Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ta Ta For Now!

Alas, I'm so new to the Ro Com family and already it's time to say goodbye. Well, it's been good while it lasted. And I'm still thrilled to be in the company of such amazingly funny, talented writers! My Ro Com isn't even out yet... Language of Love will be out this December as part of the "Love, Love, Love" title. It's my first stab at fiction, and I read many of the books by the wonderful authors here like Jenn Echols, Wendy Toliver, Niki Burham, and more, to learn about what makes a romantic comedy work. So I thank you all for setting the stage, teaching me through your writing, and welcoming me into the Ro Com family!

Even though I won't be blogging here anymore, please come by and visit my blog for teens, Smart Girls Know. I post there a few times a week about everything from writing contests and opportunities for teens to stuff going on in the world that is relevant to young women. You can also keep up with my other writing projects on my author website, friend me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter (@DeborahReber).

Thanks for all of your support for this blog and the Romantic Comedies books, and I look forward to staying in touch!

XOXO Deborah Reber

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's Been A Thrill

One of the thrills of my life was when my agent called to let me know that Simon & Schuster were interested in buying Royally Jacked, my first book for teens, and that--double thrill!--they wanted to make it one of the two launch titles for an all-new line of romantic comedies. Thanks to all the great authors Simon Pulse discovered for the line--most of whom are right here on this blog--it ended up being a more successful venture than I ever could have imagined. And we have you, the readers who loved the books enough to write to us, to recommend them to your friends, and to talk up the books online, to thank for all of it.

It's been a wonderful adventure writing my four books for the romantic comedy line, and though the blog is ending, the adventure continues. You can follow the other authors at the links they've provided in their posts. If you'd like to find out about what I have in the works, you can visit my official Niki Burnham website and bulletin board (which I check regularly), as well as my personal blog, The Go-Ahead. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter. Feel free to post your thoughts or ask questions anytime!

Again, thanks so much for making this blog--and the romantic comedies--such a success. It's been a thrill!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thanks For The Memories

What a ride this has been. From the moment I was graciously invited to join this blog in advance of PERFECT SHOT’s release, I’ve felt welcomed by the Pulse Ro-Com community. Having a forum where I can introduce myself as an author while connecting with other authors and readers was beyond awesome.

As a Jersey girl living abroad, being a part of this blog family has helped to soothe some isolation blues. There was always a spirit of fun and support here. This was no doubt a reflection of blogstress Jenn Echols who set the tone when she got this this party started years back. Merci mucho much for everything, Jenn! And while I’m making shout-outs… Thanks to everyone who made this blog a regular stop on your daily web browsing. Thanks also to those who have left comments and linked us to other sites. We so appreciate your enthusiasm for the Pulse Ro-Com series.

The good news is that the connections we’ve all made here will continue. Let’s meet up again at our various sites, blogs and social network hubs. You can find me on my blog, website, facebook and the S&S site. Let’s all pick up right where we left off, shall we?

Until Next Time...

Shhh …. don’t tell my editor but I’m sneaking away from the deadline I’m on for a couple seconds so I can say goodbye to this amazing Ro Com Community that the incomparable Ms. Echols created. Well, maybe it's not so much a “goodbye” as a “see you around” since we’re not dropping off the face of the earth or anything. The Ro Com writers are all over the internet, putting me to shame with my relative lack of participation in social media.

This blog was one of the first that I ever knew about that brought together a writing community with the readers. I've enjoyed every minute being part of the team and sharing stories and the writing experience with all the wonderful readers and aspiring writers out there. I've gained so many new friends here. Friends that call me P.J., which makes me feel even closer to you even if you don't know what I look like ... or that I'm a guy. (Not like this was hard to figure out. Clicking on the link to my website pretty much blew that "secret." Also my last name. There aren't too many Ruditises out there writing for teens.) Don't worry though. I don't think we've seen the last of P.J. At least, I hope we haven't.

Beyond this blog, I don’t have much of a web presence. My website is hopelessly out of date, but I am tweeting away on Twitter. At least, not when I’m on deadline. (I added that last part for my editor.)


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Simon Pulse Ro-Coms Rock!

As you might have heard, we are saying goodbye to the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies blog. First, I want to thank the 11 amazing authors who've been contributing, from those who've been there from its inception (like the amazing Jennifer Echols, the blog's creater and web mistress) to some of our newest authors. It's been a blast getting to know you and read your books!

Personally, I received my invitation to join this talented, witty, and fun-loving group in 2007, right before my first ro-com (and first novel ever!), The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren, came out in December 26, 2007. It's hard to believe it's been that long! Then, about a year later, in Feb. 2009, Miss Match came along. Sinice then, I've been working on different projects, but my ro-coms will always have a special place in my heart, and that's thanks to all the fabulous Pulse Ro-Com readers out there! So thank YOU!

I know I speak for everyone when I say we hope you still stay in touch with us on our various web-sites and other blogs. Here are some good places to find me on the web: My web-site, Facebook, Twitter, Teen Fiction Cafe blog, Books Boys Buzz blog, and my official Simon and Schuster author page.

Goodbye, blog! *sniffle*

Almost four years ago in October 2006, just a few months after Major Crush, my first novel, had been published, I finally got the okay from Simon Pulse to start this blog. We've had hundreds of posts and countless visitors over the years, but I never thought that after four years, we'd still have eleven Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies authors participating.

However, we have decided to close the blog and concentrate on other projects. Over the next week you'll find other authors posting here to say goodbye and tell you where else you can find them online.

You know where to find me: my web site, my guest book, my personal blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

But I've really appreciated your support of this blog over the years. As a thank you, I'm giving away all four of my romantic copies: a copy of Major Crush, a copy of The Ex Games, and The Boys Next Door and Endless Summer together in one volume. I will draw one winner at random. To enter, you should be at least 13, and if you're a youngling you should have your significant adult's permission. You must enter before midnight Central Daylight Time on Wednesday, August 25. U.S. addresses only, please. It costs eighteen dollars to send Endless Summer alone to Vietnam. I found this out the hard way.

For a chance to win, just e-mail me at echolsjenn (at) yahoo (dot) com AND post a comment here about your favorite romantic comedy. It could be a Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy, another book, or a movie. Just don't say in your post, "You are my favorite author, Jennifer Echols, besides Catherine Clark," because I get enough of that already.

Thank you, blogosphere, for being so kind over the years. The day in July 2005 when I sold my first novel, and the day in October 2006 when I got this baby up and running, I never could have predicted how involved I would get with the reading and writing communities online, or how rewarding it would be.

Jenn ♥

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

When you were a teen, did you love or hate going back to school?

Hated it with a passion! I still get butterflies in my stomach when I walk through Target and discover that back to school supplies have replaced summer beach towels, and sunscreen. It wasn't that I struggled in school. I had plenty of friends and except for math and P.E. I did okay in class. I just didn't like school -- for a number of reasons. Summer was paradise mostly because of the freedom that came with it. Free to read books all day long, free to hang out at the beach, free to sleep in, free to watch the Price Is Right, free to do whatever the heck I wanted. No, I wasn't dying to return to tests, speeches, detention and stinky locker rooms. Furthermore, I'm a night owl. The summer nights of staying up late and then sleeping in were absolute heaven. I used to fantasize about throwing my alarm clock off a cliff. High school just seemed like this really slippery stepping stone I had to maneuver my way over before I could get to a much better place, college.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Comic Book Writing 101

I mentioned a few months back that I’m working on a new comic book series based on the TV show Charmed and a few of my Ro Com Compatriots asked what it was like to write for comics. Now that Issue 1 is out and I have a bit more experience under my belt under the tutelage of my co-writer, Raven Gregory, I thought it might be fun to share some of the things I’ve learned so far. As with any writing, the learning process is forever ongoing. These are just some general lessons and there are exceptions to every rule.

1. A comic book script is the most concise form of writing I have ever attempted. The average comic book is about 20-some pages of content. Sometimes the story will continue over an arc of several comics, but each individual issue (as any story) should have some kind of beginning, middle, and end to it. For me, outlining is absolutely necessary in this process.

The first thing I do when approaching a new issue is I create a table in Word that is two columns wide and twelve rows long. Then I break it out as if it were the layout of the comic book. The top row is the inside cover and page one. Second row is pages two and three, and so on and so on. Then I fill each box in the grid with the basic action that will take place on that page. This allows me to move things around, control the pacing of the story, and generally get a visual on where the big reveals will be. All reveals happen on even numbered pages so that when you turn the page--BOOM--something interesting should be happening on the left page, as here in the U.S. we read from left to right. (Mind you, you can’t just make every even page “exciting” because a story has a natural flow.)

2. The obvious rule: Every panel can only hold one action. You can’t just have someone go to the refrigerator, open it, take out some string cheese, shut the door, open the packaging, peel off a tasty string of cheese and eat it in one drawing. That’s seven panels. (It’s also a very boring comic book.) You have to find a way to link the panels by highlighting the important action. Panel 1: The person reaches into the refrigerator for the string cheese. Panel 2: Eating of the string cheese ensues.

3. A comic book page is only so large. You can only fit so many panels on one page. You can only fit so much information into one panel. You have to envision the page as you want the artist to draw it, balancing out the number of panels with the amount of information each panel reveals. Then you have to link the panels into a story.

This is where you get to have fun. Some pages can be packed with panels. Some might only have two or three panels. In rare cases, you can have one panel equal a whole page. And in really special cases, you might have one panel stretch out over a two-page spread for a really big reveal. This is where the pacing comes in. Sometimes you set the pacing and other times the pacing sets you depending on how much information you need to share. A big two-page spread might be fun to have the artist create, but if you need to reveal a bunch of information over those two pages, it might be best to use multiple panels to do it.

4. The artist is not a mind reader. You have to be very careful how you describe the art that is going to be drawn. That’s a risk with novels as well. When I’m describing something to a reader in a novel, I can’t get into that reader’s mind and tell her what to think. There’s always a chance the reader will imagine something differently than I intended. With comic books, if the artist draws something that does not match your intention the reader will only see what appears on the page.

5. You have to be able to let go. Comic books are a collaboration. No matter how in sync you are with the artist, some things will not be translated the way you pictured them. If you’re lucky enough to see the art before it goes to print (which is not always the case) you can’t nitpick every little thing. You have to focus on the big stuff. The things that affect the story. Because if you do start getting all nitpicky you should be warned that the artist may want to kill you. But sometimes the changes may be worth placing your life in jeopardy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Big "R"

Today I had the honor of visiting a gifted writing class for junior high and high school students at the University of Utah. They made this cool chair for me to sit in! Sorry, I just thought that was really cool. But back to topic, we're talking about rejection here at the Pulse Ro-Com blog, and how I dealt with rejection was one of the many wonderful questions I was asked today. Because I'm sure at least some of this group of enthusiastic students will become authors someday, I was sure to answer honestly and not sugar-coat the reality that I dont' know a single writer who has breezed into publication without his or her fair share--and sometimes more than their fair share--of rejections.

One of my favorite authors (and she's a really cool and beautiful person to boot) is Shannon Hale, and though I haven't actually seen this presentation of hers, she apparently has a whole collection of rejection letters that she has attached end-to-end and rolls out for everybody to see. As rumor has it, it goes on forever and ever. One of the students I hung out with today mentioned that an author she knows wallpapered her office with rejection letters, and I know of a couple of authors who've held on to each rejection and stored them in a special--and very fat--folder.

While I don't have a visual showcasing every rejection I've accumulated throughout my 6-year writing-to-become published career, I can say I've had to grow a thick skin. And with each rejection, I have to remind myself that this is an extremely subjective industry. How many times have you read something (or watched a show on TV or a movie) and thought it was amazing, yet your best friend thought it was a waste of time? Right. Same goes with all the editors (the people at publishing houses that read your book and decide whether or not it's "right" for them) and literary agents out there. Some books speak to them, move them, make them jump for joy, while others ... don't. That doesn't mean your book is bad (per se); it just means it's too similar to something they have, needs more work, or any number of legitimate reasons.

So, what I'm trying to say (I'm still trying to catch up on sleep after my overnight flight two days ago so I can only hope I'm making some sense) is that if you sit or want to sit in the "Author's Chair," you shouldn't take it personally when you get a rejection.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How Do I Deal with Rejection?

This is a great question for anyone to ask of herself. In fact, Caitlin (the protagonist of Getting to Third Date) is trying to fast track the relationship rejection process by finding a reason to reject all her potential boyfriends by the second date. Ultimately, she learns this doesn't actually help ease the sting of rejection.

By the time you turn 18, you've probably had friends (boyfriends, girlfriends, friendish folks) who suddenly don't return calls because they've moved on to the next new and shiny set of friends (lets call them drifters). You probably also have a few keepers -- the friends who stick with you when you move, cut your hair, get a boyfriend, lose a boyfriend, etc. It still stings when a friend you thought was a keeper turns into a drifter.

Take that feeling, and picture spending months and years on a book you love, then sending it off to agents and editors -- some of whom don't reply at all, some who say a polite and vague "not for me" and some who are quite rude ("your baby is ugly...and so are you"). Why would anyone subject herself and her work to that?

Well...for writers that's an easy question to answer -- because that process of rejection is the only path to published novelist (unless you self-publish, which is an entirely different post). When I was a new writer, I did my research and I understood that rejection was a fact of the business. So I was not horrified by my first rejection letter (for a short story that was all tell, with a character thinking about her job as a prison security guard presiding over frozen criminals she called corpsicles). As it happened, it was a lovely rejection as such things go -- instead of a generic "no thanks" I got feedback telling me that my story was all tell and no story.

Since that first rejection letter I've had success and more rejection--from the "I wish I could buy it" to the "I wish I could burn it and wash out my mind." Rejection doesn't bother me...wait.... Wrong. Rejection annoys me for three reasons: I sent the manuscript to someone who doesn't get it; I failed in my goal with said manuscript; and (worst of all) I have to go back and figure out whether to revise or simply resubmit until I find someone who gets it.

So, generally, to boost my spirits during the process, I just remember those friends who drifted away -- and the keepers who remain strong forever and enrich my life. If I had let the drifters convince me to stop trying to make friends, I wouldn't have the keepers who encourage and support me.

(apologies for being AWOL lately -- starting a new company is very time-consuming!)

Friday, July 16, 2010

How Do I Deal With Rejection?

Usually by falling face down on my bed and wondering why, why, WHY I chose to be in this insanely competitive, rip-your-heart-out-and-stomp-it-into-the-ground industry. Then I read the rejection letter or rejection email a thousand times, wincing as each negative comment is permanently branded onto my ego. Or, if it was a rejection phone call, I'll recount every word of said phone call to my husband until he's ready to plaster my mouth with duct tape.

Only then will I sit down at my computer and bring up the rejected sample chapters, or manuscript, or outline, and calculate how many hundreds of hours of work I put into it. And mull over the fact that it will most likely never see the light of day. Instead, it will sit on the hard drive of my computer. . .and there it will remain. . .and remain. . .and remain.

After that, I head straight to my bookshelves and my kitchen, in that order, and proceed to drown myself in Jane Eyre and pepperjack cheese. Or, if it was a particularly painful rejection, House of Mirth and Fudgicles. Have you ever tried Fudgicles? They really work.

Happy writing!

(Note to all the aspiring writers out there: This post is not meant to dissuade you from the rewarding field of fiction writing. But if you can't handle rejection, you should seek an easier career. Like lumberjack. Or maybe ironworker.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How Do I Deal With Rejection?

If you're a writer, rejection is part of the job--it happens to all writers, no matter how talented. When--not if, but when--it happens, there are several ways to react. Some writers I know get down for a day or two, then forget about it. Others brush off a rejection as nothing. Still others will mull it over for weeks at a time, picking apart each word from the editor or agent who rejected the project, trying to figure out what went wrong. Some writers head straight for the pint of Ben & Jerry's.

I don't fall into any of these camps.

I admit, I've gone for ice cream after a rejection letter appeared in my in-box, but I will use any excuse for ice cream (selling a book, seeing the cover for the first time, getting good news or bad from an editor, the Red Sox winning a big game, you name it.) When I get a rejection letter, rather than bemoan it, I view it as one person's opinion that a particular project isn't right for the market at this time. When viewed that way, it doesn't bother me. It's nothing more than a simple business decision. I haven't been fired; I've essentially been told to try to come up with something more marketable. So in the end, my internal response to rejection is, "Okay. Thanks for the analysis."

When I first started writing, it was tough to do that. No writer wants to think that the time and energy consumed by that rejected project was wasted. But over the years, I've learned that markets change, editors change, and readers' tastes change. As long as I keep working hard to become a better writer, improving my craft with each project, by the time the market is ready for that particular idea, I can resubmit, possibly in an improved version. Even if it doesn't sell, I can always pull a character, a story thread, or some other component of that project and use it in the future. In the meantime, I don't stand still. I keep writing. By the time I receive a rejection, chances are that I have another project--maybe even two or three--in the works, and a new focus for my energy.

Friday, July 09, 2010

How Do I Deal With Rejection?

Happy SUMMER everyone!

There's a common knowledge in Seattle that summer doesn't actually start until the day after 4th of July. It's strange really, how every year I'll be watching fireworks in fleece and a few days later wishing to God someone would just install central air in my home already. And that's my state of mind at this very moment...covered with sweat in my upstairs office, blinds pulled down to keep out the oppressive sun as the mercury hits the mid-nineties. As a born and bred East Coaster, one would think I'd be used to sweltering hot Julys, but it appears that after 10 years on the West Coast, I've gone soft. Anyway...I hope everyone is staying cool and having a great summer.

And now, onto the question of how I deal with rejection. The answer? Not very well. Well, that's not exactly true. I actually handle it much better than I used to. I used to take it all so personally, flabbergasted that the pitched-to editors couldn't see the obvious - that my book idea was pure gold...Oprah Book Club material...the stuff that NY Times bestsellers are made of. But now, about ten years into my career as a writer, I have a more zen approach. Yes, I still get disappointed, especially when said rejection comes from a publisher who initially showed interest in my idea. And I let myself be disappointed too, for about 2 days. Then I stop sulking and remember that one of my core beliefs is that everything happens for a reason, and therefore if so and so doesn't like my idea, that just means it hasn't connected with the right editor yet. And when it does, it will all have been worth it. And that usually works.

So what does that really mean? It means that I have a file cabinet full of unsold book proposals and manuscripts. Well, at the very least a few overstuffed hanging folders. But I'll hold onto them, because who knows...?

Before I go, check out the new cover for Language of Love! While I LOVED the original illustrated cover by Amy Saidens, I must say that if we're going to a photographic look, I kinda dig how my book turned out. If you haven't heard, Language of Love is going to be paired with RoCom Cupidity, by Caroline Goode. It's slated to come out this December...I can't wait!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What's in a Name?

Naming characters is sometimes the easiest part of a book and sometimes the hardest. Some characters name themselves. A name just pops into my head that would be perfect for the person I’m writing about. Other times, nothing feels right. Or when I do finally come up with a name, it’s too close to the name of another character in the book and I can’t use it.

One of the things you have to keep in mind about naming characters is not just what the name sounds like or what it may mean. It’s also important to see how the name looks written out on the page. Try writing about characters named Bryan and Byron in a book and see how fast your editor breaks out the red pen. (Of course, there’s always an exception to any rule. Check out: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. No, seriously. Check it out. Loved it.)

For Love, Hollywood Style, I had pretty much the easiest time ever naming my characters because I did something I’ve never done before and will probably never do again. Since the book is a romantic comedy set at a movie studio, I named all my main characters after the characters in one of my favorite movies of all time: The Philadelphia Story.

Tracy = Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn)
Dex = C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant)
Connor = Macauley Connor (Jimmy Stewart)
Liz = Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey)

Even though there are no real parallels between the two stories, it was my way of paying homage to a true classic romantic comedy. If you like witty dialogue and snappy comebacks, I highly recommend The Philadelphia Story. It is one of the most sharply written movies ever.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How do you decide on character names?

People actually ask me this question all the time and it's something I've often wondered about my own favorite writers. I just finished a huge long book with (what seemed to me) a thousand characters. I actually had to make a list of all the first and last names and post it near my computer so I wouldn't repeat any. Still, I made mistakes like calling the dad "Don" in one chapter and "Dave" in another (there's always a Dave in my books.)
I actually don't love choosing names--I'm always anxious the name will sound silly or too trendy or just weird. I usually try to play it safe: first names are those that are appropriate for the age of the characters--for instance, no mom is going to be called "Taylor" but a twelve year-old girl might. "Mildred" is better for the grandma than for the five year-old little sister. I usually choose first names that are short, one or two syllables, and not overly distracting. No "Siobhan," for instance. (No offense to all the Siobhans out there.)
Last names are harder--usually I'm also looking for a short, non-distracting name. But it also has to sound "real"--as in not overly bland. So I often use last names of people I know--friends, neighbors, former math teachers, etc. It's also a nice way of paying tribute to my favorite people--there's been a "Kohli" in my last two books, which is my best friend's last name.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Team Sweet Valley

On this blog, we talk about the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies (I know-- big duh, right?). Modern, contemporary romances are one of my favorite genres to read -- and to write!

But as a writer, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to one of the original young adult romance series, Sweet Valley High. It’s not an overstatement to say that my love of Sweet Valley is in large part responsible for my decision to forge a career in young adult publishing. Imagine my thrill, then, to be invited to join a small circle of diehard Sweet Valley fan bloggers to meet with Big Fancy Publishing People to talk about the release of the upcoming sequel: Sweet Valley Confidential!

For anyone who’s ever had a love-hate relationship with the Wakefield twins (and with series for readers of all ages in print, who hasn’t?), this splashy, soapy follow-up (Elizabeth and Jessica are 27!) lets us catch up with the whole crew.

Over lunch (including yummy tiny cupcakes!), we readers talked about what exactly we loved about the series, and how we thought we might be able to build buzz for the book before its release next March. We filled pages and pages of notebooks with ideas, many of which will be rolled out very very soon. You’ll have the chance to read early chapters from Sweet Valley Confidential, to win swag like that pictured above (a teaser chapter from the book, a “Team Jessica” tee shirt, and a sparkly Wakefield compact mirror!), and much, much more!

I’ll be blogging about the first chapter of SV Confidential soon, but in the meantime, whether you’re new to the series or a long-standing groupie, now’s the time to get reading! It’s pretty sweet stuff!

Oh -- and let me know: Team Jessica, or Team Elizabeth? If you're like me, you're probably a little bit of both!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How do you decide on character names?

I'm so happy to announce that after only a couple of weeks in stores, Endless Summer has gone into its second printing! That means YOU bought a copy at the bookstores and told a friend about my book, and I appreciate you.

So of course I'm answering the question of the month with Endless Summer on my mind. Here's how I came up with the characters' names:

LORI: I really just used this name as a filler until I could go back and change it. I meant to do a search-and-replace in Word with a name I liked better. Unfortunately the cover was designed before I finished writing The Boys Next Door, and Lori's name was on it.

ADAM: I give my heroes names that I love but that don't really remind me of anybody: Adam, Nick, Drew, and currently, Hunter.

SEAN: He is named after Sean Penn. Remember in Truth or Dare, I think, when Madonna says Sean is the love of her life? You could really see in her face that she pined after him, and that's how Lori feels about my Sean.

CAMERON: He is named after the adorable but unfortunate best friend in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I'm showing my age here.

MCGILLICUDDY: Lori's older brother is named Bill, but everyone calls him by his ridiculously long last name. The power of naming is very strong. I get to do it as the author, because I'm inventing this world. Parents get to do it for their children. And if a kid gets to name his friends with nicknames that actually stick...well, that's a very powerful kid. I gave that power to Sean to show you how he glows with an aura of popularity, and therefore why Lori would fall for him, and why all of this would drive his little brother Adam completely insane with jealousy and outrage.

So...I thought it would be funny for Sean to call Bill by his excruciatingly long last name until it caught on. I literally went through the phone book and picked the longest name I could find that seemed to fit.

I'm really pleased with all my choices. Except for Lori. Too late now...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Did anyone in your life inspire you to become a writer...?

A few key events, rather than specific people inspired me to pursue a career in writing. In elementary school, I wrote plays and cast my little cousins in the roles. My good-sport-of-a-dad filmed our homemade productions. I also kept a poetry book—a marble notepad filled with catchy, rhyming stanzas capped off with inspired titles, like “The Fab Four” (read: what a group of us girlfriends named ourselves). And I can’t even begin to count the number of diaries I’d filled by the 9th grade. Writing was always a part of my personality. So much so, I didn’t give it much significance. I didn’t even give it much weight when I began winning essay contests that I entered to earn college money. And then early senior year, my guidance counselor got a call from the admissions office of my dream school, New York University. They called to ask her questions about little ole me! Huh? Apparently, they were really taken with my college application essay and wanted to know more about me. Of course, this caught me completely off guard, but it was extremely encouraging. I thought to myself, writing is viable. (p.s. I got accepted, but couldn’t financially afford to attend.)

Soon after, on the strength of another contest essay, The Star-Ledger, the local newspaper, awarded me scholarship money (through journalist Jerry Izenberg's Project Pride program, which awards college-bound city kids). Having my writing recognized by professionals in the field was a turning point for me. At the time, I was looking at comfortably settling into an undecided, undeclared underclassman existence, and my immigrant parents were pushing me to be more career-minded (“Pick a major! Your choice--pre-med or pre-law.”). So this recognition gave me the direction I needed. One look at the Star-Ledger plaque—which was titled “For Excellence in Journalism”—and something clicked for me. A few years later, I decided that my personality was best suited for magazine journalism, rather than newspaper or TV. My first magazine internship put me on a direct road to awesome magazine staff positions which, in turn, led me to an exciting introduction to the book publishing world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Release Day for Jenn Echols' ENDLESS SUMMER!

Starting today you can get your very own copy of Jennifer Echols's ENDLESS SUMMER (the sequel to THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, which is in the same volume!). I don't know about you, but I'm so excited! Congrat's to Jennifer, who not only does a great job writing romantic comedies; she's the lady behind this awesome blog. Thanks for all your hard work, Jennifer, and best wishes with your newest book(s)!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Who Inspired Me to Become a Writer?

Unlike a lot of authors I know, I only decided to try my hand at writing books later in life. Like, way later (30?). I always enjoyed writing and did well on writing assignments throughout my school years. Several of my elementary, junior high and high school teachers helped build my confidence, but they were general "you can do anything" types of messages.
Then I went to college and realized I should probably start trying to narrow this "what do I want to be when I grow up" thing down, at least a little. I did take one creative writing class, but it was kind of a neutral experience. I got good grades but my prof never really jumped up and down about anything I turned in. I found that neutral was a lot more pleasant than negative, though.
My honors philosophy professor (who the entire liberal arts building was named after) told me I could not write. He even brought me into his office to tell me this so it could have its full, devastating effect on me. Not only did he give me a bad grade on a paper I felt I'd done a great job on, it ended up making my GPA fall just enough to lose my honors scholorship. My heart wasn't set on being a writer at that point, but I'd only ever had positive encouragement from teachers and parents. I'd never been told I could not do something, ever! (I actually include this story in my school presentations nowadays.)
Thankfully I bounced back, and it was only a little while longer before the dean of my college called me up to her desk, handed me an A-plus paper and told me, "You can do anything you set your mind to, but if it doesn't involve writing, you'll be doing this world a great disservice." And guess what? She surprised me and one guy in the class with scholarships!

Of course its' a happy ending because after trying out a variety of jobs, I finally discovered that writing makes me the happiest and I've been able to work towards becoming a published author. In fact, my third YA, LIFTED, comes out in just a few days! So it's all good. Very, very good. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Support, or lack thereof

"Who or what inspired you to become a writer?" is a pretty standard question for an author, but truthfully, the answer, for me, is kind of a big old blank.

I honestly can't remember when I knew that I wanted to create stories, professional or otherwise. My mother has always been an avid reader, and she read to me as early as I can recall. Likewise, I have memories of lying in bed at night, making up stories in my head long before I knew how to hold a pencil (or even a crayon, for that matter). The only inspiration that I can come up with, in this context, are the books I fell in love with as a child.

My favorites were many of the usual suspects: ELOISE, MADELINE, FRANCES (and her baby sister, eventually), but my true first love had to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. My obsession with the "Little House" books was such that I recruited my mother in sewing me a pioneer-style bonnet and spent afternoons recreating favorite scenes with my best friends. Yes, I watched the tv series faithfully, but I'm sure I re-read those books much more frequently than I ever tuned in.

Authors are sometimes asked whether they write with a particular "ideal reader" in mind, and the answer is that I personally do not. I think envisioning my audience so specifically would bring on an acute spell of writerly stage fright. And I'd never deign to suggest that I write with the intention of someday having the impact on a reader that Laura Ingalls Wilder had on me. Such presumption would almost feel like heresy to such a devout follower as me!
And meanwhile, my family and friends have always been phenomenally supportive of my writing.

But at the end of the day, it's all about having fallen in love with books. If I'd never read books that took me out of my own life and into a new character, an exotic location, or a unique situation, I don't know that I'd have gone on to indulge my own imagination daily quite the way I do when I'm writing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Support Is Key...

This month's question got me thinking: Has there been any one person who urged me to write? Anyone who tried to dissuade me? Most writers I know can come up with a name in an instant, either pro or con.

My case is different. No one could dissuade me because I kept my writing on the down low. On the other hand, keeping my writing dreams quiet meant that none of my family or friends could cheer for me, either. Only my husband knew that I wanted to try to write and sell a book, and he was extremely supportive.

That's not to say that support isn't important. Early on, I discovered the Romance Writers of America and joined the organization so that I could take their workshops and improve my craft. Along the way--without even trying--I made a number of friends, all of whom were pursuing the same dream. It made a world of difference in my career. I had whatever constructive criticism I wanted as I tried to improve, but no one to tell me, "You shouldn't." And the friends I've made through our shared goals are some of my closest.

In retrospect, finding others who shared my goal was the smartest thing I could do. Now, whenever I have a new goal, I find someone like-minded, and we work toward our goals together. It's a strategy I believe can be applied to non-writing areas of life, too!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SUMMER is just around the corner!

ENDLESS SUMMER comes out in two weeks. I AM SO EXCITED! I have posted the first chapter if you want a little taste in the meantime. And did you know I have a countdown clock?

Did you know that I can totally stare at the countdown clock for several hours at one sitting, willing the time to pass faster?

Well, time IS passing. I know this because the book has ACTUALLY BEEN PRINTED and my editor sent me a copy. This volume contains the novel ENDLESS SUMMER, which is the sequel to THE BOYS NEXT DOOR. But it also contains THE BOYS NEXT DOOR itself, resulting in a Big Honking Book. How big is it? It weighs 1 pound and 2.4 ounces.

For comparison, an apple weighs 10 ounces.

A strange ceramic object that my small child made me for Mother's Day weighs 3 ounces.

My cat weighs 186 pounds.

Of course, I am really glad to have the book, but it has required some lifestyle changes on my part. I had to buy a new vehicle.

Look for this book in the teen section of bookstores on Tuesday, May 25, okay? If they don't have it, ask them to order it. If they do have it, you probably won't be able to miss it. Take your forklift.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Did anyone in your life inspire you to become a writer or warn you against that goal?

Since I never set out to be a writer, this question requires a little pondering. I never walked around announcing to my family, "I'm going to be a writer someday!" (insert little baby voice). In fact, until well after my first year of college, I told everyone I was going to go into that other profession that strikes fear in parental hearts: acting. Right, acting. I might as well have said I was going to make my living creating gerbil homes of out of shoelaces. But however worried my parents were, they never, ever let on. All they did was nod and smile and wave me cheerfully off to college, knowing that about two seconds after entering my first intro to acting class, I'd realize that 90 % of the people there were better actors than I was. And that's exactly what happened. But when I did eventually get around to telling them I was going to write full time (this was about seven years ago, when I was twenty-five), they also did not say one negative thing.

I'm not answering this question very clearly, I realize, but what I'm trying to say is that I think I could have been easily convinced NOT to be a writer, but because my parents (and my husband) never, ever tried to talk me out if, not even once, I just went ahead and did it. And it's worked out okay.

Friday, April 30, 2010

What I've Been Reading

Last month I rearranged my living room and finally set up the reading corner that I’ve always wanted. Actually, I consider it a “starter” corner. I’m hoping to get a nice comfy chair someday so I can really do it up fancy. Until then, I’ll make due with the IKEA special.

I try to read a few chapters of a book every night before bed. It’s the best way to take my mind off my own writing and lose myself in someone else’s world before I go to sleep. Otherwise, I'll keep working on my story idea in my head and spend all night tossing and turning.

The only problem with reading before bed is when I’m reading something really good I find it hard to stop and get out of the chair. Which is not necessarily a good thing on the nights I have to get up in the morning. Conveniently, since I work at home, I don’t always have to get up in the morning.

Here’s a list of the books I’ve read in my new reading corner. (Yes, I’ve read them all in the past six weeks. I read rather quickly.) I can honestly say that I recommend them all.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr (Just started book 3)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Non-required reading!

Hiya, Ro Com readers and writers! Long time, no post!
I could make a billion excuses, most having to do with deadlines writerly and decidedly-non, but suffice it to say:
it's been a big year for the Ostow-Harlans!
In addition to gettin' hitched, the hubs and I were lucky enough to be able to take an extended honeymoon: five weeks in Australia, Fiji, and Hawaii.
As you can imagine, I did plenty of reading while we traveled.

The pic is a shot of N flashing a triumphant thumbs-up as our plane taxies to the Sydney runway after a marathon flight. Those seats were actually comfy enough that I did manage to get some sleep, but you may note in the foreground that I was able to make some headway into a totally gripping book, too.
The title on my tray table is IN THE WOODS by Tana French, a thriller that's kind of like the best "Law & Order" episode, ever (that happens to also be set in the UK). I started the book on the flight at a friend's recommendation and finished it four days later in Sydney.
Yeah, if you're into that kind of stuff -- it's that good.

French's THE LIKENESS just arrived from Amazon and I'm actually holding off on starting it because I know once I do, it's pretty much ALL I'll do until I've torn my way from cover to cover.

While I was away, I made it a point to read "grown-up books" for a change, but since I've been home, I've been back in a YA groove-thang again. Most recently, I finished Lauren Oliver's BEFORE I FALL. People have described it as "Mean Girls" meets "Groundhog Day," but neither of those comparisons adequately convey the emotional resonance and authenticity of Oliver's voice.

Highly recommended.

So, what about you -- what sort of books do YOU save for your vacation reading?

Monday, April 19, 2010

What am I reading?

This topic came up at a good time because I have been reading more than usual lately. Right now, I'm reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which was recommended to me by my mom. I've read 6 chapters and am eager to read the rest but life (usually in the form of a 36, 10, 7, or 3 year-old boy) keeps interrupting my reading time. I brought The Help (even though it's huge) with me on my vacation to Hawaii last week, as well as Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. If you want to see a photo of it on a Maui beach and the brief review I posted this morning, click HERE. Right before these 2, I read Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey. It was cute, and I loved the concept of how an American farm girl (think could really be a Romanian vampire princess.
I'm also in the process of writing a proposal for a new book, so I'm reading my own writing (over and over again). I even worked on it a little in Hawaii, as you can see in the photo. :)
So ... have you read any good books lately???

Friday, April 16, 2010

What are you reading?

Right now, I'm devouring, for the sixth or seventh time, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I've been noticing how many similarities there are to her short-story collection, Interpreter of Maladies. It reminds me of how often writers will use short stories as kind of a warm-up for a novel--exploring different characters and themes that are built on later. I also just finished (also for the sixth or seventh time--noticing a theme here?) Cat's Eye, a novel by one of my very favorite writers, Margaret Atwood. All of this sounds great, but the truth is that many weeks, all I manage to read is the New York Times Magazine. Maybe a few of Somerset Maugham's short stories. That's about it. I'll blame it on my toddler son for now. Sure, the kid goes to bed at 8:00, but by the time I myself climb between the sheets, I can usually only keep my eyes open for about twenty minutes. The long-ago days when I read Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov are gone forever--or at least until I'm not toting a 25 pound toddler on my hip all day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What are you reading?

I am so thrilled that my novel Going Too Far is a finalist in a Fancy Award, the RITA. The contest is judged by other writers, so it's a huge honor to be a finalist. And if I were to be lucky enough to win, I would join another RITA-winning Simon Pulse Ro-Com author, Niki Burnham. Remember this pic Niki posted a while ago of her Extremely Neat Office?

Yes, the RITA statue looks like an Oscar statue, except Rita is a chick and she is writing. There is even a Fancy Oscar-like Awards Ceremony to which everyone wears an evening gown, or perhaps Bedazzled sweatpants with a cape, because we are writers and you are likely to see just about anything at one of our conventions.

But before the ceremony, there's a huge (and free) book signing that you can attend if you like. This year the "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing will be held in Nashville on Wednesday, July 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, and it is one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of as a writer. Publishers donate their books, and about 500 authors are on hand to sign them. You buy the books, and all of the proceeds are given to literacy charities. The complete list of authors will be posted later at the link above, but some of the usual suspects are big names like Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, and Sherrilyn Kenyon. I cannot begin to describe to you how huge this event is. Here's a pic I took last year that captures about a fourth of the room.

Now, if you are a RITA finalist, the super-cool thing about the book signing is that you get a huge flag on your table that says RITA FINALIST--in other words, CHECK OUT THIS CHICK SHE IS AWESOME. That is, you are SUPPOSED to get a flag. Last year there were no flags. I asked my RITA finalist friends Tina Ferraro and Rosemary Clement-Moore WHERE ARE YOUR FLAGS and they said WE DON'T KNOW!!! so I made them both flags out of pens and post-it notes.

I am going to try to make sure I have a proper flag. I am contacting the flag police as we speak.

Anyway...what I'm reading is the other books that are finalists in the YA category of the RITA:

Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick

The ABC's of Kissing Boys by Tina Ferraro, who is a finalist for the second year in a row because she is THAT AWESOME.

See you in Nashville!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The No Bully Zone

There has been a lot of discussion about bullying in the blogosphere lately. And two concerned YA writers, Carrie Jones and Megan Kelley Hall, decided to do more than blog, so they started a Facebook page called Young Adult Authors Against Bullying.

I started to think about bullying, which is a topic I've thought about quite a bit throughout my life. It seems to me that one of the things that YA books deal with -- maybe not as an "issue" but as a part of life -- is bullying.

I certainly have. In my RoCom, Kaitlyn is bullied by readers who do not like her column. And, in some ways, her column is a way for her to bully the very people who write in to her for help. Sure, maybe their dilemmas seem silly to her, but that doesn't mean they really are silly.

Name calling. Labeling. Can anyone get through school without having experienced bullying of some sort? If you want to know what you can do to make the world a little more bully-free, stop by the Facebook page and read some of the great suggestions for how to cope. Offer some of your own.

Even though YA authors might have fewer easy conflicts if we really did manage to create a bully-free world, we'd cope (there are always unreasonable parents and high-stakes tests...and romance is never conflict-free).


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What I'm Reading

Hi all...I'm writing this on a very cold and and even rainier spring day in Seattle while apparently my friends and family back on the East Coast are in the middle of a heat wave. What I wouldn't do for sunny and 85 right about now.

So to answer this month's question, I'm actually reading three books right now. The first is a book of short stories by this guy named Wells Tower, called Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. I heard him read a piece on my favorite radio show This American Life and I was blown away by his writing and storytelling. I figured if I read more of his work, I could absorb some literary brilliance by osmosis. So far, it's not working, but I'm enjoying the read.

I also just picked up The Lightning Thief a few nights ago. I saw it on the library shelf while picking out chapter books for my avid reader son and I thought I should check it out and see what all the hubbub is about. It's feeling very Harry Potter-esque to me so far, but am curious to see where it goes.

Lastly, I'm reading an adult nonfiction book by Gretchen Rubin called The Happiness Project that is all about finding ways to bring more joy and happiness into everyday life. I'm all for that. I've picked up a few tidbits here and there, but haven't had an earth-shattering a ha moment yet. I'll let you know if I do!

XOXO Deborah