Friday, March 31, 2006

The Green Tea Martini: An Analysis

Last night I made the green tea martini. The recipe calls for a tsp of Cointreau, an ounce of chilled green tea and two ounces of orange flavored vodka with a drop of simple syrup. I omitted the simple syrup because of the sugar in the Cointreau - I'm more of a savory person than sweet - and added chopped fresh ginger to the green tea.

I then recalled the scene from The Thin Man when Nick Charles, played by William Powell, explains proper technique:

The important thing is the rhythm! Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.

So I shook the green tea martini at a waltz time and then poured it into a chilled martini glass. The color was reminiscent of chardonnay. The orange and ginger dominated the taste of the green tea, leaving a fresh zing on the palette. Unlike the classic martini, or even the vodka martini, this cocktail is a featherweight. You start to feel unconditional love for all of humankind at about three-quarters of the way through the drink.

Monday, March 27, 2006

My Way

At this very moment I should be working on my new story that has been obsessing me for the last week. But I wanted to tell you about this song that won’t stop playing in my head, which I’m now playing so it’ll leave me in peace.

I don’t know if you’ve been checking out Catalina Magazine’s Book Club but I’ve been the guest author this month. The experience has been immensely flattering but also intensely introspective. You see, I’m a typical doer; I don’t spend too much time thinking about what I should do or how to do it, which can be good and yet as last year proved, not so good. This morning when I received a group of questions from the book club readers, one really made me pause and think about how I write (which then inspired my brain to pipe in "My Way" by Frank Sinatra as the accompanying soundtrack).

When a new idea takes residence in my brain, I get the story in bits and pieces, usually conversations between characters or their internal dialogue. I keep a notebook with me at all times so I can capture them as if I’m a kid again, chasing butterflies in my Grandma Nana’s yard. If I don’t have it with me, I’ll repeat the idea over and over until I find a piece of paper (the backs of receipts are real handy). When it’s time to write the story down, the manuscript is just pages and pages of dialogue with a sprinkling of description or action to make it interesting. I then layer in more description, trim dialogue or rework stuff that doesn’t sound right, and take characters that appeared out of nowhere and develop them throughout the story. The third draft is almost always about plot. I suck at plot and even though I outline a pretty sound structure before the first draft, I inevitably stray and then have to go back to make sure the story unfolds in a logical manner. When that draft is complete, I then take three days to read it out loud into a tape recorder, which I painstakingly listen for rhythm and pacing. That fourth draft is usually what goes to my editor and then there’s a fifth draft based on her observations and the ideas that I hadn’t thought of earlier.


It’s quite a process and last year I tried to tweak it so that I could be more efficient. It didn’t work out, even though I was trying to do it the “right way” rather than my way. The moral of this story, for those of you who are writers or at the very least care to know, is not to pay too much attention to those voices telling you “how to do things the right way.” First, understand how your brain works. Then, take the morsels that enhance your process rather than change it. Finally, leave the room for awhile. I had to make a very difficult decision to take a break from my critique group. When you’re published, you’re surrounded by often well-meaning voices. But the one that you have to listen to is yours (and your agent and editor). While I’m a heel for not being there for my friends, I feel like I’m chasing butterflies again and it’s awesome.

With that, this is my favorite line from Frank’s My Way:
Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew,
When I bit off, more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up, and spit it out.
I faced it all, and I stood tall,
and did it my way.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

FREE AT LAST ... Well, for now anyway

Hi-dee-ho! I just turned in my novella, "Till Death Do Us Part," which will be included in an anthology, Other Names I Call My Sister. Many of you have been reading In Between Men and then writing to me about how much you enjoyed Isa and Alex's story. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to do so. Those emails sparked energy for my novella, revisions to Switchcraft and some new ideas that I'm dying to get to.

Before I start my next project - office clean-up - I want to share some official Chica Lit news. My fellow anthology authors, Sofia Quintero and Berta Platas have new books coming out next week!

Sofia's Divas Don't Yield is about four college grads who embark on a roadtrip odyssey from New York to San Francisco. I was lucky to read an advance copy and I wish I had had friends like these in college!

Berta's romantic comedy, Cinderella Lopez, is sex-ay. It's smart, funny, heart breaking and just has that, you-go-girl! feel through out.

If those titles aren't enough for your book bag, check out Lynda Sandoval's Unsettling. That book cracks me up every time I read it (which I've done twice, now). How's this for an opener:

The door squeakd open, and Betty unceremoniously clamped a clothespin on Lucy's shirt collar, then grabbed her wrist and yanked her over the threshold. "Finally! What took you so long? Your Tía Dulcinea can only wear her teeth for a couple of hours at a time, you know."
Copyright © 2004 by Lynda Sandoval

I just had a quick thought about my title for today's entry. Recently, I sat in on a talk by a NYT bestseller. What really struck me was this author's attitude, something along the lines of "having to write so many books."

My first reaction was, "dude, would you rather do a nine to five and sit in traffic each way for two hours?" My second was, "do you realize that most of these people listening to you are working their butts off to be in your place? They'd gratefully trade!"

So I don't want you to think that I feel "burdened" or "trapped" by my stories. Yes, when I'm in the thick of writing, it seems like I've gotten myself in way too deep and I don't have what it takes to finish it. And yet, there is nothing else in this world I can imagine doing. Writing and publishing books is not a hardship and I certainly don't resent the challenges. (Although I could do without some of the nastiness I've received from other authors and a few critics; but that's not my problem, it's theirs.) What I do is a privelege and as long as you want to read my stories, I've got more coming!

Now that we have that unpleasantness over with, I hope to meet many of you in person in the following months. So far I have two book signing/reading events scheduled:

Sunday March 19th, 2006, 4 p.m.
"Heels (Manolos) and Heels (Men): Books with Great Shoes and Naughty Guys"
Barnes & Noble, Torrance, CA
Del Amo Fashion Center
21500 Hawthorne Blvd.
Torrance, CA 90503
»» Mary will appear on a panel with fellow authors, Josie Brown (True Hollywood Lies) and Sonia Singh (Bollywood Confidential). Book signing to follow panel. Visit Barnes & Noble for directions!

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006, 4 p.m.
Reading & booksigning
Tia Chucha's Cafe Cultural
12737 Glenoaks Blvd.,#22
Sylmar, CA 91342
Visit Tia Chuca's for directions!

With that I'm off to clean my desk for the next story. I'd tell you more but even I don't know what it's really about.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Clean Out Your Closets!

After watching Oprah's show on the aftermath of Katrina, I've been praying for a way to help those in need. Let's face it, I can't exactly fly down and build a house right now.

But I read this and I hope you'll join me in collecting books you no longer read and send them to the New Orleans Public Library system. Also, I'm going to enquire about libraries in other towns, possibly for the families who are still living in tent cities.

For now here's the alert:

In an effort to restock its shelves after Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Public Library is asking for donations of hardcovers and paperbacks for people of all ages. Library staff will decide which books should go into its collection; the rest will go to destitute families or be sold to raise funds for the library.

Please send books to: Rica A. Trigs, Public Relations, New Orleans Public Library, 219 Loyola Ave., New Orleans, LA. 70112.

Apparently if donors mention to the Postal Service that the books are for the library in New Orleans, they will be able to send the books at the library rate, which is slightly less than the book rate.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Just When I Think I'm Free ... They Pull Me Back In

Yes, that line was from the worst movie in the Godfather trilogy but I had to come up with something to describe my current frame of mind.

Just when I finished Switchcraft, I'm in deep with revisions to a novella I wrote last summer. It's not too bad considering that I was in the last trimester of my pregnancy. But I have those too-many-espressos jitters without having inbibed any coffee today. This seems to be a regular pattern when I start or restart a story. Could I be physically addicted to writing?

Anyway, the coolest thing happened to me today! I went to the Borders store at South Coast Plaza to sign stock and Will, the sales manager, went on the store intercom to tell everyone about my book. Woo hoo! I admit that I did the "aww shucks" squirm while my husband smiled proudly and the Little Dude cruised in his stroller. But inside, I was eating it up!

By the way, if you haven't been to my website lately, check it out. I posted a deleted scene from Hot Tamara, starring Isa, my heroine from In Between Men. Also, I'm scheduled for some book signings and I hope you'll stop by!

Finally, the Fabulous Dana Diamond interviewed me for OCC RWA's Orange Blossom magazine and part of that interview is now on her blog and at The Writer's Vibe.


Mary C. who has still not found the elusive Green Tea Martini in Orange County