Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nerd or geek?

One of my students recently told me that a nerd is someone who knows a lot about useless things while a geek knows a lot about something useful. If that's the case, what am I? I'm a nerd about Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and LOST: knowing anything about any of those topics is completely useless to anyone and certainly the culture at large. On the other hand, I'm a geek about ballet, knitting, and writing.

Yet somehow I still feel like those things are useless to the rest of the world. Hmmm...

Anyway, I mention this distinction because HH and I recently finished watching the series finale of BSG and found it, for the most part, wholly unsatisfying. We didn't think some of the world's rules necessarily were followed and the disappearance of some characters was frustrating, especially after the long adventure they had had together and we had shared with them. This got me thinking about writing and how much we invest in characters as readers and writers. As a writer, I am supposed to fall in love with my characters yet in doing so, sometimes that prevents me from allowing them to live the lives they should lead. But the story does have to end somewhere and often, I think, when writers can't come to satisfying conclusions, they simply kill some of their cherished characters.

Bu then I thought...maybe they don't want the character to go on living without them.

It's hard to end a book (or series or television show or movie). When you've spent hours and hours writing for these characters, letting them tell their stories, creating their back stories, you're reluctant to part ways with them (which is one reason for series books) but you know you have to. An ending can be just as bittersweet for the writer as it is for the reader.

So nerd or geek?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Superbly Random Things

1. Don't forget to visit In Bed With Books where you can enter to win a whole mess of awesome books simply by reading and posting on the terrific interviews. During the month of March, Liviania is celebrating her blogiversary and her big 2-0!

2. I invite anyone in the LA area to come try my new ballet classes on Monday mornings at 9AM and 10 AM at the brand new Downtown Dance Loft on Spring Street between 5th and 6th Streets. The studio is gorgeous with big windows and a view of downtown. It's on the fifth floor and feels so NYC when you're in there! And bookmark this link for my dance class calendar.

3. HH and I watched the strangest batch of Netflx movies this week: Videodrome, Cat People, Curse of the Cat People, which in fact, has nothing to do with its predecessor. Normally, I like to call attention to movies I think are underrated but these are, well, they're rated and that's enough.

4. I seem to have lost all track of time, day, date lately and I wonder if that's happening to other people too. Do you ever wake up and have no clue what day it is?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Addicted to Angst

This post could be subtitled, Why Write YA? I think every young adult author is asked that question in an interview and we usually stumble and mumble something about being connected to our inner teen or never outgrowing the high school years or whatever gem tumbles out of our collective mouths.

Honestly? It's the angst. We're obsessed with it. We revel in it. We wrap ourselves up in it and spin it around and around until we are cocooned in trials and tribulations: will he or won't he? will she or won't she? will I or won't I?

I came to this conclusion last week when I was on a panel of authors and illustrators at my friend Paula Yoo's writing class at UCLA. Here's her blog post with pictures and everything. Paula, by the way, who's the author of the fab novel GOOD ENOUGH, takes pictures everywhere! I love that about her!

Back to the panel.

Alongside me were 2 illustrators, Dan Santat and Erin Eitter Kono, who write and illustrate kids' picture books, and middle grade author Michael Reisman whose SIMON BLOOM series is both imaginative and educational. First of all, let me say this about the three of them: they brought toys! Dan and Erin each brought mock-ups of books they'd illustrated plus Dan showed us a very awesome trailer he did for his book, ALWAYS LOTS OF HEINIES AT THE ZOO, which is just about the greatest title ever! And Michael brought his Air-Zooka which blasts a cannon of air at people across the room. That was frickin' cool!

Now, more seriously, though, when each of us talked about how we got into the business, how we sold our first books, I noticed that the 2 kids book writers and the MG writer all seemed a LOT more upbeat than me. Granted I've had my share of setbacks very recently but hey, we all do. Every writer has good days and bad; it's a never-ending roller coaster ride on this thing called Book Publishing. But it's the way you deal with things that makes a difference. Dan and Erin and Michael were far more positive and "oh well, things will work out" than me. I, on the other hand, was (as Paula so aptly titled her post and remember, she's a YA writer too although she also writes picture books so her angst is balanced out by her happy-good-times attitude) doom-n'-gloom.

It was all about the angst for me.

Woe is me.

Alas, poor Yorick I knew him well.

Life sucks/stinks/blows.

Writers of kids books don't usually have to deal with heavy issues in their books (although exceptions to this abound). They entertain their readers and sometimes educate them in an underhanded way. YA writers, though, take on BIG stuff, PERSONAL stuff, INTIMATE stuff, and we also try to entertain when we can. But entertainment is secondary, usually, to dealing with problems and helping our characters experience growth.

So I guess what I'm driving at is the center of whole nature v. nurture controversy which sociologists have studied forever. Does our angst-y nature make us YA writers or does writing YA makes us angst-y?

And the answer: it's in our genes. We angst, therefore, we write YA.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Thoughts on my VC Andrews Challenge Progress*

* contains spoilers

So the fourth book in the FITA series (Taren, is there a fifth? I couldn't tell from the inside pages and didn't dare search the web for fear of falling too far into the world of VCA) is SEEDS OF YESTERDAY, in which Cathy and her husband/brother move their entire family into the old Foxworth Hall which their youngest son Bart has inherited from the old lady/grandmother he befriended in the previous novel. Bart has so lovingly and weirdly reconstructed every detail of the old mansion which had been destroyed in the fire that killed his father (who was his grandmother's husband and his mother's lover).

The move is intended to be strictly temporary until Bart formally inherits the home and then Cathy and Chris will take their adopted hottie daughter Cindy to Hawaii to live out the rest of their unnatural, demon seed lives. Meanwhile, their older son, perfect Jory who has reached the top of the ballet world with his wife, shallow Melodie, will live in New York where they will become rich and famous because in VCA Land, that's what happens to professional dancers (unlike our world where they fall apart physically at the age of 25 and then mentally at the age of 30 when they realize they've wasted their lives on something that they will never again be able to recapture).

1. This book is filled with classic lazy writing. Example: "In the distance, faint and hazy, we could faintly see two church steeples" (p. 55). Okay, see the "faint" and "faintly" in the same sentence? Bad, bad, copyeditor who should have caught that. Bad, bad writer who should have known better.

2. More eavesdropping by characters who have previously shown the fortitude to be direct. Catherine Doll, I'm looking at you. Cathy has, in every other book in this series, proven herself to be a confrontational individual, yet here she suddenly resorts to listening in at keyholes and spying in the garden which ensures that she sees some very um, intimate moments. Eww.

3. Very, very high ick factor. Not of the incestuous variety as we've come to expect from VCA but in the descriptions of sex acts that take place between Cathy's children and their lovers. Cathy describes in excruciating detail what she sees when she walks in on Cindy and Lance (p. 172) and of course, whenever she sees anyone naked - which is a LOT.

4. When in doubt, kill/paralyze a main character in a car accident. And to make everything neat and tidy, why not have characters whose fathers have died in car accidents ALSO die in car accidents? Chris, whose father's name was also Chris, dies in a car accident at the end of the novel because...the book needed to end? I have no idea. There is never any rhyme or reason such as would be the case in a literary novel.

I wonder, is there no other way to die or become disabled? An exception: Jory loses the use of his legs by having a heavy prop fall on him during a dance - thus following in the exact footsteps of his father - who was disabled in a car accident, of course.

It all comes full circle in the end, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Autograph hound or hoax?

About a week ago, I got an email from 4 "fans" in Germany requesting signed pictures. I felt honored and flattered so of course I sent them some cards with my autograph! I figured it made sense: the letter sounded like it was written by teen girls who might have read my books plus most of the bios about me on the web and in my books mention that I was born in Germany. So I sent them out and returned the email promising an envelope would arrive in their mail and asking them to please let me know what they think when they get it.

So today, I got another email - this one from a guy named Piotr in Poland. He's 33 he says and has been a fan of mine for many years. Well, now, this time I sense a scam of some kind. First of all, a 33 year old Polish guy is NOT my target demo (not that men don't read my books but, um, no) and second of all, I noticed that of the day's hits on my website, someone from Poland checked me out -but not anything beyond my contact page (go, Homestead!).

I decided to do a little investigating...sure enough, this guy Piotr Haase has sent the EXACT SAME email to lots and lots of people. So...

...yes, the German fans did the same thing. [sigh] I contacted one of the blogs where the names and email were re-posted and asked the writer how she had verified the authenticity of the fans. They did write back with the correct info so she felt confident and sent them some pictures. I warned her that Piotr may be the next person to contact her - and he was!! Not long after I emailed her about this (her name is Cecilia Brainard, btw and this is her blog), she posted the SAME LETTER I had gotten and warned her about.

Now, what the heck...is there an autograph scam out there I don't know about? Is there something you can do with autographs of people who are not exactly household names? After all, if you follow the trail of these blogs the "fans" are posting on or to whom they are emailing their letters, you will discover the people they are asking are only semi-well-known (I'm speaking mostly for myself here), so what gives? What's the deal?

For your information, here are the letters I received. Fellow writers, have you gotten them? And if so, what did you do about it?

The German one--

Hello C.Leigh!We are great Fans in Germany of you and therefore we would be very happy,if you can send us 4 handwritten pictures of you.Many thanks in advance for your kindness.

Bye Bye

Anika,Denis,Bodo and Silke from Germany
Adress:Anika Eppert
Holmblick 36
D-18225 Kühlungsborn

The Polish one--
Hello C.Leigh Purtill!
My name is Piotr Haase. I am 33 years old. I live in a little village in Poland,
together with my wife Kate and two sons Albert and Adrian. We are happy and we lead quiet live. I have been your fan since many years.
I really admire you and I think you are very good in that what you do.
I was wandering if you could. Send me your autograph.
I would be grateful.
Thank you in advance.
Your sincelery
Piotr Haase

Okay -update - a third one just popped into my inbox:
Hallo C. Leigh Purtill
Ich bitte um zwei Autogramme.
Sage vielen Dank und wünsche Ihnen viel Erfolg.
Would you please send me two Autograph and Signature.
Thank you.
Monika Förster
Esmarchstr. 8
42283 Wuppertal

WHAT the frak????

Monday, March 16, 2009

Women's Expo in Ventura, CA

This past Saturday, I was signing books at the Women's Expo in Ventura at the Bank of Books booth. Bank of Books is an amazing independent store (go indies!!) in Ventura run by Clarey Rudd who was at the Expo and who loves talking about books!

Here I am at my booth. Behind me are the seminar panels (Clarey and Rachel and I were actually talking TOO loudly about books at one point and a security person came over to ask us to keep it down!).

Rachel and I got there early and spent some time wandering the exhibit hall. Our favorite booth was the art installation called "Cups of Courage: Sisterhood of the Traveling Bras."

These photos do NOT do the bras justice. They are gorgeous! Unbelievable works of art! Here is some info about the installation.
While we were there, I also met two wonderful authors, Michael Mehas who is a movie producer and who wrote the novel, STOLEN BOY and Bill Myers, a tremendously prolific writer of funny and thought-provoking fiction for kids, teens and adults. Great meeting both you guys!

And thanks to Rachel who tagged along and kept me entertained on the drive up to Ventura (it takes an hour to get anywhere in SoCal!) and for talking movies all the way home!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Disappointments this week

1. No new episode of LOST. Shame, shame on ABC for telling us we'd have consecutive new episodes this season and then shoehorning a repeat in this week. What, it's not sweeps anymore?

2. Barbie is 50. Michael Jackson is 50. Only one is going on a world tour and it's not the blonde-tressed beauty we know and whose shoes we covet. Why, Michael? Do you need the money that badly? Trying to buy back Neverland Ranch? Especially sans new album, who is going to pay the big bucks for old material?

3. My inner clock is all screwed up because of the time change. I know it's just an hour but I can't get to sleep- and then get up- at the right time. I love the light, believe me, but why can't it be like this all year long? This reminds me of a story I wrote years ago about a town that was smack dab between time zones. I may have to revisit that.

4. I still haven't found the voice for the new story I am trying to write. I also began writing a short story that I hated within 6 pages. This is so frustrating. When I'm not writing anything, I get very depressed.

And 4.1 - Today is ANOTHER Friday the 13th.


"We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope."
--Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, March 9, 2009

4 Things I Don't Do Anymore

1. I don't wear high heels anymore. There was a time when I equated being a grownup with wearing really high heels, kinda like Barbie. I had stilettos in brown suede and forest green suede (they matched, separately, a pair of suede pants and a suede skirt I owned - wow, how many times can I write "suede"?) plus a pair in navy, one in red, and many, many in black. And this was all during my first two jobs out of college.

They make your legs look awesome, I will admit, and when the rest of you is sleek and svelte, well, then, you only have to step out of your car and wait for the wolf whistles. But - big but here - they're so very bad for your knees and hips. They throw everything out of alignment, all your joints, all your bones, and your muscles have to torque in many different ways in order to compensate. But not anymore. Not for me. The highest heels I will wear now are a pair of black polyester zip-up boots that are kind of funky with skirts and dresses but at the end of the night, I can't wait to take them off.

2. I don't wear liquid eyeliner anymore. This was another one of those "grownup-y" things I used to do. Along with base, concealer, powder, eye shadow, liquid blush, mascara, lip liner, and lipstick, I thought the more makeup I wore, the older and more mature I appeared. Looking back at old photos of myself, I can see the layers of makeup I wore and I cringe!

Nowadays, I use an SPF tinted moisturizer, a little translucent powder, a swipe of bronzer and pinkish lip gloss. That's it. If I'm going to a function, I'll wear a little mascara on my top lashes only but that's the extent of it. If I follow my grandmother's footsteps, by the time I'm 80, I'll have reduced my makeup to a dab of lip gloss that I apply to my upper lip and then moosh it with my bare bottom lip. Gotta admit, it takes a lot less time to get out of the house this way and no need for expensive makeup removers.

3. I don't drink diet soda anymore. I used to be addicted to Diet Coke, drinking it from late morning until bedtime, in place of water and tea and juices, until a bad, ahem, experience in grad school when I realized there is such a thing as too much diet soda. Now I don't drink soda at all: just coffee (black, no sugar), tea (herbal or Earl Grey with a little honey) and water (no ice).

4. I don't smoke anymore. Yes, it was the cool thing to do when I was in college and grad school. Yes, I was a dancer and back then we all smoked instead of eating. Yes, I thought I was cool (did I mention that already?). Until one day when I hyperventilated during a grand allegro combination. And the smell? As I cut down on my way to quitting, I started to get my sense of smell back, and oh god, it was horrible. In my hair and my clothes and on my fingers...double yuck. I finally quit not long after we moved to LA and it was - hands down -the best thing I've ever done.

So 4 things I don't do anymore...and I'm glad.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Notes on my VC Andrews Challenge progress*

* contains spoilers!

I took a break from the Dollanganger series (when the fourth book was not available at my library) to try out the first in the Gemini series (which I took as a good omen because I am a Gemini and there is much that parallels my life with certain choices in VC Andrews' novels - oh wait, that's kind of a bad thing, isn't?). The first novel is titled "Celeste." I don't think I'll be reading further.

Basic plot: Celeste is the daughter of a woman who believes herself to be psychically connected to the afterlife and who insists Celeste and her twin brother Noble will eventually be able to see and talk to the spirits as she can. This appears to be their lifelong goal. When Noble dies accidentally, Mommy dresses Celeste up as Noble and tells her/him that Celeste is the one who has perished and now she/he is Noble. Wowza.

1. This being a VC Andrews novel, Mommy loves Noble better and tells Celeste she must always watch over him. When Celeste becomes Noble, it takes her no longer than about thirty minutes to completely accept this change because she suddenly believes that it's far better for her to be a boy than a girl and thus receive more of Mommy's unconditional love.

2. Again, keeping in mind the VCA method of plotting, Perfect Daddy dies within the first few chapters. As Mommy gets involved with other men, they too die. I am fully convinced that VCA believes women's love kills men. This is not a new anti-feminist theory; however, most people who supported it have been dead for about a hundred years.

3. Despite this being a relatively recent story told in the near past, the one boy who is involved with the outside world (because Celeste/Noble is of course homeschooled and doesn't go near anyone from the greater community) seems to be transplanted in time as it relates to his speech patterns. On the one hand he calls Celeste/Noble a "pussy" for not wanting to go out on a date but then he also says he "makes love" to his babes.

4. And yes, what would a VC Andrews novel be without the implication of improper filial relations? The boy who ultimately rapes Celeste/Noble repeatedly spies on his sister who walks around her room naked squeezing her breasts and doing um, other things, that he wants Celeste/Noble to watch to prove she/he isn't a "pussy."

Sadly, despite all this magnificent soap opera material, the book doesn't really begin until nearly 100 pages in and then blathers on and on for far too many pages. I've gotta queue up the next FITA book so I can get back to the real cheese.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

50 Facts About Barbie

To commemorate Barbie's upcoming 50th birthday on March 9, writer Kathy Flanigan of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote up 50 fun things about Barbie.

Hands down, #45 is my favorite.I owned a Barbie when I was a kid (of course!) and a Malibu Skipper doll. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I realized Malibu was a place in Southern California; I thought it meant "tanned."

I didn't have a ton of accessories but I did have the Country Camper which I recall was kind of cheaply made. The door never slid open and shut properly.

I also didn't collect clothes or shoes for the dolls and the last outfit I can picture Barbie in was a little crocheted thing my grandmother made for her. I think she was barefoot all the time since I lost all of her shoes.

One thing I did covet was the giant Barbie head whose hair you could style and whose face you could paint. Never did get one.


[P.S. Don't forget to check out the interview Liviania is having with me at In Bed With Books!}

Monday, March 2, 2009

Where else is C. Leigh Purtill?

Aside from my blog and my website and my Facebook and my MySpace and Goodreads...

...that sounds sooo egocentric, doesn't it? And yet, other people have even MORE of an online presence with multiple blogs and Twittering, etc. I barely have time to keep up with myself on these few sites.

On Wednesday, March 4th, Liviania will be posting an interview she did with me on her blog, In Bed With Books. I have to say, she asked some amazing questions! I know it can be hard to come up with questions for authors, especially when we are all over the place, talking to different reviewers and posting things on our own websites and blogs and honestly, most of us (and I mean me, really) don't have that much going on to discuss.

Seriously, this is why we write: so we can make up cool stuff. So when a blogger comes along and asks great questions and really makes you dig inside yourself for the answers, the effort is truly appreciated.

So head on over there and check out the interview as well as her schedule for a full month of birthday/blogiversary fun!