Wednesday, September 30, 2009

HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY TO... ME!

I never thought this day would arrive, but here it is… MY BLOGIVERSARY! Go ahead, sing. I'll wait...

That was lovely, really. Who knew you had such a nice voice?

149 posts and 365 days later, here we are. Yes, ladies and gents, it’s been exactly one year since I first started this little blog 'o mine, and if truth be told, I’m feeling quite verklempt. I’m keeping a box of tissues on hand in case my tears spill over onto my laptop. I have so many people to thank for my award-winning blog, (see “Blog Bling” on the right hand side of page) but I think I'll choose just one:

I'd like to thank the one man who started me on my path to writing stardom. The first guy who really "got" my writing. His name is Mr. Douglas. Well, actually, that’s not his name. Truth is, I'm getting old and I honestly can’t remember his name. [Message from Tatiana, the Subliminal Message Goddess: It has nothing to do with her age. She's always been bad with names. She blames her dad.] Anyway, the man who I’ll call “Mr. Douglas” was my eighth grade teacher, and he was visionary enough to give me an A+ on a paper I titled, The Murder of Mr. T.J. Donahue. Seriously. A. +. [Tatiana: She remembers names of random middle school papers, but forgets names of people she knows well. Just sayin'.] The assignment was to incorporate 15 unrelated words into a paper. We could write about anything we wanted, which I thought was like majorly bitchin' cool dude. I, of course, chose a murder mystery. The only words on the list I couldn’t seem to weave into my brilliant essay were “biscuits” and “chestnuts.” So, you ask, how was the killer finally nabbed in The Murder of Mr. T.J. Donahue? Great question! Thanks for asking! [T: Is it just me? Or is she like nails on a chalkboard?] He was the guy who mumbled, “Shut up and eat your biscuits and chestnuts!” See why I got an A+? [T: Um. No we don't.]

Now, in order to demonstrate the mind-numbing changes that have occurred for me over this past, glorious year, the year in which I've penned two novels with two more on the way (not much easier than giving actual birth, by the way), I’ve decided to use visual aids. Like they say, a picture paints a thousand words. So here is a “before” and “after” shot.

The picture on the left is me a year ago - sad, unfulfilled, lacking in so many obvious ways. I mean, look at that fake smile. RIDICULOUS! And the picture on the right was taken yesterday - happy, self-confident, full of joy. See the arms crossed? Now, that's self-confidence!

Mind blowing difference, no? What? You don’t see much change? You like the picture on the left better?? You know, now that I look at them, I think you’re right. [T: She's so vain it's borderline insane. Hey! That rhymed!] There isn’t much difference. At least not on the surface...

You see, I’m convinced my DNA has undergone a major transformation over the past 365 days, particularly in the area of the publishing biz. I’ve taken it upon myself to learn as much as I can, and I think I’ve done a bang-up job. For example, I now know the difference between the terms, “Agent” and “God.” One is an omnipotent, breathtaking, transformative being and the other is “God.” (Thanks, folks. I’ll be appearing every Wednesday night at the “Sinner’s Lounge” in Hellfire, NB.) [T: She's not only vain, she thinks she's funny. What could be worse? I could tell a better joke with my one eye closed and my wings tied behind my back. Seriously. I could. I mean, if I had to. What are you waiting for? A joke? I don't feel like telling one now. But if I did, it would be like WAY funnier than hers. Pinky swear.]

I promised a certain someone cake and balloons. The cake's above and here are the balloons. Grab your favorite color and dig in to the chocolate. Hell, take two pieces. Three, even! Make a holy freaking pig of yourself. Remember what mama said: virtual calories don't count!!

[T: Here's where she gets all sappy. You may want to click out now. Don't say I didn't warn you...] The way I see it, the success of this blog is not due to the silly words I string together in my posts. It’s due to the amazing comments in the “Comments” section. For me, that’s where the magic of this blog was, is, and always will be. If you want to leave a comment as to your favorite memory or what you like most about my humble little abode here on the world wide web, feel free. There's no pressure. I mean you don't have to or anything. It would just put a Texas-sized smile on my face and like totally make my day. (I was raised Jewish and I married a Catholic. I've got the guilt thing covered.) [T: She's also got the annoying thing covered.]

So, to each and every person who has read my blog and/or posted comments over this past year, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. As Margaret and Helen – the 80-Something Blog Goddesses who I dream of writing like - say, “I mean it. Really.”

May beauty, joy, health, laughter, and happiness guide you on your journey. Namaste.

[T: She thinks she's all Zen and stuff.]
Tatiana, you know what? [T: What?] I CAN HEAR YOU!!! [T: You can? Oh. Right. PSYCHE!!!]

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gratitude: The New Black or Have I Told You Lately That I Thank You?

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and read the interview with Allison Winn Scotch and to those of you who commented. It's so important that we writers support each other to the best of our abilities and share our experiences to help others along the path. I admire Allison for her talent, generosity, and ability to inspire, and thank her for sharing her story with us here on my humble blog.

I also want to thank the writing community on Twitter. The support of fellow writers, both published and unpublished, along with many supportive agents, blows my mind on a daily basis.

In addition, a big thank you for the enthusiastic support I've received regarding my announcement about writing my first YA novel. This last week has been so exciting! I'm in awe of the muse. Simply in awe. I've written 13k words in five days, and they've been the easiest, most naturally-flowing words in my life. I still have that fear when I first sit down to write that nothing will come, but it's mixed with excitement - I can't wait to see what happens next! When I'm a bit further along, I promise to share more about the title and what the story's about. My deep thanks go to the writing gods. I bow to thee. (FYI: Go to atom.smash.org to create these AMAZING signs! Special thanks to my particularly cool blogging buddy Beth for the link.)

I'm sure most of you have seen this, but the magic of writing has been so in my face this week that I thought I'd share it again. Even if you've seen it, take the time to watch through it once more. If you're a writer or an artist, you'll get it. If you're not, but have a close friend or relative that has an artistic bent, this may help you understand them better.

And, of course, the biggest thanks go out to my family and friends who bring me more joy than I could have ever wished for, and certainly far more than I deserve. The fact that I get to share my life with them is, as Sarah Silverman would say, beyond.

Have a wonderful weekend y'all, and make sure you say a special prayer of thanks to the people who've helped you along your path and who continue to be your love and support. Tell them what they mean to you every chance you get. Sharing your life with them is nothing short of miraculous, and for miracles, we must always be grateful.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Lovely & Talented Author Allison Winn Scotch

I have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to another wonderful author, Allison Winn Scotch. She has written two best-selling novels and the third is on its way. She has been a mentor to me and has helped me greatly along my path. In other words, along with being beautiful and talented, she is also extremely generous.

Her first novel is called THE DEPARTMENT OF LOST AND FOUND and her second, which I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying is called TIME OF MY LIFE. Her third, THE ONE THAT I WANT is scheduled for release in June 2010.

Dear sweet, well-groomed readers, after you finish reading this post and have left a long-winded and highly complimentary comment on the magnificence of both Allison and this blog, run out to the bookstore or click on Amazon and buy both of her books. Seriously. Do it. I know who you are, where you live, and what books you buy. Okay, I don't. I was just trying to scare you.

Now, on with the interview!

You write for a lot of magazines. How did you break into that business?

It’s a VERY long story involving my mid-20s something-self trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do with my life, but the short story is that I was doing freelance PR work (after co-launching a website and doing all of the copy writing/PR writing for said site), when I got hired to ghostwrite The Knot Book of Wedding Flowers, for TheKnot.com. I was planning my wedding at the time, so I tossed off a pitch to Bride’s based on my experience writing the book on flowers, and voila, I landed a feature. I was SHOCKED. But from there, I had to claw for other assignments for a good long time…working my way up from front-of-books (FOBs) to features to eventually having editors seek me out for assignments. But it’s a long process and it took me many years of hard work and proving myself over and over again.

Do you think your success at writing magazine articles helped you find an agent for your novels?

Yes, but only as much as I still had to have a book that someone wanted to represent and thought she could sell. Do I think it got my query a second look? No doubt – agents love an author with a built-in platform and someone who has proven that she can write. But do I think the book would have sold if it had been crappy? No way.

What is your process for writing novels? Do you use outlines?

I don’t outline, though my last book was so agonizing that there were many times I thought I should. But I don’t, primarily because – as “writerly” and ridiculous as this sounds – I have no idea what’s going to happen from page one to page 300, and I always worry that if I were to outline, the action wouldn’t be as organic as I require it to be. What I mean by that (and again, I apologize that this sounds so incredibly lame and pretentious), is that my characters make their decisions as they grow from chapter to chapter, and often times, I’m surprised at where they go and lead me. If I decided on an ending before I knew who these people were going to evolve into, it would be like cramming them into a predetermined destiny without taking the journey into account. So…I just write and write and hopefully end up in the right place.

How long does it take you to complete a first draft?

It all depends – prior to writing THE ONE THAT I WANT. which is my third novel coming out June 2010, I’d have said two to three months. My debut took me three, TIME OF MY LIFE took me two. But THE ONE THAT I WANT was a beast…it was a very difficult book for me to write, because much of the plotline unfolds like a mystery, and since I didn’t know how all of the pieces of that mystery were going to fall into place (per the above), I really struggled with it. It was only until I was about 2/3 of the way done that I saw how all the puzzle pieces fit, and from there, I think I wrote the last 1/3 in about two weeks. But the first 2/3 took me about seven months.

How long for revisions?

Again, it depends on the book. I actually work pretty quickly through revisions ,because the hardest thing for me is putting down my first draft. Revisions for TIME OF MY LIFE probably took a month or so, and I had two big rounds of revisions for THE ONE THAT I WANT. All in all, that probably took about two months. But again, I enjoy that part – I’ve found that for me, I can sort of write as well as I can up to a certain point and then I need someone else to come in and show me where I can get better, where I’m going wrong. So I’m fortunate to have an editor and an agent who are both really talented at doing this.

When did you know you were ready to query?

Wow, that’s a good question. A tricky one actually, because I can say, with hindsight, that a lot of aspiring writers – myself included – think they’re ready to query when they’re actually not. I wrote a manuscript that got me representation but ultimately didn’t sell. I don’t regret it for one second because that unsold ms (which, btw, was HORRIBLE) was a learning lesson in how to write a good one, but I don’t know that I could have known and/or seen that at the time. I don’t really know how to explain it except to say that having written much better books, well, you come to recognize when it’s go-time. If you think you’re ready, have an honest critique partner take a look. I think it is nearly impossible for a first-time writer to be objective about his or her work – you just don’t have a basis for comparison. Now, having written several other books, I can tell where something in my book isn’t working. But before, I don’t think I could.

How long was it from the time you considered yourself a “serious” writer until the time you had a novel published?

Oh gosh, I don’t know! I don’t know that I even consider myself a “serious” writer now! But…I guess a few years. I was earning a good living as a freelancer, had editors coming to me instead of vice versa, and felt pretty comfortable in where I was. I started that unsold book about four years before I was actually a published fiction author, so I guess around then – when I wanted to try to flex different writing muscles and felt comfortable taking that leap.

You changed agents before your first novel THE DEPARTMENT OF LOST AND FOUND was published. Can you tell us a little about the agent search process?

It probably was just like a lot of other aspiring writers…I did a lot of research on Publishers Marketplace, AgentQuery.com and just plain old google to find agents whom I thought would be a good fit for the book AND for my personality. For me, it wasn’t just an issue of someone who enjoyed my writing; I wanted someone with whom I’d click so we could be in this for the long haul together. I sent out queries in batches of ten or so, and every time I got a ding, I sent out another one, so I always had a rotation of irons in the fire and never even thought twice about a rejection. Because I had a pretty polished manuscript (my former agent and I had already revised what went on to be THE DEPARTMENT OF LOST AND FOUND), I got a few offers pretty quickly – within a few weeks, if I recall. But it definitely shows that you can get an agent from a blind query – all of those interested parties and the offers were from agents whom I blind queried.

Has your experience been different between your first novel and your second novel?

Nope, not at all! Actually, that’s not totally true. For one, I’ve slowed down my freelancing to where I mostly just do celebrity interviews and profiles, and the occasional essay or feature when an editor asks. I have two young kids and the grind of the constant daily deadlines was pretty tiresome…so I’m truly fortunate to have transitioned to a writing lifestyle in which I have longer targets. For two, some people seem to think I should be a fancy-pants now that I’m a novelist! LOL. But I’m not. That’s just perception. Life is exactly the same, more or less, complete with my sweatpants, broken-in converse, and kids who won’t cut me a break!

What would
you advise to writers searching for an agent?

As I said above, be 300% sure that you’re ready to query. It’s such a hard thing to know, but I really think that one of the biggest mistakes aspiring writers make is thinking they’re better than they are. This isn’t a smug put-down. In fact, again, I speak from experience. The amazing thing about being a novelist is that there is no ceiling for the learning curve…I am STILL improving as I go, and so, too, should everyone else. You often only get one shot to submit a manuscript to these agents, so be sure that you’re putting your best work forward.

What about writers who aren’t quite to the query stage yet?

Just keep writing! Again, I truly believe that every time you step up to the plate, you give yourself a chance to improve, so keep swinging.

What’s your take on modern networking technologies like Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc?

My take is that they’re amazing. They’re incredible promotional tools, but also, they’re incredible ways to connect with your readers – to hear their feedback, to see what they’re interested in, and to make them more interested in you. I love all of them, and I’m grateful to everyone who takes some time to banter with me throughout the day.

Would you advise writers attend writer’s conferences?

You know, I never did, but I’m sure that they’re useful. So I really can’t comment on them too much. I know that my agent goes and speaks on panels, and I’m sure they’re a good way to learn more about the business, and that can never really be a bad thing.

Have you ever had a bad review? If so, how did you deal with it?

Ha ha! Is the world round? Is the Pope Catholic? Does the sun set in the west? YES, I have. More than one – plenty. People seem to love to take out their inner-snark on online review sites, and well, there’s not too much that an author can do about it. So how do I deal? Well, I often read them and then try to forget about them entirely. I was once eviscerated in the Washington Post, and after a few days of shock, I just totally blocked it out. I mean – what was my option? Stew, cry, go down to Washington and try to buy every last copy? Nope, all you can do is accept that this is part of the deal and move on. (I will say, however, that if there are collective threads of criticism, I do ruminate on them for a bit to see if there’s some truth behind them, and if so, I’ll keep it in mind when writing my next book.)

What are you currently working on and do you have a tentative release date?


Right now, at this exact moment, I am working on nothing!! Hallelujah! Actually, that’s not true – I’m working on some celeb profiles, but no fiction. I literally filed my final draft of THE ONE THAT I WANT last week, and now I’m just taking a breather. I need to fully purge these characters from my mental landscape, and once I do, I’ll start up on another book. Probably in a few months, but I need to be 100% sure they’re out of my system. I started THE ONE THAT I WANT too soon after TIME OF MY LIFE, and the voices kept competing with each other for attention.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us in regards to your writing journey?

Just a thank you for having me! And for tweeting with me and following me on my blog, if you do! I really appreciate everyone who interacts with me – so thanks!

Again, thank you, Allison, for your time and willingness to share your journey with us. I want to be just like you when, I mean if, I grow up.

And readers, if you have questions for Allison, feel free to post them in the comment section. I'll bribe her with some chocolate to stop back by and answer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hooray, Oy Vey, I'm Writing YA! (Sucky title/poem for like a MAJORLY important post!)

Those of you who know me may be shocked by the title of this post, and justifiably so. But, it's not a teaser to make you click on my blog to increase my stat hits thereby boosting my ego and making me feel like less of a loser (not that I'm above that by any means).

Nope, it's actually a true story. I'm writing YA!!! Not only is it YA, but it's YA FANTASY!!! That means I get to write about things that don't really exist, precisely like JK Rowling, except without her mind-bending genius, ethereal beauty, and millions of dollars.

I don't know how it happened given (WARNING: True Confession Alert!) I've never read a single YA book in my life. I have, however, seen movies. I know, crazy, right? But it's not my fault. I blame my overactive imagination. I couldn't sleep for the last few nights due to a certain phrase I'd written in my current wip MURDER ON SONGBIRD LANE. These two particular words kept buzzing in my brain like an annoying fly that refused to die. According to my manager (aka "husband"), I'm not yet at liberty to give those two precious words away nor any of the plot line. (And don't hate me all you query-haters out there, but I've already written the query!) I'm up to page four of this new wip, and it's like so ohmygod, totally, awesome!!!! Who knew writing teenage characters could be such a major blast? Hell, last time I checked, I didn't even like teenagers!

TO RECAP:
I've now written two women's fiction novels, one and a half mysteries, and .0000001 YA books. I am like so totally stoked about this, dudes! It's like majorly sic! BTW, no need to worry. My characters SO don't talk in this annoying fashion in my INCREDIBLE new YA novel called.... (Oops, I almost gave it away!)

And, don't worry about MURDER ON SONGBIRD LANE being lost to the world. I'm just shy of 45,000 words, exactly where I'm supposed to be. My first-draft target date is still Thanksgiving, and unless my new YA masterpiece completely overtakes me, I intend to meet that goal.

OMG! I can't believe I just told the whole world I'm writing YA! Crap! That means I really have to do it! (Bites nails and considers getting hair streaked pink and face pierced in order to fully get into the YA groove.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Writers Have Big..... HEARTS!

First of all, I'd like to thank Kristina Riggle for her wonderful interview. Kris - You're an inspiration to writers everywhere. Your time and thoughtful answers are greatly appreciated. The ripple effect of your inspired words will manifest over time. There is no way to measure the gratitude or count the creative ideas you've sparked in the minds of others. I thank you and wish you the greatest success with Real Life & Liars and all your upcoming works.

Kristina is the perfect example of what I've realized lately: writers have big hearts. We are dedicated and devoted not only to our own writing, but to each others' work as well. In other words, we are our own biggest cheerleaders. (If only we could look this good!!)

And, it doesn't matter where we are along our path. Whether you're a newbie just dipping your toes in the tepid writing waters, or a big-time best-selling author, we all have something in common - our love for the written word and for the simple wonder of telling a story.

There are many writers I've encountered lately who have been helpful to me along my journey. They are unselfish folks who possess generous, creative, beautiful souls. I am honored and humbled to have crossed their paths. Some I will be interviewing over the next few months, some I've had great "conversations" with via Twitter and/or e-mail, and all have left a deep impression upon my heart. They've made a difference in my relationship to my writing, and there is no way to properly thank someone for that kind of unselfish devotion.

The desire to elevate our own ideas and hone our own craft is one thing. It's natural to want to improve, expand and become the best writers we can be. But, to take the time to support others along the way is a tremendous gift. The desire to elevate those around you is what makes the journey of life so much more meaningful. Knowing there are kindred spirits willing to give of their time and experience is, for me, part of what makes the writing journey so fulfilling.

Of course, writers aren't the only people willing to contribute. I've come across many agents who are funny, helpful, and more than willing to give of their time and expertise to help writers along their way. My gratitude to them can not be measured.

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in the woes of the economy and how it's effecting the industry, but staying focused on our work is what matters. As writers, it is all we have and all we will ever have. The ability to pour our hearts and souls on to the written page and move others to tears, laughter, bliss, rapture, fear, reflection, and all manner of human emotion, is thrilling, transformative, a privilege, and a joy.

So, here's a toast: To writers everywhere, no matter where you are along your path, may you be filled with inspiration, passion, and the desire to write to your heart's content. And to the agents who help make our dreams come true. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interview with Kristina Riggle, Author of Real Life & Liars

Welcome, Kristina! First of all, I'm thrilled you made time to grace my blog with this interview. I LOVED Real Life & Liars, and am excited to learn more about your road to publication. To all my readers out there, please take my advice and RUN to your nearest bookstore to buy Kristina's book. You can thank me later with chocolate Toblerone bars or gift certificates to DSW shoes.

Is real life & liars your first book?

First published novel, fifth completed novel manuscript.

Why is the title all in lower case on the cover?

This was a cover-design decision; it just looks nice. The title written elsewhere can be capitalized normally. Interestingly, I named it REAL LIFE AND LIARS, but it was changed to use the ampersand after the cover design, I suspect because the ampersand looks better. I didn't mind the change, and I'm in love with every aspect of my cover.

I agree! I love the cover. How long did it take you to write the first draft? How long for revisions?

If I'd been writing straight through, it would have been about a year, but I had a baby in the middle of writing it, so it was closer to 15 months. I can't remember how much of that was revision (postpartum brain fog, I guess). People ask me how I did that, and I honestly don't really know. It seems impossible, looking back!

The POV's in the book are interesting. You've got Mira, the main character, written in first person, and the rest of the characters in third person. Was that hard to pull off? What made you decide to write it that way?

I wanted to flag Mira's story as the central arc of the plot, though all the POV characters are important. Also, she was such a strong and vibrant character it seemed like she needed to speak for herself.

How many people and what types of readers (family, beta readers, friends, writing group) read your book before you started querying?

A couple of trusted writer friends and one friend who is a discerning reader.

How did you know you were "ready" to start querying?


When I didn't know anymore if further changes would wreck it or improve it. At some point, you just reach a limit; I'm not sure if we're ever truly "done." I still run across sentences in LIARS that I would edit now. I edited one on the fly when reading publicly the other day. Writers can't stop fiddling, I suppose.

I couldn't agree more! I can't imagine the day when I'd read any of my three finished manuscripts and not want to change things.

If you don't mind sharing some of your querying statistics with us, I'm sure my readers would love to hear about them. For example, how many queries did you send out and how many agents requested material, etc.


I don't know if I want to dig up the exact numbers, but I'll tell you this: I targeted my search to only my top-flight choices. As such, because I was aiming high, I did not have a huge number of requests for pages. I'm pleased with my strategy, though, because Kristin Nelson took me on. And, it didn't take that long, either. Six weeks or so.

Only six weeks? That's incredible. I hope all my readers haven't just reached for the poison.

Was there a point during the querying process that you thought you wouldn't find an agent? If so, how did you deal with your self-doubt?


Not really, this time. But Kristin is not my first agent, nor was this manuscript my first to go out into the world of agents. I just kept plugging away figuring I'd get better and hit the magic combination someday. Plus, if I gave up, all the previous work would have been wasted.

I love the idea that if you give up, all your work is wasted. I'm going to try to keep that thought in the forefront of my mind at all times What advice would you give writers who are currently working on their first novel?

Write as often as you can to keep up your momentum, consider criticism carefully (even it it alarms you, give it a chance before rejecting it), and don't be afraid to move on from your first novel if it seems no one wants it. No writing is wasted, and you're a much better writer when you start the second novel (and third, and fourth...).

What about writers who are currently in the querying process?

Don't take it all too personally, stay cool and professional, and start working on another project while your novel makes the rounds. It will make you feel less like all your eggs are in one basket. Worst case, you have another novel ready to query if you don't get lucky with the existing one. Best case, you have an idea for the second book of a two-book deal when your agent submits your first book.

How did you and Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency "find each other?"

I'd been following her blog for years, and had queried her before, so she was on my list of smart, savvy agents to target. I happened to know one of her clients and so I did have a referral, but lest anyone think I had the keys to the kingdom, she still only asked for a partial at first, not the full. Kristin has used my query letter as a positive example at conferences, and she has assured me she would have requested pages anyway, without the referral. In the end, it's still about the work.

What made you decide she was the right agent for you?


I liked the way she operated, which I already knew from her blog, before I even sent her the query. And, she loved the book so much, how could I say no?

You've just hit the proverbial nail on the head of the not-yet-published writers biggest dream: To have an agent they admire fall in love with their writing. What a thrill that must be!

Okay, here's my favorite question: Where were you when you got "the call?" Did you scream? Yell? Stop strangers on the street to tell them the good news?


I was out when the call came in, Christmas shopping, in fact. So I got the news via e-mail and voice mail, pretty much both at once. I was trying to open a candy cane for my son and my hands were shaking, so I dropped it on the floor. It shattered and he cried. Considering that, it's probably best I hadn't given Kristin my cell number. I'd hate to think what would have happened it I'd gotten the call in the car!

Good point. If I get a call while I'm driving that I'm pretty sure is from my dream agent, I'll be sure to pull over first! Now, to change course a bit, what do you think about networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc?

Some writers think of it as a distracting chore, but I look at these tools as ways to connect with and communicate with readers. If you're smart about time management, it doesn't have to be a drain from writing time. I use different "muscles" for tweets and Facebook, etc., versus writing. I can send a tweet or update Facebook while my kids play at my feet, for example, but I don't try to write novels when they're around (talk about futility!) I only blog weekly, though, that's as much as I can handle. (First at The Debutante Ball group blog, and now at Red Room.)

What are you currently working on, and when can we hope to see it in the bookstores?

THE LIFE YOU IMAGINED will be out in August 2010 from Avon/HarperCollins about three friends and a mother who learn to cope with life as it is, not as they planned, in the fictional lakeshore town of Haven, Michigan.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us about your writing journey?

The journey is ongoing! I suspect many aspiring writers (and I fell prey to this myself, believe me) feel like once the book deal is signed, that they've won some kind of race and everything will be fabulous from then on. Well, it is different - better! - but there are no guarantees. It's a tough business, so don't retire that thick skin once you find a publisher.

Thick skin? Oh, yeah, that. I'm working on it... Kristina, thank you SO much for your time and insights into the world of a successfully published writer. I hope you know you are an inspiration to me and many other up and coming writers. Namaste, I bow to you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I'm a Sucker for a Happy Ending

TEASER: I've got a very special interview I'll be posting with a very special someone soon. Hint: She's written a WONDERFUL book you've probably heard of. Stay tuned...

I watched part of the MTV's VMA awards last night and was struck by something. There are people with class who are all about being grateful and gracious, and there are people who are self-centered and evil.

Even if you didn't see it, you've probably heard about how Kanye West, in a drunken rage, stole Taylor Swift's much-deserved moment in the spotlight. He literally grabbed the mic out of her hand and proceeded to tell Taylor and The World that Beyonce was the one who deserved the award. And maybe you also heard how Beyonce, a woman strikingly beautiful both inside and out, gave up her moment of glory in order to allow Taylor the moment she was viciously denied.

This whole scenario could be broken down into a great, yet fairly simple, story outline: Good girl wins, Bad guy steals her glory, Second good girl restores 1st girl's limelight.

But this was so much more than a two-dimensional story line. It was real life happening in real time before millions of people. What I find fascinating as a writer are the motivations behind the actions. What motivates people to act certain ways in certain circumstances? How does a teenager deal with an extreme high and extreme low within moments on national TV? It reminded me of the prom scene in "Carrie" where Carrie is crowned Prom Queen only to have blood spilled all over her causing utter humiliation and devastation, thereby destroying her greatest moment. Thankfully, Taylor is all about class and composure and didn't turn into a crazed killer like Sissy Spacek, although no one would have blamed her if she gave Kanye a SWIFT kick in his package right then and there!

Fortunately, Taylor isn't the violent type and she wasn't humiliated. Kanye was. Or, at least, he should have been. Why? Because his motivation was spurred by narcissism and alcohol. How dare he take such a well-deserved moment away from someone else? What gave him the right? What could possibly motivate someone to perform such a hateful, selfish act in a public venue? (Or any venue, for that matter.) And Beyonce - her beauty radiating to the heavens - gladly and purposefully handed Taylor back her moment of glory. Why? Because, as she stated, she knows what it's like to be 17 and receive an award like that in front of peers and fans. She wasn't about to let Taylor's moment slip away. She is an angel in human's clothing.

What motivates your characters? Are they selfish, narcissistic, kind, generous, sneaky, nurturing? Do they have different motivations with different people? They should. People are complex. We have many sides, personality traits, and motivations. Remember this as you write. Make your characters three-dimensional, not two. Give that angst-filled teenager a sweet moment with her mom. Have the always generous neighbor make a shallow comment about someone's rickety fence. But, make sure it's genuine for the character. Aren't we all complicated creatures? Of course, we are! Make sure your characters are, too.

As a writer, the human drama unfolding on TV last night was compelling. As a human, it was beautiful, distressing, and then beautiful once again. Thank you, Beyonce. I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

Also, Happy B-Day to one of my bestest friends in the whole, wide world. You know who you are. Give yourself a hug from me.;-)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It's a Girl!!! And, Don't Call Me "Tomato Face"

I HAVE A NEW NIECE!!! My sister, Michelle, gave me the greatest present last night - a brand new beautiful baby niece! (How did she know what I wanted? And, yes, it really is all about me.) She was born at 8:26 PM MST and her name is (drum roll please...) DEVYN RAE BISCHOFF! Isn't that beautiful? Um, no it's not. It's freaking GORGEOUS!

I'm sensing a Devyn appearing in my next book. She'll be beautiful, brilliant, talented and generous. She'll create world peace and find the cure for all types of cancer. And, she'll be elected President of The Universe and win America's Top Model. Ooh, I'm feeling so inspired!

The only problem is, my new niece is in Denver and I'm in Philly. I'll have to wait over three, long, excruciating weeks to see her.

To Michelle and Travis: May you be blessed with a lifetime of joy and happiness with your beautiful new bundle of love. I can't wait to give that little butterbean a face full of kisses and a brand new wardrobe! (How old does she have to be before we can go shoe shopping together? What about fine, supersoft, leather handbags?)

IN OTHER NEWS...
I received many insightful comments on whether or not to leave my current wip in the dust and move on to the next project that's seductively calling my name. Although I love it when anyone or anything seductively calls my name, I've made a decision. My current novel is the second in a mystery series, but both MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE and MURDER ON SONGBIRD LANE are easily stand-alones. Because of that, I'm going to forge ahead. I'm having too much fun with the quirky, naughty characters in this book. Heck, they'd probably follow me over to "new project" and haunt me (or, knowing them, flash me) until I finished, so why bother?

Plus, I'm at 40k words, so I'm nearing the halfway point. If I quit now, people will make fun of me, call me a loser, shun me, and throw tomatoes in my face. I love tomatoes but not when they're splattered all over my face. For no other reason than I don't want anyone calling me, "Tomato Face" I'm finishing the book.

IN EVEN
MORE NEWS...
The lovely Kelly Hartog of Kellifornia Dreaming has deemed it fit to honor me with a Kreativ Blogger award, which I am most humbled to receive. In addition to being a writer extraordinaire, Kelly is an actress, journalist, and has lived in four different countries. You simply MUST check her out. I'm verklempt to be acknowledged by her.

And here comes the technical part:

KREATIV BLOGGER AWARD RULES:

  • 1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
  • 2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
  • 3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
  • 4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
  • 5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
  • 6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
  • 7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated
Number 1 - Check!
Number 2 - Check!
Number 3 - Check!
Number 4 - Uh oh...

Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
Okay, fine. Here goes:
1) I have performed my original music on stage and had my music played on the radio. We still perform live. You can check out our music here. (Note stage name: Jamie Keys)
2) I'm the oldest of four girls (or "faw gawgiss dawtas" as my mom w/her Queens drawl used to say before Colorado tamed her accent!)
3) I met my husband, Chuck, when I moved to Huntington Beach, California to start a band with his best friend.
4) Chuckie and I got together the day John Lennon was killed: 12.08.1980.
5) I worked as a marketing manager for architects and engineers and had my own marketing business. I've also worked as an interior decorator.
6) Both my kids are amazing musicians. (Drums and guitar.)
7) It took me over 14 years to write my first my first novel, about a year for the second, and six months to write my last two.

Number 4 - Check!
Number 5 - Uh oh...

Here are the seven bloggers I nominate for their extreme creativity in approach to their blogging:

1 - The BRILLIANT and TALENTED Koralee at Bluebird Notes. This is my go-to sight whenever I need an instant lift. The soft, soothing blues and mind-bending photos on this blog are not to be believed. I've got her on retainer to design my novel covers.

2 - My soul sista PenPen from Penny Lane Sugar Spun Dreams fame. She is the coolest. She reminds me of an earlier and much cooler version of myself. We share so many important values like the love of cupcakes and our mutual girl-crush for Katy Perry!!! Stop by her place and give her a kiss for me.

3 - Jody Hedlund at On The Path. Hey, some of my best friends are Christian! I LOVE her sight. She's recently been agented by the lovely and talented Rachelle Gardner and her posts on the writer's journey have proven invaluable to me.

4 - My friend, Suzy, a teacher, is brilliant and beautiful. I can't wait to meet her one of these days and share our stories in person. Her blog Tales of Extraordinary Ordinariness is filled with well-written prose on her journey through life.

5 - If you love shoes, you can't miss out on Susan Mill's blog A Walk in My Shoes. She's a YA writer who has pics of some really great shoes on her blog. Her writing is fresh and genuine. Did I mention she loves shoes?

6 - To show how open-minded I can be, I - a vegetarian - am nominating a very fun sight with a great name: The Vegetable Assassin. She doesn't really like awards, but oh well, too bad. She's a crack-up and you should check her out.

7 - And one of my favorite peeps on the world wide web is Mandy at Mandy's Life After 30. She helped design her beach-splashed website, and it's a great place to hang out. She also writes novels and clever poems about her life. She just all around rocks.

Number 5 - Check!
Number 6 - Check!
Number 7 - Uh oh... (Don't worry, it'll get done.)

Thanks again, Kelly. Virtual hugs right back atcha!

Have a great weekend, y'all. I don't know about you, but I'm an aunt again!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

WWJD? What Would Janet (Evanovich) Do?

"Am I writing the right book?" Strange question, but Jessica Faust's blog yesterday got me thinking. I'm halfway through the second book in a mystery series. The characters are colorful and quirky, the dialog fun, spicy, and unexpected, and the setting is divine (the beach, baby!). But I'm not sure the plot is strong enough. It may be, but I'm just not sure. I've also had this vague tickle at the back of my mind, kind of like a feather barely brushing against my neck, calling me in another direction. Uh-oh, there's another book in the ether begging to be written. What should I do?

Jessica was addressing what to do while waiting for "The Call." This is what she said that caught my attention: "My advice is to move on to your next book (making sure it’s not the next book in series) and keep writing." What? Making sure it's NOT the next book in a series? Why not? I'd never heard that from an agent before. I wondered, "WWJD?" (What Would Janet (Evanovich) Do?) Jessica went on to say, "With each book your writing improves and you learn more about yourself and your craft and that’s the smartest thing a writer can do."

I fully agree with this sentiment. I've written four novels so far, and am halfway through the fifth. With each book, I feel as if I've been catapulted to a whole new level of writing. It's both exhilarating and painful. Exhilarating because you see your craft improving, and painful because, well writing first drafts can be tedious, gut-wrenching work. You're not sure exactly where the story's going. You doubt your ability to "pull it off." (We writers are experts at self-doubt!) You stare at a blank page and can't imagine you have what it takes to fill it in with something others will find compelling. It's the opposite of common sense. But, that is part of what makes writing so spectacular. The not knowing. The not being sure of yourself. The belief in your talents and in the muse - things which can't be felt or seen - but you know are there. The willingness to throw your proverbial hat over the proverbial fence thereby following the literal unknown.

Being a writer takes courage. It takes determination. It takes a deep desire to tell stories that make a difference for people. It's willing yourself to be on a perpetual roller-coaster ride with all the unexpected twists and turns. And if you're looking for an agent and publication, it's the type of ride that flips you upside down and smacks you in the head. Oh, and while you're being smacked silly, you need to stay calm and clear-minded - like a monk - in order to capture the nuances and direction your characters and story need to go. Sure, no problem. Who couldn't do that?

And, although the roller-coaster is the scariest ride at the carnival, and some days I'd much prefer the sweet, peaceful carousel (especially if it's in Paris!), I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now, I just need to figure out if I should continue on with MURDER ON SONGBIRD LANE, or start the novel whose feather is tickling my neck. I wonder, What Would Janet Do?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Home Sweet Home! Or Chelsea Handler Girl Crush, Buddha Revisions, & Baby Watch

The bad news and the good news is we're back from the beach. It's bad because I love the beach. I love everything about it. The glistening ocean, the waves crashing on the shore, the seagulls, the sand, the shells, the hot guys on surfboards, and especially the beach chair equipped with cup holder.

The good news is, I love being home. Home Sweet Home. In fact, I recently won a contest where you had to describe "home" in five words. My winning entry was: Home is where I'm complete. I know, sappy, but true. But, hey, I won a copy of, "After You," by Julie Buxbaum, so it was well worth straining my brain cells for!

Back to my weekend. Here I am with the lovely Allison Winn Scotch's amazing book "Time of My Life." Don't we look happy together? Yes, we were. In fact, we still are, since I'm not done reading it yet. But, I am loving it. If you haven't picked yourself up a copy, what are you waiting for? Hurry, run! Before they're all gone! I also managed to get a good amount of writing done on the beach. This was an unexpected bonus, since I gave myself a writing break over the weekend.

On Saturday night, we took a leisurely (NOT!) hour and a half drive down to Atlantic City to see one of my all-time heroes - the beautiful and hilarious Chelsea Handler. Man, do I have a girl crush! Here are a few pics. Note the shoes. They were like butta. I wanted to jump on stage, kiss her cute face, and rip those shoes right off her feet. Can you blame me? Do you see those shoes? (You're welcome for the close-up.) Thankfully, self-control got the better of me, but, trust me, it wasn't easy.

How's my writing going, you ask? Totally freaking awesome, that's how it's going. Of course, that may be a total lie. I'm about halfway through my first draft, so at this point, I have no clear idea if the story makes any sense at all. That's okay, though. I'm having fun. I love the characters and the dialogue, and I'm fairly sure there's a cohesive story there somewhere. We'll see what happens after the first draft is done. That's when Buddha steps in. He's the guy who invented revisions and editing. Yeah, that's right. Revisions and editing were Buddha's ideas. He wasn't just fat, he was smart as well. And, that, my friends, explains why writing is such a spiritual experience.

IN OTHER NEWS...
My family and I are on 'baby watch' for my youngest sister. I try not to call her my "little" sister or "baby" sister anymore - she doesn't like those endearing terms. She's 9 months pregnant, so I suppose little or baby are wildly inappropriate. She's due any minute. Literally. Any. Minute. Her due date is... TODAY! We're holding our collective breath and anxiously waiting itty-bitty-baby-Bischoff. Come out, little baby (words used appropriately here). Come out and play with Aunt Debbie! Uh, oh. I hope that's not why the baby hasn't come out yet...

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