Monday, June 29, 2009

Avon by the Sea...

Have I told you how great my life is? As they say, a picture's worth a thousand words. Here are a few from our anniversary weekend in beautiful Avon by the Sea "down the shore" in NJ, not far from Asbury Park where Bruce Springsteen grew up.

I promise all these photos are G-rated. I'm saving the X-rated ones for a later post! (You're welcome or I'm sorry, depending on your preference.)

The first night we were there a wicked storm blew through. I love a good storm, and this one was a doozie! There were cloud formations like we'd never seen, rain pouring down in sheets, and thunder and lightening so bright and frequent that it felt like a prelude to the upcoming 4th of July fireworks.

That night we were seated at table 27. This number is significant to us because it's the day we got married, and it's our favorite number. In fact, before we called our musical selves Karma Chain, we were known as 27 Dreams.

Also, while we were there, we drove by a party in a VERY upscale neighborhood and nearly traded paint with a black Bentley - that's how close we were. The guy driving the mansion of a car looked down upon us in our Lexus SUV like it was a beat-up Dodge Dart and we'd just escaped from the local prison.

I finished my edit on MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE a few hours ago and am getting ready to send it to the agent who requested the full. There's also an agent who has the first six chapters. (They're both INCREDIBLE agents. I'm beyond blessed to have them read my work.) In addition, I'll be writing the query and will start marketing MTC as the first in a cozy mystery series later this week.

It was a great weekend. Wish you were there. (Have I mentioned I don't always tell the truth on my blog?) I hope you enjoy the pics!

Friday, June 26, 2009

MJ - Artist, Performer, and Songwriter Extraordinaire

I don't normally do this, but it's not every day we lose a musical icon. I'm linking to my short tribute to Michael Jackson in the Philadelphia Examiner. Enjoy and do yourself a favor - listen to a little Michael this weekend.

Chuck and I are heading "down the shore" for some R&R at a B&B to celebrate our anniversary. I'll report back on at least some of our weekend's activities on Monday.;-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sketch vs Masterpiece

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post. I'll let you know how it goes...

I'm deep into tweaking my latest novel "MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE." It's a cozy mystery that has been way too much fun to write! I've brought some of the characters along from "SPARKS FLY SOMETIMES: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK PRINCESS," and it's interesting to see them tossing a ball in a different field.

What I've realized is that the first draft is like a pencil sketch. When you're done, anyone can look at it, understand it, and appreciate it. It's already a work of art. However, the editing is where the masterpiece comes to life. It's where vibrant colors and subtle brush strokes turn your sketch into a textured masterpiece.

I'm currently adding color and brush strokes to my finished sketch. Bear with me if I'm not as attentive as usual. I'm finding out what I already know: the more you paint, the better of an artist you become.

Rich, vibrant colors and subtle textures to all. And remember: little by little all your sweet dreams come true. ;-)

(Oh, and a big, fat, Happy Birthday to one of my favorite followers!)

Monday, June 22, 2009

There's a Girl I Know...

There's a girl I know who was beaten by her father. In fact, he spent yesterday - Father's Day - in a jail cell.

When she was younger, she cut herself. She also starved herself and made herself sick. When that didn't ease the pain, she turned to drugs.

She's a beautiful girl and the bruises on her forehead and the ones that look like fingers on her neck can't mask that. But they do make her just a little bit sadder.

I love her and want to help, but besides giving her safe shelter, there's only so much I can do. There's a hearing later this week if she decides to press charges. Doing that may put her well-being in jeopardy. She's a teenager and could end up going into foster care.

Her mom is a lovely woman; frail, beautiful, and deeply religious. Another victim of abuse. She doesn't want to lose her daughter and still loves her husband, so she's hoping charges aren't brought. But, she's torn. She wants her daughter to be safe and at the same time is aware her husband needs help. Alcohol is a big part of the problem, but he's not ready to admit that. And, of course, that's never the whole story...

Please keep this girl in your thoughts and prayers. Pray for her healing physically, psychically, and spiritually. She is so very special - full of life, light, and promise.

My deepest thanks and blessings to all. Namaste.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Message from The All

When I was 18, I wrote a song called, "We All Exist in the Mind of The All." Long title, I know, but it had a mesmerizing hook that, to this day, is often stuck in my head.

These days, I receive messages from The All on a daily basis. They come in the form of a Daily Kabbalah Tune-Up. They usually appear when I'm editing or writing. I'll hear the familiar "ding!" from my inbox and get that anxious, excited feeling. Hoping it's an agent wanting a full or, better yet, Random House writing to tell me they found me through a Google search and are sure I'm the next JK Rowling, I click over to my email. I see "Yehuda Berg" in the "from" column and am instantly disappointed and annoyed. But, I know better than to mess with the Universe, so I always open the email. Here's one I got a few days ago:

Why are we so afraid of what people think of us? They’re going to judge us anyway, so we might as well be ourselves and let them think what they want. Confront this fear today. Be yourself. Spill your truth. Let you be you.

Damn! How did the Powers that Be know I was cowering in fear over what a certain agent will think of a certain ms she's reading? Let it go, Debbie, let it go. It is what it is and it will be how it's meant to be.

Here's the Daily Tune-Up from yesterday:

Having a routine can sometimes keep you stuck. It's a bit like riding an elevator that is going backwards. When we're into our routine, we are stuck on that backwards moving elevator. What good does that do us? How do we break that cycle, how do we move forward?

Today, find a way to break your routines, to fight the pull of the elevator. In order to grow and transform spiritually we have to be constantly willing to change it up.

But, I LOVE my routine! It totally ROCKS! Fine, whatever, I'll change it up.

How do you receive messages from the cosmos? Do you heed them or look the other way? Come on, people. Spill your truth.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Baltimore Bliss

Baltimore's the bomb! I'm here with Chuck and my parents, and we're staying in the Inner Harbor area, which is fun, beautiful, and lively. Duck Tours, trolley rides, water taxis, museums, shops and amazing seafood abound. Chuckie is taking a class from Johns Hopkins for his MPH program - Masters of Public Health - which is the "reason" we're here. Well, it's the reason he's here. The three of us are tagging along mainly for the kickass seafood.

We're staying at the Marriott Waterfront overlooking the marina, which is awesome. However, if I won the lottery I'd buy a condo at the Ritz Carlton waterside. They're absofreakingmagnificent! Of course, for over a million dollars, they should be. I'd also buy a nice, modest-sized yacht in the $250,00-500,000 range - you know, so I could more easily get to dinner at the Rusty Scupper, Oceanaire, Ruth's Chris, or McCormick and Schmick's. After all, I wouldn't want to ruin my sparkly, new, imaginary, 4" spike Manolo Blahniks walking from my multi-million dollar condo to a plethora of expensive restaurants. Plus, I'd love to have my own skipper, or whatever the hell it is you call the topless, ripped, male model who steers your imaginary boat.

Tonight we went to Camden Yards and watched the Mets beat the Orioles 6-4. The birds made a valiant comeback in the bottom of the ninth, but they couldn't overcome the awesomeness of My Mets. (For those of you paying particularly close attention, I'm also a Colorado Rockies fan. But before I knew there was land beyond the Hudson, I was a Mets fan and, as everyone knows, you never fully get over your first love. LET'S GO METS!!!)

I hope you enjoy these photos taken from our time at Longwood Gardens in PA as well as in Baltimore. Chuck and I will be here through Saturday, but unfortunately, Mom and Dad are heading back to Denver tomorrow. It's been great, as always, spending time together. I look forward to doing it again soon...;-)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Must See TV, I Mean Blog Post!

Please hop on over to Kae and Jon Tienstra's blog. They're literary agents located here in the great state of PA. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Kae this past Tuesday (and enjoying a rocking tuna club sandwich!), and she asked me to write about my recent conference experiences for her blog. That's us above after our wonderful lunch at a local diner.

And, thanks for all your wonderful wishes to the parental units. They're greatly enjoying reading your comments, so keep those cards and letters coming!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

HIDE THE DANCING GIRLS! Parental Units Arriving Shortly!

Yes, it's true. I have a mom and a dad. And they're flying out from Denver to see their favorite eldest daughter and her lovely sons, handsome husband, and six cats this very afternoon. In honor of their impending arrival, I thought I'd post the Top 10 Things You May Not Know About Judy & Fred:

1) They met on a blind date in the late 50's that took place in a bowling alley. She was wearing a pair of black and white saddle shoes, a poodle skirt, and a button-down sweater, and he had his hair slicked back and was wearing jeans with a pack of cigs rolled up in his white t-shirt. Very James Dean. My mom thought he was really sexy because he blew perfect smoke rings. (Thankfully, he quit that nasty habit when I, his Little Princess, was wee royalty.)

2) My mom got her college degree at the age of 41 in Health Care Management and Finance after pursuing it in between the births of faw, gawgiss dawtas (yeah, we lived on Long Island, baby!).

3) My dad has his Master's Electrical license and has his own electrical business. His college degree is in commercial art. (Go figure!)

4) My mom is the Past President of the Western Section of MGMA - Medical Group Management Association, an organization that has about 25,000 members nationwide.

5) My dad went through basic training in Ft. Lenordwood, MO and was in the army in Buckroe Beach, VA when I was a baby. It was when Kennedy activated the troops for the Berlin Wall Crisis. Fortunately, he wasn't called to Germany.

6) My mom is the Executive Practice Manager for the doctor's at Craig Hospital, a world renown hospital for patients with spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. She's been there over 30 years.

7) My dad grew up on Coney Island selling trinkets to tourists on the boardwalk. Some of his high-school friends included Carole King, Lou Gossett, Jr., and Neil Sedaka.

8) My mom was a severe asthmatic as a child, and at the age of 13 moved by herself from Queens, NY to Denver, CO to live at CARIH - the Children's Asthma Research Institute and Hospital . CARIH became National Jewish, the number one hospital in America for allergy and immunology. As an adult, she has been, for the most part, asthma-free. She was also diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, underwent treatment, and is now cancer-free!

9) My dad is a hardcore Colorado sports fan - Rockies, Nuggets, Avalanche, Broncos - he LOVES them all! (As do the rest of us!)

10) My mom and dad will be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary in September!

11) (Sorry, I had to add another - just like in the movie Spinal Tap when the amp goes up to 11. Why? Well, that's easy! Cause it's one higher than 10!) MY MOM AND DAD ARE THE GREATEST PARENTS A LITTLE PRINCESS COULD EVER HAVE!!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About...SIKHS (but were afraid to ask!)

Last night I had the privilege of attending a surprise 50th birthday party for my husband's boss, who happens to be one of the most intelligent, kind, generous and compassionate men we've ever known. He also happens to be a Sikh. In the book, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sikhs, But Were Afraid to Ask*" I discovered the following:

1) Sikhism is the 5th largest organized religion in the world with approximately 26 million members, 75% of which live in Panjub, India;
2) They believe in a universal God that is formless vs. a God that is human-like. One can interpret God as the Universe itself;
3) Salvation can be reached only through rigorous and disciplined devotion to God;
4) The Gurū Granth Sāhib and the Dasam Granth are the two primary scriptures of sikhs;
5) The religion was formed in the 15th and 16th centuries;
6) Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, lived from 1469-1538;
7) Their place of prayer is called the "Gurdwara" meaning "doorway to God";
8) Sikhs participate in daily recitation from memory of specific passages from the Gurū Granth Sāhib;
9) Sikhism is not a form of Islam;
10) Upon a child's birth, the Guru Granth Sāhib is opened at a random point and the child is named using the first letter on the top left-hand corner of the left page;
11) All boys are given the middle name or surname Singh and all girls are given the middle name or surname Kaur;
12) Religiously speaking, neither husband nor wife are permitted to divorce, although this may be done through a civil court;
13) Baptised Sikhs are ordered to wear the Five K's which include wearing a kara, a circular iron bracelet, and kes, not cutting their hair (the turbans the men wear hold a lifetime's worth of hair).

I'm a vegetarian and Indian is my favorite food, so me and the buffet got quite chummy. The women's gorgeous, brilliantly colored, silk outfits were like ohmygod to die for, and the DJ played all current Indian music with dashes of Bollywood, Michael Jackson, and rap all mixed together. Both young and old knew all the words to all of the songs (in Punjabi), and men danced with men and women with women, although there was also a bit of "mixed" dancing.

Until last night, I thought we Jews had it hands down when it came to throwing a great party. But, I have to say - the competition from the Sikhs is MIGHTY fierce!!!

Here are some pictures from the party. The first is of the birthday boy and his lovely wife (who really knows how to take over the dance floor!); next is the Cake Ceremony attended by the family; and last, some of the beautiful women in their magnificent garments (note the long, luxurious hair). If I play my cards right (I love Spider Solitaire and Hearts), maybe I'll be Indian in my next life.

*There is no book by that name, although it sounds dangerously similar to a book I may or may not have read over and over again in middle school.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wild Ride in NYC!!!

OK, got the partials and full out over the last couple of days. Now, let me catch you up on my wild ride in NYC!

First up was BEA - Book Expo of America. Last Wednesday was the Writer's Digest Conference portion of the 5-day conference. The day started with a talk by Karin Slaughter, crime writer. My BEA buddy Judith and I decided she's the Ellen Degeneres of the publishing world. Every sentence out of her mouth was funny. Here's a pic of me, Karin, and Judith:

She told how she owned a signage company and decided to go for her real passion, writing. She was an overnight success ten years in the making. It took her that long to secure an agent, but once she did, she's been publishing books ever since.

After that, Judith, and I attended several workshops including How to Build Characters, an Ask the Agents Panel featuring the hilarious Janet Reid, Barbara Poelle, Ted Weinstein and Michelle Andelman, and finally a Polish Your Pitch Session, which geared you up for the big event... the PITCH SLAM! Pitch Slam is like Speed Dating for authors and agents. You've got three minutes to pitch your book (yup, they time you, although some agents didn't pay much attention, which was nice). The agent then either passes or asks for sample pages. I pitched to six agents and all six asked for pages - five partials ranging from 10 - 50 pages and a full. The first five I pitched to all asked for sample pages, and I almost quit while I was ahead. Thankfully, I didn't, because I LOVED the last agent and she's the one who asked for the full! Like I said, that day was right up there with the day I got married, the days my kids were born, and all the times I performed live with my band. It was that good.;-)

The next day, the Backspace Conference began with an Agent/Author day. I was in a room with 29 other writers. We stayed in our seats while different groups of agents rotated through. We were supposed to have had the opportunity to read our query and first two pages to at least two groups. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way, and instead we only got to read to one group each. I was lucky, because the group I read my first two pages to included the agent who'd asked me for my full the previous day. Thank goodness she liked my first two pages, or that may have ended her request for my full! A lot of writers were unhappy with the way the day went, mainly due to the inability to get much feedback. I'm sure Backspace will correct this in the future.

The next two days were filled with fabulous workshops. I attended a Buy this Book! session led by agent Jeff Kleinman, where we took on the roles of Marketing Manager, Editor, Publicity, etc. and got a real sense of how editors pitch our books to the publishing houses. It was fascinating. I learned that you need a platform for both non-fiction and fiction, it's important to secure book reviews by known authors, and that you've really got to have an enthusiastic editor pitching your book. Additional workshops included a panel on the Agent/Author Relationship where two agents with two of their clients talked about what that relationship is like, Query Letters that Work gave helpful tips such as personalizing your query, doing your research, putting title, genre and word count up front, etc. Some additional workshops I attended included What Literary Agents Want or Why It's So Hard to Find Representation, Getting Your Book Reviewed, and Yes, No, Maybe - When Agents Ask for Revisions. On Friday night, they had a cocktail party and famous thriller writers Lee Childs and David Morrell were in attendance. (David Morrell won a Backspace Award, and also participated in a panel on Saturday and was the closing keynote speaker.) The most important part of my Backspace experience was finally meeting my new BFF Julie from Columbus, Ohio in person! She's an extremely talented commercial fiction and YA writer. Here we are all dressed up for the party.

Overall, both conferences were extremely worthwhile. I'd highly recommend them to all serious writers with a completed ms in search of an agent. Just beware, your stomach will not thank you! Mine was in knots most of the time, but I figured that was simply proof that I was throwing my hat in the ring and playing full-out. After all, ain't that what life's about?

After the conferences, Chuck met me in NYC for an extended weekend. On Saturday night, we met up with my friend, Wendy and her wonderful husband, Vince for a scrumptious dinner at Beacon. I met Wendy last September when I attended my first writer's conference, The Algonkian Pitch and Shop in NYC. Since then, Wendy has gone on to find an agent. She's near the end of the revision stage, and is gearing up to send her women's fiction book out on submission. I wish her the best of luck! It was great seeing her and catching up.

The next day, we saw Wicked, which is absolutely NOT to be missed, and visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex (the "real" one is in Cleveland, OH) where there's a special exhibit on John Lennon produced by Yoko. Being the rock princess I am, I was completely in my element and could have moved in and lived there happily ever after. If you're in NYC, I insist you attend both of these shows. You'll be forever in my debt, and I love when people are forever in my debt. Also, one lane of Broadway is closed off to traffic for a few blocks until the end of the year, so people can walk around or pull up a lounge chair and sit on the famous street. That was quite a hoot! (You can see in the picture the cars and taxis on the left, and pedestrians on the right.)

Here are a few more pics. Enjoy, and thanks for not giving up on me while I was away from my post this past week or so. You guys rock!!!!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

I'm Baaaack!!!!

OMG! This past week was so utterly, totally, wildly, positively AMAZING that I hardly know where to begin. First of all, being a complete dork, I accidentally left my laptop at home. That turned out to be a good thing, however, since it caused me to focus strictly on the task at hand.

BEA was beyond miraculous. I pitched one-on-one to six agents, and all six asked for sample pages. That day was right up there with my wedding day, the days my kids were born, and all the times I've performed live with my band. That's how mega-spectacular it was. And Backspace rocked as well. I'm keeping this short, since I have a lot of sample pages to get out. There's a particularly wonderful agent who asked me for a full, so that's at the top of my list. I promise I'll write a complete update late tomorrow or Wednesday including pics. Until then, know I love and miss you all toooooo much.

(Sorry, I don't mean to be a tease. But being the anal-retentive freak that I am, I have to read through my ms one more time before I send it out. PLEASE understand!!!! Hugs to all...)

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