A BLOG FOR READERS AND AUTHORS OF MTV BOOKS
Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I definitely did when I was growing up. The things other authors have listed here sound very familiar. But that was bound to end, because I am a logical person. I mean, a REALLY logical person, so logical that I'm not a lot of fun sometimes. On top of that, I taught freshman English at three different large state universities, and those classes were all about making a logical argument. If I had any whimsy left in me, teaching those classes beat it out of me. Honestly, my favorite TV show is Mythbusters!
And if that were not enough, there was the bee.
It was November 2004, a lovely crisp fall Saturday in Atlanta, where I was living at the time. We were planning a move back to Birmingham, so we were having a garage sale. The day started out great. We got rid of some bad furniture we'd been lugging around through several moves. And then the haggling started. People started coming up to me and asking if I really wanted a quarter for this baby shirt, because it had the tag cut out of it and they couldn't tell for certain what size it was, etc. I mean, PEOPLE, do not malign the merchandise at a GARAGE SALE. Come on.
So the morning wore on and my mood got pootier, and about noon I watched the post office truck stop by my mailbox and move on down the street.
Now, I will admit, at that point I was an unpublished author, and I did have some lingering superstitions about the many query letters I had out to agents--for instance, the longer I waited to check the mailbox, the more likely something good would be in there. But it had been a long morning and I could not resist, so I went down and peered inside.
There was a letter. From the agent of a huge best-selling author. I had queried this agent because at that time, the huge best-selling author had just come out with her very first book--but it was similar in style to the book I was shopping, and the author was from Atlanta like me, and I thought this author would really go places (boy was I right--her books are piled in Sam's Club right now, in my view the ultimate aim of any author).
I opened the letter.
It was a revise-and-resubmit. A rather scathing one, actually, asking me to compromise the very parts of my book that I loved the most.
I was SO DISAPPOINTED. My heart broke (again).
And as I was standing there reading it, a bee zoomed out of the mailbox, zipped down the back of my shorts, and stung me on the ass.
This was a Sign that I should stop trying.
I could have believed it. I was tempted to believe it. Believing it would have been so much easier than pursuing a career as a novelist! But I did not.
And I have not believed any Signs since. I believe only in my own hard work.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
My first reaction to this question was, “I don’t have any rituals or superstitions. What will I write about?”
The blog question was on my mind when I got up at my usual time and took my two dogs for their morning walk. Rituals? Man, I couldn’t think of a single one. While Mike and I were running, as I do every morning without fail, I asked him if he could think of any rituals I have. “Hmm. Not really.” When we arrived at home, Sassy and Gizmo were waiting at the door for the chicken treats I give them when I finish running—2 apiece, as always. Darn it! Why couldn’t I come up with anything?
While the dogs were munching at the bottom of the stairs, I double-checked my closet to make sure my outfits for the week were hanging in the order I planned to wear them. Coordinating shoes, watches, and jewelry were lined up neatly underneath, and I’d piled the week’s underwear nearby. All set there.
If only I could think of at least one ritual to write about! Maybe some brain food would help. I ate my breakfast of two kinds of cereal with skim milk, took my vitamin supplements, and left for my part-time job at exactly 7:15.
Frustrated, I decided to give up on the rituals and try for superstitions.
With luck, I’d think of something during the commute. But I made the mistake of commenting on how light the traffic was, and the next thing I knew the freeway came to a standstill. I should have known better than to jinx myself like that. When I arrived at work—late—a huge scanning job was waiting for me. As I loaded papers into the scanner I made sure never to add thirteen at a time. No sense pushing my luck. Then one of my coworkers noted that for once it wasn’t supposed to rain over the weekend. We both knocked wood, just to be certain. The best part of the day was the drive home. I hit every green light, so the package I’d been waiting for would be on my door step.
It wasn’t. Tomorrow for sure.
Okay, I don’t have any rituals or superstitions, but I have totems. If I’m facing a scary situation, I wear the gold chain my mom left me and attach the opal slide—my birthstone—Mike gave me. If I need extra luck or courage, I wear one of Mom’s watches, too. Being surrounded by love is the ultimate totem.
Hold on. I do have one superstition. I don't announce a book sale until it’s a done deal. Now that it is, I’m excited to announce that my humorous YA, ASPEN AND LAUREL DO SUMMER will be coming out next year!
Knock on wood.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Anyhow, so what totems, rituals, or superstitions do I have?
I always step first with my left foot. I was in band/drum corps for so many years, it's just habit. But it feels weird if I don't do it.
I won't wear all black or all white to a wedding. Even though I know the "rules" about such things have relaxed somewhat, it was so drummed into me that it was bad juju to do so, I don't dare risk it. I'm too afraid my grandma's gonna swoop in and smack me upside the head. (Plus, someone wore white lace to my wedding and it was kind of obnoxious, so there's that, too...)
Every morning, I have to check my news sites and email while drinking my coffee. And I really, really like being left alone while I do so.
I have to write with the same kind of pen (a Pilot G-2 1.0, preferably black, although I'm also partial to purple if I can find them).
I have to have a fresh blank journal for every manuscript I start. Also, a title. Even knowing the title's going to change, I can't just call it "Story X" or leave the title blank. It twigs me monumentally.
I always have to have music going and I create a new soundtrack for every new manuscript. In fact, that's one of my measuring sticks for how developed a story idea is-- if I can create a soundtrack and have it really evoke a particular mood or characterization, I feel as if I'm really onto something and that the writing's going to go smoothly. (Or at least as smoothly as these things can ever go.)
As far as totems go, I don't have a specific one, but several and my collection keeps growing. They're generally things that I've collected or mean a lot to me or simply make me happy. I have several stuffed Opuses, dating back to my high school days, but my favorite is "Crazy Love" Opus, who's wrapped in a straitjacket printed with little hearts and lives on one of my secondary desks. Back when I thought I was going to write romances, he was my mascot. Now that I know being a romance writer is a little beyond my ken (and my Barbies, too) he's still my mascot, mostly because he represents that craziness that is going into publishing and the hearts remind me that I put up with the craziness because above all, I love to write.
On my desk and bookshelves are smaller figurines: Guido from Cars (Pit stop!) and a folk cow suspended above a house that I bought while a guest at a writing retreat in Tennessee. My agent gave me a carved rooster, since roosters are our "thing" based on a line in STARS that she said was her favorite. Then there are the "boys." My heroes (or anti-heroes, since they're not exactly the most upstanding fellows). I have Nicholas Wolfwood, from the anime Trigun. He's a bad boy renegade priest (of which I have one in my latest MS). Then there's Commander Norrington from the Pirates of the Caribbean series, but not the stuffy, white-wigged version. No, no... I have the scruffy, been beaten down by circumstance version. (I'm using Jack Davenport, who plays Norrington, as an avatar for another story.) And probably my favorite action figure: Gambit, from the X-Men. Oh, do I have myself a soft spot for gamblin' thievin' Remy Lebeau-- neat, neat character in that he's very much a loner, very much an opportunist. Doesn't display an outward loyalty to anything other than his own best interests, but often does the right thing, especially once committed to a person or group. And I have a character named Remy in a story as well.
Superstitions, maybe not so much, but totems and rituals are definitely part of this Very Virgo personality.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I also think this is such a fun topic and if I were writing about my grandmother, I could go on forever. Granny never let us open an umbrella in the house, put our handbags on the floor or walk under a ladder just to name a few. I think about her whenever I do these things and often feel guilty if I put my bag on the floor so I move it after a few minutes!
So here's what I do, do:
1. If my clock every reads 11:11, I make a wish.
2. I also make wishes on eyelashes and have my kids do the same.
3. As a kid I recited the alphabet while turning the stem of an apple and whatever letter I was on when the stem came loose, was the boy that I was "supposed" to date.
4. I like to sleep with the overhead fan on and one leg out of my comforter. When I was sleeping over my cousin, Mandy's house when I was about nine, she told me that that was the best way to sleep and I guess she was right.
5. I never write in a book unless it's to sign one. Even in college I wrote my notes on a separate sheet of paper.
6. In high school my friend, Nell and I decided to keep a sacred M & M in a beautiful small Chinese box that I was given for my Bat Mitzvah. All was fine until my dog Lady ate the sacred M & M.
This topic definitely lends itself well for character development when writing a novel. Can't wait to hear what everyone else has to say about their totems. rituals or superstitions.
Monday, April 19, 2010
1. Ritual. When pumping gas I have to stop on the zeros - as in $29.00 or $32.00. So I'll say something like, "If I stop on the zeros then...(fill in the blank, for example, "The next lottery ticket I buy will be a winner")." It's a little bargaining thing I do, and it's hard. I can't slow down to make it happen, I just start counting when I get to .50 and then try to hit the timing right. And once I stop I can't start again, it's either under, over, or right on. And rarely right on. But when it is I get happy. It's so stupid.
2. Superstition. I won't pick up a penny unless it's heads up. A tails up penny is bad luck, so I won't risk it.
3. Ritual. I always wish on the first star I see in the sky, and I always recite, "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, wish I may, wish I might have the wish I wish tonight."
4. Superstition. I once read that you shouldn't say "I wish..." when wishing on a star because then what you're really wishing for is a wish (so, for example, if you say, "I wish I'd win the lottery" then your wish will come true, you will continue to wish to win the lottery). Instead you should say, "I will win the lottery." So when I make my wishes on stars I don't say, "I wish..." I just say what it is I'd like to come true.
I think that's it! If I think of more, I'll post later.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Denim Minis (can you guess which is mine?):
Impromptu America's Top Model style photo shoot in the building with the ATM in it...:
Until the security guard in the top right got mad and told us no photos were allowed. I guess it's a top-secret Starbucks location...
Impromptu secret dress-up session at a clothing store:
Rocking out at the Hard Rock Cafe:
Molesting Jimi Hendrix:
I know what the sign says, but we may disregard it...
Oh we can take a nice photo every once in a while:
Or we can be totally silly. We did three photo booth themes. This one was "make out":
But silliness aside, one thing we did get in tribute to our favorite city and even more importantly, our friendship, was get tattooed together.
Jenny was in love with her artist, Asher, but we didn't get a good photo:
Here I am, in the zone:
And the results, cherry blossoms for everyone:
As usual, we were sad to say goodbye to Seattle and especially to each other:
I promise a less goofy photo blog on my blog sometime soon. I did visit a really interesting place with my friend Polly, a beach where homes crashed down in a mudslide fifteen years ago and the remains are still there. It's quite surreal. So I'll have that and more tattoo pics and nature-y pics and of course the standard tourist shots like these upcoming this week:
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I am a plotter at heart. I try not to be. I am a very organized person when I have time, and that's precisely the problem. If left to my own devices, I will plot and plot and plot a book and never get down to writing it.
So in the past few years, I have just started writing without knowing exactly where I'm going. But that causes me a lot of anxiety. And then, one day...the storm clouds part and the sun breaks through, and I have figured out my direction.
That is always a great moment for me. I remember where I was standing in 2005 (on my back porch) when I finally figured out why Johnafter in Going Too Far was so concerned about his bridge. That book, which had really troubled me up to that point, gave me nothing but joy the rest of the time I wrote it.
And today, I am happy to report that I've had the same sort of breakthrough on the Novel With a Title So Cool I Am Not Ready to Reveal It.
My writing career has had its ups and downs, to be sure--sometimes biggies in the same week. In fact, I was feeling really down about another book yesterday. So I'm posting my triumph and happiness here today, as a reminder for the next time I wander through a rainy day. Sometimes the sun shines and the air is perfumed with flowers.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
It’s mid-April already when our thoughts turn to showers, flowers, and our yearly contributions to the IRS. And we're all trying to scrounge up enough deductions to lower our tax debt to zero dollars or less.
Listen up, all you authors, I’ve found the solution to your tax problems.
On March 31, my guy Mike and I embarked on an intensive seven-day international book promotion tour at Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica. On our very first evening we dined with prospective buyers from such far-flung locales as Toronto, Texas, Pittsburgh, and Jamaica, naturally. As it happens, one of our dining companions was a middle school librarian. Not missing a beat, Mike told her about FAIREST OF THEM ALL. With a winning smile I recited my memorized synopsis, and she ordered a copy from Amazon that very night.
If that’s not book promotion, what is?
For the rest of the week Mike and I celebrated our success with rum cocktails and scrumptious meals interspersed with kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, reading, relaxing, and walking along the beach. As you might have guessed each activity was meticulously planned with book sales in mind.
By the end of the week I was able to report one confirmed book sale. But who can say how many more copies will sell as a result of that contact? One hundred? One thousand? Ten thousand? The potential sales are limitless!
This afternoon as I prepare my taxes, flushed with success—and sunburn—I’m confident the IRS will say, “No problem, Mahn!” when they see I’ve deducted the entire cost of my Jamaican book promotion tour. Don’t you?
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Today I received permission to go public with my new cover. The book is called WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE and it's a contemporary retelling of Bizet's CARMEN. This is the book that has had the type of journey that can make a writer both wonder why on earth we keep doing this and also revel in all the reasons we continue doing this.
Monday, April 5, 2010
I thought of this question because my boys, eight and five, love talking about what they want to be when they grow up. My eight year old is adamant that he wants to be a cop and my five year old waffles between a magician, president and a fireman.
It's so cool to think that when you are a kid, you have the world before you and you can be whatever you want. So here are the things I dreamed of being as a kid, in no particular order.
1. A movie star
2. An author
3. A professional ice skater
4. A singer
5. A lawyer
6. A DJ
7. A teacher
8. A commercial maker
9. An artist
10.Clothing store owner
I really have always wanted to be a writer ever since first grade when we wrote and illustrated our own books. I still have my laminated book today--that I often share at book signings and school visits. Anyway, I loved dreaming about what I would be when I grew up and couldn't wait to start working. Eventually, I realized that I wasn't going to be a pro skater or singer but I did work as a DJ for a while and earned a master's in Marketing and Advertising. I also taught for seven years and even though I never owned a store, I worked in retail in high school and college.
I love to paint as a hobby and hope to take an art class again when the kids get older and of course, I use my lawyerly arguing skills with the kids just about every day! And okay, so I'm not a movie star, but I do hope to see one of my books up on the big screen. My dream is have a cameo role in one of my movies.
So there you have it, all my jobs and dreams along the way have made me a better writer. I do believe that experience is everything and that it really fuels your imagination!
So what did you dream of being as a kid?