Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Have 609 Pages Left To Read (And The Print Isn't Getting Any Bigger)

I was very mopey this afternoon, but not for the standard reasons.

Actually, I was feeling quite happy. Mopey was more what I felt I should be feeling. In fact, I told myself if it weren't for the fact that I was feeling contented and happy, I might even be depressed.

Still, it's hard to diagnose oneself as depressed when one is feeling contented and happy. So I settled for mopey as my adjective du jour.

I wasn't feeling mopey because I'd cleaned my apartment this morning. No, it wasn't a case of, "I mopped, therefore I moped." I wasn't feeling mopey because it was 55 degrees on Saturday and it's going to be 90 degrees tomorrow and one could get whiplash from the weather around here. I wasn't even feeling mopey because a couple of nights ago I lost 2 hours sleep playing with an idea for a book that I realized within 12 hours was really a ridiculous idea. I haven't been writing for months now, except for the occasional blog post and email, and I can't say I've missed it.

What was making me feel so vexed (there's only so many times one should claim mopeyhood) was there was nothing in the house I wanted to read.

Shelves With Books I Ought To Want To Read


Shelves With Books I'm Not Going To Read Because I Wrote Them
You would think with all these books, there'd be at least one around that would have appealed to me this afternoon. But here's the problem:
The past year or so, I've been reading books pretty much for the sole purpose of getting rid of them. They're books I bought a long time ago, that have been sitting on my shelves waiting to be read, and I've been pretty good of late in reading and ridding. But I've made my way through most of the ones that had even limited appeal to me, and the ones left (no insult intended to them), I think of as homework. So what's on my shelves now are books I know I ought to read so I can get rid of them, books I'll get rid of at some point whether I read them or reread them but what's the hurry, and books I know I'm not going to get rid of, so there's no point reading or rereading them.

Sometimes, when I'm in this kind of mood, I read a mystery novel by Patrick Quentin, but I did that on Sunday, and I must have read it once before (although I had no memory of it), because I figured out who did it, and ordinarily I'm terrible at that. But a Patrick Quentin novel takes 3 hours maximum to read, and I didn't think I should read another one quite so soon after the first.
Finally, after several hours of stomping and pouting, I pulled Fatal Vision by Joe McGinness off the shelf. See the bookcase with the big German poster on the floor, and the shelf above that has the two black and white photographs of my father? Fatal Vision was on the next shelf up. According to the copyright page, it came out in paperback in August 1984, and my copy is a First Signet Printing, which most likely means I read it in August 1984, and have been thinking about rereading it for the past 29 years give or take. It had been on the No Point Reading Or Rereading Because I'm Not Going To Get Rid Of List, but you know, if it's taken me 29 years give or take to get around to rereading it, maybe a reevaluation is in order.
So far, I've read 44 pages, spent 7 minutes on Google, catching up on the case, and one hour 12  minutes writing this blog entry (including taking pictures of the bookshelves, which was harder than you might think because I'd forgotten to put the memory card back in the camera from the last time I'd used it, so I had to take the pictures all over again).
As Stephen Sondheim once said, "Art isn't easy."
I bet he has plenty in his house to read though!
ETA: Picture of Scooter hogging the bathroom sink when I wanted to brush my teeth and go to bed which was why I forgot to put the memory card back in the camera.

ETDoubleA: If any of you can make the connection between Patrick Quentin and Stephen Sondheim without benefit of Wikipedia, I'll be very impressed!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bringing You Up To (Cough Cough Hack Hack Achoo!) Date

The Ladies' Home Journal says I have a cold.

I got it either at the movies last Tuesday when I saw Mud or Wednesday when I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw lots of pretty paintings and dresses. I don't recall being sneezed on at either place, but they are the most likely culprits.

I returned the favor by first noticing my sore throat at a showing of The Great Gatsby 3D (1 D too many for me- those 3 D movies give me eye strain), so who knows how many people I infected. My apologies to them, and I hope they don't blame it on spring allergies, the way I did before my Ladies' Home Journal consultation.

Whenever I get a cold, I ask myself if my mother would have made me go to school. I would have been able to convince her through yesterday that I'd be better off at home (lots of very impressive coughing yesterday), but today even I would have sent myself. So after running some errands, I returned to the computer for something more constructive than Freecell. Like bringing you up to date.

Monday, when I would have stayed home from school, I went to Poughkeepsie to participate in the Marist College Center for Lifetime Study Meet The Authors Day. Technically, I was one of the authors, and felt no particular need to meet me, but armed with cough drops and tissues, I went anyway.

The first author I met (although I didn't actually meet him, but I did hear him talk about Dwight David Eisenhower) was Michael Korda. His talk was very interesting, probably more interesting than Dwight David Eisenhower, who in my childhood perception, was one dull president (although he was the only president from Franklin Roosevelt on who had no daughters, a topic of endless fascination to me, albeit only me).

The second author I met was Steve Hamilton, who I did sort of meet, since we sat next to each other when we signed books. But more to the point, I went to his talk. In preparation, I'd read his novel, The Lock Artist, which I definitely enjoyed, even while sneezing and coughing.

After Mr. Hamilton spoke, he answered questions (that's what us writers do), so I raised my hand and got recognized, just as I would have in school, although the way I felt on Monday, I would have been able to convince my mother not to send me.

I very politely pointed out that according to my casual count, ten characters in The Lock Artist got slaughtered, and did Mr. Hamilton possibly think a book might be more powerful if only one or two characters got killed?

His answer was very interesting (to me at least- I didn't conduct a survey). He said he thought all the deaths were justifiable in terms of the plot, and that single murder books were the kind Agatha Christie wrote, and what he had cut down on was the use of what he called "the F bomb." Lots fewer "F bombs" in his books nowadays.

It was a very good thing that Mr. Hamilton hadn't read any of my books, because by my casual count, four named characters get slaughtered in The Shade Of The Moon, not to mention countless unnamed extras, whose bodies littered the streets whenever I felt like it. But I didn't drop a single "F bomb."

What I did drop was my old camera. Or technically it dropped me. I guess I took one cute picture of Scooter too many for it, because it simply stopped working.
The last cute Scooter picture my camera took

 So before infecting the entire audience of The Great Gatsby 3 D, I bought a new camera.

Scooter thinks that's just about as exciting as Dwight David Eisenhower!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Promotion Is Always Better Than Demotion

As I'm sure you remember, because I know for a fact you commit to memory every single word I write here, my lovely publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (yes, the royalty check has arrived at my agent's, so my publisher is lovely once again) created survival kits as a way of promoting The Shade Of The Moon.
I got my survival kit a couple of weeks ago, but I've been too distracted to tell you about it. Here's what it looks like.

 My favorite part was the Attention! Life As We Knew It Survival Kit enclosed! label on the outside box, which I put it into the bag, and then removed it for this photograph.

Scooter was considerably more interested in the color coordinated green whistle and flashlight.

It's been Scooter's life's dream to star in a revival of Anyone Can Whistle.

My lovely publisher sent the Survival Kit to independent bookstore owners as a way of announcing the upcoming publication of The Shade Of The Moon.
I can only imagine their lovely reaction to this extremely lovely blog entry at Publishers Weekly about the the fabulously lovely survival kit.
The reality is (or at least my reality is, and I don't think I'm alone with this reality), it's genuinely exciting to see promotion for you book. It takes time and effort and money on the publisher's part and I'm very grateful.
And Scooter thinks it's an excellent new toy!

Friday, May 10, 2013

There's More To Life Than Writing And Books

There's a day in May at the Orange County Arboretum.


And there's Scooter, who enjoys his greenery indoors!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Just For Fun: Who Would You Put In The Children's Book Writers Hall Of Fame If There Were A Children's Book Writers Hall Of Fame?

I was channel flipping yesterday and I noticed that Vinny Testaverde had been admitted to the College Football Hall Of Fame. That reminded me of a vision I'd had a number of years ago for a Children's Book Writers Museum, Hall Of Fame and Gift Shop.

I would have kept my vision to myself except later on, additional channel flipping led to my hearing a reference to the Mustard Hall Of Fame.

So I decided the time had come to write an entry about who I would put in to The Children's Book Writers Hall Of Fame, and more to the point, to ask you who you would put in to this wonderful non-existent joint (by the way, if any of you have a spare $15 million you'd like to spend on it, I have plenty of ideas and only a minor taste for embezzlement).

I decided to limit my own list to The Masters Room, writers whose primary works predate 1950. Here's the list I came up with between the Mustard Hall Of Fame and Scooter waking me up at 7:14 AM. They're in alphabetical order for those of you who take umbrage if someone is listed before someone else for any other reason:

Louisa May Alcott
Horatio Alger
Hans Christian Andersen
J. M. Barrie
L. Frank Baum
Lewis Carroll
Mary Mapes Dodge
Rudyard Kipling
A. A. Milne
Lucy Maud Montgomery
Beatrix Potter
Robert Louis Stevenson
Edward Stratemeyer
P. L. Travers
Laura Ingalls Wilder

All right. The rest is up to you. Add to the Masters Room (I'm certain I forgot people). Debate whether Jules Verne should be in there, or whether Harper Lee should be in the Hall Of Fame (I couldn't decide myself on that one). Let me know if Mary Mapes Dodge should be in the Editors And Agents Room, rather than the Masters Room. Make your Hall Of Fame Lists long or short, contemporary or just past 1950 (it killed me not to put Dr. Seuss in the Masters Room).

Your only restriction is to leave me off your lists. Don't worry. There's a permanent exhibit devoted to me:

Susan Beth Pfeffer: Her Books, Her Cats, Her Vision

Put up the $15 million and you can have your own permanent exhibit too!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tweet And Retweet Were Walking Down The Street

Let me start by saying I still haven't warmed up to Facebook. I know I should make use of it, both professionally and personally, but I just can't make myself.

On the other hand, Facebook, that sneaky devil, mentioned to me that many of the most popular kids from my high school class were right there, and suggested, in that quiet understated Facebook way, that I remind them of our lifelong friendships at absolutely no cost to them or me. So I did. And I must say my already healthy ego skyrocketed when the vast majority (or maybe all of them, since I no longer remember who I reminded of our lifelong friendships) eagerly acknowledged our lifelong friendships by "friending" me on Facebook for the world to see. Either that, or they always "friend" anyone who asks, which might be why they were the most popular kids from my high school class in the first place.

Most of these most popular kids, by the way, spend as much time on Facebook as I do. But it's a thrill to see Jimmy Steinman posting links to Meatloaf interviews, for me and his other 325 best friends to watch.

Twitter, on the other hand, I find quite entertaining, even though I don't tweet as often as I should, mostly because I have nothing to say and that actually holds me back (silly me).

For example, this afternoon, I almost tweeted: When I'm tired I nap and when I nap I have trouble falling asleep and when I have trouble falling asleep I get tired and nap.

I decided against it because it has taken me approximately forever to break the 500 follower mark, and tweets like that could easily plummet my total to the low 200s (which it also took forever for me to get to).

I don't follow a lot of people on Twitter and some of those I do follow I question why I follow. For example the New York Yankees, who feel obliged to tweet after every base hit, walk, or stolen base. If I'm watching the game, I already know about those base hits, walks, and stolen bases, and if I'm not watching, the odds are I'm not interested in those base hits, walks and stolen bases, and even if I weren't watching and I was interested, reading about them on Twitter isn't all that exciting. Or John Lithgow, who after two weeks of not tweeting (and I must admit, I didn't notice he was gone) tweeted 13 times in a row so we could catch up with what he'd been doing during those missing two weeks.

In the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh, "Do we care (to rhyme with where)?"

The person on Twitter who fascinates me the most is Lawrence Block. I've read a lot of Lawrence Block novels over the years, so I decided to follow him. And I'm glad I do, because he tweets just the right amount and he almost never tweets about hits, walks, or stolen bases.

But what he does, which totally intrigues me, is retweet favorable tweets about his books. Every time he does, I check to see if the person who tweeted in the first place is famous and I simply don't happen to know who said person is because I'm not up on who's famous these days.

But based on how many followers these people have, no, they're not famous. They just happen to mention liking a Lawrence Block novel, and Lawrence Block thinks that's worthy of letting all his fellow followers know.

Frankly, I think his ego would be better served by reminding the popular kids from his high school class that they're his lifelong friends on Facebook. And I wouldn't have to read all those retweeted compliments, which really don't improve the quality of my life one bit.

There are people on Twitter who take the time to announce they like one of my books. Yes, I have to search hard to find them, but they're there and I enjoy reading their intelligent, thoughtful, extremely well written tweets on the subject. But the tweets I'm always tempted to retweet are the ones that hate my books. I mean really really hate my books.

The only reason I refrain is because Lawrence Block never retweets those kind of tweets. Maybe everyone loves his books, or maybe he's too smart to let the world know that's not the case.

But let me tell you, it's hard to resist retweeting something like this:

life as we knew it was terrible and the WHOLE SCHOOL was suppose to read it and then we didnt do s...* with it that year
Or my current absolute favorite (and I bet it would be Lawrence Block's too):
Now that's what I call tweeting!
*Spelt in its entirety on Twitter
** Also spelt in its entirety on Twitter, but in big capital letters
*** Likewise and then some