Sunday, December 6, 2009

Links To Blogs And Comments About This World We Live In

I'm setting up an entry where I'll put links to blog reviews of This World We Live In and where you can write comments about it.

If you wrote your comment on my other blog, I'll move it over here. It'll claim I wrote it, but I'll put your name (which is frequently anonymous) on it.

While, of course, my dream is all comments and reviews will be favorable, this will be an honest spot, so if you read the book and feel like being critical, you have my blessing. Not my eternal gratitude, but my blessing.

I'll start with a couple of links to blogs, and as more come in, I'll add them to this entry.

So here goes:

1 Becky's Book Review

2 linda's reading blog

3 Jen Robinson's Book Page

4 Reading and Breathing

5 Librarina

6 Karin's Book Nook

7 At The Grange

8 Marjoleinbookblog

9 Collecting Children's Books (this one has a lot of spoilers)

10 Genrefluent (a 14 year old really likes it)

11 All My Little Words

12 Aurora

13 Young Adults Book Central

14 Books And Movies

15 YA Librarian Tales

16 Little Albatross (lots and lots and lots of spoilers)

17 Kate's Book Blog (rigorously spoiler free)

18 Reading Rants! Out Of The Ordinary Teen Booklist! (more informative if you will)

19 Teens Know Best

20 The Cazzy Files

21 thebookbind

22 Library Dad (someone who hasn't read either LAWKI or d&g)

23 see michelle read (she doesn'tmuch like it)

24 librarian by day (she doesn't much like it either)

25 Dog-eared and Well-read

26 Shelftalker (

27 KellyVision

28 one hundred books, one year

29 Brooke's Box Of Books

30 Kinnelon Library Teen Blog (very informative with lots of spoilers)

31 Stacked

32 Reading With Tequila (the reviewer doesn't like Alex at all)

33 yabal babble

34 Book Journal

35 Carrie's YA Bookshelf

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The ARCs Have Arrived!

There are 180 names in the Bolivian hat. I'll be pulling 30 out at random and emailing those people to ask for mailing addresses. I hope to start making trips to the post office tomorrow.

I'm cautiously optimistic that a few more ARCs will become available for distribution. Harcourt knows how much I want to spread them around. and while I've given some to friends of mine, they may return them when they're finished (in which case it'll be a used ARC).

I'm going to set up a comment zone here, so if you want to share your opinions of the book, you'll have a place to do so. And I do ask that you don't sell the ARC and you don't put it into a library system, in lieu of an actual copy. Beyond that. the ARC is yours to do with as you wish.

Okay. The time has come to pull 30 names out of the Bolivian hat, and to start emailing the people who get selected.

I want to thank all of you for your interest in This World We Live In and your patience. I truly appreciate both.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Last Chance At The Bolivian Hat

I got an email today saying the advance reading copies of This World We Live In got shipped to me on Friday and I should expect them sometime this week.

As soon as they come in, I'll be pulling names out of the Bolivian hat to send ARCs to.

So if you've been thinking about doing so and haven't gotten around to it, email me using the link on the right side of the blog, and into the hat your name will go.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Email Me If You Want A Chance At An ARC

There's been a delay in the printing of the ARCs for This World We Live In, and most likely I won't be getting my copies until next week.

My original plan had been to suggest people email me after the copies had arrived, but I've gotten impatient, so I'm switching the order. I think I'll have a couple of dozen copies to distribute, maybe a few more, and I'll send them out just about as soon as I get them. If I get more, right away or later on, I'll keep on sending.

Here's the deal. Most likely more than two dozen people are going to ask for an ARC. If there are more requests than ARCs, I'll use a lottery, as I have in the past for ARCs of The Dead And The Gone (I didn't know any of you when I got my ARCs for Life As We Knew It).

If you want to be in the drawing, then email me, either using the email address at this blog or at the other (but not both). Leaving a comment won't do it, because what I do is copy everyone's email address and put them in the Bolivian hat (currently residing on the bathroom wall) and pull out names.

If yours is one I pull out, I'll email you back and ask for your name and address. So you don't have to include them in your Bolivian hat email.

Some of you have already emailed your request. I've kept all those emails in a special folder, so you don't have to email me again.

I think when I get an email request I'll email back saying "Thank you," just so you'll know your email arrived.

Oh, I pay for the envelopes and postage and all that. So don't worry about it.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment. But again, if you want a chance at an ARC, a comment won't do it. I'd tell you what would, but I've used the word email so many times in this blog entry, I'm tired of typing it!

Monday, October 19, 2009

ARC Update

The ARC update is there is no update.

Or more to the point, there are no ARCs. At least not yet.

My editor tells me they may come in this week. Which doesn't necessarily mean they'll be on my doorstep (let alone inside my apartment) this week. More like they may come into existence this week.

When I get them, I'll let you know.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A New Poll Is Up

I'm still uncertain how many ARCS I'm going to get and when I'm going to get them, but I thought it might be helpful if I had a sense of how many of you might want one.

So I put up a poll last night with several options (including the traditional Go Away Leave Me Alone choice, albeit more tactfully worded), and this morning I scurried to see the results and no one had voted.

Results so far were zero.

A woman's feelings could get hurt.

But then I figured out if no one knew about the poll, no one would respond. So consider yourself informed.

Oh, and I'm not asking yet for emails or anything like that. I won't until I have the ARCs in hand. This poll is just to give me a sense of whether I'm going to need to save some for you or if I can build a playroom for Scooter with them.

ETA: Sorry if there's any confusion. I put basically the same poll on the susanbethpfeffer blog. Some people read one blog, some people read the other.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Jacket Flap

I got an email yesterday from my editor requesting that I remove the original plot outline of This World We Live In from this blog, for fear that people would feel it wasn't necessary to read the book if they'd already read the outline. An excess of spoilering.

Personally, I love being spoilered, but out of respect for my publishing house, I make the original entry on this blog vanish. It's good to have power.

Within an hour of making the entry go away, I got an email from someone asking me what the plotline to TW was. I informed my editor of this fabulous coincidence, and she suggested emailing back the jacket flap copy. Which I did.

So here, for anyone else who is interested, is what will be on the front jacket flap of This World We Live In. Think of it as socially acceptable spoilering.

The heart-wrenching companion to the bestselling novels Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone.

It's been a year since a meteor collided with the moon, catastrophically altering the earth’s climate. For Miranda Evans life as she knew it no longer exists. Her friends and neighbors are dead, the landscape is frozen, and food is increasingly scarce.

Miranda and her two brothers spend their days scavenging for food and household items, while their mother stays at home and desperately tries to hold on to the ordinary activities of their previous life. But they all know that nothing is truly normal in this surreal new world they live in.

The struggle to survive intensifies when Miranda’s father and stepmother arrive with a baby and three strangers in tow. One of the newcomers is Alex Morales, and as Miranda’s complicated feelings for him turn to love, his plans for his future thwart their relationship.

Then a devastating tornado hits the town of Howell, and Miranda makes a decision that will change their lives forever.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It Takes A Lot Of Scrolling

But if you're patient (and/or obsessive), you can find the Harcourt catalog entry for This World We Live In.

Oddly enough I was patient (and/or obsessive) enough to do so, and I was rewarded by learning there's going to be a bookmark!

My guess is it's a shared bookmark that other Harcourt titles will be on, and not its very own, but hey, a bookmark is a bookmark.

Anyway, TW looks great in the catalog, and seeing it makes it seem more real to me. So I figured I'd let you know.

ETA: For me at least, once it loads up, there's a little thing on the top that says click here to go straight to page 66. I clicked, and there TW was!

If you scroll down to the next page, there's stuff about Life As We Knew It and The Dead & The Gone, and a very nice closeup of the bottom of TW.

Even More ETA: Or you can type This World We Live In into the little search box, and it takes you right to page 66. And there's a zoom feature if you want to be able to actually read what they have to say!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Feel Free To Comment

Since ARCs of This World We Live In should be available by a month from now, I figured I should open this blog up to comments.

Thank yous go to all of you who kept your thoughts to yourselves, or who commented oh so briefly at my other blog.

I will now leave a comment here to see if it actually is possible!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And Now The Cover As It Really Looks

I asked my editor for a copy of the cover of This World We Live In that I could officially post.

And here it is!

Friday, August 28, 2009

This World We Live In ARC Update

I've been harassing those nice people at Harcourt for information about the status of This World We Live In advance reading copies (aka ARCs), and now I have some (information, not ARCs).

The ARCs will be published circa Oct. 12 and they'll be sending me a box of them that week.

From the sound of it, I'll be getting more ARCs than I'll need, and if that's the case, I'll be sharing the extras with people here. Assuming, of course, that people here will want one. If not, I'm sure Scooter will be more than happy to shred them all over the apartment.

When the ARC box arrives, I'll let you all know. Well, all of you except Scooter!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What I'm Hoping Will Be The Tease For TW In d&g

The editor asked me recently what section of This World We Live In did I want to have as the tease at the end of the paperback version of the dead and the gone (there's a tease for d&g in the paperback of Life As We Knew It). If I had no particular preference, they'd go with the first five pages of TW.

I did have a preference, although it's not five pages long, So I don't know if it's going to end up as the tease or not. I hope so, because there's nothing about the d&g characters in the first five pages of TW, and I would prefer a section that involves at least one of them.

So the following is what I requested to be the tease. I offered as a second choice the scene the editor made me write, with Alex talking about his family to Miranda (it's in this blog, so there's no point reposting it):

I can't say the last house we went to was going to be the last one of the day. Alex hadn't said we should stop looking, and every half roll of toilet paper will make our lives a little bit better. Maybe we would have kept on for another hour or two.

And neither one of us noticed anything particularly different about the final house we went to. I could tell right away it wasn't a summer house, but that didn't mean anything.

We used Alex's trick of throwing a few pebbles against a door and then running for cover in case anybody started shooting. No one did, so we got closer and looked through the windows for signs of life. When we thought it was safe, we tried the doors, which were locked, and threw a stone through the living room window.

The sound of shattering glass has replaced doorbells in my life.

It was Alex's turn to stick his hand through the window and unlock it. I love breaking in, but that's my least favorite part, since there's a part of me that's sure whoever owns the house is waiting to chop off my hand. I've had lots of nightmares about that.

But no one came at us with an ax, so we climbed in.

We both smelled death right away. It was like the mound of bodies only worse, because the house was all closed up and the smell had intensified.

"Please," I said. "Let's go."

"Wait outside if you want," Alex said.

But I knew what I didn't see would frighten me more than what I did. "I'll be okay," I said. I've told bigger lies.

Alex took my hand. I could see his was bleeding. "You cut yourself," I said to hide the fact that I was shaking from fear and excitement at the touch of a boy's hand.

"Just a scratch," he said, but he pulled his hand from mine. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get blood on you."

I nodded. Alex began walking toward the smell and I followed him.

The body was in the kitchen. Once it had been human, sitting in the chair next to where we found it. Or what remained of it, some torn clothing, a belt, some flesh and muscle, hair, bones, an eyeball. By its side was a shotgun, and lying a few feet away was a dead pit bull.

I screamed.

"Don't look," Alex said, but I couldn't avert my eyes. He walked around the corpse, took a red plaid vinyl tablecloth and flung it on top. Then he held me until I stopped shaking.

"I think we're in luck," he said. "The dog died recently, maybe even today. It's been eating its owner for a while now, but it finally starved to death. There's probably dog food if we look."

"I don't know if Horton will eat dog food," I said.

"Not for Horton," Alex said. "For us."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

This World We Live In Is Available For Pre-Order

Amazon confirms its April 1, 2010 publication date.

But really I'm posting this so you can admire the new look to this blog.

It was time for a little redecorating around here!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We Have A Cover!

Because I don't know how to attach a PDF (or what a PDF is for that matter) to my blog, I printed the cover on my dandy printer and attached it with needles (I couldn't find any pins) to my green chair and took photographs of it.

I know how to attach photographs, with and without needles.

The odds are when the book is published, the cover may look a little, oh I don't know, slicker, but in the meantime, I'm thrilled and can't wait to show it off.

So here's the cover for This World We Live In (by New York Times Best Selling Author of Life As We Knew It-Moi)!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Brand New Email Address

I'm a firm believer that one cannot have too many email addresses, so I set one up just for the thirdmoonbook blog.

I've been keeping this a comment free zone, but if there's something you really want to tell me, now you have an address to send it to:

I also set up a new email account over at my regular blog, because the previous email account was proving increasingly cranky.

The only one around here allowed to be cranky is me!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Scene That Never Would Have Existed If The Editor Hadn't Asked For Rewrites

June 4

I was in my bedroom, trying to decide what would be the absolutely safest place to hide my diaries, when I heard a knock on my door and Alex softly saying, "Miranda?"

Even though I hadn't touched a thing, and my diaries were as hidden as they ever are, I instantly decided I needed to find an even better place for them. That was after I finished jumping at the sound of a strange boy's voice.

"Yeah," I said, which didn't come off quite as friendly as it should have. "I mean, hi Alex. What do you want?"

He stood in the doorway until I gestured for him to come in.

"I hope I'm not bothering you," he said. "I was wondering if you might have some clothes Julie could borrow. Just for the time we're here."

"Oh, sure," I said. "Julie's smaller than I am, but we can work something out." Syl already has half my wardrobe. Julie could have the other half.

"Thank you," he said. "It'll mean a lot to her."

"Do you want me to ask Matt if you could borrow some of his clothes?" I asked. Why should I be the only naked one in the house.

"That would be great, thank you," Alex said. "It's just for a few days, until Julie's rested up enough."

"There's no rush," I said. "I'll see what I can find."

Alex looked around my room. "You have a lot of books," he said.

"Not that many," I said. "And I've read all of them three times by now."

"I miss reading," he said, taking my copy of Pride And Prejudice off the shelf. "I miss learning useless things. Latin. Calculus."

"I miss friends," I said. "Friends. Family. Food. The 3 Fs." I smiled, but Alex didn't smile back.

"I miss home," he said. "And the feeling you got in a library carrel, like nothing in the world mattered except the book you were reading." He put Pride And Prejudice back on the shelf. "I miss pride. The sin of pride."

"I don't think it's a sin to be proud," I said, looking at my skating trophies. "Not if you've worked to achieve your goal."

Alex shook his head. "You don't understand," he said. "It's different for you. You work to keep your house clean, and you take pride in how it looks. That's not what I mean."

It annoyed me that Alex thought my only accomplishment in life was in the war against ash. "I take pride in lots of things," I said. "Like how my family has come together. How we've fought to keep alive. To keep our hopes alive. I take a lot of pride in that. Do you think that's a sin?"

"No, of course not," Alex said. "But that's not the kind of pride I'm talking about."

"Oh," I said. "You mean like vanity. Being proud because you're good looking or rich."

"That's not it exactly either," Alex said.

"Then what is?" I asked.

He gazed out my window, at the perpetually gray landscape. "All right," he said. "Maybe you'll understand better if I tell you about the coin jar. We had to pay for our school uniforms, so my mother kept a coin jar. Every day we emptied our pockets and whatever change we had went into the jar. One day she caught my father taking out a handful of quarters. He was short on beer money. She went crazy. It was the worst fight I ever saw them have. My mother had ambitions for us. Every penny we saved was important to her." He paused for a moment. "My father picked up the coin jar and threw it across the room. The coins flew all over. My mother got down on her hands and knees to pick up the change, but my brother Carlos shoved me onto the floor. It was my fault, he said. I was the one they were fighting over."

"That must have been awful," I said. Mom and Dad at their worst always let us know we weren't to blame for their problems.

"I vowed I would never feel shame again," Alex said. "But the shame wasn't because my parents fought over me. It was the shame of crawling on the floor, sweeping pennies and nickels into a pile to pay for clothes other kids took for granted. The next day I got a job, started working whenever I could, finally got regular work at a pizza parlor. I paid for my own uniforms after that, and my books too. No more coin jar. My mother found some other way to pay for my sister's uniforms. And I felt proud. Proud I was smart. Proud that people noticed me, respected me. Proud that I was ambitious. Proud that I was too good to end up like my parents. And now I beg for clean clothes for my sister. I beg for every bite of food we eat."

"You don't have to beg here," I said. "We're happy to share."

"No one is happy to share," he said.

Alex looked down then, or I looked up. I don't know how it happened, but we made eye contact, and for a moment, I was drawn into his soul. I could see everything, the depth of his sorrow, his anger, his despair.

I feel sorrow and anger and despair. I don't think there's a person alive who doesn't. I sometimes feel like my sorrow and anger and despair burns inside me like the sun used to burn on a hot July day.

But that was nothing compared to what I sensed in Alex. His sorrow, his anger, his despair was like a thousand suns, like a galaxy of suns. It physically hurt me to look into his eyes, but I couldn't break away. He turned his head first, and then he apologized, or maybe he thanked me. For Alex, I think they're the same thing.

He bolted out of the room, leaving me to stare at my bookstore and think about the sin of pride and the sin of prejudice and all the other sins I'd left behind.

ETA: What Alex no doubt said was "my sisters' uniforms," referring to Bri and Julie. But since Miranda only knows about Julie, she hears it as "my sister's uniforms."

Miranda is very much an unreliable narrator in This World We Live In. She knows only what people tell her, and people don't necessarily tell her all the details.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You Can Never Get Too Tired Of Tulsa

Sometime after posting what I announced to be the third and final version of the Tulsa discussion, I decided Alex and Julie went to Tulsa before they went to Texas to find Carlos. Although all of this happens offstage, and Miranda only learns about it from what Alex and Julie tell her separately, the whole trip to Texas became increasingly important, and involved so many revisions that I've lost track (it's pretty much all I spent working on yesterday).

So here's the fourth and I really really hope final version of Alex telling Miranda about Tulsa:

"Who was in Tulsa?" I asked. "Or did you just pass through there?" It was easier to ask Alex questions with us both facing forward and no danger of eye contact.

"We thought we'd find our aunt and uncle," Alex said. "They set out for there last June. We spent a few days looking, but no luck."

"It's hard to picture cities," I said. "Cities with people."

"They're not like before," Alex said. "There are bodies. Mostly skeletons now, piled up. Even the rats have died. And only some buildings have heat, so you share apartments."

"Are there schools?" I asked, remembering my idea about places for politicians and millionaires to live. "Hospitals? Could you and Julie have stayed there?"

Alex held onto the steering wheel a little tighter. "The plan was for me to leave Julie with our aunt and uncle. I was going to get to Texas, find Carlos, let him know where we were, and then go back and work at the oil fields. But I couldn't leave Julie alone, so we went to Texas together."

"But you didn't stay down there," I said. "Couldn't you have worked in the Texas oil fields instead?"

"I could have," Alex said. "But there was no one to look after Julie."

"Julie's a good kid," I said. "She wouldn't have gotten into trouble."

"Trouble would have found her," Alex said. "We couldn't take that risk."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Back To Tulsa We Go

I've been hard at work on the revisions for This World We Live In, and at the editor's suggestion, have added a couple of scenes. In one, Miranda comes up with the idea that there are places for the wealthy and powerful to live, the safe towns that figure prominently in the plot of the dead and the gone.

The editor also wanted more of a sense of Alex, and I put in a scene a couple of days after they meet, where Alex tells Miranda a story about his family. He and Miranda make eye contact, and Miranda gets a glimpse of the pain and anger Alex feels.

Finally, the editor wanted more of a sense of what was going on in the world, a world Alex has seen, but Miranda knows about only from what she hears on the radio.

With all that in mind, I revised Miranda and Alex talking about Tulsa for a third, and I sincerely hope last, time. So here's version the first, version the second, and version the last. I hope the differences, none of which are huge, have made the book better.

Number One:

"Who was in Tulsa?" I asked. "Or did you just pass through there."

"We thought we'd find our aunt and uncle," Alex said. "They'd set out for there. We spent a couple of days looking for them, but no luck."

"What was Tulsa like?" I asked. "Were there people there?"

"Oh yeah," Alex said. "Not like there used to be, I'm sure, but there were still people."

"But you didn't stay," I said. "Could you have?"

"I suppose," Alex said. "Maybe we should have. It's hard to know what to do with Julie. If we'd stayed in Tulsa, anywhere, I'd have had to to work, and that's okay. I don't mind that. But it would have meant either Julie would have to work too or she'd be left unsupervised."

"She's a good kid," I said. "She wouldn't get into trouble."

"Trouble would have found her," Alex said. "It wouldn't have been safe."

Number Two:

"Who was in Tulsa?” I asked. “Or did you just pass through there?” It was easier to ask Alex questions, since we were both facing frontward and not looking at each other.

“We thought we’d find our aunt and uncle,” Alex said. “They’d set out for there last June. We spent a couple of days looking for them, but no luck.”

“What was Tulsa like?” I asked. “Were there people there?”

“Oh yeah,” Alex said. “Not like there used to be, I’m sure, but there were still people.”

“But you didn’t stay,” I said. “Could you have?”

“I suppose,” Alex said. “Maybe we should have. It’s hard to know what to do with Julie.”

“She’s a good kid,” I said. “She wouldn’t get into trouble.”

“Trouble would have found her,” Alex said. “It wouldn’t have been safe.”

Number Three:

"Who was in Tulsa?" I asked. "Or did you just pass through there?" It was easier to ask Alex questions with both of us facing forward and no danger of eye contact.

"We thought we'd find our aunt and uncle," Alex said. "They set out for there last June. We spent a couple of days looking, but no luck."

"It's hard to picture cities," I said. "Cities with people."

"They're not like before," Alex said. "There are bodies, mostly skeletons now, piled up. Even the rats have died. And only some buildings have heat, so you share apartments."

"Are there schools?"I asked, remembering my idea about places for politicians and millionaires to live. "Hospitals? Could you and Julie have stayed there?"

Alex held onto the steering wheel a little tighter. "I could have found work at the oil fields," he said. "But I wouldn't have known what to do about Julie."

"She's a good kid," I said. "She wouldn't get into trouble."

"Trouble would have found her," Alex said. "I couldn't take that risk. So we moved on."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Editorial Suggestions And Comments About This World We Live In

I have received a detailed letter outlining suggestions and comments from the editor of This World We Live In. Some I agree with, some I don't, but all indicate the intelligence and thoughtfulness that I had come to expect (I know at least one writer who has worked with this editor and who has loudly sung her praises).

The editor began her letter by telling me how she went about this particular, and not particularly easy, job. First she read This World We Live In. Then she read Life As We Knew It (which she'd read an early version of pre-publication). Then she read the dead and the gone. Then she went back and reread This World. She needed to determine how it worked as a standalone and as the sequel to two different novels.

I'm going to summarize some of the editor's suggestions (which I'll put in boldface) and some of my personal responses to those suggestions. Please remember the editor's suggestions are not as she wrote them, but as I paraphrase them. She wrote a single spaced three page letter, and a followup one page email, so my summaries will not do justice to her thoughts. Nor will I put all of them here. As always, this entry will be rife with spoilers.

Character and Setting Background: She would like more details about Miranda's fears and hopes earlier in the book, especially for those who haven't read LAWKI. She would also like more details about what the worldwide disasters were, and what Miranda's home and town are like.

All this is trickier than it might seem, but probably doable. I just have to have a delicate touch. Otherwise, the readers could get bogged down in details rather than action.

Alex: She would like Alex to be more sympathetic/appealing/attractive earlier on in the story, so readers will understand why Miranda is attracted to him.

Also doable, but also requiring a light touch. Alex is a problematic character under any circumstance. I love him, but he's not particularly lovable, which frankly is one reason why I love him. And I think Miranda is attacted to him more from hormones than anything else. In addition, I want Miranda to resent her father's affection for Alex and Julie, and if Alex comes off as too sympathetic too early, then Miranda's resentment will make her less likable. Still, I should be able to put in a quick glimpse of Alex tucking Julie in, or giving Julie a little bit extra food while taking less for himself, or even helping with housework without being asked.

The World Outside of Miranda's World: She would like to know more about what's going on in other locations, including information Miranda might have no access to. She thinks the readers would want to know more about how the government is handling things outside of Howell. She also suggests that we see the LAWKI/d&g household "rules" for survival, as they would be indicative of their own governing system (as well as a potential for conflict).

I was negative on this suggestion, and will most likely remain so. I don't think it's good for readers to know what the POV character doesn't know, which to some extent is unavoidable here, because some of the people who read This World will have read d&g (Miranda only knows what Alex and Julie tell her, and they don't tell her very much about their pasts). And while I love making up governmental rules and regs, I think they clutter a story.

The Ending: She would like more clarification at the actual end of the book, and a little more hope. She has no problem with it being open ended and said nothing about the fabulous part (a great relief to me), but she was confused about just what was going to happen once the book was over.

This is good, smart editing, and I'm already working out a slight shift in emphasis and a greater amount of detail for the last couple of pages. My agent had separately suggested the need for an additional Charlie scene, and I think I can work that in to give the new improved last couple of pages greater emotional resonance.

The Structure: She suggested eliminating the chapters, and having each month stand as a section.

I find this kind of funny, since when I wrote both LAWKI and d&g, I only put in chapters at my previous editor's request. But I think chapters are a good idea for This World, since the action takes place in only a three month period (four calendar months, April, May, June, July). I have each of those months as the start of a section, but I think chapter divisions within them are helpful. In any event, I put a poll up over at my other blog to see what you prefer.

I'll be working on the rewrites sporadically over the next couple of weeks, with a somewhat self-imposed deadline of June 11. Copy editing would like the book by June 15, since there's a very tight deadline if it's to be a Spring 2010 publication, which I fervently want. I will post here between now and then to let you know how the rewrites are coming along.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This World We Live In Blurb/Summary

The following is what I wrote for the sales/marketing people to see, so they'd have some sense of the storyline for This World We Live In:

It's been over a month since Miranda Evans has written in her diary, a month of relative calm for her and her family. It's springtime, and with warmer weather comes rain, and the melting of the winter's snow. The shad are running in a nearby river, and Miranda's brothers Matt and Jon leave home for a few days to see if they can catch some to supplement their food supply.

When they return, Matt brings with him a girl named Syl, who he introduces as his bride. But that's not the only shock Miranda and her family have to deal with. A few weeks later, Miranda's father, stepmother, and baby brother show up at her door. Accompanying them are three strangers, a man named Charlie Rutherford, and two teenagers, Alex and Julie Morales. These five people have crossed America together, becoming, in their own way, a family.

Miranda's complicated feelings about Alex, curiosity, resentment, longing, and passion turn into love. Alex's feelings are equally complex. His plans to escort Julie to a convent where she can be taken care of, so that he will be free to enter a monastery, are destined for failure. He wants desperately to live up to his moral code, but his desire for Miranda is too strong. He proposes to Miranda that they take Julie and go to a safe town.

But before Miranda and Alex can go off together, a devastating tornado hits the town of Howell, and in its aftermath, Miranda makes a decision that will change forever her life and Alex's, and the world that they live in will never be the same.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Before And After

There are a couple of things I try to accomplish when I do rewrites. Well, three things, since the first is get the job done before I break down from boredom.

The other two (more subtle) things are to solve problems and to tighten the book. Or thicken the book, since there are times when I underwrite and have to go back and make things juicier. So I guess that makes four things I try to accomplish. Boy, I work hard.

Remember, way back when (excuse me for a moment, when I look to see way back when was). January 8, it turns out to have been. I posted a scene where Miranda and Mom fight, and there's a misunderstanding about the fate of Matt and Jon, who are away fishing for shad.

Even at the time, I knew Mom would never refer to them as "the others," which was key to the misunderstanding. So, thanks to the miracles of my brain and computer skills, I've solved that problem. Among the dead bodies Miranda sees on the mound of bodies are two guys (never heard of before, never heard of since)- the Beasley Boys. Hold on again, while I get the description of them:

...the Beasley boys, two old guys without many teeth, who sat in front of the hardware store, good weather or bad, and chattered in some secret code to each other.

The Beasley boys were descended from Jedediah Howell, the same as Mom. The same as me.

Now when Miranda and Mom have the fight, Mom refers to "the boys," meaning Matt and Jon, and Miranda, having just seen the dead Beasley boys, thinks that's who she means, and confusion ensues.

It pays to know your corpses.

The following is a tiny taste of both of tightening and thickening. Much of the tightening I've been doing is getting rid of the "just"s and "so"s and "really"s and "even"s, while keeping the flavor of Miranda's speech/writing. I agonize over every "just" (and there are thousands of them).

But occasionally, there's a scene that's too clumpy and needs cutting, and then I do. Here's the version of a conversation between Miranda and Alex. It's their first time doing something together and getting to know each other:

"Who was in Tulsa?" I asked. "Or did you just pass through there."

"We thought we'd find our aunt and uncle," Alex said. "They'd set out for there. We spent a couple of days looking for them, but no luck."

"What was Tulsa like?" I asked. "Were there people there?"

"Oh yeah," Alex said. "Not like there used to be, I'm sure, but there were still people."

"But you didn't stay," I said. "Could you have?"

"I suppose," Alex said. "Maybe we should have. It's hard to know what to do with Julie. If we'd stayed in Tulsa, anywhere, I'd have had to to work, and that's okay. I don't mind that. But it would have meant either Julie would have to work too or she'd be left unsupervised."

"She's a good kid," I said. "She wouldn't get into trouble."

"Trouble would have found her," Alex said. "It wouldn't have been safe."

Now here's the edited version:

“Who was in Tulsa?” I asked. “Or did you just pass through there?” It was easier to ask Alex questions, since we were both facing frontward and not looking at each other.

“We thought we’d find our aunt and uncle,” Alex said. “They’d set out for there last June. We spent a couple of days looking for them, but no luck.”

“What was Tulsa like?” I asked. “Were there people there?”

“Oh yeah,” Alex said. “Not like there used to be, I’m sure, but there were still people.”

“But you didn’t stay,” I said. “Could you have?”

“I suppose,” Alex said. “Maybe we should have. It’s hard to know what to do with Julie.”

“She’s a good kid,” I said. “She wouldn’t get into trouble.”

“Trouble would have found her,” Alex said. “It wouldn’t have been safe.”

See the difference? Well, I sure hope so. Otherwise all the work I've been doing has been in vain.

And the only thing vain around here I approve of is me!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bible Lessons In B3

Last week (was it only last week; it feels like a lot longer ago than that), when I worked out the new B3 ending (which I will never ever ever reveal), I put in my blog entry three things about it.

One was that it was different from other B3 endings I'd already tried (definitely true).

One was that it wasn't a trick it was all a dream kind of ending (definitely true).

One was that I was going to change the Bible lesson Charlie gives.

Well, that one I'm not so sure about.

The Bible chapter I thought I'd have Charlie talk about is Chapter 34 in Deuteronomy (it occurs to me that the ASPCA should call their program Neuteronomy, but that's most likely because I'm a very sick person). For those of you who can't quote the Bible chapter and verse, here's the Jewish Publication Society version (I prefer it to the King James):

And the LORD said to him, "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 'I will give it to your offspring.' I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross there."

A good deal of the last section of This World We Live In has to do with the passes to the safe town that Alex was given in the dead and the gone. Although Miranda is age eligible to get in, there's been no version of the B3 ending where she does. And since B3 is a book of echoes (my cousin Ellen last night said that would be a great title for a novel), I thought that particular Bible chapter would resonate- Miranda would be outside looking in at what passes for the promised land in the post-mooncrash world.

But now, while the passes remain an integral part of the story, Miranda's feelings about her life on the outside of the town are no longer particularly important. So I'm thinking I may still stick with Noah's children. I'll have to decide sometime next week, when I'm giving the manuscript its final polish.

One good thing about this blog- when I wrote a couple of paragraphs up, "the last section," it reminded me I have to divvy the book into sections and chapters. That doesn't come naturally to me with these books, so I tend to forget about it.

But I'll never forget my vow to keep the ending to myself. And to my friend Christy. But that's it. The rest of humanity will have to wait until Spring 2010, because not telling is one vow I intend to keep!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It Made Sense At One In The Morning

I have worked out the ending to This World We Live In.

You may notice there's no B3 in the blog entry title, and I'm not warning you about spoilers. That's because I decided I'm not to going to tell you what the ending is. Not now, not ever. Or at least not until the book is published, which is a year or more away.

I came up with the idea last night during a particularly nasty bout of insomnia (I had a fine time at my cousin Danny's wedding, by the way). My brain clicked into gear and when it does that, it's hard for me to unclick it.

Somewhere between 1 and 1/2 sleeping pills, I got up and emailed my friend Christy to tell her what the idea was. The last idea I shared with her (one I didn't tell you about), she responded to with, "Yikes." I didn't take that as a positive.

I'm going to quote a little bit of last night's email I sent Christy, because I think it will give you a taste of what I was working through when I should have been sleeping. I'm taking my chances that you won't regard it as a spoiler:... comes to face with death, which she acknowlolrfhrd sd nojyjionhinhh moyjhinhnrdd nothingnrdd- im really drugged and sneezing0=

My favorite part is the sneezingo. Or snee-zingo! if you prefer.

This morning I woke up and thought about my 1 AM inspiration and still liked it a lot. I thought about it some more while I did a half hour on the treadmill, and then I called Christy and ran the idea past her. She gave it the Christy Seal Of Approval. I would quote her exact gerund but that might give away some of the essence.

I still have some decisions to make before rewriting the ending, and I'll have to do a bit of reconstruction to get the story where I'll need it to be. I'll tell you the following three things and then I'm not going to reveal anything more about it.

There's a little scene I quoted over at thirdmoonbook, with a Bible lesson, and I'm going to change the Bible story. Same basic scene, but a whole other lesson.

The new ending isn't the same as any of the endings I've discussed here or at thirdmoonbook. It shares some elements, but it's very very different.

It isn't a trick ending. No one wakes up and realizes it's all been a dream.

Because to know me is to mock me, I'm going to put a poll up where you can give vent to your cynicism that I can keep the ending a secret from all of you. Which I can and I will. But mock away.I don't care. I got my ending and my nojyjionhinhh!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Further Musings On The Third Possible B3 Ending

How many possible B3s have there been? Was it seven? Maybe This World We Live In will have seven possible endings all its own.

But as of the moment, I seem quite settled into the idea of Mom mercy killing Charlie while almost every other character is there to witness it. I did briefly consider having Syl be the one to grab the shotgun from the LAWKI house, then Mom demand Syl hand it over, which Syl does (and which the readers assume is because Mom is so horrified), and then Mom shoots Charlie (having taken the shotgun so the killing wouldn't be on Syl's conscience).

But I remembered from one of the previous B3s that I should always keep things simple, and Syl to Mom to boom! is one step more than is needed.

What I'm working through right now are the consequences, and oddly enough, for the moment at least, the character most affected seems to be Alex (who's lying semi-conscious at the LAWKI house while this happens).

For starters, there are those safe house passes (I swear those passes are as difficult for me to deal with as the never ending volcanic ash). The clever twist ending I'd come up with had Alex telling Miranda to give the passes to Lisa for her, the baby and Julie (an idea Alex had previously rejected). Then when Alex is strong enough, they go to Mrs. Nesbitt's no longer existent house, and Alex discovers what Miranda already knows, that the safe house passes can't be found.

I think when I wrote the first Charlie dies version (less than a week ago, but you don't expect me to remember), the same thing happens. It didn't seem to bother me that Alex and Miranda go over to Mrs. Nesbitt's house, where Charlie has been buried alive.

Maybe now it's because I've blown poor Charlie's brains out, going to the house to look for something seems distasteful to me. So I'm thinking Alex keeps the safe town passes in an envelope taped to his chest, in which case, the passes are available, and Alex can act on his decision to share the passes with Lisa and the baby.

The other consequence I'm pondering is how Alex responds to Mom's killing Charlie. By Alex's heartfelt religious standards, this is a mortal sin. Miranda wouldn't see it that way, because she heard Charlie begging to be killed, and because it's her mother who did it.

But if Alex and Miranda get into a fight over this, it can't be cute and casual. Alex, under the best of circumstances, isn't a cute and casual kind of guy, and when it comes to a fundamental disagreement over the sanctity of life, I can't see him compromising or letting love and/or hormones overcome his strong sense of morality.

When I discussed Mom killing Charlie with my friend Christy, she pointed out there has to be at least some hope at the ending of the book. My previous ending for both versions of B3 has been positive- Miranda frightened of the future, but believing that there will be one. If the ending is the families split up, with Dad, Lisa, Alex and Julie going off to the safe town, while Miranda, Mom (with blood on her conscience), Matt, Syl and Jon take their chances in Pittsburgh (and you have no idea how much I wish Pittsburgh were a more glamorous choice)...well that's not just open ended. That's open ended and depressing.

So clearly there's some more thinking that has to be done. But that's the fun part of writing for me.

Or at least that's what I keep telling myself!

Yet Another B3 Ending

About half an hour ago (as I was moving the sheets from the washer to the drier), I got to thinking yet again about the ending to This World We Live In. You may recall I wrote an ending on Friday, then decided it wasn't strong enough and wrote another ending on Saturday.

Something about wet sheets made me think about my original plan for the ending of B3- Charlie not merely dying, but being killed by one of the other characters, and Miranda choosing not to know who did it. The Saturday ending simply has Charlie dying (on Friday, Charlie lived).

I remembered that I wanted Charlie's death to be a mercy killing because I wanted something complicated to end the book with, a debatable moral issue.

So as I moved the sheets to the drier, I considered changing the ending yet again. As of the moment, Charlie is crushed to death as he tries to get out of Mrs. Nesbitt's demolished by the tornado house. Dad declares that Charlie died immediately.But what if Charlie doesn't die immediately? What if he's only partially crushed and is crying out (as I originally planned for him to do), Let me die! Let me die!In an earlier part of the book, Miranda and Alex come across a houseful of food, and a shotgun. Miranda is the last person to carry the shotgun, which means it stayed in her house.

So now I'm thinking Charlie's lying there in agony and (hold onto your hats), Mom goes back to the house, gets the shotgun, and kills Charlie with it.Talk about moral ambiguity!

The other possible shooters are pretty much anybody but Alex (who's still semi-conscious). But I can't see Julie leaving Alex's side, Matt, Miranda, or Jon caring enough about Charlie to put him out of his misery, Dad leaving Lisa (who has just escaped also), Lisa, who most likely wants only to be with baby Gabriel again and Syl. But Syl, who Jon and Miranda regard as responsible for Horton's death, is too obvious a choice. Which Mom certainly is not.

So that's where things are at this moment. The idea is less than an hour old, and I'm not going to do any rewrites until next week at the earliest, so I have time to consider and reconsider. There's an old Hollywood rule that if you establish there's a gun early in a movie, at some point later in the movie that gun will get used, and I don't like following cliche rules, so I'm not crazy about the shotgun being mentioned and then a hundred or so pages later being used.

But I do love the image of Mom (Mom!) shooting poor Charlie's brains out. And since this blog is all about process, I figured I'd let you know where the process was taking me.

And now I'll fold the sheets.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Services

June 18

The four of us walked over to Mrs. Nesbitt’s the morning, splitting up once we got there. Jon went to the living room, where Alex and Julie have set things up, and Matt, Syl and I stayed in the kitchen with everybody else.

Dad and Alex must have moved Mrs. Nesbitt’s kitchen table back in, because we sat around it for our prayer service. It made things feel more ordinary, and I was glad for that.

Someone would start a hymn, and whoever knew it would join in. I asked for “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” since I remembered that was Grandma’s favorite, and that made Dad happy. There were some prayers and Syl talked about the peace she felt when she accepted Christ as her savior. I guess that happened after the moon goddess Diana proved to be such a dud.

Charlie gave a sermon, if you could call it that. He said he’d been thinking a lot about Noah and his family lately, what it must have been like for them, those forty days and forty nights. As far as they knew, they were the only people left on earth. Everybody would be descended from them, but only if they survived, and they had to trust in God that they would.

“I bet the rabbits weren’t worried about that,” Charlie said. “They just did what rabbits do. But it’s our curse and our blessing to remember the past and to know there’s a future.”

He reached over, touched Lisa with his right hand and Syl with his left. “Our past is gone,” he said. “But our future is in this room right now. Little Gabriel, sleeping peacefully in his crib. The children Syl will bear. Miranda too. Their babies, born and unborn, are God’s gift to the future, just as much as the ark was.”

Dad squeezed Lisa’s hand. Matt squeezed Syl’s. And I felt very much a part of something and very much alone.

B3 C'est Fini Twice

I finished the first draft of This World We Live In Friday night, went to bed quite satisfied with myself, and woke up early Saturday morning and decided to junk much of what I'd written the night before. So I gave myself one more day of procrastination, returned to the ending of the book in the afternoon, and finished B3 for the second time Saturday evening.

In the Friday night version, probably because I was in a good mood, I didn't kill off Charlie. Saturday morning I realized without his death, things were a tad on the anticlimactic side (although I had come up with a nifty plot twist for those cursed safe town passes).

I had originally planned for Charlie to fall, become paralyzed, beg for his death, get his wish, and Miranda would choose not to know who had put him out of his misery.Now he just gets crushed to death, which makes the plot a little less unresolved.

The thing that fascinated me most was the Friday night version was 282 pages long, and the Saturday version, where I added Charlie's death, was 282 pages long. I have no idea how that happened. Then again, I don't really know how I wrote 282 pages, when every single day I had to work, I postponed and postponed and postponed again. But I definitely have a completed first draft, waiting for me to read it (which I will today, since I'm real curious about the book, having already forgotten most of what I've written).

After I read it, I'll put it aside for a week or so (this is a busy social week for me anyway, what with my birthday on Tuesday, lunch with my friend Geri on Thursday, and my cousin Danny's wedding on Sunday), and then reread it, noting where it needs work and where to put in chapter breaks. Then I'll do the rewriting/polishing. My guess is, now that I've killed off poor Charlie, that I'll need at least one more good Charlie scene, so the readers will be really upset when he dies. Charlie is a sweetheart of a character, but I don't recall him being that involved in the action for a stretch, and it could be helpful to throw him in a little bit more.

What did surprise me as I wrote was how involved Miranda and Alex got. I'd figured they'd have one little kiss, but whoo. By the end of the book, that one little kiss had turned into a lot more. I'm choosing not to know just how much more, but things do get pretty hot and heavy. Miranda does the pursuing, but Alex allows himself to get caught more than I had anticipated.

Syl, Matt's bride, also developed in ways I hadn't expected. I thought she'd be kind of a new agey airhead, and she has elements of that. But she's also a lot tougher than I'd originally intended, a lot more willing to confront reality (and to confront Mom).

And for those who worry about such things, there's religion all over the place- Sunday services and Bible study and hymn singing and the only religious character who doesn't make it is poor sweet Charlie. In fact, in celebration of the completion of the first draft, I think I'll go over to thirdmoonbook and put in Charlie's little sermon, so you can see what a darling he is.

And while you're at it, you can see what a darling I am also!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Miranda And Syl Talk About Safe Towns

There are two versions. First the one I rejected:

Mom looked skeptical. "Even if a place like that exists, how would Alex have gotten passes to it?" she asked.

Syl shrugged. "I don't know," she said. "Maybe he stole them. But safe towns definitely exist. I met a girl who lived in a town that had been made into one."

"What do you mean?" I asked. "How do you make a town into a safe town?"

"All I know is what she told me," Syl said. "Her mother taught at Sexton College. I remember the name because of Anne Sexton." She glared at Mom, who I guess knew who Anne Sexton was. "French, I think," Syl continued. "Not that that matters. This girl, I guess she was your age, Miranda, because she was still living at home when it happened. She said it was rough, but not too bad at first. I've never heard of Sexton College, but I gather it had a big agricultural department, where they grew crops. They had an early harvest, and the professors all shared, so there was food for a while. But then, right after the air got bad, everyone who lived in the town was told their houses were being taken by the government, and they all had twenty four hours to pack their belongings, and they'd be driven by busses to the nearest evac camp. From then on, they'd be on their own. And that's pretty much what happened. A bunch of the professors got together, to find out what was going on, and they were told the town was going to be used as a research facility, and their houses were needed for the scientists and their family. For the greater good. Not that I've seen much good coming out of it."

Now here's the much longer, way better version:

“There was something you said once,” I began. “About truck drivers.”

“What about them?” she asked, propping herself up with her elbow.

“You said they stopped sometimes when they were going to safe towns,” I said. “And picked people up.”

“Girls,” Syl said. “I don’t think I ever saw one stop for a guy. And they never did on the way to safe towns. The trucks would be filled with supplies then. On the way back, after leaving stuff off, they might stop for a girl.”

“Did they ever stop for you?” I asked.

“What business is that of yours?” she said.

“No,” I said. “I mean, you don’t understand. I was just wondering if one of them told you where he’d come from, where the safe town was. That’s all.”

“No,” Syl said. “They knew better than to talk.”

“Oh,” I said. “Okay. I’m sorry if I bothered you.”

“That’s all right,” Syl said. “It’s a different world out there. Matt understands that. Well, he claims he understands, but he doesn’t like hearing about it. What it’s really like. So I don’t talk to him about it. And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t either.”

“I didn’t intend to,” I said. “This has nothing to do with Matt. Or anything you did with truckers.”

Syl gave me a funny look. “What are you asking about?” she said. “Safe towns?”

I nodded. “I thought maybe a trucker told you where one was.”

“It wouldn’t matter if one had,” Syl said. “Safe towns are for the important people, scientists and millionaires. It’s not like you can go knocking on their doors and they’ll let you in. I know Laura’s had some books published, but that doesn’t make her important enough for a safe town.”

Alex wasn’t either, but he had passes.

“But you know they exist,” I said. “Did the truckers tell you about them?”

“The truckers kept their mouths shut,” Syl said. “It’s a good job, being a trucker. You and your family get to live in a decent home, with food and fuel. Not a safe town, maybe, but good enough. You get a job like that, you don’t break the rules.”

“Except picking girls up,” I said.

“There’s no rule against that,” Syl said. “As long as you get your work done on time.”

“Well, thanks anyway,” I said. “I thought you might know where a safe town was, but I guess you don’t.”

“Sit down,” she said. “I hate the way you’re standing there, glaring at me.”

“I’m not glaring,” I said, but I did as she said, and sat on the mattress by her side.

“I know something’s going on,” Syl said. “Hal refuses to talk to Lisa about it, but the tension over there is even worse than the tension over here. If that’s possible. And since you’re asking about safe towns, I have to assume that has something to do with it.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know anything about safe towns,” I said. “I remembered your mentioning them, that’s all. And maybe I did fantasize we could get into one, but apparently we can’t, and you don’t know where one is anyway, so what difference does it make.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t know where one was,” Syl replied. “I said none of the truckers ever told me.”

“You mean, you do know?” I said. “Someone else told you?”

For the first time since I’ve known her, Syl looked uncomfortable. “Look,” she said. “There’s things I’ve told Matt and things I haven’t, but the only reason I haven’t is because he hates hearing about them. All right? I’m not ashamed of anything I did. I’m alive and I’m here because of what I did. Matt knows that. He accepts that. But he doesn’t like the details.”

“I won’t tell Matt,” I said. “I swear.”

“Scout’s honor?” Syl asked, and then she laughed. “All right. I believe you. And it doesn’t matter anyway. I was in an evac camp. This was, I don’t know, maybe a year ago. Pretty early on. The camps have guards, military police, young guys mostly. And one of them had gotten his hands on some booze. Gin, vodka. I don’t know how, but he and his buddies decided to party. Which they did with some of us girls. We left the camp and broke into an empty house, and had a good time.” She paused. “It really was fun,” she said. “But the important thing was keeping them happy. If a guard liked you, you might get extra food or a blanket. It was better if they liked you.”

I looked out the window at the perpetually grey sky.

“There were lots of girls,” Syl continued. “Girls and women. The guards had their pick, so you did whatever they asked, and you tried to make them feel important, like they were the star quarterback, and you weren’t even a cheerleader.”

“Matt isn’t like that,” I said.

“No,” Syl said. “Matt isn’t anything like that. Neither is Hal or Charlie, or Alex. And the guards wouldn’t have been like that either, probably, if things hadn’t changed. But things did change, so they were full of themselves, and if you wanted some extra food, you acted like they were the greatest things on earth. And they loved talking about how powerful they were. Maybe because they weren’t really powerful, or maybe because they were a lot more powerful than they ever used to be. Anyway, we were all a little bit drunk, and they started bragging about how many people they’d killed. Then they started talking about the first time they’d killed someone. And one of the guys said the first time he’d killed people was when he’d been assigned to clear out a college, to make it a safe town. It was funny, he said, because it was Sexton College, and he’d applied there and been rejected, and there he was, shooting professors who were resisting. I said I hope he got the dean of admissions, and he laughed.”

“How can you remember the name?” I asked. “If you were drunk?”

“I wasn’t that drunk,” Syl said. “And I was still trying out different names, so I thought about Anne Sexton, only Anne is pretty dull and you can’t call yourself Sex. So I went with Sylvia Plath instead. I like her more anyway.”

I had no idea who she was talking about, but it didn’t matter. “Did the guard say where it was?” I asked. “Sexton College.”

Syl shook her head. “He’d said too much as it was,” she said. “The next day all the girls who’d been at the party were rounded up and told to leave the camp. Three of us stuck together for a while. But then one girl got sick and the other girl was her sister, I think, or her cousin, I don’t know. Anyway, they stayed behind and I kept going. That’s how it was. People came and went. The two months I’ve been with Matt is the longest I’ve been with anyone, since before.”

“Matt loves you,” I said.

“I know,” Syl said. “Isn’t it amazing.”

There was nothing I could say to that. I got up, thanked Syl, and left the room. And now I’m in my closet, writing all this down, trying to figure out how to find out where Sexton College is, and what to do if I can find out.

Writing And Rewriting B3

I spent much of the weekend working through a problem I had with This World We Live In. Have I mentioned this is a very tricky book to write?

Among the reasons why B3 is so tricky is because I have to be honest about what I've already written in Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone without revealing too much about either of those books. I've already discussed the Mami/Papi issue, but now I'm coping with the passes to the safe town that Alex has.

I can't pretend those passes don't exist. In fact, it's completely my fault Alex has them with him. I remember contacting my editor after the manuscript had been rewritten and saying we had to put in something about Alex taking the passes with him at the very end of d&g. That was because I had a completely different third book in mind, one where the passes were a major part of the plot.But in this B3, they aren't really a major part, or they haven't been until page 220 or so. Still, I can't leave them out, because if I do, someone who's read d&g will say, "Well, why doesn't Alex use his safe passes? I distinctly remember him taking them with him at the end of d&g."

So they have to be worked into the plot, without my saying how Alex got them (because there will be people who read B3 without having read d&g and will then go back to read d&g, and won't they be surprised to discover Alex has a whole other sister, because I don't mention Bri at all in B3).

Frankly, I needed an explanation why Alex wasn't using the passes, so I decided it's one thing to have passes to a safe town and quite another to know where a safe town is. Alex, Bri and Julie were going to take a bus to one, but they didn't know where the bus was going. And safe town locations, I figure, are kept pretty quiet, since they don't want riffraff like you and me showing up.

Thus the passes had to be mentioned, safe towns had to be explained, and locations had to be located. All of which I did at the end of last week, but unfortunately, I left myself with a minor plot issue, which I spent a merry weekend working out. Alas, one minor plot issue involved chucking about ten pages of manuscript and rewriting same today. Where once I was on page 235, now I'm on page 233. But the problem is solved and the book is tighter.

Something I've discovered from doing these while I go along rewrites is every third word in the manuscript is "just." When I eliminate all those justs, the book will probably be 123 pages long, and how the editor will love it.

While it's true I could write another scene today (and get the book back to 235 pages), I think I'll stop until tomorrow, when I absolutely swear I'll get a whole bunch more written. In the meantime, I'm going to move this entry over to thirdmoonbook, and put there the scene between Miranda and Syl where Miranda learns that Syl knows where a safe town is. There are two versions, the one from last week and the far better one I wrote today, so it'll be a nice compare and contrast for those who are interested.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Alex Asks Miranda A Question

“Can I ask you a question now?” he said.

“Absolutely,” I said. The last living teenage boy in America was asking me a question.

“The bruises on your face,” he said. “When we got here a week ago, they were pretty bad. I’ve been wondering how you got them.”

It’s nice to know the first thing he’d noticed about me was my ravishing collection of black and blue marks. “I fell off my bike,” I said. “Headfirst.”

Alex nodded. “Julie and I had a bet going,” he said.

“Who won?” I asked, trying to keep the irritation out of my voice.

“We both lost,” Alex said. “Her money was on you and Syl having a fight. Mine was on Matt slugging you one.”

“Matt’s never hit me,” I said. “I don’t know how you were brought up, but we’re not animals.”

“We were brought up fine,” Alex said.

“And you think brothers attack their sisters like that?” I cried.

“I think a lot of things happen you can’t imagine,” he said. “Of which brothers hitting their sisters is the least of it.”

“Not in my household,” I said, sounding exactly like Mom.

“Fine,” Alex said, sounding exactly like me.

Past Is Prologue in B3

Alex and Julie have shown up in B3, and I need to refer fairly regularly to d&g, to make sure I get my facts straight.Here's more proof- the poll on the right (and thank you everyone who has taken the time to vote).

I needed to know whether readers had doubts when reading d&g about the fate of Alex's parents and now, thanks to you, I know

.B3 has some very specific problems because it's a sequel to two different books. I'd been figuring on people who've read both books reading it, but what I hadn't thought about was people who've read LAWKI reading it and then going back to read d&g. I'd decided early on to limit references to LAWKI characters who weren't going to show up in B3. There's no mention of Megan or Sammi or Dan, but that's because it's Miranda's diary and she wouldn't feel the need to explain who those people were, and since there could be readers who wouldn't know, the characters were better left unmentioned.But Miranda doesn't know anything about Alex and Julie, so any information she learns about them would go smack in her diary.

Here's where I first realized I had a problem. I wrote a scene between Alex and Miranda, where Alex has opened up, at least a little, to her:But mostly I felt grateful to Alex, even though there was no way he could know how much his comment meant to me.So I tried to show him by letting him know I cared about him and Julie.

"What about your parents?" I asked. "What happened to them?"

He turned into a different person. No, that's not right. He turned back to the Alex I've known for the past week, not the Alex of the past few hours. "They're gone," he said, and his voice was as cold as a January night.

Nice, right? Except what about all the people who are going to go from LAWKI to B3 and then back to d&g? Talk about spoilers. If there's a chance any readers could read d&g in its entirety, not being sure what happened to Mami and Papi, then I'd be killing all that suspense for a little bit of dialogue.

So I read the poll results, and I threw the dialogue away. Now, Miranda remains grateful, but Alex asks her a question instead.

There's actually a chance most writers don't do rewrites based on poll results on their blogs. Silly them.

I'm currently dealing with the question of the passes into the safe town that Alex is given in d&g. Actually, answering that question (and cleaning my apartment) is pretty much the reason why I'm not doing any writing until Monday. I can justify Alex not using the pass to get Julie to a safe place, but once it becomes public (i.e. Miranda's family learns about it), I have to know which characters might end up going there, and when. Alex has three passes, and the only thing (I think) I wrote about them is that dependents have to be under the age of 18. But originally, Mr. Flynn (who gave Alex the passes) was going to use them for his wife and two kids, which means the passes can be used by adults. And what I just this second realized is Mr. Flynn's daughter is in college, so she's probably over 18. What I must have meant was that dependents getting onto the bus convoy had to be under 18 (I can't believe that with all the people who edited and copy edited d&g, no one picked up on that).

Back to B3. Assuming one pass is used by Julie, could the other two passes be used by Dad and Lisa? Or would Gabriel the baby (previously known as Baby Rachel) be counted as a person, in which case the passes could only be used by Julie, Lisa, and Gabriel. Would Lisa agree to go if it means being separated from Dad? And now that I've remembered about Mr. Flynn's daughter, I have to decide if Alex would use one of the passes for himself.

You know something. I don't have the answers to those questions yet. To be multilingual about it, le oy.

By Monday morning though, I'm sure I'll know, and nobody is going to know about those passes except Alex and Julie and me, until the very end of next week, or maybe the week thereafter. And I enjoy solving these kinds of problems.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Plot Developments

I may not have done a lot of writing this past week, but I have done a fair amount of thinking and I've come up with some new ideas for the second half of the book.

For starters, when Dad, Miranda, Alex and Julie get to the convent, they discover it's no longer there (this is a huge change, since it keeps Alex and Julie in the book until either the very end or very close to it). Having nowhere else to go, Alex and Julie return with Miranda and Dad, and resume living at Mrs. Nesbitt's. There's a lot of pressure on Alex anyway for Julie to stay with Dad and Lisa, and this only adds to his confusion about what to do with her. This could make the scene where Jon talks about the safe town even more powerful, since now it makes sense that that that remains an option for Alex in terms of Julie's future. Does he leave her with strangers where he knows she will be safe, or does he leave her with people she's come to love, but no guarantees about the future. All of which is news to everybody except Julie.

After the tornado, everyone moves back to the LAWKI house, but there's no electricity. That means the electric space heaters no longer work, and the families sleep in shifts in the sunroom (and since Alex and Julie are still there, that's 10 people plus the baby). The washer and drier no longer work and (I just realized this), all the food at Mrs. Nesbitt's has been lost.

I'm not sure what day of the week the tornado is going to hit, but most likely Monday, after they've gotten their food for the week, or Tuesday.

I think just to make the characters suffer more, following the tornado there's going to be a horrible cold spell, temperatures below zero at night. Pipes may freeze. There's the realization that what they hear on the radio is what has already happened; there's no ability anymore to warn people about what's to come (like 10 day weather forecasts). Possibly there's ice on the roof, and that leads to Charlie falling off it.

Alex and Miranda go to town on Monday to get their food (so maybe the tornado is more like Wednesday/Thursday), and find City Hall is gone. Much of the town has been wiped out by the tornado. They also discover how hard it is to navigate the road, because of tree limbs and detritus. That's got to happen before Charlie falls off the roof, so maybe the tornado is Thursday/Friday.

It's got to work something like this- tornado/cold spell/no food in City Hall but no certainty that they can travel/Charlie falls off the roof. Leaving has to be just as desperate a choice as staying.

Mom says she isn't going to go; she'll tough it out. Miranda, who has walked the four miles to town and who has fears of her own, says she'll stay home with Mom. Either Mom or Matt say Miranda must leave. They're all aware, although none of them are saying it, that no matter how risky leaving might be, staying home is suicide.

Then Syl says she and Matt will stay with Mom, and Matt agrees. That night, Miranda thinks this is the last she'll ever see her mother and her older brother (and Syl too for that matter).

So Miranda's last diary entry has to be her first night on the road, since when they leave, Mom, Matt and Syl do go with them. It's nine of them now (unless Alex has already left before the tornado, which remains a possibility), and they can't have gotten very far, given the condition of the road. Oy. This book is going to end even more uncertainly than LAWKI/d&g. I love it, but I'm not sure how readers will feel.

A Couple Of Mid-January Updates

I am enjoying writing B3 though, and I'm looking forward, maybe even tomorrow, to having Alex and Julie from the dead and the gone show up. In my head this morning, I rewrote a scene so that Miranda and Alex do something together, rather than Miranda and Julie. I need to give Alex more facetime.

I've been writing scenes where Miranda goes what I now call house hunting, searching deserted houses for things like toilet paper. Sometime around yesterday I realized that while Miranda, Matt, and Jon were leaving the house, Mom never seemed to join them.So I had a wonderful idea. I decided that Mom has become agoraphobic. And this afternoon, I wrote a scene where it would make perfect sense for Mom to leave the house, but she chooses not to.

This is what I love best about the writing process. Having an usable insight that takes me by surprise, and leads the plot in slightly different directions.Today, after working, I got on the treadmill and tried to remember the last time Mom went out in Life As We Knew It. First I thought it was before she twisted her ankle the second time. Then I remembered she shoveled snow from the garage door in early December. And then I remembered she went Christmas caroling.But B3 starts April 25 (I know, because I just checked the manuscript), and since I don't recall Mom leaving the house after Christmas, that would be four months of growing agoraphobia.

I don't know who's going to confront Mom about it. I'm assuming not Miranda, because I think it's the kind of thing you don't notice if you're living in the situation. So maybe Matt's bride Syl, or maybe Dad. And I don't know how long I'll play it out, whether it will be a factor at the very end of the book, when I plan for the family to leave on the long (over 300 miles- I google mapped it) journey to Pittsburgh. But I can hear Mom saying that she's afraid if she leaves the house, her entire world will collapse. Except by book's end, her entire world will have collapsed (something Miranda may point out), and Mom, terrified but courageous, will take those first steps outside.

Also on the treadmill today, I decided Miranda is going to bike into a pothole and fall down hard. Nothing like major bruising to make the end of the world even more unpleasant.

No wonder Mom is staying in these days!


For those of you keeping score, I'm on page 132. I'm not going to hit my fantasy number of 150 this week, since tomorrow the skating starts in the morning and then never ends, but I do know which two scenes come next, and they're both really good ones, at least in my mind. I'm not quite sure what happens after that, but I'm assuming by the time I'm ready to write it, I'll figure it out.

It absolutely does not count as a spoiler (I have spoken) to say there's a character named Charlie in B3. I needed a last name for him, and I considered naming him Charlie Davis since that's the name of the John Garfield character in Body And Soul. But then I decided I didn't want to picture John Garfield every time I wrote about Charlie, so I searched for other names that worked with Charles/Charlie.

Names for characters are so important to me, and I regret not using more ethnic ones, but once you name a character O'Hara or Budanov, readers will make associations with them which may or may not be what you want to convey. And there are spelling issues to contend with. The same New York Times article which mentions Budanov also refers to Isa Khadzhimuradov.Isa I could spell.

I ended up giving Charlie the last name of Rutherford, in honor, I thought, of Rutherford B. Hayes (I don't like Charles Hayes, because of the Z/Z sound, and besides, Charlie Hayes used to play for the New York Yankees and caught the final out in the 1996 World Series). Then I realized my Rutherford association is Lumpy Rutherford from Leave It To Beaver.

You know, Wally Cleaver seemed like a socially apt kid. It's remarkable his two best friends were Lumpy Rutherford and Eddie Haskell. Now there's something I didn't worry about in my peak Live It To Beaver years.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Don't Tell Miranda About This Blog!

May 17

I wish Syl hadn’t said anything about my diary. I can’t blame Matt for telling her about it, but I really wish he hadn’t.

I’m writing this entry in the kitchen, using one of the flashlight pens Jon found for me. Mom’s asleep in the sunroom, not that it ever mattered before. I’ve written in my diary with her in the room for months now, her and Matt and Jon. But even though I know Syl’s upstairs in Matt’s room, probably asleep also, I still feel like everybody’s looking over my shoulder.

Last summer, Dad and Lisa were here, on their way out west. With six of us in the house, I felt more private than I do right now, with just three of us here.

Not that I have anything to write, except to say these diaries are mine, for my eyes only.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mom And Miranda's Fight Scene (And What Ensues)

May 11

I told Mom I was going to bike up and down Howell’s Bridge Road, stopping at the houses to look for space heaters. If I found any, I’d figure out some way of dragging them home.

“You can’t go by yourself,” Mom said. “It’s too dangerous.”

Sometimes I’m so stupid I amaze even myself. “I went all through Shirley Court by myself,” I said.

“When did you do that?” Mom asked.

Then I won the Olympic Gold Medal in stupid. “On Saturday,” I said. “That’s where I found all my stuff.”

“I thought you all went looking together,” Mom said.

“We started out together,” I said. “But we split up right away.”

“You mean you lied to me?” Mom asked.

Somehow I knew that “you” was directed right at me. Matt didn’t lie. Jon didn’t lie. Only Miranda lied.

“We didn’t exactly lie,” I said. “Besides, it was Matt’s idea.”

“I don’t care whose idea it was,” Mom yelled. “It was unsafe and you knew it and that’s why you lied to me.”

“I don’t believe this,” I said. “Matt and Jon can go anywhere they want. We don’t even know if we’ll ever see them again, and you’re mad at me for going to Shirley Court because I didn’t ask permission?”

It’s been months since Mom and I had a real screaming battle, and I guess we were overdue. She screamed, “Insensitive! Uncaring!” and I screamed, “Overbearing! Playing favorites!”

Right after I screamed, “I never want to see you again!” I ran out, got my bike, and began pedaling as fast as I could. I didn’t care where I ended up or even that I’d been too angry to put on my coat and it was too cold to be outside without one. I just wanted to escape, the way Matt and Jon had.

I started by going down Howell’s Bridge Road, because downhill was natural and faster, but I knew I didn’t want to end up in town. So about two miles down, I turned onto Bainbridge Avenue, and then I turned again and again and again. The only thing I watched out for were streets I knew, because every street I knew had a memory, and I didn’t dare face my memories.
I must have biked for an hour before I acknowledged I had no idea where I was and very little sense of how to get back home.

I was out in the country by then, not that it mattered, since there’s no one else alive anymore, so I couldn’t just knock on someone’s door and use their phone to Mom and tell her to figure out where I was and come get me, even if there were any houses with doors to knock on.

I thought, Of all the stupid things I’ve ever done, this is the stupidest, because I could die out here, ten miles from home, and no one will ever know what became of me.

That was when I totally lost it. It’s been hard to cry in the sunroom, the past few months, because we’re all in there all the time, and tears are better if you shed them alone. But I’ve never been as alone as I was, sweating and shivering and hungry. First one tear trickled down, and then another, and then I sobbed six months worth of sorrow and anger and loss.

I think I could have kept crying forever, except I didn’t have any tissues on me, and the only thing I had to blow my nose into was my sweatshirt. Which made me sweating and shivering and hungry and really disgusting. The thought of which made me start laughing, so for a while I was laughing and crying, and then I just laughed, and then I just shook. After a few minutes of that, I thought I’d be okay, but before I knew it I was sobbing again.

I told myself Mom wasn’t shedding any tears over me, but I knew she was. It was like that scene in The Wizard Of Oz, where Dorothy looks in the crystal ball and sees Auntie Em crying out for her. I knew Mom was crying. She was crying because she’s worried sick about Matt and Jon and now she was worried about me. Only that made me cry even harder, because I was worried about Matt and Jon too, and I was a lot more worried about me than Mom was. Mom thought I was just breaking into houses on Howell’s Bridge Road, like a sane disobedient daughter. I knew I was crazy and lost and cold and scared.

I knew I couldn’t stay there forever, so once I’d stopped shaking from the hysteria and resumed shaking from the cold, I got back on my bike and let my legs direct me. I favored right turns and downhill, but for the longest time I was in countryside, with just a handful of unoccupied farms around me.

Then, because right turns weren’t doing much for me, I made a left. I biked maybe a half a mile down the road and in the distance I could see a mound of some sort.

At least it was something to look at. I biked towards it, and since I was still favoring downhill, it was below me enough so that I could look down on it.

Once I was close enough that the dust in the air didn’t block my view I could tell. It was a hill of bodies.

I got off my bike in time to throw up. Part of me said to get back on and ride in the opposite direction, but I kept looking anyway.

The pile was about six bodies high, and it was kind of pyramid shaped, a lot more bodies on the bottom than the top. It wasn’t a neatly formed mound though, and there was more snow on some places than others, so it looked kind of lumpy. The cold had preserved things though, and I could see hands and feet towards the bottom of the pile, and heads with hair higher up.

People have been dying around here since the summer, but until the ground froze, they’d been buried. At least that’s what we’d been told. There were cremations too, although maybe they were just funeral pyres. You don’t ask about things like that. Not unless you absolutely have to.

But the colder the weather got, the more people who died. Starvation, sickness, suicide. And no place to put the bodies.

I thought, what if Mrs. Nesbitt is in the pile? I’ve known so many people who have died, but she was the only one I thought of then. Just that Mrs. Nesbitt could be in a pile of unidentified bodies in a field somewhere near town and if Mom ever found out, it would kill her.

I told myself not to look, but of course I did. It was hard to make out faces, between the snow and the distance, since the top of the pile was taller than me. And I didn’t see Mrs. Nesbitt, who most likely was cremated, which was what she had wanted. But I did see Mrs. Sanchez, my high school principal, and Michelle Webster, who I’d known since fifth grade, and I thought I recognized Henry, who Matt worked with at the post office. But I didn’t know Henry all that well, and it could have been some other guy, his age and bald.

I thought I should say a prayer over these people, show them respect for the lives they led, the people they were. I don’t know a lot of prayers, and the only phrase that came right to me was Deliver us from evil, which didn’t seem appropriate. So I just said, “I’m sorry,” out loud, and then I said, “I’m sorry,” again.

It could have been us. It should have been us. We have no more right to be alive on May 11 than any of them. Why should I be alive and Michelle Webster dead? She did better in school than me. She had more friends. Yet there I was standing by her dead body.

Deliver us from evil. Deliver us to evil is more like it.

I got back on my bike, turned around, and rode for the longest time before I saw a sign for the hospital. I followed the arrows and eventually made my way back to town, back to Howell’s Bridge Road, back to my home, back to the sunroom.

Mom had to open the door for me. I thought she’d be loving and comforting when I got in, but she wasn’t.

“You came back,” she said. “I wasn’t sure you would.”

“I had no where else to go,” I said, walking towards the fire, desperately needing its warmth to heal me.

“The others,” she said. “Will they be coming back?”

“How can they?” I asked. “They’re dead. Everybody’s dead.”

Mom turned white and for a moment I thought she was going to collapse. “Matt and Jon are dead?” she screamed.

“No!” I cried. “Not Matt and Jon!” I pictured them on the mound, all of us on the mound, and I made a sound I can’t even describe. It came from deep within me, the place where I hide all my rage and grief, a sound no one should ever have to hear.

“Miranda,” Mom said, and she grabbed me and was shaking me. “Miranda, how did you hear about them? Did someone tell you about them?”

“I saw them,” I cried. “Oh Mom, it was so horrible. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Where?” she said. “Can you take me to them? Now, we have to go now.”

“I don’t think I can,” I said. “I was lost and I found them. But you don’t have to go there, Mom. I’m sure Mrs. Nesbitt wasn’t there.”

“Mrs. Nesbitt?” Mom said. “Why would she be at the river?”

“I didn’t go to the river,” I said. “Is that where Matt and Jon…” I couldn’t even finish the sentence.

Mom took a deep breath. “Matt and Jon,” she said. “Are they coming back?”

“How can they come back?” I asked. “You just said they…” I still couldn’t say it.

“I didn’t,” Mom said. “I thought you did.”

“Did what?” I asked. “Said what? I came in here, and you said Matt and Jon weren’t coming back, and I assumed. You mean they’re all right?”

“Tell me,” Mom said. “Slowly and carefully, everything you know about Matt and Jon.”

“They left on Tuesday,” I said. “To the Delaware River to catch shad. They were supposed to come back on Saturday. That’s all I know. What do you know?”

“Exactly the same thing,” Mom said. “Oh, Miranda. You gave me the scare of my life.”

I stared at her and we both burst out laughing. It’s funny. Horton slept through all the hysterics, but as soon as he heard us laughing (and I have to admit, our laughter was pretty hysterical also), he got up and walked out of the room. Which made us laugh even more.

“What about Mrs. Nesbitt?” Mom asked. “What were you talking about, Miranda?”

I thought about Mom, how terrified she must have been that she might never see any of us again. I thought about all the people she’s lost this past year.

“Nothing,” I said. “I saw a field with unmarked graves. I was biking all over the place, so I don’t know where it is. But I figured Mrs. Nesbitt probably wasn’t there. I hope not anyway.”

Mom nodded. “There must be graves like that all over,” she said. “All over the world. Come on, Miranda. Change into something warmer, and I’ll make you some soup.”

I did as she said. I even ate the soup. But I saw what I saw, and I know, with a cold cruel certainty, that someday, somewhere, we’ll be part of a mountain of bodies, reaching up towards the heavens.