Thursday, March 24, 2011

Set in My Ways

There have always been three things I've needed to write: laptop, coffee and total silence. I've never been able to work with the radio or music on - I don't even really like it if other people are in the house. I wrote most of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS with earplugs in and noise-canceling headphones on because even though there was nothing playing, people were less likely to bug me and ask me to make them a sandwich or something.

I got my edits for the-book-formerly-known-as-DESTINED last week and there is a lot of editing and rewriting involved. Most things are still the same. I still work in the kitchen (although it's a different kitchen this time), I still drink way too much coffee and I'm still wearing headphones. Except now, there is constantly music coming through them, which is weird to me.

It started because I would listen to Foster the People before every writing session to get in the mood. I've watched this video so many times that if this book ever does get finished I'm seriously going to have to put them in the acknowledgments.

I've always liked listening to music before I write to set the tone, just not during. The guys are so adorable and the video makes me think back to when I lived in SF right after college, going to clubs and watching bands. And the new book is set mostly in the Haight, so it makes sense. Then it changed to listening to them and the Black Keys over and over while I was writing to keep me in the mood. The past couple of days it's been non-stop Pandora through the headphones, something like six or seven hours a day. And it seems to be working. Characters are talking, scenes are flowing. Who knew?

Just goes to show that new stuff can sometimes work. But I'm never giving up my coffee. Ever.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


The LitChicks are back this week, and this time Leisl's up with her recommendation:

DASH & LILY’s BOOK of DARES by Rachael Cohn & David Levithan
I know they always say ‘Don't judge a book by its cover’ but I'm convinced that it's second nature. We don't mean to, we just do. That's what happened with this book. Believe it or not the reason I chose this book was because of the heart on the traffic light thing. The cute cover aside..this was a good book.

This book is about a boy named Dash who finds this red notebook on a shelf in a bookstore one day, and as any curious human being would do, he read it. Inside were a series of questions that led to a dare. Ihe writer , a girl named Lily, gave the reader of the notebook directions to follow and then they ended up having a sort of joint journal type thing going with little dares & adventures mixed in. The story is set during Christmastime and Dash hates everything about Christmas while Lily loves everything about it, so they learn about each other and then in the end they meet each other amidst a string of events.

It's a very fun idea and I found that the characters were relatable and fun to read about. Makes me want to start my own dare book.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dirty Little Secrets - After

By far, the question I get most often about DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is: What happened after the book ends? People want to know what happened to Lucy, if she stayed with Josh, where she lived and if she and Kaylie stayed friends.

I ended DLS a bit abruptly because I felt that that was where this part of Lucy's story ended. If you look closely, you can get some hints about what happens next. A lot of people like it that way - curtain down, end of story. Apparently, a lot of people don't and really want to know what happens after page 210. For those people, I bring you...THE LAST CHAPTER.

Click on that link and you will be able to read AFTER, the last chapter of the book that is only available on my website. There you will find the answers to a lot of questions about what happens after page 210, but I warn you - ONLY READ THE LAST CHAPTER AFTER YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK. I'm serious about that. There are HUGE spoilers that IMHO will ruin the regular reading of DLS.

Lucy and I hope you enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Paperback Writer

The paperback of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS releases tomorrow!!! In addition to the story, there are 15 reading group questions as a bonus to get the discussion started that are exclusive to this edition. In honor of the facelift, I am giving away TWO copies of the paperback. Because I am lazy and in the middle of revisions for the next book, all you have to do is comment below in order to be entered. International entries welcome. I will choose two winners at random at 8pm tomorrow night PDT.

Special Announcement - did you read DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS? Are you wondering what happened to Lucy? Did she stay with Josh? Did she ever tell anyone her secrets? Come back here tomorrow for the key that will get you the answers to these questions and more. VERY VERY SPOILERY. Only for those who have already read the book. So go do that and we'll see you back here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Myth of the Gatekeepers

Nathan Bransford had an interesting blog post this morning about the 99-cent Kindle Millionaires. As I scrolled down to the comments section, I was waiting to see the word that always pops up whenever anyone is talking about self-publishing and I wasn't disappointed. The very first commenter gave a big thumbs up for anyone brave enough to get around the 'gatekeepers' of editors and agents.

The word gatekeepers always conjures up visions of high stone towers with agents and editors poised at the top with automatic weapons, ready to shoot down any new author who dares to try to enter the traditional publishing world. Here's the thing about gatekeepers like this - there aren't any.

Agents and editors don't exist to keep new authors out of the system. On the contrary, they are hungry for new talent and everyone wants to be the person with the next big thing. They comb their submissions looking for great writing and amazing new ideas. There were thousands of debut children's books published last year (I tried to find the exact number, but it is safe to say thousands.). So if you have submitted your writing and are getting nothing but rejections, it's not because the gatekeepers are barring your way.

It's because your work isn't ready.

Go back to the drawing board. Put that piece away and start working on something else. Go to some conferences or take some writing seminars. Get a great and honest critique group or at least one person who knows what they are doing who can help you get your next book in 'unpassable' shape.

The very first novel I wrote still hasn't sold, and I'm glad. When I look back at it there were so many things wrong with that manuscript that if it had been published, I'd cringe to look at it. Thank goodness for the agents and editors who gave me the time to hone my craft and get my writing up to a publishable level - and allowed me to be proud of that first book.

I'm not a fan of self-publishing. There, I said it. Don't get me wrong, I love my Kindle - the process of thinking about reading a book and actually reading it within two minutes is awesome. It's self-published books whether in print or ebook form that I don't like. I got in an argument with a good friend at a recent conference because he said being a self-publishing hater was downright un American. These people were the pioneers of the new literary frontier, they were taking matters into their own hands, going around the traditional establishment and making their own money. Right. I have no problem with all of that. There is one thing that keeps me from being a proponent of self-publishing: most self published books aren't very good. I have yet to read one that wouldn't have benefited from a heavy-handed editor or frankly, just more time honing their craft.

So what's the problem with that? So there are a bunch of mediocre self-published books out there. Who does it hurt? In my opinion, everyone. Most readers don't take the time to find out who published a book - whether it came from a big publishing house or a box in the author's garage. They just pick up a title and give it a try and if over and over again the quality of the writing is poor, how long is it until they decide that reading is a waste of time? That books today aren't well-written and that they'd spend their time better with Snooki and the gang at the Jersey Shore?

Apply the same principal to becoming a pilot. Let's say you spend a lot of time playing Apache Air Assault on Xbox and you routinely beat all your friends. You decide that you want to be a pilot, but don't want to waste time with flight school or those pesky tests. You put on that pilot's uniform and take the wheel of the nearest jumbo jet. How many planes would have to crash before the flying public decides that train travel is looking more appealing? (Yes, I did just compare writing fiction to something potentially life-threatening.)

I do think there is a place for self published non-fiction books. I know someone who is self publishing a book on a very specific method for playing blackjack and I think it will do well. There is a built-in audience for that kind of book and he has a 'platform' already set up so that people will go looking for his book. Unless you're a very well-known fiction author (or celebrity - don't get me started), that probably won't happen for you. Yes, I know there are a few (a very few) who are making money self-publishing ebooks. but these are the exception rather than the rule and I think that once the curiosity factor wears off, it will get even more difficult.

I do think that this will all sort itself out. I have to believe that the publishing industry will figure out an ebook model that works for everyone that will allow readers to get the books they want and writers to afford to create them. That a great book can still get a lot of traction by word of mouth and that quality writing will triumph in the end.

According to this NYT op-ed piece, 81% of Americans want to write a book. At the same time, only 15% of Americans regularly read books. Gatekeepers or not, to me, this seems to be the real problem.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Clean House Casting Call

One of the best things about being a writer is that you never know what is going to pop up in your inbox on any given day. This morning, I got an email from the casting director of the show CLEAN HOUSE on the Style Network asking if I knew of anyone who might benefit from being a guest on the show. I emailed her back, checked it out and decided to put the call out to all of you. You can find out more about the show on their website.

The characters in my book live in a level 5 hoarding situation - no use of major rooms like the kitchen and bathrooms, no heat or hot water and only narrow little ant tracks to navigate through the mess - the kind of thing you see on the very worst episodes of HOARDERS. The folks from CLEAN HOUSE are looking for people whose houses are years from that situation, cluttered, messy and disorganized. If that sounds like you or someone you love and you live in the greater LA area, you might consider sending in an email. The specific casting call is:

Do you need help ridding your house of clutter? Are you having a hard time letting go of stuff you don't need but just can't seem to part with? Is your house in dire need of a makeover? IF AT LEAST 3 ROOMS IN YOUR HOUSE ARE MESSY, then you need CLEAN HOUSE!!

If you OWN a SINGLE FAMILY HOUSE (sorry, no apartments, condos or townhouses) and at least 2 adults live in the home, then please email the following info to us and we'll be touch with more details:

1. Names and relationships of EVERYONE living in the house. (You must OWN the house)

2. Address and phone number.

3. Photos or video of all your cluttered rooms.

4. Tell us about yourself and why you and your family need CLEAN HOUSE!!!

5. Do you own or rent your house?

For prompt attention, please answer ALL of the above questions!!

Email Rose at

One of the most amazing things in the past few years has been the increase in visibility of hoarding disorder. While we might not be closer to solving the problem, the books and shows on hoarding have helped bring this dirty little secret out into the open for many families. I've been in touch with a few of the participants on HOARDERS on A&E, and for the right people, it can be a real benefit and help them change their lives. For a family who is on the brink of tipping into a hoarding situation, the experts on CLEAN HOUSE can help them get their lives back in order. If you think you might be that family, it can't hurt to check it out and it just might change things for the better.