomes of him smack after This World We Live In. Once Miranda tells him the truth, he'd break away (he has the least at stake in remaining with the Evans family unit), to go off and be angry. Well, angry young men are at a premium in the post LAWKI world, so I imagined him doing all kinds of highly dangerous work, and because he doesn't care if he lives or dies, becoming almost legendary in the jobs he accomplishes.

Then I thought of my dream matchup, Miranda from Life As We Knew It and Chris Flynn from The Dead And The Gone, and I came up with a way they might meet. Then I started thinking about how people would be writing letters all the time, which is just as much fun as writing diary entries, maybe even more fun, because Miranda could write a letter and so could Jon and so could Alex and anyone else I wanted to write letters for and The Shade Of The Moon would be a collection of their letters.

The next thing I knew I was popping sleeping pills in a struggle to fall asleep (which is after all what sleeping pills are for), but my mind was still racing. Things get a little hazy at this point, but it would seem I got up and typed some notes, just in case I wouldn't remember what I'd come up with between 1/2 and 1 full pill.

Now I know there are those of you who hate spoilers, but I don't see any of this as spoilers given that I don't even know if HMH will ever want a fourth moon book, not to mention that the brief description I gave of one in an email was more Peyton Place the Next Generation than Miranda/Alex and Co. one year later. But if you don't want to read the following notes, feel free not to. And if you do read them and still don't understand, well, that's what sleeping pills do to the creative, restless, bad typing mind!

Miranda is pregnant and tells Alex the truth about Julie’s death. Alex is enraged and cannot delal with Miranda, He goes away to dangerous locations, and is in a statet of ratge, whih he works through by taking on the most dangerous tassks- suicidal explosoions of ovoklandodo a dbd wirb in highly nuclear reastor plants, Each job he gets there is an assumpton he will be survive, but a t he does, his lesson and fame inceases.

Jon goes ijto the safe town but find its veryundomfortabke, and seazies a chance at an aeducation as a physicial sassistant, sartting at atge 16, He leadsv gthe safe town to to go the school, and there meets Dris fliyynm who believes in talking about th past, and rereverals hi connection to Ales, and wishes to get back tin trouhc with hin, Chris suggested using Miranda as a go belieteween.

Nirada neantime hs gotten a gjobm maybe thgrough Haon’s health teachting skating and skwining t the kids in the safe tiow, Sje lives outside of town with mom and dad abut has a card that allows her access to the safe townm as slong ashs she leaves each night. A family that has lot chuildene is informed of her daugther Juliet and suggests they be abkkiwed ti aditot her, Nurabda ciykd serve as west nurse and hen babby nurse for Julies first two years or so, until they could get a proper nanny for her, They would help set Miranda up with a husband so she coulc sart a a family of her ow,=, and if she were abke ti concentric herself sge cikd ve k=limited contact with Juliet, who of course would not be known she wss her nother. Then Lisa dies ian a pandemic, one whih traps Miranda in the twon and Juliet outside with Mom. /the family agreeds to adopte gabe as well, assuring Miranda and dad that the children would e brought up to understand the are kid, Miranda cold stay with the children unil they are 4, at want hoint, she would leave the familu. Dad supports this idea as being best for the children; Mom is opposed. Oppossiley Mom dies in the thir pandemic.

At somoe point Chris comes to the ssafe town and meets Mirnada. Tney;ve already exchanged letters, bt they find hey ae very tttrachd t each oher, When Alex find s out this provokes a severe reaction in him since he was aways comeptietornve with Chris in hisgh scool and now he’s losing ht o erh again.

No wond on Matt abd Syll how left right away so hey wouldn;’tbe stuck with Mom all the time, Maybe Momn founds ou what’s hppening with her dna work, helping bringing families together buy tryacking their names and dna, as different arts of the countri are made livaeabe again

Vyt bbiijss end, maybe Miranda is raising Juliet and Gabe with Chris, or maube possibly Alex.Mom mau be died in he third pandemic. Conditions are slowly getting more stablelsnf Dvooyrt yhinkd zi h

ETA(and an oh dear ETA it's about to be). I should have spell checked before putting the notes in. Poor blogspot is gonna have a nervous breakdown!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chapter Ten Was Particularly Good

Monday I took my mother to the doctor (her blood pressure is lower than mine) and Tuesday I took my mother to the dentist (no cavities). Then today I got a reminder from the vet that Scooter is due his annual checkup. It is considerably easier to get my mother into the car than it is to get Scooter into his cat carrier, so I'm none too pleased about this particular obligation.

Scooter won't be either.

I am pleased however to announce that I have finally figured out what Scooter thinks I am. In his eyes, I am a Mouse With Benefits.

Speaking of benefits, I have certainly benefited from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's support of the moon books (am I slick or what). Look at this goHastings.com promotion of Teen Dystopian novels (well, don't look at all of it, just the bottom).

You looked at all of it, didn't you. I'm crossing you off the dedication list.

Meanwhile, now that the paperback of This World We Live In is sort of officially published, I've been obsessively following its Amazon rankings. It's the first of my books to have an extended period of availability as an ebook before coming out in paperback, and I'm very curious as to how that will affect its sales. Ebook sales are flourishing, but children/YA paperbacks seem to be suffering:

In the Children’s/Young Adult category, Hardcover sales were $31.2 million in January 2011 vs $31.8 million in January 2010 (-1.9%) while Paperbacks were $25.4 million , down 17.7% from $30.9 million in January 2010.

Today was the first chance I had to read Hart in all its gothic/romance/thriller/horror/noir/fairytale glory. Of course I loved it, but I have no taste whatsoever when it comes to my own writing. Still, I plan to polish it and offer it to my agent to see what she thinks.

Assuming I survive getting Scooter into his carrier. Think of me as a mouse with high blood pressure!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Oddly Enough, There's Still No Chapter Seven

About a month ago, I posted what was then the most up to date outline of Hart, the gothic/ronance/thriller/horror/noir/fairytale book I was writing. All the potential chapters were neatly numbered, but Mr. Cavin commented that there was no Chapter Seven. Apparently in a few previous outlines, there weren't any Chapter Sevens either.

The reason there was no Chapter Seven was because Hart, unlike every other book I ever wrote, got written piecemeal. I'd write a chapter, then completely change my mind and either rewrite it or dump it or place it in a different section of the book. Since I wrote Hart essentially for my own entertainment (the two times I've mentioned it to my agent, she has chosen not to respond), I didn't really care how I wrote it.

But now the first draft is finished, and probably on Wednesday I'll read the whole thing and start thinking about rewrites and polishing. I never wrote another outline, but out of curiosity just now I wrote down the chapter numbers and their order. So without giving away any part of the plot but all of the disorganization, here's the listing of chapters exactly as they now stand:

Chapter Three
Chapter Five
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Twenty One
Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Three
Twenty Four
Twenty Five
Twenty Three
Twenty Four
Twenty Four
Twenty Seven
Chapter Thirty
Thirty One

I'm still torn between putting a number on Unnumbered or making it an Afterward, to balance the Prelude.

Or maybe I'll just name it Chapter Seven. Every book should have one!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Day I Understand This World

Will probably be the day I destroy it all over again.

I was just about to write an entry about how my new printer hates me and vice versa (okay, not an entire entry, but the entry into an entry so to speak), but as I got ready to sign in and start whining, I looked over at the poll votes, and the total had gone up. Lookit->

I thanked all of you yesterday and said there were 217 votes, and now there are 252 votes. The thing is yesterday morning when I checked, I saw some of the previous night's votes had vanished,lowering the total to 217, but I decided to be all good and mature about it (although I did mourn the lost votes at lunch with my friend Hilarie), but it really made me sad. Of course that was before I broke my new printer and sad turned into irritated and grouchy. Only who can be irritated and grouchy when they get those 35 votes back, even if one of them is No. Well, I can, but I'm naturally gifted.

Still,I love having 252 votes on the poll. Although with my luck, it'll be back to 217 by the time I finishing posting this post. Le pessimistic sigh.

Anyway, it's a very good thing that my printer didn't break until today, because yesterday after I got home from lunch, I found an email from darling Google, leading me to this review of Life As We Knew It on the Woman's Day magazine website, and I was so excited, I printed a copy. Which I could, because my new printer was working yesterday, as opposed to today.

Darling Google wasn't through with me (unlike my new printer and vice versa), and today it sent me a link to this list from YALSA, declaring This World We Live In is an Amazing Audio. Which it is, thanks 90% to Emily Bauer who did the reading, and 10% to me who did the writing and the printing on a printer that didn't hate me and vice versa.

Meanwhile, for those who are still reading and wondering, I completed the first draft of Hart last weekend, but I decided it needs a new Chapter 2, which most likely I would have written this afternoon, except for a run-in with a certain printer that shall remain nameless (and rightly so, because who the heck names their printers?).

And speaking of names, if (Blogspot doesn't let me underline, so bolding will have to do) I write Book 4 (only time and my publisher will tell), the working title will be The Shade Of The Moon. It has 5 single syllable words, just like Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In, and since the trilogy never got an official trilogy kind of name, I call them the Moon books, so one of them should have Moon in its title even if then becomes a quartet, so it would thus lack a quartet kind of name. I know the UK and Amazon think of the three books as The Last Survivors, and a fine thing it is, but I still think of them as the Moon books (or sometimes the moon books).

Oh dear. Wouldn't it be awful if the 252 vote total is a nasty Blogspot April Fool's joke, and tomorrow I check and it's back to 217. Le triple pessimistic positively mournful irritated and grouchy sigh (and vice versa)!