Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thinking About Not Having Anything To Think About Gives You Something To Think About, I Think

While I was driving to New Bedford, MA on Tuesday, for a school visit on Wednesday (I had a terrific time there, by the way), I wondered what I'd think about during the four plus hour drive.

It used to be during long drives I'd think about whatever book I was working on, or I'd come up with an idea for another book. Or I'd worry about money. That was always good for an hour or two.

But now I'm not working on any books and my brain is quite comfortably dead and I have money in the bank, so none of those were options. I had no concerns about what I'd think about on the drive home, because the Mets played a game that started about an hour after I left, so I let the Mets broadcasters keep me company.

Although I'm hard pressed forty eight hours later to tell you what I thought about during the drive, I do remember the exciting revelation I had.

Are you aware of firefighting arsonists?

In reviewing cases of firefighter arson for this report, it was apparent that one of the primary motives for firefighters who commit arson is to be seen as a hero. They may be the first to call in a fire, the first on the scene, and one of the most eager, excited, and enthusiastic members of the response team. Their main reason for lighting the fire is so they can appear as a hero, either by being the first to spot the flames, or by rescuing people and saving property. Extreme cases of firefighter arson involve fires set in occupied structures. When a firefighter sets fire to an occupied structure, the potential for being a life-saving hero is even greater. In North Carolina, one firefighter would set fire to an occupied house, and then return to the scene and rescue the family. His need for excitement, being worshiped, and getting attention predominated over any concern about the terrible danger to which he exposed the occupants.

Well, my GPS is just like a firefighting arsonist. It behaves itself for miles and miles and then it deliberately gives me wrong directions, just so it can rescue me when I get lost.

In fact, when I was driving home yesterday, listening to the Mets game (which they ultimately lost 8-7), my GPS told me to be on the left when the highway divided, and then promptly told me to make a right turn. Which not only would have gotten me on the wrong highway, but would have caused a multicar pileup, which might have been the GPS's plan, although I prefer to think it had less homicidal motives.

But what do we really know about our GPSs? Sure, they talk to us all the times, in sweet soothing tones, but what are their secret thoughts? Are they quietly mocking us? In the unplugged dark nights of their souls, do they come up with new and more nefarious ways to drive us crazy?

Notice that clever play on words. Drive. Drive. Get it?

Speaking of places I would never let my GPS drive me to, my new favorite term is Goldilocks planet. I've been waiting for decades for someone to discover life on another planet, and I hope this will happen in my lifetime. In the meantime, I find the concept of all those astronomers (not the nasty ones who decided Pluto wasn't a planet, the nice ones who think nine is exactly the right number of planets for our solar system) sitting around at astronomer conventions talking about Goldilocks Planet Number 2732A wildly amusing. Not to mention their having to explain to nice astronomers from non Three Bears countries exactly who Goldilocks was and why she deserves to have so many planets named for her ("but the third bed was juuuust right").

I didn't think about Goldilocks planets on my drive to New Bedford because I only found out about them yesterday. But I'm sure I'll give them plenty of thought when I go to visit schools in New Jersey in October.

Assuming my GPS lets me get to the schools without any quick right turns to Nebraska!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sales Pitch Interruptus

As you may recall, I was getting ready to write a nice long blog entry about South Carolina and sales people and Blood Wounds when blogspot interrupted, rendering me distraught and somewhat incoherent.

I responded, as is my wont, with a picture of Scooter.

Then I caught a cold, and spent the next few days sleeping and sneezing. As is my I don't wanna, but I did anyway.

I'm definitely almost completely healthy again, but a fair amount of momentum has dissipated. A small trade off for spellcheck (which I will now use to see if I spelled dissipated correctly).

So instead of writing about South Carolina, where I had a very fine time doing a school visit, or sales people, I'll put in a link to my most recent blog interview (and thank you Sharde for interviewing me).

But I am going to post what I intended to post before, as well. My agent asked me to do a short write up of Blood Wounds for the agency to use, and then my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt also asked for a short write up, so I got double use out of it. Well, triple use if you count this blog entry.

I called the books the Last Survivor series and mentioned how internationally acclaimed I am, because the summary, as I wrote it for my agent, is going to be used abroad. For HMH, I changed it to the Life As We Knew It series, but kept the part about internationally acclaimed, because I forgot to take it out.

Since I am extremely aware that there are people here who don't like spoilers, and since the write up does contain more information than I've shared here before, I'm going to cleverly put a relatively cute picture of Scooter, taken for just this occasion, as a barrier island. If you don't want to know anything about Blood Wounds , then stop reading as soon as you see the picture. And don't read the comments just in case. There's only so much Scooter can protect you from. In fact, there's only so much Scooter can protect me from, including fruit flies, which Scooter finds very entertaining but that's about it.

I took four pictures, and I'm using this one because Scooter looks most like a barrier island in it.

All text beneath this can be constituted as spoiler for Blood Wounds. Consider yourself warned!

Blood Wounds- Susan Beth Pfeffer

Willa Coffey and her family, her mother, stepfather and two stepsisters, are all part of a happy family. That’s what they tell themselves, although they all have secrets they feel they must keep.

But when Willa’s father, who she hasn’t seen in years, goes on a murderous rampage, Willa, her family and friends, must face the truths they’ve chosen to deny and acknowledge that sometimes blood can wound as easily as it can heal.

New York Times best selling author Susan Beth Pfeffer follows her internationally acclaimed Last Survivors series with a novel of a family torn apart by violence and brought together by love.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Just Because I Can

Three Strikes And I'm Out!

You know, you plan to write a perfectly interesting blog entry about South Carolina and sales people and Blood Wounds, and the next thing you see, Blogspot has changed its format, and even though it swears everything is nice and easy now, it makes you very nervous.

There used to be this cute little box on top which I used to post all those adorable Scooter photographs (and any other photographs or videos I wanted to put here), and now that box is gone.

I had no intention of putting any pictures in this entry, but I still want to be able to. Scooter isn't about to stop being adorable.

Now that I look, there's a way of striking things (big fat hairy deal) but I don't see a spell check, which trust me, I need. Oy oy oy. What have they done to my Blogspot?

I'll post again when my nerves are a tad less wracked!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It Will Never Be lawki To Me

On a whim, I checked Amazon to see if they knew when the paperback of This World We Live In was coming out, and by golly, they did:

This title has not yet been released. You may pre-order it now and we will deliver it to you when it arrives.
Publisher: Graphia
Published: April 18, 2011

I knew it was scheduled for this spring, and my guess is April 18 will be more like March 18, since my publisher tends to get things to stores before actual publication dates. But it's nice to have an actual publication date.

What leaped out at me, in addition to the actual publication date, was the actual price, which is a dollar more than the paperbacks of Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone. For those of you who didn't commit to memory my blog entry about how writers get paid, I get 6 or 7% of the list price of each paperback that gets sold. So if we start at a list price of $8 (I'm a firm believer in rounding up except for my weight), 6% means I get 48 cents per copy sold. But round it up to $9, and suddenly I'm getting 54 cents per copy.

Guess which I prefer.

Possibly coincidentally, a few days ago, I got an email from my editor discussing print type for LAWKI. Notice how only LAWKI has its title in all capital letters.

I think I'm the reason d&g is in all small letters, and my publisher decided without consulting me to put TWWLI in small letters also. My editor said the publishing house was discussing whether to change the print type on LAWKI to small letters as well, to make the three paperbacks uniform in appearance.

There are things I care about in this world, and things I don't, and the print type of the paperback of LAWKI falls into the category of whatever, so I said fine.

But now I'm wondering if they're planning to make the price uniform as well. I mean, they'll have to print whole new covers, so why not accidentally print $8.99 rather than $7.99? Who would notice (except me and my bank account)?

On the other hand, there's no reason for them to print new covers of d&g, since it's already d&g, and not D&G. So maybe they'll keep the price the same for it, or for it and LAWKI. Or maybe Amazon got the price of the paperback of TWWLI wrong.

I guess I'd better hold off on spending that extra 6 cents!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Longest Journey Begins With A Single Step (In Black Jeans)

I was so busy yesterday telling you about all the things I lost that I never got around to telling you about the thing I found.

I went shopping at Macy's and found black jeans. I've been looking for a pair of black jeans for (approximately) ever, and was so excited I bought two pairs.

Speaking of shopping (this is the kind of transition us professional writer types know how to make, so I trust you're duly impressed. Or dully impressed as the case may be), in my emails this morning was a shopping agreement for Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In.

You may be wondering what a shopping agreement is. I certainly wondered about it, even as I pretended to read it before signing and sending it back (by real mail, with the next to last of my Katharine Hepburn stamps).

Okay. Here goes. A small high class movie/television production company wants to make two movies out of LAWKI, d&g and TWWLI, only, naturally enough, they don't want to pay for it (I didn't want to pay for my black jeans either, but I had a gift card). So they've asked my official permission to "shop" the concept around for a month or two and see if they can find someplace that'll put up the money.

If they can find someplace (or someone; I'm certainly not opposed to generous eccentric multimillion dollar backer types) to put up the money, they negotiate their end and my agent negotiates my end and we all go to the Cannes Film Festival together. Although there may be a step or two in between, like options and actually making the movies. I could just really use a vacation, and I hear that Cannes is quite nice and people wear black jeans there for every occasion.

If the small high class movie/television production company can't find someplace or someone willing to pay for making the movies, then in a month or two, we bid a tearful farewell. I get to keep the jeans. And my fantasies.

And Scooter gets to keep the Oscar!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

If You See It, Let Me Know

Tomorrow night is Yom Kippur and I've been prepping up.

For starters, since I fast on Yom Kippur, I ate a chocolate peanut butter cream (or more likely creme) cupcake for supper last night. This falls, as so many things do, into the Not My Fault category. I was in New York City, making my way from seeing the movie Mao's Last Dancer (which I liked a lot) to the KGB Bar, a walk (or in my case more of a limp)of 10-12 blocks (there were some avenues in there). I was scheduled to do a reading along with Scott Westerfeld, and I needed to eat something before I got there, and I couldn't find a single pizza place. Don't NYU students eat pizza anymore? They seem to eat cupcakes, since there were several student looking people in the cupcake shop.

My cupcake was pretty good and quite filling. Also every single cupcake had a calorie listing right in front of it. They claimed the chocolate peanut butter cream/creme cupcake had 550 calories, and I'm sure it did and then some.

The reading went fine (nobody threw anything at me), and I would show you photographs except for some reason in the pictures, I look old and fat. Nasty camera.

I also read a book in preparation for Yom Kippur- The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. I would discuss it at length, except my mother taught me never to talk about religion or politics. But I can say it was a fascinating read, and there was at least one fact that I think I'll sort of remember for quite a while, which I would tell you except I'd probably screw it up. Anyway, it was certainly a Jewish holiday appropriate kind of book.

I also spent a lot of time searching for the Electric Memorial Lamp I just bought two of. I gave one to my mother, because she's 99 and I'd just as soon not have her keeping lit candles around (although I did teach her my trick of keeping the yahrzeit candle in the sink at night), and kept one for myself, because Scooter is no respecter of sinks or anything else for that matter. Yahrzeit candles are very useful to have around during blackouts (when an electric one wouldn't be of much help), but for the twice a year I use one for religious/memorial purposes, I'd rather burn the electricity than burn the cat.

The Electric Memorial Lamp took a while to find because I put it in a no reason for me to have put it there place (on a windowsill since you ask). One of the advantages of living in a three and a half room apartment is that ultimately you find everything, and I now have my very own Electric Memorial Lamp right in front of me, and tomorrow night I'll plug it in and turn it on and stare at it while I fast.

But the great mystery in my life right now is The Case Of The Missing Sock. I concede that unlike Electric Memorial Lamps, lots of socks go missing. In fact, some archaeologist will probably find stackfuls of them and, as a result, figure out just what became of the ten lost tribes (as opposed to tribbles) of Israel.

But it's always personal when it comes to socks. So here's the mystery. I have three pairs of socklets, which I wear to bed in the summer (I suffer from cold feet, although as suffering goes, it's not that big a deal). Naturally enough, I wash them on a regular basis. And naturally enough, one day, where once there had been six socklets, now there were five.

Okay. That happens. But a few days passed, and I noticed that the missing socklet had made its way into Scooter's room. Scooter pleaded nolo contendere, which he mistakenly believes means "feed me already." He pleads that a lot.

I took the newly rediscovered socklet and put it in my clothes hamper, happy in the knowledge that I would soon have three full pairs. Laundry day arrived, as it does quite frequently here, because I have a very small washing machine, and in went the socklet. Wash wash, dry dry. The usual.

I looked forward to returning the socklet to its already clean mate, which had been awaiting its arrival, assuming socklets await, which they probably don't, but if they did it was, but when I opened the sock drawer, I discovered that the original socklet had in the interim disappeared. I still only had five.

My guess is the original socklet, distraught over the loss of its mate, escaped the sock drawer to make a valiant, albeit fruitless, search. One of those irony things that happen on soap operas all the time.

Either that, or it went searching for the ten lost tribbles of Israel!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What I Remember That I Forgot

After having spent days and weeks (and possibly months and years), whining in preparation for the Blood Wounds Copy Editing Massacre, I sure didn't to into much detail about it in my blog entry yesterday.

Well, it wasn't that bad. If it had been, you certainly would have heard about it.

My editor very shrewdly included paragraphs from a cover letter the copy editor had sent her, and while there were certain moderately large changes the copy editor suggested, she also said (at least according to my editor) that she very much liked the book. Indeed, she used the phrase "Great book!"

That put me in a much more welcoming frame of mind, and I didn't object to a single one of her comma/no comma changes. Actually, I ignored them, having finally realized that no book in the history of literature has ever succeeded or failed based on its use of commas.

And I was so enchanted by this stunningly intelligent copy editor, that I even made a couple of the big changes she suggested. Throw a little praise my way, and I can be had.

The other thing I truly truly should have remembered yesterday (the mule would have remembered, I'm sure), is to wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy new year. It doesn't matter what your religion is or even if you have one. Every day is the first day of a new year, and while it's not likely each new year will be better than the last, it's certainly something to wish for!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thoughts On The Mule

I've been thinking about that Rosh ha-Shanah resolution I made a few years back, straight out of the Bible, that should I happen upon my enemy on the side of the road, and my enemy's mule had tripped, I shouldn't make fun of the mule. Most likely though, what I wasn't supposed to do was kick the mule. I could make fun of it as much as I wanted, which is a good thing, because there's something about a mule tripping on the side of the road that's irresistibly amusing, just so long as I didn't make things worse by kicking it.

I think that's a very fine resolution. I may make it again.

I did go resolution hunting in the Bible this weekend, and the best I could locate was not to get a tattoo. For decades, I've had tattoo fantasies. Nothing garish, just a tasteful rose somewhere or another. There are certain fantasies, well, actually there are a lot of fantasies, that stay just that, and my guess is a tattoo is one of those, so that's an excellent resolution to make. Should be a big self-esteem booster.

"Well, it's true I didn't lose weight and I was grouchy to my mother and wasted enormous amount of time playing Sudoku, but I didn't kick that mule and I resisted getting a tattoo. Boy, I'm great."

I was reasonably busy this weekend, in addition to resolution hunting. The copy edited version of Blood Wounds arrived, and since I was asked to get it back by Friday, I devoted Sunday to working on it (I mailed it off this morning).

Sunday was my mother's birthday, and my brother came up to celebrate it with her. Yesterday, Marci and Carol and my mother and I went out for lunch, and then we went back to my mother's apartment where we had ice cream birthday cake (which Marci was nice enough to supply). Speaking of Marci's niceness, last night I decided I really needed to get my printer working again, and in my effort to do so, my monitor stopped working, so I screamed a lot and called Marci. She calmed me down, figured out every single thing I needed to do, and patiently waited as I repeatedly screwed up. Eventually, thanks to her, I did get everything working again.

I also spent a good amount of time this weekend researching arthritis. My right knee was diagnosed with moderate arthritis, and my guess is my left knee is suffering from moderate arthleftis. Arthritis is a real nuisance, but I figure the more I know the better I'll be able to handle it. So I read a lot about it, and now I know arthritis is a real nuisance. Which is exactly what I knew before.

There is a good thing about arthritis though. Should I happen upon my enemy and his mule on the side of the road and the mule has tripped, it'd hurt too much to kick it.

One more resolution I'll be certain to keep!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Calendar Says September (The Weather Says August)

It's hot out there.

Seeing as I live in New York, it's hot and sticky. I just walked over to my mailbox to get my essentially non-existent mail, and I can attest to both the hotness and the stickiness.

I'm still waiting to get the copy-edited version of Blood Wounds, which, when it arrives and I start working on it, will no doubt make me feel hot, sticky, and irritable.

It's always good to have something to look forward to.

September is a very celebratory month in the Pfeffer family. My mother's Extremely Big 99th birthday is on Sunday, followed a few days later by my brother's birthday, which is also his step grandson's birthday (how's that for a nice coincidence), and then a bit later in the month, my parents' wedding anniversary.

In the midst of all this is Rosh ha-Shanah, a holiday I like because it gives me another shot at making New Year's resolutions. I haven't decided what this year's will be.

One year I resolved not to blaspheme, which I had terrible trouble keeping, so I figured I'd be better off finding some other commandment to follow, and my brother said I should just look through the Bible, since they all have equal weight. I found a lovely one that said if your enemy is walking on the side of the road and his mule breaks down, you shouldn't make fun of the mule. Or something like that.

I really liked that as a resolution, and I'll be darned if shortly thereafter I wasn't in a situation where something almost like that kind of happened. Okay, it wasn't my enemy, and there was no mule (there wasn't even a side of the road), but I was in a situation where someone I didn't have any particular positive feelings toward behaved badly (if he wasn't drunk, he was doing a fine impression of it), and I kept my mocking to myself. Well, that's probably not 100% accurate either, since I was with friends, and no doubt on the drive home, I said a thing or two that could have been interpreted as less than charitable. But I didn't do it in front of the guy or his mule, if he'd had one, and I hope he did, or at least that he had a designated driver, now that I think about it.

Hmmm. I liked that resolution. Maybe I'll make it again, instead of searching for a whole other one I'll have trouble keeping.

Either way, barring some unforeseen fabulous career news, or dinosaurs invading my mailbox, I probably won't blog again until after Labor Day, so as per always, I wish each and every one of you who celebrates Labor Day, a very happy Labor Day weekend, and to anyone here who doesn't celebrate Labor Day, I wish each and every one of you a happy weekend plus Monday.

And be sure to say hi to your mule for me!