Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My end of the year thank you...

Fans of MEG, fans of VEE, readers who've sent me emails and posted on my MySpace and Facebook pages, blog followers, friends...I feel very lucky to be a writer in an age when there can be immediate feedback between reader and author.

This year has been one of unbelievable highs (2 books published in April!) and super-duper lows (let's not get into that). I finished 3 brand new manuscripts, rewrote another, met some amazing editors I'd love to work with - and also watched as publishing crumbled into a giant heap with lots of terrific people losing their jobs.

You win some, you lose some. But I'm not going to dwell on the negative and instead will concentrate on the good stuff:

--I took 2 trips to the east coast for 2 reunions and several school and library visits, sold out at the Borders in Farmington where I was reading, spoke at book fairs and conferences, and did 2 local television appearances.

--I started teaching ballet again in March and now have 7 classes of my own and a whole bunch of students whom I adore! I've also been fortunate to find a new teacher to take classes with and to learn from - and who can inspire me so I can inspire others.

--Through the magic of the interweb, I've met some fantastic authors who have since become friends. Lots of great YA writers - and some adult writers too - live in and around LA and I am so honored to know them. Go LAYAs!

--LOVE, MEG was included on the 2008 Kansas Education Association Recommended book list for High Schools as well as the 2009 California Collection for the State of California's High Schools.

Good, bad, high, low, up is a series of adventures, not an end to itself.

Happy New Year to all, including the many wonderful reviewers and readers who've been so terrifically supportive of me this year like, Teen Book Review's Jocelyn, In Bed With Books' Liviania, The Book Muncher's Rachael, The Page Flipper's Chelsea, the lovely ladies at YA Fresh, Harmony Book Reviews' Harmony, Jessica at Teen Free Book Friday, Holly at Woman Tribune, Khyrnithia at Frenetic Reader, Bloomacious, Rachel at My Very Own Blogetary, not to mention all the amazing people who posted comments and reviews of my books at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes &, and their own sites.

Thank you.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I swore...

...that I would take a long break from web stuff while my parents were visiting. I figured it would be the perfect time for me to wean myself off Facebook and Goodreads and Blogger, etc. After all, who's reading the web between Christmas and New Year's? Who needs to know what my current status is, whether I'm reading a book, avoiding work, or making cookies?

Well, um, me.

As it turns out, I think almost exclusively in "status updates," what the Twitter folks call "tweets." Here's an example: when I saw "Valkyrie" the other day, I thought, "The best thing about Tom Cruise's performance is his hair." And then a second later, "I could status that."

Or another: while walking through Santa Barbara on Sunday, I overheard a woman explaining to her young son what "war" was and I thought, "I could status that."

[NB: I am single-handedly starting the trend of using "status" as a verb. You are welcome to also, but I'd appreciate it if you attribute the original usage to moi. Merci.]

Sadly I didn't have access to FB until I got home late last night. It was all I could do not to update constantly, cycling through all the things I did and saw and heard over the weekend.

So here we go, New Year's resolution #1: stop checking the web all the time. It'll take some serious restraint but it will be worth it in the long run. I'll get valuable time back and stop this sucking black hole of internet, at least temporarily.

Oh hey, I could status that.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A brightly-spangled website

Just in time for the holidays...the website has been updated...pretty, shiny! Take a look!

Nice work, Ninja Webmaster!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Good deeds that warm the heart

The other day, my Ninja Webmaster and I were having coffee with our friend V at a Hollywood Bucks and noticed a meter reader giving out a ticket to a silver VW bug. We rolled our eyes and said,

Geez, that sucks, getting a ticket while you're shopping for Christmas presents.

But the guy remained. He wasn't just writing the ticket and moving on. Well, sure enough, in about five minutes, a tow truck arrived to take the VW away. It seems the car was parked in an anti-gridlock zone, one of those streets in LA where they post signs that say you can't park there during the morning or afternoon rush hours. An automatic tow.

Ouch! That's a hefty chunk of change at the holidays.

But to be somewhat fair to the City of LA, there are a TON of signs posted so it's kind of hard to feel too much sympathy. Right?

[Aside: While all of this is going on and the tow truck is backing up and hitching the VW to its rear, a second and then a third car pull up into the parking spot behind the VW, their drivers get out and start to put change in the meter and only stop when the tow truck driver alerts them to WHY he is towing this car. Then they glance furtively around them at the signs before getting back in their cars and driving away. Honestly, it's so hard to find a parking spot sometimes in Hollywood that you have to assume there's something amiss when you see a whole bunch of them in a row...]

So we're watching and thanking our lucky stars we walked to the Bucks and didn't drive when who should come up but the people who own the VW. Are they young and sprightly? Are they a family with kids? Are they a yuppie couple picking up Wii games at Best Buy?

No, they are an elderly couple, loaded down with toys from Target - and the man is carrying a cane. We gasped and said,

Oh no! What will they do? How will they get their car back?

Because once that ticket is written, once that tow truck has been hitched, game is over, my friend. None of it can be undone. Unless the tow truck driver has a heart of gold and is giving the old couple an early Christmas present.

Which he did, thank god. We cheered,

Yay, tow truck driver!

These are the kinds of true stories that really reflect the meaning of this time of year. Not the false sentiment of corporate giveaways or staged generosity but just things like a tow truck driver giving away a job.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Your favorite Roseanne character...

...aside from Roseanne herself?

That was my most recent celebrity sighting! Check it out here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The I Heart Your Blog Noms

The lovely and amazing writer Kimberly Derting (THE BODY FINDER) nominated me for an I Heart Your Blog Award!

Tell me how touched I am! Go on, tell me!

No, it's more than that.

Yup, more than that too...

There ya go! That's exactly how touched I am by this honor. I adore reading her blog, The Road to Publication. It helps me relive all the joys I have felt along the way to having my own books published - and reminds me of how grateful I am for all that I have.

Now, that being said, here are the rules for the nominations:

1) Add the logo of your award to your blog (done!).
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you (see above!).
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs (see below).
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog (you got it!).
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs (will do!).

So here are my choices...the first couple are blogs I love because I totally dig their pro-girl stance, despite being so very different.

1. The Chick Manifesto - Go, Taren! Taren seasons her book and movie reviews with a heavy dose of sentiment and just the right amount of sarcasm.

2. Menstrual Poetry - Go, Holly! Holly posts about all things girls and women should pay attention to, from politics to entertainment.

Next are some writers I adore and whose work I hope to be able to showcase very soon.

3. Christina Rundle - Yay, Christina! Christina is in the midst of several YA novels- her blog chronicles her progress on her projects as well as the sweet treat she's enjoying that day.

4. Dreaming in Red - Yay, Chandra! Chandra's book, THE TAROT CAFE NOVEL, will debut in January 6, 09 from TokyoPop...

5. My Very Own Blogetary - Yay, Rachel! Rachel writes lots of short stories and is also working on a novel. Her blog reflects her liberal politics and creative brain.

And finally, two writer friends of mine from Los Angeles whose novels debuted in 2008:

6. Paula Yoo - Whoo-hoo, Paula! Check out her book, GOOD ENOUGH, from HarperTeen...

7. Jordanna Fraiberg - Whoo-hoo, Jordanna! Look for her book, IN YOUR ROOM, from Razorbill...

It was really tough for me to narrow down the blogs I love to just these seven. Here are some other fantastic blogs I follow on a regular basis and I won't officially nominate them because they have all been nominated by other people: Bookluver Carol's Reviews, Reviewer X, The Page Flipper, The Story Siren, The Book Muncher, Literary Rejections on Display, Woman Tribune, Pub Rants, In Bed With Books, Harmony Book Reviews, YA Fresh, Stupid Blog Name... I forgetting anyone? I hope not!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Things that put me in a Holiday Mood

1. Coming home late at night to find HH has put all the Christmas lights up in the windows and around the apartment. This makes me happiest because A) I wasn't involved at all and B) it makes me feel like a bunch of little elves came in and decorated for me.

2. Watching the tots in line to talk to Santa Claus at the Grove. Sure it's crass commercialism, but those kids don't know it yet. I wish I could swallow up some of that innocence for myself.

3. Listening to "It's a Wonderful Life" while I work. HH and I know every single word and sound effect of this movie (it's one of the very first things we realized we had in common when we met!) and I have seen it about fifty million times so I can't actually watch it. But listening is the next best thing and it makes me feel better - more spirited - when I write.

4. Drinking tea from my pretty Christmas cup that my friend Rachel gave me. On what other holiday do we have special dishes to use? Easter? No. Valentine's Day? Please. 4th of July? No, but I do have special candles for the 4th.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

True crime "novels"

As promised, here are some of my favorite true crime books - some people call them novels, although they are actually nonfiction, because they read so smoothly, so "novel-like."

The acknowledged masterpiece is "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote. Absolutely chilling. This was my first taste of the genre and it quickly led to others. I went on a true crime spree (a reading spree, that is) when I was in my early 20s; now I'm more tempted by episodes on Dateline or 20/20, which often serves the same purpose.Another great one is "Helter Skelter" by Vincent Bugliosi about the murders committed by the Manson family. The fact that Charles Manson was obsessed with the Beatles' song of the same name is a little weird.
High on anyone's true crime story list has to be "Fatal Vision" by JoeMcGinniss about Jeffrey MacDonald who murdered his pregnant wife and two daughters. I think I saw the movie first which starred Gary Cole as MacDonald (the same Gary Cole who played an amazing Mike Brady in the "Brady Bunch Movie"!).And finally, no list would be complete without "The Stranger Beside Me" by Ann Rule about serial killer Ted Bundy. To this day, I can't see a man with a cast and not shudder to think of Bundy, who used to wear a fake one to garner sympathy from, and ultimately entrap, his victims.

Oh yes, good times, good times...this stage of mine didn't last terribly long, possibly because the number of truly excellent books like this was small and I went through them quickly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mother Daughter Book Club likes MEG!

I adore the idea of a mother-daughter book club and I wish my mom and I lived close enough to each other that we could attend one together - we both love to read and compare books - so I am super thrilled to read this very nice review and recommendation of LOVE, MEG to mother-daughter book clubs by none other than MotherDaughterBookClub!

Thank you so much!

And if any clubs are considering selecting my book, I'd be happy to talk to your group either over the phone or in person if I'm nearby. How fun would that be?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More book lists!

Just in time for the holidays...

My friend, the super fantastic, sweet and funny writer, Claire LaZebnik (grab a copy of her latest novel, The Smart One and the Pretty One as a treat to yourself for the holidays!), runs a blog called Bookstore People with her friend, Kim Allen-Niesen. This week she asked me to come up with a list of great YA books for teen girls - books you might give as gifts to friends or family.

The first attempt was short and too serious: I was definitely thinking about books that mean something, you know? Because those, to me, are the kinds of books you give as gifts. But then Claire reminded me that YA readers are looking for all kinds of great books. So that set my mind at ease and I was free to recommend all sorts of good books, including (this is a disclaimer) many by people I know personally.

What can I say, I happen to know some amazing writers who've written some terrific books. I'm just lucky like that!


Best Book Gifts For Young Adult Readers

Friday, December 12, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Things I Wish I Had the Guts to Do

1. Contact people who give me crummy ratings or reviews and ask, "Why no love?" Why give my book a 2? Why say you hate the ending? Why make nasty comments?

In this age of the Internet, no posting is truly anonymous. I can easily email or message someone and ask them why they wrote or rated the way they did but what would that get me? Reviewers and readers should feel free to give their true opinions without fear of being stalked by a maligned author. But honestly, if you don't like something, it would be really great - and helpful - if you can say why.

I'm just sayin'.

2. Contact old boyfriends just to say, "Hey! How ya doin'? Ever wonder what happened to me?" Believe me, I am a happily married woman and I would not want to get in touch for any reason that's, shall we say, untoward, but I kind of just want to sort of know if they ever think about me.

Wouldn't you want to know if someone considered you "the one who got away"?

Again, just sayin'.

3. Stop posting at Facebook and Goodreads and Myspace for, like, a week.

Ah, who am I kidding? I can't go a day without looking at all those sites. Maybe I could cut down to once a day?

Oh please, yeah, that's not happening.

4. Stop weighing myself every single morning.

I'm a freak like that. I'm way into the numbers game: Amazon, my scale, blog visits, website hits. I wish I didn't care but I do.

Again, so not happening.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Creating book lists

Earlier this week, a writer friend of mine asked me for some recommendations for a book list for teen girls (I'll post the link when she gets it up on her site). I have to tell you, it totally freaked me out for about 12 hours. Asking a writer to compile a list of favorite books is like asking a computer to figure pi - it just goes on and on and on and on...

When I was growing up, I read everything and I do mean everything: all genres, all writers, all types of stories. Shorts and classics, sci-fi and true crime...seriously, everything. But there was one sort of sub-genre of fiction that I fixated upon briefly when I was about 12 or so: the sad and depressing main character stories.

So herewith are My Favorite Mental Illness Books:

LISA, BRIGHT AND DARK by John NeufeldTHE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath

SYBIL by Flora Rheta Schreiber

What does this say about me as a teenager? Only that we all get obsessed with certain things at different times of our lives.

Next: great true crime novels

Monday, December 8, 2008

New (Zoo) Reviews

I'm sure no one in the blogosphere is old enough to remember the New Zoo Review, are they?

A show of hands? No? Okay, moving on then...

I'd like to take a brief respite from blogging about all the things I like and all the things I eat and all the things I do to mention some very cool reviews about, ahem, my books.

Seriously, I so love hearing from readers and it's just amazing the kind of feedback you get on the web. Where it used to be - before the Age of the Internet - you had to post a letter to an author you liked and send it to her publishing house in New York and then someone there would hold onto it for a year and finally forward it to the author herself, now it's just a click of a button and you can share your opinions with the world - or whoever happens to read your blog.

Good, bad, an author has no control over what people think or interpret or ultimately write about her books. And in the anonymous webspace, anyone can pretty much say anything with very few repercussions. So that's why it's especially satisfying to read positive reviews, like these:

Here is Chelsea the Page Flipper's review of ALL ABOUT VEE. She uses the word "surprising" which I have to say - and told her - many, many people say about my books. I would love to know why! Is it that they are expecting something completely different based on the title or the cover or what they've heard? And if so, what were they expecting?

Is that a question for the ages? I hope one of you amazing reviewers out there will enlighten me if you can.

Here is Frenetic Reader/Khyrinthia's review of LOVE, MEG. Again, she is also surprised at what she got. I'm so happy she thought the characters were realistic and I do love that she appreciated the ending - while most people love that it had a not-happily-ever-after ending, I've heard from a very few who didn't. And that surprises me. Thank you, K, for putting the book in the Realm of the Very Good.

And for just one more, here is The Book Muncher's review of LOVE, MEG on her site. Another insightful analysis of the book that thrilled me to pieces. I love that she said she could connect with Meg, and really, that's the character I put my heart and soul into.

While I can't speak for other authors, I know I appreciate thoughtful reviews that give context for what and why a reader did or did not like about my books. It's nice to hear someone loved a book I wrote, but when they can tell me why (or why they didn't), I both appreciate and respect their opinions and the fact that they took the time to give them.

Thanks to all of you.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The winners are...

Eileen Micale - ALL ABOUT VEE
Thao Tran - LOVE, MEG

Congratulations, Eileen and Thao!

I hope you both enjoy the books and that you'll let me know what you think when you've read them. I love getting feedback from my readers! And no, I don't think free books make people like the book better. Heck, I would give them all away if that were true!

Jessica at Teen Free Book Fridays told me over 300 people entered her contest which was just so shocking and thrilling. I love that so many people wanted to win one of my books!


Friday, December 5, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Things I Won't Ever Be

1. A car aficionado - As much as LA is a car culture, I just can't wrap my mind around spending the equivalent to a year's worth of college education on a car. I can't make the words "I drive an Avalanche" sound right coming out of my mouth.

2. A vegan - I like soy products, I really do, but I also like wearing cashmere. Is that so wrong?

3. A Tom Cruise fan - His bland likability may appeal to a wide swath of the movie-going public but he's too...bland and too...likable for my taste. He has no edge, unless you count jumping up and down on Oprah's couch edgy, and virtually no potential for criminal activity and I truly dig that in my Tinseltown idols.

4. A romance writer - Not in the sense of "a writer of romantic fiction," no, but perhaps in the "a writer who thinks it's romantic to be a writer" vein. For while I believe spending one's life in the pursuit of the perfect turn of phrase, the plot twist that no one saw coming, and the story that makes every reader cry at its end is both noble and worthy of great sacrifice, I simply haven't mastered the ability tot make a romance the centerpiece of my MC's world.

I tried it once and it turned out gay - literally. I wrote a novel about a girl whose life is turned upside down when she falls in love with another girl. Not that there's anything wrong with that...but it's certainly not a conventional love story.

Not that there's anything wrong with that either.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

3 Movies I'm Jazzed About

Seven Pounds, starring Will Smith and directed by Gabriele Muccino (who also directed Smith in "The Pursuit of Happyness"). Will Smith is a suicidal IRS agent who decides to help seven people before he kills himself. I know it doesn't sound very promising - sort of maudlin with a likely sappy ending - but in the hands of these two, I know it will be heartfelt and sincere, if nothing else. Also, didn't they say that about "It's a Wonderful Life"?

The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring Keanu Reeves and based on the classic 1951 sci-fi film which was directed by Robert Wise and was itself based on a short story by Harry Bates. "Gort, Klaatu barada nicto!" Come on, who in the free world has not heard those words before? The first time I saw the original film, I was in junior high. I have no idea what class it was or why the teacher showed it to us, but I absolutely remember every frame of it. Will the Reeves version be as good? Hard to tell. It's got a great cast and likely amazing special effects but will people believe Reeves (and lord knows he's one of my favorite actors of all time and I'll watch him in just about anything) is Klaatu and not Gort?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, directed by David Fincher, and based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald (one of my absolute favorite writers ever - ever!). A man is born very old and ages backwards. Pitt and Blanchett - together? My heart does a little pit-a-pat. I love Cate, adore her like I do Meryl and Michelle. The movie, I can tell from the trailers, will break my heart. I just know it. Sigh. Bring it on.

Don't forget to enter the Teen Free Book Friday contest to win a signed copy of LOVE, MEG or ALL ABOUT VEE! Contest ends Friday, December 5th!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

You lie!

I'm writing a character now who lies to manipulate other people, including my narrator, to bend them to her will - but in a nice way. I have written lying characters before (see Reed in VEE, who lies to be cruel and Lucie in MEG, who lies to protect herself) but I've never written one like this.

Obviously, writers have to create characters who are nothing like themselves to populate their stories. Otherwise it would be unbelievably boring to have everyone act like one person - the author. But whenever I write someone who is so different from me, it makes me think about my own personality and if there's a part of me in there too.

I am not a liar. It never occurs to me to lie to get my way. Maybe it's the way I was raised, maybe I've seen other people get in trouble for lying. Ultimately, I do believe in karma - that whatever you put out there into the universe will come back to you in some way. I'm the kind of person who responds to email in a day, who returns every phone call, who doesn't pretend to be busier or more important than she is to make herself look smarter or more popular. If anything, I'm a glass-half-empty gal, while HH would love for me to be more glass-half-full. He wants me to be more elusive but to me that's a false note. If I'm busy, sure, that's one thing but if I'm not, why pretend to others that I am?

Sometimes in my personal life, I have a hard time understanding where people who lie are coming from. What drives them to fib about how much money they make, how busy they are, how popular their books are...I don't cut them much slack because it's something I never do.

But when I write, I can imagine all sorts of motivations for characters who lie. Interesting that I can't do that with real people.

A reminder: Teen Free Book Fridays is featuring me as their author this week and will be giving away 2 signed copies of my books, one each of LOVE, MEG and ALL ABOUT VEE. So head on over and sign up to win!