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Friday, April 25, 2008

If at First You Don’t Succeed… A Try A Few Dozen More Times

I watch a lot of Oprah. I have a long history with the woman that stretches back to me and my grandma when I was a tiny chica in grade school. I now DVR the show every day. I own Oprah’s 20th anniversary DVDs and the book she released at Christmas. My husband thinks I’m crazy.

However, some of the philosophies that Miss O touts really do make sense. For example, one popular refrain is that if you don’t learn a lesson the first time, you will continue to be faced with that same lesson your whole life until you finally get it through your thick skull. However, she phrases it much more elegantly. Something like, “God speaks in a whisper, and if you don’t get it, he tosses a pebble, then a stone, then brick, until the whole house falls on you.”

I’m in the throws of several life lessons at the moment. And I’m really hoping that I get them this time, and that I don’t end up with my house in a pile of bricks (and this is Philly, so it would be brick…and shutters).

I’m currently going through the copy edits for my second book. Now, when I had received the copy edits for Amor, it was the first time I was faced with the “secret code” of copy editors—all those red squiggly lines and hieroglyphics that make up the corrections to my prose. It took about two weeks to decipher them, read them, add in my changes and mail them back.

I didn’t make a copy.

You can probably guess where this is going. A couple of weeks ago, I received the proofs for Amor and many of my changes had been accidentally overlooked by typesetters, or printers, or somebody. I had to recreate them all from scratch. My wonderful mother-in-law even volunteered to read the book (two times! How great is she!) in one panicked week to help me look for additional errors. And all the while, my poor agent was saying, “You really should’ve made a copy.”

This time, I will.

And while that may be an easy lesson to learn, I find that those lessons dealing with your personal life are much harder to recognize. I’m blessed that in my 30 years, I’ve formed a lot of close friendships. My husband and I joke that we’re the real-life “wedding crashers,” only we’re always invited (10 weddings the year that we got married, and another 10 this current year). I know all the words to “Shout!,” I can also recite First Corinthians and chant a mean “Baruch Atah Adonai…”

But I also know that with friends, family and festive functions, comes drama. I’ve had to deal with people who were afraid to walk up steps at a reception (we’re talking, like, five steps), people who have relieved themselves in areas that were not bathrooms, and people who have blown the surprise for the bridal shower. But whether the problems result from big things, like scheduling conflicts, or little things, like car bombs (the alcoholic kind, not the dangerous kind…though I guess they’re both kinda dangerous), something always comes up. Always.

Now, the question is, have I learned enough from dealing with my past experiences to apply those lessons to this next crop of weddings? Or will I wait until I need to learn a lesson so big that it’s on national television (like that diva from the Big Give who Oprah reprimanded in the after show…ouch. Watch it here: http://www.oprah.com/about/oprahsbiggive/episodes/106/episodes_114.jhtml)?

I’m hoping I figure it out before I end up on national TV. But if I don’t, then I hope it’s Oprah I end up on and not Jerry Springer. I’m not good at throwing chairs.

POP-CULTURE RANT: Elections

So…..now that the PA primaries are over, Hillary and Barack don’t call anymore? It’s just over? No, goodbye. I was receiving a good four messages a day from Hil. Another two from Barack. And another two from John Dougherty (State Senate, but man did that guy have a ton of cash for a promotional campaign. He called me as much as Michelle Obama). I mean, Barack’s people offered to drive me to the polls! Hillary’s people invited me to rallies! We were close. I was important. Real-life, non-computer generated people even called me. And now, poof! It’s just over. Barack was in Indiana before the primary numbers were even in. And CNN’s already forgotten about us. I feel so used…

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Starve a Cold, Edit a Fever? Feed A Manuscript

You know those times when you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t want to do anything? We’ve all been there: like finals week in college, or the deadline before the big meeting, or the days leading up to a major event. To this day, I still remember that dog-awful Women’s Studies final I had junior year at BU; it was the most intense cram-session of my life. And it was a class I took as an elective!

Anyway, I’m currently in the midst of one of those overwhelming moments. And in response, my body has given me the flu.

Twisted, isn’t it?

I just turned in the proofs of Amor and Summer Secrets, coughing all the way to UPS. When I got home, the copy edits for the sequel were sitting on my doorstep. I have less than two weeks to make my changes and send them back. I actually laid on the couch yesterday afternoon with my head on a pillow and read the first 40 pages (though considering the amount of meds that were in my system, I’m not sure how much I can rely on my judgment at the time). I also wrote 1,000 words for my WIP, which I was hoping to finish next month but now I’m not so certain. Damn you, flu bug!

Oh, did I mention that I still do consulting for my former company? And that they’ve asked me to do a newsletter for them in the next two weeks? But they still haven’t sent me the copy.

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hillary asked me to help run her PA campaign. Oh wait, they did call and ask me to attend a rally before the debate tonight. But, sadly, I think my fever and I will be watching it from the couch—completely ruining my husband’s tailgating plans. We wanted to set up an Eagles tent and folding chairs outside the Constitution Center while grilling burgers and drinking cans of Coors Light. “Every time they say ‘healthcare,’ drink!

Who knows, maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and be miraculously cured. I mean, the Pope is only two hours away. Do his healing vibes stretch this far?

POP-CULTURE RANT: Hillary's Drexel University Speech

Okay, I get that she’s famous and needs to be “protected” and all, but did the little Secret Service guys with the wires in their ears really need to push me away and cause me to lose my chance at an autograph? I don’t exactly look like Osama bin Laden, folks. Come on, how threatening am I? You see, I have this list of 100 things to do before I die, and one of them is “Meet the President.” I already met John McCain in New Hampshire when he ran for president the last time. So I was hoping to shake Hillary’s hand and solidify the fact that I had “officially” met her. Instead, all I got was this photo of her and Mayor Nutter (note: Mayor Nutter is not the Secret Service guy standing behind her in the close up). Do you think it counts? Anyway, look out, Barack, you’re next on my list! Only, your people don’t seem to be calling me as much as the Clintons…

 

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Witches and Psychics and Tarot….Retracing My Fated Steps

For those of you who have read through my website (and if you haven’t, go ahead and do it now. I’ll wait… http://www.dianarodriguezwallach.com/for_writers.html), you know about my fated trip to a Salem, Massachusetts psychic in 2002. To sum up, back when I was living in Manhattan—working as a reporter and searching for career direction—my husband and I took a lovely trip to enjoy the autumn leaves of New England. While in Salem, I randomly visited a psychic who told me that I was not only a writer but that I would go on to write children’s books.

Prior to that, I had never considered writing a novel.

So now, years later, with the launch of my YA series on the horizon, I decided it was time to head back to that fated psychic. But, because this isn’t a Hollywood movie, I arrived to find out that she no longer works there. Maybe one day Oprah will track her down for me for an on-camera reunion after I sell a million books :)

Anyhow, I didn’t let a little thing like an absentee psychic stop me. So I made an appointment with the fortuneteller who was available.



While I was a little disappointed that she couldn’t tell I was writer, she did have a couple of keen insights. Here’s what she said:


  • I’m an artist (YA authors are artists, right? I mean, I’m not van Gogh or anything…). 1 Point
  • I’m a graphic artist (technically this is true, because I still do design consulting for a few clients). 2 Points
  • I’m in Public Relations (technically, this is also true because prior to selling my novel, I did PR for a nonprofit). 2 Points
  • I’m going to take a trip near the ocean (True! I’m going to Italy next month. Jealous?). 2 Points
  • I have plans to do many other things during my professional life (Not true. At least I hope not, Debbie Downer. I’m sort of banking on this book thing panning out). Minus 2 Points
  • She sees a “TV Camera” (This could be true because I was a broadcast journalism major in college, but I’m sort of hoping she was referring to the above-mentioned Oprah appearance). 1 Point
    My current WIP draws more on my personal life (False! Amor is much more rooted in my real-life background). Minus 1 Point
  • My current WIP is more “intellectual” (True, I’m spinning a lot of history in this manuscript. For more info, check out my blog last week on Agent 006.5). 1 Point
  • The man who arrived with me was my “boyfriend” or “fiancé” (False. The man’s my husband. Hello, ring on my finger. What kinda psychic misses that clue?). Minus 2 Points
  • We’re looking to buy a new house (Half true. We already have a house but we look at new houses all the time on the Internet, we just don’t visit any of them. As Aerosmith says: Dream on, dream until your dreams come true…). No Points - call it a draw
  • She offered loads of insights on my current novel, editor and publishing process (I won’t share it all due to the amount of stories it would require to explain why they’re true. But trust me, she was freakishly accurate). 5 Points

    All in all, I give this psychic a 14 out of a possible 20 points. This is a solid C-grade, which is fair given that she missed the big fish—that I’m an author.

    However, she gets LOTS of bonus points for projecting that Amor would sell well and that my WIP would be even more successful. Plus, she sensed intense “heat” for my professional future to a degree that she’s “never felt before.” Hehe. Gotta love the glowing positive projections at $30 for 15 minutes!

    Do you think she would have told me if she saw my career flopping? Has anyone ever been told by a psychic that they have two weeks to live? I’m guessing no. But then again, that’s not why we visit them. Salem is the Disneyland of psychics. And everyone goes home happy after a visit with Mickey.


    POP-CULTURE RANT: General Hospital

    There are two separate yet divided fan groups of GH: Team Sam and Team Liz. I’m a Sam fan. Odd, I know. She’s the bad girl and I, let’s just say, am not. But hey, no one’s watching soap operas for a dose of reality. I embrace the craziness that is Sam McCall. But where’s she been lately? The storylines all orbit around Sonny and Kate; and if they keep shoving this “Devil Wears Prada” rip off down my throat, I’m gonna have to insist they pay some sort damages for copyright infringement. Regardless, let’s get Kelly Monaco some more screen time. And please writers, consider never waking Michael from his coma. He’s annoying: you know and the fans know it. Put that little pre-teen character out of his misery.
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    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    My Super Secret Covert Op with Agent 006.5

    I sat on a barstool, a martini in my hand. Before the first sip touched my lips, an older gentleman appeared beside me. His head was clear of any hair that might have grown in his youth, but his face was confident with a strong brow and rounded cheeks. I could tell he must have been handsome in decades past.

    “Look straight ahead,” he ordered, his deep voice displaying a thick Eastern European accent.

    My eyes snapped to my wide-mouthed glass.

    “Are you her?” He lit a cigarette.

    “That depends. You got a name?”

    He blew a cloud of smoke on the mahogany bar. “You want a name or do you want information? Because you can’t have both.”

    He was one of the most wanted communist secrets agents of the Cold War and that was how I met him…

    Okay, not really.

    But it sounds WAY cooler than how things really went down. :)

    Yes, I did really meet with a communist spy on Monday. And, yes, the Czechoslovakian government did have a death warrant on his head for decades. But these days Lawrence Martin-Bittman is a very pleasant older gentleman living in Rockport, Massachusetts who paints watercolors for a living.

    It’s a far cry from his days as Deputy Chief of Prague’s bureau of black propaganda. During the ‘50s and ‘60s, the man scuba dived into lakes to plant false Nazi war chests, he organized trips to manipulate foreign reporters, and he spread pro-communist propaganda worldwide. But that was before he emigrated to the states under political asylum to escape the Soviet tankers that invaded Prague in 1968. And before he was sentenced to be executed if he ever stepped foot back in his home country. And before he became a professor at Boston University.

    He kinda makes your life seem dull, doesn’t he?

    I mean, seriously, I wrote a couple of YA novels. Lawrence Martin-Bittman has written about a dozen books (under his given name, Ladislav Bittman), all on his experiences as a communist spy. Heck, he even went on to teach a journalism course about how to detect the types of propaganda he was so successful at spreading.

    And it was this expertise, in the field of disinformation, that led me to meet with him. I’m in the midst of new WIP that deals with international espionage and global propaganda, and how lucky am I that I happened to graduate from the one University linked with the foremost expert on the subject? Thanks, BU for hooking up an alumna!

    The man couldn’t have been nicer. He invited me into his home, spoke to me for two hours, and offered me his opinions on everything from how to start a privatized espionage ring (more common than you might think) to whether the famous WMDs were the part of the greatest disinformation operation in world history (probably not).

    He even gave me a print of one of his paintings. And he’s really good. Check it out.



    It’s a view of his hometown of Prague, a city that welcomed him back in the mid-90s when they finally lifted their death warrant. A city I happened to have been visiting on 9/11 when my apartment (five blocks from Ground Zero) was being caked in dust. A city I remember vividly and am happy to have represented in my home.

    It was an honor to meet Mr. Martin-Bittman. And I thank him so much for obliging me.

    I mean, come on, it’s not often you get to meet a real James Bond. Though he doesn’t like to be referred to as 007. Instead, he named his artist studio “006.5.” I think that makes him even extra cool.


    POP-CULTURE RANT: Dolly Parton

    Okay, I get that she’s this big country music icon, but my God, did American Idol suck this week. Any one of them could be going home. And the fact that America had to cast those votes is a sad case of “blaming the victim.” Poor David Cook sang a song about a “Little Sparrow;” there’s no way to make that bird cool, no matter how well you sing it. And I realize that Dolly has had dozens of Number One hits with these records. But country music fan or not, that entire show, in the words of Simon Cowell, was “utterly forgettable.” What’s next? Idols very special tribute to line dancing?

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