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!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How I Came To Write Life As We Knew It

This past weekend was a good time for me to be nostalgic.

Well, it would have been a good time for me under any circumstance, since my agent caved in to my begging and pleading and told me how much my royalty check for the three moon books was going to be. Considerably more than my fantasy amount, but I admit I kept my fantasy amount extremely low.

Unfortunately the check went in the mail on Tuesday and because of Thanksgiving, there was no mail on Thursday. Until I held the check in my hot little hands, I wasn't going to believe what my agent told me.

 I spent much of Friday nervously waiting for the mail. Since my chair swivels, I swiveled it around so I could stare out the window. Which I did, for several hours.

When the check came (and my agent hadn't lied about the amount, thank goodness) I zipped over to the bank and deposited it gleefully. And I turned the chair around.

Royalty checks don't make me nostalgic (except when they're so tiny I get nostalgic for when they weren't so  tiny, which was not the case with this royalty check), but nostalgia hit me hard on Saturday, because that was the sort of anniversary of the day I came up with the idea for Life As We Knew It. It was Thanksgiving Saturday of 2004 that started the whole business.

Here's how it happened, complete with a historic recreation.

I was sitting in my chair watching TV. That very chair, but a different TV, so the historic recreation ends right there.

There was nothing I wanted to watch. It was about 3:50 PM, and I wanted to keep the TV on, so I scrolled through all the cable stations, which I intended to dump New Year's (and I did, so it's a good thing this happened before then), looking for something to watch.

One of the multitudinous Cinemax stations was showing the movie Meteor starting at 4 PM. I didn't care that Meteor is not on anyone's 10 Best List. I didn't even care that I'd seen Meteor in the past and knew it wasn't on my 10 Best List. I changed the channel and watched it from beginning to end.

108 minutes later, I turned off the TV. At least I probably did. I don't really remember if I kept the TV on or not, but it doesn't matter. What does matter is 108 minutes after I started watching Meteor, I said to myself, 'I wonder what it would be like being a teenager living through a worldwide catastrophe.'

My mind began to race. Who was the teenager? What was the catastrophe?

I decided immediately the teenager would be a 16 year old girl and that the book would be her diary. I wanted the immediacy of a diary. I named her Miranda right away, for Miranda in The Tempest. Then I gave her a big brother, because I have a big brother, and a little brother, because I didn't want Miranda to be the youngest in the family. They became Matt and Jonny. Almost immediately (I am still in the chair, so it really happened fast), I gave Miranda a mother, who I wanted to be like a real person and not just the mother of the heroine in a YA novel. So Mom got political almost instantly. And she got divorced just about that fast, because I didn't want Miranda to turn to her father all the time for help, so he couldn't be around.

I knew before I got out of the chair (and it was suppertime, so I probably didn't linger) what the catastrophe was going to be. I wanted something that would affect everyone on earth, so the book wouldn't be about Miranda escaping from danger. I call those the leaping the lava scenes, where the main character leaps over a river of flowing lava. Those kinds of scenes are beyond my writing capabilities, and I never believe them anyway. I'd stay on my side of the lava river and build a nice home there.

So there were going to be no big dramatic moments. Instead I wanted to focus on the everyday stuff, which movies like Meteor never discuss. What happens to schools? What happens to cable, the internet, the mail system? And how do you get your laundry done? I am a firm believer in clean underwear.

I've always been intrigued by the fact that the moon controls the tides. I figured if I moved the moon a bit closer, the tides would go crazy. I plopped Miranda in Pennsylvania then for two reasons. I needed her inland, so I wouldn't have to describe those tides, and I was tired of setting all my books in New York.

So the moon moved closer, the tides went crazy, and Miranda was far enough away that she wasn't going to drown. And I started working out all the bad things that could happen, what I called a rolling catastrophe.

Around then, I probably plopped supper in the microwave. The first and most important order of business had been completed.

I spent three weeks doing the pre-writing, and then a couple of months writing the first draft. I loved writing Life As We Knew It. It was enormous fun being in Miranda's brain while I threw as many bad things as I could think of her way. I practically had to force myself to stop working in the evenings.

My recollection is I only told my brother, my friends Christy and Joyce, and my cousin Ellen that I was working on a book. I was doing it on spec, with no guarantee it would be published, and I didn't feel like telling people about it and having them ask what was happening. And it was a good thing I kept it to myself, because it took close to a year before my agent found a publisher for it.

Then I had to tell everybody. I had lunch with my friends Marci and Carol and I told them and they said, "Who are you dedicating it to?" I said I didn't know, and they said, "Then dedicate it to us." And that's what I did. Now they're stuck getting copies of every single version.

I lead a life of great good fortune. But even I am struck by how fortunate I am that that particular Saturday I decided to keep the TV set on!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The First Twelve Revised Pages Of The Shade Of The Moon

I've been meaning to post the first twelve revised pages of The Shade Of The Moon for a while now, so you can see the difference between a first draft and a revised with the help of an excellent editor draft, but my printer died after a long illness, and then I bought a new printer which works, but I got distracted by the various vicissitudes of life (ha! I spelled vicissitudes right!!).

I don't want you to think I'm unvicissituded right now, but I finally remembered that I intended to scan the revised pages and bring them over here. So I have.

For those who like a compare and a contrast, here are the original pages.

And here are the revised ones:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oh Grump...

I wrote an entire blog entry announcing that my publishing house has finally decided on a name for the fourth moon book previously known as The Shade Of The Moon, and I used  different font sizes and different colors and all kinds of interesting visuals, not to mention a certain amount of sarcastic verbiage and one perfectly fine footnote, only to have the entry mostly vanish, leaving behind only the font sizes and the colors but none of the sarcastic verbiage or the perfectly fine footnote, and the whole thing has put me in an even more grouchy mood than normal, because all those fonts and colors looked pretty dumb without the verbiage, etc. so I deleted the whole thing, and  I still have to tell you what the official title for the fourth moon book is.

So without fonts and colors, here goes:

The Shade Of The Moon

Feel free to supply your own sarcastic verbiage, or even a footnote or two, if you're so inclined!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

If Henry VIII Had Been Running For President, He'd Still Be Married To Catherine Of Aragon

I'm not one of those people who think Daylight Savings Time should be a 12 month a year kind of thing, but Scooter it seems is one of those cats. Instead of waking me up at the fairly civilized hour of 7:18 AM, he's now hopping on the bed in full purr mode at 6:18 AM.

I have a rule that I don't get out of bed before 7:00 unless something really interesting is going on, and Scooter usually falls back asleep after a few minutes of adoration. So lately, I've had a lot of time to think.

Naturally, the past couple of days, I've been thinking about the election and how Nate Silver and I knew Mitt Romney was going to lose. Mr. Silver focused on poll results, and I on sperm results.

In the past 50 years, there have been 10 presidents of the United States. All 10 had daughters. Indeed, 5 out of the 10 had nothing but daughters.

Mr. Romney, with his 5 sons, was doomed to defeat.*

Since realizing that took about 1 minute, I still had a lot of time to kill before getting out of bed. So then I thought about how  Miranda in Life As We Knew It has two brothers because if I'd given her a sister, the book would have had a whole other dynamic that I didn't want to deal with. Then I thought about how  Evvie At Sixteen (which you'll see is available for purchase down aways on the right side of this blog) is about four sisters. Or how The Year Without Michael (over to the right) has a sister/brother/sister family, only Michael's the brother and there's a year without him. Even in The Ring Of Truth (lookit to your right), there's a sister and a brother, only I don't think the brother gets any lines.

After I whipped my way through my contributions to literature, I started making lists of Great Literary Only Children:

David Copperfield
Oliver Twist
Huckleberry Finn
Jane Eyre
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Anne Of Green Gables
Dorothy Gale
Nancy Drew
Archie, Veronica, Betty, Reggie and Jughead
Little Lulu.

Actually, I'm listing some of those by memory (or lack thereof). Maybe Betty did have a brother or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm a kid sister. If I'm wrong, I'm sure you'll correct me (in public and causing me maximum amount of embarrassment).

Of course many famous children of literature had other famous children of literature in their families. Every Little Pepper had four other Little Peppers to hang out with, and Flossie Bobbsey (the best name in children's lit ever) had Bert and Nan and Freddie to share twinhood experiences with. Alice In Wonderland had a sister, who sadly doesn't seem to have a first name, but has more lines of dialogue than the brother in The Ring Of Truth as compensation. And Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy had each other until Beth died. Maybe they got to see the Little Peppers and Little Lulu and Laura, Mary and Grace Pearl Ingalls at Little Family reunions.

As you can see, life will be a lot easier once Scooter accepts that Eastern Standard is here to stay!

*Any Republican reading this doesn't have to worry about 2016. Chris Christie, Mario Rubio and Paul Ryan all have daughters (or sons with very strange names).

Monday, November 5, 2012

How Writers (Don't) Earn Money

Like all self-employed people, writers don't know on Jan.1 how much money they'll have earned by Dec. 31. There are reasons to be self-employed, but financial security isn't among them.

Unlike many other self-employed people, writers (at least book writers) earn money from work they did long before. Twice a year, we get royalties, money based on continuing sales of our titles. The more successful the book, the more royalties you're likely to earn.

Royalty checks come twice a year. The way they work for me (and for most other writers, probably) is the publishing house sends a check to my agent, where 15% of it vanishes, and then 85% makes its merry way to me. Royalty season is the same for every publisher, approximately April and October.

Approximately is the key word here, since some publishers are prompt in their payments, and others (like the publisher of my moon books) are a tad slow. Okay, more than a tad. And it's a good faith system, since writers have no real way of knowing how many books have been sold.

What's also peculiar about this system is writers generally don't know how big the check is going to be until the envelope shows up in the mail. My experience is no one wants to tell you either.

Personally, I hate surprises, and I used to try to weasel the information out of my publisher or my agent. If you need the money to pay for rent and food, it's really helpful to know how much will be coming in.

Two excellent things happened to me in recent years. The moon books have sold lots of copies, so I've made a healthy amount of money from them. And I moved into an apartment. It used to be when I earned healthy amounts of money, I'd build a new room or remodel the kitchen. You can't do that with an apartment rental,which has forced me to put money in the bank and keep it there. The lack of temptation can be a good thing.

This year in particular, it's a very good thing. Last year my October royalty check came on Nov. 17. And last year, my publishing house and my agency were open during royalty season.

This year, both of them were closed for last week, since there was no electricity below 34th St. So I can only imagine how long it's going to take for the check to be sent out.

I'm fine. But with Chanukah coming very early this year...hold on, I think Scooter just broke a bowl.

Forget Chanukah. That royalty check, whenever it arrives, is going to be needed for bowl replacement!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quick Update

I'm fine. I never lost electricity or cable/internet.

I spoke to my mother a few minutes ago, and I'll visit her tomorrow.

My brother and sister-in-law in New Jersey haven't had power since yesterday evening. My friends in New York City lost their power last night and I assume they haven't gotten it back yet. I haven't heard from Marci since yesterday afternoon. She has a cable/internet/phone system, so when one goes, it all goes.

I hope all of you who were in Sandy's path are doing as well as possible. It was a horrific storm and it will take a long time to recover.

ETA to say I heard from Marci. She's lost all power, but she emailed me from Starbucks, so I assume she's all right (and has had some coffee).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Prepping For Sandy

It may come as a surprise to you, but I've been obsessively watching The Weather Channel for days now. It seems Hurricane Sandy is coming and it's never going to leave.

Ordinarily my pathologically optimistic nature kicks in and I choose not to worry. And I'm not worrying nearly as much as I should. The past two big bad weather events around here (Tropical Storm Irene which was devastating in this area and the big and unnecessary Halloween snowstorm) didn't interrupt my electrical service one bit. Other people lost their electricity for a week, and my clocks didn't even blink. In fact, the last blackout I can remember happened the night of the Olympic women's figure skating final, and even then, semi-miraculously, the electricity came back in time for me to watch the final flight (Kim Yu Na won).

But at some point one of the cheery people on the Weather Channel assured us that approximately a zillion trillion people are going to lose their electricity for days and days and days, and we should all go out and buy board games so kids will have something to do.

That sounded uncomfortably familiar. I realized I'd written scenes like that in Life As We Knew It. And that was when I decided to take action.

I went to the supermarket Friday and Saturday and today I went to every store I could find to buy batteries. In front of the CVS Pharmacy in Goshen, NY, I ran into a woman who told me she'd bought some D batteries from a hardware store where they really ripped her off, and I thought, I wrote that scene in The Dead And The Gone. But I didn't tell her that.

As it happens, the only batteries CVS had were Double As, which would come in very handy if I needed to change batteries in my remote control during the endless blackout, but I doubt that will be an issue.

But I'm set. I brought in my welcome mat. I got a radio working on batteries and checked my two flashlights every ten minutes. I took a novel (The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton) out of the library so I'll have something to read if (when) my cable goes out. My freezer has ice cubes and bottles of water scattered around. Since I don't like drinking warm water, I bought juice boxes and apple cider. I also got oranges and grapes to prevent scurvy.  Just to be on the safe side, I bought muffins and chocolate chip cookies, as well as stealing candy from my mother.  I cashed a check and promptly spent all of it on batteries and  juice boxes and apple cider and oranges and grapes and muffins and cookies, so it's a good thing my mother had that candy for me to steal. I always have candles, so I don't worry about that.

And I bought a new toy for Scooter, to keep him from being bored.

Scooter pondered what to do about this all.

Then he checked it all out.

His new toy was definitely the most interesting thing.

I also brought his carrier in, in case we have to make a fast exit.

But that was of no interest to him.

Take care everybody. I'll be back as soon as Sandy lets me!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

One Picture Is Worth A Thousand (Crabby) Words

So in lieu of six thousand crabby words, I'll post six pictures from my recent trip to Salt Lake City, Thanksgiving Point, and Provo (I had a great time, by the way, and was treated wonderfully and really enjoyed spending time with Jonathan Maberry, but I'm too crabby to go into details).

This picture looks so much like a picture postcard that I find it hard to believe I took it. Well, maybe things are a little tilted, but I'm still very impressed.

I've forgotten which building this is, although I'm sure it's a very famous one. I took a picture of it because of the lion on the balcony. My father's name was Leo, and I'm very fond of lions on balconies as a result.

These pictures are from Temple Square in Salt Lake City. I fell berserkly in love with this fountain, but since it wouldn't fit in my carry on luggage, I left it where I found it.

 The best unexpected treat from the trip was a half hour organ concert at the Mormon Tabernacle. They change the background colors in case you don't care for green.

On my way to Provo, I stopped at Thanksgiving Point. The dinosaur museum was so fabulous I forgot to take pictures. But I also went to the gardens. I took a lot of pictures of trees, but you know what trees look like, so here's a picture of flowers instead.

I was taken on two trips while in Provo. One was to Sundance, where I saw a necklace that sadly cost $463.00 and remained where it was (although it would have fit nicely in my carry on bag).

The other trip was to a spectacular waterfall. It was even more beautiful than the necklace.

Oh dear. All these pictures are reminding me of the wonderful time I had in Utah. I sense my crabby mood slipping away.

We can't have that. I'll think about those endless six hours in the Salt Lake City Airport, until that  six thousand word crabby feeling returns!