Saturday, December 29, 2012

My only New Year's resolution

Fear nothing.

Until recently, most of my life has been dictated by the phrase, "Why not?" I've moved, changed colleges, explored new careers, taken and quit all kinds of jobs based on my lack of fear of change. Why not go to grad school?  Why not work in the film business?  Why not move to Los Angeles?  Sure, why not?

But lately, I have been struck with a bad case of the Fears.  I have been fearing change when it comes to my living space, the subjects and style of my writing, and the "freelance" part of my freelance career. Let's examine a few of my Fears, shall we?

I've wanted an outdoor space for just about ever but I've worried that the new place won't be as good or as cheap as what we have (the devil you know, as they say).  

I've wanted a dog for just as long but I've worried that I won't have time for one.  

I've wanted to try writing different types of stories but I've worried that I can't possibly write as well as my heroes.

I've wanted to re-arrange my teaching schedule but I've worried that my students will leave.

I can continue on for another year like this, in comfortable mediocrity, or I can bust out and get back to my roots of "Why not?" I always ask my dance students, "What's the worst that could happen if you try a step or a combination this way?" You fail? Okay, so try again. But the best that could happen would be you succeed and then you can move forward and do more things.

I really need to take my own advice: stop overanalyzing everything and just do something.  Take *a* step.  Any step in any direction.  It will be far better than being stuck in one place forever and ever. But the biggest reason to stop fearing change?  No one cares.  Let's examine that again, shall we?

NO ONE CARES.  Seriously, people care about themselves and their own families and their own lives.  They don't care about you - about me.  I don't mean this in a negative way.  I mean this in a practical way.  No one can possibly care about my life and what I do with it the way I can.  So if I try something and I fail at it, what's the big deal?  It's more likely that no one will even notice.  And that's a very freeing way to approach change. I can proclaim to the world, Hey, World! I'm gonna do XY and Z! And the world (i.e. friends and family and Facebookers) will respond with a, "Go for it!" And they'll click Like and then they move on. Because that's what people do.  They move on to the next story.  They won't even remember I told them I was doing XY and Z until I do it and tell them I did it.

So you see...No One Cares. But me. And if I'm only doing things to impress myself, then why the hell would I want to do Nothing?  Heck no.  I want to do Something and if it fails, then I'll do Something Else.

Fear Nothing. Happy 2013.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Ambitious Writing Projects; Or, the Big Idea

All writers have them.  If you love books, love the written word, love stories that suck you in utterly and completely and don't let you go, then you probably have one or two Big Ideas.  They are the stories that you have been thinking about, dreaming about, since you were a kid or first even considered writing as more than a hobby.

I have a couple of Big Ideas.  They began as tiny seeds and have grown in my imagination bigger and bigger - but they aren't quite trees yet.  They're still just sprouts or maybe saplings. In other words, I don't know when I will be skilled enough to write them.

Because that's the problem with ambitious writing projects: if you have any self-awareness as a writer, you know what you're capable of.  I, for instance, could never write a multi-generational saga like Alex Haley's "Roots" or epic high fantasy like JRR Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." I love both of those books and I admire the hell out of them but I know I am not skilled in those areas of writing.

Some writers tackle their Big Idea over and over again.  They try it this way and that, tinkering with it in different ways, some successful, some not. They may even publish these stories over and over again as well.  For them it may be a particular character or theme that keeps them pushing forward. But I'm not like that.  I'm afraid of taking my Big (Cool) Idea and screwing it up.  I'm afraid of not having the right skills to do the Big (Cool) Idea justice. 

In recent weeks, I have been approaching one of my Big Ideas with caution. After successfully completing a novella that was miles away from what I had been writing for publication, I feel like I may be able to attempt one of my ambitious writing projects.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Interview at Count My Stars!

Elizabeth Thurmond, amazing writer and pop culture aficionado, interviewed me today on her blog, Count My Stars, for her feature, Woman Writer Wednesday!

Check it out!  Thanks so much for featuring me, Liz! I am honored to be part of your blog.


Friday, October 12, 2012

To thine own self be true

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Ah, Will Shakespeare can turn a phrase, can't he?  The above is from "Hamlet," Polonius to his son, Laertes.

Much has been made lately of authors writing to their young selves. There's even a collection of letters from famous authors to their teen selves, "The Letter Q."  This one is in regard to sexual orientation but there are others, plus blog posts galore, many inspired by Oprah Winfrey.

You know what I'd tell my younger self? Be true to yourself. Be honest about what you really love.  Don't waste time on things and people you don't feel passion for. It's not like I'm telling Teen Leigh to be all Goth or not to drink or want to hang out with the popular kids. But Teen Leigh definitely had a dark streak, one that she didn't think she should have - or had a right to have. In her mind, people who liked reading horror or science fiction, who imagined impossible worlds and insane characters, were people who had unusual past lives, who experienced trauma or abuse or other hardships.  Girls who grew up in middle class households and attended women's colleges, who danced and studied hard, generally and generically speaking, "good girls," didn't like those things.

For much of her life, that Teen Leigh's "preferred" thoughts prevailed and the things she liked and dreamt about were pushed aside.  She felt false a lot of the time but then the fake truth became kind of real. Until now.

While I am super proud of having been published by a big publisher and I love seeing my books on library shelves, I don't think Teen Leigh would have read them.  She haunted the stacks for creepier reads, for uneven books, messy books, stories that didn't have happy endings and whose narrators were good people who went bad. Lots of middle-aged people will tell you the same thing, "Never regret. Do what you love." That's because, when you reach a certain place in your life, you can see the end of the tunnel. You don't want to spend one minute more doing something you don't like.

Writers are told all the time that they should only write what they love. Part of the reason for that is that it takes a long time to write a book and you will spend many, many hours with your characters. But the other part of it is that you can only write passionately and honestly about things you truly love. As I explore darker elements in my stories, characters and situations that I might not have written about in the past, I am finally finding the passion that was missing.  I love what I'm writing,  I love what I'm doing.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

CBS News Anchor Talks about Bullying On-Air

This is anchorwoman Jennifer Livingston of the CBS affiliate WKBT in LA Crosse, Wisconsin. In this video she confronts a cyber-bully who sent her an email telling her she was no role model because she was "obese." The man talked only about her looks, her outward appearance, she says in this video, and not about what is inside her.  She reminds us that October is Anti-Bullying Month and she reaches out to all kids who might be bullied because of their size, sexual preference, disability, etc. She encourages them to reject their bullies' definitions of them.

I love that her approach is nether strident nor a plea for acceptance.  She is frank and honest and sharp in her words.  She does not become an "emotional female" when discussing her weight; in fact, she does not discuss her weight at all. That is exactly her point: her weight is not a topic of discussion or speculation for anyone outside her family or circle of friends. Case closed.

Another very good point she makes is that attitudes like this have a trickle down effect.  When someone in your household voices the opinion that fat people are bad (or gay people are bad or the disabled, and so on), then the members of that household internalize the opinion and take it away with them.  They might go to school and see someone who is overweight, call them fat, call them bad. She turns the tables on her cyber-bully and tells him that he is no role model if this is how he talks about other people.

Like most women, I am sensitive to weight(y) issues and I am always watching certain industries in which women's weight is particularly noted, like on-air journalism, acting, modeling, and so on. I'd like to believe my characters in FAT GIRLS IN LA would respond like Jennifer Livingston does.  She not only takes the high road with dignity but delivers her message to everyone, not just her bully.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: "Needs Must When the Devil Drives" by Rachel V. Olivier

Full disclosure: Rachel Olivier is a friend of mine and the copy editor of my upcoming novel, "The Rise of Ginny."  However, that doesn't mean she's not also supremely gifted as a writer as well.

First of all, the title.  It's a paraphrasing of a quote from Shakespeare's play, "All's Well That Ends Well" and refers to the kinds of things people do when they are desperate. Particularly appropriate for this novella.

Second of all, the subtitle. "An Apocalyptic Romance." Who has time for romance during the Apocalypse? Yes, this too is appropriate.

The main character, Kelly, is a bit of a sad sack who has been feeling sorry for herself and her current life situation.  She left her small town in Washington state to be an actress in Los Angeles but never made the splash she'd hoped.  When her mother needs a caretaker, Kelly promises herself it will only be temporary, that her move home will be just for her mother.  But instead, she stays a lot longer than she ever intended and even takes a local job.

Kelly is at a crossroads in her life: does she stay in her small hometown and acknowledge defeat in the acting world or does she plunge back into the movie scene and feel guilty about her mother's worsening condition?  She packs her dog Jake into her car and heads out on a camping trip to clear her head.  While she's out communing with nature, something very strange occurs but she doesn't realize how devastating it will turn out to be until she begins investigating the next day.

No cell phone service.  No electricity. No living humans.  Only the charred remains of people and animals and a weird black soot on everything.  She is determined to go back home and see her mother; on the way, she meets Dan, another survivor. Together, they travel back to her small town and fall in love along the way.

Most stories that deal with end times are grand epic things.  The characters are often heroic on a big scale and we have interaction with the thing or things that caused the end times to occur.  Not so with Olivier's novella.  Her Kelly is no action hero.  She is just an average person dealing with the aftermath of a major event, but in her own small way.  She doesn't join a traveling group of survivors, a la Stephen King's "The Stand."  She is all alone, thankful to meet Dan and to have her loyal dog with her. But it's all the stuff that she thinks about, the pettiness she feels from time to time, the guilt she suffers from, that makes this story truly enjoyable and relatable.

I love that Kelly worries about bad breath and drinking warm beer in the morning.  I love that she is snippy and tired and on edge.  I love that she is sometimes selfish and often squeamish.  And I love her voice.  She is not snarky or too self-deprecating. She is an imperfect human and she is all of us. She is how many of us would be during a situation like this.

Currently, I am writing a novella so it was a great time for me to read Rachel's new one, her third published.  A novella is not a long short story, nor is it a short novel.  It is its own art form.  Many famous literary figures wrote novellas, classics like John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and Joseph Campbell's "Who Goes There?" Yet often novellas are treated like a novel's poor relations.  Writers themselves kind of say, "Oh, huh, this isn't big enough for a novel but I have more to say than in a short story."  Many reluctantly go forth with the novella and say, "Market, be damned."

"Needs Must..." is the perfect story for a novella. It is a personal tale with an apocalyptic backdrop, a very human story. Buy your copy at Sam's Dot! And to learn more about Rachel, check out her blog and follow her on Facebook

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reviews, views and sock puppetry

Psst! Hey buddy, wanna buy a 5-star review?
The internet has been aghast at the accusations of sock puppetry by best-selling authors (see JA Konrath's wonderful series of posts explaining all of it as well as the Guardian and Huffington Post articles). The problem?  Authors are alternately buying reviews of their books (like the mega-selling indie author John Locke) or creating false accounts to boost reviews of their books or denigrate other authors' books (see Stephen Leather, etc.).

It's tempting, when faced with low Amazon numbers or very few reviews, to bump up your own with some fake ones.  After all, a writer might tell herself that everyone else is doing it and besides, what could be the harm in just one or two fake reviews? I am not going to judge anyone for doing that because I can easily understand the despair one might feel.  Believe me, I would love to have more reviews on Amazon or B&N but hey, the ones I have are honest and well-written so who am I to complain?

I think that the people (mostly writers) who are outraged about fake reviews aren't considering the intelligence of readers these days.  We (I am a reader too!) are savvy about too many 5-stars - and by too many 1-stars.  I can read a review and tell if someone hasn't read a book and is posting a fake review.  And I can tell when it's a friend or relative saying really nice things just to be nice. Most readers can - they're not fooled by trolls.

Where I draw the line is with authors who are purposefully trashing their competitors. Hiding behind a fake name and online profile is cheap, mean, and cowardly.  If you have to say something nasty about a fellow writer (do you really?), then at least use your own name. Personally, when I read a book I don't like, I just don't rate or review it.  I don't believe in 1 or 2 star reviews. Why? Because I put my own name on the reviews and I wouldn't want a fellow writer to feel bad - like I would (and do) when I receive low ratings.

Retaliation is a poor substitute for honesty.  When a writer (or reader) posts a nasty review just because that writer angered them personally or because they want to make the writer feel bad, that's retaliation.  Anyone who claims they are "just being honest" is lying to themselves.

All that being said, I would like to post a link to a real review by a real reader of my novel, CHASING THE FALLS.  I submitted my book to Flamingnet Book Reviews to be reviewed but did not pay for it.  They gave me honest feedback (you will see how honest it was!).  This kind of review really touches my heart because I can tell the reviewer read the book and truly enjoyed it.  This was an intelligently-written piece that really dug into the meat of the book.  This is the kind of review writers cherish.  Thank you, Flamingnet Book Reviews and my teen reader!

Friday, August 31, 2012

"I want to be Stephen King!"

Full disclosure: I love King's work and admire him tremendously. He is a writer's writer who loves reading, who writes every day, who walks the walk, as they say.

Photo: Reuters
Too many writers claim to want to be King when what they really want is his money and success.  Or they want to write like him.  They want his freedom and his fans. I'm not going to tell these writers they shouldn't want these things. People write for all kinds of reasons, although honestly, if they want a guarantee of money and fame, they should probably do something else.

When I say I want to be Stephen King, I mean I want to write with passion and to touch people the way he has. His work leaves a lasting impression on readers and that is what I would like to achieve. To attempt to write "like King," writing horror stories or thrillers or gore the way he does, can only lead to a mediocre interpretation of a master. And mediocrity is not an option.

King admonishes all wannabe writers to read as much as they can.  To him, that separates the wheat from the chaff.  If you can't manage to read regularly, how can you be a good writer? And honestly, why would you want to write if you don't like to read? I teach ballet because I love to dance. If I can't pass along that passion, why do it at all?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Puberty again? or, Is My Voice Changing?

I just had a great conversation with a close friend who is also a terrific writer. Together we've shared ups and downs as we've negotiated the publishing path. As I am currently in the midst of a crisis of writing faith (should I be writing this or that or nothing at all?), she helped talk me into a place of peace.

When I related to my friend my woes of feeling uninspired by characters and storylines I previously was quite passionate about, she suggested my writing voice was changing.

"Like a 12 year old boy going through puberty?"

"Yes, exactly like that," she said and then went on to remind me that our relationships with books go through phases as we mature.  Books we found fascinating as younger people no longer interest us.  It's a rare novel that I loved as a teen or 20-something that I still love today.

It's not only our ages and life situations that change our way of writing but also the times in which we live.  How many of us want to read about swinging singles living sexy, carefree lives in Manhattan or London, shopping every day, and not caring a whit for debt or credit card bills or their aging parents? As our lives necessarily become more austere as we deal with the economy and job loss and housing crises, many of us buckle down spiritually too.  Not that we find God, but that we find our own god. We discover what's truly important in our lives: family, friends, a fine cup of coffee I can sip on a quiet morning, good health and mental well-being.

When we read books, we don't need to see characters going through the exact same situations as we are going through.  That exact mirror isn't crucial to identifying with them.  But we do need to see characters of substance that reflect our own internal crises: How do I give my kids what I had when I can't find a job? How can I care for my aging parents?  How do I find what I truly love in life when all around me is crumbling? Even when we look to Escapist Lit (books that are not contemporary realistic fiction), we don't need human characters - only human characteristics.  Stories about vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, angels, etc. may be fantasy but if they suffer as we do, we will love them.

I sat down to write what I thought would be Escapist Lit for me - I was writing the third book of a trilogy with characters that I thought I knew well and wanted to spend time with again. Easy-peasy, right? But the story was suddenly not me.  It no longer had anything to do with what I was going through - and so I couldn't relate to it anymore.  The voice had changed - my voice had changed - and I was no longer interested in telling a story in a voice that wasn't mine.

For me, Escapist Lit must be deeper in substance, the characters reflective of my need to connect with the greater world, for what is writing but a literal version of your soul? My desire to tell a story hasn't changed at all - I still love writing and have a million ideas in my head - but I'm looking for more from the time I spend at the keyboard. I'm in search of the Why...why tell this story?  Why construct this character? Why use this word?

Why write at all?

Friday, July 20, 2012

There will be a Fat Girls book 2!

For those of you who have enjoyed ALL ABOUT VEE, which is the first title in my FAT GIRLS IN LA trilogy (and if you haven't, why not give it a try? here!), I just wanted you to know that there is a second book in the series.  It's called THE RISE OF GINNY and it will be out very soon.  Also, I'm currently working on book 3, called VIVA VAL!

If you couldn't tell, each book is about each of the Vees: Veronica, Ginny and Val.  Veronica, you know, is the actor.  Ginny is the writer and Val is the model.  Each of these books takes place sequentially so Ginny's story happens directly after Veronica's ends and Val's starts not long after Ginny's ends. And of course we get to see all of the girls in each of the books so we know how their lives continue.

I'm really having fun with Val!  I don't know what I'll do when her story is over.  More Vees, perhaps?  Who knows?  There is always (Vivian) Reed, the fourth Vee who came out to LA before Big Vee did. Might she have a story to tell? Hmmm....

Friday, July 13, 2012

My hometown indie bookstore closing

I was saddened to learn of the decision to close The Alphabet Garden, a children's bookstore in Cheshire, Connecticut where I had an amazing event for my first book, LOVE, MEG (newly-released as an e-book titled, JENNIFER ANISTON IS MY BEST FRIEND).  Back in the summer of 2007, Karlene Rearick, the store's owner, held an event for my friends and family at her small store which was in the Watch Factory Shoppes at the time.  We had cupcakes and cake and I read from the book and signed lots of copies. I was incredibly nervous but it was a ton of fun. Not long after I returned to LA, I posted some photos from that signing.  It reminds me of a very special time in my life, one that I know not every author has a chance to enjoy.

A book signing for a debut author is really not for the masses, unless you're a celebrity and your first book is a juicy memoir.  Typically, the signing event is for the author and her friends and family.  They are excited for you and want to share in your book's release and since they were planning to buy the book anyway, they might as well do it as part of an event. It's fun to choose a theme that ties into the book - whether it's food or music or other entertainment - and it can be a great way for a bookstore owner to introduce her store to new customers.  So it's win-win-win for everyone.

But not all authors can do this.  First of all, the number of indie bookstores is dwindling and there's really only one chain left, B&N.  Then too, not all books are released as paper or hardcover so there may not be an actual book to sign.  And finally, they don't draw the numbers of people they used to. If you're a friend of the owner, that might be incentive enough to hold a signing.  If you're a good customer, that's another reason.  But let's be honest: with fewer stores and more e-books, chances are not good that you're a frequent customer at any store.  In fact, when I mentioned to my husband that The Alphabet Garden was closing, he said, "When was the last time you were in a bookstore?"

I don't know.  I don't have much money to spend on books, frankly, so I rely on free classics and other low-priced books from Amazon for my Kindle. I buy friends' books at their signings, of course, or as a download for my Kindle, but no, I don't go to bookstores often.  I used to love Borders but they're all gone and I never did care for B&N because they rarely stocked my books. Truth, okay?

People bemoan the demise of bookstores, and I agree with them to a certain extent.  There is a charm to stores and to physical books.  I have always loved libraries, even more than bookstores, because I could spend hours in the stacks, uninterrupted by someone asking if they could help me find something ("Yes, help me find an author I've never heard of who I will love instantly"). I discovered more authors that way.  And the thrill of seeing my own book on the stacks is indescribable.  One of the most amazing things to me in the world was seeing my titles shelved in the local library, and knowing they're available all over the world in other libraries.

A really big part of me wishes I could have continued to publish with Penguin.  I had major plans for my books and they did too - until the books didn't sell as fast as they wanted them to. But I still have plans and I still have stories to tell and I want to share them with readers.  What am I  supposed to do now that publishing isn't what it used to be?  Now that bookstores are tanking and the only books published by major publishers are high concept series, am I supposed to simply stop writing?

Here we are: five summers after my first novel was published and I held that awesome signing at The Alphabet Garden, the store is closing - and I just released the same novel as an e-book.  I'm very disappointed the store couldn't make it through this terrible economy and I wish Karlene Rearick the best of luck in whatever she does next.  I will forever be grateful for that signing in her store, for her support of me as a local(ish) author, and for all the friends and family who made it there to celebrate with me.
Adapt or perish, right?  It took me a while to accept e-books as real books and even longer to accept self-publishing as a viable alternative to traditional publishing. But I want to continue to write and to sell and to make a literary connection with other people.  So you do what you have to do.

Here's a link to the article about The Alphabet Garden's closing.  Thank you, Karlene!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Choosing character names

Ask any writer about the name of one of their characters and he or she will spend an hour talking your ear off about its genesis. It generally takes me a very long time to pick character names - sometimes I will have an idea but then I have to "vet" it:

- do I know anyone with that first or last name?
- what does the name mean in another language?
- is there a character from a more well-known book or person in popular culture that this will reference?
- and if so, is that a good or bad thing?
- how will this name fit in with the names of the character's family and friends?
- does the name begin with the same letter as any other character in the book?

That last consideration, believe it or not, is one of the most important things to me, personally.  I hate reading books in which many of the characters' names begin with the same letter and/or look similar on the page.  Even if they are pronounced very differently, names like Mary and Marie look an awful lot alike and when you're reading, your eyes may not make the distinction quickly.

When I chose to give my "Fat Girls in LA" characters names that began with the letter V, I knew that they all had to be different-looking on the page.  There's Veronica (also called Big Vee), Val, Virginia (called Ginny), and Vivian (called Reed). So Veronica is the longest name, Val the shortest and then the other two girls have nicknames that don't begin with V.  They are therefore very distinct on the page.

I also rarely choose to name characters after people I know very well (there will never be a Jay or a John or a Maurice or a Rosanne in my books unless there is a really important reason) and I rarely give someone an L name.  Inevitably, writers who name their characters something similar to their own names invite comparison to themselves.  Readers will want to know if that character is a stand-in for the writer herself.

Hint: ALL characters are stand-ins for the writer.

I recently read 2 books in which the character names were, in a word, lazy.  I could tell the writers did not put much effort into choosing the character names and as a result, I couldn't take the books seriously. Character names have to have their own backstory - you need to know what the character *is* called, what she *wants* to be called, what her nicknames might have been growing up, and so on.  All of that influences your character's personality and makes her a 3-dimensional person, someone we can believe is a real individual.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New e-book on Nook: Jennifer Aniston is My Best Friend's a book!  An e-book! And it's on Nook now!

(Nook now, Nook now, Nook now...that's a tongue twister!)

A few weeks ago my e-book, JENNIFER ANISTON IS MY BEST FRIEND, launched on Amazon and a whole bunch of people said, hey what about Nook?  So my Ninja Webmaster/Cowboy Book Designer just put a version up on the Nook so it's now available at Barnes & Noble's website.  Here's the link for you to head straight on over there and get a copy for yourself or buy it as a gift.

Speaking of gifts, have you had a chance to gift an e-book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble?  It's super easy.  I did it recently on both sites and it was so tempting to send a whole bunch more to other people.  And it's also super easy to loan books on Kindle.

(And by the way, my e-books are loanable because I don't believe in Digital Rights Management! You buy it, you loan it.  That's your choice.)

So in case you forgot, here's the link to my Amazon author page where you can see my e-books and e-shorts yourself.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Something Wicked This Ray Comes...

When Ray Bradbury passed away last week, the internet poured out its collective heart and soul into beautiful posts about the impact the author had on so many lives. His influence on writers, readers, television watchers, moviegoers, and theater audiences was tremendous.

I loved his "The Illustrated Man," a collection of short stories including the insanely-good "The Veldt" and of course, the amazing "The Illustrated Man." His novels "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Dandelion Wine" always spoke to me on a child-like level.  Although our upbringings were so very different, I still felt like I could relate to his Iowa-cornfields-on-a-late-summer-night sentiments.

When I think of Bradbury's work, I feel it in my bones.  I feel the longing for something beyond us, the playfulness of never-ending childhood, the wonder of the universe.  But although he believed in the ultimate good of humanity, he never forgot how razor-thin the line was between good and evil.  In his short stories and novels, his villains might have been vanquished - or not.  They might have been us.  In many instances, such as "Fahrenheit 451" we were our own worst enemy.

I can't overstate his influence on how I write or read. The very first novel I began writing (which remains unfinished) had its beginnings in his work.  I have re-read more of his stories than I have of any other author.  When I need a strong shot of good stuff to inspire me or comfort me, I'll pick up "The Martian Chronicles."

Not long after I moved to LA, I was fortunate to meet Bradbury for the first time at a bookstore signing - for someone else's book!  It was a collection of his covers, put together by Jerry Wiest, who was there for the signing.  Bradbury came too.  He did speak but kept his part short; he was gracious about leaving the floor to Wiest since it was his show, not Bradbury's. 

I soon learned that Bradbury was - despite his age and increasing inability to get around well without assistance - incredibly generous with his time. He appeared at the same tiny book fair I did when my first novel was published.  He spoke - lovingly, passionately - about writing, about doing what you love with little regard for fame or fortune or public acceptance.  He was the embodiment of that belief.  He wrote what he wanted when he wanted.  He did TV and movies and he wrote shorts and novels - and refused to be classified as a science fiction author.  He was a fantastist, a writer of fantasy.  That he loved space and wondered about our place in the universe was secondary.

The final time I met him was at another book fair, this time in West Hollywood.  Lines, lines, lines - everyone wanted to see Ray. I didn't get as much time with him as I did at the previous smaller fair because so many people were waiting but I did tell him what a major influence he was on my books.  I told him I was at the fair because of him, because what I'd written had been published. He smiled and told me he was glad he could help me fulfill my dream "in some small way." Small?  Hardly.  A dream? Definitely.  A dream inspired by him and his writing.

Read Bradbury if you haven't already.  Find a story, a novel, a play, a movie, an episode of The Twilight Zone.  I dare you not to be inspired.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why re-release an OOP book?

First of all, my novel, JENNIFER ANISTON IS MY BEST FRIEND, is now available on Kindle and soon will be on Nook.  Yay!  It's got a cool cover and everything.

It was originally published as LOVE, MEG back in 2007.  It went out of print (OOP in pub-speak) in late 2009 and the rights reverted back to me a few months later when I requested them from the publisher.

So why I am re-releasing it now? And in fact, why would anyone re-release a book that has gone out of print?

Well, for one thing, not many people have seen it.  Clearly!  Or else the book might not have gone out of print in the first place.  Every year, thousands of books are released by the Big Six publishers and thousands more by small and independent presses.  It's just a fact of publishing life that not every author will get a share of the marketing pie.  There are only so many spots on that Barnes & Noble table, after all. I don't believe MEG got the push it needed to get into readers' hands.

Secondly, more people have e-readers than ever before and they are always hungry for new material to read (I know I am!).  Because I am publishing this independently, I have the ability to price the book at a more-than-reasonable 99 cents.  How's that for a deal?  Seriously, I'm not trying to get over on anyone.  I know the book was previously released so I think a buck is a decent price. Anything to get more people reading it.

For a third reason, I never liked the title it came out with.  It was okay but it didn't really convey what the book was about. Way too many people commented that it sounded like a romance (and then they were disappointed it wasn't!) or that it was too generic and bland. I understand that. Which is why I wanted to go back to my original title, JENNIFER ANISTON IS MY BEST FRIEND, in much the same way I reverted to FAT GIRLS IN LA for the VEE novel. The titles are eye-catching and thought-provoking and they make you want to pick them up for a look-see.

And finally...yeah, I like this story.  I like FAT GIRLS too. I want other people to see them and get to know them. I felt bad for my books when they went OOP. They were like my children who got rejected from a good college. I kept thinking, "No, give them a chance! They're hard workers and funny and sweet. They may be smaller than the other kids but they're just as smart."

You never want to see your kids rejected. So now I have the opportunity to send them off to school in my own way.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Will the real Leigh Purtill please stand up?

I grew up reading everything. As a girl, I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series and all the Betsy-Tacy books.  Not to mention all the Ramona stories.  When I was a pre-teen I read whatever I could find on my parents' bookshelf - nothing racy but certainly scary.  I can remember Thomas Tryon's books as well as true crime novels like "In Cold Blood."  And as a teen, I just took out whatever struck my fancy while I was wandering the stacks.

Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby stories. Joseph Wambaugh. Aldous Huxley. Octavia Butler. Douglas Adams. Ray Bradbury. Stephen King. Peter Benchley. Robert Heinlein. Isaac Asimov. Frank Herbert.  And on and on.

When I began writing, of course I started with some of the more fanciful stories because - hello?  look at that list of names!  Naturally, I loved fantasy and science fiction and horror.  It never occurred to me to write in a genre.  I only wanted to write what I liked reading.

But people don't like that - publishers, editors, agents.  They want to know: what do you write?  What kind of stories do you tell?

Um, the kind people like to read?

What a silly question.  I hate being put in a box.  I don't ever want to do/write/be just one thing.  Readers want good stories with good writing and good characters.  Good.  Fun. Thought-provoking.  Entertaining.  Heartbreaking.  Provocative.  Keep-me-up-at-night.

Right now, I'm working on the third book in the Fat Girls in LA trilogy.  Next I'll tackle my paranormal thingy again and after that, the steampunk-time-travel thingy.  Maybe a detective story in the middle.  I don't know. But whatever it is, I want it to be good.

Friday, April 13, 2012

How fast can you read on an e-reader?

Take this fun interactive test from Staples...and see how long it will take you to read "Harry Potter" or "War of the Worlds" from start to finish.

Friday, April 6, 2012

New book + Free short story = Happy Spring!

To celebrate the release of my new novel, CHASING THE FALLS, I am giving away the Kindle version of my short story, "I Brake For Whales."  FREE!!

Starting tonight, Friday April 6 at midnight PST, all through the weekend until Sunday April 8 at midnight PST, you can download my horror short for free at Amazon at its Kindle store! FREE!!

Here's the link but remember, it will be free at midnight and no sooner! Enjoy~

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


And book number 3 is out - CHASING THE FALLS is my first new release since ALL ABOUT VEE in 2008.  Last year I released FAT GIRLS IN LA but that was not new.  This is completely brand new material that no one has seen yet.  Well, except for editor, agent, manager, and a friend...but other than that, you all will be the first!  If you buy it...

It's available as e-book only right now.  Here is the link to the Amazon Kindle version. Still waiting for Barnes & Noble to put it up on their Nook store but when I get that link, I'll share it too.  It's only $2.99, a reasonable price, I think, for an e-book.  I'd love to get feedback so if you have a Goodreads or Amazon account, I hope you'll consider posting a review somewhere.

Thanks and happy reading!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Coming in April: my new book featured on Ultimate YA Reading Group!

Hey everyone!  The release sequence of my novels has gotten a little rearranged due to work commitments and illness but the second e-book (my third published novel) is being released April 2 on Kindle and Nook, for starters.  Print editions will come later.

I'll post more in a couple of days but for now, here are a couple of teasers...

--The title is "Chasing the Falls."

--It's a contemporary young adult novel, set in Los Angeles.

Now, a bit of more cool news...

--I'm the April author for Ultimate YA Reading Group!  They'll be posting interviews 'n stuff with me throughout the month, including info about the new book.  So stay tuned to their tumblr and Facebook page!

I'll reveal the fab cover very soon, along with a blurb of the book, and more links - more, more, more!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My own Hunger Game

And I don't mean dystopian YA fiction (although I do totally dig that and am looking forward to the movie!).

My version of this is the hunger I need to attack my rewrite.  When you have a great idea the first go 'round, you have to let it sit in your brain for a while until you are so excited you have to write it.  A similar thing exists when you do a rewrite. 

What I typically do is outline the first draft of the book so I can see where all the problems are and jot some ideas down about the possible changes I can make.  Then I mull it over.  I let it sit in my mental passenger seat when I'm out driving or teaching or walking. 

With a new outline, I have the advantage of having it all laid out before me. It's like seeing into the future.  I can experiment with changes before I actually write it.  If I have multiple options I can see how they play out before I commit to them.

Then I wait.

Til I'm really, really hungry.

Then I bite...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Guesting at ADR3NALIN3 Blog!

Today, I'm guest posting for my friend and fellow author, Carol Tanzman at the writing blog, ADR3NALIN3.  She is a regular contributor to the blog, which is a fun and inspiring resource for readers and writers. The authors involved specialize in mysteries and thrillers but their posts address all kinds of issues that most writers face: writer's block, world-building, character development, and so on.

Carol has a new YA novel, "dancergirl," which is currently out from Harlequin Teen.  It's a fast-paced thriller about a dancer whose online life attracts a real-life stalker!  Check it out at your local store or here at Amazon: dancergirl.  Her next book will be out in July, another YA thriller titled, "Circle of Silence."

My post is about turning off the internet and turning on your focus.  Thanks, Carol, for asking me to guest post for you!

So here is it - my post about writing and the internet: I’m not addicted.  I can quit anytime I want to.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Building a writer's toolbox

I'm calling this my Toolbox Post #2 because I recently wrote about a dancer's toolbox on my ballet blog and it made me think about writers and how they have toolboxes too.  While most of a dancer's resources come from classes they take and corrections given to them by teachers, how do writers get theirs?  I can think of 3 ways:

1. High school and college courses: This is where a writer gets her flashlight and her hammer.  You know, the basics of craft, such as -
--Three act structure.
--Literary devices like metaphor and simile.

2. Writing workshops: This is where a writer will get her needle-nose pliers and snake, items that are more specialized for different uses.  It could be during a one-day or week-long course that addresses a specific issue, such as -
--Writing in genre.
--Publishing and agenting.

3. Reading: This is where a writer will find her tubing benders and pipe extractors.  What are tubing benders and pipe extractors, you say?  "I didn't even know they existed!" Exactly!  That's the reaction you have when you read books by authors who approach storytelling in new and exciting ways.  That's the moment when you say, "I didn't know I could do that!" Such as -
--Unreliable narrators.
--Multiple POVs.

As I said in my ballet post, when you have a leaky faucet, you get out your toolbox and you fix it.  And when you have a book that's got plot issues or pacing or structure problems, you do the same thing.  Diagnose the problem and fix it.  No wringing of hands, no pouting or running away.  A plumber doesn't get upset when the pipe is broken and neither should you.