Daily Archives: April 6, 2010

No, I Don’t Have One

E-mail from a reader on a couple of topics, one of them which was the iPad, his comment about which I will now excerpt (with permission):

I’m a little surprised you don’t have the iPad already. It seems like something you would want to have.

It’s not that surprising, actually. As I noted in January, I like the general idea of the thing but I’m not entirely sure I’m on board with the implementation, so I’m not in a fevered rush to be the first kid on the block to have one. Beyond that, I just dropped a publicly undisclosed but emphatically non-trivial amount of money on home and office upgrades and renovations, and this month we shell out an additional undisclosed but emphatically non-trivial amount on taxes, including this quarter’s estimated taxes for this year. I’ll be happy not to spend any money I don’t have to for a while, thank you very much. The iPad is shiny and pretty and all, and I’m as susceptible as any geek to Apple’s Reality Distortion Field when it comes to the mechanics of desiring the thing, but the only way I’ll be getting one any time soon is if someone else buys it for me. Not that I’m hinting (the 32GB wireless version should work just fine for me. With the keyboard dock. Thanks).

More seriously, I’m also interested in seeing how some of the upcoming tablets stack up, particularly this one, which looks like it’s doing that thing everyone else does when it comes to Apple, which is offer better specs and capability for a generally lower price. Of course, what Apple generally offers — and where everyone else kind of faceplants — is an easy-to-use interface in a pretty, pretty package. And you know humans. They pick pretty over brains pretty much every time. Especially low maintenance pretty.

I mean, hey, I’m guilty too — I have an iPod Touch, which I really do love, and I don’t really give a crap that it doesn’t multitask. I doubt that lack of concern will scale up to iPad size, but I’m also willing to believe I’m in the minority for most people. I’m also willing to believe that if someone else doesn’t do a tablet as well as Apple does with the iPad, when I finally decide to get a tablet, I may be willing to overlook it, too. I think that’s fair enough warning to everyone else coming into the segment.

But for now: Yeah, still not in the market just yet.

Yes, This

Conservative senator tells constituents to read widely and not just rely on media with their own biases:

[Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom] Coburn urged audience members to widen their points of view by reading and watching different media outlets, not just the ones they agree with.

“Don’t just watch Fox News or CNN, watch them both,” Coburn said. He said he read both The Washington Post and The New York Times — plus The Wall Street Journal — and urged his audience to do likewise. “Listen to the other side, because what it does, it makes you a better person.”

Good for you, Tom Coburn.

State of Me

First: A nice spring picture, featuring Kodi:

Second: A status report on the events in my house:

I’m delighted to say that with one major exception, the house renovations are done: All of the house has new carpets and flooring. This was necessary because prior to this all the carpet in the house was the same carpet as was here when the house was built fifteen years ago. It was time, basically. The new carpets and floorings are just lovely and I’m sure I’ll post photographs at some point, but for the moment, hey, take my word for it, it’s lovely.

The one exception to everything being done is of course my office. It’s been repainted and refloored, but I hired a local cabinetmaker to do a custom desk and shelves, and they’re not installed yet. For me the critical thing there is the desk, since once that’s in I can bring my desktop back in and get back to work in there; I have the temporary set-up but I notice what I actually end up doing is wandering about the house with the laptop. Yes, very much like the Israelites in the desert. Although hopefully it won’t take 40 years to get a desk. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be here later in the week.

Beyond that, spring is here and it is lovely, which means I need to stock up on Claritin sometime soon. If that’s the price one pays for not having three feet of snow on the ground, I’m only too happy to pay.

And how are you?

The Big Idea: Susan Beth Pfeffer

Say you’re an author and you want your publishers to do something they have no intention of doing. How do you get them to do it — and think it was their bright idea to begin with? Susan Beth Pfeffer explains how, using her latest novel, This World We Live in. Take notes, folks. But a warning: Watching a bad movie may be required.

SUSAN BETH PFEFFER

Like so many other big ideas, my young adult apocalyptic novel, This World We Live In, is the direct result of a bad movie.

In my case, the movie was Meteor, starring Sean Connery and Natalie Wood, and generously granted 1 ½ stars by Leonard Maltin. If I’d known Maltin gave it a kiss of death under 2 star rating, I might not have watched it one Saturday afternoon.

But there it was on some Cinemax or another. I could have said, “What a piece of crap,” turned off the TV and gone on with my life. And perhaps I would have, if I’d had a life at that particular moment. But I didn’t. My career had hit one of its periodic ruts, which I preferred to think of as early (and voluntary) retirement. I was living off the money I’d made from the sale of my house. No work. No life. Nothing better to do than watch Sean and Natalie, two fabulously attractive astronomers, destroy that no good meteor and save the world.

The movie ended. I turned the TV off, and promptly asked myself, “What would it be like to be a teenager living through a world wide catastrophe?”  The next thing I knew, my brain had unretired itself. I spent weeks thinking of nothing other than disasters and teenagers and families and how to turn all that into a young adult novel. When I was satisfied I knew my disaster, my characters, my story,  I began writing Life As We Knew It. A few months later, I’d finished the first draft, and a year or so after that, Harcourt published it, and I had a life again.

I loved writing Life As We Knew It. Even as I was writing it, I knew there had to be a sequel. If I wanted to know what happened next to Miranda, trapped with her family in a world where a change in the moon’s orbit has caused tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, famine and epidemics, then the book’s readers would want to know also.

After Harcourt purchased the book, I pointed this out. “I want to write a sequel,” I said. “Everyone is going to want one.”

“Harcourt hates sequels,” Harcourt responded.  “Harcourt will never publish a sequel.”

That’s when I had my second big idea. If Harcourt didn’t want a sequel, but I loved killing off all humanity so much, I’d write about the exact same disaster and but with a whole new set of characters. Eventually, Harcourt would want both sets of characters to meet, and I’d get to write my sequel.

I promptly proposed the idea to Harcourt, leaving out the part about the characters meeting in a third book. A new book, I said. Same disaster, new characters.

“A companion novel,” Harcourt declared. “We like companion novels. It’s only sequels we hate.”

So I spent another few weeks coming up with a whole new set of characters trapped in a world of tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and famines and epidemics. Instead of a teenage girl in small town Pennsylvania, The Dead And The Gone was about Alex, a teenage boy in New York City.

Once again, I had a great time writing. Once again, Harcourt published it. Once again, I dreamed of a sequel, only now it was for two books.

“We’re glad you had fun,” Harcourt said. “But don’t think we’ll ever let you write a sequel. We hate sequels, you know.”

“I know,” I said.  “No sequels. Never any sequels. Never.”

But I sure did love ending the world. So I tried to come up with a non-sequel sequel. I set books five years later, forty years later, one day later. I became a little apocalyptic engine, churning out idea after idea after idea. All of them big. All of them disdained by Harcourt.

“No, no, no,” Harcourt said. “We hate sequels. But we hate all these ideas even more.”

Then Life As We Knew It came out in paperback and nuzzled its way onto a New York Times Best Seller List. The Dead And The Gone sold nicely also.

“What we want,” said Harcourt, “is a sequel. Readers want to know what happens to Miranda and Alex. Why are you even trying to write something different, when it’s obvious what’s needed is a sequel where the characters meet.”

So I spent another few months writing This World We Live In, a sequel to both Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone. At first, I thought of all three books as a trilogy. But then I realized that trilogies tend to be consecutive, first Book A happens, then Book B and finally Book C.

Since Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone take place at the same time, This World We Live In isn’t so much the third book in a trilogy as the third side of a triangle. It’s a shared sequel. You can read either of the first two books and then read This World We Live In and go back and read the book you hadn’t read before, or you can read both of the first two books and then read This World We Live In or you can read This World We Live In first and go back and read either or both of the other two books. I’ll never know.

But only after you’ve read one, two, or all three of the books, can you watch Meteor. I don’t want you getting any big ideas on your own!

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This World We Live In: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the This World We Live In Web site.