Thursday, March 29, 2007

In The CD Player

Have you heard Amy Winehouse? If you haven't, you will soon. I'd been reading about her in Perez Hilton's column and aftr mossying over to her MySpace page, I'm hooked.

Her sound is retro funk with influences of Etta James and the Motown girl bands. But what I love is her honesty. There's none of that fake, R&B stuff you hear from most artists. She isn't sweet and cute or looks like she's been airbrushed to death. She looks like she just finished a gig at four in the morning.

Check this out from "I'm No Good."
sweet reunion, jamaica and spain
were like how we were again
i'm in the tub you're on the seat
lick your lips as I soak my feet

then you notice little carpet burn
my stomach drops and my guts churn
you shrug and its the worst
to truly stuck the knife in first

Check her out

Monday, March 26, 2007

If I Were a Man, I Never Would've Gotten Any Action

Because in my 20's, I had a real problem with asking for what I wanted.
I remember the very first query letter I wrote to Harlequin Silhouette. I was almost apologizing for wasting their time in asking them to consider my book. Admittedly, it wasn't a great book but you think after all the nights and lunch hours I spent on that thing that I would've been a better advocate than that.
As time wore on, I wanted to be published so badly that it became my life purpose to sell Hot Tamara. Maybe I was tired of rejection, or just getting ornery as I approached my thirties. Whatever the case, I began thinking about why I should be published as opposed to why I shouldn't. When I wrote that fateful query letter to Harper Collins, I shook my moneymaker, baby. I was damn proud of that story. Having reread the letter recently, there's a chutzpah to it even though the book had already been rejected by ten agents.
The thing is, when you finally climb up into the realm of publishing, you have to keep on asking for what you want. You have to risk that someone will tell you no, which then requires that you do some fancy footwork to change their mind, or maneuver around them. Even though I consider myself to be moderately ballsy, I still squirm just a little bit when I ask my agent to do something on my behalf, or my readers to buy my next book.
When I hesitate, I remember that no one else will do it for me ... unless of course, I ask them to.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

You Know You Want It!

Yesterday ... I think it was yesterday ...

Anyway, there was a conversation about criticism. People talked about where they get it, how they deal with it and whether they even want it.

Since many of you are writers, I thought I'd toss out how I handle the whole criticism thing. Maybe this list will help your process or not. So here we go.

1. Trust your sources. The only criticism I trust comes from my husband, my friends, Jen & Dana, my agent and my editor.

However in the beginning, when I didn't have an editor and agent, my husband and Jen read my work. They told me what I needed to hear and believe me, that's very different from what I wanted to hear! So my point is to be careful as to whom you give your work. Be picky but most of all, learn to trust yourself so you know what is constructive and what isn't; what suggestions make your work stronger, versus making into what that person wants it to be.

2. Take in critiques when you're ready. When I get a revision letter from my agent or editor, I don't open it right away. If I'm in the middle of writing a new story (and depending on the timing of the revisions), I hold off on reading the letter until the new story is done. And then I go through my ritual. I make a cup of tea, close the door to my office, print out the letter and then read it over and over again.

3. Digesting the suggestions. I don't always take every single suggestion. With Switchcraft, my editor suggesting removing a supporting character all together. But I really felt that this character (her name is Arlene) allowed us to see one of the heroes in his most vulnerable moments. So I kept Arlene but I also kept in mind the spirit of my editor's suggestion. I only used Arlene in very specific scenes and my editor didn't make a peep.

4. Sometimes you need a little tough love. About six months ago, my agent had to shake me up a little. She told me that my writing wasn't up to my usual standards and dude, it hurt! But she was right, damn it. It shook me up, made me sit up straight and pay attention to what I was doing. So when I sent the revised proposal to her, she told me that I was back.

5. Tame the inner beast. Nothing, not one word of my very worst reviews could top the criticism that comes from me. My inner critic is a beast. It knows where and when I'm most vulnerable and lay me up for days. But I've learned to silence the beast, or throw a bone over my shoulder and run!

Meditation and my Buddhist studies have helped me in this way. Especially the idea that what we tell ourselves isn't always the truth. When I get down on my writing, I have to remind the beast that if I were that bad, then how is it possible that I have three books in the stores right now? I know it sounds cheesy but the book that changed my thinking in this area is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

So there you have it. How do you manage criticism? Does it keep you on your toes, or knock you on your ass?


Friday, March 16, 2007

How Honest Is Too Honest?

Yesterday, Ryan and I took the Little Dude for a walk and we happened upon a miniature train. The Little Dude being a dude ran screaming with delight. When we caught up with him, he pointed through the gate and demanded a ride.

Three bucks later, we were seated right behind the engine. But then the train operator tried to get the Little Dude to smile at her. He frowned. She tried harder. His forehead looked like an accordion by the time she gave up.

Unlike me who has been conditioned to smile and always be polite, the Little Dude doesn't hide his scorn. You know right off the bat if he likes you or not. And while it can be a bit awkward, I secretly wish I could be more like him.

There have been too many times when I've "had" to be nice to a nasty cousin or a colleague who'd stab a pencil in my eye if given the chance. If I was more like the Little Dude, I'd avoid situations where the person thought I liked them and then kept asking if I'd be their friend but inside I was trying to come up with an excuse that wouldn't hurt their feelings.

I'm torn. How honest is too honest? Is it better to just shut people down, or try not to hurt their feelings?

I know what Mom and Sandy will say. But they're of that certain age where they just don't give a sh%$.

For the record, I can't wait to be a grandma like them!

But for the rest of us young-ins, how do you deal with these types of situations?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Welcome To My World

Every now and then, especially when I'm deep into the writing of a story, I dream about a town where all of my characters live. I even see those characters from past books as I walk down the streets. But what's really weird is when I'm writing a new story, old characters pop into the narrative to say hi.

Last month, I turned in the copyeditted manuscript of Switchcraft and was reminded that Isa and Tamara make a surprise appearance in the story. It wasn't deliberate on my part. I remember writing that scene and suddenly there they were, walking into the boutique and giving me an update on what's happened in their lives since we last left them in In Between Men.

When Stephanie Laurens spoke at OCC RWA this Saturday, she mentioned that she can see her story unfold like a movie playing in her head. But somewhere in the recesses of my head, it feels as if there is a whole world. Occcasionally I find a window or a door into that world, and it's comforting to know that it's always there.

So I'm curious. How many of you have a world in your head, or see your stories or hear your music?

I'd like to think I'm not the only one!


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Why I Think "The Secret" Is Dangerous To Women

A few months ago, before it became a NYT Bestselling book and appeared on Oprah (twice), my mother-in-law lent us a videotape of The Secret.

My husband and I sat down to watch it and at first, I was nodding my head. It made sense that strong, positive thinking is instrumental in accomplishing your goals. That's what I did when I was trying to sell my first book, and continue to do with each and every book that I write and then promote. But as the movie progressed I started thinking, wait a minute...

There were two scenarios in which characters, based on real-life siutuations, used The Secret to change their lives. The first was a guy who was bullied by the local ruffians in his neighborhood and was struggling to get his stand-up comedy career off the ground. But then he changed his thinking and viola, the bullies slunk off and he was a hit at the same comedy club that booed him off-stage.

The second scenario was a young woman who was walking down the street and saw a dazzling necklace in the jewlery store window. She pined for it. But she could never afford it. So she used The Secret to change her thinking and viola, her boyfriend gave it to her.

That's when I turned off the tape.

This is 2007 and I was appalled that this best-selling phenomenon is whispering a subtle message of passivity. The Secret showed the guy take action in changing his life. But the heroine? Oh she just closed her eyes, tapped her heels together and whispered, "There's no place like home" until Prince Charming delivered love, security, and happiness in the form of a necklace.
As a writer of romantic comedy, I always roll my eyes when I hear literary critics tear down romance and chick lit as anti-woman when in truth, romance and chick lit portray women who actively pursue their goals. They don't wait around for some guy to give them what they want; they demand it and if he doesn't rise to the occasion (hee hee, get it?), she walks.

So I have an alternative to The Secret. Suze Orman just released a new book, Women and Money and after watching her PBS special, I felt inspired, hopeful and even more, empowered. Her message to women to create security for themselves is the kind of message I want my neice and all the young ladies in my life to hear as they grow up into young women.

But before I end this, I'll admit that my husband has given me some fabulous jewelry that I cherish. But there's no way to describe the pride of walking out of store with a piece that I bought myself with money I earned from selling my second book, thankyouverymuch.

Stay strong ladies!


Photo: Las soldaderas during the Mexican Revolution

Monday, March 05, 2007

Hot For Teacher

Guess what? For four weeks, starting May 15th, I'll be teaching an online class on how to create your story using the three-act screenwriting structure. The cost is $20 for members of Orange County Chapter of RWA and $30 for non-members. For all the details, go here.

I wish had something something profound to say, but I'm in shiny-new-idea phase. And I have press releases to write.



Thursday, March 01, 2007

More Tease, Please!

Sad news: the sneak peek into Names I Call My Sister will be removed from my site.

Good news: an excerpt will be up with a new contest! Also my comadres, Berta and Sofia have posted excerpts of their novellas as well!

Till Death Do Us Part, Mary Castillo: Dori and her sister Sela, live up to the name “those Wild Orihuela girls” at their brother’s wedding and it’s just what their future sister-in-law deserves.

What Stays in Vegas, Berta Platas: Anita has always counted on her dependable big sister. But now Susu is acting like the wild-child, and its Anita’s turn to be the responsible one.

Whipped, Sofia Quintero: Always ceding the spotlight to Jen, Michelle went and got a secret life. But now that Jen is running for office Michelle’s alter ego may be a secret no more.

Diss-Connected, Lynda Sandoval: If your sister can’t keep a secret than who can? As host of a popular radio show, Marisol can’t help but talk too much. But this time she let slip her seemingly quiet sister, Christy’s, darkest secret—on air.