Monday, January 28, 2013

Help Please. I Need Some Help!

A very nice (and no doubt very talented) young reader sent me an email with an attachment of a song she wrote and recorded, inspired by Life As We Knew It.

She says the only way I can hear it is through iTunes. It's certainly true Windows Media won't let me, no matter how hard I beg it.

So I've downloaded iTunes (which no doubt I've done previously, since I've certainly bought things off of iTunes), only I don't know how to get the song from the email to iTunes to play it. And every time I try saving the iTunes file (or whatever it's called) I'm told I don't have permission and do I want to put it in the Staples file, so I say yes, but I have no idea where the Staples file is.

I know you know how to do all this, so I'm asking for your help. Explain it to me in simple easy to understand language (preferably English). Remember always that you're dealing with someone whose greatest technological accomplishment is posting videos of Scooter on this blog.

Thank you in advance. After I succeed in listening to the song, I'll come back and tell you how wonderful it is!

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's A Lesson (Not) Too Late For The Learning

Remember that blog entry I wrote complaining about the copy written for Amazon's The Shade Of The Moon page? On the incredibly off chance you don't, here's the link and here's the copy:
The eagerly awaited addition to the series begun with New York Times best-seller Life As We Knew It. Four years ago, a meteor knocked the moon off its orbit and the world changed forever. Seventeen-year-old Jon Evans is one of the lucky ones…he ended up in a Tennessee "enclave" instead of a dreaded "grubtown," where the government doesn’t even bother purifying the ash-polluted air. Despite the fact that his own relatives live in a grubtown, Jon buys into the idea of the innate superiority of "clavers." His worldview is upended, however, when he meets a green-eyed girl who believes in equality and vows to help right the world’s wrongs. Can Jon afford to be as idealistic as she is?
As soon as I pressed the Publish button, I decided while complaining to you, oh lovely you, is a lot of fun, I might get a better result by letting my publisher learn of my dissatisfaction.

So I emailed my poor beleaguered editor and gently, very very gently, let her know what I thought. Only I didn't just say what I thought. I offered an alternative version.

My editor responded by asking all the people who needed to be asked, and by golly, they changed the Amazon copy to what I suggested.

Naturally I kept the eagerly awaited part. My publisher added the rest of the first paragraph, figuring there were people who might want to know what the setup for the book actually is.

The eagerly awaited addition to the series begun with the New York Times best-seller Life As We Knew It, in which a meteor knocks the moon off its orbit and the world changes forever.
But the rest is what I wrote, and I'm delighted that my publisher agreed to go with my version.
It's been more than two years since Jon Evans and his family left Pennsylvania, hoping to find a safe place to live, yet Jon remains haunted by the deaths of those he loved. His prowess on a soccer field has guaranteed him a home in a well-protected enclave. But Jon is painfully aware that a missed goal, a careless word, even falling in love, can put his life and those of his mother, his sister Miranda, and her husband, Alex, in jeopardy. Can Jon risk doing what is right in a world gone so terribly wrong?
So now I know how to render change. You don't just whine. You whine to the people in power and you offer an alternative suggestion that they can accept.

The world is about to become a better place, now that I've figured this out.

Oh Mr. Boehner? Mr. Cantor? I have a few suggestions for you!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Where Ideas Come From (Thursday Night 8:00 PM On Turner Classic Movies)

I can't speak for all writers (although I do when I say we want more money and we want it now), but I know the question I'm most frequently asked is where do I get my ideas.

Ideas come from all sorts of places, but as those of you who read every precious word of this precious blog know, the idea for Life As We Knew It came from my watching the movie Meteor.

I love movies. They're my favorite form of storytelling. And I have a particular fondness for film noir.

This very Thursday night at 8:00 PM Eastern, Turner Classic Movies (or TCM as it's known to its crazed cult following) is showing  one of my all time favorite noirs, Cry Danger. I'm particularly happy about this because it's not available on DVD and I'm generally awake at 8:00 PM (TCM that night is showing another couple of my all time favorites, The Breaking Point and The Prowler, but I'll be asleep by then which is okay since they're both available on DVD and I own them both and watch them regularly).

Back to Cry Danger. In it, Dick Powell stars as Rocky Mulloy, which is in and of itself not particularly interesting (nothing against Dick Powell), except that it's kind of fun to note how many noir heroes have names with "ck" in them. Rick, Nick, Mickey, Rocky. Anyway, Dick Powell is perfectly fine, but character actor Richard Erdman steals the movie, and you should watch it for him, should you happen to be free Thursday night at 8:00 PM Eastern and have access to Turner Classic Movies.

All right, you say (I can hear you saying it). Susan's a big movie fan and in particular a big film noir fan and most unexpectedly a big Richard Erdman fan. But what does that have to do with me?

Well, probably nothing, unless you too are a big Richard Erdman fan. But as it happens, I was "inspired" by Cry Danger quite a number of years ago, and kinda sorta lifted its premise and turned it into a middle group novel called The Pizza Puzzle.

Now Cry Danger is about robberies and ex-cons and beautiful women and alcoholics and night clubs and gangsters and trailer camps and the post-war period., all in 79 minutes because film noirs don't waste time. The Pizza Puzzle is about middle school friendships and family problems and teachers and pizza, so unless you know that the latter is directly "inspired" by the former, you'd never guess it, and the only way you'd know is if I told you, which I just did, but I trust you'll keep it to yourself, and don't tell the folks who made Meteor about Life As We Knew It either, because I'd prefer if they never found out.

Sadly (well, I'm sad about it) The Pizza Puzzle never earned out its advance (although it sold 100,000 in paperback, which should have helped). But I did get a $15,000.00 advance for it 18 years ago, and I'm sure the money came in handy at the time (to be honest, it feels like a lot more than 18 years ago, but the date on the contract is Feb. 1995 and my calculator assures me that's 18 years ago give or take a couple of weeks which my calculator didn't care about).

So if you happen to be free Thursday night at 8:00 PM Eastern, my recommendation is you sit back, relax, watch Cry Danger for 79 noir heaven minutes, and have a couple of slices of pizza while you're at it!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Triumphs Great And Non-Existent

In a rare fit of megalomania, I went googling about the other day and came across Life As We Knew It vocabulary lessons.

I want you to know I knew the meaning of every single word, although I'd say 98% of them are not in everyday use around here.

Sadly though, I stank at the Life As We Knew It vocabulary games. My timing at Scatter was a world's worst, and I couldn't even master the rules of Space Race. But then again, I was never good at fill in the blanks. Give me an essay question and I could breeze through to an A (my handwriting was a lot better in those days, which also helped). I always had a 50/50 chance at True/False, and I could generally outguess the test maker in multiple choices. But when I was actually supposed to know something...well, the odds were I didn't.

But who needs vocabulary when one is a brilliant financier (one of seven words that violates the I before E rule, and I can name all of them, should you ever ask), such as I (before or after E).

Yes, at long last, I have found my true calling. I am a financial whiz kid (okay, a very elderly kid, but a whiz none the less and whiz senior doesn't have quite the same ring to it).

You want proof? Well, don't expect visuals, because I forgot to take pictures. But here's what happened.

Towards the very very very end of 2012, I got my last and thankfully smallest royalty check. It was for $7.11.

Now what does one do with a check for $7.11? One cashes  it and, and buys 7 scratch off lottery tickets (pocketing the 11 cents as a commission).

I wanted to buy the 7 lottery tickets at a 7/Eleven, only it turned out the one we had around here had gone out of business when I wasn't looking. So I bought them as a gas station/convenience store instead. Seven bucks, seven tickets.

I scratched off one a night for a week. And three of the seven were winning tickets.

Yes, out of the initial $7.00 investment, I made $9.00. I know this for an absolute fact, since I went back to that very gas station yesterday and cashed those suckers in.

According to my calculator, this gave me a 29% rate of return on my investment, assuming dividing 2 by 7 is the way to figure these things out.

Given that I'm getting 0% interest on money in the bank, and my bond funds aren't doing much better, and the stock market goes up and down with dizzying regularity, I think it's safe to say my lottery ticket purchases were the best investment I made all year (and maybe in my entire life, except for that once when I bought a dollar ticket for one of those multi-million lotteries and I got four of the numbers right and won $23.00, but that was a once in a lifetime sort of thing, unlike this shrewd scratch off investment). So I am now planning to take all the money I have in the bank and all my bond funds and all my stocks and buy scratch off lottery tickets from that very same gas station and live off the proceeds for my much anticipated extremely long life.

And because I hate to be selfish, I'm offering you the exact same chance at a 29% rate of return. Yes, send me all your money, and I'll buy scratch off lottery tickets for you as well.

Send your checks or money orders or even better, cash to:

Susan Pfeffer
@ Bernard Madoff
Butner Federal Correctional Institution
Federal Bureau of Prisons
North Carolina, USA

Don't hesitate a single moment. Who knows how long that gas station is going to have winning tickets!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Something I Could Have Done Better

Among the many resolutions I fail at is my resolution to stop complaining. Most of my other resolutions I break in the privacy of my apartment, where only Scooter notices, and as long as I keep my resolution to feed him whenever he wants, he overlooks the breakage.

I complain about my publisher a lot. It doesn't matter which publisher (and in the many decades I've been working, there have been many publishers). They do something I don't like, I complain about it. Since I have friends who are writers, I complain to them and they complain to me about their publishers and it all works out. If my complaints veer on hysteria, I complain to my agent, and if need be, she complains to my publisher, thus earning her 15%. And now, thanks to our friend the internet, I complain to all of you, without having to listen to your complaints or pay you 15%.

Since starting this blog, I know I've complained about waiting to hear from my publisher and waiting to get paid by my publisher. Those are traditional complaints, not worth anyone's 15%. I also probably complained about the jacket copy for This World We Live In, since it gives away a major portion of the last part of the book, for no reason except to make it easier for students to fake their book reports based on book jackets, if they still do that sort of thing, which they probably don't, thanks to our friend the internet.

But I don't remember ever complaining about the copy that my publisher sent to Amazon before. I do believe this is going to be a brand new complaint. A heartfelt brand new complaint.

It's the copy for The Shade Of The Moon, and to put it in simple, easy to understand, language, it stinks.

Book Description
September 3, 2013 Life As We Knew It Series (Book 4)
The eagerly awaited addition to the series begun with New York Times best-seller Life As We Knew It. Four years ago, a meteor knocked the moon off its orbit and the world changed forever. Seventeen-year-old Jon Evans is one of the lucky ones…he ended up in a Tennessee "enclave" instead of a dreaded "grubtown," where the government doesn’t even bother purifying the ash-polluted air. Despite the fact that his own relatives live in a grubtown, Jon buys into the idea of the innate superiority of "clavers." His worldview is upended, however, when he meets a green-eyed girl who believes in equality and vows to help right the world’s wrongs. Can Jon afford to be as idealistic as she is?

Well, I admit I do like that eagerly awaited part; that was pretty good. And the copy is kind of okay through the dreaded "grubtown," although I don't see any great need for the quotation marks (which get dumped a sentence later anyway).

But the rest. Oy, oy, and double oy.

Nasty government, not even purifying the ash-polluted air. Of course, the nasty government doesn't purify anyone's air. It's just in the enclave, buildings have air purifiers.

Nor does Jon buy into the idea of the innate superiority of clavers. He's not a Nazi. He accepts the concept that people who do more essential work are entitled to greater rewards. Nothing innate about it.

Then we bump into the green-eyed girl. While it's true, Sarah's the only character in The Shade Of The Moon whose eye color gets mentioned (most likely, she's the only character in any of my books whose eye color gets mentioned- you know me and descriptions), I don't think the color of her eyes is all that essential to the story. I gave her sandy hair too, but you don't see them mentioning that.

All right. The green-eyed girl believes in equality etc. It's not quite that simple, but I'm not going to argue. But couldn't the anonymous person who wrote this tripe come up with anything more dramatic than asking if Jon can afford to be as idealistic?

It would give away nothing of the plot to start (well, after that eagerly awaited part) by saying it's been four years, yet Jon Evans is haunted by the memory of people he has lost. Haunted is a nice strong word. Then you throw in the lucky one stuff, leaving out the purified air nonsense. Instead of casually saying his family lives in a grubtown, stress the difficulty of his living away from his family (and you know, it might not hurt to mention that family includes his sister Miranda, to remind people who exactly Jon is). Leave out the innate superiority, and put in something about Jon's insecurity, his knowing that he doesn't really belong in the enclave. Keep the green-eyed girl if you must, but instead of asking if Jon can afford all that idealism, mention that his family's lives would be at risk if he allows himself to believe as she does.

The cover shows burning buildings, for goodness sake. The copy should reflect some of that drama.

Hmm. Maybe instead of complaining to you, I should ask my publisher to let me rewrite the copy.

As the saying goes, it's better to burn a building than curse the darkness!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Greetings

Wishing a happy and reasonably calm new year to: aap (April & Kate), Abigail, alter emi, Amanda,  Anna Heart, Anonymous, Anonymous C:, Anonymous Fish, Anonymous Santa Fe, Anonymous WS, Another Susan, arcos, A said,  Ashna, Aurora, Becky, becky, Bonnie Jacobs, Bookaholic 007, Brianne Turner, Brynne, C, Cailean, Caroline, Catalina L. L., Claire, Corrine. said, Christy Rush-Levine, Crystal M Billings, Danielle, Deirdre B., Eating as a Path to Yoga, Eclipsed, emi:), Emily, eraleta colson, Esther Pfeffer, Everette, exBFF, Fabiola C., Fear Death By Water, Friendly Neighbourhood Bookseller, Gamesatservice, Gil, Gillian, Glen, Gretchen, Heather, Heather_Wick, Hotdog 12, Hunter MD, iko, Ing (Ingrid Kalchthaler), Jacquekh, Jacqui P99, Jamie Cline, Janet, Jason, Jeff Vincent, jjchase 11, Jennifer in Wisconsin, jennie moo, Jenny Rae Rappaport, Jen Robinson,, jess, jessica, jessiemc82, JMCooper,jnifr. Johanna, Jonathan, Jon C. Hackathorn, Jordan G., Julie B, Julie Robinson, Jude Rosenberg, Kaitlin, karen, Karis Jacobstein, Kate, Kats, Kelley, Kelly, Kelly Tompkins, Kelsey, Kevin Harris, Kiera Ball, Kiralys, Kyra, Lee, Liana, Linda, Linda Jacobs, Linda Joy Singleton, Lindsay, Lisa Mandina, Lisa-Marie Jordan, lizzie TC, Lizzy, Lulume, Maddie, Marci, Margaret, McQ, Melissa, Miss Gardiner, Miss Mint, Morgaine, Mr. Cavin, mykake, myst7,  Nina, Nina Ruit, Nora Durbin, Olivia, Paige Y., Pascaline, Pat P., Rachel Keller, Rae, Rebecca, Rebecca Herman, Renee Carter Hall, Robyn, rose, rowster,  Sandra Sasal, Sandy C, Sarah, Sarah Mayer, Shadow, Shauntrice Art,  Shelby, Sriharsha Jayanthi, Susan, Susan from Michigan, Tara, Tayler Clements, Tez Miller, thelostgirl, tigerlily*, Timo, Timoliere, Tori, Tracy, Twilight's Dawn, Unknown, Verity, veyroniqa, VKR, Wanda Vaughn, Wendy, Your Youngest Biggest Fan!!!!! and all others who might visit.

With love and gratitude from Scooter and me.