Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I'm back from my bout of TV stardom. It had been a long time since I'd been in a TV news studio, and while the technology has changed, one thing that hasn't is that the set is a lot smaller than it seems on TV. That actually makes things easier because it isn't nearly as imposing as you expect it to be. I think my segment may have lasted all of about three minutes, so by my calculations, I still have twelve minutes of fame left. I think I did okay, and watching the tape my mom made didn't make me want to cringe too much. I just noticed that when I'm thinking and trying to come up with words, I have a bad habit of halfway closing my eyes. I'll have to work on that for when Oprah calls. (Don't worry, I'm not holding my breath!)

I guess one thing that made it really easy for me was that I love talking about my books, my characters and my stories. The anchorwoman had read Enchanted, Inc. and really seemed to have enjoyed it, so she was able to ask good questions. It seems she's run into a Mimi or two in her career, so she really related to that. It's sad how many people do relate to that. I get a lot of e-mail about Mimis people have dealt with. Goodness knows, I've had a few.

Now I'm starting to think of other things I can do to promote my books. I was thinking about participating in this weekend's Race for the Cure, since the local paper's Lifestyles staff is supposed to have a booth where you can meet them all, and I could introduce myself to the writer who did an article on my book last year, but I'm not sure it's worth it to get up at six on a Saturday and drive across town, especially considering how out of shape I am. Then there's the fact that there's no guarantee anything would come of it, considering how many thousands of people will be there.

I've been trying to analyze successful books and authors to see what works for them, and here are some keys I've discovered for good publicity. Forget bookmarks when you can:

1) Work for Vogue
It seems like any current or former Vogue staffer who writes a book is sure to be booked on all the talk shows and to get great print coverage. You can write a thinly veiled fictional tell-all, and everyone will want the scoop on what Anna Wintour is really like, or you can write something tangentially related to Vogue subject matter while remaining in Anna Wintour's good graces so you get lots of coverage in Vogue itself, as well as whatever other spots you get thanks to her pulling strings. Unfortunately, I'm not fashionable enough for Vogue, nor do I have the society connections that seem to be important.

2) Work for someone famous or work in a glamorous field
If I were to write a book about a young woman working in Hollywood, it would get a resounding ho-hum. If I'd spent so much as a year working in Hollywood before writing it, I'd stand a chance of getting on talk shows to talk about my experiences. Maybe I should move to Hollywood.

3) Be related or married to someone powerful
Especially if he's a big-name film producer. And then you can get another round of promo when you get divorced. Being married to a hip-hop producer or being the daughter of a big-name politician also seems to work pretty well.

4) Graduate from an Ivy League university
Bonus points if you're still attending. You wouldn't think it would be unusual enough for news when an Ivy League grad writes a book. After all, aren't they supposed to be pretty bright and successful? Not to mention the fact that so many people working in publishing are also Ivy League alums. But somehow it seems like just about anyone with an Ivy-covered diploma gets good feature coverage when they have a book published, as though it's a rare and wonderful thing for someone who attended a prestigious university to write a book (you'd think the real news would be someone with a GED writing a book). Plus, the reviews will then try to elevate what you wrote to a more literary level. An Ivy alum couldn't possibly have written chick lit. It must be a searing, satirical look at the coming-of-age story instead. (Hmm, must check backgrounds of newspaper book editors.) It's a little late for me, but maybe going to grad school in my late 30s at an Ivy would be a good news hook, even if the thought of grad school makes me break out in a cold sweat. Just mentioning the possibility will give me nightmares for weeks.

Now I've been trying to think of something new to try, since those have all been done. How about:

1) Get on a reality TV program
That's launched a few careers in other fields. Unfortunately, I'm too old for American Idol (and there's that stage fright thing), too big a weenie for Survivor, not interested enough in business for The Apprentice, too old (and too picky) for the Bachelor/Bachelorette, not a good enough dancer to be on the pro side of Dancing with the Stars but not famous enough to be the "star". I'm probably not quite a bad enough dresser to be the victim on any of the makeover shows. I'd probably be a great Clean Sweep candidate, but they seem to prefer people who are living with someone else (spouse/parent/offspring) because then you get the conflict about stuff to throw away. It's no fun when it's just one person. Maybe I could find someone to nominate for While You Were Out, since the nominator gets the air time while working on the project (and the chance to hang out with the cute host).

2) Get involved with someone famous and be photographed with them
The challenge would be to find a good prospect I'd actually want to be with. The celebrities I find interesting aren't usually the ones who get in all the tabloids. Then there's the problem of having to meet them and get them interested in me. This area isn't exactly crawling with celebrities. We do have pro football players in my neighborhood, but I'm generally too old for them and from what I've seen, most of them are too stupid for me (but they are fun to play mind games with in the grocery store).

3) Run for public office
This has been done, but isn't overdone yet. A few years back, one of the candidates for Agriculture Commissioner in Texas had written some romance novels, and that fact, along with pictures of her book covers and even quotes from inside the books, was splattered all over just about every magazine and newspaper in the state. I guess they thought this was scandalous, but it certainly made me vote for her, and she won. I wouldn't want to actually win (because that would require work), but it would certainly get the name out there. Do you think reporters would catch on if I begged them to please not broadcast the fact that I wrote fluffy novels?

Obviously, my promo plans/schemes for world domination require work.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Going Home

That promised book report may have to wait until later in the week because I have to leave town and, as usual, I'm running behind (the story of my life!).

Tomorrow's my big live TV talk show guest debut. I'm not really nervous (yet!), but I'm thinking that maybe I should try practicing what I preached when I was torturing -- er, media training -- corporate executives and come up with some key message points. I have my outfit planned. Shouldn't that be enough? I'm packing two different skirts in case I decide I hate one of them, but I can't think of another top that will also work with the Infamous Red Stilettos that might be broadcast friendly, so I'm going to hope the one I'm bringing works and that the anchorwoman isn't wearing the same color or a clashing color.

I'm getting to be quite the local media celebrity in that area. A week or so ago, there was an article about me in the Lindale News and Times, and now I'm going to be on TV in Tyler. The sad thing is, I may come from a town of about 2,000 people, but I'm not the most famous person from that town, now that Miranda Lambert is hitting it big in country music. There's also another Lindale kid who came in the top bunch in the latest Nashville Star competition (one I knew when he was two -- ouch!) who also looks to be a rising star. A mildly successful author just can't compete. They haven't yet opened the Shanna Swendson Headquarters and Store downtown, and I don't anticipate anyone ever doing so. I'm not sure I'd want it, anyway. What would they sell other than books?

Meanwhile, my 20-year class reunion is this year, and they've put up a web site with the reunion details. They're also having people send in their "now" picture to go alongside their yearbook photo from high school. Is it cheating that I'm using my book cover photo that's been rather heavily Photoshopped? I think I look younger in my "now" photo than I do in my high school senior portrait. I guess the pro photo is only a problem if people can't recognize me from it, and I think it still actually looks a lot like me. The Photoshopping was more to clear up my skin and tone down redness than to erase wrinkles.

And now I have to eat some lunch, throw my bags in the Saturn and hit the road. You know your car is getting old when Saturn no longer sends it birthday cards (yes, they really do that, but I haven't received one yet this year, and it's around that time).

Sunday, May 28, 2006


My already busy weekend got even busier today when I learned that we had a choir retreat this afternoon. Ack! It was fun and we had great food, but now I feel like I'm even further behind on everything. I'm just dashing off a quick note before I have to go to the musical tonight.

I've got a happy birthday shout out to my dad (who sometimes serves as my hometown publicist -- and whose other claim to fame is having been the high school science teacher to rising country music star Miranda Lambert). His birthday always falls around Memorial Day, so I seldom have an excuse for not coming to visit on or around the birthday. This year, my TV appearance Tuesday also factors in.

I've got another book report to post tomorrow, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, I forgot to mention my latest blog interview. This one is at Kelly Parra's blog.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Almost caught up

I feel such a sense of accomplishment. I think I've finally managed to answer all the fan mail that's been piling up in my in-box (except for one long letter from someone I know personally that I want to really respond to instead of just dashing off a quick note). I'll need to make another good pass through my in-box to make sure no one's left out, but now I feel a lot less guilty. Next on the agenda is updating the web site, and then maybe actually writing the next book.

I am sort of in the "pre-writing" stages of the next book. When I drove to Austin a couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about my soundtrack for the book, and I realized why that's such an important part of my creative process. To come up with a soundtrack, I listen to a lot of music, and then I try out each song to see how it fits. I try to imagine a scene that could go in the book that fits the song. That forces me to imagine various scenes that could go into the book. By the time I've picked my songs, I have a good set of scenes running around in my head, as well as something of an emotional through-line. While driving to and from Austin, I was playing tape roulette. Without even looking at a tape, I'd just grab one and put it in the deck and then see what it was. At home I seldom think to listen to music unless I'm cleaning house or otherwise trying to make an onerous task more palatable, so I have to remember to dig up the CDs and start thinking of my soundtrack.

I also have a new writing book I want to delve into. It's downstairs and I'm upstairs, so I don't know the exact title, but it has to do with character motivations. Since I'm on the fourth book with the same characters, I feel like I need to dig deeper and deeper into them so I can keep them fresh and interesting. When I'm reading a series, I like to get a sense that I'm learning more about the characters, and I like to see how their previous experiences have changed them. I was kind of mean to my people in book three (hint!), so I'm going to have to show how that's affected them in the next book. I'm hoping to pick it up some this weekend, but the weekend is looking busy already. I have an Ann Taylor Loft coupon that expires this weekend, so I may go shopping (I'm running out of booksigning and public appearance clothes). Tonight I have penciled in for some relaxing. Tomorrow I've got a meeting with my writing group and then dinner with some friends (and playing with their twins). Sunday night I'm seeing the musical Little Women with Maureen McGovern. Then on Monday I have to head to the home of the parental units so I can make my appearance on one of the East Texas TV stations on Tuesday. I'm trying to give myself Monday as a holiday. We'll see if I can get through a day without doing anything related to work.

Meanwhile, I'm still oddly tired from last week. I didn't think I was running that huge a sleep deficit. Maybe I wasn't sleeping well. I think after today's shopping (must also get a birthday gift for my dad) I'll hit the swimming pool. That always tires me out and makes me sleep well.

I also have a slight correction to make to yesterday's post. Susan McBride's actual title is The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, which I realized when I was chatting with her via e-mail. I've fixed the posts, but thought I'd point it out here. I have no idea how or why I got my words messed up, but there you go. I also forgot a book on that list, but it fits with the theme of the book I'm reading now, so I'll save it for another book report.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Book Report

I have most of the big, scary, has to be done yesterday stuff done on my to-do list, but then getting that out of the way only revealed the remaining items on the list. Ugh. I think I'm going to start by finally dealing with my e-mail that came in while I was gone, and then I'll update my web site a little bit to change outdated parts. Later I'll start working on behind-the-scenes features for Once Upon Stilettos.

I've been reading like a madwoman lately (one benefit of travel when you're stuck on a plane for hours), so here's a quick book report on some of the things I've read:

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell -- one of those books based on a blog. A New York secretary decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. This wasn't quite what I expected it to be, which I suppose is more my fault than the book's fault. I was hoping for humorous adventures procuring odd ingredients and then trying to cook these insane dishes in an apartment kitchen, and there is some of that in there, but she mostly seems to do a lot of whining about her life, and if in her own narration she looks like a huge brat, I can only imagine what she's like to other people. Still, it was an interesting book, and I think the basic concept would make a really fun novel (now, if only I could think of a way to write it without it sounding like a total ripoff).

He's Just Not that Into You by that guy who's been on all the talk shows (sorry, too lazy to look up names and spellings) -- it was on the library's new books shelf, and I'd never wanted to shell out the money to buy it, so I picked it up out of curiosity. I do have to stay up on pop culture trends, but I must say, I came up with almost exactly the same theory about ten years ago, only I wasn't a stand-up comic or a writer for a popular TV show, so I doubt I could have sold a book on my theories back then. It's not exactly brain surgery to figure out that if you're not hearing from a guy and if you're having to ask him out all the time, he might not really be interested. I haven't dated much since I had that epiphany, but I also haven't spent much time wondering if he's going to call. If I don't hear from him, I cross him off my list and move on. If I have to do more pursuit than being friendly and approachable, then chances are, I'll spend the relationship having to chase him, and I don't have the energy for that. If he isn't interested enough to do something about it, he's not that interested. (There's a long story behind that, and it may someday make it into a book.)

Apocalipstick by Sue Margolis --- funny British chick lit book about the mystery behind the secret ingredient in a new skin cream, as well as what you do when your widowed father's choice of new bride was the girl who bullied you in school.

Your Big Break by Johanna Edwards -- this was a former Girlfriends Cyber Circuit feature, and I finally got around to reading it. It's a warm, funny chick lit book that I read in one sitting (though that sitting was on an airplane). It was exactly the kind of book I was looking for.

Cocktails for Three by Madeleine Wickham (aka Sophie Kinsella) -- I guess I'd have to check the copyright date to see if this pre-dated her success with the Shopaholic series, but it was a classic British chick lit book about three professional women at different stages in their lives trying to maintain their friendship as they go through life changes. Supposedly fluffy, but it really made me think.

Size Twelve is Not Fat by Meg Cabot -- What would happen if the teen pop tart du jour gained weight, lost her recording contract, caught her boy band singer boyfriend with another woman and then got a job supervising a college residence hall where students started mysteriously dying? That's what this book is about, and it was tons of fun. It looks like the start of a series, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club by Susan McBride -- I picked this up at the RT convention because I've known Susan online for a while. It's a really cute mystery set among the upper crust in Dallas. I don't exactly move in those circles, but in my first job out of college, I had to deal with the donors to the medical school where I worked, which meant attending fundraising events and parties for that set, or else filling in seats at society luncheons so the place wouldn't look empty (thus the fun lunch where I found myself sitting with Margot Perot at a Chanel fashion show, on a day when I'd worn an obviously Chanel-esque knockoff suit from Casual Corner. Awkward!). Anyway, I kind of enjoyed seeing some of those people killed off. :-) Now I have to get the earlier books in the series.

While I'm doing book reports, it's time for an Out of the Blogosphere feature. Out of the Darkness by Jaci and CJ Burton tells the story of a psychologist who studies vampires and werewolves. And then she finds out that she may actually be part vampire and part werewolf and the future leader of both enemy clans. But they have to find out which part is dominant in her so they can decide which side gets to claim her, while she just wants to get away and survive. Jaci writes really sexy books, so you can get an idea of exactly how they go about testing her. For more details, you can visit Jaci's web site.

In other news, my agent posted yesterday about my dressing up like my book cover at her blog, complete with photo. You can also read my list of bad almost boyfriends (aka ten of the reasons I'm still single) at E. Lockhart's blog. I'm now wondering if I changed the identifying details of the guilty enough, considering Mom knew right away who I was talking about in the Bad Boy Quiz the other day. And Cindy Cruciger, who kept me laughing throughout the RT convention, has my writing tip on a post it. I think that's all the moderately fun new stuff for the day. Now off to tackle my e-mail.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More Reports

It's getting late in the day, and I still have a lot I need to get done, but I think I've actually been working most of the time and not goofing off. I'm not sure what I have to show for it, but I have been working. I haven't even checked the Television Without Pity boards to discuss the season finale of House.

More impressions from the RT convention ...

I took a belly dancing class that was a lot of fun. I just had a little problem with the shimmy because I've been taking ballet lately, which requires you to keep everything tight and held in, but to shimmy you've got to relax and let everything go. I may look into exploring that further as a hobby. It would be a fun line to add to an author bio. Hey, I could even make booksignings more fun by doing a belly dance first to draw in a crowd. Not that it has anything to do with my books (Katie doesn't dance -- something she likes to make very clear), but you gotta have a gimmick. Maybe I could be a belly dancing fairy.

Speaking of which ... for the fairy ball on Friday night, I dressed as the fairy on the cover of Once Upon Stilettos, with a little black dress, the red shoes and a pair of the lamest fairy wings ever made. I'd found directions online about how to make the wing shapes out of wire and then pull the legs of queen-size pantyhose over them, but I got the wrong kind of wire that didn't hold its shape with the pantyhose over it. That meant I had to get out a needle and thread and sew the cut-apart pantyhose over the wing shape, and when you're doing all that sewing in one afternoon, you don't make huge wings. My agent took a picture, so when she posts the picture, I'll post a link.

I sold out of books within an hour and a half of the bookfair starting (it was supposed to be four and a half hours long). That sounds really cool, but I only had nine copies of each book. Apparently, the bookseller running the bookfair didn't quite realize the appeal of books involving the paranormal because it seemed like every author who wrote books with fantasy or science fiction elements had only a few books that went quickly. It would have been fun to see how many books I could have sold if I'd had enough books to last until the bookfair ended. As it was, I sat there and passed out bookmarks while trying to make it sound like my books were in such high demand that they'd sold out in a heartbeat.

After all the talk about the cover models, which was supposed to be one of the big appeals of this convention, I was rather disappointed. Most of them were really short (and I'm not particularly tall, myself), many of them didn't have spectacular bodies, most of them didn't have spectacular faces, and a few of them were a bit on the swishy side (if you know what I mean). The one I found most appealing wasn't a pro model. He was the son of an author, and his mom made him compete to be Mr. Romance. He was tall and really quite good looking. Bright, too. He'd just finished his pre-med degree and plans to be a surgeon. If I were about fifteen years younger, I'd have been all over him. As it was, I had the strongest urge to feed him milk and cookies and protect him from all those women. I'm afraid I'm getting old.

So now I have to come up with something witty and clever to say about Enchanted, Inc. for the web site of the TV station where I'll be a guest next week, and then dream up five related health topics to write radio scripts about. But first I think I need to clean all the dead leaves and vines from around my air conditioner compressor outside so I can turn the AC on. I may have finally caved. I was going to see how long I could hold out without turning on the AC. I survived the 101-degree day in April without it. But now we've had a string of sort-of hot days, with it not getting too cool at night, and the ceiling fans and open windows aren't cutting it anymore. It finally occurred to me that this could be part of why I've been sleepy during the day. I'm not sleeping well at night, and it's muggy and heavy feeling in the afternoon. Duh!

Meanwhile, I continue my trip around the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. I'm a guest at Megan Crane's blog today (and I need to add defending the hotness of Wesley from "Angel" there to my to-do list), as well as Karin Gillespie's blog. You may learn a thing or two about me from their interviews.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Still Recovering

I'm still recovering -- not quite as foggy as I was before, but not feeling particularly perky either. I will have to venture out of the house today as I've scavenged all the food in my house that can reasonably be put into meals. I've been starving after a week of mostly bad conference food and a day or so of no real meals at all. Plain pasta (about all that's left in the cupboard) isn't going to cut it.

Instead of trying to give a full convention report, I can offer a link that provides photographic evidence of some of my actions, courtesy of my agent's blog. I agree with Kristin that it wasn't nearly as wild as I'd been led to believe, or maybe the wild stuff happened after I got tired and headed back to my room to read. I liked the way my agent's sister put it, that it was like going to a wedding reception every night for four nights in a row.

In other news, it appears that Once Upon Stilettos is now available in e-book formats, for those of you who are more high-tech than I am (I'm still addicted to paper). You can get it at the Palm eBook Store or at, where it's on the bestseller list (woo hoo!). It doesn't seem to have shown up at Fictionwise yet, which is odd because the last book was a bestseller there.

And finally, before I head in search of food, I'm touring this week and next week on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. Today, I take the Bad Boy Quiz at Tanya Lee Stone's blog.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Home from my Adventures

I'm home. At least, my body is. I think the airline lost my brain in transit. Though, that could have been my fault for booking yet another one of those godawful early flights that requires staying up all night, since it would be pointless to go to bed for only a few hours of sleep that would only leave me groggy. When I'm more coherent, I may provide a report of my adventures, but I'm not entirely sure that they'd be of much interest to anyone.

I did learn that I seem to suck at slacking. My duty gene is highly overexpressed. I had all those grand plans of goofing off and only going to the major parties, but I ended up attending workshops and mixers and generally working instead of playing. I hit the beach a few times, but mostly just for walking as I felt it was a bit chilly for swimming. I like the idea of the beach, and I like being around water, but I get bored with the beach quickly unless I am walking. It's like, "Yay, I'm on the beach! ... Now what?" It didn't help that I managed to get blisters from the thong on my flip-flops when I had to kill an hour or so while the world's slowest hotel housekeeper was in my room, and one of the blisters broke, so the last thing you want to do with an open blister on the inside of your big toe is walk in sand or wade in salt water. That put an end to my beach exploration. My feet and sandals generally don't get along too well. The only shoes I brought that didn't end up killing my feet were the Infamous Red Stilettos. You know you're in trouble when you bring a wardrobe of flat, supposedly comfortable sandals and your non-painful shoes end up being the 3 1/2 inch heel stiletto pumps.

At the same time, I didn't get the work done that I'd planned to do, so I guess I slacked some. I read about six books during the course of the trip and I did nap a bit and watch pieces of movies on Starz (which was how I stayed awake Saturday night while waiting to catch the shuttle to the airport -- Clive Owen double feature with the last hour or so of King Arthur and most of Sin City, though I had to miss the end of that). The hotel also had the History Channel International, which is highly addictive.

The coolest thing for me was getting to meet all the readers and fans. It still blows my mind that I actually have fans, people who are excited to meet me.

And now, as much as I'd love to rest, I have work to do for my upcoming Girlfriends Cyber Circuit blog tour. I did manage to talk myself out of going to get groceries today because I really don't want to leave the house. It's good to be home, though I wouldn't mind having daily maid service still.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Alison Pace

My house looks like a small tornado blew through it, but I'm packed and ready to go, and I figure I'll have that much more incentive to clean when I get home if it smacks me in the face when I return.

So, while I'm gone, I'll leave you with this entry for the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, with my guest Alison Pace, author of the new novel Pug Hill.

To get into the most elite spot of Manhattan’s Central Park, there are a few stiff requirements: you must have short legs, a round tummy, a pig nose, and walk on all fours—or at least know someone who does! Pug Hill is a place for pugs and pug-lovers alike to bask in the camaraderie that comes from owning (or dreaming of owning) one of the world’s most cherished and irresistible dogs.

Author Alison Pace has been to Pug Hill and she knows first-hand the joy and stress-relief that these tiny pooches offer. Now, the author of the hilarious If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend introduces readers to the congregants of Pug Hill in a novel that’s as full of love, humor, and heartwarmingly-awkward moments as the adorable dogs themselves.

I suspect that after I read this book, I'll have to ask my dog-owning friends to tell me their horror stories of chewed-up belongings and messes left on carpets to talk me out of getting a dog. Considering the state my house is already in and the fact that there are days when I forget to feed myself, I don't think dog ownership is such a good idea for me right now.

So, the interview:

What inspired you to write this book?
My love of dogs.

What, if anything, do you have in common with the heroine of this book?
Well, the above love of dogs, and I also have a fear of public speaking, though not nearly as bad as Hope's (my heroine)

Do you own a pug or any other kind of dog? Any cute dog stories from your own life?
I, sadly, do not own a pug. I guess that's something else I have in common with Hope, too. I'm planning on getting one this summer when I finally move out of my non dog friendly apartment building. I can't wait.

I grew up with about four dogs in my home at any given time, so mine is a life filled with dog stories. A few of the dogs I grew up with make guest appearances on the pages of Pug Hill. It was so fun for me to include them.

How has your writing life changed since your first book was published?
I have more time to write, and I feel a lot guiltier now when I don't write. I have deadlines now, too. I always used to think "deadlines" sounded very cool, and professional, and journalistic in spirit. Now that I actually work within the confines of them, I don't think that as much anymore.

Was it easier or more difficult to write the second book?
Much more difficult to write the second one. The first one was everything that was joyous about writing. I struggled a lot more with the second, but I do very much feel that it was worth it in the end.

What are you working on now?
Right now, I'm working on not checking my Amazon ranking seventeen times a day. And I'm working on a third novel, too. It's called Through Thick And Thin. I'm not exactly sure when it will be finished. It's farther from my mind right now than it should be...

For more info on Alison and her books, visit her web site.

And now I'm off until Sunday. If I can figure it out, I may try to post to LiveJournal via my cell phone text messaging (if I get really bored).

Monday, May 15, 2006

What to Wear

I feel like I just barely got home, and now I have to get ready to leave again. Packing for this convention is proving to be a challenge. It's on the beach with lots of free time, so that's a wardrobe of beach-appropriate clothing. But then there are luncheons and some workshops/networking events. That's another wardrobe. And then there are parties at night, some of them with costumes suggested. Yet another wardrobe.

I'd planned to embrace the beach and mostly wear sundresses, with cardigans indoors when it got chilly. But then I checked the forecast and it's cooler there than it is here, and I haven't even busted out the sundresses here. I also haven't put on a swimsuit or hit the pool yet. I don't think of the 80s as pool weather, so I may not be showing off the bikini this week, after all. Now I'm going to have to re-think all this.

As for the costume parties, the only one where I'm sure what I want to wear is the fairy ball. I'm planning to dress as the fairy on my book cover, with a little black dress and the red stilettos. I just have to come up with a pair of fairy wings sometime today. I found instructions for making them on the Internet, but now I need to get the supplies. The party hosted by Ellora's Cave, the big erotica/"romantica" publisher is supposed to have something to do with living your fantasy, but somehow I doubt that my fantasy is in line with theirs. If I were to live my current favorite fantasy, I'd show up in my pajamas with a pint of ice cream, a good book and a blank to-do list. I suspect I'll just pop in on that party as more or less a tourist to see what the fuss is about because that doesn't sound like my scene. I hear that a lot of people just wear formal wear to the "Vampire Pirates of the Caribbean" ball, so that's what I'll do rather than trying to scrape together a vampire pirate costume. That leaves the rock and roll party, but it's the night before I have to leave the hotel at 3 a.m. to catch the shuttle to the airport for an early-morning flight, so I may skip that one and nap (or I might just stay up all night -- it wouldn't be the first time I've done that kind of thing).

Now I need to go try on everything I'm planning to take so I can be sure it still fits (a hazard with formal dresses you wear only every couple of years). I also need to find a pair of jeans and a pair of shoes that seem to have gone missing somehow. Oh, and clean my house enough that it won't make me cringe when I come home. See, the to-do list is growing. That fantasy is sounding better and better.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Stilettos Tour: Austin Leg

I'm home from Austin. Actually, I got in late last night and promptly collapsed, then got up for church and the subsequent church picnic/covered dish lunch, then got home and collapsed again (well, first I watched Friday's Dr. Who while reading the newspaper and catching up on crossword puzzles). Soon I will collapse again because the past few days of little sleep with lots of activity are really catching up with me.

There are authors out there (who are not me) who get real book tours, where they fly to their destinations, are met by escorts (no, not that kind of escort) who drive them from bookstore to media interview to booksigning to hotel. They stay in nice hotels and order room service so they can rest up for the next busy day on their schedule.

Here's my kind of "book tour":
I loaded up my car and got on the road to Austin. Before I really got out of Dallas, traffic came to a halt as they closed the left lane of the freeway for construction. The only thing in that left lane that I could see was the truck holding the cones to close off the lane. Then there was a stalled truck in the only open lane, so they had to re-open part of the closed lane (which proves how essential that lane closure really wasn't). Finally, I hit the open road, but it was still bumper-to-bumper traffic. I stopped in the town of West, which is in the middle of Czech country, for gas. Because it's the middle of Czech country, every gas station convenience store is also a kolache bakery, so I got a ham-and-cheese to eat as lunch on the road and a couple of apple kolaches for my "room service" breakfast the next morning.

When I got to the Austin area, it turned out that the exit I needed to take to cut across the north part of the city to get to my hotel was also the site of a Barnes & Noble -- and by going there, I bypassed the huge line of traffic at the next signal. While I was in the store autographing the copies they had in stock, I sold two copies. One was to a lady who passed by, noticed the books and asked, "Is that series any good?" I told her it was excellent, then admitted that I might be biased because I wrote it. Then I made it to my hotel. I'd managed to catch a special on, so the cheapest hotel room I was able to get in the city was actually an efficiency apartment in one of those extended-stay places, which meant I had a kitchen, too. I headed out to get some milk and juice for breakfast and some takeout for dinner, and I started to suspect that my car has developed a homing sense for bookstores because a random turn I made led me right to a Barnes & Noble. They had a few copies of the new book, and while they didn't seem enthusiastic about me signing them, they also didn't stop me. I then got groceries, picked up some fajita tacos at Taco Cabana and returned to the hotel to relax, eat, watch TV and read.

I had to check out by 11, which meant that I did my usual thing of waking up every hour or so to make sure of the time (even though I doubted I'd oversleep to that point). There was another B&N I knew of on my way toward my booksigning, and there was supposedly a Borders nearby. On the way, I made an emergency Sephora stop because I'd forgotten my perfume. A quick squirt of the sample, and I was set. At the B&N, they jokingly asked me to prove I was really an author, so I showed them the photo in the back of the book, at which point they said that maybe I was the evil twin. They had copies of both books, and said they'd display them up front. That was the B&N at the Arboretum, so go visit because they're cool. I finally found the Borders and signed books there while having a conversation about whether my last name is really Swedish or Norwegian (structurally, it's Swedish, but the family is in Norway and has been going back as far as the family has been traced).

I found another couple of B&Ns on the way to my signing, while I struggled with Austin traffic. I think the traffic there is worse than in Dallas because in some respects it's still a small city that's outgrown itself. So much was familiar from my college days, while so much was really, really different. Back in my day, the area that now has the upscale shopping center with a Borders and Central Market was a rather run-down mall I went to only because it was across the street from the only Target I could get to via city bus (no car my freshman year).

The signing was fun. I think for the first time ever, I sold more books to people who'd never heard of me before and just stumbled upon me because they were in the store than to people who came specifically to see me. "Carla in Austin" (a frequent commenter at LiveJournal) showed up with three giant red stiletto-shaped balloons. They were great for attracting attention. I left one with the store after the signing to display with my books and managed to stuff the other two in my trunk. My dad the physics teacher swears that having a trunk full of helium was not the cause of my good gas mileage on the way home or the Saturn's rare ability to actually pass in the climbing lane in the hill country. He says I had a tail wind. Rats. I thought I had the gas crisis solved.

Anyway, my friend Julie Kenner (author of Carpe Demon) came by, as well as another writer friend, Bridget. I got at least a little taste of old Austin when Bridget and I went to dinner at Chuy's after the signing. Then it was time to head home. This time, I took the back roads, and I may have changed my mind about where Katie's hometown is. I thought I'd narrowed it to far north Texas, but I'm thinking that there's something about certain parts of central Texas that works. There's even a town called Fairy in that area. I may have to go explore later.

Now I have a day to get ready to go to Daytona Beach for the Romantic Times convention. I suspect it will be a busy day.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Road Trip

I'm in my usual scattered state preparing to head to Austin. Fortunately, I don't have a deadline or timetable. I can travel at leisure. But I still feel like I'm behind the curve. Ah well, I think that's normal for me trying to go out of town.

I'm actually looking forward to the road trip. I get all nostalgic about heading to Austin. It makes me think of my college days, even though Austin now is very little like the Austin I knew. I've found all my tapes from my college years to listen to on the trip (yes, my car is old enough to have a tape deck instead of a CD player), as well as a bunch of other stuff, so I can start thinking about my soundtrack for the next book.

But soundtrack planning is the only "work" I intend to do, aside from booksigning stuff. I'll have a notebook in case a thought strikes me, but when I'm not signing books, I intend to be relaxing. I've got books to read, and I've got the new issue of Lucky. If I'm fortunate, the hotel will have Sci Fi, and I can watch that. Otherwise, I think one of the networks is showing Legally Blonde 2.

Now I'd better get packed and get on the road. Full trip report on Sunday!

PS -- Remember, booksigning 2-4 p.m. at the Borders in south Austin Saturday.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


If you heard a loud scream of joy at around 5 p.m. CDT today, that was me, celebrating the fact that the book has been officially turned in to my editor. I'm sure I'll have revisions to do for her, but for now, it's off my plate. I spent the last couple of days reading it straight through, trying to get more of a reader's view on it (though changing a few words, here and there). I feel really good about it now because when taken that way, it reads well as a whole. It's easy to get hung up in a chapter or scene and not see the big picture when it takes longer to write a scene than to read the whole book.

Of course, that means it's now time to look back and see what I learned from the process of writing this book:

1) A lot of the things that I thought were time wasters or procrastination tactics are actually an essential part of my creative process.
I have a bunch of silly little things I like to do before I start working on a book. First I have what I call a "staff retreat" to get myself in the right mindset. I set aside a weekend or a few weekdays and hole up watching movies that remind me of my story in some way while generally acting like I'm on vacation. Once I have a rough plotline worked out, I like to make a "soundtrack" for the book, picking out songs that remind me of scenes I have in mind, that inspire scenes, that capture feelings or that embody the characters. Those are just two examples.

On this book, I ended up not doing them, and I think that was part of my problem. Instead of doing my usual retreat, I re-read the first book and then proofed the galleys of the second book before getting to work. I started out to make the soundtrack, then decided I was wasting time listening to CDs to find songs when I should have been working. But looking back, I think that three days going through my CD collection might have ended up saving me a month of work because that process helps me distill the thread of what the book is really about, and I had to write a draft before I figured that out this time. I think the retreat is also essential for getting me in the right mindset.

2) I have a bad habit of thinking on paper.
This may go back to those seemingly silly pre-writing rituals that help me plan the book and brainstorm it ahead of time before I start actually writing. When I'm writing and I come up with a new idea for what could be going on or what the characters could be doing, instead of going back and working that into the scene, I tend to write a new scene. I think this means I need to plan better and get over my reluctance to go back and tweak an earlier scene instead of plunging forward.

3) That twenty things list.
This was the simplest-sounding but most life-changing tip I've picked up at a writing conference in ages. You just make a list of 20 things that could happen in a scene or in a book. Making that long a list forces you to get beyond the usual and be more creative. It really helped me in revising this book, and I can't wait to use the technique from the start on the next book.

When I get back from booksigning and then the conference in Daytona Beach, I need to make time for a retreat so I can get started on book 4. It's due in September (gulp!).

Oh, a little housekeeping: I made some minor revisions on my web site earlier in the week, mostly just removing old events and adding review links. I haven't been posting about each and every review here because I figure if you're reading this, you don't need a review to persuade you about my books. I'll do a more major update, including some behind the scenes stuff on Once Upon Stilettos, when I get back from Florida.

Now I can kick back and relax while watching the season finales of My Name is Earl and The Office tonight. Then I'll have to get to bed so I can get up in the morning and head to Austin for my signing Saturday.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Soldiering On!

I am now over yesterday's snit/paranoid panic attack, and I'm returning to what passes for normal with even more determination to do everything I can to help make my books a success. It's better to take action than to whine about it, but sometimes the whining helps me crystallize the situation, what I fear about it, what the worst-case scenario is, and then move on so I can do something about it. One of the best ways to motivate me (as Mom can attest) is to give me a challenge or otherwise tell me something can't be done. Mind you, that's different from telling me I'm not allowed to do something. I'm the ultimate Good Girl, and I have a hard time disobeying rules. But tell me something's not possible or that it's very, very difficult, and I'll just about kill myself to show you that I can do it. Now that I see making each book a bigger success than the one before as a challenge, well, look out world!

I have some fun experimental ideas, but I'll have to wait until after the next round of travel before I can start implementing them. By then, I might have thought them through some more and have them more fleshed out.

Even as I'm still adjusting to the idea that people might be interested in meeting me or hearing from me, I'm also still stuck in fangirl mode, myself, at times. In my quest to further push my books, I decided to send a news release to the SFWA pressbook site (now that I know it exists). I sent off the information, then later in the day, the name Vonda McIntyre showed up in my in-box. If you were a Star Trek geek in the 80s, you should know who she is, as she wrote some of the better tie-in novels, including the novelization of The Wrath of Khan (which was in many ways actually better than the movie). I had a minor flip-out. It turns out she's the volunteer who runs that part of the web site, and she asked if they should use my author photo in addition to my book cover art. She'd obviously been through my web site and said that my books sounded like fun. When I replied, I mentioned having been a big fan. I know a lot of bestselling authors on the romance and chick lit side of things, but I guess I'm still getting used to the idea of being peers with the authors I read when I was growing up. So, yeah, when I was supposed to be interacting like a professional, I was having a fangirly sqeee moment. I haven't really done much through SFWA, and I think a part of it is that intimidation factor. Some of these people were my heroes when I was a teenager scribbling the beginnings of stories in a spiral notebook. It should be fun to watch me at the World Fantasy Convention this fall.

In other news, I accomplished everything on my to-do list yesterday. Go me! Today's list is kind of scary. I may have to miss choir tonight to get everything done that must be done before I head to Austin on Friday. That's because I also have to start getting stuff done before I head to the RT convention next week. But it's all to help achieve that "maintain/build success" goal, so I will soldier on! (Which reminds me, I owe my friend in Iraq an e-mail.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sophomore Slump

There's been some discussion on one of the writing lists I'm on about the sophomore slump, brought on by reports that the follow-up books by authors whose first books were bestsellers aren't doing so well. Of course, being the raving paranoid that I can be, that's made me start worrying.

I'm not sure what the long-term career impact a slumping sophomore book will have on those authors, and their initial books sold well enough that they won't be resorting to food stamps anytime soon. But for someone on the lower end of the midlist, it really is something to worry about. Publishers try to build authors, so that each book is supposed to do better than the last, until eventually you move your way up the list and break into bestseller ranks, or at least get to a place where you're doing better than the newcomers in your niche. When your numbers take a downward turn, it can become very hard to get the next contract. Some authors have had to resort to starting over under a new name after a book has underperformed because the booksellers will no longer buy into a book by the "tainted" name.

That's scary. I like my name. It's the only name I want to write under. I've had a pen name before, and I HATED it. I like being me, and I forget to answer to the other name. I also really hate "real" jobs. Having to go back to work because I can no longer get book contracts would be devastating. So, yeah, I worry.

It's too early to have accurate sales numbers yet on Once Upon Stilettos, other than Amazon rankings, which are meaningless because they represent such a tiny percentage of overall sales, and B& rankings, which are kind of a mess because their system hasn't updated with all the info about the book, and it doesn't seem to show up when you're browsing for that kind of book. But I'm not getting a sense that this book is having the kind of buzz I saw around the last one. I got a lot fewer reviews this time around, and my Internet searches aren't showing that it's getting talked about in blogs or on message boards like the last book was.

Then there are the reports about people not being able to find it, having to go to multiple stores. It could be sold out, but it also could be because it never made it to those stores in the first place. It's really hard to sell a book when it's not in stores.

My second local booksigning last weekend wasn't nearly as big as the one I had with the last book. I know a lot of that is because I didn't push it as much to my friends. That's the awkward part of being a writer. When you expect your friends to buy your books, you start to feel like you're selling Amway and using your friends to make a living. I figured that I pushed the first book, and after that, if they liked it, they could decide on their own about the next book. I know a lot of people were busy and have bought the book elsewhere, so I'm not that worried on that front yet, and my local fans showed up for the signing the previous weekend. But I am kind of having panic attacks about what might happen this weekend in Austin, since I don't have any family there or many pre-existing (as in, before the books) friends that I'm still much in touch with. I'll be relying solely on readers/fans (gulp). So, if you're in the Austin area or know someone who is, please come or encourage the people you know to come. Bring friends! Make it a party!

Meanwhile, I'm brainstorming on anything I can do to help generate buzz, to get people talking so that more people will hear about these books, maybe get some publicity. I love the strategy part of PR, but I suck at the execution, which is why I'm now writing novels instead of doing PR. I guess this is where I overcome my distaste of begging people to do stuff like mention my books in their blogs, message boards or MySpace pages. I really want to write at least one more book beyond what I have contracted for this series so I can end it properly, and that won't happen unless this book sells really well.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Adventures in Booksigning

I'm back home and recovering from a weekend of booksignings. I was going to say that I wouldn't put myself through that kind of back-to-back event stress again, but then I realized that my goal is to be the kind of popular, best-selling author who gets sent on real book tours, and this weekend would only be a fraction of a taste of a real book tour, so I won't make any promises.

The signing in Tyler was a little overwhelming because there were a lot of authors participating and the store was packed with customers. Crowds tend to stress me out a wee bit so I probably wasn't as friendly and outgoing as I can be at events like that. Then there was the problem of the store not being able to get copies of the new book. The CRM had managed to scrounge ten copies, and six of them had already sold, so I started the signing with a stack of copies of Enchanted, Inc. and four copies of Once Upon Stilettos, which went pretty quickly because a lot of my parents' friends showed up to get their copies. That ended up working out pretty well, though, because all those people milling around the bookstore had never heard of me, so they'd need to get the first book, anyway. Plus, that book is the book of the month for the local NBC station's book club, so it made sense to push it a little more. I can always go back and sign the new book later. The new CRM at that store is a real firecracker. Last year, the store was dead and quiet, but now it's buzzing, and that's great to see. And what a great idea to work with one of the local TV stations to have a book club. That's something more stores/stations should think about doing. Even better that they're willing to read fun books and not the usual book club fare.

Then the next morning I had to get up early and drive back to Dallas in time to sing in the choir for church, and then run over to the nearby bookstore for another signing. That's when the fun began. I'd decided to wear the Infamous Red Stilettos for this signing, but I drive a stick shift, which doesn't work well with stiletto heels (besides, I wouldn't want to scuff them). So, I wear a pair of flats to drive. I got to the parking garage behind the bookstore, then changed shoes, sitting with the car door open so I could put on my shoes and adjust my stockings so the snags (another long, sad story) wouldn't show (and yeah, I know true fashionistas go bare-legged, but my legs are so white they're purple, and those shoes don't work well on bare feet). I'd pulled my car keys from the ignition and had them in my lap, and I guess they must have slid to the floorboard without me noticing. I got my purse and my tote bag full of signing supplies, then got out of the car, shut the door and realized just then that I didn't have my car keys. That was a fun way to enter the store, to walk up, introduce myself as the author signing that day and ask if anyone on their staff was good at breaking into cars. I felt like a total idiot. I've never locked my keys in the car before. I don't get out of the car without having my keys in my hand. And wouldn't you know it, I do it right before a booksigning so that I'm stressed and scattered.

But I wasn't the only one having issues. The bookstore's computer system had gone wonky and wouldn't accept checks or credit cards for a while. The bookstore staff and I decided that the stars must have been misaligned for us that day. They were also nice enough to move the signing table they'd set up upstairs out of the way down to inside the front door, so I got the fun of watching men rearranging furniture for me.

Then I got to enjoy a truly wild coincidence. Not long after we got that table arranged near the front door, a couple walked in. The husband looked at the books on display and said to his wife, "Didn't you review that book?" It turned out she was Andrea Sisco, the reviewer from Armchair Interviews whose quote is on the front cover of Once Upon Stilettos. Her husband was in town for a conference, and they'd dropped by the bookstore on their way back from church. She had no idea I was going to be there. It was great to meet her and chat with her, and she was a wonderful salesperson, going around telling everyone in the store what a good book it was.

Her husband mentioned that he could call AAA for me to get my car unlocked, which reminded me that (duh!) I have roadside assistance on my cell phone. So, thanks to Cingular, I very quickly (like within 20 minutes) had my car unlocked. Of course, wouldn't you know it, I actually had people at my table to get books when they called that they were in the parking garage, so I had to tell everyone to wait a second while I ran back there in my high heels to get my car unlocked and retrieve my keys. I guess it added a little excitement to the proceedings. They had the coolest gizmo for getting into the car. I thought for a moment that it would be handy to have something like that, but then I realized it would have been locked in the trunk, anyway, so it wouldn't have done me much good.

Part of my excuse for being such a space cadet that day was that my head had gone into Book Brain mode. While I was driving back to Dallas that morning, I found myself suddenly mentally writing the first chapter of book four, which involved creating a new character, one I already adore. It was inconvenient timing to have my head go into the clouds, but I won't complain about inspiration striking.

Now I have part of a week at home before I leave for Austin on Friday. I'll get home late Saturday, then I'm leaving for the Romantic Times convention early Tuesday morning. My house is kind of a disaster area right now, and I'm trying to decide whether to try to clean it up a little before I go out of town or let it get just a bit worse so I can qualify for EPA Superfund clean-up money.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Booksigning Reminder and Out of the Blogosphere

I'm in East Texas, enjoying the barbecue, the flowers and my dad's flock of "pet" wild birds (we call them "the herd"). Today I watched some blue jays and a red-headed woodpecker on the backyard feeder. We didn't get around to getting into town to see Antonio Banderas ballroom dancing yesterday, and wouldn't you know, that movie is now gone from the theater here, chased out by all the multi-screen showings of MI-3. Tom Cruise ruins everything! Instead, I'm getting a chance to kick back and relax for a while.

I'll be doing a booksigning Saturday, 3-6 p.m., at the Barnes & Noble in Tyler, Texas, so if there are any fellow East Texans, do drop by. There will also be a special celebrity guest appearance by Mom.

Then I'm back in Dallas for a signing Sunday afternoon, 1-3, at the Borders in Uptown, on McKinney Avenue across from the West Village. The Infamous Red Stilettos will be making an appearance for that event.

And remember that I'll be in Austin next Saturday.

Now, while I relax and read, here's another Out of the Blogosphere entry, Midnight Secrets, a juicy gothic romance by Jennifer St. Giles.

"When two are born together, one will die by the other's hand..."

This is the Dragon's Curse that has plagued the Killdarens for generations and continues on in this tale set on the Cornish Coast of 1879 England.

Sean and Alex thought they'd escaped the Dragon's curse until in a rage of suspicion and accusation the twins came close to killing each other the night the woman they both loved was murdered. Eight years later, the only thing they agree on is to remain unwed and childless, to never pass on the Dragon's Curse. Then another woman disappears. This time from Sean Killdaren's castle and his reclusive world is shattered when Cassie Andrews, a journalist, goes undercover as a downstairs maid. He can no more ignore her than he can ignore the murderer hiding behind the secrets of Killdaren Castle's stone walls.

Sounds like a good way to give yourself chills on a hot summer night!

For more info, visit Jennifer's web site.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Alana Morales

I'm about to head out to spend some quality time with the parental units before a hometown booksigning, so I'm letting my Girlfriends Cyber Circuit guest do all the hard work and thinking today. Alana Morales is the author of Domestically Challenged. No, it's not a biography of me. It's a guide for new at-home moms, with practical advice on helping them adjust to their new lifestyle. It explodes the myth of the "Super Mom," offers hints on keeping kids entertained without hiring a circus, and gives other info on making life as an at-home mom easier.

I had some questions for Alana:

What inspired you to write this book?
When I began as an at home mom, I was lost. I had no idea how to take care of a house and kids full time. I checked out every book on being a stay at home mom and was really disappointed. The books were either too outdated or too spiritual. I didn't need to hear about my journey through motherhood - I needed to know how to stay ahead of the never ending mess while keeping the kids entertained and taking care of myself. I was whining to my husband about it and he told me to go write my own book. So I did.

How did you come up with your advice for the book?
I thought about all the tips and hints that I picked up from my research and from trial and error (and error and error) and I also asked other moms about what helped them.

Do you have any writing rituals or habits?
Caffeine! I have kids, so I don't get to write at the same time every day. The biggest thing is making good use of the time I have available to me. I also discovered that I work really well at my local Barnes & Noble. I'm not sure if it was the fact that there are so many books there that I felt inspired or the fact that I liked the music they play in the cafe. Then again, it may just be the fact that I can't hear my kids.

Do you have any domestic advice for someone who doesn't have kids (just some unruly houseplants) but who works at home and who still can't keep a neat house?
Have a plan. Don't try to do everything all at once - its too overwhelming. Tackle a little bit each day and eventually you will stay on top of the mess. Since you work at home, you also need to make sure you have separation. It is so easy for work and home to mesh together. Make sure you have work hours as a guideline and try to keep the work stuff contained in its own area. This helps prevent it from taking over your entire house.

(Looks like I have some work to do!)

Have you had any feedback on your book from other moms?
I have. 99% of the moms who read the description tell me "Finally!!" or "That's exactly how I feel!" Everything I am hearing is very positive, which is encouraging.

What are you working on now?
I don't have anything else in the wings right now. I am mainly focusing on promotion. I am doing my own promo, so it takes a lot of time.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
I just hope that I achieved my ultimate goal, which is to help moms who don't fit the typical mold of an at home mom. I want them to realize that it's ok to not have a house like Martha Stewart or cook like Rachel Ray. They can still be a great mom, despite their perceived domestic shortcomings. And chances are, whatever domestic blunder they've done, I've topped it.

For more info on Alana, her book, or her online radio show, visit her web site.

I'd be inspired to clean house today, but I have to pack and get in the car so Mom and I can go see Antonio Banderas doing ballroom dancing (YUM!) this afternoon. Ooh, and today's date is my height. Isn't that special? (Well, close enough, as there isn't a May 3 3/4.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Scandal in Book World

Today was supposed to resemble a free day, but it somehow didn't work out that way. Now I'm not sure where the time went. I had to write some radio scripts for a freelance project, and then I set up a TV interview. I researched something, and then I did a little networking to help out one of my editors. Then the day was more or less over, and I still have tons of stuff to do, including the things I put on my to-do list but haven't yet managed to do.

The TV thing is really cool. My book was picked for one of those TV talk show book clubs. It's on the noon newscast for the NBC affiliate in East Texas, and at the end of the month, I get to be on the show to discuss the book in their wrap-up. I guess it's kind of like Oprah's book club, but on a local level. That might even be worthy of new clothes. Plus, that coincides with my dad's birthday/Memorial Day, so it's a trip home I would have made anyway.

I've avoided mentioning the latest plagiarism scandal that's sent the publishing world into a tizzy. Sometimes I think there are things those of us who work in the biz get really worked up about that the rest of the world doesn't know or care about. This one hit a little closer to home, as it involved books classified as chick lit and books I've actually read. It's hard to discuss the whole thing without sounding like I have a bad case of sour grapes. And yeah, I will admit that I'm jealous about a few things involved in this situation. For one thing, the book deal grew out of the fact that this girl's family paid as much as I paid for my entire college education to hire someone to coach her on making herself into a competitive applicant for Harvard. The idea of getting "coached" on getting into a college you might not get into without the coaching rankles me. If it takes that kind of coaching to get in, would you really fit in there? Then there's the supposed $500,000 book deal for someone who hadn't really written anything beyond a few pages, and she even had to work with a book packager to come up with a marketable book premise. I know so many talented authors who are amazing storytellers who can come up with their own book premises and write the books themselves, and you could add up all their advances and not reach that figure. It really says something about the priorities in the business. I guess in a weird sort of way the scandal is actually reassuring. It's proof that no, you can't just grab someone with a cool personal story, mold a book idea out of it, and then create a bestseller. If you do try it, it may backfire. We'll see if the publishers learn their lesson on this, but I'm not holding my breath. While I'm at it, I might as well wish for no more "novels" "written" by celebrities who barely know how to read. And if you actually bought Nicole Ritchie's or Pamela Anderson's books, you're contributing to the problem!

But what's really started getting on my nerves about all this is that there are a lot of people out there using it as an excuse to bash chick lit and in some cases any kind of light, commercial fiction. The Harvard student journalists who broke the story seem almost as outraged that this girl who was bright enough to get into Harvard dared waste that intelligence on writing fluff as they were by the fact that she copied parts of the book. Others are asking how you can plagiarize something that's already so trite and derivative. Malcolm Gladwell, whose book I talked about yesterday, was one of those who seemed to think that it was a lesser offense to copy something like that than it would have been if she'd copied real literature. He said something along the lines of it being like someone in Kinko's yelling "copy!" Sigh. And I used to have such an intellectual crush on him. Well, Malcolm, it's over between us. You have so much common sense about so many things, but you blew it. He did kind of retract it later, but still, he'll have to work harder to win me back.

I just get so tired of the moral superiority that goes on in the book biz based on what you write, like one kind of book is more or less worthy than another. Each kind of book fills its own niche, and none of them are really all that easy to write. I love the occasional dense doorstop of a book, but then there are also times when I just want to laugh and feel good. You need to have something to read and dissect in literature classes and book clubs, and you need to have something to read in the bathtub. And, you know, switching those two might be interesting once in a while. Dissect the fun book and see why it makes you smile, and let your skin shrivel while you ponder something deep. It's all good.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

After the Book

I just sent the latest version of book three off to my agent. Now I just have one looming deadline, and that's in June. I feel like I have an incredible weight off my shoulders. I think I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon walking over to the library to get a new batch of books.

One habit I have when I go to the library is checking the "new non-fiction" shelf. If something catches my eye, no matter how irrelevant it seems to my life or my work, I check it out. You never know where inspiration will strike. This round's impulse book was It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken by the guy who wrote He's Just Not That Into You. I have no idea why I decided to check that book out, considering it's been about ten years since my last breakup (you kind of have to actually date someone long enough for it to be considered a relationship in order to have a breakup). Still, I recognized some things I've done right and wrong about past breakups, and it does seem like I've been on a continuum of getting better about it each time. I've also played the role of "breakup buddy" to friends more than a few times, and it sounds like the advice I've always given is more or less on the right track.

In a weird way, finishing a book is kind of like a breakup. Part of you never wants to see it again and part of you wants to keep revisiting it with the hope of making it better, of making it work out this time. There's a mingling of mourning and relief, and there is definitely the urge to indulge in food and drink, perhaps a little wallowing. Let's just hope I'm in the "we can make it work!" phase when I get my editor's notes.

I also read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, which is utterly fascinating. I may buy that one when it comes out in paperback. I love stuff about how the brain works. I know that all of the major decisions I've made in my life have felt like impulses, and they were almost all the right choices at the time. But don't ask me to choose a restaurant. I can't make up my mind about minor things.

Meanwhile, I worked my way through more YA fiction, and I'm going to have to check out something much more cheerful and lighthearted this time, like maybe something by Thomas Hardy. I'm sure there's something out there that isn't quite this dark, but I managed to stumble on a random set of books that were of the "my parents are split up, my dad's remarrying and with his new family he won't want me, my mom's an obese alcoholic/drug addict, and my brother gets all the attention because he's a juvenile delinquent and now we're going to have to move to a new place where I won't have any friends" variety. I know teens love the angst, but good grief! I guess I liked drama as much as the next teen, but because I was fascinated by World War II, most of my literary teen angst fixes were along the lines of "I have to go to the country to escape the bombing and I may never see my parents again" or "why did I have to fall in love with my fellow resistance fighter just before our uprising so that we'll never have time to be together."

I have some more Stephanie Plum books on hold, and I guess I'll see what else I stumble upon that sounds good.

Then after the library, I may start actually responding to e-mails that have been piling up in the last few days. If you've written me recently, I'm not ignoring you. I was just fighting deadlines.

Monday, May 01, 2006

One Deadline Down

I've finished and turned in my Battlestar Galactica essay, and I think I even like it. It got to be kind of fun before I was done with it, but now my brain is tired. I still have two more chapters to revise on The Current Monstrosity, and I've noticed I have a few wordy bad habits that I want to double-check on the first couple of chapters. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to force myself to work tonight or if I should give myself a break and then start fresh and then finish tomorrow. I'm usually exhausted at the end of my exercise class, so it may be a night for collapsing on the sofa and watching the Battlestar Galactica episodes I wanted to watch but that didn't apply to my essay. I have leftover fajitas from last night and a margarita is sounding good, too.

More reviews for Once Upon Stilettos are showing up. here's a nice one. And here's another one. The consensus seems to be that you don't have to have read the first book to read the second one. Of course, since I wrote both of them I have absolutely zero sense of that, so it's nice to have it externally validated.

And now I have to go get ready for my class. I'll be at the beach in a couple of weeks, so it's really crunch time for getting into swimsuit shape.