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Friday, May 30, 2008

Wait A Second, Didn’t I Already Write This?

If you read my last blog, you know that I recently traveled to Italy to do some research for my WIP. I love doing research like this. My husband and I ran all around Rome, Venice and Cortona plotting out scenes from the manuscript. We scouted the streets the characters would walk down, the places for romantic encounters, and the location of the dramatic conclusion. I mapped it all out. I had to. I only had 10 days to answer any potential questions that might come up.

Problem is that I had only written about 60% of the book before my trip. So in order to make the most of my travels, I had to create an outline for the first time in my writing career. This means I now know if the characters will fall in love. I know if the protagonist achieves her goal. I know all the twists and turns. In other words, I know everything.

This sucks.

Usually I write organically. I sit down with a vague idea of a character, an initiating incident and a climax. Then I fill in the rest as I go along. It just sort of pours out. Then about 75% of the way through, I’m usually positive that book is total crap so I spend a few days thinking about “what’s missing.” I wait for the brilliant idea, then “Eureka!” I add it in and charge toward the ending.

This whole process is completely different.

I feel like I’ve written the book already. But I still have about 30,000 words to go. You’d think the fact that I’ve already written it in my head would allow me to put it down on paper faster, but it’s sort of like watching a movie when someone’s already spoiled the ending. The element of surprise is gone.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my WIP. It’s my favorite project so far. I’ve put tons of time into the research, which I never did with my previous books. I mulled it over in my brain for almost a year before I got started. I’ve been talking to my agent about it endlessly. I think it may be my one GREAT idea.

Now if I could just finish writing the damn thing…

POP-CULTURE RANT: Saturday Night Live

“Where am I? Oh, yeah. I’m at Brett’s house.”

So I was on vacation and I’ve just gotten around to watching the last two SNLs on DVR (which is one of the most important inventions of my lifetime). They were the episodes with Shia LaBeouf and Steve Carell. Now, nothing against Shia (the guy from the Transformers movie if you’ve never heard of him), but I didn’t have high hopes for his episode. So when it sucked, and it sucked BIG time, it didn’t phase me. But Steve Carell? He’s funny. Really, really funny. And his episode utterly and completely blew. In fact the only funny episode this whole season was Tina Fey’s. I still laugh just thinking about her Rock of Love spoof. “I’m rocking one leg, jealous!” SNL, you need another Tina!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vacation All I Ever Wanted, Vacation Have To Get Away

Ciao! I’m back from Italy a few pounds heavier (oh, the food) and a few Euros poorer (ouch, the conversion rate).

My husband and I had a wonderful vacation all the way from Rome to Tuscany to Venice. And I even did some work. Part of my WIP will be set in Italy, so I ran around a few cities scouting locations for upcoming scenes. It was a lot of fun. Forget the Internet, this is how you do research—sipping chianti and riding a gondola.

Now, while I could write an entire novel about the food (we had Bolognese sauce in Bologna and steak Florentine in Florence, ‘nuf said), I will keep my observations to these:

1. After you’ve seen the Vatican, everything else is just a duomo.
2. Burying popes in glass coffins on display in the middle of St. Peter’s Basilica is really, really weird.
3. If you’re looking to start up a new business, much of Italy could use a good power washer. Let’s face it, 2,000 years of soot (and graffiti) builds up.
4. $1 espressos, 10 times a day, rock.
5. A Fiat Punto can only drive so fast.
6. Those Italian spaghetti bowls at William Sonoma are actually MADE IN ITALY. We met the guy whose store hand makes them. He knows “William.” Coolest person ever!
7. Make sure you know when the last train out of Verona leaves and if you don’t, there’s a very helpful Best Western a few blocks away :-)
8. There is no place to lie down inside the Colosseum to reenact the death scene from Gladiator. “Go to them, Maximus…”
9. If you’re watching the next James Bond movie and you think you see some random person in the background who looks like me, it might just be! They were filming the next sequel while we were in Siena.
10. Watch that 20/20 special on the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel. I think I found at least two of the angels that Michelangelo painted to give the pope the finger.
11. If you’re on a bike tour in Chianti and everyone is passing you like lightening while you can’t move faster than a Slowsky in a Comcast commercial, you might want to speak up. Turns out that swishing sound your tire’s making could be a brake that’s been locked for several miles.
12. In Venice, the ratio of tourists to guys selling knock-off handbags is one-to-one. Avoid eye contact (and yes, a knock-off of an Italian bag bought in Italy is still fake – and still made in China).
13. Riding in a gondola at night kind of makes you feel like you’re in a scene from Phantom of the Opera.
14. I don’t care what sort of live music you’ve got going on in your outdoor café, but one beer is never worth 9.5 Euro (approx. $15 USD). I’m talking to you, San Marco’s Piazza.
15. All of Rome is constructed on cobblestone streets, and the Roman women walking around in four-inch heels deserve some sort of Lifetime Achievement Award from the fashion industry.
16. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is just a tower that leans– but it’s AWESOME!

And finally….
17. When you get back home and look at your photos, it’s hard to tell one vista from another. “Is that Cortona? Or Florence? No, maybe Chianti?” Yes, it is possible to over-vista.

POP-CULTURE RANT: David Cook, Whoo Hoo!

I am truly stunned. I’ve been a David Cook fan all season, but I thought it was a forgone conclusion that David Archuleta would win. I had a lengthy conversation with another American couple in Italy about this very fact (four grown adults discussing American Idol for an hour over dinner is somewhat embarrassing in retrospect). But, seriously, the judges practically gift wrapped the title and handed it to Archuleta last night with tears in their eyes. But I guess they weren’t the ones voting! The rocker took the title. And Simon ate his words—even better! Congrats Rocker David!

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Yes, Maybe You CAN Judge a Book by its Cover

It’s hard to get published. Duh. There are oodles of writers out there who are (regrettably) slaving away on manuscripts that will never land at a bookstore near you. And a common piece of advice offered by many published authors is that there is no magic trick to expedite the process because when it comes down to it, “it’s all about the writing.”

Yeah, turns out that advice is only true when landing an agent and an editor. Once your book sells, the letters can practically drip off the page like alphabet soup because it’s all about the marketing, folks.

Clever titles catch readers’ eyes. Pretty covers get primo placement in bookstores. The words inside? Eh, leave that for the critics who will only review your book if it has a pretty cover and catchy title. Or if it was written by a celebrity.

Worst part about it? Authors have zero influence over the glossy image that graces the manuscript they practically bled on. We don’t even get much of a say in our own title. Seriously.

We sit, panicky, in front of our computer monitors waiting for that email with the cover art and praying that we don’t hate it. Because if we do, oh well. Too bad. The sales team loves it.

I’m currently waiting to receive the cover image and final title approval for the third book in my series. I’m praying that I love it (Is there a patron saint of graphic designers? Font choices? Color schemes?).

So, here’s hoping it’s as awesome as my first book cover, which I LOVE. You’d be surprised how many single guy friends ask me if I can introduce them to the gorgeous model. Pervs. She’s, like, fifteen! And no, I don’t know her. Though I would love to randomly run into her on the street one day.

Hey, this is a MySpace world. The girl probably has a page somewhere. So if you’re reading this and you’re my cover model, totally leave a comment! I’ll even put you in my top friends. :-)


So did you guys see his two interviews on Oprah? He’s totally sane again! I’m so happy. He acted almost like a young Tom Cruise, circa A Few Good Men. He and “Kate” (as he calls her) seem so happy. And talk about a piece of gorgeous property. Never been to Telluride, but I’m so adding it to my list. And didn’t you love how he leather-bound all his scripts with his hand-written notes. I’m already thinking about doing that with my manuscripts, though I doubt they’d catch as much at Sotheby’s as his would. Cheers to Oprah for asking the hard questions we’d all want to ask, and cheers to Tom for answering them!

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

I Think My House Is Trying To Kill Me

My house is haunted. I haven’t had ghost hunters investigate or anything, but I’m positive there are numerous spirits hanging out with me at any given moment. My cat likes them. They keep her company.

And I’m not joking.

I live in a brick townhome in Philadelphia that was built in 1832. Do you know how many people have probably lived (and died) in this house over the past 176 years? Andrew Jackson was president when this house was built. Georgia was forcing its resident Native Americans to relocate under the (later proved unconstitutional) Indian Removal Act. The electromagnetic telegraph was invented.

Think about it—that was a long time ago. I mean, there’s a sinkhole in my yard from where the outhouse used to be (though I can boast that my home still has the original floors).

It’s safe to say that at least one person died here. And I’m guessing many more.

That said, some strange things have happened. It started with my bedroom stereo. I bought a CD of classical piano music and, for months, whenever it was in CD player, the stereo would mysteriously start playing at random hours of the day. Now, I know what you’re thinking—it’s the sleep function or my cat or a power surge. My husband tried to rationalize it too. But A) I’ve never used the sleep function and I have no idea how to set it; B) it only happens when this particular classical CD is loaded; and C) in order to play a CD, someone needs to hit the power button, switch the “function” from radio to CD, then manually hit play—that’s a lot of buttons to blame on my cat (though she’s very smart) or random electricity.

I told friends about my ghosts, and they told me to talk to them (again, I think there’s more than one). So I do. One day, I kindly asked the ghosts to refrain from playing the stereo while I was in the house, but I gave them free reign to go nuts whenever I was gone.

It worked. Until they sat on me.

Yup, about a year ago, I woke up and couldn’t move. I don’t have any medical conditions (like seizures) that could account for my temporary paralysis, and I wasn’t dreaming. My eyes were wide open, I was looking all over my room and I was thinking, “I’m awake. I’m definitely awake. And I can’t move.” It felt like someone was sitting on my chest.

Then it stopped. Suddenly, the weight was lifted, and I could move again. I ran out of the room.

Now tonight, an evening when I had TONS of work to do, I fell down the stairs. This is the fourth time I’ve fallen down the stairs since I moved in. And I’m not that clumsy. Seriously. I take yoga. I can balance on one leg like nobody’s business. You should see me hold a Warrior Three or a Half Moon. But here I sit, with ice on my back and tailbone (ouch) in between ice cycles on my forearms (banged my elbows), blaming the mysterious spirits who should be a little more appreciative of the renovations we’ve done to raise the value of their humble abode.

Now in all fairness to the ghosts, I do live in a trinity (four-story house with one room per floor and the kitchen in the basement—it’s old school Philly style). So to get from my family room to my kitchen, I have to go down three flights of stairs. I’m not a statistician, but that ups my odds of falling considerably, I’m sure.

But still, I think sometimes the ghosts are just rebelling against me. Maybe they want me to put that CD back in.


This is less of a rant and more of a standing ovation. Did anyone see Boston Legal this week? I just watched it on DVR, and I must applaud the writers for exposing the idiocy of the democratic primary. All the pledged delegates, super delegates, open caucuses, smoke-filled-rooms—it’s utter madness. Why can’t we just go with the popular vote? Why can’t a candidate win a state and get all the points? It’s just silly and confusing, and I commend Boston Legal for pointing out that we shouldn’t be invading countries to set up democracies when we can’t even figure out our own.

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