Friday, November 21, 2008

Look how cute!

You can download a totally adorable Simon Pulse Ro-Coms screensaver! Just click on the picture of my cat watching it go. A window will pop up that asks you where you want to save the screensaver on your computer.

Bess pushed this idea through, and Matt made the screensaver for us. All together now: THANK YOU BESS AND MATT!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dry Erase Board Confessions

Years ago when I worked at Seventeen, a dry erase board hung high in the office's main area was a source of many shenanigans (and birthday shout-outs). One day I invited the edit staff--via said dry erase board--to list their favorite corny songs of all time. Mine was "Sussudio" by Phil Collins. The cheesy tune reminded me of my childhood best friend's birthday party at a roller skating rink. (Back story: It was a huuge deal that I was allowed to go to said party--my very first outing sans overprotective family tagging along. My bff Monica was transferring schools, and I was cut up about it, so my mom let me go.) "Sussudio" played on the car ride to the rink, and it was blast through the speakers at the rink. I was a kick-butt roller skater and I remember skate-dancing to the song, feeling totally liberated.

Skating trips down memory lane aside, "Sussudio" wasn't the "Favorite Corny Song" list's best entry on the dry erase board. Another editor beat everyone hands down with his fave--Neil Diamond's "Coming to America." ("To-DAY!")

I've been thinking a lot about that dry erase board recently. I have a shameful secret I'd like to confess to it. You'll never believe this, but I just watched "Mean Girls" for the first time. Sure, I'd seen clips of the movie before, but I never watched it in its entirety until last week. And I call myself a writer who's hip to the teen scene? [sulk]

New dry erase board question: "What popular boat did you miss?" No judgment here. Trust me, I can relate. After moving back to the States from London, I felt lost when people threw their hands in the air to songs I'd never heard before. I had a lot of catching up to do.

So, chime in with your confessions. Haven't read the Twilight series and all the Harry Potter books? Not yet heard Lil' Wayne's music? Never seen "Bring It On!" or watched a full episode of "Grey's Anatomy?" Tell me your startling omission. Misery wants company!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Clubs: A Maiden Voyage

Though The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren is soon approaching its one year anniversary, last night was my first guest author appearance at a ladies' book club meeting. I have to admit I was a tad nervous. Would I spend the evening stuffed in a corner, listening mutely to their high intensity debates about my book? What if they hated it? And while I feel very comfortable presenting to teenagers at schools and other writers at conferences, I wasn't sure what to expect with a group of adult readers.

I'm glad to report it was a major success. I got to meet new people and eat a variety of delicious foods, all while answering questions about how I managed to become a published author, how I got the idea of writing about a modern-day teenaged Siren, and how I balance my writing with raising three little boys. The best part was getting to hear what they liked most about the story.

I know some authors don't "do" book clubs, but I'm officially going on the record saying I had a marvelous time and I hope another book club invites me to come in the near future. (That's me, in the middle of the front row.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

NaNo No

I've spent the last couple weeks refusing to feel guilty about NOT doing NaNoWriMo. The thing is, I think I'm going to participate every year. But every year, I'm in the middle of a project when it rolls around, so I'm not exactly at a good point to start an all-new project and barrel through.

On the bright side, I've made great progress in the last couple weeks on my in-the-middle-of project. (I admit, I was election-obsessed for the first week of the month, but who wasn't?) So even though I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year, I'm having a great writing month.

Here's the thing with writing: as long as you're making forward progress, you're doing well. So if you're participating in NaNoWriMo and are starting to think you aren't going to get all 50,000 words done by the end of the month, don't sweat it. Just keep going. You'll still end up with a book if you just stick with it.

(And for a lesson in perseverance, take a clue from this guy, who started his project in 1979!)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Speaking of NaNo...

We're nine days into NaNoWriMo and I'm less than a day's word count off the schedule. I'm very proud of myself! It's a great feeling to have 50 pages of a manuscript after a little over a week of work. The only problem is that NaNo asks you to write a 50,000-word novel in a month, whereas the sort of book I'm writing needs to be 100,000. So even if everything goes according to plan and I'm declared a NaNo winner on November 30, I'll have another month of NaNo-esque work ahead of me before this book is finished.

The book I'm writing isn't a Simon Pulse Ro-Com. I just turned one in, and I write a lot faster than YA publishers want to put out my books. So this one's a paranormal romance for adults. However, this idea did start life as a Simon Pulse Ro-Com. In 2006, after MAJOR CRUSH came out, I needed to write another ro-com. I pitched this idea to my editor, who said she liked it but I couldn't write it because it was set in Las Vegas. Micol's GETTIN' LUCKY was set in Las Vegas, and her book would come out only two months before whatever I wrote next.

Of course, none of this was Micol's fault, so I never thought a single unkind or jealous thought about her. I played with what I had. I tried setting the book in New Orleans or Savannah or Key West. And when none of that worked, I whined. I told my editor that Las Vegas is very popular right now and it was perfectly okay to have two Las Vegas ro-coms back to back. She told me to stop whining and combine the plot of a second ro-com I'd pitched to her with the setting of a third. Thus THE BOYS NEXT DOOR was born.

I've always loved the idea for my Las Vegas book, though, and I'm glad I'm finally getting the chance to explore it. Some lessons about writing we can draw from this experience:

Lesson #4,329,160: IT'S NOT MICOL'S FAULT.

Is it just my imagination or is NaNo all over the blogosphere this time around? Do you have friends who've practically disappeared this month to work on their novels, or are you NaNoing yourself? How are you doing?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I Haz NaNo Brain

For those who haven't heard of it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It was dreamed up to encourage all those people who want to write a novel "some day" to step up and write it. Lots of people do.

I've participated in NaNo several times, won some, lost some, but always came away with more knowledge about myself and my writing. (You win NaNo by writing 50,000 words on your novel -- good, bad, or incoherent).

My SALEM WITCH TRYOUTS novel was drafted in a NaNo. I had a lot of fun that NaNo.

This NaNo isn't going quite as well. I'm working on my newest book right now. I don't like to say much, so as not to jinx it, but I can drop a few hints... tornadoes, high school, a girl who doesn't like to be touched and a boy who just wants to be left alone. Yeah, probably doesn't tell you much, does it? You'll just have to read it one day.

I got a late start because of other work I had to finish to clear off my desktop. But I expect to be up to speed by Wednesday. (Up to speed means have the appropriate word count suitable for being 12 days in ... which would be 20,000 words...yipes!!...thankfully, they do not have to be coherent).

What I like most about NaNo is that it frees me from writing the perfect sentence/action/scene. Instead, I just go where the characters lead me. After writing fifteen novels, I know I can handle revising and redrafting, so I let myself play with the NaNo draft. That playing has always rewarded me with a little something-something in terms of my writing, even in the times I didn't win NaNo. In SALEM, I freed my inner comedian for the first time, which astonished even me!

This time (for another hint) I'm finding that I'm connected with the emotions of first crushes. I guess you could say I'm freeing my inner heartache. Not quite as much fun as my inner comedian. It has been a long time since my first crush...but that's a subject for next month. Right now I have to go write...I have a date to go break someone's heart this afternoon -- fictionally, of course).


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Corn Crib

Since it's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and writing a novel really scares a lot of people, I figured I could use this space to share something I'm afraid of. It's not writing. My recent harrowing experience took place at an apple picking place (see photo reference A).


While at this apple orchard, I followed my little girl into something called a "Corn Crib", which is a structure whose floors are made of 1mm-thick plywood (under-exaggeration) and walls were straw (or something like that). There were approximately three thousand (major exaggeration) little people between the ages of one and nine running around inside this three-story human-sized cage. The Corn Crib had a single set of stairs that led up to a second level, then another set of stairs (really, more of a ladder) leading from the second to the third level. See photo reference B for a visual of the Corn Crib.


Once you went up the stairs to the top level, I discovered, you could never get down again. Because there was a constant stream of small people storming up the ladder and without getting past them, there was no way to get back to solid ground. The Corn Crib was shaking and shuddering in the wind, tossing me from straw-wall to straw-wall (in reality, it was maybe swaying 1/2 an inch or so). Here's me at the top of the Crib (photo reference C).


Yes, I was freaked out. I was one hundred feet above solid ground (okay, ten feet), held up by only a few scraps of particle board. Freaked out by a Corn Crib.

What scares you?