Sunday, February 28, 2010
Jody Sparks is running a really fun Sunday feature on the blog called Self-Deprecating Sunday. Nobody but nobody can beat Josh Berk's post a few weeks ago, but I gave her a photo of me back in 1984 for today's post. Black hair, striped shirt, no boobs. Ah, teenagehood.
On this date: In 1983 the final episode of M*A*S*H aired.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Her little jacket comes off and in her pocket is a teeny tiny Teddy B! The teddy makes sense if you've read DLS, but trust me this is one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. Thanks Chelsea!!!!
Another cool thing is that my publisher made a Facebook Fan Page for DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS. This is where we'll be posting reviews and information about the book - head over and become a fan if you so desire.
Over on Georgia McBride's blog, she's running a contest to win a signed book and a bit of swag. As a writer and host of the YA Lit Chat on Twitter, she's a great person to check out on a regular basis. It runs through March 4th so you have a few days to get over there and enter.
On this date: In 1980, "I Will Survive" wins the first and last Grammy for Best Disco Recording.
Friday, February 26, 2010
The past couple of days, I've gotten a few emails and tweets from people seeing DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS on the shelves in their local bookstores. They've sent them with a touch of embarrassment, wondering if it was old hat already. Um NO. I LOVE hearing about books in the wild. Photos sent to me give you extra super-duper karma points. Sometimes I don't believe that Lucy is really out there, so it is lovely to have proof that this is all not just a figment of my imagination.
Some readers have called for a sequel to DLS. Sorry to say, but no. As far as I'm concerned, this particular part of Lucy's life is over and it's time for her to move on without me looking over her shoulder. If you read between the lines toward the end, you will see a glimpse into what happens after the back cover closes. Not every book needs a part two, although I adore the fact that readers connect with her so strongly that they want to know more.
With all of the excitement surrounding DLS the past few weeks, some of you who have been hanging around here for awhile may be thinking that I've totally forgotten about my still-untitled WIP. But you would be wrong. Current word count is 60,012 (honestly, I finished yesterday at 59,949 so I tossed a couple of words in there to make it an even sixty) and I'm really loving the new book. The romance is SO much fun, although I go around just a little bit angsty all the time. Unfortunately, I'm about to shatter my main character's world (at least for a while) which has me feeling a little badly. I figure another few weeks and I should have a pretty solid first draft that I'll send to my reading partners and then on to my agent who will send me a ginormous revision letter because that's the way she rolls.
BTW - for those of you on the other side of the ocean, I don't think that DLS is on your local bookshelves (unless someone is selling a used copy) but it IS available on Amazon.com/uk. For just 8 pounds and some change, you can have your very own hardcover. Someday, I might even get over there to sign it for you! Or, send me an email and I'll send you out a signed bookplate.
WIP (still sadly untitled):
Current Word Count: 60,012
Line of the Day: I could feel Griffon's eyes on me as I pulled my hair over my shoulder, which made an innocent gesture feel suddenly intimate.
On this date: In 1928, Fats Domino was born.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I've come to the conclusion that you can equate pretty much anything with high school. My first cool job out of college was at a local weekly newspaper. I forget who started it, but someone divided up the different departments into high school cliques and it was disturbingly accurate. Editorial was the yearbook committee, classifieds was the drama club, accounting were the band geeks, advertising were the cheerleaders/football players and the production department was the smoking section. The bike messengers were the guys who dropped out junior year to start their own indie band.
After being on Twitter for a few weeks, there is a similar argument to be made. Being new on Twitter is a lot like being the new kid at a big, giant high school. You don't know anyone and you have an inkling about where you fit in, although you hope you're wrong. A few people friend you, but you wonder if they are the "right" friends. Do they know enough people? Are they going to label you forever if you end up following them? Are they going to friend you, but then end up ignoring you in favor of their more popular, cooler friends? After a while, you get on a few lists and start obsessing over your numbers. You only have 100 followers but someone you know has 1,000. Obviously, they are more popular than you are.
And then, there are the RTs. Nothing makes you feel like a band geek quite like never getting RT'd. You sit around, thinking up pithy, 140 character quotes and they disappear into a black hole. Nobody else on your list thinks that you are interesting enough to eat lunch with. You see the cheerleaders/football players, having endless @ conversations with each other as you look on, wondering if they are going to notice that you exist. When you do get @ed by the quarterback or the head cheerleader, you might as well call it a day because it just ain't going to get any better than that.
#FF is a lot like valentines day. Not getting #FFd ever is like Charlie Brown's empty mailbox. No love from the little red-haired girl. Hashtags and chats are a bad keg party. You have no idea what's going on, so you just drink your warm beer and nod your head hoping that nobody figures out you're clueless.
Don't get me wrong - I love Twitter. It's been great getting to "know" people that I would never have the chance to meet in person. But as someone who started in accounting and ended up in production, I'm always a little cautious.
On this date: In 1993, Eric Clapton wins the Grammy for Unplugged.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
There has been a bit of an uproar on the blogs the past few days about the fact that Common Sense Media is partnering with Barnes and Noble to give book age ratings and information. I see what they're trying to do - they're trying to be your local, indie bookseller.
Back in the olden days (and in a few lucky places still today), you could walk into your corner bookstore, tell the person behind the counter about your child - their likes and dislikes as well as their maturity level and ask them what they have that might be good. I guarantee you that your bookseller would come up with a fabulous book you'd never heard of every time. All Internet booksellers are trying to come up with better ways to replace your local bookseller - the "people who looked at this book also bought" recommendations from Amazon. The age ratings on CSM. Trouble is, it doesn't work one-way.
I have two boys and while I like to know what they're reading and watching, I try not to censor them. When we finally succumbed to the evil that is XBox, I put my foot down against any games rated M for Mature. They are not mature. They are pre-teens. I'll admit to going to game sites and reading up on the content of games that I don't want to play, and maybe don't want them to play either.
At the same time, I've sat with them to watch episodes of "Sixteen and Pregnant" on MTV and "My Life as Liz" and these have been the most productive times in terms of discussion and opinion-sharing. I'm conflicted. I checked on a few of the ratings - they say that Looking for Alaska doesn't have any graphic sex but have huge red flags about the drugs and drinking - hello? Twilight was recommended for age 13 and up, which seems about right to me on the whole. I go crazy when I hear about second graders reading that book because they're "good readers". It was not written as a picture book for a reason. Yeah, I know, but we're not going to get into that here. The problem with age ratings is that kids aren't "on the whole". What might be right for one 13 year old, is all wrong for another. I guess if you're using it as another tool to talk with your kids, I get it.
Common Sense Media haven't reviewed DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, so I don't have a dog in this fight. I can only imagine what they would say. I would hate to have my book witheld from a kid who really needed to read it because they were "too young" by their standards.
I don't censor my kid's reading. If he's interested enough to read it, fine by me. I hope that he'll talk to me about anything he found troubling or that he didn't understand. He's 12, so that's a crapshoot.
For a great in-depth blogpost on this subject, check out SassyMonkey. She did a much better job than I did here. All I'm saying is that if you are lucky enough to have an independent bookseller near you, ignore all media recommendations, head on over and ask them. Out of everybody in the biz, passionate indie booksellers know more than everyone else put together. You'll get great recommendations for your particular kid and walk out with books they'll probably love.
On this date: In 1978, Fleetwood Mac won the Grammy for Rumors.
Monday, February 22, 2010
This weekend was my third time at the fabulous Asilomar Writer's Conference. I love spending several intense days among all of the people who are passionate about creating amazing books for kids and teens. Here (in no particular order) are the things that come to the top when I think about what I learned:
* That Greg Pincus is the hardest-working social media guru around and that Gary Schmidt doesn't have an agent or website and types everything out on a typewriter.
* That conference organizers wouldn't set up a cage fight between the two.
* When a speaker is onstage, they will have you believing completely in their point of view. And that if you see Gary Schmidt speak, have a pocket full of Kleenex.
* If you get to see Yuyi Morales in person, buy a book and get her to sign it because she will draw you a beautiful original picture in the front flap with silver ink.
* That not only is Sarah Davies an awesome agent, but her British accent makes even bad news sound classy.
* Ellen Klages is cool.
* If you see a writer reaching for the bourbon at the "room party", that's the person you should go and talk to.
* People make fun of you if you bring a wine "cube" to the room party. Drink it anyway.
* No amount of coffee can make up for two consecutive nights of four hours sleep.
* That there is always someone in the audience who thinks that agents are evil and unnecessary. The agents on the panel are always gracious, even though that person is wrong. Unless they are Gary Schmidt.
* Unlike writers of the past, many conference attendees (and a few presenters) will get up early and go running on the beach in the rain. You must try not to resent their athletic efforts.
* The seminar that you think will be the most boring with the least to offer will usually end up being your favorite.
* There are very few degrees of separation in the world. You might find out over lunch that editor Tracy Gates went to college with your conference roomate. Always watch what you say.
* You will be sad as you drive away, but stopping at the outlet mall on the way home will make you feel better.
* There are only 362 more days until next year's conference. Yay!
On this date: In 1980, the US Hockey Team's miracle on ice.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
At the fabulously wonderful Asilomar Writer's Conference. Saw Yuyi Morales speak last night (totally amazingly charming) and today we get Sarah Davies, Greg Pincus and Gary Schmidt. What a way to spend a blustery Saturday.
I know I've been tooting my own horn lately, but then again, I figure if I don't, who will? When I got this email from my editor yesterday, the subject line read simply: DLS in Kirkus. For those of you unfamiliar with Kirkus, they are known for brashly honest reviews and having Kirkus review your book can be a pulse-quickening experience. I think I lost a few pounds when I saw the subject line. But happily, Kirkus liked Dirty Little Secrets and I couldn't be more thrilled. I think I'm allowed to publish the whole thing here (and if I'm not, they'll tell me):
“An emotionally charged novel dealing with the issue of compulsive hoarding tells the story of a girl forced to make an agonizing decision in this nicely realized page-turner. Sixteen-year-old Lucy has been painfully isolated from her peers for years, refusing to let anyone near her house lest they discover the towers of garbage and heaps of mold-encrusted dishes. Outwardly highly functional, her mother maintains the dysfunction in their home with an obsessive grip. When Lucy returns from a friend’s house one morning and discovers her mother dead of an asthma attack, she is poised to call 911 but quickly realizes this will expose the secret that her mother (and Lucy herself) worked so hard to protect. A growing public awareness of this disorder will produce many curious readers, and they will not be disappointed—Lucy is sympathetic and real, her brother and sister equally believable. Her mother is a multidimensional, complicated character. Quick chapters throttle toward an unexpected and morally ambiguous ending that some may feel leaves too many questions unanswered. Nonetheless, readers will be rapt.”—Kirkus Reviews
I even love the "morally ambiguous" part, because honestly, it's true. But that's what makes for good discussion, right?
I'm still seeing lots of great reviews and I thank everyone who takes the time to tell others how they feel. As controversial as the ending is, I'd love to ask everyone not to reveal any "spoilers" if they can help it. For me, the crux of the story is the question of what Lucy is going to do about her situation, and I'd hate for a reader to know that going in. If you feel that you absolutely must talk about the ending in public, I'd really appreciate it if you would put a big "spoiler alert" tag in the review. Thanks!
On this date: In 1985, Ireland legalizes contraceptive sales.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I'm a little afraid to post this list of recent reviews of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS because I know I'm going to leave out one of the fabulous reviews that we've gotten over the past few weeks. I do see them all (can you say Google Alerts?) and I really appreciate every single one.
These are some of the people with wonderful things to say about my little book:
Julie the Ninja Woman said it was a page-turner.
Ravenous Reader said that the story wouldn't let her go.
The Late Bloomers said "wow, just wow".
A Good Addiction called DLS "outstandingly well done".
The BookScout gave the book a 10/10.
Reading Rocks gave DLS an A+.
Books at Midnight gave DLS .25 extra points for creativity.
Zoe took issue with Lucy's choices.
YA Book Central calls it a must read.
Sarah's Random Musings thinks DLS is like nothing she's ever read before.
I can't tell you how grateful I am that people give space on their blogs to Lucy - thanks guys!
On this date: In 1979, Prairie Home Companion premiered.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
In case anyone is wondering about my own secrets (or not so secrets), here are some links to a few of the interviews I've done around the blogoverse in the past few weeks:
April Nichol's Blog where I talk about eating elephants.
A Good Addiction where I pair Lucy with Katniss from the Hunger Games.
Book Girls in which I discuss knocking Prince over at a nightclub in LA.
Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf discussing teddy bears and hoarding.
Cheryl Herbsman's blog where I talk about fog.
Barnes and Noble's Unabashedly Bookish blog by Melissa Walker which is about covers.
Author Amy Brecount White's blog where I reveal my favorite flower.
Zoe at Books Are Golden interviewed me as well as Josh and Kaylie.
Saundra Mitchell asks me 9 quick questions on her blog.
And yesterday's interview on YA Highway where I talk about hoarding and the benefits of invisibility.
There have been some AMAZING and thoughtful reviews of DLS the past week or so. I'll post links to those in tomorrows post.
On this date: In 1923, King Tut's tomb was opened.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
The very first question that my friends and family ask is usually the most painful: "So, how's the book doing?" Sounds innocent enough, eh? Yeah. It's also the one question guaranteed to send the author into an emotional frenzy where we lay in bed staring at the little red numbers on the digital clock as they change from one number to another. All. Night. Long.
The honest answer is that we don't have any freaking idea. Okay, that's a little bit of a lie. We have a TINY freaking idea that has formed from the ridiculous amount of time we spend online gleaning as much information as we can. We look at Goodreads, we check our Amazon rankings (like five or six times a day), we search for the book's name on Twitter, we look at all of our Google Alerts and for those of us with a truly masochistic streak - we look at NovelRank over and over (if you're lucky enough not to know about NovelRank, consider yourself lucky and continue to live in ignorant bliss). From this we usually gather two things:
1. Some people are buying the book.
2. We have no idea how many or what it means in the long run.
All of the writers I know go through some degree of this - those who say they don't are either lying or we are just not able to be friends with them. After days of angsty meandering, writers who won't need therapy will probably come to one, logical realization: there isn't a whole heck of a lot you can do about it. You've written the best book you can, you've gotten an online presence/website, you've made as many contacts as you can and scheduled the signings/conferences/seminars - the rest of it is really out of your hands. This is a difficult realization for many of us who are control freaks and have spent every step of the way as the book evolved with our fingers right in it. Say it with me: There is nothing else you can do.
Truly zen authors are able to gradually wean themselves off compulsively checking every measurement of their book's worth. I've heard of writers who actually turn off Google Alerts and never read their GoodReads reviews. I'm working on becoming one of them. Just as soon as I open my Google Alerts. Oh, and make one more teensy pass on Amazon.
On this date: In 1929, Penicillin was discovered (on Valentines Day no less...coincidence?)
Thursday, February 11, 2010
My name is Cynthia and I read YA. There, I said it and now you can too. It seems that many adults are ashamed to tell me that they like to read young adult books - I've had more than one adult reader come up to me and quietly tell me how much they liked DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, hoping that nobody around would overhear what they've been reading.
I'm not a teen. Okay, you can stop laughing now. Full disclosure, I graduated high school in the 1980s. Way back then, we didn't really have anything called YA. We had Judy Blume (I remember reading FOREVER in school with the cover torn off because if they caught you with it, the teachers would take it away), and then we went straight to adult novels. Come on, tell me you didn't read FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. Kids today are so lucky.
Today's YA books are honest, brutal, funny, fast-paced and romantic. We don't spend three pages talking about the wind whispering through the trees. We don't have time. Our readers want to jump into a story, have it envelop them and live through the characters until they close the last page. Books like TWILIGHT and THE LOVELY BONES have given many adults their first taste of YA writing, and I'm hearing that many of them want more. I can read between the lines when you all ask me about a good YA title for your daughter. Yes (wink wink, nudge, nudge) for your daughter.
Because I'm so entrenched in the world of YA that's pretty much all I read. My nightstand has a towering stack of titles that I'm dying to get to: FLASH BURNOUT by LK Madigan, THE DARK DIVINE by Bree Despain, THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner and BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl are at the top of the pile. My husband recently took my copy of Scott Westerfeld's LEVIATHAN on a business trip and really enjoyed it. I honestly have no idea what is going on in the world of grown-up books. But I bet they're not having as much fun as we are.
While I adore my teen audience, I hope that many adults read DLS too. I think there is just as much in the story for them as there is for teens. That's what my readers are telling me, albeit in hushed tones. The next time you're in a bookstore, wander over to the Teen or Young Adult section. Take a look at the beautiful covers and read some of the flaps. Steady yourself, because you'll probably be surprised at how many of them you want to read. Go ahead and carry a few up to the cashier and say, just a little too loudly, that you are buying these for your kid.
We won't tell him that your kid is only five.
On this date: In 1990, Nelson Mandela is released from prison.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Now that DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is making its way in the world, I had a few questions about how to gracefully go into a store and sign stock. A lot of the time, it isn't wise or practical to have a full-blown book signing, but it can be helpful to go into a bookstore, introduce yourself and sign the books they have on the shelf (it's best if you only offer to sign the books you actually wrote).
For me, it is a little embarrassing to just waltz into a store and ask them if they want me to sign their copies. (Even more embarrassing if they don't happen to have it on hand. ) Is there a protocol for signing your books? Is there a rulebook somewhere that I don't know about? Rather than go into a bookstore and make a fool of myself, I thought I'd ask my friend Jennifer Laughran for some pointers. For those of you who don't know her (and if you don't, why not?), Jenn is an agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and counts award-winning authors among her clients. She is also a long-time bookseller and founder of the immensely popular "Not Your Mother's Book Club". I asked her to put her bookseller hat on and answer a few questions so that I could try to save face when the time comes:
Do you mind when a traditionally published author comes in to sign stock (assuming you have their book on your shelves)? Of course not. It is nice.
How is it different for a self-published author? Well it is unlikely that we would be carrying a self-published book unless it was consignment from the author themselves, so of course in that case, they are certainly free to sign the books. After all, they are theirs!
Does meeting the staff/signing stock help move the book at all? Sometimes, sure. It isn't a guarantee of anything, of course, but can make a difference -- particularly if the author is personable and friendly, and ESPECIALLY if they are from the neighborhood and are actual customers of the store!
Should we call first and make an appointment or just show up? If you are a regular customer, just ask "do you mind if I sign stock?" when you are shopping. If you are from the next town over or something, you might just call, talk to the manager or children's specialist and say something like, "My new book just came out from _____ publisher, I am going to be in the neighborhood tomorrow, if you have any copies on hand I'd love to pop by and sign stock." Generally speaking, if you are going to be visiting someplace quite far from home, you should ask your publicist if they know the local bookstores -- they are generally quite well-connected and will know exactly who to ask or what direction to point you in, anyway.
What are the WORST times to try to sign stock? The week before Christmas, or anytime the booksellers look frazzled and shortstaffed.
What's the best way for a local author to partner with their indie? I suggest you become pals with the booksellers near you. Tell them you are available for school visits and book clubs and the like, if you are. Ask them if they'll be your "official bookseller" -- so if you have school events, you'll get the books through them, and steer schools to do the same. Link to THEM on your website rather than an interweb monolith, and offer signed books for people who order that way. Again, if you are an actual customer who shops at the store, links to the store, comes to events, is generally loyal, supportive and interested, that goes a LONG WAY toward booksellers being loyal, supportive and interested in you.
Thanks Jenn! Now...off to the bookstore!
On this date: In 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
It was loud and fun and nobody fell asleep when Jill forced me to do a little reading. I'm so grateful to everyone who came and everyone who sent me good wishes this week. You all rock!
On this date: In 1952, Elizabeth becomes Queen of England.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
...from our random number generator - Green Bean Teen Queen! Congratulations!
You sent me your email, so I'll get in touch so that I can send your signed copy of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS right out.
If you didn't win, head on over to Zoe Lea's blog where she is giving away FOUR copies of DLS. I'm not sure how long the contest is going on over there, so do it fast. She also has interviews up with Josh and Lucy that I find really interesting.
Thanks to everyone for entering!
Friday, February 5, 2010
It will be here:
Zocalo Coffeehouse, at Bancroft and Dutton in San Leandro from 7-9pm.
If you're in town, swing by and say hello - we'd love to see you!
On this date: In 1974, Patty Hearst was kidnapped.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
So many great interviews and reviews went up yesterday I spent the entire time at my computer with a smile on my face. Not only did Melissa Walker manage to get our cover interview on the Barnes and Noble blog, but she also posted DLS as one of her three favorite things on the I Heart Daily blog. Saundra Mitchell did a fun 9 quick things with me on her blog, Cheryl Renee Herbsman let me do a guest blog on weather and writing, Jenn over at Books at Midnight posted a great interview and Zoe is doing a whole week on her blog and has not 1, not 2 but 4 copies of DLS to give away! (You should check it out in case you don't win the copy I have - I'll even send you a signed bookplate if you do.)
My fabbo neighbor Amy brought me flowers (how did she know I loved Gerbera daisies?) and then the kids and I went on a bookstalk-and-ice-cream mission. And wouldn't you know, we found one!
See it down there right near Alyson Noel? I didn't even turn it around, it was like that when we showed up.
A great start for my little book! Thanks so much for all of your support - it really means a lot.
On this date: 1959 - The day the music died: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper are killed in a plane crash.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
It's official - DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is on sale! I've gotten so many well-wishing emails and Tweets this morning it has left me smiling all day.
In honor of Groundhog Day (or the book birthday, whichever you prefer), I'm giving away a signed copy of DLS here on the blog. All you have to do is leave a comment before midnight on February 5th and I'll draw a random winner. Contest is open to those in the United States and Canada over the age of 13.
On this date: In 1887, the first Groundhog Day.
Monday, February 1, 2010
OMG! In just four hours and thirty-six minutes from when I am writing this it will officially be DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS release day! So hard to believe that it has really happened and I get a little misty-eyed thinking about it. Must keep head and wits about me. Must not go off the deep end.
A few people have wanted to see an excerpt from the book. In order to kill a few of those 276 minutes, I'll post one here. Flipping pages....flipping pages. No, that one won't make any sense. That one gives too much away. Go back....okay, Chapter 2. 9am.
After spending all night at Kaylie's going over every detail, I stood at the bottom of our cracked cement walkway the next morning, the ache in my stomach starting the minute I saw Mom's car in the driveway. She must have switched schedules with someone at work again. Just when I'd counted on her to be gone.
I really wanted to be alone to think about the party tonight - get it sorted in my head so I wouldn't make any big mistakes, but if Mom was home, the hassling would start the minute I hit the front door. Kaylie was excited about the whole Steve and Josh double-dating angle and was going to spend the day figuring out what we were going to wear. It was hard not to get caught up in the excitement. Josh had asked me to come to a party. Me. To a party. Where his band was playing. Unbelievable.
Kaylie's mom didn't have to be to work until late, so she'd given me a ride home on the way. Like always, I waited until she had driven around the corner and was safely out of sight before I headed for the front door. Our little gray and white house really didn't look that bad from out here. If you were paying attention, you could spot the black mold gathering along the edges of the living room windows and the way the curtains were pressed against the glass by stacks of boxes. Those were just small hints about what was really behind the shingled walls, but nobody on the outside ever noticed.
I kicked at the tufts of grass as I slowly made my way toward the porch. Even though Mom had to park the car in the driveway because of all the junk that filled the garage, from out here the house looked pretty normal.
All of our secrets started at the front door.
There. That killed some time. Now just four hours and nineteen minutes to go.
On this date: In 1982, Late Night with David Letterman premiered.