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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In a World… Where Blurbs Rule, And Everyone Needs One

To blurb or not to blurb, that is the question. You’ve probably noticed on the back of many books there are little excerpts from other authors claiming it’s “laugh out loud funny!” or “two tissue box worthy!” or “fun and full of heart!” Authors are usually responsible for asking other authors to write these blurbs on their behalf. So if you don’t know many writers, you often don’t get many blurbs. (Remember the puppy dog eyes you had when you stood at someone’s locker and asked, “Will you sign my yearbook?” It’s like that.)

But thankfully, in the age of Twitter, Blogger, Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal, GoodReads, etc., authors have more opportunities to “meet” each other in the strictly WiFi sense. This leads to me being asked via Twitter to blurb an awesome new novel by a popular Latina author.

So after reading an ARC of Goodbye to All That by Margo Candela and loving it, I was then forced to ponder the age-old question:

How do I write a blurb?

Do I go with the James Earl Jones version?
In a world… where movie stars rule the planet, one girl must face them all or risk doing temp work…FOREVER.

Do I go with the Siskel & Ebert version?
Two Thumbs Up! Fine, chick-lit fun! A book your girlfriends will love.

Do I go with the Time Magazine “By the Numbers” version?
300 pages
16 chapters
3 dog-eared pages
Countless laughs

Or do I just go with the straight-up version? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. So ultimately, I went with this:

“Bridget Jones meets Entourage in this witty, L.A. story that lets you behind the velvet ropes and inside one of ‘the industry’s’ cut-throat boardrooms. Readers will be rooting for Raquel Azorian, a realistic heroine full of flaws and self-reliance. Plus, she’s funny. Candela spins dialogue so sharp it will have you wishing she were standing nearby with cue cards at your next office meeting. A great, enjoyable read.”

So I hope you guys check it out when it debuts. Good luck with the launch, Margo!


Okay, it’s official. It’s not just me, this season blows. For the first time ever, I skipped the entire audition round (just wasn’t into it), but I did watch one round of the semi-finals. I wasn’t impressed. When they narrowed it down to the final 12, I thought it was safe to trust that the talent had been limited to only the most watchable. I was wrong. I have watched 2.5 episodes of the finals now and so far, only 2ish people deserve to be there (Crystal, ½ Lee, and ½ Siobhan, depending on the night). The rest are awful, like Season 1 “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” awful. Simon, I think when you leave next season, so will the rest of us.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Work-In-Progress: Channeling My Inner Tarantino

So you know how I’ve been blogging about my Adventures in Prequeldom? Well, I regret to inform you that prequeldom is on hold for the moment. But don’t worry, this is a good thing! (Though it’s not easy to stop when you’re 30,000 words into a novel. Insert sound of tires screeching to a halt.) Essentially, my middle grade WIP is getting a new spark of life. Specifically, I’ve decided to chop the book into pieces and paste it together into a fractured timeline in a manner similar to Reservoir Dogs—only without all the guns and sliced ears.

For those who haven’t seen Quentin Tarantino’s debut flick, it’s not for the faint of heart. (Seriously, it takes cursing and violence to a whole new level—I’m not joking about that ear.) But one of the less disturbing (awesome) things it does amazing well is tell its story in a nonlinear fashion. The film jumps around recapping the events right before and right after a bank robbery, without showing the robbery itself. It sounds kind of crazy, but it’s actually quite awesome.

And while making my latest revisions to my middle grade novel, I came to appreciate Tarantino’s style of thinking. The WIP already featured snippets of timeline jumping. Throughout the book (which is told from four different girls’ points of view), the story would jump to the height of the action and then rewind a bit to tell the reader how we got there.

So, the thread of timeline jumping was there already.

I’ve just deciding to split that thread in two.

Now, instead of finding out what happens to Deirdre, Amber, Allie, and Becca as their friendships slowly (or drastically) shatter, we see what happens right before and right after one of the major “incidents” in the book.

Sound confusing? Try laying it out in notecards.

Now, believe me, I debated giving an excerpt here. I even cut and pasted one in. But I just don’t think I’m ready. These things take time.

But, I will tell you that ultimately, my big writerly intention here is to show how four girls are affected differently by the same social events, because they’re seeing them through an entirely selfish light. (They’re 13, what do you expect?). So by adding the new timeline, it takes their viewpoints out of context, making their different perspectives even more drastic (because the reader hasn’t gotten to experience the “incident” in question). At least not yet.

Think of it like Lost, the answers are coming…

POP CULTURE RANT: General Hospital
I have mixed emotions about Kristina’s domestic abuse storyline. A) I like that it ties in lots of different cast members. B) I like that it’s not mob-related. (Don’t we all?) C) I like how all the actors seem to stepping up their game (Alexis, Kristina, and Sonny have been great). BUT, having a teenage girl depicted as lying about who abused her just seems irresponsible to me. It’s like they’re sending a message to families that they shouldn’t trust their daughters when they come forward about being attacked, because they might lie. And that’s a horrible, horrible message to suggest. Now, I know, soap operas aren’t there to teach us behavioral tips. (What, you can’t slap people in the face during boardroom disputes?). But still, it might have worked better if Kristina was in a coma and no one knew who abused her, so they blamed Ethan at first. Then Keiffer. Just sayin’…

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Let's Be BFF With GCC Member Elizabeth Scott

Ever have a crush on your best friend’s boyfriend? Of course not. Because even if you did, you wouldn’t tell me. It’s a blatant violation of Girl Code. And that is exactly the topic that our newest GCC member Elizabeth Scott tackles in her new young adult novel, THE UNWRITTEN RULE, which debuts today through Simon Pulse.

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

Everyone knows the unwritten rule: You don't like you best friend's boyfriend. Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He's easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he's paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two things: Ryan is Brianna's boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah's best friend. Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants is to hurt her best friend. But when she's thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens. It's wonderful...and awful.

Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can't stop herself from wanting more...

Here’s what Elizabeth had to say:

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

Elizabeth: I'm a great secret keeper---if you tell me something and ask me to not tell anyone, I won't.

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

Elizabeth: My favorite place in the world is Wales, especially North Wales, and I loved everything about it when I visited.

I think the coolest thing I saw there was the ruins of a castle because you could actually walk through them and you could just sense what it had been like once upon a time.

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?

Elizabeth: I haven't ever visited a psychic and I don't think I ever would because I'm pretty skeptical of just about everything. Which isn't always for the best, but it's how I am!

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

Elizabeth: My family is obsessed with genealogy and I have to be honest, I got bored of hearing about it by the time I was about six.

How obsessed are they? Let's put it this way: not only do we have a family reunion every year, we have multiple family cemeteries that my family has created funds to maintain. (!)

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

Elizabeth: For my first book, Bloom, I was at home. For my latest, The Unwritten Rule, I was also at home. (!) When I made my first sale, I didn't believe it was real until I talked to my editor for the first time. For The Unwritten Rule--well, the joy never wears off, but the waiting to find out, weirdly enough, gets harder for me with each book!

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Old Lady Rodriguez’ Guide to Proper Email Etiquette

Well, you can thank the DH for the title to this blog because when I went into a rant yesterday on the flurry of rude emails I’d received he told me I was turning into “Old Lady Rodriguez.” Though I prefer to think of myself as Kramer in that Seinfeld episode when he puts in the screen door and starts screaming at those damn kids in his apartment building. Anyway, I have issues with impolite electronic communications.

This includes all forms: text, email, Twitter, MySpace, you name it. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not technology averse. I love these forms of communication and am addicted to some of them. But I’m polite. Emily Post taught me well. And since she’s not alive to teach the younger generation (well, I think there’s actually someone from her estate still writing books in her name, but whatever), I’ve decided to assume the role.

Please take into account that this blog does not apply to fan letters. Fans can send me communications in any tone of voice they want, because fans are awesome and I love them. Send me smoke signals, and I’ll still be thrilled.

But for all others, behold….

Old Lady Rodriguez’ Guide to Email Etiquette

1. Introduce yourself. If I did not go to high school with you, if you are not my old college chum, if we do not share blood, then it is safe to say you are contacting me in a professional capacity. We don’t share pints at the pub. So if you email me, especially if it’s for the first time and I don’t know you, then say hello (not “What up!”), write in complete sentences, and leave a closing (with your name).

2. Say thank you.
If I take the time to proofread your manuscript, give you a referral, edit your query, introduce you to a contact, then the next time you contact me, say thank you. It doesn’t need to be calligraphied on parchment; a simple “Thank you for your help” is just as nice. Think karma.

3. Don’t use odd slang. Now, I’m not a huge stickler here. You can see that throughout all of my blogs and novels, I use plenty of slang. But in a professional email, think about whether “OMG let’s tweet up, yo!” is really appropriate.

4. Be nice. I may be alone in this, but I think one-line emails are rude. No greeting, no closing, just “Let’s meet” or even worse, “Call me.” If you want to talk to me, then pick up the phone. Don’t send a one-liner with no explanation for the conversation.

5. People forward emails.
If you need any more incentive to be a bit more polite, don’t forget that all important “forward” button. Millions of people could see that communication. Don’t believe me? Ask the professor I know who shares every incoherent email he gets from a student with his entire base of friends and family. Take note, college freshmen.

Okay, rant's over. I’m getting off my soapbox now. And I’m sure in a few hours I'll get a bunch of one-liners saying “What up spanky?” in a ALL CAPS and comic sans font. But in the meantime…

Thanks again! I appreciate your time.

POP CULTURE RANT: Tik Tok by Kesha

I warned the DH I would be doing this since he titled my blog, but yes, Tik Tok has invaded my husband’s brain. He manages to find it on the radio every time we’re in the car (and that song is on a lot). He even has a little dance, and once he walked into a meeting saying, “The party don’t start ‘til I walk in!” Kesha has gone too far. So I must appeal to DJs everywhere to consider reducing its rotation down from every two seconds, or SNL will soon be doing another sketch like this in its honor.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Great Adventures in Prequeldom: When Outlines Fight Back

I promised that I would blog about the experience of banging my head against my laptop…um, I mean writing my prequel. And since I am a glorious, fantastic, drop-down-on-my-knees-and-give-praise 20,000 words into the prequel, I think I’m ready to dispel with the words of wisdom.

The process of getting from “staring at the blank page before me” to 20K goes a little something like this:

Prequel, How Not To Lose Sanity While Writing

Step 1 – Break book into acts. The first 20,000 words for me represent Act 1. It’s just like a play. I put an initiating incident and mini climax into each act as I build to the ultimate climax and dénouement at the end. For this book, I have three acts planned.

Step 2 – Stare at your pretty outline with three clearly defined, color-coded acts and feel proud. This is particularly important for me because I’m not an outliner, so I expect applause and a standing ovation for this feat.

Step 3
– Place bulletin board with clearly defined, color-coded acts in front of your husband’s dresser so every time he has to open a drawer, he has to move it. Share the pain.

Step 4 – Transfer the clearly defined, color-coded notes for Act 1 into an artist sketchbook in “Mind Map” format and keep sketchbook by laptop while writing. This is where I add additional color-coded notes to the outline to identify things I’ve changed while writing. (I change a lot. Outlines are made to be broken.)

Step 5 – Watch a rerun of Buffy and marvel at the awesome dialogue. “Make with the happy, people.”

Step 6 – Write first chapter. Read first chapter. Rewrite first chapter. Read first chapter. Repeat, repeat, repeat. (I don’t know why but I always spend a lot of time reworking Chapter Numero Uno before I move on. It sets the whole tone of the book—the voice, the characters, the everything. It’s important.)

Step 7
– Force yourself to write between 1,500 to 3,000 words per day while listening to the Adult Alternative channel on Comcast Cable.

Step 8
– Dance. No joke. You pound out 3,000 words that day, you stand up and you dance. Trust me on this.

(Yes, all I could find on Youtube was a video with Asian subtitles.)

I’m still coming out of my Olympic coma and checking out what’s been on TV since before the days of snowboard cross and men’s free skates. And I just caught my first episode of this season’s American Idol. Yeah, not good. I saw the guy’s Top Ten. Or that’s what they claimed, though the only one worth a mention was the David Cook sound-alike at the end. The rest—in the words of Simon— were either “utterly forgettable” or “self indulgent.” A couple actually tried to take Marvin Gaye and Tina Turner songs and “make them better.” Um, yeah, good luck with that.

Copyright © 2008 Diana Rodriguez Wallach, All Rights Reserved