Thursday, November 30, 2006

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Okay so I updated my business plan, wrote all of my web content and even finished half of my Christmas shopping. For the last week, I've been on full-time, Little Dude duty so my husband can make his deadline. And still no word on the proposal sitting on my editor's desk, or the proposal with my agent. What is a girl to do when the Little Dude is at toddler class with daddy and she already mopped the kitchen floor?

But then I remembered a Japanese proverb. "Where there is no wind, row."

I have this new idea that has been filling up the pages of my notebook. I think the idea is sound enough to take it on a maiden voyage. So this morning I fired up my trusty character bio document, ready to work and then, nothing. The characters chickened out on me. But I'm persistent. Just ask the Little Dude when he's 18.

I then grab The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders. As I'm reading, it's like my characters poke their heads in the door to see what I'm up to; why I'm not shouting at them to get their asses in here.

They're coy, but I'm patient.

Slowly, sometimes shyly they open up. When we reach an understanding, it's time to write an outline and then the first 100 pages that will become the proposal that goes off to my agent. A rewrite here and there and then if I did my job well (and I'm lucky), I get the greenlight to write the entire book. Characters always save the juicy stuff till I'm well into the story, but that's okay. We have to build trust and surprise is that unexpected but delicious flavor in a well-seasoned dish. Will, from Hot Tamara, taught me that.

Now in case you think I'm a freakin' nut case, I'm not. Well, maybe a little. You kinda have to be with a job like this.


Monday, November 27, 2006

How I Would Giveaway $1,000

Today, Oprah featured some of her guests who received $1,000 to help others in need. She called it her favorite giveaway and it got me thinking what I would do if I had an extra $1,000 laying around.

Well, I'd go to my alma mater and find two students who can't afford to go home for the holidays. Not only would I buy their tickets home, I'd also help them buy gifts to bring to family and friends. I can't tell you what it feels like to show up with no gifts for your loved ones. There are no words, especially when they have been so generous and you have nothing to give back except a "thank you." That was me for all of my college career and the gifts that I did bring home were those I had to put on an ever-increasing credit card debt.

Now let's say I had $2,000. I would go to Girls, Inc. to get a list of materials they needed and then come back a few hours later with a van-full of stuff. This is why I'm selling signed copies of Hot Tamara and In Between Men on eBay. You can buy as many copies as you'd like, give me the names of people you would like for me to sign it to and then get it time for the holidays. Not only will you give a fun gift, you'll also give the gift of empowerment, education and opportunity to the young ladies who come to Girls, Inc.

To purchase a personalized copy of Hot Tamara, go here

To purchase a personalized copy of In Between Men, go here

Happy Holidays,

Thursday, November 23, 2006

How To Survive Your Best Friend's Baby

There are periods in our lives when it feels like everyone you know is getting married. But just when you think, "thank God, no more wedding invitations"; your friends procreate.

When you’re still single, or you’re married and nowhere near babyville, how do you cope with your best friend’s pregnancy and baby? I’ve been on both sides of the coin: the clueless but well-meaning friend, and now the new mom, which is why I created this new blog, How to Survive Your Best Friend's Baby. I want to bridge the gap so there's no more "us" or "them." There's just us girls who want to keep our friendships strong and long-lasting.

Check it out and spread the word!

Monday, November 20, 2006

And now I bring you a game we call...

Good and bad.

Yesterday I had a living room picnic with good family friends and we played a game called, "Good and Bad." We took turns saying the good things that happened to us. But we were only allowed one bad.

Only recently have I been able to look at the books I couldn't sell as good things.

For the record: I'm 4 out of eight (four published out of the eight I've written ... the novellas count as half a book).

Anyway, I've come to realize that the four unpublishable books are not wasted efforts. They're my organ donors.

For example, the scene when Isela dances with Sebastian in "My Favorite Mistake", came from a book I wrote six years ago. Isa Avellan's storyline in Hot Tamara served as the back story for In Between Men.

This morning, as I was thinking about a problem with a new story idea, the answer popped out of my subconscious. I realized I could finally use a part (my most favorite part) of Baby You're The One in this new story.

When Baby didn't sell, I grieved for weeks. Thinking it would be my triumphant entre into young adult fiction, the experience really shook me up. I questioned if I'd be a one-hit wonder. But now I see that one bad thing has given birth to so many good things. It restores my trust that things happen only if they're supposed to. Now I hope that when this new idea is fully born - with a fully functional donated body part - you'll finally get to read it.

Knock ... knock ... knock! That's was me knocking on wood ... just in case.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Currently reading: Pop! by Aury Wallington (it's like she snuck into my 17 year-old self and excavated all the things I'll never tell my mom ... read it!)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Well, the proposal is in...

...and now I wait.

But that's a good thing! I can now focus marketing the new books and all the stuff I had to keep at bay while I wrote a proposal for a paranormal young adult novel (that I hope will become a real book someday). Hey wait a second ... I can go shopping! I can read another book without the sound of mu subconscious revving in the background! Even better, I can sleep through an entire night without waking up from a dream about my story.

Ahh the quiet when the writer is not writing.

Not that it will last for long. I have this thing about writing a historical and now that I have stumbled upon an idea for a mystery series, the itch will get worse. I can already hear the heroine whispering in my ear.

So much for shopping in peace.

And then there's my character, Isela Vargas from Friday Night Chicas. That bitch won't shut up about getting her own book. Every time a reader asks what happens to her, Isela's right there impatiently sighing at her nails.

There goes the quiet pleasures of book reading.

I'm beginning to suspect that writers never retire. We die at our keyboards.

Currently reading: The Girl's Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky (awesome!) and Mean Girls Grown Up by Cheryl Dellasega (sobering)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"It's not having what you want...'s wanting what you got."

- Sheryl Crow, Soaking Up the Sun

When I was up on stage at the Head to Toe Women's Expo in San Diego, I talked about my rocky and rewarding road to publication. I've always been an ambitious soul with long lists and five-year plans of all the things I wanted to achieve before I died. But when Hot Tamara came out in February 2005, I realized that success can be very traumatic. Instead of celebrating, I worried about the things that weren't happening - why wasn't I on the New York Times list, why was so-and-so on The Today Show, why oh why oh why. It wasn't a pretty place to be. But then I had moments of clarity like when five really wonderful women came to my booksigning in Phoenix, Arizona. Those moments were fleeting until I wrote a book titled, Baby You're The One.

No one would touch it. Never mind that I had been on TV, that Hot Tamara was Cosmo's Red Hot Read, etc. For months all I could think about was the book that would not sell. But then Sheryl saved me with that line from her song (see the title of this entry). I realized that my success traumatized me because I forgot to be grateful for it. Once I counted my blessings - and I mean, I wrote a list about twenty-five pages long - I came back to life. To me, entitlement and ingratitude are like cinderblocks chained to all of your limbs, and when they throw you off the boat, you sink right to bottom. But gratitude unchained me and I wasn't limited by all this "why not me?". I saw unlimited possibilities.

So I want you to know that I was humbled to be at the Expo Friday afternoon. I didn't go just to sell my books; I went to give something of myself to the women who took the time to listen. I think authors get really caught up in what our agents, our publishers, our publicists and our booksellers don't do for us. I'm telling ya, knock it off. I'm not suggesting we become stagnant or passive. Rather, we need to be actively grateful for what we have, and actively responsible for what we want.

I'd like to say thank you to Rosemarie and Debbie and their team who put on an amazing event and allowed me to attend. Thank you to my family and friends who cheered me on even though I actually contemplated hiding in the girls' room! Thank you to everyone who listened to my presentation, who came up to my booth and who purchased my books. I hope my personal story and my fictional stories at the very least, gave you a good laugh.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Whatcha doing this weekend?

I"ll be road-trippin' with the girls to the San Diego Head to Toe Women's Expo on Friday, Nov. 10th. If you happen to be in town, you don't want to miss this expo (even if you can't come see me)! Starting Friday the 10th and running through Sunday the 12th, it's a day of pampering, shopping, cuisine and more, just for us girls.

But if you want to see me (hint hint!) I'll be on the Style Stage at 1:30 p.m. with a booksigning to follow.

And because I love you, I have twenty free passes. If you want a pair for you and your best gal pal, email me so I can get them in the mail.

For all the details go here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

How To Thrive in the Month of NaNoWriMo

It's National Novel Writing Month and participants have one goal and one goal only: to write 50,000 words before midnight of Nov. 30th. If you want my advice, here it is:

1. Write in the voice that God gave you. Forget about grammatically correct sentences that would please your seventh grade English teacher (it worked for Dalton Trumbo). Forget about writing the Great American Novel (there is no such thing). But how do you know what your own voice sounds like? Well if you had a really juicy bit of gossip, how would you write it in email?

2. It's not about writing about what will be good enough to sell; it's about getting under the skin of your characters and finding out what they'll do next. Trust me, the cool thing about being an unpublished author is that no one has any expectations. You don't have to worry about deadlines, what your agent or editor will think, orders and sales numbers. You have complete creative freedom. I'm grateful for my success and all the challenges that come with it. But I'm telling ya, enjoy the freedom while it lasts.

Then again, if you're Stephen King you can do whatever the hell you want.

3. Do not banish a new idea that comes out of left field. That's a sign that your characters are taking over the book and that is when it starts to get juicy. To read my personal experience, go here.

4. TiVo or video tape your favorite shows. You'll need something to get you through re-runs in December anyway.

5. Keep up the momentum. Writing can be like exercise: when you skip one workout, it takes a month to go back.

6. If you commute to work, carry a tape recorder or notebook to capture those bursts of inspiration. I wrote an estimated one-eighth of Hot Tamara in my reporter's notebook while working for the LA Times.

7. Remember NaNoWriMo's motto: quantity over quality! Just write. Don't go back and agonize over every word. Tell your inner editor and critic to shut up and let the storyteller in you thrive.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

And she seemed like such a nice girl...

I tagged Sonia Singh last week thinking she had a blog, but alas, she doesn't. So she's now the very first Chica Lit guest blogger!

5 (Really REALLY) Interesting Things About Me
by Sonia Singh

1. When I was an infant I was dropped on my head. Thankfully, I suffered no lasting damage. Thankfully, I suffered no lasting damage. Wait. I’m getting a sense of déjà vu here.

2. I lived in Bombay, India for two years trying to break into the Indian film industry (Bollywood) as a screenwriter. Never mind that I didn’t have any contacts and couldn’t speak a word of Hindi to save my life. Seemed like a fun idea at the time. Although now I look back and wonder what possessed me to drop everything and move to the land of tigers and Taj Mahals. Maybe it had something to do with being dropped on my head?

3. I support the environment but also drive an SUV. I suppose the fact that I’m a walking contradiction could be due to my being dropped on the head as an infant, or perhaps because I live in the OC. The SUVs roam free around here like cattle.

4. When I was working as a bookseller at Borders Books & Music, I received a phone request to page a customer on a busy Saturday afternoon. The customer’s name? Hugh G. Reksion. [Sound it out] I paged the customer several times before my manager leapt across the information desk and grabbed the phone out of my hand. It was only then that I noticed the startled looks of customers. And yes, I do watch The Simpsons. What can I say? When you’ve been dropped on your head as an infant…

5. I dropped out of High School for three weeks my senior year. My parents were in Europe and I was alone except for an older cousin who would sleep over at night and leave for work very early. One morning I woke up and didn’t feel like going to school and since there was no one to make me go…Not surprisingly, I didn’t feel like going the next day either or the day after that. So, yes, I am a High School dropout. Any surprise? I was dropped on my head, okay?

Sonia's next release, Ghost, Interrupted is coming out January 2007. She is the author of Bollywood Confidential and Goddess for Hire. Her website is

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In Honor of the Day of the Dead

I don't believe that life ends when we die. I think some of us stay behind to make sure our loved ones are okay; or poke back in to see what's going on. And certainly there are many other reasons why spirits linger but the point of this blog is to focus on the positive aspects of being a ghost because on the Day of the Dead, we remember our loved ones who are no longer a phone call away. I'd like to tell you about the ghost I grew up with.

Her name is Mary and she and her husband built my mom and dad's house after World War II. My parents were 20 years old when they bought it for $19,000 in 1973. Mom was more than six months pregnant with me when they moved in. Eventhough grass and weeds grew up through the floorboards and there were bullet holes through some of the walls – the previous tenants had a run in with the police – Mom said it felt like the house welcomed them.

As Mom and Dad settled into the house, they started hearing voices from the hallway. Dad would be out back and hear mom holler, “Mike!” He’d run inside only to find that she hadn’t called him, or that she wasn’t even home. One night Dad woke up from a sound sleep to see a woman standing at the foot of the bed. When he got up, she was gone.

When I was three, my mom found me talking in someone in her closet. I told her how I met the nicest lady whose name was Mary and who had a daughter named, Mary Anne. By that time my mom knew the story of the previous owners and my invisible friend wasn't my imagination.

One day Robert went to work and died of a massive heart attack. His widow, Mary, was stricken with grief. The neighbors told my mom that she would scream his name in the middle of the night. One morning her son found her dead from an overdose in the master bedroom.

The only encounter I can clearly remember of my nice lady friend is when my mom had to help our neighbor. (I think she fell down.) Mom locked me and my then baby brother in the master bedroom with the TV. A lady opened the door and told me that she could no longer visit with me. But she would always watch over us and protect us.

When I was in high school, our ghost started acting up by slamming doors, turning lights on and off and even touching us. So I did some research and found out where she was buried. We took flowers and there was a photo of her and her husband on the gravestone. The woman who came to me in the bedroom when I was a little girl, was the same woman in the photo.

There are lots of other stories I could tell you about Mary, but it would take all day and I can hear my Little Dude waking up from a nap.

Oh wait, there's one quick story about my Great Grandma. She died 21 years ago this past Saturday. One night when the Little Dude was really little, he had a tough time going to sleep and I was beyond exhausted. I remember trying to rock him to sleep but he wouldn't stop crying. Crying myself, I said, "Grandma, please help me." The room got really warm and just like that, the Little Dude settled down into a deep sleep. I know she was there with me that night and every now and then I can feel her with me; especially when the Little Dude is pushing my buttons and I'm holding onto my patience with both hands!

Now I really have to run but I like the celebrate Day of the Dead by remembering my loved and remembering they're always with me.