Sunday, December 30, 2012

My 2012 Booklist

My goal for 2012 was to read an average of one book per week, and I surpassed that.

My other goal was to read or reread books that have been sitting on my bookcases for decades. I did a good job with that, although many still remain. And since I have money these days, I indulged myself by buying books that sounded good in their New York Times reviews.

I think my favorite non-fiction books this year  were Catherine The Great: Portrait Of A Woman by Robert Massie and The Catcher Was A Spy by Nicholas Davidoff and my favorite novels were The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. My favorite story of how I came to read a book goes like this:

I was at the library and saw Clarence Darrow by John A. Farrell. I took it out and read it.

Darrow was of course a brilliant lawyer. It turns out he quoted poetry during his jury summations.

One of the poems he quoted was by A. E. Housman, and it ended with the line: "There's nothing but the night."

Wow, says I. Nothing But The Night. What a title for a noir.

So I zipped on over to Amazon and looked up Nothing But The Night. I found a Bill Pronzini novel by that title. I then went online to my library's catalog and found they had it. So the day after I returned the Clarence Darrow biography, I went back to the library, found the Pronzini novel, took it home, read it that afternoon (and enjoyed it), and returned it to the library the next day.

If I hadn't read the Darrow biography, I wold never have known about the Pronzini novel. When the weather warms up, I'll go back to the library and take out some more by him. He's got a new fan thanks to Clarence Darrow.

I'm going to divvy this year's list by fiction and non-fiction, alphabetical by title. Expect to see a lot of The(s).

Fiction first:

Before The Poison- Peter Robinson
Bread Upon The Waters- Irwin Shaw
Defending Jacob- William Landay
Gone Girl- Gillian Flynn
House Rules- Jodi Picault
Nothing But The Night- Bill Pronzini
Passing Strange- Richard Sale
Rebecca- Daphne du Maurier
Skating Shoes- Noel Streatfield
The Big Clock- Kenneth Fearing
The Blue Zone- Andrew Gross
The Child Who-Simon Lelic
The Chill- Ross MacDonald
The Cocktail Waitress- James M. Cain
The Connoisseur- Evan S. Connell, Jr.
The Forgotten Garden- Kate Morton
The Good Father- Noah Hawley
The G-String Murders- Gypsy Rose Lee
The Green-Eyed Monster- Patrick Quentin
The Intruder- Helen Fowler
The Magician's Wife- Brian Moore
The Pact- Jodi Picault
The Poisoned Chocolates Case-Anthony Berkeley
The Prophet- Michael Koryta
The Unsuspected- Charlotte Armstrong
The Wheel Of Fortune- Susan Howatch
The Winter Sky- Susanna Kearsley
What The Dead Know- Laura Lippman

Now here's the non-fiction:

Alexandra- Caroly Erickson
A Magnificent Obsession- Helen Rappoport
A Smattering Of Ignrance- Oscar Levant
Belles On Their Toes- Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Catherine The Great- Robert Massie
Clarence Darrow- John A. Farrell
Complicated Women- Mick LaSalle
Dark City- Eddie Muller
Every Picture Tells A Story- John Hedfield
Five Sisters- James Fox
Galileo's Daughter- Dava Sobel
Jack London And His Daughters- Joan London
Lonelyhearts- Marion Meade
Lost Prince- Jeffey Moussaieff Masson
Mary Boleyn- Alison Weir
Murder Plus- Marc Gerald ed.
Nutcracker- Shana Alexander
On The Verge Of Revolt- Brandon French
Party Line/ Out On A Limb- Louise Baker
Queen Of The Conquerer- Tracy Borman
Sins Of The Son- Carlton Stowers
The Astaires- Kathleen Riley
The Beauty And The Sorrow- Peter Englund
The Bronte Myth- Lucasta Miller
The Catcher Was A Spy- Nicholas Davidoff
The Gershwins And Me- Michael Feinstein
The Life Of David- Robert Pinsky
The Lost Empire Of Atlantis- Gavin Menzies
The Loyalists- Christopher Moore
The Medical Detectives- Berton Roueche
The Moose That Roared- Keith Scott
The Making Of The Wizard Of Oz- Aljean Harmetz
The Mormon Murders- Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
The Quiz Kids- Eliza Merrill Hickok
The Secret Life Of Houdini- William Kalush and Larry Sloman
The Wages Of Sin- Lea Jacobs
The Witch Must Die- Sheldon Cashdan
The Women Of The Cousins' War- Phillipa Gregory, David Baldwin, and Michael Jones
The Youthful Queen Victoria- Dormer Creston
Things I Did And Things I Think I Did- Jean Negulesco
To Hell And Back- Meat Loaf and David Dalton
Under The Banner Of Heaven- Jon Krakauer
Vertigo The Making Of A Hitchcock Classic- Dan Auiler
What Happened To Their Kids- Malcolm Forbes and Jeff Bloch
Without Lying Down- Cari Beauchamp

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Amazon Just Put Up The Cover For The Shade Of The Moon

It's the first I've seen it.

I'm not quite sure what that big building is supposed to be, but it's got fire and I like it!

You Can Always Count On Mom For Two And A Quarter Pages


Let me try that again.


Did I get your attention?

I sure hope so. I want you to notice that over on the beloved right side of the blog, there's a link for pre-ordering The Shade Of The Moon at Amazon.

They say publication date is Sept. 3. Of course they also say the book is 352 pages long, which is about 52 pages longer than I remember writing.

As of the moment, it doesn't have a ranking number, which either means no one has ordered a copy (waah), or Amazon refuses to let me know someone has ordered a copy (waah). I suppose I could order a copy just to find out, but I've had other things on my mind, like FreeCell.

Today, after playing approximately 1,000,000,2435 hands of FreeCell, the computer finally dealt me the perfect hand. Since there was an off chance I might forget, I recorded it for posterity.

Of course, my life isn't all FreeCell. I made my way through the copy edited version of The Shade Of The Moon, and added the five pages I needed because of my massive goof up (see below). I mailed (real mail, the kind that costs money) the manuscript to my editor yesterday, but I thought I'd share with you and Scooter the brand new two and a quarter page scene between Jon and Mom.

Scooter saw them first, and you'll see them second, and my editor will see them third, since she won't get the manuscript before Friday.

I hope you like them as much as Scooter seems to have!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Santa's Gonna Find Me With My Hair Pulled Out

I thought I would zip through the copy edited version of The Shade Of The Moon, get it all read and polished by the end of the week. Not a job I was looking forward to, but not one I was dreading either.

Well, that fantasy is out the window.

It turns out the copy editor (whose name I don't know but whose praises I will sing forevermore) realized I had totally totally totally screwed up. I mean totally.

You'd think I, of all people, would know that an asteroid knocked the moon out of orbit on May 18. It says so in Miranda's diary in Life As We Knew It. The Dead And The Gone starts on May 18. In This World We Live In, Miranda and Mom and Syl have a ceremony a year later, on May 18.

Let's look for a common theme here. MAY 18!

But in The Shade Of The Moon, I make the anniversary day May 20.

Why? you ask.

Because I'm stupid and careless and stupid, that's why.

The anniversary day is very important to the plot of The Shade Of The Moon, and so is the action right before the anniversary day.

Here's how things are now.

Sunday May 17: Jon visits his family
Monday May 18: A little scene with Jon and Sarah
Tuesday May 19: A lot of important stuff because the next day is the anniversary day.
Wednesday May 20: Anniversary day

Only anniversary day is really Monday, May 18, and all that important stuff that has to happen the day before can't happen the day before because Sunday May 17 Jon is visiting with his family and not doing the important stuff, which he has to do the day before the anniversary day because roughly 1/4 of what follows in the story is because of that important stuff.

I've pretty much figured out what I have to do. I'm going to change all the dates up to May 18 to make them a week before (so Jon will visit his family on May 10 instead). Of course that leaves the book with nothing happening between May 10 and May 16, when Jon and Sarah have their little scene. But I think I can take a little bit of action that currently happens before Jon visits his family and make it after he visits his family. I'll also write a little scene (don't ask me about what), and a moderately significant scene, because some of Jon's motivation for the important stuff comes from his visit with his family, and it won't feel right if that motivation is a week old. So I have to give him more reason for the motivation, which will make that new scene moderately significant.

And then I'll go back to all those copy edited pages (about 20 of them) that there's no point looking at now because I have to add so much before them, and see what the copy editor has suggested. I just finished going through a batch of post-anniversary day pages, since they aren't affected by the date changes and the unwritten new scenes. I'll get back to them tomorrow.

The deadline is January 2 and I know I'll be finished by then. But while Santa's saying Ho! Ho! Ho!, I'll be saying Howl! Howl! Howl!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Copy Edited Version Of The Shade Of The Moon Has Arrived

Usually I hate dealing with copy edited manuscripts. A great deal of whining and cursing goes on when I work on them.

But this version doesn't seem bad at all. The comments are typed in and there aren't a lot of them, and a very quick skimming of the manuscript didn't reveal any that provoked me.

I don't even have to mail the manuscript back. Just email my editor to let her know what I think about the various suggestions.

Both my editor's email to me about the manuscript and the handwritten note I got with the manuscript mentioned that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (aka my publisher) wants to have ARCs of The Shade Of The Moon available for the spring conferences, ALA and the suchlike.Which is fine by me. So we're moving along swiftly (at least by publishing standards).

For those of you who have dreamed of seeing a copy edited page of The Shade Of The Moon (and who amongst you hasn't), I've scanned one into my handy dandy computer just to bring you joy and happiness and anything else you might feel upon seeing a copy edited page of The Shade Of The Moon. If you hate spoilers and yet are tempted, don't worry. It's not a plot revealing kind of a page, but if you don't care to read it, feel free to look for joy and happiness somewhere else.

I'll go looking right along with you!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Sons Of Leopold And Loeb

I went to the library on Wednesday and took out a biography of Clarence Darrow. He's one of those people who's always interested me, and I haven't read anything about him in a long time.

Thursday, I read the preface to the book, which mentioned Leopold and Loeb. Natural enough, since that was one of Darrow's most famous cases.

Friday, I ran errands. When I came home, I learned about the shootings at Sandy Hill Elementary School.

The most obvious descendants of Leopold and Loeb are the Columbine killers, because there were two of them. But all these young men who kill for no reason are from the Leopold and Loeb family tree.

Leopold and Loeb murdered Bobby Franks in 1924. Things were a little different then than now. For one thing, the weaponry is different. Machine guns were coming into fashion, but you couldn't simply stroll into a Walmart and buy one.

And while there was no shortage of violence in 1924, it didn't permeate the entertainment world the way it does today.

Think about it. Violence for fun is everywhere. Movies, TV shows (especially cable), video games. The most popular American sport, football, is all about physical attack.

The first thing a writer of fiction learns is that a story has to have conflict. Decades ago, when I was reading what were then called teenage novels, the books were essentially romances, and the conflict was between a girl and a boy, a girl and her best friend (about the boy) or a girl and her parents (always about the boy). At book's end, the girl would have the boy, and her best friend, and her parents. Kiss kiss. The end.

I can't talk intelligently about today's YA novels because I don't read them. But my perception is they've moved a long way from a girl and a boy, kiss kiss, the end.

What I can talk about are my last five books. I don't recall Miranda witnessing much violence in Life As We Knew It, but the entire book is about death. I joke about how much I enjoyed killing off all humanity, but the truth of the matter is, the book is about the death of all humanity.

I progressed in The Dead And The Gone. I show suicides, lots of corpses, and I had two young, important to the story, characters die in particularly unpleasant ways.

By This World We Live In, Miranda doesn't merely observe death. She causes it.

Blood Wounds has two separate reenactments of violent death. The victims include young children.

Finally, in The Shade Of The Moon, Jon witnesses slaughter, including one particularly horrific death outside of a school.

A very quick count of the number of named characters I've killed in those 5 books is 16. I couldn't begin to estimate how many unnamed ones, extras, if you will, die. Kill kill. The end.

Again, I can't speak for anyone else. But my truth is I like writing violent scenes. I find them much easier to write than romantic ones. They solve all the need for conflict in a story, because violence is by definition, conflict. And they make it easy for me to portray my main character's emotions. Terror, heartbreak, guilt, shock, rage, they're all right there.

I'm not saying books intended for young teenagers shouldn't have violence in them. Kids nowadays have grown up in world of violent entertainment. They would never sit still for the books I read at their age. And the important thing is for kids to read.

As Mayor Jimmy Walker said, back in 1932, no girl was ever seduced by a book. Clarence Darrow's defense of Leopold and Loeb notwithstanding, no boy ever killed because of one either.

But I think it's naive to believe that the pervasive use of violence in entertainment has no effect on young people. And I'm not happy thinking about how my books are part of that culture of violence.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eight Days Eight Menorahs

Chanukah has come extremely early this year, and no one was prepared for it, which I can tell because I haven't gotten a single present. Not even a married present.

What I do have is a lot of menorahs. Eight, coincidentally enough. So I figured I'd give you a grand tour of them (and of my Chanukah decorations).

Okay. I'll start with this one. It's a New Paltz Crafts Fair menorah. My mother told me to buy myself a present from her one New Paltz Crafts Fair, and I decided the appropriate thing would be a menorah. My mother loves trees, so I got myself a Tree Of Life menorah. It's usually in the center of the bookcase, but the washer and drier are right opposite, so I had to move the menorah to get the picture.

I decided a number of years ago that I'd like to collect menorahs. I mentioned this to my friends Joyce and Lew and they gave me this one.

Lew decided one wasn't enough. So he gave me another.

This lion menorah is one I gave my father. My father's name was Leo, and he was hard to buy presents for, so I decided to buy him lion things, until maybe he'd decide he wanted to collect lion things and then I'd have no problems buying him presents. It didn't work. I took the menorah back after my mother moved into the nursing home. I keep it on a window sill, which is why you can see blue sky and a roof in the background.

I really like my electric menorah, but I couldn't get it to look all nice and pretty for this blog entry. Not for lack of trying. I put it in the dining room and the kitchen and the hallway and Scooter's bathroom. I think I'll go with the bathroom version.

I had a space in my living room that cried out for a menorah. So I bought this one for myself. I have to tell people it's a menorah, because it doesn't much look like one.

When I decided last night to do a blog entry about my menorahs, I thought I only have seven (not that seven isn't a perfectly reasonable number to have). Then I realized my Chanukah teddy bear is posing with a menorah, which is why he's a Chanukah teddy bear, and not a Purim teddy bear or a St. Patrick's Day teddy bear (well, he's the wrong color for that).

The Chanukah teddy bear is part of my Chanukah decorations. So here's the Chanukah window. Not everyone has a Chanukah stocking, especially not one that says Susan. To the left is a Chanukah window hanging and to the right a Chanukah angel. The latter is not traditional, but then again, neither's the stocking.

Here's the menorah I actually use. My parents gave it to me when I was living in Greenwich Village. I call it the Chianti menorah. That's decades of candle wax on it, each and every drip bringing back a memory. Not to me, maybe, but I'm sure someone remembers each and every drip.

How can I have a blog entry with all these pictures and not a single one of Scooter? He didn't pose at all this morning, so here's a Scooter classic from I don't know when. That's the tree of life menorah in the background (in its rightful position).

Happy last few days of Chanukah everyone!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Det burde købe en masse hostebolsjer

While it is true, I'm still at the hacking my lungs out at 2:00 in the morning stage of my cold, I don't care (well, I will care at 2:00 in the morning, but that's quite a few hours away).

I don't care because when I got home this afternoon from getting my hair cut and visiting with my mother, I found an unexpected check in the mail.

Unexpected checks are my absolute favorite things to find in the mail (so much nicer than unexpected bills), but this was a particularly exciting unexpected check because it was my very first royalty check from the Danish version of Life As We Knew It (aka Mens Vi Endnu Er Her*, at least in Denmark).

I've always been particularly fond of Mens Vi Endnu Er Her because it was the first foreign language version of Life As We Knew It, and its advance paid for the party I gave myself in celebration of the publication of The Dead And The Gone, which was my 75th book to be published and therefore worthy of celebration.

Most likely, the royalty check won't pay for any parties, because after commissions, it came to $59.17, which nowadays is dinner for four at Subway, if you get some cookies but no soft drinks. But I don't care, because it was so totally unexpected.

Little Mens Vi Endnu Er Her tends to hide in a corner when I take LAWKI family reunion pictures.

So today, in its honor, I took some pictures of it all by its lovely lonesome.

Once Scooter realized that $59.17 could pay for about 100 cans of cat food, he decided it was worth perusing.

In no time flat, he really got into it.

Now, as long as he doesn't get into the check, I, for one, will be very happy!

*Since I don't speak Danish, I have no idea what this blog review says, but Google was kind enough to translate the last paragraph.
"While we are still here" was a huge surprise to me - the most positive kind. It shows that the science fiction genre is alive and well in youth literature, and that it dares to take liberties with his characters and his stories. It reminded me of a youth version of the letter to Osama.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Why is it a cold, which really is the most unimportant of diseases, makes you feel so crappy?

My throat started hurting Saturday night, and now it's at the ticklish stage. My nose is stuffed up, so I'm breathing through my mouth, which makes me cough.

And my eyes hurt. This is a problem because I was planning on watching TV tonight. At  7 PM, if I read the schedule correctly, they're showing the U Conn women's basketball team, and then at 8, there's 2 hours of The Voice (Melanie is my favorite, although I'll be shocked if she wins).

The Voice I can watch with my eyes closed, but I think that would have a negative impact of my enjoyment of the basketball game.

Now I know you're thinking, have some chicken soup. And I would if I could, but I, author of Life As We Knew It, the inspiration of preppers throughout the land, don't keep chicken soup in the house, and when I went grocery shopping on  Friday, I didn't know I was going to be sick starting Saturday night. I haven't gotten dressed since, which is quite the statement, because my old agency always sends out checks on Friday, which means they come on Monday, and even though there's no reason to think they sent me a check on Friday, I have a Pavlovian response to Mondays. So I must be ding dang close to death's door not to get dressed and get my mail today, a Monday.

The only good thing about colds is they don't kill you and they go away. Of course, I don't know how long it's going to take for this one to go away, and I have a dinner date with Todd Strasser scheduled for tomorrow night and that may just get cancelled. Given my complete lack of a social life, the irony of this is not lost on me.

Remember my resolution not to complain so much?  That doesn't count when you have a cold. It just doesn't. I bet even St. Rose of Lima kvetched when she had a cold.

And rumor has it, she made one heck of a matzoh ball!