Every morning I walk through what I call the "Garden Sidewalks." It's this stretch of road on 28th street where there's store after store of flowers and greenery. Every morning there are men working outside these shops, putting together elaborate arrangements, bouquets, shrubbery, etc. It's been interesting to watch it change along with the seasons. At first it was bright blooms in the summer. Then it changed to leaves and pumpkins over the past few months. And now, it's on to trees, firs, pointsettias, wreaths, acorns, etc.
This morning, this is what I saw on my way to work.
I guess it really is Christmas in NYC!
Once a week, my guest blogger (who shall remain nameless...okay, not nameless...let's call her Ms. Sassy Pants. Sassy for short) stops by to share all the things in her life that deserve a big, fat DELETE. Anyhoo, her majesty is back and this week, she's trying to recover from her Thanksgiving travels. Check out what she had to say and then come up with a few DELETES of your own.
Good news! I survived Thanksgiving—but just barely. I could probably dedicate an entire year to travel etiquette but I'll try to condense my dismay to one brief blog.
So, off I went for a rendezvous with my loving family. We got to the train later than expected (my bad) so seats were sparse. I was traveling with a few friends, and we were searching for seats together and wahlah—God smiled down upon us and granted us four seats together. All was right in the world…or so we thought.
In the seat across from me was a 20-something who was practically unconscious from the night before. He reeked of booze and was blasting his headphones at a decibel that could legally be considered a noise violation. As we all tried to get situated, he “pretended” to be asleep so he wouldn’t have to scoot over. He’s lucky I didn’t plant a knee “accidentally” in his nut-sack. Oh excuse me…do those belong to you? You could have fooled me since you didn’t have the balls to act like a courteous human being…must be time for a big, fat…DUH-LETE!
Oh, and it gets better. After sleeping beauty awoke from his slumber, he reached into a giant paper bag and pulled out the first of what was probably many holiday spirits. I swear, he must have shaken it up before he cracked it open, because he was considerate enough to shower me with beer…not once, but twice for good measure. I guess he must have mistaken me for a vessel that needed to be christened on my maiden voyage to Connecticut.
Don’t try to take advantage of MY “holiday spirit,” pal. Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t give you the right to behave like a douchebag (you can see how far I got with my positive affirmations from last week…ho hum…at least I tried). So here are a few things to be aware of while traveling for the holidays:
Anyone who's unconscious on public transportation…be wary…DELETE.
Baby strollers parked in the aisles or seats on public transportation…fold it up and put it in the luggage racks. We know you're stressed and have your hands full, but when that kid starts wailing, I need a clear exit strategy. So get your sh*t out of the way…DELETE.
When exiting a train, plane, taxi or bus with more than four “humans” (if that's what you want to consider yourself) in your party...don’t stand in the middle of the street, platform or exit ramp deciding the next plan of action. You’ve had hours of travel time to decide what to do and you should be moving like it’s Mission Impossible…DELETE.
People who stand right on top of you when waiting in line. If I can smell your last meal on your breath, you're too close. Step off, fool…DELETE.
Ahhhh…it’s great to be baaaacccckkkk!
I'm sitting here watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from the comfort of Matt's family's home, bundled up in a warm blanket and drinking some coffee. Can you say perfection? The only thing that would be better would be if I was able to be with my family today, too! But I'll give them a call later (they're three hours behind)...
So, I thought I'd dedicate this blog to the holiday. And no, it's not all about the food (although I'm looking forward to eating some gluten-free mac and cheese later!). It's about being thankful. So, in honor of Thanksgiving, here's a list of all the things I'm grateful for:
1. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
2. All the wonderful acts we get to watch
3. It's actually pretty warm right now. This time last year, it was freezing.
4. My family. They're all wonderful and so supportive of me.
5. My friends. They're awesome. What else can I say?
6. Comfy blankets
7. Black Friday shopping tomorrow!
8. Picking out Christmas presents for people. Sure, I like getting gifts, but I like giving them more!
9. Playing board games with Matt and his family whenever we come home.
10. Picking out a comfy bed
11. The Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake that I made last night.
12. "Glee" and that I get to shoot Heather Morris for our next cover!
13. My job. At the end of the day we get to impact young people's lives in a positive way.
14. The opportunities that present themselves to me.
15. Moving in with Matt in January
16. Writing my next book, Life's a Witch.
17. All the amazing food I'll be eating later!
18. This blog and all of you who read it!
Last week, I told you all about how I outline a book when I'm first starting to write a novel. A part of outlining the book with all the details of the story is creating your characters. It's important to really know your characters (especially your main character) before starting to write them. That means, knowing what they look like, their attitude, their past, even their personal fashion styles are all things that are good to know before you put that character down on paper.
That's where creating a Character Collage can come in handy. Now, I haven't done a Character Collage for every book I've written, so it's certainly not something a writer has to do; in fact, it's something that I've started doing more recently, but it's been incredibly helpful.
The Character Collage is actually a tip that I picked up from famed Bring It On and Stick It writer/director turned author, Jessica Bendinger. Having met and interviewed Jessica in the past, she contacted me when she was coming out with her debut YA book, The Seven Rays, and we sat down to discuss her latest venture. One of the things that I thought was particularly impressive about that meeting was that she brought along these collages that visually showed the characters in her book. I'm not sure if it's because her background's in film or if it's simply just the writing process she's created, but I was immediately drawn to this aspect of her writing practice.
So, here's the idea behind the Character Collage. Before you begin writing a character, the point is to know everything there is to know about them. For me, it always starts with figuring out who would play the person in a movie of the book. Now, do I really think that a movie will be made out of my novel? Not necessarily (although I wouldn't be upset if it were), but it's a helpful way to picture what that character looks like, their mannerisms, their style. So, I start by looking through magazines and cutting out pictures of the person I think would represent my character. Once I have her cut out, I move on to her personal style: what she wears, the kind of makeup she applies, her height, body size, hairstyle, etc. Then I move on to other details. Does this person have pets, what is she passionate about, what are her personality traits, what is she obsessed with, what is she scared of? I cut out pictures or phrases or words that describe my character.
After you've cut out everything you can think of that describes your character, take a notebook and start taping/gluing/attaching all of your bits and pieces onto a page with your character's name at the top. Once they're all down on paper, I like to fill in the blanks that I didn't include from my cut-outs. This can be little tidbits like age, friends, beliefs, etc.
When you're done with this, you should have a nice little overview of exactly who your character is, as well as a clear picture of what they look like. This will help you to keep that vision fresh in your mind as you develop them further while writing the book. And after you've finished mapping out your main character, you can move on to your secondary characters, performing a collage for each.
Doing a Character Collage is certainly not a requirement when writing a story, but it's been helpful to me and I'm sure it can be helpful to you. Plus, it's actually a lot of fun (when was the last time you did a little arts and crafts?)!
If you've read my blog before, you know that I'm a fan of the TV show "Medium" (so sad that they've decided to cancel it halfway through this season!). The show is about a psychic who helps the district attorney and local law enforcement solve crimes through her ability to see the dead and foresee the future. What you might not know is that the show is based on a real person. A person whose name is also Allison Dubois, who works for the district attorney, has a husband named Joe and three young daughters who all have their own psychic abilities.
Pretty cool, huh?
Because I'm pretty open to ideas of people having special gifts, I love reading up on psychic phenomenon, intuition and ghosts. So, of course, given her credibility and track record, I feel drawn to Allison Dubois' (the real woman) books. Her first book, Don't Kiss Them Goodbye, was sort of an overview of her abilities--what it was like for her growing up, what she can do and how she helps others today. The book was incredibly interesting and opened my mind up to many different ideas and perspectives on the dead and trusting our intuition. Her second novel, We Are Their Heaven, was just as powerful.
We Are Their Heaven focused mostly on those who have passed and what the afterlife is like. Allison touches on how she does readings for people who have lost loved ones and how she helps them to heal. She also talked about what it's like for those who've passed. That they are happy, they like being around those they loved and revel in the times when we are having fun or just enjoying life. Allison also brings up the subject of those who have died due to murder or suicide and put at ease those they've left behind. Something I found particularly interesting was that Allison says ghosts try to reach us through electronics...so, if you get a phone call with no one on the other end, or a text from someone who's already passed, it may just be your loved one trying to reach out.
Though I've been lucky enough not to lose anyone close to me in the past few years, as I read Allison's book, I couldn't help but feel relief and peace to hear her talk about what the existence is like for those who have passed. Though my beliefs don't fall under any one religion, I do like to think that after we die, we go to a better place. And through reading We Are Their Heaven, that belief was reinforced.
If you're mourning the loss of a loved one, or just interested in life after death, you should definitely pick up We Are Their Heaven.
Once a week, my guest blogger (who shall remain nameless...okay, not nameless...let's call her Ms. Sassy Pants. Sassy for short) stops by to share all the things in her life that deserve a big, fat DELETE. Anyhoo, her majesty is back and this week, she's trying something new for a change: Gratitude! Check out what she had to say and then come up with a few of your own.
In light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I figured I'd try hanging up the snarky 'tude and get down to some real “thanks-giving.” I blame it on the time of year, the change of seasons and holiday cheer. So for one week (and one week only)…I’m going to attempt to do the opposite and see if I can go from hating people to tolerating people.
So what, you ask, does that mean? Well, this will most certainly be a work in progress, but whenever a negative attitude or thought crops up over the next week, it must be DELETED immediately. For example, if someone is walking too slowly in front of me and I’m late for an appointment…instead of pushing them into a bag of garbage on the side of the street (like I might want to)…I’ll take a deep breath, slow down and think of one thing that I’m thankful for. Here are a few items I added to my arsenal this week:
My friend Britt and her love of all things pink. Every time I see pink I think of her and that is a gift…my own version of rose-colored glasses.
The little noises my cat makes when he sleeps. I think he might actually be a dog that just looks like a cat.
Spending Turkey Day with my family and laughing at our neuroses year after year. Every year my mother plans out the menu minute by minute. From when the turkey goes into the oven to when the potatoes need to be peeled. And every year something goes wrong that sets the whole plan into a tailspin. And every year I get to sit back and enjoy the chaos unfold around me. But at the end of the day, when our bellies are full…the drama is all forgotten.
Next week, after being held hostage by my family during Thanksgiving, I’m sure Ms. Sassy Pants will be back to her usual DELETEful self. Happy Gobble, Gobble!
Happy Friday all! And in honor of this momentous occasion (Hey, it's been a long week for me. The weekend definitely counts as momentous!), I have some exciting news!
I just found out that one of my favorite writers, Jackson Pearce, author of Sisters Red, a reimagining of Little Red Riding hood, has dipped back into the fairy tale world and written a new novel. Sweetly takes on the classic story of Hansel and Gretel, with a deliciously darker twist.
The advanced reader's copy should be on my desk any day now and I can't wait to get lost in Pearce's world of love and loss again!
The other morning, I woke up with the biggest pain in my neck. And no, I don't mean Matt (hahahaha, just kidding, Matty!). No, I woke up and had the most intense, uncomfortable, debilitating pain up and down my spine. I'd never felt anything like it.
Just holding my head up straight hurt. No amount of maneuvering made it feel better. I downed Advil like it was chicklets and eventually broke down and bought some Ben Gay. I suffered through doing that weird, in order to move my head I must move my body thing, to ensure that I didn't have to move much, and thus endure more pain.
People's first question to me was, had I slept weird? And sure, I might have slept weird (although I don't remember on account of being asleep and all), but my neck didn't hurt as soon as I came to in bed. It actually started growing gradually as I was doing my hair and makeup. So, as I tried to come up with an explanation for my ailment, it dawned on me.
It's been proven time and time again that emotional stress can manifest itself in physical ways. You have a nasty fight with your significant other—and then promptly get a cold. You're worried about how you're going to pay your rent and your credit card bills—and suddenly you're getting blinding tension headaches. Or you go through a particularly tough week at work—and suddenly you can't move your neck.
When I took an honest look at what my emotional state has been over the past week, it's like there are blinking neon signs pointing to the pain that's shown up in my neck (and now my shoulders).
So, what can I do about it? Well, for starters, I'll keep taking Advil to bring down the inflammation and will continue to slather on the Ben Gay to numb the pain. But I've still got to do something for the emotional issues that are causing the stress in the first place. And that's where things like meditation and positive-thinking come into play. Although it's hard to think so when you're in it, things are always bound to get better and have a way of working themselves out. It also helps to put things into perspective: I'm healthy; pretty darn happy; I'm in a relationship that is totally fullfilling and will be moving in with Matt soon; at the end of the day, I'm proud of the magazine we put out and I get to impact young people's lives in a hugely positive way; I'm writing a new book that people are excited to read; I have amazing friends who continue to inspire me on a daily basis; my family are my #1 fans and I feel the same way; and today, I have gifts that make me uniquely qualified to help others around me.
Ahhhh, I can feel the pain in my neck subsiding already.
So, yesterday, I announced that I'm writing a new book and mentioned that this is the perfect opportunity for me to let you all in on my process. If you're someone who's always wanted to write a book but never had the motivation, or maybe finishing a novel is on your bucket list, there are many ways that you can achieve your goals. What may be a perfect system for one writer, might just not work for another. You've got to find your perfect flow...but to do that, you've gotta get started!
If you've been itching to write a book, but for whatever reason, never have, I challenge you to do it now. We can do it together! It could be a short story, a pet project, an act of catharsis, a present for a loved one or even a novel you hope to get published one day. No matter your motivation, you can do it!
The one thing that separates aspiring writers from writers is the writing!
Get it? Okay, so, before you get started, you have to have an idea...otherwise, you'll be writing gibberish or just staring at a blank page all day. For some, they just need a spark of inspiration and then they put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard depending on your preference) and let the story guide itself.
I, myself, need an outline. Not only do I need it to keep myself on track and get me to where I want to go with the storyline, but for me, I need to really work out the details of the book. And I don't know about you, but leaving everything up in my head? Not so trustworthy. I tend to start forgetting all the little things I've thought of. Plus, sometimes I may have an idea that seems like it'll work in my head, but when it's out there in black and white just screams, "What were you thinking?!?! This makes no sense!" So, having a working outline is extremely helpful for me.
This weekend, I took my general idea of bringing the Salem Witch Trials into present day and started building the story around this central idea. I often come up with my books this way. I'll be intrigued by the idea of a guardian angel or a first-time actress or fate or a first kiss and I build the story around it, shaping the best way to talk about my subject of interest. I start with the details I know and do a very broad, big plot point by big plot point outline of what I want to have happen in the book. This draft might include some little details, but those usually come later, when I've had a chance to write a bit and get a feel for my characters and the situations they find themselves in.
Remember, this is your outline (and no one will see it but you, unless you're writing non-fiction book and submitting it to an agent), so it's all subject to change at your own will and should only be used as a GUIDE. There have been plenty of times in the past where I've had a plot point down on my outline and realized it wasn't going to work and ignored it completely. That happens sometimes. After all, the story should sort of drive itself.
Once you've got a brief, general outline, you've only got a few other things to do before you can get started! So, get out that paper (or Word document) and get writing!
Since it's gloomy and misty outside today, I thought I'd bring a little news to brighten your day....
I just found out that while we're in California in December, we're going to be shooting Heather Morris (Brittany on "Glee") and Kendall Jenner (younger sis of the Kardashian girls)!!!! It's going to be a double-fantastic shoot and I'm worried that I might actually pass out from all the excitement. But this is just the first bit of news I have for you....
This weekend, I started writing a new book. I still have Painless out with agents for consideration, but I got an "offer I couldn't refuse" and had to take it. So, here's the big announcement: the online writing community www.wattpad.com has asked me to write an original novel for them for their readers! Now, just to give you a little background on WattPad, it's sort of like Youtube for books. Anyone can upload their work and anyone can read it. The cool thing about it is that the readers determine what becomes popular, bringing the power back to the readers themselves!
Now, this being said, I was approached by WattPad a few weeks ago and they told me that they're looking for a new author to work with in January. See, although the site is open to all, there are spotlighted authors that they work with to grow their audience and fanbase. And after reading on our site that I've written books, they contacted me! I met with someone from the company last week and decided (after a lot of questions and a bit of meditation) to go for it. But instead of just uploading one of my other books, I'm going to be creating something just for the Wattpad audience.
I can't give away the whole plot, but I will tell you it has something to do with the Salem Witch Trials. A reimagining if you will.
So, since you're catching me at the beginning of writing this new book, I'll be able to take you through my process of how I write a book—so stay tuned!
Once a week, my guest blogger (who shall remain nameless...okay, not nameless...let's call her Ms. Sassy Pants. Sassy for short) stops by to share all the things in her life that deserve a big, fat DELETE. Anyhoo, her majesty is back and trying to figure out whose fault it is that she fell sick this weekend. Check out what she had to say and then come up with a few DELETE's of your own.
This weekend was supposed to be the weekend of all weekends. I had plans to attend an annual fundraiser that I haven’t missed in three years. I had the dress picked out; I had appointments to have my hair and makeup professionally done—Ms. Sassy Pants was on her way to becoming Ms. Fancy Pants—until I woke up on Saturday morning and felt the strangest sensation...Like my insides were about to be ripped out! And then I got sick. How could this have happened?!? All my plans had been DELETED!
Bottom line: I wished that I could've just been DELETED. No human should ever have to endure the misery I went through. I felt like I was a victim of the bubonic plague. It was seriously worse than any hangover you could imagine (and I've had my fair-share). As I was claiming squatters-rights to the bathroom, I began to run through a list of culprits that could've been responsible for my weekend's downfall.
So, here we go…the list of possible causes to my most recent plight:
The guy in the subway that was sucking on chicken bones and then throwing them at me. You just know they were full of e-coli or botulism or some sort of melt-your-insides type of bacteria. I don’t know if I was part of some sort of twisted voo-doo ritual or if the guy just had a screw loose, but throwing chicken bones in the subway…DELETE!
The girl that claimed the bathroom stall right next to me. The entire bathroom was empty and she just had to use the stall right next to mine. I'm sure it was a part of her evil plan to spread her sicky-poo germs all over unsuspecting victims. And, hello?!?! Some privacy please? DELETE!
The co-worker who insisted on coming in to work with her runny nose and glassy eyes after being attacked by some sort of virus. I personally think it was a Night of the Living Dead-type sickness because that’s how she looked—and how I felt—after she spread the mutant virus onto me. If you are sick or have been attacked by a zombie, don’t go in to work…DELETE!
Chocolate syrup. How could this have made the list, you ask? With all of the delicious goodness it has to offer? Apparently you're supposed to keep it refrigerated after opening. Probably not a good idea then, to make a shake with chocolate syrup that has been sitting in the cabinet for two weeks after being opened and not refrigerated. They should have made that print a little larger…DELETE!
So kiddies…Ms. Sassy Pants is now on the mend and coming around slowly. Today’s blog was almost in danger of being DELETED due to this recent mishap (I know that would've been a tragedy) but the show must go on.
See you next week and stay away from booze, bums, zombies and chocolate syrup and you should have a happy, healthy week ahead.
You know those times when you get so upset that you're seeing red? Someone says you'll never amount to anything. A teacher criticizes you. That one big bully humiliates you for the umpteenth time in front of everyone. The guy you love cheats on you....with your BFF...or even worse, your sworn enemy. Catch my drift?
You're mad. I'm talking shaking, clenching your fists, feel sick to your stomach pissed.
Now, what do you do with all that anger? How do you deal? Do you lash out at others? Hold it in until you're in the safety of your room and then collapse on the floor and cry? Write something mean about them on Facebook? Trust that Karma's a bitch and so are they? Maybe you exercise (isn't that what kickboxing classes are really for?), dance away your stress or watch a funny movie or TV show. Whatever your process, the important thing is to get rid of the anger, otherwise it'll just eat you up inside. You know what they say: holding onto resentments is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
I've been listening to Taylor Swift's new album, Speak Now, the last few days (over and over again so I can learn all the lyrics, of course) and it's pretty clear that she's working through some issues of her own. She's got a song on there that's supposedly about her John Mayer and the sucky way he treated her. She's also got another song on the album that's apparently about the girl that stole another one of her ex's away. And one of my favorites is Mean, which seems to be about a bully who Taylor claims "all you'll ever be is mean."
I think it's pretty safe to say that Taylor works through her feelings by writing songs. And I've gotta say it seems like a pretty productive and theraputic way to let out her anger. Come to think of it, I suppose a lot of artists use their craft to sift through their emotions. Singers write what they experience in their everyday life. Directors like Wes Craven, name their evil, nightmarish monsters after high school bullies (I'm looking at you, Fred Kreuger).
And to be honest, I've even used my own writing as a way to "get back" at those who've pissed me off over the years. Oh, I may not use their names or even give an accurate description of them, but in my fictional world, I always get the last word and horrible people are put in their place. In my novels, the universe always punishes those who deserve it.
Come to think of it....that's actually pretty true to the real world, too. I believe that we get what we put out there. If you're nasty, nastiness will follow you. If you stab people in the back, you can expect a few knives of your own. You reap what you sow as they say. So, sometimes the best revenge is actually just sitting back and letting the universe work itself out....
Either that or you go ahead and write a song about them.
One day a few months ago, Matt was putting some clothes away in one of my closets when he poked his head out with a questioning look on his face.
"Babe, why do you have a Big Book of Baby Names?"
Now, he's well-aware of my thoughts on babies, so I could see why he was perplexed by the find; I'm not exactly one of those women who's been planning her kids names since she was, well, a kid. But I had an explanation. One that actually made complete sense...to me, at least.
"That's how I choose the character's names in my books."
So, now you know. I have a SECRET baby name book and I use it to name my fictional babies!
Now, most of the time I don't have any problems choosing the names of my main characters. In fact, the name of my MC usually comes long before the title of the book for me. Secondary characters are sometimes harder and I'll often peruse the pages until I see a name that jumps out at me. I almost always drag out the book when I'm looking for last names and names for places like schools and streets.
Sometimes names pick themselves based on the story. In my book, Kiss and Sell, I was channeling Arielle from The Little Mermaid and just HAD to name her after the talented sea creature. In Painless, my main character is dark and broody most of the time, so it seemed appropriate (and ironic) to name her Bliss.
I'm now getting ready to start a new project—one that I'll be announcing here once I have all the details hammered out. Right now, I have an idea of what I want to do and who my main character is going to be. What I don't have yet is a name for her. Without giving away the storyline, my heroine's a bad-ass, smart, popular but secretive and very POWERFUL teenager. So, here's where you come in. What do you think I should name my main character? Leave your suggestions in the comments above and I may just name my main character after it!
Congratulations, it's a GIRL!
One of the perks of writing the book review section of our magazine is that I have access to just about every book that's coming out on the market (from the big publishing houses at least). Now, this can be frustrating sometimes (especially when you're trying so hard to get your own book published and you can't even stomach some of the stuff that comes across your desk), but other times it's like a book nerd's dream.
Yesterday was one of those awesome kind of days. I met up for lunch with uber cool Jessica, a publicist over at Little Brown to hear all about the new books their publishing house has coming out in the spring (yes, we all work that far in advance in the publishing world). It was nice getting out of the office, eating a great gluten-free meal (We always meet at this gf restaurant called Bistango here in NYC; I got a sausage and cheese pizza. YUM!) and talking books—after we catch up, of course.
The cool thing about these meetings is when Jessica pulls out her little book of Little Brown books. Seriously. It's a book listing all of the projects the company has coming up, including cover art, book descriptions and author bios. It's sort of like a lengthier book list we used to get in grade school, where you would mark the ones you wanted to buy....Ah, I used to LOVE those!
Now, over the last year and a half or so of us meeting up and chatting about books and getting to know each other, Jessica has done this amazing thing: She's taken note of the books I tend to like and she presents those to me when we meet. Sounds like such a simple thing, right? You'd be surprised how many publishing houses don't even think to ask what I like to read. They just send boxes of books. Most of which are passed along to other editors or donated. Jessica, however, knows what I like and sends those along, making sure not to waste my time or hers with books I'll never read, and saving precious paper in the process.
But the most important thing this does is ensure that whenever I'm looking for books to review for the magazine, I'll go to her first because I know that about 80% of the time, I'll like what I'm reading. Now, I've mentioned that I like Jessica...I think she's really intelligent, witty and really sweet...but I want to make it clear, I don't like the books just because she recommends them. I like the books she recommends because she knows what I like.
And that's such a great lesson when you're interacting with other readers. Say you've got a friend who's mentioned he likes psychological thrillers, but hates cheesy teen stuff. It doesn't matter how much you loved Twilight, there's probably no way in hell he's going to magically become a Twi-hard. And after suggesting that kind of vampire fluff to him, do you really think he's going to pick up anything else you suggest? Um, more vampire/werewolf love triangles? No, thank you.
So, just keep this in mind. The best way to get a person to read isn't necessarily by forcing just any "good" book on them. Get to know them—their likes and dislikes—and choose appropriately. You might just become their gatekeeper to all the wonderful books out there!
So, I told you all a few weeks ago that I was checking out Hilary Duff's debut novel, Elixir. I had high hopes for the book, partly because I like Hilary Duff (I've liked her ever since she was on "Lizzie Maguire.") and partly because I figure that through her song writing, she couldn't be THAT bad a writer. And then there's the fact that as an actress, I'd imagine she's somewhat creative, so I was interested in seeing what type of book she'd write, given the opportunity.
The answer is Elixir.
Color me happy when I finished reading the book and realized that it was actually pretty good! I'm not usually a big fan of sci-fi or paranormal romance, but I felt like Elixir did a good job of toying with that line without going too far over it (Mostly I was just happy it wasn't another vampire book! People really need to find another monster story to tell.). Here's what you'll get with Elixir:
Seventeen-year-old Clea Raymond has felt the glare of the spotlight her entire life. The daughter of a renowned surgeon and a prominent politician, she has become a talented photojournalist who takes refuge in a world that allows her to travel to many exotic places. But after Clea's father disappears while on a humanitarian mission, Clea begins to notice eerie, shadowy images in her photos of a strange and beautiful young man--a man she has never seen before.
When fate brings Clea and this man together, she is stunned by the immediate and powerful connection she feels with him. As they grow closer, they are drawn deep into the mystery behind her father's disappearance, and they discover the centuries-old truth behind their intense bond. Torn by a dangerous love triangle and haunted by a powerful secret that holds their fates, together they race against time to unravel their pasts in order to save their lives--and their futures.
The pace of Hilary's book is really fast, and it turned out to be a pretty quick read (however, that might have had to do with the fact that the font size was a bit larger than normal and there were large top and bottom margins). But in terms of story, it definitely held my interest to the point where when I wasn't reading it, I was actually excited to pick it back up again. The characters were all interesting, although I sort of liked Clea's best friend, Rayna, best. It wasn't that Clea was annoying or anything (certainly not all whiney like some of the female heroines of current YA best sellers), it was simply that Rayna was the more dominant personality, seemed like a lot of fun and you just knew she loved to stir up a little trouble.
My only gripe was the ending. I was expecting at least one more chapter when I realized that the book had ended. It was so abrupt that I felt rather let-down by the way things were left. And although it didn't say the story was to be continued, I was left thinking, "There must be a sequel to this, right?" I still have questions like: What happens to Sage? What the heck happened to Clea's Dad, because they never really did answer that question, did they? And will Clea end up with Ben after all or will their friendship be forever ruined?
All in all, I thought the novel was a great attempt for Hilary's first foray into the publishing world. Elixir will have you time-traveling and dreaming of soulmates!
Once a week, my guest blogger (who shall remain nameless...okay, not nameless...let's call her Ms. Sassy Pants. Sassy for short) stops by to share all the things in her life that deserve a big, fat DELETE. Anyhoo, her majesty is back and giving us some tips on how NOT to fall back into old habits. Check out what she had to say and then come up with a few DELETE's of your own.
In addition to my general disdain for people, I guess it's also safe to say that I don’t like change. I hang on to things—people, ideas or behavior—because it's easier than having to change. Go figure. All this talk about "it’s my way or you're in danger of facing the DELETE button," is clearly a bit superficial. In an ironic twist, when faced with things that should be DELETED, I just can’t bring myself to do it.
So this week, in light of falling back an hour, I’m going to fall back on some basic principles and attempt to get rid of those things that should have been DELETED the first time around.
Old contacts in my cell phone. Most of them are ex-boyfriends...So, in case they called again I'd know who it was and not answer (can anyone relate?). Let’s get real. Relationships end for a reason. No need to hang on to people or numbers...DELETE!
Facebook “friends” that I don’t really know. Life isn’t a popularity contest. I can’t measure my worth on the amount of friends I have online. It doesn’t make me a better person. Blasphemy, I know, but I’m going to go out on a limb and do some scrubbing up on the Facebook front and rid myself of the unknowns...DELETE!
Premium channels on cable. Do I really need 900+ options? Maybe it’s time to consider getting back to the “basics.” Yep, basic cable is looking pretty sexy at the moment. So to SUPER-SIZED cable packages…DELETE!
Non-perishables in my kitchen cabinet. What exactly am I planning to do with the Spaghetti-O’s (with meatballs no less), the jar of beef gravy or the Ramen Noodles that are now so old that the flavor packets have petrified? That just can’t be healthy…DELETE!
Makeup I never use. Ewwww…really?!?! For some reason, I think I need a plethora of samples to choose from when in reality I use the same stuff every day. If it's over six months old…DELETE. However, I’m holding on to that frosted pink lipstick for a rainy day.
Clothes. If it doesn’t fit...DELETE! If I haven’t worn it in a year...DELETE!
Excuses and “yeah, but”s must be DELETED! Yikes.
Excessive amounts of coffee. Do I really need a gallon a day to keep me going? Hmmm…maybe that’s why I’m such an intolerant bitch all of the time. Well, let’s not go too crazy, but cutting back on the coffee consumption is a must...DELETE!
And the cream of the crop...Unhealthy relationships. Whether they be friendships or romantical in nature, there's just no room for bad behavior in my life...DELETE!
Ahhh…I already feel better. Now let’s see if I can actually follow through. See you next week—and don’t be scared to DELETE some of your own bad habits!
I have a pretty cool job. I get to run photo shoots, help choose our cover girls, spend at least six times a year at Disney World on business trips and meet some of the coolest Hollywood starlets and singing sensations to hit the stage, all in the name of “work.” But one of my favorite things to do is write our review section. And you know why?
Because I get to read books before everyone else and then interview the authors I want to learn more about.
That’s right. My job rocks!
Sure, I get excited and flustered around celebs—sometimes even tongue-tied. But when I get the chance to talk to an author I admire, I get totally starstruck!!! Over the years, I’ve had the honor of interviewing dozens of authors about writing, the publishing industry, their motivation and inspiration. This is especially interesting to me because I hope to have my own YA fiction published one day.
Over the years, I’ve picked up little nuggets of wisdom from each of the fabulous authors I’ve talked to. Here’s what I’ve learned:
“What inspires me? Eavesdropping! Seriously, inspiration is everywhere, even when you don’t realize that you’re looking for it. The other day, I spied the cutest teen boy, all decked out in a Snuggie, in the middle of Starbucks. He was happily texting his friends. I know there’s a story in there, somewhere.” —Charity Tahmaseb, co-author of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading
2. 2. Write what you love.
“My agent told me to write what I love and I said, ‘Well, I love cheerleading and hip-hop.’ She said ‘That’s it. Now put them together.’ And I was like, ‘You’re right!’ Two great tastes, that taste great together. It was like a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup—so crazy it just might work. So I took the two things that I’d talk about for free and made money writing about them. Write what you love and live what you love.” —Jessica Bendinger, writer of Bring It On and The Seven Rays
“There’s a strange thing that goes on with books, movies, television shows, albums—anything created along those lines. And this is it: you never know what’s going to be huge. All you can really hope for is to write something that you want to write and that it will find an audience.” –Deborah Gregory, author of The Cheetah Girls and Catwalk series
4. Don’t give up.
“The publishing industry is made to weed out people who don’t want it badly enough. It’s hard to figure out how, who and when to query; hard to figure out the market; hard to figure out the seven million “do nots” when you’re first starting out. The good news is, all that becomes easier. The bad news is, you’ve got to navigate through it before it gets easier. If you want it, don’t give up.” —Jackson Pearce, author of As You Wish and the upcoming mega-hit Sisters Red
“My writing process is very methodical and goal-driven. I set word goals for each day and work my hardest to meet them. I always tell my kids that a dream isn’t something that comes true because you sat on your rump wishing for it. I try to be a good example of that—though I do have to sit on my rump to type…” —Stacey Jay, author of You Are So Undead to Me and Undead Much?
6. Write something for everybody.
“Books with characters that appeal to both males and females have a better chance (i.e. Harry Potter). The more you narrow something down to a smaller audience, the smaller the chances are of it selling more copies. In the end, it’s all about the numbers. Book fact: There are 65,000 books published every year. That's what you're up against.” —Deborah Gregory, author of The Cheetah Girls and Catwalk series
7. 7. Write, write, write.
“Sit your butt in a chair, hands on keys. There’s no magic secret to becoming a published author. The only way to do it is to write a book that people want to read. And the only way I know how to do that is to write, write, write!” —Charity Tahmaseb, co-author of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading
“Whatever works, is my number one rule. I don’t answer the phone, I don’t look at the paper or watch TV. I just sit at the computer, go to my office or somewhere with really good coffee, put on my headset so I don’t get distracted, and just write. Once I’ve met my goal for the day, I’m done. As a writer, I’m the instrument and I can only do so much. You really have to take care of your body and mind. I try to be gentle with myself and make the computer a place where good things happened.” —Jessica Bendinger, writer of Bring It On and The Seven Rays
9. 9. Read and write.
“Read everything you can get your hands on—each book will teach you something about storytelling. Write every day—because you can’t get better if you don’t practice.” —Stacey Jay, author of You Are So Undead to Me and Undead Much?
“I had a book that was rejected everywhere—76 times, to be exact. I dealt with it by writing another book—I wanted something to distract me from being so depressed about the first one. My second book ended up being the one that sold. I think I had to write the rejected book though—it was my “learning how to write” book, and I wouldn’t change that experience for the world.” —Jackson Pearce, author of As You Wish and the upcoming mega-hit Sisters Red
So, since yesterday's post was AWESOME, but a bit on the serious side (seriously AWESOME!), I thought this a perfect time to switch things up. Go in a lighter direction with this post. So, prepare to be entertained!
Do me a favor and open up another web browser. Go ahead, I'll wait here while you do it...
Okay, got it open? Great job! Now go to google.com/maps.
Once you're on the page, click on "Get Directions."
When you see the A and B boxes, type in the following: After the (A) write "Japan" and after the (B) write "China."
Click on "Get Directions."
Now scroll down to #43 on the list of directions. What does it say to do?
Okay, now let's try this again...go back to the A and B boxes and type in the following: After the (A) write "Japan" and after the (B) write "United States."
Click "Get Directions."
When the results are up, scroll down to #27. What does it say?
Go ahead, you know you wanna.
I'm sent no less than 30 books a month working at the magazine, ranging from historical romance to paranormal romance to angsty teen tales to celeb tell-alls, and very few catch my eye and attention in a way that makes me want to suggest the book to friends. One advanced reader copy that I had the good fortune of reading several months ago, was The Mockingbirds by author Daisy Whitney...and it blew me away.
The book centers around a college girl, Alex, who wakes up the morning after a night of drinking,to find that she's lost her virginity—and doesn't remember the details. Not one to take her V-card lightly, she knows something's wrong with the situation. Through endless days of self-doubt, self-discovery, fear and shame, uber-strong Alex discovers that she was actually date-raped, and decides (after much deliberation) to go after her attacker. In the end, she enlists in the help of a secret society, the Mockingbirds, that enacts its own justice on those who've done wrong and have been found wanting.
I was impressed with Daisy's writing style and her voice throughout the novel. Also, a lot of authors who write about serious situations tend to go the way of dark, violent and doom and gloom, instead of telling the story behind the darkness. Daisy did a beautiful and honest job of giving the appropriate details from the violent act, while spending more time on the recovery of the victim. I personally found this to be more true to the story than those books that harp on the gore and shock factors.
When I was shopping around my own novel, Sober in the City, about a girl who gets sober in NYC, most agents rejected it on the basis that "it wasn't true to alcoholism." They wanted more relapses, sob stories and darkness. To them, just because my story was one of recovery, hope and was even funny at times, it must have not been realistic. But the reason I wrote it the way I did was because I felt it was a lot more inspiring and realistic to talk about the recovery aspect, rather than the downward spiral. But people want the trainwreck. This is partly why I fell in love with Daisy's book; she focused on her main character taking her life back. The character's a survivor and I think the way Daisy wrote her makes for a much stronger book.
So, enough of this love-fest (although I'm starting to think this might be one of my best and most inspirational interviews). After I read The Mockingbirds, and then did a little googling of Daisy herself, I learned that this awesome author is pretty interesting off the page, too. And she was kind enough to answer some of my questions about writing, publishing and taking a stand for yourself. So take a look at her answers below...and then rush out to buy her book, on sale NOW!
Name: Daisy Whitney
Hometown: San Francisco
Best Known For: My awesome necklaces from Paris and writing edgy YA!
Fun Fact About Her: I wear two colors of toenail polish at all times, alternating toes.
Brittany: The Mockingbirds deals with the tough subject of date rape, but was incredibly beautifully written. Was it difficult to balance the two?
Daisy: Thank you—I'm glad you liked the writing! Once I knew how I wanted to tell the story, Alex's voice was so clear to me and the way she sees the world (in a very observational way) sort of unspooled in front of me. So, in that sense, connecting to her was relatively easy because she has such a specific way of viewing the world. I think her observational nature helps to connect readers to the subject matter.
Daisy: Like my main character, I was date-raped as a teen and I also pressed charges. More than anything, this experience taught me about the healing power of speaking up. I've learned that talking about the tough things we go through—to a counselor, a trusted friend, a peer—can help us grow, change and move on.
Daisy: My goal in pressing charges was very much to take my life back, but the possibility that other people could potentially benefit, definitely gave me the courage to speak up, too. Of course, there are always people who don't like change and there are also people who see the world in black and white, so I encountered my share of challenges during that time. But one of my most touching memories was receiving a letter two years later from a girl who had never been date-raped, but thanked me for speaking up for all women. I also want to point out that I was by no means the only one who wanted to change the way the university handled date rape—I had a tremendous support group of friends and adults at the Women's Center at Brown. Because of all of them, change was possible.
Daisy: I hope readers are entertained! And I also hope teens will know that they have what it takes as teenagers to take a stand for right and wrong and to use their voices for good! There is always someone who will listen and there is empowerment in speaking up for yourself and for others. Taking a stand is cool!
Daisy: I sincerely hope that adults and teachers will be open to listening to teens when they encounter problems. But I also know that, sadly, there can sometimes be institutional blindness and that's where the Mockingbirds came from. I do know this—never underestimate what a group of smart, determined, thoughtful teens can do!
Daisy: It would be lovely if rapists would all get their proper due from the police and the judicial system. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. In The Mockingbirds, the justice that is doled out needed to be achievable given that the group is an underground, student-run court. For the students that the fictional Themis Academy draws—driven, ambitious, dedicated—losing the thing you love most is as powerful a punishment as students can mete out in a peer-run court.
Daisy: Talk to your parents! Talk to a teacher! Talk to an adult who will listen to you and stand by you. At the very least, talk to a friend.
Daisy: I'm crazy about my dog! I think she might be my soulmate. I also love shoes and chocolate, and I'm passionate about recycling, eating food that's grown sustainably whenever possible, supporting my friends, and raising my children to be compassionate and caring. I also have the world's greatest husband and I'm passionate about him!
Daisy: Honestly, the best thing you can do for your online presence is write a great book! Publishers and agents fall in love with the work first. My advice on developing an online presence is to be authentic, pick and choose your platforms, be consistent, have a personal code, know that what you put online should reflect your "brand," and that it should never get in the way of writing your next book!
Daisy: Bumpy! I wrote three unpublished chick-lit novels—that's 300,000 words between them! Then I switched to YA and the fourth time was the charm. The lesson here is, if you believe in yourself, keep going, keep working, and keep writing, because with hard work and talent, dreams have a funny way of coming true.
Daisy: Chocolate. Yoga. And a good shake of the fist in the mirror! Plus, I'm the kind of person who actually gets revved up when people tell me I can't do something. A newspaper editor once told me I'd never have a career as a freelance writer. In fact, I've been making a living now as a freelance writer/reporter for 15 years!
Thanks so much to the inspiring Daisy Whitney! Now, go buy her book!