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.