Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Honeymoon Memories

Six years ago Ryan and I honeymooned in Salem, MA. I dressed up as a scary doll and he was Freddy Kruger (sigh). You should've seen the look on the line of women in the ladies' room! I don't think any of my costumes have frightened more people than the scary doll. As soon as I can, I'll find and post a picture.

Anyway, my honeymoon was the most romantic week of my life. It confirmed that I'd found the one person who wouldn't think I was weird for wanting to take a moonlit walk through a cemetary, or go traipsing through a haunted house or watch a scary movie through the narrow spaces between my fingers. The night before Halloween we walked to The Lobster Shanty for dinner in the pattering rain. As we walked by the cemetary, I sighed and tucked my arm through his and said, "I'm so happy I found you."

Six year later, I feel the same way.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Why I was always It!?!

Turns out that I was tagged by Erica Orloff and didn't know it until now when Dana told me. I was always It because I'd space out on the playground and then get, well, tagged. You know, we really never change.

Okay, so the deal is to write five interesting or unique things about me. Here we go:

1. I grew up in a haunted house
2. I went to Salem, MA for my honeymoon
3. My little girl pug is named after Picasso's mistress and Paloma Picasso's mother, Francoise Gilot
4. When I was in the underground bath in Bath, England, I looked up and saw a Roman officer walk up a set of stone steps. My mom remembers me going on pause and then suddenly turning to her to ask, "did you just see that?" I've never been a heavy drinker or drug user in case you're wondering
5. Oh and while we're on the subject of ghosts, I was once in the Whaley House with my mom and we looked into the children's room to see a rocking chair start moving. The rooms are sealed off by glass partitions and the windows are bolted shut. (Cue in eerie music)

Whew. I now tag:

Alyson Noel
The Writer's Vibe
Jennifer Apodaca
Jenna Petersen
Sonia Singh

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What do you think about this?

I came across a story that Borders is allegedly refusing to stock a young adult novel with sexual content. The novel in question, Pop! by Aury Wallington is the story of a 17-year old girl who embarks on a quest lose her virginity. Admittedly I have not read the book, but as a strident defender of our First Amendment, I can't say that I agree with Borders' decision. If they're willing to deny themselves and the author potential sales, would they be willing to deny customers under the age of 18 the right to purchase a romance novel, for example, because it portrays consensual sex between a man and a woman?

By the time I was 15 never mind 17, I had already read novels by Jackie Collins, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Danielle Steele, Isabel Allende, Raymond Chandler, etc. I had read stories with violence, murder and rape. I also read stories in which people fell in love or doggedly sought truth or stood up to right a wrongdoing. I think I turned out okay and when my Little Dude grows up to read adult literature, I won't mind it if he reads to satisfy his curiosity about life. Hell, I'd rather he read about it than go out and do it and then post pictures of his adventures on MySpace.

What do you think?

Oh and here's a link to the original story.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pod Person

Much good news to share. First, my novel, Switchcraft has been formally accepted by my publisher. What this means is that I get paid and my publisher likes it enough not to ask for their money back. Remember when that happened to Joan Collins?

Second, my interview with Nancy Marmolejo, founder of the award winning Comadre Coaching, is now posted on her podcast. I listened to it yesterday and realized I need to do something about all the "ums" I use in interviews and presentations before my gig at the San Diego Head to Toe event on November 10th.

Sorry but that's all I've got for today. I finished the first draft of act I of my WIP and now I'm slowly torturing myself to death by drafting a synopsis.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

¿Que what?

A few months ago when I was at the Catalina Magazine party in L.A., I met a really cool woman who is a marketing guru and pug mommy. Whenever I talk to someone whose first language is Spanish, I know that sooner or later they're going to hate me. Or, pity me. Frankly, I don't know which one is worse.

No matter what we're talking about - cuisine, travel, books, people we work with - the conversation always boils down to The Question: "¿Hablas español?" I try to draw out the moment before I answer. There is a friendship at stake. But then I must answer no and the light in their eyes switches off and the conversation, no matter how engaging it had been, is over.

But this woman threw me for a loop. Her reply was, "Oh. So anyway, do you want to see a picture of my baby?"

I was fully prepared with my apology and explanation my mom had been advised to stop speaking Spanish to me by my first grade teacher, etc. But she didn't care, didn't judge. It was a momentous moment!

And still, I've thought about it on and off ever since until today when I started this entry. Spanish whispers to me from my subconscious because I can pick up the gist of a conversation or a song. But it is rooted in my soul. When I hear the guitarron or the chorus of Volver Volver, my soul stirs even though I had to read the English translation to fully understand the words.

But do you want to know the craziest thing? My Little Dude loves mariachi! I played Guadalajara for him and he went nuts, bouncing up and down while clapping his hands and screaming. (He can't quite pull off a grito, but give him time.)

If Mariachi can excite a fourteen month-old who - if you want to get technical about it - is half Mexican, a quarter Irish and an eighth German and an eighth Hungarian; then perhaps the spirit of Spanish is stronger than actual words. It is the umbilical cord that connects us to the revolutionaries, the conquistadors, the Aztecs and the Mayans; it is rooted in and thrives from the soul.

Am I a broken link in that history just because I rely on my trusty, Making Friends in Mexico to understand Spanish? Are my stories, my son a discontinuation of these people?

Nope. Nada de eso.

(Translation: Not at all.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My New Favorite Book

In a sincere, elegant voice, Author Gabrielle Zevin creates an extraordinary story about the life that continues after we die. I'm so excited having found this book that I can't describe it without gushing, so I stole this from the author's website:

Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, get her driver's license, fall in love, go to college . . . How can she let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible to grow up while getting younger?

Okay, I'm back and I just realized something. The last time I blogged about a book, it was Erica Orloff's Do They Wear High Heels in Heaven? I'm not obsessed with death. In fact these novels aren't really about death; they are about life and love.

Anyway, I do read and enjoy other books. But these stories lit the fire in me; they made me forget all the things I know about writing (not that I'm a Shaolin master of writing or anything, but you know what I mean) and just fall into the story. I even teared up at the end and gave the Little Dude a kiss.

I'm tellin' ya man, some of the best writing is happening in young adult. If you're looking for something fresh and thought provoking, get this book.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Practical Magic

If it wasn't for this six-sided Ms. Manicure nail file and buffer, I would never keep my ass down at my desk. When I hit a wall in the writing, or my characters chicken out and won't go down those dark places where the emotions are raw and dripping, I reach for my nail file rather than leave my computer. Not only do I work my way around the wall, or work up the courage to venture into the dark places, my nails look fabulous!

Oh and then I discovered Ulta Spa Renewal Hand Rescue Cream. If you want to treat yourself, Ulta is having a sale!

So what practical magic do you use to stay in your seat?


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Nov. 10th Is Play Hookey Day

Yes, you read it correctly. I am declaring Friday, Nov. 10th as Play Hookey Day! You know you've earned it so if you're in San Diego, make it count by playing at the San Diego Head to Toe Women's Expo. Think great shopping, prizes and oh yes, my books!

I'll be there to talk about the gifts of failure (if you want to find out what they are, you have to show up!) and finally meet some of you guys! My presentation starts at 1:30 p.m. and I'll sign copies of In Between Men and Hot Tamara. (They'll make great stocking stuffers, hint hint!)

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Shadow Selves

Tell me if this is how it works for you, too...

A story doesn't come together for me until I know and love my villian, or as I like to call him or her, the antagonist.

I'm in the character bio stage of a new story. After one rather spectacular stumble last year, I leared not to start writing a story until I know my characters inside and out. I have a three-page questionnaire that I complete on all of the major players, but the one that brings it all together is the antagonist. If I don't love him or her, and I mean in a "love thy enemy" sort of way, then the story almost always falls apart on me.

In my mind the antagonist is not only the heroine's shadow self; she is also my shadow self. You've probably also read that the antagonist is really the heroine of his or her own story. But I have to feel true kinship with my bad girl, just as I do with my heroine to get them to talk to me.
For example in In Between Men, one of Isa's defining qualities is her kindness. Even though she hates her ex-husband, even though the very thought of him arouses murderous impulses, she would never bad mouth him in front of her son. And trust me in that book, Carlos (her ex) gives her many reasons to. But where Isa is kind, he is cruel. Where she puts others first; he is selfish.

You get the idea. And while Carlos is one bad hombre, I not only understood him; I've been in his shoes. I've acted out on my anger. I've said things I shouldn't have said. The same goes with my new antagonist. But she's even closer to me; she's the darker side of my teenaged self. In some ways, she will help me forgive myself for some of the things I said and did. In other ways, she'll fulfill the fantasies I had against some of the not-so-nice girls I went to high school with.

Either way, I can't wait to see what will happen once I get to the actual writing.

Heh heh heh.


P.S. This was inspired by Pema Chodron's book, Start Where You Are.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My new publicity plan

...is to slap Paris Hilton.

In the silence of having finished Switchcraft, I'm now preparing content for my website and planning to promote Names I Call My Sister; e.g. I'm torturing myself as to how can I get lots and lots of buzz about my new books. But then I saw an article on the AP that some chick slapped Paris Hilton and voila! I have the perfect plan. (insert wicked laughter)

I'll have a t-shirt made with the cover of my book and then wait outside a club where Paris is hanging. Even better, I should lay in wait for Lindsay ... oh no wait, Eva Longoria because she allegedly dumped what's-his-name and everyone's talking about her and we can work in that whole Latina angle. Anyway, just as the papparazzi spring into action, I'll do one of those Nacho Libre flying leaps and then me and my book cover will be all over the place: PerezHilton.com, Access Hollywood, CNN ... you name it.

Yeah, I'll probably end up in jail on an assault and battery rap but then I'll have added mileage when Gloria Alred escorts me to court.

In case you think I'm serious, I'm not.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Postcards from New York

Here is a not-so-great photo of HarperCollins Publishers.

This is Times Square. I liked the clouds over the buildings.

Behind those trees, across the street from the World Trade Center, is the church where George Wasington was inaugurated. Mom commented that this is where our country was born, but then just five years ago, reborn. There is a palpable silence, a respect that doesn't exist anywhere else in the city but here.

Back from New York!

A new moon was breaking when I arrived in New York last Monday.

The only time I sat down this past week in New York was in a cab, watching The Color Purple and riding the Grey Line tour through Manhattan. The first day I dropped mom and our friend, Georgia off at Martha Stewart Omnimedia. They didn't get to meet Martha herself, but they did see her office and cooked in the Everyday Food kitchen.

I walked uptown to meet my editors, Carrie Feron and Tessa Woodward for lunch and stopped to change to my shoes at the Hilton New York. As I walked through the doors and then sat in the lobby, I remembered how I had pitched Hot Tamara to Avon's editorial staff three years ago. I never felt fear like I had that day. But I was determined because I was starting to doubt that Hot Tamara would be published, never daring to imagine that I would arrive at a place where I'd be planning my fourth release! It was a moment when I stopped fretting about goals I hadn't yet achieved and realized how far I've come from being a shy little girl from National City, to a published author on her way to have lunch with her New York editors.

I still get chills.

When I arrived at Harper Collins, I was warmly greeted by Tessa and Carrie. I also met Publisher Liate Stehlik, Pam and Sherry from Publicity and Adrienne from Marketing, all who made me feel very welcome. When I send off Switchcraft, I know it is going to a place where it will be loved and nurtured.

The next day, I did my first ever New York booksigning in the original Barnes & Noble store. When I walked up to the front counter with the two copies of Hot Tamara they had in stock, they seemed perplexed when I asked if I could sign them. The manager told me that authors usually come in through the backdoor with their "people." I told him that my people were on the boat to the Statue of Liberty.

For lunch I met up with my agent, Jenny Bent. She put a little seed in my head about possibly dipping into my old projects file and dusting off a historical I had written nine years ago. But first I have to write my mariachi story, then a sequel to Friday Night Chicas and then a ghost story ... in short, I need to hire a nanny and a housekeeper. But damn, I have a great agent!

After lunch, I sped back to Times Square to see The Color Purple. If you ever have a chance to see this play, SEE IT!!! Oh my God. I laughed, cried, got angry ... you name it. Plays usually put me to sleep but when intermission arrived, I wanted to hurry it up to see the second act.

So now I'm back and have tons of stuff to take care of ... like finish my book!