Friday, September 22, 2006

Special News Bulletin

Monday I'm leaving on a jet plane to New York! Mom and her friend are meeting La Martha, yes that Martha as in Ms. Martha Stewart. I'm tagging along to meet with my editor and agent.

On Thursday the 28th, an essay of mine will be posted on the Daily Blog at Avon Fan Lit. Check it out and if you have questions or comments, I'll answer them the next day.


P.S. For those of you who watch The Office, do you think Jim will move back to Scranton and try one more time to win Pam's heart? Will Pam's former fiancee win her back? Or, will Pam make the first move? I'm dying to find out!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

If you ever wondered...

what the life of an editor is really like, check out this three-part blog by Lucia Macro, executive editor at Morrow/Avon.

Day in the Life Part 1
Day in the Life Part 2
Day in the Life Part 3

After reading it, you may not be so bitter that it takes forever for them to get back you on your submission! Well, you can only hope.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chica Lit Book Club

We're an all-inclusive group of writers and readers. We don't bite, unless you're a meanie. Since none of you who read this blog are mean, you should be fine!

Check it out at

And if you want a great read, check out my fellow Friday Night Chica, Caridad Piniero's new release, Sex and the South Beach Chicas!


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Girls Who Wear Make-Up

It wasn't until I turned 30 that I began wearing make-up. Only on the rare occasion during my 20th decade would I smack on full war-paint. I hated shopping, always bought shoes in black or brown, wore the same accessories with every outfit and rarely did my hair. I was a shiny-faced, frizzy haired, blah-dressed mess who - swaer to God - didn't know what a Manolo Blahnik was.

I reasoned that I was too busy with studying, working and writing to waste time on such feminine foolishness. I wanted to cultivate my brain not my look. But when I showed up to work in my boring shoes, black pants and button-down shirt that didn't quite fit, I felt ungainly and awkward around girls who wore make-up.

But then I turned 30 and became one of those girls. I bought red high heels to wear with my white and red cherry dress that became the dress Will admires in the second chapter of Hot Tamara. I went to a hair stylist on a regular basis, rather than pop into a Fantastic Sams when I was bored on a Sunday afternoon. I truly crossed the the threshold when I bought make-up, Bare Escentuals to be exact, and actually wore it on a fairly regular basis. (I have really oily skin and this is the only foundation that doesn't wreak havoc on my skin!) Suddenly I no longer felt imtimidated by women who wore scarves and used handbags that coordinated with their ensemble. I felt like my outside reflected my inside.

When I wrote about this transition through Isa Avellan, my heroine of In Between Men, I wondered if I was breaking the rules of chick lit. But then on second thought, I realized I didn't care and wrote it anyway. So it was really cool to find Amanda Maria Morrison's keen and flattering review of IBM in The American-Statesmen. She said, "It's easy to root for Isa, a devoted mother and champion of immigrant rights who nevertheless has 'always been the girl with the books pressed to her chest, eyes on the ground.'"


And then she added: "In order find her inner vamp — who appears in ghostly visitations as Joan Collins — Isa pays a visit to La Diosa Salon, where her comadres perform an emergency hair-and-makeup procedure. With a wink toward magical-realist fiction and telenovela drama, Castillo describes the post-op moment in which 'every eye in the salon was wide with astonishment and chests rose and fell with excitement upon seeing a miracle' — Isa in eyeshadow."

God, I'm shameless in that I love a great review.

Thanks, Amanda!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Chick Lit and 9/11

This morning Google Alert dropped this column off in my in box: Is the Chick-Lit World Ready for 9/11 Plot?

Reading it set off a flurry of thoughts about my own work and the brouhaha over the question if chick lit was dead.

When I look back at In Between Men, I sometimes wonder if I missed an opportunity with the storyline about Alex's brother. I hinted that he was serving in Iraq and at the lowest point in the story, they receive news that he might be dead. Should I have gone into darker waters with the brother and his wife, June? Would my readers have put the story down because they didn't want the stuff they see on the evening news? Or, would the brother and June upstage Isa and Alex?

But then I thought about the interview my agent, Jenny Bent gave two months ago that set off a firestorm among chick lit authors. In the article, Jenny quoted a book buyer who told her that chick lit sales were down and it was officially dead. Well, are sales down because it is no longer relevant? Do we need to shake things up and tackle, for example, a 9/11 plot? Five years later, are we ready as readers and authors?

I'm now thinking that there will be a sequel to In Between Men, but with June and Alex's brother. Could there be a happily-ever-after between a man who almost died in Iraq, and his wife? In my fictional world, the answer is an emphatic yes. I deal with the stuff on the evening news by writing stories that end happily ever after. Otherwise, the sheer overwhelming number of problems and heartbreak would cripple me. Perhaps that makes me a sell-out or an annoying optimist. But when millions of readers pick up books like mine, I must not be the only one.

Still, I'd like to know what you think.


Monday, September 04, 2006

A Business Plan For Writers

Marcela Landres interviewed me about my business plan in her September newsletter. If you think it’s not for you, think again if you want to be a successful novelist (e.g published more than once).

Here are the parts of my business plan model that I discussed in Marcela's interview:

Mission Statement: think of this as your calling to writing as opposed to, "I want to be a NYT bestselling author and makes tons of cash." Are you writing to entertain women, to inspire African American teens, to bring justice to the bad guys? Your mission is what inspires your work.

Reader profile: My first draft of this section was inspired by one of my more memorable rejection letters. The agent wrote that she did not imagine Hot Tamara finding a place in the competitive marketplace. But I did. I imagined a young women; she could be Latina, white, Asain ... didn't matter. Anyway, this young woman had a job, a car, maybe she shared an apartment with friends or a boyfriend or she was married. My link to her was that she loved books and she wanted a story and a heroine who had similar issues like her. I pictured her on her lunch break, sitting at a table under a tree reading my book and wishing she didn't have to go back to her desk because she was dying to know what happened next.

Once I sold Hot Tamara into the competitive marketplace (sorry, couldn't stop myself), I did my homework. I stopped women in bookstores, read articles about book sales, hunted down Latina sororities and networking organizations ... you name it. And I still update this profile because I want each new book to find more of these readers.

Goals/Strategy: Before I sold my first book, this section had my top ten list of agents, my B-list, etc. I had their names, their recent sales (culled from and acknowledgements from books I thought were similar to mine) as well as the dates when I had sent my query and its status. Like I said I'm not a Virgo, just a hard-working Capricorn with a one-track mind.

When I sold and then continued to sell books, this is where I keep track of my proposals and projects. Also, when I'm slugging it out with one project and get a new idea, this is where I'll put that idea so it stays out of my head. But strategy has become the most important piece of this section. This is how I keep track of my communication with my agent; how I plan to promote my next book; and how I plan updates to my website.

Otherwise, I'd forget and drift aimlessly and not be able to write and you would never discover if Tamara and Will have children. Opps, did I let that one slip? So sorry.

heh heh heh

Oh come on, you know I love you!

Going back to the topic at hand, even if you're not yet published, consider creating your plan now. It will only make your queries and proposals stronger. But even more important, it can be a souce for inspiration when that rejection letter appears in your mail box, or when you can't write another word of your work-in-progress.