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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book's Done and My Brain Is Going On Vacation

I’ve been a busy bee this February. I’ve had at least one signing or school visit every week this month. And I’ve been frantically (read: pulling hair out by roots while cursing computer) rewriting a manuscript I originally penned this summer. But I’m happy to report that the madness is over—well, almost over. Because I have finished my rewrites! (Imagine me dancing in a living room to 80s music while cat stares on like I’m a crazy person).

I have to tell you, there were times I thought this day would never come. And I’m not exaggerating. Just imagine mentally preparing yourself to throw out an entire manuscript and retell the same story from scratch—but with new scenes, new characters, and new storylines. Lots of fun.

But it’s over. The manuscript is now in the hands of my agent and her wonderful assistant. And once this blog is posted, my brain is officially on vacation (so are my hands, which are so strained from typing, it actually hurts to pound out this blog).

So you might not hear from me for a week, but in the meantime I wanted to leave you with some fun images of my last school visit. I went to Upper Darby High School in PA—the alma mater of my future best friend Tina Fey (she doesn’t know it yet, but I’m thinking of buying the BFF charms just in case I ever see her).

Anyway, the students were fabulous. They were so enthusiastic and asked lots of amazing questions. I talked about growing up in the area, going into journalism, meeting the psychic who predicted I’d write children’s books, and finally about some of the plot points in my novels (which most of the students read thanks to their fabulous librarian Anne Chamberlin who purchased copies of my books to share with her students).

And the teens were so technologically savvy that they took tons of pictures on their phones and emailed them to me before I even left the school (see above). How great are they? Thanks Upper Darby for a wonderful visit!

POP CULTURE RANT: Jessica Biel’s Oscar Dress

What was that? Do you realize how hard it is to make that woman look bad? But somehow that dress managed to do it. Imagine you’re a famous celebrity dating America’s biggest pop star (Justin Timberlake for those who don’t watch E! News), known for having a body most find physiologically impossible and you’re invited to the Oscars. You’ve got every dress in the world to choose from, and you choose a white potato sack that isn’t ironed, doesn’t fit right, and has giant lump on your mid-section. She looks like she grabbed the satin sheet at the hotel and made herself a nice toga. Next time, Jess, stick with a booty-hugger.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

GCC Interview: Get Glitzy With IN TOO DEEP By Jennifer Banash

Who doesn’t love a little glitz and glam? Come on, I think I’d make one heck of a BFF to Paris. Okay, probably not. I’d keep asking when she was going to work and why it’s necessary to spend all that money on fake hair when you can just grow it yourself. But that doesn’t mean I’m not fascinated by the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I watch E! News like everyone else.

This is why I’m thrilled to showcase the latest uber luxurious book by GCC member Jennifer Banash. Her latest novel IN TOO DEEP, the second in the Elite series, debuted through Berkley just last month.

As always, here’s a little bit about her book to get you hooked:

The Bramford building’s newest resident and small-town transplant Casey McCloy is adapting to life in the Big Apple and loving it. She’s got the look, the attitude, and a delish new boyfriend, Drew Van Allen. But she’s starting to have second thoughts as to whether the “New York” Casey is the real Casey. And she’s not so sure she likes herself much anymore. She’s not the only one.

Madison Macallister has always had her Manolo Blahniks firmly planted on the top rung of the social ladder—until that corn-fed cow Casey stole Drew away from her and made her look the fool. So what if Madison wasn’t exactly dating Drew at the time? She wanted him. And everyone knows that Madison gets what she wants, like Drew—and a little revenge.

Here’s what Jennifer had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?

Jennifer: No, I am AWFUL! Seriously, you should never tell me anything if you don't want it to get around to absolutely everyone. I am a notorious gossip, but only IF the gossip is really juicy. If it's just random stuff, then it's probably safe with me ;)

Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?

My favorite place I've ever traveled to is Paris. It is the one place I've ever visited that not only lived up to all of the ridiculous expectations I'd set up in my mind before I even left the states, but surpassed them. I try to go every year for a few weeks at least. I spent three whole summers in France, and they were the best months of my life. It's my dream to own an apartment there someday in the 18th—where they shot the movie Amelie.

I totally agree, Jen! I’ve been to Paris twice—the second time was on my first wedding anniversary. Very romantic.

Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?

Jennifer: Nope, I've never visited one personally, but an old roommate of mine did, and she got taken for around $1,000! Supposedly she needed to pay so much in order to get a "curse" taken off her love life. Sigh. It was a little ridiculous. I think psychics are largely disreputable because they often make it a practice to prey on people who are desperate, and offer false hope for an exorbitant price. I have gotten my tarot cards read though, and that was fun!

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?

I'm Sicilian, Czech, and Scottish. I'm mostly Italian and come from a very Italian family (like a movie—screaming over the dinner table, total chaos, you get the picture), so I've always aligned myself with that particular culture, and never researched the other side of my family very much. The way I identify myself in general is:
1) New Yorker (well, ex-NY'er now!)
2) Italian American

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?

Jennifer: I was in my kitchen, talking on the phone to my editor. I was shaking in my shoes because I had just asked for more money, and I thought she was going to just say forget it to the whole series. It was really stressful for me, because I didn't have an agent at the time—I sold THE ELITE series completely on my own—which I DON’T recommend doing! I wasn't exactly elated afterward, just exhausted! I think I took a nap when I hung up, LOL!

Thank you, Jennifer! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!

Monday, February 16, 2009

John Mayer Was Right: I Wanna Run Through the Halls of My High School…

I have a list of 100 Things To Do Before I Die. I wrote it in the year 2000 after I saw this Oprah episode where a guy made a similar list which included wild dreams—like playing one-on-one basketball with Michael Jordan—and actually completed them all. Take into account he was filthy rich and able to invest in a basketball team, thus leading to the Michael Jordan connection, but still. It was pretty cool. He geared his entire life to accomplishing these out-there goals.

So I made a list. I was 22 when I wrote it. But I still check it at least once a year and tick off any items I can. You’d be surprised by how many I’ve knocked off (like “be an extra in a movie” or “swim with dolphins”). But some are a bit more far reaching (like “visit every country in Europe”). And on the list are several career-centric ambitions, including “Be invited to speak at my alma mater.”

I always thought this would be awesome—to go back to the buildings you once sat in, face all those hopeful students and tell them how far you’ve come. How you had no idea what you wanted to do when you were their age. How you didn’t have any big-shot connections or free handouts to get to where you got. You’re just like them (and really not any cooler, so it’s kinda weird you're speaking to them to begin with, but whatever).

Last week I got to accomplish this goal for the second time. I went back to the Ridley Library in Pennsylvania and taught a creative writing workshop to students from my former high school and middle school (I also spoke at the high school in September, hence when I’ve doubly accomplished the task). It was a blast.

First let me say that while I was a good student in high school, I rarely went to the library. Sad, I know. I now write books for a living. But it took me awhile to get to this point, okay? I wasn’t born a lover of the written word, it kinda snuck up on me. So I’m incredibly impressed by any student who would spend their Thursday night at the library listening to some random author talk. Seriously, I was not that mature when I was their age. Kudos to them!

I’m also incredibly impressed with how creative they were! The purpose of my workshop is for the students to work together to outline a new story based entirely on their ideas, using true events that happened to them in real life.

By the end of Thursday’s session we had a tragic, yet beautiful, YA love story between a teenage lifeguard who almost drowns and the substance-abuse boyfriend who saves her. We toyed with the idea of making the substance-abuse swimmer boyfriend Michael Phelps but decided against it. Didn’t want to have to worry about libel suits. So stay off the bong, Phelps!


I’m sorry to all the Katy Perry fans out there, but I find her the most annoying artist on the radio. When her songs click on, I actually jerk in horror and reach immediately for another preset. The latest cringe-fest is “Hot and Cold.” Trust me, you’ve heard it. It starts with the lines, “You change your mind, like a girl changes clothes.” First, the metaphor is cheesy, but even putting that aside, it repeats the chorus on an endless loop, “You're hot then you're cold, You're yes then you're no.” I think the whole song consists of about five lines repeated over and over and over. And no matter how much I hate it, I can’t get it out of my head. It’s a vicious, vicious little tune.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Think V-Day with MISS MATCH By Wendy Toliver

I love the line of romantic YA novels Simon and Schuster puts out. They’re fun reads and perfect gifts for Valentine’s Day. ‘Cause really, who wants a box of chocolates from CVS when you could get a book that lasts forever? Isn’t that more romantic? Now, if you up the chocolates to Govida and throw in a full box set of novels, even better.

So to get you started on those romantic purchases, I’d like to introduce you to GCC member Wendy Toliver. Her latest book MISS MATCH debuted on my birthday (Feb. 10th)!

Here’s a little bit about her book to get you hooked:

Sasha Finnegan has always had a knack for setting people up, and at sixteen, she's turned her talent into an online business, molding high school crushes into true love. But Sasha finds her toughest match yet when hottie Derek Urban asks her to set him up with Sasha's gorgeous sister, Maddie. It's not that Derek isn't a good catch. In fact, after spending so much time with him, Sasha can't help but think he's perfect -- for her, that is.

Can Sasha push her feelings aside for the sake of her business? Or has this miss finally found her match?

Here’s what Eileen had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?

Wendy: I’m an awesome secret keeper. Might not have been as a teen, though.

Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?

Wendy: Loved going on a waterfall hike in a Costa Rican rainforest.

Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?

Wendy: I’ve never visited one but I wouldn’t mind someday.

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?

Wendy: Yes, I’ve visited the homes of my grandparents and great grandparents. They’re mainly in Texas, and further back, Georgia. I come from a long string of ranchers, oil industry workers, and amazing Southern cooks. I am related to Davey Crockett, which I think is pretty cool. As far as my pre-American ancestors, I remember being invited to a big family reunion in Scotland (my maiden name is Ferguson), but I only know two Scots and they aren’t related. If I ever do go to Scotland, I’d like to see my family plaid.

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?

Wendy: I was driving home after having done some errands, hoping to make it back up the canyon before my oldest son got off the bus. My agent called my cell phone, and when I saw “Christina” pop up on my caller ID, I assumed it was my best friend Christina. I said, “Hey girl,” and for a few beats, my agent didn’t say anything. I was embarrassed but now it’s kind of a joke between us. Anyway, when I figured out she had a deal for me, I had to pull over. It took a very long time for it to fully sink in. I’ve discovered I’m not very good at spontaneous celebrating. I always feel bad when my agent calls with good news because I just kind of sit there in a daze instead of screaming and dancing around. Which is weird because I really am a spaz.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Getting Flushed Back through the Sewer Pipe They Call the Holland Tunnel

I’ve started celebrating my birthday early this year. You pretty much have to when it falls on a Tuesday (what a yucky day). So my husband and I hit up our old stomping grounds on the isle of Manhattan. Now, we haven’t lived there in a few years, but I’ve gotta say it’s nice to go back. Especially when it’s freakishly 50 degrees in February—usually I get blizzards on my b-day.

So after my whirlwind 36-hour visit, I’ve got a few highlights to share on the awesomeness that is the Big Apple.

First, Will Ferrell’s “You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush” is possibly better than Phantom. At least, it’s much funnier. My cheeks still hurt from laughing. It’s 90 minutes of Ferrell doing his George W. Bush impersonation as a one-man Broadway show. Best part was when he asked the audience to shout out their occupations, and he gives them nicknames similar to W.

One female audience member (I’m not making this up) was a “Strip Search Monitor at Rikers.” This is a huge, scary NY prison for those who don’t know. Ferrell’s nickname for her: “Jelly Finger.” Another audience member was an “advocate to end poverty in third world countries.” Her nickname: “Useless Occupation.” Classic.

Second, everyone reading this right now, stop what you’re doing and go shopping in SoHo. Do not pass ‘Go,’ do not collect $200 (though you might want the cash). February sales are insane—some stores are giving an additional 70% off all sale merchandise. My husband bought designer button down shirts for $18 at Ben Sherman, a British-based boutique. At those prices, you’re required to buy one of everything.

Third, I gotta give a shout out to our friend Ryan Donn who suggested we have dinner at Mercat Restaurant. It’s this amazing tapas place in the Lower East Side. Each course we got was insanely better than the last—particularly the hanger steak and cod fish.

However, the waiters could use a tutorial in what they’re serving. When I asked why I couldn’t decipher the language on the menu (it wasn’t Spanish), he said it was “Catalan.” I said, “Oh, Barcelona!” And he said, “No, not Barcelona. It’s from Northern Spain.” Um, dude, you’re way wrong. Northern Spain speaks Basque, not Catalan. (I studied in Madrid. Aren’t I smarty pants?) Plus the restaurant’s website, actually says it “serves cuisine inspired by the markets of Barcelona.” Not that I was anal enough to check or anything.

And finally, as always it costs more to park in New York City than it actually does to stay there. Thank God we booked our room off Hotwire because we needed that savings. Seriously, for that kind of money, our car should be returned washed, detailed and dipped in gold. It’s only fair.

POP CULTURE RANT: Grey’s/Private Practice Crossover

A cliffhanger crossover? Really? I don’t know, but I expected more from this “crossover event.” Gee, Addison’s brother who no one cares about has parasites in his brain (coincidently, my own brother-in-law was once misdiagnosed with this very infliction). Does anyone care if this character lives or dies? They really needed to stretch it into four hours? Come on. Maybe I’m just tainted. The Buffy-Angel crossovers set the bar too high.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Think EVERMORE With GCC Visiting Author: Alyson Noel

I have to give a huge shout out to the fabulous young adult authors in the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit for touring me last week! You guys rock! If any of you missed my 20-plus interviews, check out my blog from last week for all the links to the Q&A fun. And of course, don’t forget to swing by Amazon in case you failed to pick up your copies of Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, or Adios to All The Drama.

But enough about me, I’d like to welcome the GCC’s latest touring author, Alyson Noel! Alyson's fabulous new book, Evermore, is already off to a rocking start and I know I can’t wait to read it. It just hit shelves February 3rd through St. Martin’s, and the reviews are looking good. So check it out!

And as always, here’s a little bit about her book to get you hooked:

Sixteen-year-old Ever used to have two parents, a little sister, a dog, and a nice house in Oregon. She used to be a varsity cheerleader and go to school dances. But that was before the horrible accident that claimed the lives of her family.

Now Ever blares the Sex Pistols through her headphones and hides under her hoodie in class. She doesn’t need to listen to hear, or see to know. All she needs is to touch someone to know their entire life story, not to mention always seeing their auras and hearing their thoughts. She’s been branded a freak at her new high school in Laguna Beach as she goes out of her way to avoid human contact, but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste.

From the moment Ever first looks at Damen, she feels an instant recognition. He is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy, and he holds many secrets. Damen is able to make things appear and disappear, he always seems to know what she’s thinking—and he’s the only one who can silence the noise and the random energy in her head. She doesn’t know who he really is—or what he is. Damen is equal parts light and darkness, and he belongs to an enchanted new world where no one ever dies, and nothing is as it seems…

Here’s what Alyson had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper? Why or why not?

Alyson: The best. Seriously. If you tell me not to tell anyone, I won’t, I’m a vault. But, if you somehow forget to say that...

Q: I love to travel, so I gotta ask, what is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?
Alyson: I’m a traveler too! And my favorite place so far was Marrakech—everything about it seemed magical, exotic, mysterious, and mystical, it was truly the best! I saw snake charmers, camels, the most amazing bazaar, and I ate pigeon pie!

Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?

I’ve visited a few in my time. One in particular who predicted so many things it was eerie! She predicted my future husband—going into great detail, even predicting I wouldn’t meet him until 8 years later, all of which came to be true! She predicted my move to NYC and job with the airlines (I was a flight attendant for Delta for many years), all of which seemed insane at the time since I was fully ensconced in Mykonos, Greece back then. And yet, years later, I sort of sat back in awe as I watched my whole life unfold just as she’d said!

I love this story down to your former residence in Mykonos! The Greek Islands are so far my favorite place in Europe.

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?

Alyson: I’ve never researched my family tree, though I did go to Puerto Rico for my honeymoon, which just happens to be where my Abuela is from, though unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to visit her village. And, on the other side of the family, I once made a trip to Mt. Airy, North Carolina where my mother hails from, and I got to meet a good number of relatives I’d never met before. I’m not sure which was more of a culture shock—P.R. or Mt. Airy—but in both places I had a lot of fun!

Gotta love a fellow Puerto Rican. :)

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?

I remember the moment I got The Call so clearly it’s like it’s frozen in time. I was driving North on the 55 freeway, on my way to return a rental car to John Wayne Airport when my then agent called with the news. All I remember is him saying “St. Martin’s Press” and “Two-book deal” soon followed by “Maybe you should pull over” when I started excitedly yelling and screaming. By the time I got to the Avis drop off I was way beyond giddy. I was jumping up and down and mumbling unintelligibly to the poor attendant who wasn’t quite sure what to make of me. It was on 02.04.2004 and it was one of the best days of my life so far!!

Thank you, Eileen! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Have a Ticking Time Bomb Inside Me Waiting to Explode

I know you hear a lot of writers talk about “deadlines.” It’s something I’m quite familiar with given that I once worked for a daily online magazine. Deadlines don’t get any firmer than having to produce at least one fresh news item by 5pm Monday-Friday. But as an author, deadlines are a bit more flexible.

Editors will often cut you slack if you ask for a few more weeks, a few days. They expect us to turn things in late, so they probably pad the due date in advance. We’re temperamental artists after all (yeah, right).

But personally, I find the deadlines that really drive you crazy are the ones that are SELF IMPOSED.

You know what I mean, those nasty resolutions: I’m going to lose ten pounds in two weeks; I’m going to quit smoking by Ground Hog’s Day; I’m going to find a new job before I have to attend that awful conference. Or….I’m going to finish these never-ending revisions by the time my birthday rolls around!

My b-day is February 10th. And I’ve been working on these revisions since before Christmas. You may think, “Hey, that’s not so long.” But trust me, it is when you're working 12 hour days, when you’re dreaming about removing paragraphs you never actually wrote, when you find you can’t go to the gym because you need every last hour to write.

This book is consuming my life. And the thing is, I already wrote it! These were supposed to be revisions, but truly I can’t even call them that anymore. It’s more like the “I’m going to rewrite this book from scratch and drive myself slowly insane until I’m eating paste and singing Downtown in my bathtub” project.

And I swear, I will get it done before I age another year. Or I’ll end up aging 40 in the process.

So in honor of my eternal revisions, I’ve decided to post an excerpt. Like I’ve said, I’ve never been big on Teaser Tuesdays, but I’ve been living inside my head with this book for far too long.

I hope you enjoy the sneak peek. It comes from the middle of Chapter One of the Newly Revised Manuscript (which is very different from the one I teased last time; that excerpt was from the old version). There’s a party going on in the apartment when this scene happens, but other than that, I don’t think it needs much of a set up (btw—this is still in draft form, so please excuse any typos). Here goes:

The sound of the apartment door opening pulled my attention. I turned to see three guys who seemed to have stepped off the pages of GQ—crisp button-shirts with starched collars (inappropriate for most college campuses) draped over black pants or dark jeans that might as well have had dollar bills sewn into the pricey fabrics. Two sported blond haircuts that were meticulously styled to appear effortless. The other had a dark buzz cut just an eighth of an inch shy of bald. And, of course, they were incredibly good looking—too good looking. I didn’t need to glance at my sister to know that she was swooning.

“Hey.” The guy with the buzzed head raised his freshly shaven chin. “It’s Keira, right?”

His deep baritone made my shoulders tense. I should have known Keira would invite strays who barely knew her name. She probably met him while medicating the migraines that formed after gazing in the mirror for too many hours.

“Nice place,” he said, his eyes narrowed as they scanned the room. Only it didn’t appear though as if he was admiring the décor, more like he was sizing up the guests, his eyes lingering on the faces of the men in the apartment. When his gaze subtly shifted to his friends, I could sense some sort of nonverbal cue. My gut twitched. I might not have been a social butterfly, but I had a pretty good loser-detector. These guys were rating high on my scale.

“I’m Ken. These are my buddies.” He gestured to his friends with his hand as his dark eyes dropped to my chest. I crossed my arms. He had to be at least a decade older than me, though that probably didn’t matter much. Perve.

“Hey.” He nodded to me as he licked his lips.

I had to swallow hard to hold back the vomit.

“Hi,” Keira cooed, mistakenly thinking the gesture was for her.

Score one for alcohol.

Her beer goggles were so thick she was actually batting her eyes at this freak show. I sometimes wondered how we were related.

“I’m glad you came,” my sister added as two of her nursing friends rushed to her side. They looked just as smitten.

“These are my friends, Caroline and Rebecca,” Keira nodded to her drunken pals, who were both swaying slightly. The guys in the doorway scanned them head-to-toe, and I could almost read their horny minds as they mentally called “dibs.”

“You guys want a drink?” Keira held up the pitcher and smilingly flirtatiously.

“Are you serious?” I snapped, sneering at her.

“What?” she defended, shrugging with innocent eyes.

“You know what.”

But Keira ignored me, her eyes quickly focusing back on the newcomers. When she bit her lip seductively, I turned away. I had no desire to watch her throw herself at these losers. She was better than that, better than them. It would be nice if she realized it.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” I choked under my breath.

Then I stormed away.

POP CULTURE RANT: General Hospital

Did you guys know GH is getting a new nurse’s desk? They’re blowing up the set for February Sweeps. And you know what’s sad? I heard this latest tidbit on the national news. You know it’s a slow news day when a soap opera set remodel makes entertainment headlines. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. Maybe they’ll actually bring some doctors and nurses to the cast so the show’s title makes sense again. Because after the past decade, I was certain they would’ve changed it to “The Mafia Hour” long ago.

Copyright © 2008 by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Copyright © 2008 Diana Rodriguez Wallach, All Rights Reserved