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.