Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fun with Google

When I review mywebsite stats, I love to see the many countries people are coming from. I also love to see how they found my site. Sometimes it's book related for either of my novels or celebrity-related because of my Celebrity Sightings page. Many come from links from other sites where I was mentioned.

And then there are the random Googlings...recently, I saw someone had Googled "do you smile in the mirror". Just like that, those 6 words together within quotation marks. And lo and behold, my site is the ONLY SITE that comes up on Google. It doesn't seem like much but go ahead and put in any other combination of words - or your name, for instance - and you will get hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of hits. Not all will be relevant but Google is all over the world and it has access to millions of websites and blogs and everything under the sun that it searches when you enter your terms in that blank box.

But this particular phrase? Just *one* site: mine. How bizarre is that?

And in case you were wondering, the phrase was in a celebrity sighting post I wrote about spotting a star in a bathroom. Of course, now, if you put that phrase into Google you will also get this blog post. But then, seriously? Just 2 hits? Still bizarre.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Friday

No time for random thoughts? Ha! All my thoughts have been random this week!

Actually, the biggest thing on my mind has been the future of publishing, not simply my own publishing, although that's there too, but the big picture as well. So many writers wonder about e-books, about digital publishing, about self-publishing...what will happen to us? Will we continue to publish? Will the internet be the Great Equalizer? Will there be publishing houses with marketing budgets and so on to support us?

Here are some of my random thoughts on the subject:

1. We're looking at the wrong model. Everyone has been pointing to the music industry as an example of what could happen to books and writers: authors posting music for free on YouTube or selling for a buck a song on iTunes and then making money back on t-shirt sales and live appearances. Instead, look to the film industry and screenwriting. Back in the early 80s when computers were hitting the marketplace and there were software programs like Final Draft, everyone thought they could be a screenwriter. Pros were worried the crap would flood the marketplace and overwhelm the good stuff. Well, 20 years later, has it? No. Big movies are still financed in big ways but the rise of the independent filmmaker has meant smaller movies get seen too.

This is what will happen with publishing: the big houses will continue to support the (few) big authors and their books but we will see more indie presses going digital - saves money on printing that they can use to promote books.

2. Agents will be with us for a long time. As with big film studios, big publishing houses will lay off workers, simple as that, as they struggle to streamline. They already have and they will continue to do so. They still will publish and they still need gatekeepers. These are the agents who will continue to sift through the flotsam of manuscripts and proposals to find the gems.

This is what will happen with publishing: houses will declare a no-slush policy across the board and agents will be more important than ever in discovering new talent.

3. Follow the Slamdance model. Sure there are the big film festivals like Cannes and Sundance but all over the world, in small towns and large, there are film events that allow indie filmmakers to present their wares. A small film that might not get noticed at Austin might get some acclaim in Akron. The same is true of books: smaller book fairs can promote smaller books and debut authors who could go on to bigger and better things.

This is what will happen with publishing: more authors will be discovered in smaller towns' festivals and their books can then be promoted on the web, rather than with big marketing plans.

4. Lose the stigma of self-pubbing. When I lived in NYC, I worked on a bunch of films that were independently financed: money from friends and family, shot in a short time with non-union crews. Some of those scripts were utter junk while some were terrific and the directors went on to do bigger things. But no one batted an eye when you said where the money came from. The goal was to make a good movie. This is like self-publishing. Who cares if the book is good, right?

This is what will happen with publishing: the wheat will be separated from the chaff by the public.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Would you ever eat one of those cakes?"

"Oh heavens no..."

One of my favorite shows is The Simpsons, long may it reign on Sunday nights, and one of my very favorite episodes involved Bart sitting with Mrs. Skinner after he's done a chore for her and is waiting to be paid. I think she pays him in ribbon candy. Anyway, she's showing him an album of photos of cakes that she's cut out of magazines and cookbooks. He asks her if she ever ate any of those cakes and she replies, "Oh heavens no..."

This is a long way of saying that I loooooove reading recipes in magazines, cookbooks, newspapers, and online but I never make any of them. I love pictures too, especially when the cooks show the ingredients and steps they take, not merely the finished product. I love watching cooking shows on television, especially PBS which has loads of old Julia Child-Jacques Pepin episodes. I love travel shows that involve cooking like Anthony Bourdain and Man Vs. Food. I love Gordon Ramsay's shows like Kitchen Nightmares (the British version is best) and Hell's Kitchen and I love reading restaurant reviews, even for places in cities and countries I will never visit. Ever. In my life.

But I rarely make anything more sophisticated than pasta with vegetables. I don't eat meat or cream sauces or dessert. And most nights of the week, I have a salad because I get home from class very late and don't want anything heavy before bed.

So why on earth am I a voyeur when it comes to food? I don't know. But here is a link to one of my very favorite recipe blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I actually did use a recipe from this site, a muffin recipe, I believe, and they came out great. Love the pictures, too.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Any SoCal book bloggers out there?

Book fair Teen Stage

First things first...I'm on the planning committee for the West Hollywood Book Fair, which is an awesome gathering of writers, readers, and artists every September. I have attended each year since it started and watched it grow year after year. Great authors, great panels, great performances! And books books books!

This is my second year on the committee and I'm really excited because I have a terrific idea for the teen stage. I'd like to see a young adult book blogger conduct a real life interview on the stage with a popular YA author (there are a few awesome names being considered...!!).

So if you're a YA book blogger and you're a teen and close enough to LA or will be in the LA area on September 27, I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The EW Cover article

I must have heard from three separate people about the Entertainment Weekly article about misleading book covers. Apparently journalist Kate Ward wrote about covers for some of the books about plus-size characters that feature models who are nowhere near that size.

Um, this is startling news to people? I wish Ms. Ward had talked to me. Those of us who read these books know the cover models never resemble the actual characters. Marketing people evidently think we won't buy books if the covers have people who look like what we're about to read. The YA world recently has been rocked by Bloomsbury's covers for Justine Larbalestier's "Liar" and for "Magic Under Glass" by Jaclyn Dolamore. Both book covers featured white models representing characters who were of color. The issue became so heated that the publisher had to go back and reprint the books with different covers. While Dolamore didn't say anything publicly, Larbalestier certainly did, making sure everyone knew she was not a proponent of her original misleading cover.

When ALL ABOUT VEE was published, I too spoke up about the cover model. As gorgeous as she is, she is not anywhere near the size of my Veronica May. I was told that was the modeling world's version of plus-size. I asked students and readers wherever I went about that cover and all of them said the same thing: she looks average size.

From a writer's point of view, of course we want people to buy and read our books so we want marketing to do whatever they can to make the book more appealing to readers. But we created characters who were large (or Asian or disabled, etc.) for a reason. The character acts and talks and moves a certain way because of how we designed them. We want the reader to feel something about that character and their appearance is a big deal.

Did my novel not sell as many books as it could have if the model looked truly plus-size, a 217 lb woman instead of a 140 lb woman? I will never know.

Friday, March 5, 2010

How This Crummy Economy Has Affected My Driving

...and other ways I try to save money.

I'm a responsible person, always have been. The kind who never pays late fees on video rentals or library fees on books; in fact, most of my adult life has been pretty much fee-free. But now that I have very few pennies coming in and I have to watch every single one of them extremely closely, I have become super-duper cautious about most things that could require me to fork out some cash.

1. Such as driving.
Do you know how much a red-light camera ticket costs? Almost 500 bucks! Same with a rolling stop at a stop sign and crossing a pedestrian crosswalk when someone is in it. Major bucks for minor transgressions like parking tickets at expired meters or stopping in red zones or having a back taillight out (how can I know it's out? It's behind me!). Then there's speeding which can cost you serious money. The state of California is out of money and they're bumping up fees for just about everything. I don't even want to tell you how much it costs to get your car out of a tow lot after it's been taken away. {shudder} Well, they're not getting my money! I am being so careful everywhere I go.

Not to mention watching my speed on the freeways - that eats up gas too! And quick starts and stops. Who needs to beat that jerk at the light? Let him go. You can waste your money and the earth's natural resources (hey, I'm being pro-environment too!)

2. And wasting no food.
Nothing in this household gets thrown out. Not a thing. Buy too many bananas? Make banana bread. Extra salmon from dinner? Toss it in a salad. Leftover rice? Fry it up with veggies. We are very good about expiration dates and planning meals so we never throw any food out. And if it's bad when we buy it? Bring it back.

3. Plus we make good use of subscriptions.
We subscribe to 2 very important things that aren't exactly cheap but we get tremendous entertainment value from them: Netflix and LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As a patron of LACMA, we get free use of the museum whenever we want plus 2 tickets to great exhibits before they open, plus parties where they have delicious desserts and yummy teas and coffee. Oh and cool gifts like tote bags and gorgeous art books. As for Netflix, it was a gift subscription that we use just about every day. We love the instant play for movies and TV.

In fact, we don't pay for TV at all. And we're proud of that. We use hulu and Netflix and our DVDs and anything else we can find on the web.

4. Buying in bulk.
Not food or anything from Costco since we don't have a very big apartment but things like dance classes. I buy 5 or 10 classes at a time and I save serious money. That's important for me because it's one area where I can't skimp. I have to take class regularly in order to teach.

Yeah, this economy has affected me in ways I have no control over. I can't make people take my dance classes, I can't force publishers or the public to buy my books. Sometimes thinking too big picture is depressing. But I can control certain things in my life. It helps. Every little bit helps.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My guest blog and a chance to win some stuff!

Hi everyone! Here's the post I wrote about celebrations, how it's important to celebrate all our milestones and not merely the "big ones, at Everything To Do With Books:


And if you comment on your favorite holiday, you can win books, swag, etc.! All month long, Rebecca and Scarlett will be giving away lots of goodies so be sure to keep reading there.

Cheers and happy blogoversary!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Celebrating book blogging!

It's a Book Blog Extravaganza over at Everything to Do With Books!

The lovely and talented YA bloggers, Scarlett and Rebecca, are celebrating their blogoversary during the month of March, giving away books and swag and offering all kinds of cool guest blogs - including one from me! Look for it there on Wednesday, March 3rd.

I love to celebrate milestones such as anniversaries and birthdays, especially when it comes to stuff on the web. How often do you see people or companies announce a huge website or blog launch, post all new content every day for a month - and then completely stop? Happens all the time. I'm so leery of subscribing to new blogs these days. I get hooked, only to have them disappear after a few months. Yeah, it's hard work keeping up a blog or a website, difficult coming up with new material all the time. That's why it's so important to recognize when people are doing a great job!

Congrats on the blogoversary, Scarlett and Rebecca!