Friday, February 29, 2008

A Novel Idea: Books

Since the inception of my brand-new website, I've been getting a lot of fantastic emails from readers, emails that literally bring bursts of sunshine into my day. It never stops being amazing, unreal, to know that something you have written spoke to someone out there.
When readers write to me regarding A NOVEL IDEA, it's often to express how much they, like the main character, Norah, love to read, and then to ask me which of the authors and books mentioned in the book (how meta!) are real. Only two authors in the book (Irene O'Dell and Philippa Askance, both of whom play BIG roles in the story) are fictional, but everything else is an existing book or writer (in a truly meta, wink-wink twist, I even mention my OWN book SOUTH BEACH in the story...I wonder if many people pick up on that!).
It was a wonderful challenge, writing a book about books, one that I was thrilled and a little hesitant to take on when I sat down to write Norah's story. Because I, like most "book people", LOVE books, love reading, with a passion that is sometimes hard to articulate. When people inevitably ask me the question "What is your favorite book?" I'm left tongue-tied and stressed! So many books over the years have gripped me, captivated me, healed me, inspired me, haunted me, tickled's impossible to narrow it down.
But on this impossible Leap Day, I'm willing to take on the challenge, at least in a modified form. And I present this challenge to my fellow bloggers, and readers, and lovers of books: What are your Top 5 Favorite Books...that you've read in the past couple of years? It doesn't have to be books that were PUBLISHED in the last couple of years, just that you happened to read in that time. I find that narrowing the field down in this way is somehow comforting. So here's my list (and, because I am an editor, I have purposefully left out any books I have edited, since I love all the books I edit, so that would be totally biased):
1) THE DOGS OF BABEL by Carolyn Parkhurst. A lyrical, spooky, utterly captivating novel that is a mystery, a love story, and an ode to pet ownership all in one (and I'm not even a pet person...but I couldn't put it down).
2) THE LADY AND THE UNICORN by Tracy Chevalier. I loved this even more than GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, Chevalier's best-known book. It is a beautifully-written, juicy, and richly textured ode to what amazing historical fiction can be, and the author does a jaw-dropping job of deftly switching perspectives.
3) NICOLA AND THE VISCOUNT by Meg Cabot. Needless to say, Cabot is a master at contemporary teen fiction, but this little jewel of a historical romance is pitch-perfect as well. It was a quick bedtime read that made me dream of empire-waist gowns and handsome noblemen. Ahhh...(truly a book that Norah would approve of!)
4) THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie. Raw and honest and heartfelt and hilarious, this 100% deserved its National Book Award. I've been a fan of Alexie since college, but it's almost like he found his truest voice in YA. Go YA! :)
5) THE PRIVATE SERIES by Kate Brian. O...M..G. These books have made me miss my subway stop and walk down the street reading (thereby infuriating pedestrians and nearly slamming into street signs). Fast-paced, delicious, and dark, these boarding school mysteries are absolutely unputdown-able. I just finished Book 5, and am already pining for #6.
So...what's your Top 5?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Go on ... Take a Leap

I’m at the point in an approaching deadline where I’m so crazy busy writing that not only have I lost track of what day it is, but I was convinced earlier that it was a whole different WEEK entirely. I’m only taking the time for a PROJECT RUNWAY break so I can clear my head and blog a bit because I need to ask you all a favor ... a little something that will reassure me that the world continues to exist while I’m hunched over my laptop.

February 29th is fast approaching. Leap Day. I kind of look at Leap Day like found money. When I stumble across a forgotten $10 in a coat pocket, I immediately spend it on something fun. The time I put a couple bucks in a slot machine in Vegas and walked away with more than a hundred bucks, I went out for a very nice dinner. And the government is going to love me because when I get my “rebate check” this spring, it will totally go to something frivolous that I don’t need ... no matter how much my credit card debt has been mounting.

Now, for Leap Day, I would love to do something equally as frivolous. This is a day we’re not supposed to have. A little something extra. An unexpected gift (although they do come around every four years, so maybe “unexpected” is the wrong word). Alas, because of my deadline I probably will not remove my butt from my office chair until Monday. Good thing I just bought a new one. (Office chair, that is. Not a new butt ... though I could use one.)

So, to everyone out there, I ask you to have fun for me by doing something different that day. Step outside your comfort zone. Break the routine. Go snowboarding like Wendy did last week. Wear that wacky outfit in your closet that you’ve been too afraid to show off in public. Order extra whipped cream on your frapuccino. It doesn’t have to be something big. It doesn’t have to be something you need to get your parents’ permission for. It can be a small thing, like reading a book that you’d normally be embarrassed if someone caught you reading. And while you’re doing it, don’t even bother to think of me toiling away in my office. This Leap Day is all about you!

(Disclaimer: I am not encouraging anyone to do anything dangerous, illegal, or immoral. Just because you’re doing something fun, doesn’t mean it has to be destructive to yourself or to others. Don’t be stupid. Don’t go releasing 85 live chickens in your school, like some students did at my old high school a few weeks ago. Sometimes fun has a price. You might wind up paying the $5,000 chicken clean up bill if you get caught.)

And now ... make it work ... I mean ... back to work.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The YA Triple Play

We are recovering from our 21st annual Oscar Party (Can we possibly be that old) and I am also coming off of a rare week in which I completed what I have dubbed my YA Triple Play. In one twenty-four hour period I submitted the manuscript for my newest Ro-Com Sea of Love which will come out in December. My new book Prama came out in bookstores. And, I had my first ever interview with Little Willow. It was kind of fun and kind of heady. But, most of all it left me kind of tired. No rest for the weary though. Inspired by my fellow Ro-Commas, I am looking to get a website up and running. All of you have such nice ones. (By the Way, even though we are scattered across the country, wouldn't it be cool for the all the Ro-Com writers to get matching bowling shirts. Just and idea.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Save Teen Central!

Hi book-type friends:

I received the below letter from a publishing colleague of mine and wanted to be sure to spread the word. Teen Central is an invaluable resource that needs your support!

Dear Publishing Friends,

As you probably know, in Fall 2008 the Donnell branch of the New York Public Library will close. It will reopen three-and-a-half years later—a state-of-the-art, but much smaller, facility. Due to size constraints, Teen Central, the portion of the Donnell that houses the young adult collection and serves as a teen hangout, will not have a place in the new library. Teen Central hosts many author events and other programs, provides free internet access to teens, and generally serves as a cool place for kids who like books to spend time.

Right now the NYPL is still deciding upon Teen Central’s fate. It may be split into two separate locations, one uptown and one downtown. That’s certainly better than nothing, but keeping a central Midtown location is very important to the teens who have come to rely on Teen Central. Why? Many of the teens who come to Teen Central are from low-income families. They live in neighborhoods with few free after-school programs. Some are gay, but they aren’t out at or close to home. Some are made fun or for being smart, or for what they wear. It’s very important for these kids to have someplace to go away from where they live, away from the people they see every day, where they can come together with other likeminded teens from all over the city.

Will you take a moment to write a brief email to Anne Hoffman, Chief Librarian at the Donnell to ask her to make a place for Teen Central in Midtown?

As children’s and young adult publishing professionals, this is our opportunity to speak out in order to save an extremely valuable institution for teen literature. Please forward this email along to others in our field.

What have you done for yourself lately?

I recently (like this very week) joined a gym. Though I consider myself an active person, I haven't worked out regularly in quite a while. I feel like a new person! I get to hang out with a bunch of my friends and I've already met some ladies I hope to get to know better. My kids love the kids' program, and though I'm sure nothing has changed with my body quite yet, I really love the feeling that I get after having worked out. As an added bonus, I hope to look better than ever in my bathing suit when I go to Mexico this spring. I'll have to let you know!

I also took some time last weekend to go snowboarding with my oldest son. I'm typically the parent who stays home with the baby (and work my latest novel when he naps), but I decided that this time, I'd hire a babysitter and join the rest of the family on the slopes. And other than the minutes following a particularly painful fall, I was really glad I did!

Last night I dropped the boys off with my husband and met a friend of mine for dinner and coffee. It was great to catch up and have a nice meal that I didn't have to cook (or clean up after). I took my time driving home, blasting the kind of music I love (and not a kid CD) and then gave my mom (who lives in another state) a call to tell her sweet dreams.

What have you done for yourself lately?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Planner or plunger?

Writers often debate about whether or not to plot their books ahead of time. Some swear by planning ahead...they write extensive outlines, because they like to know what's going to happen when they sit down at the computer each day. They revel in taking their characters down a certain road. Other writers refuse to plot their books before writing them. They'd much rather discover the plot right along with the story's characters as they type.

Then there are those wacky writers, like me, who've done both. When I sit down to work on a book, I have an idea about the characters and a good sense of how their story starts (the first couple of pages), but only a vague notion of how I want that story to end. I have to sit at the computer and write to figure out everything that happens in between.

I explained this process to a non-writer friend recently, and she said she wasn't the least bit surprised. She explained, "You spend forever on TripAdvisor to research hotels before you travel, but once you get somewhere, you skip guided tours and wander. So your writing style makes sense to me."

Her comment made me wonder: Do people--writers or not--fall into these types? Are there planners, are there plungers, and are there those who always plan certain things (hotels) while plunging in at other times? Has anyone ever made this kind of observation about you?

And for you find your writing style is reflective of how you handle other areas of your life?

Monday, February 11, 2008

I am my own webmistress

I design and maintain my own web site at I’m able to do this pretty easily because I know HTML coding. PhD programs in English usually require students to know two foreign languages, but the one I went to allowed us to substitute a computer language. So I bought Teach Yourself HTML in 24 Hours, and 24 hours later, I was my own webmistress.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Managing my own site allows me to make changes and updates instantly. And sometimes I get the bug to change the site around completely, playing with colors and patterns and creating new icons. This activity uses a different part of my brain from writing and gives me a nice little break, a lot like some of my first jobs after college, designing newspaper pages and advertisements.

My favorite part of my site right now is the virtual book launch party for The Boys Next Door. I was writing my dissertation (which I never finished) on hypertext fiction--fiction that uses the way the internet works as part of its form. When hypertext fiction first emerged, some critics argued this revolutionary genre was the form all books would take in the future. Other critics said, “Hmmm...isn’t that exactly like a choose-your-own-adventure story, only on the computer rather than on paper?” I tended to agree with the latter critics. But when I started thinking about how to let readers know I had a new book out, a choose-your-own-adventure story that was actually written in hypertext seemed like the perfect way to introduce everyone to Lori and her peculiar brand of hospitality.

But not everyone likes my site. One reviewer had lovely things to say about Major Crush and The Boys Next Door but went that extra mile to point out that my web site was “cheesy.” This was back in my pink dot phase. You can still see the pink dots at my MySpace page. I thought the pink dots were cute yet ironic in their intensity, like Miley Cyrus would break into your house and kick your butt. So the news that my site was a big cheeseball really hurt my feelings--almost as much as School Library Journal saying Major Crush was good for “romance and a few laughs.” (A few???)

Soon after the pink dot incident, I changed the site to its current look. I had just sold a new book to MTV Books, and the updated black background lets you know I am hip and edgy and dark. Stop laughing.

See, I enjoy designing my own site. That doesn’t mean I’m any good at it. I really appreciate art and design and I’m constantly coming up with new ideas, but they never seem to work out the way I’d envisioned them, which is also why my clothes and the inside of my house look the way they do. More than once I’ve thought about having a professional redesign my site. Some sites are just so gorgeous. But others...well, I figure I can do as good a job as those professionals, and for free! This is called savvy. Or hubris. Maybe I’m like one of those horrible people on American Idol who honestly think they can sing. I’m the William Hung of the World Wide Web.

So I have a couple of questions.

For authors: Do you design your own site?

For everyone: Can you tell I design my own site and you have wanted to let me know for a long time but you just weren’t sure how? It’s okay. I can take it. *sniffle*

One Night . . .

I have to brag about my husband Danny. This weekend I got to hear three performances of his new opera, One Night Together. Dan composed all the music to a holocaust-themed libretto by a poet named Ilsa Gilbert. I have to admit even I was blown away by the vivid beauty of his music. I'd heard bits and pieces on the piano as he was working on it (it took 9 years) of course, but never the fully-orchestrated version. I was amazed at how visual music can be; almost like a painting. It's impossible for me to understand how he can hear music in his head and write it down, and then when someone plays it, it sounds just like he imagined. Yet that's exactly what happens whenever Danny composes something. Writing seems so simple in comparison to composing. . .at least from my point of view.

Composing and orchestrating an opera is a huge undertaking. Getting the funding to have it staged is even more huge. So kudos to the Duo theater in the village for taking on the challenge. The show was sold out for all three performances, so it was a success for all!

Thanks for letting me take a few minutes to boast about something that has absolutely nothing to do with this blog site. I promise to write something adorable about my new romantic comedy, Puppy Love, next time.


Friday, February 08, 2008

More Tales From the Tour

On this, the first monthiversary of the release of LOVE, HOLLYWOOD STYLE, I thought it would be the perfect time to share another of my favorite stories from my time as a tour guide at a motion picture and TV studio.

Herewith, I present to you all the tale of the night I attended (read: worked) my first movie premiere...

At the time I was scheduled to work as an usher at my first Hollywood movie premiere, I’d lived in Los Angeles for less than a year. Growing up in Philadelphia, my prior celebrity sightings had been limited to meeting the local news team when I interned at the CBS affiliate. Now, while it’s true that, working on a movie studio lot, I had more than the average celeb sightings ... this was a MOVIE PREMIERE! The kind of star-studded event I’d been hearing about all my life. There was a red carpet and everything!

The movie was CLUELESS and even though the cast was largely unknown, invitations had gone out to all the major stars the studio worked with. Considering how much buzz the movie was generating, everyone knew it was going to be a huge event. At the very least, I was sure to have a sighting of the new "It Girl" everyone was raving about: Alicia Silverstone. Maybe I’d even get to show her to her seat!

The premiere was held on the lot in the mondo-plush theater. Seriously. It’s the nicest movie theater I ever have and probably ever will be inside in my life. Nobody puts their feet up on the chairs in this theater, mainly because their feet can’t reach the chairs in front of them. There is no snack stand. Food is not allowed. And the audience is made up of people who work in the industry and understand the concept of actually shutting up and watching the movie! Could there be a better venue for your first movie premiere?!

I should have known I was in trouble when I saw the excessive number of tour guides that showed up to work the event. We were only needed to help with check in, work the door, and escort guests to the reserved rows. There were way too many people for the job. That was when I learned exactly how big the premiere was. So big, and with so many guests, that there was going to be spillover seating in the smaller, far less cush, studio theater on the lot. To get to that theater, you had to walk one block down the main pathway, turn a corner and walk another block down an alley.

Any guess where I was stationed to work on my first movie premiere?

Nope! Not the studio theater.

I was directed to stand at the corner. You know, that point where the people had to turn off the main pathway to go down the alley to the studio theater. I was handed a flashlight with an orange cone—like the kind you see people using to wave in planes at the airport—and my glamorous role for the evening was to wave the cone in the direction of the studio theater to guide the spillover audience that way.

And, let me tell you, not even the D-List celebrities were being sent to the studio theater. It was reserved for the behind-the-scenes folks. A lovely group of people, truly, but not what I'd been imagining all those many years when I dreamed of Hollywood.

Ah, but the evening was not a total loss. I don’t know if she was dropped off at the wrong parking lot, or if she was coming from someone’s office. But from the direction opposite the red carpet and beyond the studio theater, came Alicia Silverstone, looking stunning in a mint green suit. She even flashed me a smile and a “Hello” as she passed me and my orange-coned flashlight, heading to her film premiere.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Snow Days

Even though I work at home (except for a few hours a week tutoring in the next town over), I still enjoy a good snow day. When the cancellations start to roll in the morning, I scan for the ones in my town. It's like getting a free pass for the day -- extra time, if you will.

The down side (for me) comes the next day...when I have to try to walk on slushy or icy sidewalks and make turns with my vision obscured by mountains of snow plowed up when the roads were cleared.

In other words, the older I get, the more I put snow angels, snow forts and snowmen behind me, the more I like snow days but grow weary of snow.

I long for this:

I may get it in a few weeks, for a few weeks. And then back to snow.

I've come to the conclusion that snow is like babies: beautiful in the beginning so you'll put up with the annoyance when they hang around :-)

I think I'm going to plan better in the future -- next winter I'm writing a book set on the beach. At least then I can escape to warm temperatures in my mind, no matter the weather outside.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Is it really only Wednesday?

At VCFA, we do a little thing on the online forums called "Friday Brag." And inexplicably, this week, I am all kinds of braggy pants.

For starters, we've officially been given a release date for Dave and my graphic novel project, I'M WITH THE TRIBE. It's going to come out in 7/09 from Flux, and there will also be some nifty ARCS about nine months beforehand. Hopefully those will generate lots of buzzy-buzz. Check out this snazzy character profile of our protagonist, Ari Abramson I've posted here. Consider it a sneak peek!

Secondly, I just learned that FIRST KISS (THEN TELL) was named a Teen magazine recommended book for winter 2007. Okay, so, yeah, I have but the one wee story in that anthology, but it's a fab collection with some amazing contributors--Including P J Ruditis, author of LOVE, HOLLYWOOD STYLE (no idea when I'm going to be rubbing pub-elbows with other National Book Award Finalists again).

And finally, the fabulosa Kelly Parra (Graffiti Girl) has posted a fun little interview with yours truly on her blog, YA Fresh. Have a look:

They say that good things happen in threes. They also warn against pushing one's luck (they are very bossy, these mysterious "theys"). So with that in mind, I think I'm going to make my exit, stage left, while I've still got a graceful out.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Books on my nightstand

Just finished watching the Super Bowl and realized it's my day to post. Sorry, if you're a Patriots fan but I was so glad to see The Giants win. I just can't get over the fact that The Patriots cheated.
Anyway, just wanted to mention that the two books that are on the top of my nightstand stack right now are The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren and Love, Hollywood Style. I've started Teenage Siren and am really enjoying it. It's a really sweet escape and the heroine is one that everyone will cheer for. Looking forward to reading Love, Hollywood Style. If it's even half as funny as P.J's post about Robin Williams I'm in for a big treat.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Election Frenzy

It has been ages since I've posted on the blog, so I can't believe I'm going to write about politics instead of, say, the writing process or the fun outdoorsy things I'm doing this winter (sorry if this is supremely boring). But I confess: I'm sort of obsessed with the election and it's only February! My new HDTV (holiday gift from me to me) has been tuned to CNN HD almost every night to catch the debates and latest coverage. A total waste of the great picture quality.

This is so unlike me.

I've always been a little ho-hum about elections. Sure, I vote. But beyond that...I don't get that involved or enthusiastic. Maybe it's because of the writer's strike, but this year I'm really into it. I'm not going to voice my political opinion here (though you could figure out my political leanings if you asked my two-year-old who she's voting for...I taught her to say Barack Obama and she still can't pronounce "juice" properly!), but I hope you're all enjoying this exciting year.

In other news - I've moved from New York to Minnesota. I'll write about that change some other time. But until then, I'm getting ready for our caucuses on Super Tuesday. And hoping the writer's strike really will end soon - because after Super Tuesday, I'm ready to get back to new episodes of Gossip Girl. The withdrawal is killing me!!


Friday, February 01, 2008

(Nearly) 30 books in (almost) 30 days!

February means the most romantic book giveaway ever! Micol Ostow and The Genius over at Teens Read Too have cooked up the (Nearly) 30 Books in (Almost) 30 Days contest. Simon Pulse will give away five copies of a Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy for every day of the month. That's 145 chances for you to win. Visit Teens Read Too for details on how to enter, and tell your friends!