Monday, December 21, 2009

Early Christmas Present

Santa Claus came early to my house today, disguised in the form of a FedEx man. Yup - a big box of real, actual copies of Dirty Little Secrets. They are as awesome in real life as they look in this photo:

New Book Word Count: 21,336
Line of the Day: My door opened and a brown bag came sailing in just a few seconds before Rayne appeared, her pink hair blazingly bright for so early in the morning.

With the arrival of the DLS copies, I really want to finish at least a crappy first draft of the new book. It's a bit like having a newborn and a toddler at the same time - it's hard to have the time to focus properly on either one. If I have one draft done, revisions are much easier for me and I can turn my complete attention to DLS when it launches in early Feb. Back to work!

On this date: In 1968, Apollo 8 leaves for the moon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Word Count: 20,085
Line of the day: It's not about coincidence. It's about leaving yourself open to possibility. (Okay, I cheated, that was two.)
Google searches: Average life span in 1400 & the trailer for Harold and Maude

Whew! I'm up to 20k on the new book. I don't know why that is such a big deal for me, but it's always a big landmark. Sort of like this is going to be an actual book and not just a jumble of ideas that aren't going anywhere. Still does not have a title, but it is going really well and I'm having a blast writing it. Agent E has the first several chapters so we'll have to see if she likes it as much as I do.

Starting to make travel plans for 2010. Until Dirty Little Secrets comes out, I won't know how much people will care where I am, but here it goes. In February, I'm going to Monterey to the wonderful and amazing Asilomar writer's conference - totally can't wait! Then in the beginning of April, I'm going to be in New York and at the end of April in Chicago for the annual Agent E. client retreat. I've never been to Chicago so I'm particularly excited about that one. Plus, Agent E rocks and I haven't seen her for awhile. In August, I'm going to go to the annual SCBWI National conference in LA - I've never been to one of the nationals so this should be quite a trip. If you're anywhere near any of these places, let me know and we can have coffee or something. Bring a book and I'll even sign it for you!

On this date: In 1775, Jane Austen was born.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not Just Smoke and Mirrors

New Book Word Count: 12,806
Line of the Day: "If you're talking about him at all, it means you're thinking about him a lot."

Zipping right along on the new book that still remains sadly untitled. I'm starting to get a few ideas that don't totally stink, so we might be in the process of narrowing it down. As I'm writing, it's always amazing to me how the process works - and I can say that because honestly I feel like I can't take credit for any of it. Okay, I know that sounds crazy (Robin), but I really do feel that I'm just the conduit for great ideas that are already floating around out there.

Case in point - I had absolutely NO idea how my two MCs were going to meet back up again once she comes home from vacation (I realize that probably makes no sense, but bear with me). And as I'm writing the last scene at the Tower of London it just happens - of course! He has a friend with him who ends up liking her sister. They exchange numbers and there you go. And why did she want to go upstairs to look at her father's photos of the trip? Of course - he's in one of them (and not where he's supposed to be either)! And the villain of the story? The one who I knew existed but wasn't sure who it was? The villain has been there all the time - right under our literal noses. Don't know why I didn't realize that before.

I often find myself saying "Dang, I wish I'd thought of that" when a particularly sticky plot problem just works itself out, because I honestly don't feel like I did. I'll often read over chapters that I've written days before and be totally surprised because I don't remember writing parts of them.

There's only one possible explanation - it's magic.

On this date: In 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

John Green on Twilight

T (from other room): Mom, what are you laughing about?
Me: John Green's being funny.
T: John Green's always funny.

Why yes, he is.

Win a Copy of Dirty Little Secrets

Want to read Dirty Little Secrets before everyone else? The publisher's ARCs are gone, but there is an ARC giveaway on Authors Now! that is running through December 8th. Just comment on the post and you can win an Advanced Reader's Copy for your very own!

New Book Word Count: 8,061
Line of the Day: According to their plan, I'd be at Julliard or at least the San Francisco Conservatory of Music by now instead of wasting my life by actually having one.

So how's the new book going? Pretty good - I lost a little bit of momentum over Thanksgiving, (I'm blaming the tryptophan), but now I'm on a roll and the scenes are coming faster than I can find time to type them. Still title-less, but I'm getting a lot more firm on the main character names. Thank goodness for Google - I needed to see what was on a bus route in San Francisco and Google maps let me see the whole way at street level. Don't know what I'd do without the Internet - I'd have to actually go there!

I'll keep ya posted.

On this date: In 1955, Rosa Parks ignited the Montgomery bus boycott.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hoarders on A&E

Welcome back to real life (at least for the next three weeks) - hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and didn't gain more than the pumpkin-turtle pie was worth.

After the family togetherness and eating (and some online shopping - I hate crowds), I spent the free time catching up on Tivo'd episodes of Hoarders on A&E. No matter how many times I see stories on compulsive hoarding, they never fail to break my heart. There was one episode in particular that left me shaken in Hoarders, Patty/Bill in season one. If you haven't seen it, they have a very short clip if you click on the link, click on the 1 next to the word Season and then choose Patty/Bill (for some reason, the link won't go right to the episode). Listen carefully to Patty as she is talking about the house - you'll hear the phrase that made me sit up and take notice. In the other story in the episode (which they don't show in the clip), Bill has a daughter who lives in a spotless bedroom in the middle of the hoarded home - exactly like my character Lucy in Dirty Little Secrets. His daughter was so much like my character it was scary.

I'm glad that I wrote the book in late 2007, because otherwise I'd be accused of blatantly ripping off episodes of this series. There are so many details that are in Hoarders that are in the book that it is really astounding. Its amazing that so many people who have no contact with each other, behave in such similar ways.

On this date: In 1948 Kukla, Fran and Ollie debuted.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fake Book Sightings

What's this? A hardcover copy of Dirty Little Secrets? Well...sort of. It's a copy of Brooke Taylor's Undone with a brand new actual-size jacket of DLS folded on top of it. Looks good though, doesn't it? Maybe I have too much time on my hands...

New Book Word Count: 5539
Line of the Day: The only thing even a little bit English about him was the faint trace of an accent that drifted in and out as he spoke.

The book is going along pretty well, although I've lost about a day because I have to go back over the previous 20 pages and make some changes. One of my crit partners brought up some character questions about my main character (thanks Nat) and I've incorporated some additional characteristics that will change a lot of the beginning. It's funny how these things reveal themselves to you as you go. I was thinking that it was her sister who was really into structure and disliked spontaneity, but it turns out it was my main character after all. This actually happens a lot and is part of the process of getting to know the characters, but it often involves a substantial amount of revising as you go. I know a lot of people would just leave it be, keep on truckin' and then go back and change it later, but I can't work that way. The before has to be right before I can go on. I guess that's my own character issue ;)

On this date: In 1936, the first issue of Life magazine was published.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Changing Names

Word Count: 4,473
Line of the Day:I pressed my handkerchief and small book into the waiting hands of my lady, whose silent weeping was escalating into what I feared would be a noisy crescendo.

So the book is coming along well, although it looks like it's going to be pretty long if I'm to judge by the first two chapters. A few people have mentioned that Dirty Little Secrets is short (I think the hardback is going to be 242 pages) so I guess that's not such a bad thing . As I was writing today, I realized how important the first glimpse of the love-interest is. Is he friendly or distant? Unattainable or kind of goofy? How you introduce him will set the tone for the relationship throughout the rest of the book. Apparently, first impressions do count.

I'm also considering some name changes. I totally forgot that the awesome debut book The Mark by cyber-friend and publisher-cousin Jen Nadol has a Cassie as the main character and Darius just isn't working for me. Not that you can't have the same name as another book, but it just feels a little too close. I do have a couple of other ideas, but I'm going to let the characters try them on for a chapter or two before I decide.

Even though Thanksgiving and the (ugh) holidays are coming up, I'm going to try to stick to the 1k per day schedule until it's done. I don't have to finish the whole thing before I send it to Agent E, just a few chapters and a synopsis, but I'd like to get a first draft done before DLS hits the streets at the end of January. If my math is right, it can be done ;)

The hubs got Indian food from my most favorite restaurant in the world and the smell of samosas is driving me nuts - time to eat!

On this date: In 1962, Jodie Foster was born.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Book, Day 2

Word Count: 2,308 (not too bad considering I just now remembered a series of 5 articles I promised to get written by tomorrow)

Okay. The file is open - and named Untitled, so if anyone can think of a sexy/intriguing/awe-inspiring title, let me know. Of course, I can't tell you what the book is about, so it's more of a shot in the dark at this point. Sat at the kitchen counter last night and cranked out about 1200 words, despite the constant interruptions. I have discovered that there is very little I hate more than writing fiction with someone looking over my shoulder. Very little. Got the other 1k in this afternoon with nobody bothering me. So far, we're still on chapter one, which seems to be going on for a fairly long time. One thing I think I know - this book will be longer than Dirty Little Secrets, which came out to about 200 manuscript pages (about 60,000 words). Maybe I've just learned how to take my time in getting from point A to point B. Or maybe I'm just leaving myself a lot of room to cut when I revise the thing. It's my turn in critique group today, so I might just torture them all and turn in the pages I just wrote. In general, it's not fair to anyone to send out such a rough, rough draft, but it's either that or a series of articles on job descriptions for online degrees.

I don't usually comment on blogs, but I couldn't help myself over at agent Kristin Nelson's blog Pubrants. Apparently, Harlequin books has opened up a vanity press for those authors who get rejected by their traditional publishing arm. Pay a ton of money and you can self-publish your book under the Harlequin umbrella. There is a LOT of fallout over this on so many levels. You might guess that I have VERY strong opinions on self-publishing in general (unless you are pubbing a family cookbook to give out to the folks at the holidays - then it's fine). As in, don't do it. Bad for you, bad for books and bad for readers. Just my .02.

On this date: In 1978, the Jonestown mass suicides.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Laptop Confessional

I've done all the procrastinating I can do and still look at myself in the mirror. I have several notebook pages full of notes on the Tudors, the Tower of London and philosophy by Edgar Cayce. I have a printed map of the Tower of London with little Xs by things that are important to the story, several snapshots of the graffiti that is in the Beauchamp Tower and recently spent 15 minutes watching a home movie of a Tower of London tour (I've been there, but it's been almost 10 years - thanks YouTube). I also have one fairly good character sketch for my MC (main character), and not much of one for anyone else. I know where the book is going to start, a few scenes in my head along the way and a vague idea of how it is going to end. I have the MC's name (Cassandra, Cass to her friends), the name of another important character (Darius) and pretty much nobody else. The book is either going to be mainly set in San Francisco or Santa Barbara-I'll know for sure when it's time.

What I don't have is a title. Or a detailed outline. But that's okay - that's pretty much how things work around here. I often refer to the E.L. Doctorow quote at the way, way bottom of the blog - hopefully I can see enough to get by.

I'm about ready to put my first words into the freshly created computer file, and wanted to invite anyone along who is interested in how the process works. I've had several people ask me how a book gets from vague idea to printed up book - now's the chance for us to find out together. As you've no doubt seen if you've kept up with the blog, there can be some false starts when it comes to new book, but this one doesn't feel that way. It feels like an amazing story that is waiting to be uncovered with some great characters and unique elements.

If you'd rather keep the mystery of how books get written, then step away from the blog and don't mind that man behind the curtain.


On this date: In 1558, the Elizabethan Age begins (kismet or what?).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wicked Sunday

Sundays are usually quiet on the email front, but I got a lot of cool stuff in the old inbox today. My first fan email from a real-live teen reader (love that!), two preview reviews which were both awesome (although I think if someone doesn't like the book, they're not going to send me the review in advance-those things are best left as a surprise) and the link to a fabulous interview by wunderkind author Kody Keplinger.

Not only that, but we took the kids to see their first big show - Wicked in San Francisco. They absolutely loved it (what's not to love?), and T said that now he's annoyed with Dorothy. He also said that it's given him more inspiration to become an actor, which was an ulterior motive on our part.

Hope everyone's Sunday was special.

On this date: In 1956, Love Me Tender, Elvis' first film opens.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We Don't Need No Education...

T (doing homework): Mom, cursive is so wrong. It makes boy letters look like girl letters.

Can't argue with that.

On this date: In 1954, Ellis Island closed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I'm Working On Now...

Can you tell from some of my research books what the new YA is going to be about? No? Good, 'cause it's a secret.

After a long talk with my agent, we've decided to shelve the race-based YA that I was working on. It's an older book (the first one I ever wrote actually), and I'm too close to it to give it the total pull-apart service that it really needs. That thought horrifies some people, but I'm actually okay with it. Mostly because I'm working on something that really excites me.

The new book has everything - action, romance, humor, great characters and (dare I say it - me who said she'd NEVER write one of these) some paranormal elements. I've finished the 9 point plotting outline for the book (I think my next post will be how to do that - in the meantime, here's my take on it over at Kay Cassidy's blog back in August) and am researching some of the historical elements that need to be actually accurate. So far, the ideas have been coming fast and furious and I love getting back to it every day. Stay tuned!

On this date: In 196X, my BFF Karen was born. Happy Birthday Karen!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cybils Nominee

I just found out that When It's Six O'clock in San Francisco has been nominated for a Cybils award (thanks to Olugbemisola Amusashonubi-Perkovich for the shout out)! This is an award that is put out by the kidlit blogging community from people who know their stuff. The list is long and full of great books including crit-group partners Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed by J. C. Phillipps and I'm just honored to be included.

Finalists are announced on January 1st, so stay tuned!

On this date: In 1860, Abraham Lincoln is elected President.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Photos on the Website

Thanks to the fabulous Madiera James of Xuni, the creator and host of my website, we now have photos on the site. I'm going to put them in albums - so far I only have two: one for the book party for When It's Six O'clock in San Francisco and one for author types that I know/have met/stalk a little. As I get out and about more and we get closer to the launch of Dirty Little Secrets in February, I hope to put more pics up.

Click on the Events section up there on the right and enjoy!

On this date: In 1922, the entrance to King Tut's tomb is discovered.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cool Stuff I Saw Last Week

I'm usually one to stay at home - don't go to movies much anymore (totally spoiled by Netflix - you can't curl up with a nice glass of wine at your local Cineplex) and I can count on one hand the number of times I've gone to an evening "event" in the past year. This week was an exception - I went to three, count 'em three, different things.

First up was the Where the Wild Things Are movie. Went with both kids and while they loved it, they agreed with me that it's really not a little kid movie. It can be debated whether the book is really a kid's book, but that's another post. Creepy, dark, creative, sepia and a little sad (one kid who shall remain nameless had tears in his eyes when Max sails back home) it is a great movie but best keep the little kids at home, not so much because it's scary (although it is a little bit scary) but because there's just not much there for the little ones. One comment for filmmakers though - both boys commented that the entire time Max was gone, he didn't eat anything or go to the bathroom (although I argued that the two things might be connected). Kids notice this stuff.

Last Thursday, I went with my date (thanks Jill) to see David Sedaris read some new material. I am totally in love with this man, despite the fact that I'm married, he's gay (and has a Hugh) and quite a bit shorter than I am. Every time we go on a road trip, DH and I listen to his audio books and I've read everything he's ever done several times over. His appearance still blew me away - I don't think I've laughed so hard in years. Was it worth it to wait in line for two hours to meet him? Youbetcha. Did I come up with anything witty to say? Nope, although I did come up with a killer line about an hour after we'd driven away. I was totally fangirled out. I consider it a win that I didn't say anything stupid or spill water on him. He didn't even seem phased when Jill asked if she could have one of his unopened waters, because she was parched and anyway, he didn't want to drink too much water if he was going to bed soon. He just said "sure" and gave her one. Did I mention I love this man?

Lastly, I took T to see This Is It, the big Michael Jackson movie yesterday. I was a so-so Michael Jackson fan growing up, but I knew T would love it. He was glued to the screen the entire time and has been talking about it since. If you're any kind of fan, you'll really like it. If you're a big fan, bring your own tissues. The lady behind us cried all the way through, occasionally letting out a little, high-pitched "Oh Michael" before blowing her nose.

Hope you had a good weekend!

On this date: In 1983, the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday was declared.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dirty Little Teddy Bear

I am a member of the Tenners, a great group of authors who have debut YA novels out in 2010. One of our group, Jen Nadol (who wrote the awesome The Mark, which I'm going to review closer to the release date early next year) is organizing a give-away of Tenner "swag", meaning stuff that relates to the books. There will be a drawing once a month to win a big basket of cool stuff - I'll let everyone know when they go live so you can enter.

For my giveaway, I was on the fence about what to do. At first, I thought about some old National Geographics, but although it relates directly to the book, it wasn't very exciting. Instead, I chose this:

(I particularly love the little autographed "book" in his hand). A teddy bear figures prominently in Dirty Little Secrets - the one in the book is brown gingham, but this was a close second. I think he's quite handsome. I had a few left over, so I might have an ARC/swag drawing on the blog or Goodreads sometime soon. I'll let you know...

On this date: In 1929, the stock market crashed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So Pretty!

It never occurred to me that I'd get to see the jacket for DLS - I saw the cover and I knew what the flap copy was going to say, but then my editor sent this over yesterday:

Imagine the flaps folded in around the hard cover of the book and you can get a sense of how it's going to look. Honestly, I never imagined that it would be blue, but it's just perfect and the little "splotches" on the spine and on the bar code are oh so cool. I think they did a great job and I can't wait to see it in action!

On this date: In 1954, Disneyland opens.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wild Things

We haven't been to see the new Wild Things movie yet (hopefully Sunday) but we've been big fans for years. In honor of the movie, I just had to dig out one of my favorite pictures of the boys when they were little - T was 3 and J was 8 months. Lucky for me, they're still reading and sometimes it's not a graphic novel!

On this date: In 1952, Jeff Goldblum is born.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Changing Times

So I open a magazine this month and come across this ad for a coffee maker:

At first I passed it by, but then, in light of my blog post last week about why I don't live in Louisiana, I went back to it.

And then I realized: this is how the world is going to change. Nowhere in this ad is the race(s) of the family mentioned - they are just your average biracial family apparently arguing about what kind of coffee to have. Happens in my house all the time. It wasn't in Oprah or Essence (where AA families and the occasional biracial family are fairly common) but in Real Simple which makes it doubly interesting to me.

If I could afford it, I'd even go out and buy one of these coffee makers just to show my support.

On this date: In 1973 the Sydney Operahouse opens.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Perseverance: Illustrated

On this date: In 1945 John Lithgow was born.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why I Don't Live in Louisiana

My work in progress deals with race and identity, so I'm always interested in racial issues in the news. Here's a nice little tidbit from CNN:

Louisiana justice under fire for refusing interracial marriage
Posted: 08:54 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) — Civil rights advocates in eastern Louisiana are calling for a justice of the peace of Tangipahoa Parish to resign after he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple.

“He’s an elected public official and one of his duties is to marry people, he doesn’t have the right to say he doesn’t believe in it,” said Patricia Morris, president of the NAACP branch of Tangipahoa Parish, located near the Mississippi line. “If he doesn’t do what his position call for him to do, he should resign from that position.”

The demands for Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish’s 8th Ward, to step down came after he wouldn’t issue a marriage license to Beth Humphrey, 30, and her boyfriend, Terence McKay, 32, both of Hammond.

Bardwell and the couple didn’t immediately return calls from CNN Thursday. However, Bardwell told the Hammond’s Daily Star that he was concerned for the children who may be born of the relationship and that, in his experience, most interracial marriages don’t last.

“I’m not a racist,” Bardwell told the newspaper. “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children.” Bardwell, stressing he couldn’t personally endorse the marriage, referred the couple to another justice of the peace.

The bride says the case boils down to discrimination. Humphrey told the Daily Star that she called Bardwell on October 6 to ask about getting a marriage license, and was asked by his wife if it would be an interracial marriages. Humphrey said she was told that Bardwell does not sign off on interracial marriages.

“I don’t understand this because he is an elected official and discrimination is against the law,” Humphrey told the newspaper.

Morris told CNN that her NAACP chapter has forwarded the case to the state and national levels of the civil rights group. According to the Census Bureau, Tangipahoa Parish is about 70 percent white and 30 percent black.

As most of you know, I have a dog in this fight. I've been with my (black) husband for almost 16 years. We have two of those children that Mr. Bardwell is so concerned about - both honor students, athletic, musical, artistic and all-around good people.

It's easy to say "I'm not a racist - I'm just concerned about the kids", and that's exactly what a lot of people do. I had it happen to me when I was pregnant. God forbid a white person and a black person should have kids - it's so unfair. I mean, what could a child like that possibly grow up to be? PRESIDENT?

On this date: In 1976, the song Disco Duck topped the charts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cool Stuff on My Lawn

I've always wanted a flock of these!

On this date: In 1951, I Love Lucy debuted.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can The Internet Make (or Break) a Book?

Not all books are created equal. Rather, not all books are marketed equally. Some books are "lead titles" where they get a big push in the publisher catalog, get more advertising, have better placement in bookstores, book tours and other things that the publisher's do to try to get back what was probably a big advance they paid for the book up front. Other books are what they "midlist" where they get copies of the book sent to reviewers and awards panels, standard pages in the catalog but no big publicity or book tours and probably a modest advance that the author has to earn out.

In the past, lead titles had a much better shot of becoming bestsellers. Heck, they probably still do. More people hear about it, more people buy it, and there you go. Even so, in the "olden days" a great book could transcend midlist-dom and do really really well out in the world, largely through word of mouth and hand-selling by independent booksellers.

I had the good luck and opportunity to hang out with Ellen Hopkins last winter at a writer's retreat and she talked all about how Crank came to be. She was an unknown author and it was a midlist book, but because it was so different and so awesome, it quickly rose above its humble beginnings and those of you who know Ellen's work, know that she always turns out bestsellers and has consistently captured lead-title status. It can be done.

I've been reading a lot of young adult blogs and tweeters lately (I don't tweet myself, but I do troll those who are leaders in the YA community) and have been wondering if good reviews from the Internet community would be enough to lift a book out of the midlist haze. Could a quiet book get enough push from bloggers to get more people to read it? Do enough people pay attention to these blogs/tweets to make a difference?

At the same time, I've recently read about heavily touted books that have gotten less than stellar reviews from bloggers. Would consistently bad reviews damage the sales of a book even if a publisher is pushing it heavily? Same questions apply as above.

As the Internet gets bigger and the influence of bloggers/tweeters gets broader, will the success of a book weigh more heavily with the actual readers rather than publisher's decisions? As opinions are no longer obtained over the back fence but through the keyboard, will some bloggers become the tastemakers of the reading community? Will it change the way publishers market books? Honestly, I don't know, but it's going to be interesting to be a part of this process unfolding.

At this point the publishers decide who is going to be big, who is going to be pushed before readers, who's book is going to be face-out in a big display at your local store. Does the world need another book about vampires/werewolves/fairies? Maybe, but more and more it may be up to the bloggers to decide.

On this date: In 1959, Marie Osmond is born.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Follow Me!

See that cool "Follow" thingy over to the right? If you don't use Blogger and want to easily comment on the blog, click on Follow to follow me. Plus, I only have 8 followers right now so I look like a total loser.

On this date: In 1938, production begins on The Wizard of Oz

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Manufacturing Beauty

Yes, it's old, but I love this!

On this date: In 1968, Apollo 7 was launched.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fabulous Friday Free Stuff!

They're here! Bookmarks and postcards and business cards oh my! Thanks to fabbo author and swag designer Saundra Mitchell I now have lots of cool things to give away. I didn't notice it at first, but on the back of the postcard and bookmark is a very faint image of a stack of National Geographics. Genius!

Want a signed bookmark or three? Drop me a line and I'll drop them in the mail.

On this date: In 1940, John Lennon was born.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Which Way?

I'm at one of those places where I have to make an uncomfortable decision. As many of you know, I like to write books. It's fun and as long as you can get your behind in a chair and your fingers on a keyboard, it's not all that hard. Well, not that hard compared to being a killer bee remover, a skyscraper window washer or a deep sea fisherperson. Unfortunately, for most of us, it takes awhile (if ever) to be a lucrative way to make a living.

I also do internet freelance writing. Again, not the hardest job in the world (see above), but a bit taxing on the old cerebral cortex if done for more than four hours a day. This particular job also makes the prospect of sitting down and writing fiction at the end of a long day less than appealing. Work was slow recently, hubby is making good (if long-distance) money and because of that I'm doing solo kid-wrangling a lot deal of the time, so I decided to take a month off of the freelance writing. It was great. I felt less stressed, I got a good chunk of my revision for the (hopefully) next book finished and got to read some actual books written by other people at the end of the day.

Now my freelance clients are ramping back up again and I'm trying to decide whether to go back to it or not. I feel like I really need to focus on my career in fiction, but it is very hard to pass up real money that appears every month in my freelance account. Guaranteed rewards now, or possible rewards later?

So hard to know...

On this date: In 1982, Cats debuted on Broadway.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fiction Means I Made It Up

While there aren't very many ARCs of Dirty Little Secrets (one thing I found out in NYC - people in the biz such as editors and publicists call them A.R.C.s. while most of the rest of us call them Arcs as in Noah) out in the world, a few people have read one. Most of the people who have gotten one from me have a personal connection as in friends and/or family.

This is good. Mostly. One thing I didn't expect (although in hindsight I probably should have) is that people who know me read things into the text that I didn't intend to be there. Now, writers do tend to put things that are familiar into their fictional stories - I might use some places that I'm familiar with because it's easier to navigate in a familiar landscape. I might use a characteristic of someone I know in one of my fictional people. Sometimes I like a name and use it in a book. None of this means that I'm building a character around someone that I know.

I love love love David Sedaris (and I get to go see him in Marin at the end of the month - clap, clap, clap!) and one of my favorite lines of his is from Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim:

"In my mind, I'm like a friendly junk man, building things from the little pieces of scrap I find here and there, but my family's started to see things differently. Their personal lives are the so-called pieces of scrap I so casually pick up, and they're sick of it."

The difference here is that David writes in a more autobiographical style, while I write fiction. I have two sisters. My character Lucy has a sister. Are they in any way similar? No. Am I making a commentary about one of my sisters with the character of Lucy's sister? No. Same goes for my parents, cousins, home town and pets. Another writer was commenting on a writing board the other day that a friend had read her book and had told her that her marriage must be a mess and she could tell that this writer hated men by what was in her book. Huh? It's fic-tion-al.

All of this makes me a little nervous as more and more people read DLS. I'm here to state, unequivocally, that this book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental. So if you see your name in my book, it can only mean one thing. I like your name.

It's fiction baby.

On this date: In 1951, Sting is born.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If I Can Make It There...

Just got back from a whirlwind weekend trip to NYC. DH has been working out there quite a bit recently and I didn't want him to spend our anniversary alone, so I flew in on Friday and out last night, so that I could get in a quick trip to visit both editors for the first time.

I'd only been to NY once before, and that trip was all about kid-friendly eateries and where the nearest playground was located because of the one year old we had in tow at the time. This time, we were kidless (thanks to some impressive kid-wrangling by our fabulous friends and neighbors)and got to go and play in the city. So what did we do? Totally tourist stuff.

We went to Central Park:

and to the Museum of Natural History, although the kids all know it as that "Night At The Museum" place.

In the People of Africa hall, there was a display of Yoruba ceremonial costumes that brought back some terrifying childhood memories for DH, so of course, I'm thinking about making this shot into a poster:

We went to Times Square (I didn't notice the guy in the I heart NY shirt until today, but it looks like I meant to put him there):

and I got so freaked out by the sheer numbers of people that we had to repair to the top of the Penninsula Hotel for drinks. I then discovered that the higher off the ground you are, the more expensive the drink.

We did a lot of "running into stuff", which I guess is what NY is all about. We ran into some dancers in Central Park:

and a city-wide chess tournament by the fountain:

and the start of a mile-race that featured a runner named Lagat who is apparently quite famous and made DH very happy:

Unfortunately, we couldn't run fast enough to see the end. I got into taking pictures of the tiled subway signs because they are so cool:

On Monday, I showed up here:

which is where Walker/Bloomsbury is located. I got to spend time with my editor Mary Kate and Anna the publicist and then went a few blocks to Clarion/Houghton Mifflin to spend more time with my other editor Lynne and Jen the publicist. The whole experience made me feel like a real author talking books and stuff and stuff with the people in the biz. Plus I got to take some books with me (Jen Nadol's The Mark which is coming out next year has one of the best opening chapters I've read in ages). I was so jazzed to be there that I forgot to take any more photos. But it's a nice building.

The whole trip was totally worth sitting on the runway at JFK for two hours in the rain trying to get home last night. At least there was TV - go Jet Blue! Can't wait to do it again - spring break isn't all that far away...

On this date: In 1907, Gene Autry was born.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What I Did on my Weekend

Besides the fabulous book party that took place on Friday, Saturday brought another first - my first Book Festival up in Sonoma. The location of the booth was a bit "eh", the traffic was a bit "eh" but the day was fantastic because I got to hang out with fellow YAers Malinda Lo (Ash), C. Lee McKenzie (Sliding on the Edge) and Cheryl Herbsman (Breathing Lessons).

They all had books come out this year, so I pretty much spent the entire time picking their brains and learning from their experiences. The main downside was that I spent way more than I made buying signed books from them. My "to read" list just got a lot longer...

On this date: In 1846, Neptune was discovered.

Monday, September 21, 2009

So...How Was It?

Awesome! As you may recall, I was a bit nervous about the book launch party on Friday (anyone who saw me in the hours leading up to it, saw me muttering "I so don't want to do this"), but it was completely unfounded.

We had a great time, although it was a little like a wedding in that I remember seeing people for a few seconds, but really didn't get to talk to anyone for long. I was so touched that so many people came out to celebrate - there must have been somewhere north of 100 people.

The bookseller brought 50 books and sold out, saying he could have sold many more. We had munchies from some of the countries we visit in the book and the cake...well, you can see the amazing, TV-worthy cake for yourself. The top was Six O'clock and was double chocolate, and the bottom was a preview of Dirty Little Secrets and was vanilla/raspberry. When it came time to cut it, I was wincing at defiling the art, but the creator assured me that it was okay. And boy, was it.

The adults had fun, the kids had fun and the author had fun.

Special thanks go to Tim at Zocalo for the fabulous location (if you ever need a warm and wonderful place to throw a party, talk to Tim), Julie Durkee and Sue McDonough for the amazing cake, Jill Raimondi for donating said amazing cake, Kate Miller for keeping me sane and Kavita Lalwani for taking me to the Indian store for samosas. We had people from the North Bay and San Francisco - I can't thank them enough for taking time out of their Friday night to share such a fabulous moment.

I'd do it again in a minute. Oh wait, maybe we will in February!


I got a surprise today - I'm featured as a new voice in Cynsations, Cynthia Leitich Smith's amazing blog. SO thrilled!

On this date: In 1866, H.G. Wells was born.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Tonight is the official launch party for When It's Six O'clock in San Francisco. I have a stomach ache. Throwing parties makes me nervous - add in a book signing and lots of people and it is exponentially more stressful. Do we have enough food? Drinks? What if we run out of books to sign? What if nobody wants any? Will the samosas be too spicy? Ack!

Seriously, it should be fun and I'm sure it will be once I get there and get down to business. If you're in the neighborhood (Zocalo on Bancroft 7-9pm) stop by for some munchies and cake.

On top of the party stress, tomorrow is my first book festival in Santa Rosa at the Sonoma County Book Festival. I'll be sitting with some great SCBWI authors and selling books in space 88 starting at 10am.

Wanna bookmark? Postcard? Come see me and I'll set you up!

On this date: In 1994, my nephew was born - Happy Birthday Con-Man!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Changing the Hes to Shes

The first novel I wrote had a boy main character and had race as a central theme. Like most first books, this one has a big place in my heart and it's always been a bummer that we haven't found a home for it. All of a sudden, someone is interested in it, although it will likely mean changing the boy main character to a girl and changing it from middle grade to young adult.

Does that bother me? Actually, less than you might think. I'm funny in that I really love revisions (first drafts are another story) and I don't mind changing things radically if it serves the story better - after all, in this day and age, you can always delete the new version if you don't like it and go back to the old one. So I'm basically starting on page one and changing the main character to a girl and it's working out a lot better than I thought it would once I made the mental adjustment. I've also discovered a few things, namely that a strong girl main character can be a skateboarder and can enjoy things that other girls might find disgusting. She can have a boy as a best friend and be a bit snarky while underneath being a bit insecure. The best part is that now other threads are wrapping up even more nicely than before - in some ways, it makes more sense going from Tyler to Taylor and I can write in a romantic thread that I couldn't do before (apparently, I can't write romance from a boy point of view).

And if I don't like it, there's always the Delete button.

Note to self: When youngest son says that his tummy feels funny, don't feed him pea soup right before bed. It's been a rough couple of days.

On this date: In 1963, four black schoolgirls are killed in Birmingham.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Went outside to walk the dog this morning and the harbinger of change (also known as the oak tree in front of my house) sez that summer is almost over.

While part of me is grateful that the kids are in school and I might actually get some work done, the other part is not ready for the decline into the winter. As any parent knows, Halloween is the beginning of the end, so I've got a little over a month before I can really start kvetching.

In other news, I got a really amazing message from someone who read an ARC of Dirty Little Secrets the other day. There are a few ARCs out there (I've been told by my publicist that more should be going out in the next few weeks), but it is still startling to me to have someone who's not related to me/paid to read it, reading the book. I've been holding my breath about readers who have had hoarding touch their lives and their opinion of it. This reader had amazing things to say about it and what a raw experience it was for her, dredging up all sorts of emotions. I'm hoping that readers who will personalize the story find it an ultimately positive experience, but even more, that it opens the door for discussion about this all-too-familiar secret.

Have a great weekend!

On this date: In 2001 (was it really 8 years ago?) the World Trade Center was attacked.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This N That

Mostly because I can't think of anything inspiring to say today, I'm directing you to my guest blog over at Author's Now! I'm doing this the 8th of every month and so far I haven't forgotten once. Check it out...

Lately, I've been watching Hoarders on A&E, Mondays at 10pm (sometimes 9pm too if they're running an old episode). One of my biggest fears is that Dirty Little Secrets is going to be viewed as exploitative, which was never the intent. The book is just one girl's story of living with hoarding in her life. So far, I think A&E is doing a pretty good job of balancing the incredible living situations with information on the disorder as the experts try to help the people with the disorder. My biggest complaint so far is that they make it look easy - come in, clean up the house, problem solved. As anyone with any familiarity with hoarding knows, problem not solved, maybe not ever. That said, anything that gets the disorder out into the light and gets people talking is a good thing, and they have some resource information at the bottom of their website.

For me, the first and best option for hoarding information is the Children of Compulsive Hoarders website. Unfortunately, the forums got too big for the servers recently, so it has been turned into a read-only site, but it's still amazing.

Oh, and I'm goin' to NYC! Yay. The hubs has been working out there, so I'm going to see him, spend some time in Manhattan, meet my editors/publicists for the first time and get a tour around both Walker and Clarion. Can't wait. Now, what to wear....?

On this date: In 1966, Star Trek premiered.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Eeny Meeny Miny

I'm faced with an abundance of choices and it's driving me crazy. My kind of writer's block isn't that I sit down and nothing comes. It's that there are so many possibilities for a story that I can't decide which version is the right one.

Just sent off a follow up to When It's Six O'clock in San Francisco (fingers crossed everyone), my freelance work is cleared off my desk for the next few weeks so I now have time (and no excuse whatsoever) to focus on the new YA. Problem is, I'm not sure how it goes.

When I write, it's like a movie playing in my head (I've heard other writers say this, so I'm pretty sure I'm not totally insane) and that movie can start pretty much anywhere. Right now I'm trying to decide what the opening scene is for my movie. Does it start at her parent's cocktail party? On the beach during the day? At the bonfire? Somewhere else altogether? Ack! What if I pick one and it's the other that is really right? These are the choices we face and it can be stultifying.

Times like this I wish the fickle finger of the God of Writing would come down, point to the correct option (even if it's D - none of the above) and say "That one! That's it right there." We'd all be ever so grateful.

On this date: In 1875, Porche is born.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teacher Guide

For all you teachers out there, we just posted an amazing teacher guide for When It's Six O'clock in San Francisco on my website. Created by the uber talented teacher/writer/friend/sometimes roomate Cassandra Whetstone, it has fun leveled activities for kids grades K-6 that correspond to most curriculum requirements. Cassandra rocks because she makes me look much smarter than I am.

Look over on the top right hand side of the blog. See where it says "resources"? Click there and it will take you to the teacher guide PDF. Download it, print it and use it as much as you want.

On this date: In 1985, the wreck of the Titanic is found.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bedtime Reading

So whaddayado when it's 102 out and there's no AC in the house? Apparently, you fall asleep in the back of my bookshelf:

On this date: In 2005, Hurricane Katrina slams into the Gulf Coast.