Friday, September 27, 2013

September Song

Whenever I mention to my friends that I'm counting the days until I'm retired, they make funny faces and say, "You already retired once," like they've proven (to their own satisfaction at least) that I can't possibly mean it.

It's true I did retire once.Well, sort of. It was before I wrote Life As We Knew It. My career had been in one of its traditional downturns, and I figured rather than saying, "I can't sell another book so why bother trying," I said, "I'm retired."

Only then I wrote Life As We Knew It, followed by The Dead And The Gone, followed by This World We Live In, followed by Blood Wounds, followed by The Shade Of The Moon. Now that I think about it, there might have been a couple of other manuscripts in there that nobody wanted, and of course it took more than one try to write This World We Live In and The Shade Of The Moon. So I've worked a lot in the 8 or so years since I announced I was retired.

The difference this time...Well, there are a lot of differences this time. The big one is I'm 8 years older, and thus 8 years closer to Social Security, and I have nice little royalty checks coming in (I got one this week for $39.68 for the Chinese version of This World We Live In, and that will definitely cover the cost of something that's $37.00 or lower plus sales tax). And while I'm perfectly willing to believe I still can't sell another book, I don't feel any pressure to prove myself wrong.

My mother, by the way, doesn't express any skepticism about my retiring. She simply asks, "What are you going to do?" which is a fine question and if I ever figure out the answer, she'll be the first to know.

Earlier this week, I had my last school visit. I've been visiting schools for about 40 years now. I've never been one of those writers who visits schools all the time, and there have probably been years when I haven't visited any. But it's always been a part of my career. Some of the visits have been great fun and some have been duds or worse.

I'm delighted that my last school visit (or at least the last one I know of- I will gladly accept any invitations to Hawaii or Paris) was so much fun. The school was amazing- The Academy Of Aerospace and Engineering. If you mosey on over to their website and check their summer reading, you'll see they had their sixth graders read Life As We Knew It, and their seventh graders read The Dead And The Gone and their eighth graders read This World We Live In.

In other words, this is the greatest school that ever existed.

Of course there was that teeny tiny issue that the students were all a lot smarter than me. After I'd spoken to all three grades, I was introduced to a few from each grade, who explained their projects (they each had to solve a problem I created in one of the books).

The only problem with their problem solving was if I'd been smart enough to think of what they did, there wouldn't have been any problems in my books for Miranda and Alex to deal with. So it's all for the best I'm not as smart as the students, because otherwise I wouldn't be getting royalty checks for $39.68 (actually, that was about a year's worth of royalties before I wrote Life As We Knew It, which is why it's a darn good thing I unretired when I did).

I really had a terrific time at the Academy, and it will be a wonderful last school visit for me.

Saturday I'm participating in the Warwick Children's Book Festival. Warwick is about 20 minutes from where I live, so it should be easy enough for me to get to. If any of you are in the neighborhood, drop by and say hello.

I should be pretty easy to spot. I'll be the writer trying to decide how best to spend $39.68!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This Entire Entry Would Have Made More Sense If I'd Done Some Research Before Deciding To Write It

Then again, research is never my strong suit, and doing something after I've decided to even if it doesn't make nearly as much sense as it would have if I'd done that research in the first place has been my guiding principle for the vast majority of my lengthy life.

My intention had been to write an entry called Seven Good Years. Nice title, right? You see, by chance I'd noticed that Life As We Knew It had come out in 2006 and I remembered that it came out in the fall, so I figured it had come out in September of 2006, which would make this very September its seven year anniversary.

I was then going to write about what a great seven year stretch it had been, and maybe compare it to other good times in my career (digging out sales numbers for The Year Without Michael to see whether it had sold more copies, which it might have in paperback but I'm not sure). I was going to get sweet and nostalgic and grateful and all that good stuff.

Only to confirm the publication date, I scurried over to Amazon, looked at the hardback version page and saw it came out on October 1, 2006. In other words, it's been a great 6.96 years, which is all well and good, but lacks that biblical resonance that would have allowed me to mention I'd finished reading Jeremiah on Yom Kippur and it was actually pretty zippy (I especially liked how every time Jeremiah said things were going to be just awful, he got thrown into jail).

Then, after I'd beguiled you with those happy seven years, I was going to say how my parents were married on Sept. 18, 1938, so it's my mother's 75th anniversary (my father died after 55 years of marriage). I figured I'd scan a few pictures and include them in this entry.

For example, here's a picture of my parents making out on the beach.

And here's my favorite picture of my parents, taken by me, quite a number of years after they got off that beach.

And then, finally, here's their wedding picture. Only when I pulled out the picture, I noticed the date on it was Sept. 18, 1937. In other words, today is my mother's 76th anniversary, which is all well and good, but lacks that nifty number ending in five that means there might be presents resonance.

I realized after I looked at the date that if I'd given the matter any thought at all, I'd have known they were married in 1937, but for some reason I'd decided the wedding was in 1938, and to be fair, I'd asked my mother about it when I saw her on Monday, and she didn't remember. My mother's wedding dress, by the way, is in her closet and in pretty good shape, as is my mother.

Oh well. 76 trombones led the big parade and maybe something so wonderful will happen between now and Oct. 1 that I'll have to reevaluate the past 7 years and find they were even better than I thought they were at 6.96 years.

Or maybe I'll just visit Jeremiah in jail!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What I've Been Doing When You Thought I Wasn't Doing Anything

Truth to tell, I haven't been doing all that much. But it's still been quite time consuming.

Let's see...

Tuesday, a friend and I drove up to Glens Falls, NY to see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the Hyde Collection. My friend takes a lot more time at museums than I do (she actually looks at things, while I zip around and forget what I've seen within 10 minutes). Fortunately for both of us, I know how to entertain myself. In this case, I brought my camera and took pictures of the Hyde Collection's butterfly garden.

I also brought the book I'm reading, Imperial Requiem by Justin C. Vovk. I'm about halfway through (it's a big long book) and I'm enjoying it. But every time there's a mention of Queen Marie of Romania, I stop to say, "And I am Marie Of Roumania." My father used to say that on a regular basis (although to the best of my knowledge, he wasn't Marie of Roumania or anywhere else for that matter). Since there are a number of mentions of  Queen Marie of Romania, the book is taking a while to read.

I made a Rosh Hashanah resolution so complex that not only have I been breaking it near constantly, I can't even remember what it is while I'm breaking it.

I've explained to Scooter at 4:30 AM why it's not a good idea to knock the phone off the hook at 4:30 AM. There was food in his bowl, so this wasn't a desperate plea for food, which I wouldn't have been too thrilled about either but at least I would have understood. Nor was I awake at the time, so it wasn't like Scooter figured I wanted to call someone and he was simply helping me out. No, it was just his idea of a joke. Scooter and I do not share a sense of humor at 4:30 AM.

I've  been reading the Book Of Jeremiah because I like to read a book of the Bible each Yom Kippur and Jeremiah is a very long book, so I figured I'd give myself a head start.

I pondered taking a vacation in Pittsburgh next summer, combining the U. S. Gymnastics Nationals with a Pirates game and a day at various museums. I've looked at the Pirates schedule and it should be doable.

See? Even when I'm not doing anything next summer, it'll still be quite time consuming!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Couple Of Quick Pictures From My Mother's 102nd Birthday Party

Freda Pfeffer on her 102nd birthday
My mother, my brother, and me
I'd write a whole long entry but I haven't had lunch yet and I have a bunch of bills to pay and tomorrow I'm going to be busy and Tuesday I'm going to be out all day.

But I wanted to share these pictures with you.

The guest list was my mother, my brother, our friends Marci and Carol, and me. Later, my mother's former neighbor Ruth dropped by, which was a very nice surprise.

There was a lot to celebrate and we all did!

Marci brought 2 ice cream cakes, one coffee and one vanilla and chocolate.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Goodbye 5773. Hello 5774

Tomorrow night is the eve of Rosh Hashanah, and we'll turn the calendar away from that pretty darn good year 5773 over to the very promising year of 5774 (clearly an Olympic year, because it ends in a 4).

Coincidentally, Thursday, the first full day of 5774, is my mother's birthday, and she'll turn the calendar from the year of being 101 to the unexpected year of being 102.

Everyone I know thinks that is very old. I think so too.

I like making Rosh Hashanah resolutions, so yesterday while I was stuck in the plane, which was being forbidden to land at Newark Airport (you want to know how stuck we were? We had to land in Harrisburg, PA, because we were running out of fuel from circling around), I tried making a few. The problem was I made excellent resolutions, but they were all about being healthier, and none of them was about being a better person. I truly know I could stand some improvement, but I guess I was too fixated on the screaming baby in the row behind me and the very nice gentleman sitting next to me who didn't quite understand that my right leg wasn't really interested in cuddling with his left, not to mention my It Might As Well Be Yom Kippur Since Two Little Bags Of Pretzels Is Practically The Same As Fasting (there's a country song in there somewhere) situation to be able to focus on what I need to do to be nicer or kindlier or all around better.

Scooter has just informed me that all I need to do to be a better person to is to be at his beck and call and never leave him and pet him whenever he thinks of it. His needs are simple, his demands endless.

I was flying back, of course, from the Decatur Book Festival. I had a very good time there. It's extremely well organized and all the volunteers were both nice and knowledgeable, and I was quite impressed with the whole event.

But I had one of those semi-epiphany moments while I was there. I was told to get to the Teen Stage about 15 minutes before I was due to speak, and I did. Only it turned out that because of a rainstorm, the program before mine ran late. So I sat down and watched until it ended.

There were three writers on the stage, and one of them mentioned that she had completed the 14th book in her series and was contracted to write books 15 and 16. It was obvious she loved it, and her series is clearly very successful.

But inside my sweet little ready to retire brain, I thought (with something of a shudder) I never ever want to write 14 books in a series. No matter how much fun it is (or how well it pays), you don't own your characters after 14 books. They own you.

Now, my publisher is never going to want 14 moon books. It's been a struggle to get them to admit they want as many as 4. And I just remembered I've actually written a 15 book series (Portraits Of Little Women, but those books are short). But 4 moon books are enough, unless my publisher asks for a 5th one, which they won't, so I don't have to worry about it.

And a good thing too, since Scooter is demanding I pet him again.

Meanwhile, if you want to say farewell to 5773 or hello to 5774 by reading a new interview with me, I'm happy to offer one to you. Oddly enough, it's all about how I came to write 4 moon books, and there isn't a single mention of how I don't want to write 14 of them.

What I do want to do is wish all of you a happy and healthy new year. May you do better with your resolutions than I'm doing with mine!