Thursday, December 30, 2010

A confluence of blogs

First thing you should know about me is that I'm a Gemini (birthday's in May, start thinking about gifts now) so I have two very distinct sides to my personality. Each of them is represented by my blogs: my author blog which is this one if you couldn't tell and my dancer blog, which is, where I talk about dance and training and post videos to help beginners.

Never have the two blogs met until now. This morning, I was reading a review of a dance movie called "A Beautiful Tragedy" on the blog, Dance Advantage. The movie is about an anorexic dancer in Russia named Oksana. The reviewer wrote about the documentary's unflinching look at ballet in Russia, where dance is taken very seriously. The dance world is notoriously stringent about weight and size yet it's accepted as a given while anorexia in the modeling world is condemned.Which brings me to this sad article from about the death of model Isabella Caro. She was on an anti-anorexia billboard in France and even wrote a memoir called, "The Little Girl Who Did Not Want to Get Fat" about her battle with the disease from a young age.

Then, back in my writer world, I got a Google alert about an ALL ABOUT VEE mention. Here it's part of an article titled, "YA Fatphobia" in the upcoming issue of The Horn Book, which is a literary resource for teachers and librarians across the country. My novel is very positively mentioned and included among a handful of YA novels that portray plus-size characters in a positive and healthy way (thank you, writer and reviewer Kathryn Nolfi!).

And one more article from, an interview with actress Ginnifer Goodwin ("Big Love"). She's beautiful, isn't she? She has gorgeous skin and a great career and yet, she seems to have an unhealthy attitude toward food and dieting. I know this interview is supposed to show how healthy she is but honestly, she's in the same world as my character, Veronica May. Except where my gal accepts her weight and lives beautifully, Ms. Goodwin seems to see weight as a constant battle in her life, not so very different from Ms. Caro or the Russian ballerina, Oksana. And yet, she's being portrayed as someone with a balanced life. Sorry, Ms. Goodwin, but you're just as anxious and obsessed about weight as every other actress in Hollywood.

All of these articles in one morning! And this was on top of reading the sobering statistic that 2 out of every 3 Americans is overweight or obese. No wonder! We have the worst attitudes toward food and disease and we label people and food "good" or "bad." None of these people need to make weight-loss resolutions: they need to make acceptance resolutions.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Christmas Morning

As I sip coffee from my special Christmas cup and contemplate the Christmas movies to listen to while I bake cookies this morning, I'm reminded of several things, a primary one which is I need to have breakfast *before* I cook or else I will nibble all the dough.

1. Sometimes the best holidays are the smallest ones. This recession-bordering-on-depression has taught us big lessons about living more frugally and Christmas should be no exception. I've been guilty of extravagance in the past - once when I got my very first real job out of college and the second time when I got my big job at the network - but what came of it? Sure it was fun to be able to buy whatever I wanted for people but they didn't love me or the day any more than when I was more discreet with my purchases.

2. Sometimes the best traditions are the ones you didn't grow up with. I loved putting up stockings with my parents and brother when I was a kid. I loved midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I loved watching "It's a Wonderful Life" a million times. But in LA, we've had to create our own traditions. We watch our own versions of Christmas movies ("Die Hard," "Home Alone," Christmas Vacation," plus the usual suspects, "A Christmas Story" and "Miracle on 34th Street"). We have sushi for Christmas Eve dinner (when we're a tad more flush). And at the end of the day, we'll walk around the empty city in search of a Starbucks or Coffee Bean that's open.

3. Sometimes it's okay to do nothing on Christmas Day. There is so much pressure to do/go/buy, to visit friends and family, to attend parties and special events, to give, to receive, to be in the Christmas spirit when, in fact, you may need to do the complete opposite. A little hibernation, a little coffee-and-reading, can be the best thing to recharge your batteries and get you in the mood for the start of a new year. Who says you can't celebrate your friends and family next week instead?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone~

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The latest autograph seeker is...

For the writers, musicians, artists, actors and all others who have received the odd autograph requests, here is one more. Just got it today.



Knurów, 12 December 2010 r.


My name is Marek Wegorzewski and I am 27 Years old.

I live in Knurów in Poland.

I am interested with the books very much.
I like read Your books.
I congratulations You many successes in life.

Since 1992 I am collecting photos with autographs from very
important people all over the world. My collection is an
enormous, about 12000 autographs. In my collection I have photos
with autographs famous actors, singers, painters, drivers, football
players, athletes, politicians, journalists and many persons.

It is possible to send me a photo with Your autograph or
autograph Ms. C. Leigh Purtill.

Thank You for You help and I am sorry for my broken

Yours faithfully !

Marek Wegorzewski
ul. Ulanow 11c/11
44 194 Knurow
Polska / Poland

Personally, I like the exclamation marks after my name.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The authentic voice

You know it when you read it: the genuine voice of the narrator, the characters whose dialogue pops off the page because it's so realistic, the prose that describes a summer day exactly the way you imagined it.

That's the authentic voice. That's the voice every writer strives to find when she starts a new story. When people talk about hearing their characters talking in their heads, they're listening for the voices that sound real to them.

You also know the inauthentic voice, the one that's trying too hard to sound cool and ends up desperate, the one that describes that summer day in the most pretentious $100 words, those characters who would never in a million years tell each other how they met in an actual conversation.

When you're an adult writing YA, you tread a fine line. Teens know when an adult is talking down to them, when prose and dialogue are dumbed down so they "get it." They also recognize the author who really doesn't know what teens sound like. Hint: not all teenagers swear every other word or use "like" all the time. They don't all talk about clothes and boys and sex. Lots and lots of them have cogent thoughts; lots and lots of them know what "cogent" means.

No matter what genre you're writing or how old your narrator is, it's tough to get the voice right. I am currently in the middle of a rewrite and I have changed the main character's voice dramatically. Where she used to sound very young adultish, now she sounds like an adult who is young. There is a big difference. The former made her appealing to a much younger group of readers; the latter gives her voice resonance that should appeal to a much broader group, teens and adults, I hope.

Since every book needs to be rewritten (although some not as massively as this one), I wasn't surprised to find I needed to take a closer look at my narrator's voice. Now I believe she's more authentic, more real to readers, and hopefully someone they will be able to relate to better.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The power and pain of options

Back in the dark ages when I was in grade school, we learned all about the Big Bad USSR: those horrible Communists kept its pathetic citizens in rags and poverty for decades. They existed in sad living conditions and had few chances for advancement and were constantly under scrutiny by secret police.

Well, at least that's what we were taught.

The worst part for a ten year old to learn was the lack of options the Soviets had in the grocery stores. Even if the citizens had money to buy food, the shelves were often bare or they would have few choices. Those poor people! we thought. They couldn't buy Twinkies and Devil Dogs! They only had one kind of toilet paper! They might not even get chocolate milk!

As an adult now, I kind of miss the old Soviet ways. Grocery shopping is one of my least favorite activities ever. When I step into the store, I feel bombarded by choices. What soymilk do I buy? Which pasta do I choose? Why are there ten different types of tomatoes?

Maybe I'm old. Too old to shop. Which is just fine with me.

But as a writer, I love having options. I love the power of choice when I pick a character's name, her hair style, her family life and favorite color...every step of her journey is at my fingertips. The beauty of writing (and rewriting) is the ability to make any change I want at any time. As I step into the fray of a major rewrite on my current story, I have to remind myself that I can do anything I want with it. I can move scenes, delete characters, change story arcs...and make the story better, stronger, faster. Knowing I can do that is very comforting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's been a while since I've gotten one of these...

Autograph seekers Bernd and Bobby Beckers from Germany have apparently decided *my* autograph is worthy of adding to their collection. Never mind the fact that they are supposedly teenage brothers who claim to have read my books (seriously? YA chick lit? seriously?). Like all the others I've posted about, they are from Europe and claim to want my autograph because they are fans. I did this once and saw one of my signed postcards had ended up on German eBay (for a mere 1 euro, I might add!).

So for all of you writers, actors, singers, comedians, etc. who have written to me over the past year to tell me that you too have gotten emails from the people whose names I've posted, here is the latest one to watch out for:

Dear Leigh,
our name is Bernd and Bobby. We are brothers and our hobby is collecting autographs. The small town in which we are living is Alsdorf - it`s near Aachen and Cologne. Our age is 15 and 16 years.
We are a very big fan of you, so we want to have your autograph. Please would you be so friendly, to send us 2 handsigned and inscribed pictures for our collection.
All the best for you from the 2 guys from Alsdorf
Bernd + Bobby Beckers
Here is our Adress: Bernd Beckers, Nordring 48, D-52477 Alsdorf // Germany

Sorry, Bernd and Bobby, I fell for the first one and then just kept getting these so now I (and you all) know better. I won't be so "friendly" this time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Perfection is a road

"When I have a book published, my life will be perfect."

"When I have my degree, my life will be perfect."

"When I get a new job..." You get the idea.

I'm currently working on a book that deals with the concept of perfection- personally and culturally. What makes something or someone perfect? Can we all agree on its definition? Obviously not. Your idea of perfection may be vastly different from mine. My own image of perfection is at odds with itself: Things I once thought would make my life perfect and me supremely happy are no longer applicable to my life.

Well, sure, Leigh, those things change because YOU change. Your subjective opinion changes as you acquire more experience in life and understand what's really important.

True, but even among objective notions of perfection, there are shifts in perception. An example: Nadia Comaneci received perfect 10s in the 1977 Olympics but if an Olympian were to perform her routines now, she might only get a 7 or 8. The same holds true for ice skating and other sports that are supposed to be objectively scored. What was once an unusual or difficult move that warranted a high score, like a triple axel or a backflip on the balance beam, has now become commonplace.

It makes no sense to be disappointed that things in your life are not perfect. Or even that you yourself are not perfect. That's impossible. Perfection evolves. To say you strive for perfection means only that you work to the best of your ability at that time in your life. You can never achieve it because it is always changing.

And too, don't let the fear of failing to be perfect stop you from attempting things. If you sit down to write a book or enroll in a dance class, don't expect to be perfect from the first word or step. A writer or dancer has a chance to learn new things every day and new ways to fail to be perfect!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Male YA Author Month at A Book and A Chat

The amazing Barry Eva, author/raconteur/radio host, is holding "MYM" in November. Male YA Author Month! He'll be interviewing a whole month's worth of male authors and bloggers on his show, "A Book and a Chat."

If you've never experienced internet radio, it works much like real radio: Barry interviews an author or blogger via phone, and you can listen in from the website in real time and then call in with questions. You can also listen to past interviews from his archives to get a feel for how he works - and to hear all the wonderful interviews he's done! Like mine!

Barry is charming and funny and makes everyone feel at ease. It's like talking or listening to an old friend, although one who makes all the right jokes and says all the right things.

So be sure to check out MYM this upcoming month on "A Book and a Chat"!

Don't Forget November is MALE YA MONTH

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cleaning house

A new post? Shocking, I know...I've been spending so much time crafting the perfect Facebook status updates that I have been neglecting my blog! Seriously, though, I've just been busy writing a first draft of a new and very different novel so any additional writing time had to be parsed out in dribs and drabs like posts on Facebook. This has really shown me where I need to cut back on my various media involvement.

I'm cleaning house.

About a year ago, I vowed to get rid of half my stuff. And I did. Clothes, books, shoes, etc. Gone. I also cleaned my workspace so I no longer write in my kitchen. I have a desk in a quiet part of my bedroom with no internet access and the kitchen stays nice and clean. We recently cleaned out the entire kitchen too, all the cupboards and drawers, donating or throwing out everything that we didn't need or hadn't used in a decade of living in LA.

And now I'm expanding that to media. I'm not going to use my MySpace anymore, sticking just to Facebook and my blog. I have my Amazon page, my GoodReads page and my blog all linked so everything gets cross-posted when I do write something.

Also, I'm dumping a lot of the television I used to watch. First of all, I don't have time- I rarely watch anything on broadcast because I teach almost every night. Everything we watch is on hulu or Netflix instant play. We tape nothing.

And second, I just don't like a lot of the shows on television, even things I used to enjoy are no longer fun. I didn't see the premiere of "Desperate Housewives" or "Medium." I watch only 2 comedies "30 Rock" and "The Office" which we get on hulu, plus whatever reality show Gordon Ramsay has at the time, also from hulu. And only 1 drama, "Fringe." Otherwise, we'll turn on Netflix instant play and dig on some Mythbusters or a documentary or movie.

But I'm not replacing any shows either. Nothing can replace LOST.

And in my car, I listen to just 2 things: whatever music I am choreographing to or...silence. I need the space and time to sort things through and I can't do that at home with the tempting interwebs.

Cleaning house. Simplifying life from the outside in. Getting rid of the stuff that tangles my home and car and workspace. And hopefully that will help me untangle my brain too.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What to do at the West Hollywood Book Fair?

This Sunday is the 9th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair! Whoo-hoo! I have attended every year since it began and have become more and more involved in it each year. It's hard not to! There are so many terrific authors and panels and stage events, plus booths galore and lots of fun kid activities. Oh yeah, and food trucks too!

Many of you are probably wondering, how can I navigate so many great things in one place? Simple. Plan ahead! Don't want to do it yourself? Then follow me! This is where I will be at the fair from open to close (10AM -6PM):

@10:45, I'll be checking out LAYA Allison Burnett on a panel at the Open Book Pavilion called "When Gays Write Straight and Vice Versa"
@10:50, I'll watch my friend Rachel Olivier moderate a panel at the Sci Fi/Fantasy Pavilion called "Other Worlds, Other Realms" with authors Frank Beddor, PJ Haarsma, and Francesca Lia Block
@11:15, YA book blogger Ashley Thompson will interview Jay Asher on the Teen Stage so I'll introduce them
@11:50, Le Studio's Ballet Company will perform Alice in Wonderland on the Kids Stage so of course I'll be there
@12:45, Ashley will interview LAYA Alexa Young on the Teen Stage and I'll be introducing them too
@1:25, I'll host a LAYA event - live book trailers for contemporary authors Amy Koss, Jonathan Bernstein, Allen Zadoff and Lauren Strasnick on the Teen Stage
@3, LAYA Mark Williams will be on a panel in the Current Events Pavilion called "Books, Blogs and Beyond" about e-publishing
@3:45, I'll introduce Ashley again as she interviews Allison Burnett on the Teen Stage
@4:05, we'll have a second LAYA book trailer event on the Teen Stage, featuring authors Carolyn Cohagan, Michael Reisman and Tracy Trivas

In between I'll be at the LAYA booth - be sure to swing by and vote for your school's library to win a basket of amazing YA books from Los Angeles authors - where we'll also have these terrific writers hanging around and giving out candy (it's okay - you can take candy from them!) :

Susan Casey, Amy Koss, Alexa Young, Katie Alender, Ben Esch, Tracy Trivas, Carolyn Cohagan, Carol Tanzman, Allison Burnett, Michael Reisman, Allen Zadoff, Anna Hays, Andrew Smith, Jonathan Bernstein, Cherry Cheva, Lauren Strasnick, Mark Williams, James Mihaley, and Carol Snow and Sally Nemeth, who will also be selling our books.

Whew! What a day! See you there~

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Murder Weather

I wrote this short story about a year or so ago when the weather was super hot and everything made me want to scream. Combined with my previous short, I Brake For Whales, I am definitely headed in a non-YA, non-chicklit way with my shorter work. It's easier to maintain that creepy feeling with short work, I find, perhaps because I usually get into humorous terrain when I start to write a longer story. The story I am working on now, however, is neither short nor humorous nor light. Hmmmm...

Murder Weather on Scribd

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

West Hollywood Book Fair 2010

Day/Time: Sunday, September 26, 10AM - 6PM
Where: West Hollywood Park, San Vicente Blvd, West Hollywood, CA

This year I am on the teen stage subcommittee so I had some input on the events on the stage - which was both a lot of pressure and a lot of fun! I was able to bring some friends in who are local authors to present live "book trailers," a blogger named Ashley Thompson from Oregon to interview some big-name authors, my ballet company to perform "Alice in Wonderland," and I also helped put some people on panels. Oh yeah, and I'm coordinating the Los Angeles Young Adult Authors (LAYA) booth with Sally Nemeth. Whew!

It's still a month away but we are working very hard to put these events together and I think it's going to be a terrific day. I will post the schedule of events soon but if anyone wants more info so they can plan their visit, go to the Book Fair web site.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Writing updates - useful or painful?

One of the things I enjoy most about reading my friend Christina's blog are her writing updates. She always has a ton of projects going at once and she has the ability to flip from one to the other depending on which muse is visiting her (or which type of chocolate she has consumed!). Reading about her progress or how she's gotten stymied by a certain chapter or character or plot point reminds me that writing is not always a naturally linear process.

Just because I have written all of my books that way doesn't mean that this book or that story will follow the same path. Every book, every story is unique and sometimes you find the kernels of it in different ways or at different times. Let's face it, novels take a long time to write and you have to love your characters and story enough to spend a lot of time with them. Sometimes you fall out of love and sometimes you find someone new and sometimes you simply lose interest. The best surprises are those that make you re-imagine your story or character in a new way. Those are exciting moments that I live for, that I write for.

Now, on the flip side...Facebook/Twitter writing updates depress me. When I read that someone has hit a particular mark of X number of words for that day or he or she has finished X draft or X copy edits or what have you, I feel my shoulders slump. Why is that, I wonder. It's not a competitive issue at all. I have completed 8 novels and 10 short stories and I typically write between 1K and 2K words per day.

I think it's contextual. Reading Christina's progress, because she goes into greater depth and reveals her own personal feelings about her writing, her ups and downs, her happiness and disappointment, connects me more to her writing than a simple Facebook status update.

And this in turn reminds me that, more than anything else, we need a personal connection to character and story.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Guest blog: Sean McCartney

Hi everyone! Sean McCartney is a debut novelist whose book, "The Treasure Hunters Club: Secrets of the Magical Medallions" released July 6. He's on a blog tour to promote the novel and to introduce himself to the blogging/reading world. His website, by the way, is terrific so do check that out! And be sure to take a look at his book's trailer which is at the bottom of this post! Looks like fun...

Without further ado, here is Sean to tell us all about himself and his book:

First off I would like to thank Leigh for allowing me to talk with all of you. This is my first blog so it is quite exciting for me.

My name is Sean McCartney and I’m currently on a blog tour to promote my new young adult action adventure novel entitled THE TREASURE HUNTERS CLUB: SECRETS OF THE MAGICAL MEDALLIONS. It’s being released on July 6th, 2010 from Mountainland Publishing.

The story is about Tommy Reed and his treasure hunting friends Shannon McDougal, Jackson Miller and Chris Henderson. One day Tommy receives a rather ordinary looking medallion from his very famous treasure-hunting uncle “Diamond” Jack Reed and finds himself the object of an evil treasure collector named Manuel de la Ernesto. Now Tommy and his friends must find the secret behind the medallion before Manuel can get to them and the medallion.

When I set out to write The Treasure Hunters Club: Secrets of the Magical Medallions I wanted to pull together all the things from books and movies that I liked. The mystery of the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown, the adventure of Percy Jackson, a little magic from Harry Potter and the action and history of the movies Indiana Jones and National Treasure.

Though this is the first book in the Treasure Hunters Club series, with your help to make it a success, the next books will follow. I have planned six treasure hunting books as they follow the club through the 8th grade and into high school. Of course, as they get older their treasure hunts get more dangerous and more exciting.

I have been asked why I created a series around treasure hunting. The truth is I believe treasure hunting is something everyone can do. You don’t need super powers just a desire to do research and find where to look. Also treasure hunting touches on the sidebars of history, the stuff not in the textbooks. That is usually the most interesting and provides a solid building block for the series.

My goal has always been to be published and have a series that kids can enjoy and have a lot of fun reading. I was lucky to find a publisher who believes in the series as much as I do. What I was surprised to find out was how much the publishing world has changed since I started this journey toward “being published.” The emergence of ebooks has shaken the publishing world like never before and I believe we have only scratched the surface of what this new technology can do to help promote reading.

In the meantime, I hope you take a moment to check out my website and learn more about the series and read some short stories about the characters.

Thank you again for this opportunity and allowing me to be here and I hope you enjoy the book and the series.



And thank you, Sean! I am a huge fan of the National Treasure movies so this sounds right up my alley. I hope you all enjoyed reading a bit about Sean and his book and that you'll jump right over to his website to learn more. And check out the trailer below to inspire you to read (or hunt for some treasure yourself!):

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An actual post about writing

I never write about writing, primarily because it seems redundant and time-consuming. Why write about your work-in-progress when you could be writing it?

Currently, though, I've become stuck. I was coasting along for about 150 pages or so (a slow beginning but I am building a world that has lots of rules) and then I hit a rut. Instead of cranking out the pages like I usually do, I started slowing down. 1K words a day, then 500, then a paragraph tweak and I was finished. The weird thing about it was that I still loved the story! I do! I love it and I can't wait to write some of the really cool things that happen. When I'm away from the story, driving in my car or walking or otherwise not engaged in writing, I feel excited and I can't wait to get back to it. But then, with the computer in front of me, I...get...stuck.

I think I finally figured out the problem(s).

First of all, my book is in 3 sections. I love most of the first. The second must be dramatically different- darker and edgier and less optimistic. Right now, it's not. It's too much like the first section. This is why I'm finding it drag, because it's more of the same and it shouldn't be.

Second, this means rewriting before I finish. I *never* do this. Like never ever EVER. I always finish a draft before rewriting anything. Unless I can do a search-and-replace easily, I keep notes and then make changes in the next draft. But I know I can't do this. I have to get in there and change some things before I can move forward. This also prevents me from writing full out.

Third, I have a structural issue. As I said, the book is in 3 parts BUT there is also information that must be revealed and I can't figure out how to do it. I hate prologues. They're usually just info dumps. And in my book, I am using a first person POV - whose POV would the prologue be from? So I need to parse out these bits but how? In what form?

And fourth, although this is a fairly simple story, it has complex themes and lots of backstory that informs what happens (see above structural issue). Even I, the creator, don't have a complete handle on all of it. I'm finding it's a little too complicated right now and I think I might need to pare down some of it to make it easier to understand. Um, okay. How do I do that?

If you can't tell, I'm working on a story that is very different from my previously-published books, something I hope will be darker and edgier and appeal to a wider audience, maybe even guys! So it's slow-going. And lots of work.

And now that I've identified the problems, I have even more work to do.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Friday

I'm no Luddite but...I think it's a bad sign that my Bluetooth software doesn't recognize my voice when I'm sick. What if it dials "pizza" in an emergency instead of "police"?

I'm no rocket scientist but...I think they should be able to invent a new plastic bag for cereal boxes so it won't explode when you open it. It never rips along the right seam and then little bits of cereal get stuck outside the bag and get stale.

I'm no activist but...I think those whalers who are skirting international law by fishing for whales in the Antarctic by claiming to be doing "research" on them when really they are selling the meat commercially in Japan should be brought up on charges. It's a shameful action.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In case you were wondering...

I got a Google alert not long ago that my name/book title/website were mentioned/linked/taken in vain and it turned out to be a book review blog called "Slightly Bookish." The blogger, a girl named Maddz, posted a super nice review of LOVE, MEG (thank you very much!) on her blog along with a photo of the title page with some scribbles on it.

Click here to see the photo.

She wanted to know what it said. So I wrote to her and I told her that was my signature. Somehow she had gotten a signed copy of my book at Books-A-Million. Now, when you're an author and you have a book in stores, you visit a lot of them and you sign stock if they have yours there so they can slap the "Signed Copy!" stickers on them and place them in a prominent location (you hope). I certainly did when my books came out - more so when MEG came out than when VEE did.

But here's the weird thing: I've never been in a Books-A-Million so I have *no* idea where Maddz' store got that copy. Any thoughts from anyone?

So there you go...a lesson for all of us: keep an eye out for signed copies of books even in chain stores. You just never know!

And if you're reading this, Maddz, thanks for that awesome review of my book. That was such a wonderful thing to read. It really lifted my spirits!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reading while writing

I would venture to say most writers will acknowledge that they don't read when they are in the midst of a project. That is, they won't read something similar to what they're working on or in the same genre. But it seems like we are always in the middle of a project, aren't we? And when we aren't, we may be in a lull for another reason, like perhaps we're choreographing the ballet, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" so we don't even have the brainpower or time to get a book from the library or store.

When I recently returned to my WIP, a dystopian YA, it had been months since I'd read a book. I was consciously avoiding anything similar, which is incredibly hard because dystopian novels are ones I am particularly drawn to read. Some of my very favorites are Susan Beth Pfeffer's "Life As We Knew It" and Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games." Both of those books have sequels I'm dying to read but as I am in the middle of this book, I can't distract myself (or depress myself because, let's face it, those books are wonderful and if I can't get mine in shape like that, I'll be really unhappy) . But neither do I want to read any happy-go-lucky sunshine-y books. First of all, those books are not my cup of tea but second of all, I don't want to be taken out of a mood that might help me write.

So I guess I need to stay depressed.

Who else to turn to but Stephen King? In his book "On Writing," King reminds us that if we want to write, we must read. MUST. That's like, rule number one: Writers Must Read. You should never trust a writer who says he never reads. Bad writer, bad, bad writer. So I gave myself permission to read. In a used bookstore, I picked up a copy of "Duma Key," a novel of King's from a couple years back. I have on my home bookshelf some other unread King novels but "Duma Key" called to me from the store shelf and it was only a quarter.

It sat on my table for a week before I picked it up. And of course I couldn't put it down. King is a master storyteller, that goes without saying, and this book drew me in from the first page. Within a day or two I was already past the halfway mark. But beyond the enjoyment of the novel as a story, I was surprised to find the book had resonance in my writing. Not because it influenced my writing per se but it made me passionate about my story again. I had taken some time away from the manuscript for various reasons, not the least of which was the show I was working on, but also because I had started to lose my thread. I was wandering around picking at a sentence here and there but I couldn't fall back into it - and that's exactly what I wanted to do, what I needed to do.

I was stalled and King's book started the engine. This has been revelatory to me because I had steadfastly refused to read other people's work while writing my own - now I realize I can read to reignite my own passion.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Birthdays and milestones

But I don't want to grow up yet!

Recently, two items surfaced that are making me question my own concept of adulthood: my friend Rachel blogged today about milestones and a CNN article listed 10 things that mark you as having become an adult.

I glibly commented to Rachel that I hadn't grown up yet because I wasn't a parent, nor did I own a home or an IRA. As for that CNN article, I certainly haven't yet "made peace with my body" nor have I "learned how to handle the tough times." Really? Does mastery of those 2 things seriously identify us as grownups?

Last week was my birthday and I pushed aside any celebration of it because I was too busy with a new teaching schedule and a show I was producing but now that's over and I have time to think about it. It was kind of a big birthday or could be considered one, I suppose, but I don't know how or if I will celebrate it. I'm a big fan of Disneyland which isn't far from me but does an adult with no kids celebrate that way? How should grownups celebrate birthdays? Or should they at all?

I believe the definition of being an adult needs to be more fluid. For those of us who do not have traditional 9-5 jobs or traditional families or lifestyles, we need our own way to mark passages, or milestones, as Rachel says. We need a more flexible accounting of our achievements so we don't feel like we are still kids.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Challenging mediocrity

Change is in the air...and in my pen. I can feel it - and it makes me anxious. You know the phrase, "growing pains"? When you're a child, it refers to physical pain in your muscles, not from the actual growth of bones, which doesn't really hurt, but from the increased stress of running and jumping on a growing body. It ends when your body has reached maturity.

The key word is maturity. A child is growing into an adult, becoming a realized human being - brain and body growing together. The same is true of a career, especially as a writer. It's easy - and smart - to write what you know when you first start out. The words flow easily and you have no trouble moving from scene to scene, beginning to end. That's wise. You want to keep things easygoing when you start because too much research or stylistic choices can bog you down and keeping you from finishing and you need to finish.

However, once you know how to write a book - and you know you can finish a book and edit it and rewrite it over and over again - then you can mature. Only then can you really stretch your wings and reach for the stars or whatever naturalistic metaphor you choose to use.

But it can be painful. I know I can mature - I believe I have the ideas and the skills to fulfill them to their potential - but I also know it will be difficult. It scares me to let go of the writing I know without having the new writing completely under my control. But what is my alternative? Continue to write the same sort of thing over and over again? Lots of writers do that. I'm sure you can think of many bestselling novelists who do this. You know what you're getting when you get their books.

But without growth, without change, without maturity, why bother? I would rather read something that someone has taken a chance on, something that is outside their comfort zone, outside my comfort zone, and has failed miserably, than read the same thing again. Because even if that author crapped out the first time he stretched, the next time will be better. And the next better, and so on.

That's what I want for myself. I want to grow and mature and be a writer like the ones I have admired for all of my life. Being mediocre is the most egregious sin any writer can commit. Rise above it and take a risk.

Friday, May 14, 2010

May - the month I just have to get through

Ever have one of those days when you have so much to do, so many things on your list and crowding your mind, that the message you keep hearing is, "Just gotta get through the day..."?

Well, that's my month. With two shows for the studio - a recital this weekend and then the company's first dance concert (ack!!) in two weeks - my to-do list overflows. Add to that the new classes I am teaching 4 mornings a week and I have dance combination overload! That's what happens when you have so many dance steps in your head that you get confused which ones you are doing. It's especially awkward when you're taking someone else's class! A big LOL there!!

Pretty much all my free brain time is spent designing dance classes: barre and center combinations that somehow coordinate, plus making some easier or harder depending on the level of the class. And oh yeah, trying to figure when to take classes for myself! I have to refresh my body somehow, too.

So where is writing during all of this? It's there but sporadically and incrementally. Usually I have a book outlined and can plow through 2K-2.5K per day, for an average of 10K per week. I love to rush out a wordy first draft and then shave it all away. But during this month, I feel like I am eking out a word at a time, not even a scene but just a description or two. And the book itself is a tough one, in a genre I love but have never spent much time writing.

Complex subject + minimal time = infinitesimal daily word count

In fact, I shouldn't even do word count. Maybe idea count. Because I still think about the story. I still plan it and imagine it and care about my characters. I just need time to sink myself into it. And honestly, that won't happen until May is over. I just have to live with that, even if I don't like it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

In which I promote another person's blog...

Namely, In Bed With Books whose fab writer/reviewer/reader extraordinaire is Liviania. Recently, she has begun a feature that I think is a terrific idea. She calls it "Best Authors You Aren't Reading." Her post today is about Patrice Kindl whose books and whose name I have never heard before.

From a reader's perspective, I love getting recommendations for books and authors whose names are not widely known. I often get disappointed with the big books that everyone is reading. Inevitably, they become so huge that you have to read them but they can't possibly live up to your expectations. The unknowns can pleasantly surprise you and then you have a new favorite author and their backlist!

From an author's standpoint, I love hearing about unsung writers. I want to know the gems that got swept under the publishing rug for various reasons. Maybe it was a small press without a lot of marketing push, maybe it was similar to another book that was more popular, maybe it preceded a trend but didn't start it. Who knows? Sometimes in reading the author's work, you get a sense of what might have gone wrong for him or her.

Great idea, Liviania! Can't wait to read Patrice's work and to hear about the next author you'll discover for us!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Leigh linkage!

Oddly enough, a couple of interviews I did a while back have come out at the same time. Just when you thought it was safe to peruse the internet without seeing my name...I bring you:

1 - An interview with me at BBW Reviews, a blog dedicated to books that celebrate women with curves! If you comment, you can win one of the books they have available. So, go ahead and comment!!

2 - An article about digital publishing for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) publication for its members written by the amazing author Mark London Williams! A few months ago, I had the pleasure of being a guest at Mark's creative writing class at Disney where we had an intense and lively discussion about the future of publishing. Mark wrote about our discussion and why I decided to put THE RISE OF GINNY COOPER, my sequel to ALL ABOUT VEE, online through The Story Siren. I'd love to link here but it's a members-only document so I am waiting to hear from Mark about linking just his article.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Renaissance woman or specialist?

St. Hildegard, a 12th C Renaissance woman

I have never wanted to be limited in what I do or write. I have always prided myself on having pursued a number of careers, living in a bunch of cool cities, basically being what one of my students called a "Renaissance woman." I like setting goals for myself and then accomplishing them and moving on. Whether it was attending graduate film school, getting jobs in the film and television industries, or publishing two novels with a major publishing house, I have worked hard and seen results (for the most part, they've been positive!).

"Setting goals and meeting them" - great, right? But what about the "moving on" part of the equation?

The flip side of being a Renaissance woman or man is the perception that you are a "jack of all trades, master of none." In other words, by continually moving on and not specializing in a career or a job, you are assumed to lack stability or focus. Would an employer want to hire someone whose resume makes them look like they have career ADD?

The assumption is that the person who keeps trying different things is one who gives up before mastering each of them. Perhaps the person is lazy or unwilling to put in the time and effort necessary to achieve success.

But what about the person who does succeed at the task and who moves on because he's bored or because he has a lot of things he wants to accomplish in this lifetime? That's the category I put myself in. There are so many things to do in this world - work, travel, write, dance - that I can't possibly stop with just one or two or five. I want to keep changing, keep moving, keep experiencing new things and meeting new people. How else do you have subjects to write about? If I stayed in my small town in Connecticut or even in Boston or New York, if I had stayed in the small engineering firms and teaching at the small studios, if I'd never gone back to graduate school, where would I be now? A master of marketing? Maybe the owner of a small studio myself?

I have most definitely given up the opportunity for a steadily increasing paycheck, a pension for retirement, a more profitable and stable job, perhaps the chance to own a home...and sometimes, like this week for instance, I wonder if I made the right choice to embrace continuous change. Today, yeah, I do feel some regret but tomorrow, I might not. Hopefully, the good will outweigh the bad in the long run.

That's the chance you take in being a Renaissance woman.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Trying on a character for size

Generally speaking, I'm a pretty nice person. A nice friend, teacher, daughter, wife...not to say I don't have my sparkling moments of snarkitude because we all do, but as a rule, I try to be nicer than not.

However, not all my characters are. Recently I was finishing a book whose protagonist was a queen bee type in her high school. She's the sort who is very competitive, even with her friends, and who expects that she will always get the prize. Always. And if she doesn't, she is NOT happy.

She also speaks her mind, whether it offends or not. Speak first, apologize later, I suppose is her personal mantra. And if you don't have to apologize, so much the better. I spent a couple of months in her head, writing her story (which is a lot of fun, actually, not nasty or anything), so her thoughts must have intruded upon mine this weekend.

I was in a situation that could have gone one of two ways: nice or nasty. And Leigh, of course, is always nice and tactful. But Ashleigh, my character, is not. The scene was not directly out of the book but it could have been since it was a setting with people that would have been familiar to Ashleigh. A friend asked me a question about a mutual acquaintance and rather than respond as genial Leigh, I said what honest Ashleigh would have! It was most certainly blunt and to the point, a little rude, actually, and it shocked the hell out of my friend who was clearly expecting Leigh to answer her, not this other person.

In the moment, I didn't care and I felt quite superior and queen bee-ish, but I regretted it immediately afterward and made a mental note to apologize when I see my friend next but it only occurred to me this morning that I was acting like Ashleigh! That was Ashleigh talking, not me. I've written lots of different characters but most of them are genuinely nice people. Meg Shanley, Veronica May, Callie Bellflower, Kari Manning...nice girls. This was the first time I had written an entire novel from the POV of a not-so-nice person. I wonder what would happen if I wrote a book whose main character was a killer. Now THAT could be an interesting situation.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

No fiction allowed

This is an appalling situation. Simply flabbergasting.

I can't read. Not literally, of course, but I can't seem to get my head around reading fiction. Last weekend I finally finished "Olive Kittredge" by Elizabeth Strout, a Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories that are woven around a character named Olive. Wonderful book. Truly. But I started it months ago.

A few weeks ago I read "Hush, Hush" by Becca Fitzpatrick and "Elphame's Choice" by PC Cast, two books which had been loaned to me by a young friend. Both held my interest enough that I finished them in a weekend. But I didn't want to read anything beyond that.

I have about a hundred books on my to-read list, among them the sequel to "Hunger Games," the most recent Vampire Academy book, the last Stephen King novel, some Neil Gaiman, and on and on, but I can't wrap my brain around fiction right now. I am trying to write a very complex book (complex by my standards) in a slightly different genre than I am used to working in (but one I have loved since I was a kid) so it takes all of my brainpower to focus on my own story.

I've been telling myself that I just don't have time to read. I don't have excess brain capacity to read. And besides, when I'm in the middle of writing something, I don't want to be influenced by anyone else's style.

But there's more to it than that. I have absolutely zero interest in reading fiction. I was impressed by Strout's book but not inspired by it and that's odd for me. Typically I get all fired up when I read a great book - it makes me want to write well too.

No, the reason I'm not reading is that I'm afraid to read. I'm afraid to read something really terrific because I fear my writing won't live up to it. I'm afraid to read something really bad because it will make me angry it was published and my most recent books have not.

Whether you're writing or not, sometimes reading fiction is just not happening. Anyone else ever feel that way?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wanted: personal chef with good imagination

I look in my cupboards and see capers. A box of arborio rice. A can of kidney beans. Crisco, flour and confectioner's sugar. Three boxes of pancake mix - two open and one closed, two plain and one blueberry.

I don't eat pancakes.

I look in my fridge and spot a jar of green olives with pimentos. Fresh, pink ginger. Pesto. Tahini. Several bottles of beer.

I don't drink alcohol.

I look in my freezer and find a bag of baby lima beans because adult-size ones apparently aren't tasty enough. A box of potato pancakes from the turn of the century.

More pancakes?

In a drawer are two one-pound bags of lentils, pasta shaped like baseballs and bats, and unshelled pistachios.

What does any of this mean? What do I do with it all? Is there any possible way to put together meals with these items? Or should I just give up and order a pizza?

Sometimes I feel this way about writing: I have awesome characters, a fascinating world, cool scenes - but no cohesive story. I have spent hours and hours and days and weeks trying to make it all work. Frustrating? Yes. Impossible to fix? Argh, yes!

But not I have all of those things and a story that knits them all together. Wow. I'm a little nervous. And excited. And nervous.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Special birthdays

Do you have one of those friends who celebrates every "big" birthday in a major way? Like 18, 21, 30, 40, etc.? Or maybe you're one of those people yourself? Personally, I was never a fan of milestone birthday celebrations because it seemed like so much pressure: pressure on the people giving it to make it awesome, pressure on the people attending to come up with extra special gifts or cards, pressure on me to enjoy it by drinking/eating/laughing longer and harder than at every other birthday.

Not to mention the pressure of what comes after...being the new age. "Now that you're 18..." "Now that you're 21..." and so on. Has something so intrinsic changed inside me now that another year has passed? Has a switch inside me flipped on - or off - so I should be acting differently?

Recently a friend turned 30 and her husband asked Mo and me to come up with some words of what it was like when we turned 30, or what we wished when we turned 30, etc. Something poignant or maybe even practical. Like, "When I turned thirty I started using moisturizer on my elbows" or something like that.

I wrote her a note about how I became funny when I turned 30. And I don't mean I was all of a sudden a comedian of Ellen proportions, telling jokes and doing stand-up. I was, for much of my life, a very serious person. And I was known for being a serious person. It wasn't that I didn't have a sense of humor or I didn't like comedy but my persona, the outward expression of my being, was a serious one. I read smart literature, watched foreign movies, spent my time in the pursuit of scholarly-type things. And that's pretty much what my parents and everyone expected me to be. I wrote serious things, too, that must go without saying.

But when I turned 30, I suddenly realized I had a funny side. I could write amusing things, wry dialogue, hilarious situations, and I could be funny in my personal life, too. Best of all, I discovered I could make other people laugh, which was something I had never even attempted before. And gosh, I loved that. How awesome was it to say something aloud that could make another person giggle? It was a huge change for me!

The friend to whom I wrote this note is a very sunny and cheerful person who happens to laugh a lot and make clever jokes so turning 30 for her will not mean the exact same thing. I suppose what I meant by my note was that, when I turned 30, I discovered something new about myself, something I never knew was inside me, and I hoped that the same might happen to her.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Friday

Cheesy random goodness

Did you know April is Grilled Cheese Month?

1. "Clash of the Titans" must remain cheesy, with crummy special effects, lots of horrendous overacting, and gives-you-splinters-it's-so-wooden dialogue. Any movie that attempts to rise above the original Harry Hamlin/stop-motion animation extravaganza should not be gifted with the title "Clash of the Titans."

2. Recent celebrity cheese is so boring. Jesse James cheated on Sandra Bullock? His name is Jesse. James. Why do his actions surprise anyone? Same with Ricky Yeah, we knew that a decade ago. Anna Paquin is bisexual? Who honestly cares? She's cute but seriously, her announcement has no impact on anyone except girls and guys who might want to date her.

3. I love me some reality show cheese and I'm not talking about American Idol which I haven't seen all season. Sunday nights = Trump Apprentice cheese. Oh yeah, those D-list celebs whose names I barely recognize (except for the awesome Cyndi Lauper) are hilarious as their massive egos clash. Hey, maybe the show should be renamed "Clash of the Egos"!

4. My new favorite Parmesan comes from Australia. Two words for this cheese from Trader Joe's: Yum. Mee. Grates nicely for pasta, cubes well for a salad. Sorry, Italy, there's a new cheese Down Under.

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!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Friday

If I were a famous author...

One of the coolest and simultaneously depressing aspects of the web is the ability to connect - or seemingly so - with well-known people. I, for instance, am Facebook "friends" with some amazing YA authors who've sold thousands and thousands of books. Sarah Dessen, John Green, Megan McCafferty, and Maureen Johnson, just to name a few. They post links sometimes, or comment on their breakfast, posts which get retweeted hundreds of times and a thousand people "liking" them or commenting themselves on how much they too love breakfast burritos with extra cheese or wish they were eating said breakfast burrito with Famous Author right now!!!!

As a Not-So-Well-Known Author Who Aspires to be Bigger, I wonder what it's like to be a Real Famous Author. Of course, I'm pretty sure I know it's extremely cool to sell a ton of books and make bestseller lists and get awards but what about the other stuff:

1. What's it like having so many "friends" you need a fan page? So many blog and twitter followers that your every move is re-documented a thousand times over?

2. What's it like getting an email inbox full of fan letters? Do you get real ones too with paper envelopes and stamps?

3. Is it as cool as it seems to have people contacting you for autographs, school visits, sequels, and to purchase foreign rights for Uzbekistan?

4. Do you still love to write?

I've had a tiny, itty bitty taste of what it would be like to be Kind Of Famous. I've seen my Amazon rankings skyrocket when one of my books was mentioned somewhere popular. I've gotten a few actual letters in the mail and some emails from fans who loved my books and want to know more. I've spoken at a few schools and received requests to participate in authorly things and a couple of states even have my books on their reading lists, which is incredibly awesome.

I think I would happily accept the pressure that comes from being Real Famous. Not just because I've experienced the pressure of being Not-Very-Famous-At-All And Trying to Be Bigger, but because I do love to write.

So if the Universe needs an answer from me, bring it on, big guy, I'm ready.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Underrated movie to rent: World's Greatest Dad

Okay, 80s comedy club fans: who remembers Bobcat Goldthwait? The funny looking guy with the funny sounding voice? Well, he's a director now, apparently he's been behind the camera for episodes of some live television as well as having directed a few of his own small features. His latest film was released on video-on-demand and then had a limited theatrical run in August 2009. "World's Greatest Dad," which he wrote and directed, is available on Netflix instant play (my very favorite and a great way to try out movies and TV you wouldn't normally waste time renting).

The movie stars Robin Williams as Lance, a private school poetry teacher who is also a failed writer. His son Kyle is that teen guy you see who's always screwing up. No one likes him and he's a jerk to everyone, including his dad and his best friend. He has an unhealthy obsession with porn and women and sex and in particular, auto-erotic asphyxiation - I think you can see where this is going. Lance has a pretty young girlfriend (a fair weather girlfriend who is a fellow teacher and won't go public with their relationship) but in most respects, allows himself to be walked on by her and by other teachers and by Kyle. Yes, he's a sad sack but Williams plays him right on the edge, not overblown in any way, never over-the-top Patch Adamsish.

When Kyle dies in an "awkward" accident, Lance writes a suicide note for him to spare him any embarrassment about the way he died. The letter is leaked to the school paper and suddenly, Kyle (and Lance) become heroes, representing all the downtrodden and invisible students. Lance decides to go further with the ruse and even constructs a journal containing all of Kyle's pithy thoughts and philosophies. The book is a huge success and propels Lance into the spotlight.

The only problem is, the one person who knew the real Kyle, his friend Andrew, doesn't believe any of it. He is the only thorn in all of this for Lance and the one who eventually brings Lance to his senses.

I heartily recommend this movie to anyone who loved "Rushmore," "Donnie Darko" (Richard Kelly is a producer and his presence is definitely felt) or even "Heathers." The movie hits the exact right tone - not too subtle or over-the-top. After all, beneath everything and despite the big laughs, this is about a man whose son dies and no matter how awful the kid was, he did love him. Robin Williams is fantastic as are the rest of the cast members. I can't believe I am now a huge Bobcat Goldthwait fan. Awesome.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Friday

My favorite winter Olympic sporting events... far.
1. Men's short track speed skating - I thought I'd be rooting for Apolo Ohno but now I'm a JR Celski fan, the 19 year old who seems to be following in Ohno's steps (or skates). And I totally dug the relay. It looked so complex with all those people on the ice - how could they tell who was up next?

2. Women's snowboarding half-pipe - I love these girls! Sure a lot of them wiped out last night but that was because they were kicking butt and taking names, going for the big air, the twists and turns. Very impressive - and no tears for the losers. These women are pros.

3. Men's snowboarding half-pipe - Who doesn't love Shaun White? I mean, seriously. Did you see his final run the other night - *after* he knew he had the gold? And his teammates were no slouches either, despite the grunge-inspired uniforms.

4. Women's moguls - I had no idea this would be so interesting. I thought it was strictly speed but as it turns out, there are some jumps involved which require judging. Plus each run is short, which I like - long slalom events kinda bore me.

5. Men's and women's skating
- We've only had men so far and they have all been fantastic, although as a friend told me, they really need to lose the Bob Mackie-designed costumes (except for Johnny Weir, the only one who can pull off the flamboyant look). I was so bummed for Jeremy Abbott in both of his programs but I think the men have a lot of young talent coming up the ranks who will raise the bar next time. Can't wait for the women's events!

I have to admit I'm a little burned out on the Olympics and they're not even half over! It's a function of there not being anything else on of interest when I come home late at night, plus it's only once every few years. I just have to watch.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cut off from the web = Cut off from the world

My internet was gone for most of the past day or so. The withdrawal symptoms went away after about an hour, once I realized it wasn’t coming back for a while. I resigned myself to not knowing what Sigalerts there might be for my drive to Pasadena. I acknowledged I wouldn’t be able to access my email until the next day. I accepted that I couldn’t obsessively watch my Amazon, YouTube, Scribd, Goodreads, Homestead, Shelfari and LibraryThing numbers.

And I felt good about it. I was almost relieved not to have the internet to rely on. I did have to leave extra early to teach just in case, you know, there *was* a Sigalert on my drive. But otherwise it was kind of freeing. Each time I got stuck when I was writing, I couldn’t simply go to the web and look something up. I had to make it up or make a note to check at another time – and keep writing. If my brain got tired, I couldn’t perk it up by reading some inane CNN article on yet another Olympian I had never heard of. I just got up, walked around, made some tea – and kept writing.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

This morning, I did my required 2K words in an hour and a half. That’s 1.5 hours. I wasn’t busting my butt. I didn’t type my fingers to the bone. I just wrote steadily, had some coffee and breakfast –and wrote and wrote and wrote and before I knew it, my words were done. And I still had energy to write more.

I had heard people talk about the web being a massive time-suck and I kind of knew that in the back of my mind, but this was honestly the very first time I had experienced it for myself. In the past, my time away from the web was vacation time, so I wasn’t writing or doing any work. But this was different. I am smack in the middle of 2 projects and a variety of outlines and man, did I get a lot done. It’s not enough to simply turn off the web, I think. It has to really NOT BE THERE. There has to be no possibility of getting to it, if you really truly want to work.

Was I happy to get the connection back? You betcha. I tried to be good, tried to keep working as I was without the web, but my old ways soon crept back. Some things won’t change – in fact, they will probably just continue to get worse. But whenever I can, I think I’m going to shut down the internet and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Until I need to look up who that guy was who did the curling or the biathlon or the speed skating long track. Some things you just have to know.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Friday

Things I Would Buy Used

The economy is a shambles. We all have to watch our pennies and make do with what we have for longer but there are certain things you just have to buy:

1. Books - of course! I love used bookstores - you never know what gem you'll find hidden under a pile of old Highlights magazines.

2. DVDs - these things are so cheap to make, I find it hard to spend more than 10 bucks for a movie I really want.

3. T-shirts - you gotta be careful with other people's clothes, even the "vintage" ones. I would never buy shoes, for instance, and maybe not even jeans - there are certain items that get a little too personal, if you know what I mean.

4. Lamps and wooden chairs - used furniture is okay so long as there's no fabric that could retain any kind of smell or cat hairs.

5. Dogs - I have longed for a dog for so long and I know that when I do get one, he'll be a rescue. No puppy mills for me.

Used items to stay away from : lingerie, appliances, computers, cell phones, food, and pillows. Anything you'd care to add to either of these lists? Share your money-saving ideas!

And a reminder: today is the last day to download all 4 parts of THE RISE OF GINNY COOPER for free, exclusively at The Story Siren! After today, we will take it down and...who knows where it will be?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How can it be February already?

This is insane. Are we really 10 days into February? How did this happen? I swear it was Christmas a few days ago and I was planning for the new year.

February, the shortest month of the year, used to be my favorite when I was in school. After all, it had 2 holidays - Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday, now grouped into one Presidents Day - sorry kids! That was one good thing from the olden days.

It also had Valentine's Day which was also lots of fun. We used to send carnations to each other - one class had the business as a way to raise money for activities - anonymously or not. They would be delivered to your homeroom in the morning. Red for love, of course, pink for affection and white for friends. You did NOT want to get too many white carnations for obvious reasons.

I had a boyfriend for 3 of my 4 years in high school so I did get a few red and pink ones but I remember distinctly sending an anonymous red one to a senior I had a crush on when I was a freshman. He played basketball and had a girlfriend which really makes me wonder why I bothered to spend the buck on the guy. But it was fun and anonymous and I think he assumed it was from his girlfriend who probably took the credit. As I recall, I think she got pregnant.

But now, February just means a short month in which to get a LOT of work done. It's also the month my husband has a birthday so for weeks I will be saying, "What do you want to do for your birthday? Do you want a party? Do you want to go out? What, what, what????"

Yep, February has changed a lot since I was a kid.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Friday

Text and Subtext

1. Text: THE RISE OF GINNY COOPER is available *exclusively* and for *free* at The Story Siren until February 12th. If you haven't read it or downloaded all 4 parts, you can until next Friday,

Subtext: What are you waiting for? You can open a new window and then come back to this while you're waiting. That's one of the cool things about the internet - you can do more than one thing at once. And can I tell you how my life turned around when I learned the concept of "windows"? Seriously worldview-changing.

2. Text: LOST is back and I could not be happier - and sadder since the show will end this season, but that's a good thing because I don't think I can take any more questions about the island.

Subtext: You can pretty much tell everything about me by the scripted television I watch. I only watch 3 dramas: LOST, Medium, and Fringe. And I only watch 3 comedies: 30 Rock, The Office, and The Simpsons. So I'm kind of snarky and prefer alternative realities.

3. Text: Facebook gets all my best ideas. It's so easy to jot down a few funny words and a minute or an hour later change them when something better comes along. And yes, I admit I will save something interesting for Facebook rather than say it out loud. Sue me.

Subtext: It's a fine line between funny and annoying and I constantly struggle with it. This is the exact same thing that happens when you write for real: if you put words on the page that are meaningless to you simply to provoke or manipulate a reader, it backfires. People sense insincerity.

4. Text: I hit the ground running before I'm out of bed, planning my day from hour to hour, and still everything doesn't get done. I need a clone.

Subtext: I need to say "no" more often. And I need a clone.