Thursday, June 30, 2005

I'd like to thank the fans

MaryJane posted on the blog and said...

If you really need "positive feedback," well, I think you're a very talented, humorous, literary genius!!!

Mary Jane, bless you - and I'll have that check in the mail I promised tomorrow.

Seriously, it's great to hear from people who like my work. As much as bad reviews knock you down, a little positive note from someone really picks you up. And, it's a helluva lot cheaper than therapy.

Not that I'm going to go all Tom Cruise on everybody and start saying therapy is bad.

And by the way, is it just me or has Tom Cruise gone completely insane? Seriously. Who hit him with the crazy stick? Somebody hire him a new publicist - stat. Either he's having a mid-life crisis or that whole Scientolgy stuff has finally sent him over the edge. All I know is that I want the old Tom Cruise back. The one who didn't jump on couches or proclaim psychologists are nazis.

Then again, maybe it's a whole pre-publicity ploy for the new Crazy Talking Tom Crusie Doll by Kenner. Can you imagine? He'd have a string in his back, and every time you pulled it he'd say "I love Katie" or "Prozac is a crutch."

It saddens me when celebrities go bad. Come back, Tom! We miss you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I'm Melting. Really. Melting.

I don't know how your summer is going so far, but I should mention it's 300 degrees in Chicago these days. Okay, I exaggerate. Maybe it's only 250 degrees, but whatever it is, I'm pretty sure I can fry an egg on the sidewalk.

Now, I'm not supposed to be a heat-sissy, since I grew up in Dallas (where 98 degrees is spring-time weather), but there is little to no air conditioning in Chicago. It's one thing to live in a broiler if you've got central air. It's quite another thing if you've got a window unit that cools about two square feet of a room and trips your circuit breaker ever time you try to blow dry your hair.

I thought my reward for slogging through 10 months of sub-zero weather (10 months is how long winter feels to this thin-blooded southerner) was a mild summer with lots of outdoor concerts and a cool breeze off the lake. Not so. I am so sticky that I think soon I'm going to start acting as flypaper. I've even gotten complaints from Marco, my kitchen contractor, who is becoming about as regular a fixture in my house as Eldin in Murphy Brown's place.

I'm going to go stand by my open freezer door for awhile. Back in a bit!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Meet the Parents' Friends

Thank you to everyone who came out (most of you by arm-twisting from one or both of my parents) to the signing in Plano on Saturday. Some of my mom's neighbors have kids selling over-priced candy for their little leagues or cookies for girl scouts. My mom has a daughter trying to hock chick lit books. But, at least my books won't make you fat.

This was my first book-signing (near) my hometown of Mesquite, so I was afraid it might be the high school reunion I've been avoiding for the last 14 years. Luckily, none of the total jerks (you so know who you are) showed up. Only the good peeps made an appearance. I saw my old high school tennis coach, Coach Howig. It was great to see her - even though she did ask me if I was keeping in shape, and I had to lie about the fact that I haven't seen the inside of a gym in months (perhaps years).

My grandma (Dad's side) was there, and she laughed at everything I read, even things that weren't really funny. Grandma - bless you. I'm going to plant her at every signing from now on as my own personal laugh-track.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

What Doesn't Kill You, Almost Just Freakin Killed You

I wholeheartedly agree that bad reviews come with the territory of writing. I got my own stack of rejection letters from "I Do (But I Don't)" and even now when I pitch an idea to my editor I'll get feedback along the lines of "Ha. Ha. Ha. That's funny. Wait. You're serious? I thought you were joking." [awkward silence ensues].

So I realize that the profession of writing is about putting yourself and your work out there in the public domain and taking your lumps where you find them. I also know that you can learn from the criticism and grow as a person. Of course, I have no interest in growing as a person. Growing as a person involves far too much self-reflection and a lot of people telling you you suck in your current state and that you need a lot of improvement. I'd much rather someone just tell me I'm fabulous as I am and don't need to do any work at all, because I'm perfect. Is that so wrong? Maybe I'm just one of those self-indulgent Americans the French are always talking about.

My Dad likes to say "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." Personally, I think what doesn't kill you - almost just freakin' killed you. If the only way to get stronger is to nearly die, I think maybe I'd rather stay weak, thanks. But then again, my Dad's other favorite saying is "When you're in a dark tunnel, and you see a light at the other end, well, then the light goes out and it gets really dark."

Dad gets creative sometimes with his metaphors.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

One-Star Amazon Reviewers Beware: I Know Where You Live

Okay, I have a secret to share with you Amazon reviewers. Guess what? If you think authors don't pay attention to what you say, then you're giving us more credit (and confidence) than we deserve.

Authors, as a whole, are as desperate for positive feedback as your typical aging actress. We're fragile. I mean it. We talk a tough game, but really we just sit at our computers for hours every day hoping someone will IM us so that we don't completely lose the last of our weakened social skills.

EVERY author I know obsesses about Amazon reviews. Oh, we pretend we don't read them, even though we check Amazon ten times a day for our ever-changing sales rankings. We pretend we never saw that two star-review where some not-so-kind reader called us a moron who can't spell, but trust me, we spent the day crying in bed and wailing to our friends/spouses/dogs/cats about how HotLips29 in Fresno has seen through our charade and called us for what we are: talentless hacks.

One of my author friends, who shall remain nameless, once told me she prefers to down a couple of tequila shots before looking at Amazon, just to shore up her courage. Okay, okay - by "author friend," I really mean me.

Seriously, now. This is my public service announcement. If you are about to write a bad review, even if the author deserves it (like say, the antichrist writes his memoir), remember that you are ABOUT TO CRUSH SOMEONE'S WILL TO LIVE. Let that soak in for a few minutes. Revel in the high of your power to send someone spiraling into a serious clinical depression. And then, I beg you, show some mercy and step away from the keyboard.

On the other hand, if you're going to say something positive, please do so, under your name and others, repeatedly and often - I'll pay you later.

Okay, enough ranting for the day. As you can tell, I think I've had one too many iced lattes.

And by the by, if any of my fellow Texans are going to be near the Plano area Saturday, swing by and see me at 3 p.m. at the Barnes and Noble. I'll be there doing my best imitation of an authoratative author.(Because, what public service announcement/rant would be complete without some shameless self-promotion? I told you I'm fragile. I just want to be loved - someone give me a hug and tell me I've lost some weight.)

I'd like to thank the Academy, Barnes and Noble, and my pals

Last night's book signing went well. I barely made a fool of myself at all, and it's nice to see that I have friends, even if I bribe them with food, drink and the promise of 15 minutes of fame in the acknowledgements of the next book.

I would show you pictures from last night, except that I am a dork and never remember my camera, which is why I am probably destined at some point to be abducted by aliens, see Bigfoot or witness some terrible celebrity crime, because I won't have the camera to record it and no one will ever believe me. ("Yeah right you saw Russell Crowe in a fist-fight with the Loch Ness monster, Cara. I mean, come on. Do you think I'm stupid? Everyone knows he doesn't like to swim.")

I once owned a camera phone, but it got washed along with my darks in the heavy cycle and never really functioned the same way again. Now, I have the junkie freebie phone because I'm trying to teach myself a lesson in responsibility (I've lost two phones, washed one, and dropped and broken another). Naturally, the freebie phone that emits more radiation than my microwave, is going to last forever. In ten years, when I have brain cancer, at least I'll be able to say that I saved the $100 on the phone upgrade and learned an important lesson in how to properly take care of my things.

But, I digress. First of all, I'd like to thank the Japanese American contingent that showed up en masse last night. Thank you! It brings me joy to see my peeps in solidarity. Long live the Yellow Panthers!

Second, to all my friends and neighbors, bless you all for buying (another) copy of my book. Without you, I'd have nobody to complain to about how my "wildly successful" career is "getting to me" and how I think I might need some "time away from the spotlight." I think we both know that I mean "I fear my publisher is going to release me from my contract and that I'm going to end up with a dead-end job writing useage directions on the back of toothpaste tubes."

Thanks to all who came and bought copies. My husband, in particular, thanks you. The books sold help feed his fantasy that one day he can quit his job and sponge off his rich novelist wife, instead of slaving every day to subsidize her "career." It helps me motivate him, especially when he starts to get surly about the fact that I can pretty much sleep whenever I want during the day. I call it "power napping." He calls it "sleeping until noon and then watching three hours of bad daytime television."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tales of a Marketing Whore

Yes, I am shameless when it comes to self-promotion, I'll admit. I think the only person worse than I am about promoting my books is my Dad, and it's cute for him to hand out my books to perfect strangers on the street because, well, he's a proud papa. When I do that, I come off as deranged, narcissistic or pathetic. Go figure.

Anyway, fear of coming off as a deranged narcissist is not going to prevent me from inviting each and every one of you to my book signing tomorrow. This is because I have no pride, a fact that’s been well documented. I'd pretty much sell my husband into slavery if I could be assured a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List. But then again, I'm pretty much in the mood to sell my husband into slavery any time he leaves out one of his crusty, unrinsed dishes on the kitchen counter, so maybe that says less about my marketing lust and more about my marriage.

But, I digress. Back to the important issue at hand: my self-promotion. I’ll be at Barnes and Noble at the Old Orchard Mall (Skokie, Illinois) tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. I'll be there on time unless I get distracted by the Nordstrom's semi-annual sale (no promises there, folks).

Monday, June 20, 2005

Do you know who I am?

So, I'm sure most of you don't know, but I freelance write for Northwestern University's School of Communication. It's a nice gig, mostly because it gives me a really good excuse to change out of my pajamas once in awhile, and they also have a great benefits like a killer gym membership that I can say I have but not actually use. I write for their alumni magazine, and sometimes even get to do fun things (like meet Zach Braff, one of NU's alums, or Meryl Streep - yes, THE Meryl Streep, a parent of one of NU's students).

I've met celebrities before. On the set of the Lifetime Movie version of "I Do (But I Don't)" I met the stars, Denise Richards and Dean Cain. I even met Charlie Sheen there (that was pre-divorce). Yes, I know I'm name-dropping, but dammit, what good is it to meet celebrities if you can't immediately start telling everyone you know that you met them? Honestly.

Anyhow, the trick to meeting celebrities is to try not to do anything really, really stupid. This is easier than it sounds. When I met Denise Richards (my first real introduction to a celebrity that didn't involve me being arrested for trespassing), I kept blubbering on about how I liked her work in that James Bond movie. I mean, really. That's dumb. It sounded dumb when it was coming out of my mouth, but I couldn't stop it. She got that glazed over look and then glanced from side to side as if contemplating whether or not to call security.

By the time I met Dean Cain and then Meryl Streep, I sort of could keep myself together. Sort of.

So, this past Saturday, I worked at the School of Communication convocation, where another celeb, Harry Lennix (You probably have seen him in the last two Matrix movies, or on ER) gave the commencement address. It was fantastic, really. I only wish I could be half as inspiring.

But what was really great was that I didn't do anything really stupid when I met him. For instance, I didn't ask once if Harry knew how I could get in touch with Keanu Reeves. Friends of mine know that I have soft spot for Keanu. They like to tease me relentlessly about it (because that's what friends are for). And nobody called security. I call that a success!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Procrastination: Without you, I'd actually be working

Okay, it should come as no surprise to anyone now that I am very easily distracted from working. The board flying through my window at high velocity (see Adventures in Renovation) was a legitimate distraction, but trust me, pretty much anything can derail me from my good intentions to get some writing done. I spent a few minutes Friday trying to decide if the piece of lint on my carpet was lint or a dead bug. And then, after that, well, I figured, I might as well pour myself some wine and watch re-runs of the Daily Show, since my day was already shot.

I know that many of you aspiring writers are in the same boat, so when I find a really rewarding pocrasintation past time, I feel I have to share.

If you blog-readers haven't heard of Jason Mulgrew, please go to his site immediately. It's the funniest thing I have read in a long while. He was actually featured in People Magazine this week, which is a welcome change from the TomKat/Brangelina news (They're all more exposed than Elizabeth Berkely in Showgirls).

And even if you don't like Jason Mulgrew's site, believe me, it sure beats inspecting carpet lint. Happy procrastinating!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Adventures in Renovation

So, I may have mentioned that I'm getting my kitchen redone. We live in a vintage condo in Evanston, and most of the kitchen appliances are from the Nixon era, with cabinets dating back to Eisenhower.

My dad told me when I started this renovation "be patient with Daren. You're going to want to get divorced." He'd had his kitchen redone the year before and had constant fights with his wife (the six-week project took three months).

So, I knew to expect the worst. What I didn't expect was for my contractor to go on vacation mid-job (for a week!) and leave, unsupervised, a young Russian worker who speaks in a very thick accent (FYI: I have nothing against Russians, most especially the Russian Mob). He also doesn't seem concerned about basic OSHA safety practices.

Case in point: Yesterday, he brought up this huge saw and began sawing boards in my dining room. Mind you, he's not wearing safety goggles.

So, I go to lunch only to return to find a nervous Russian and a broken window. He says one of the boards "took off like bullet," traveled thirty feet at high velocity and went straight through the window. We're on the third floor. The Russian is looking a bit shaken and is saying "could've gone through eye. Guess it's my birthday today." By birthday, he meant, guess he's lucky. Then he tells me, "Dangerous, yes? You stay in other room, yes? Big saw. Dangerous."

I am filled with confidence. If I get a board through the eye, you'll know why I didn't finish Book Four.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

You Say It's Your Birthday

Today is a very important day, and I don't mean because it's Flag Day. That's right, it's my birthday. This is the day when I take a long, hard look in the miror and try to figure out the youngest age I can still pass for.

When I was little, people always thought I was younger than I was. This is partly because I'm short (damn those Japanese genes!). It was very annoying when I finally reached my teen years, and people kept asking me how I was liking third grade. Humiliating, if you will.

But my mom (also a petite woman) told me that one day I would be thankful, and that day has come. I regularly get carded at restaurants, and sometimes by people who are so skeptical that they scoff, "YOU want a glass of wine? Alright, missy, let's see that I.D." Ever since my 30th birthday, I've started to love the scoffing. So, today, on the anniversary of my 28th birthday (I'm clinging to 28 until someone tells me I can't pass for it anymore), I'm going to go out tonight and order some wine. Wish me lots of scoffing.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Book Fairs Rule

The book fair was a great success Sunday. Thank you to everyone who came out to see me. I don't know about other authors, but I think I have the Best Fans on Earth. You guys are the best - thanks again!

I had the privilege of signing with Deloris Jordan, Michael Jordan’s mother, who has written a number of children’s books as well as parenting books. She couldn’t have been nicer.

After stuffing myself at Hackney’s (oh those onion rings are so good), I met up with fellow author Laura Caldwell. If you haven’t read her books, you should! She also just started a suspense/mystery line for you whodunit junkies out there.

Well, it's back to writing for me. Drop me a line and I'll definitely write back. I'm a sucker for any excuse to postpone finishing a chapter today.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Book Fair-est of Them All

So this Sunday, I'll be signing books at the Printer's Row Book Fair in Chicago at noon at the Border's Tent.

Last year, I sat on a panel to discuss "Lad Lit vs. Chick Lit" with some very fun authors - Stacey Ballis (Inappropriate Men, Sleeping Over) and Kyle Smith (Love Monkey). If you haven't read their stuff, I highly recommend it. Love Monkey is a serious riot - especially if you want the low-down on that whole Christian Slater talking to his member thing in the bathroom (the main character in Love Monkey does the same thing, and it's seriously laugh-out loud funny).

Stacey is the ultimate multi-tasker. She's also the director of education and community programs at the Goodman Theatre, and she doesn't plan to quit, either. She's also very fun, so it's no wonder her books have great humor. Stacey will be signing books on Saturday.

This Sunday, it's just me, but if you're in the neighborhood, come by and say hello!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Men at Work

Ah, nothing like the sound of a bunch of guys ripping out your kitchen to let you know you've made it. This week, my kitchen (circa 1955) gets a make-over, so if my post looks dusty today, you know why.

As you know, I'm hard at work on the next novel. I'm not sure it exactly has what you'd call a plot yet (although I'm 150 pages in). I knew there was something I'm forgetting.

Anyway, the book is set in London (short summary of the work written so far: Lauren's little sister, Lily, marries a musician. His band hits it big. He runs off with an actress. Lily flees the country and the tabloids and visits London).

Has anyone been to London recently? Have London stories to share?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Partied like it's 1999, please pass the aspirin

Had a fabulous time at Beth's book launch party, and I have the hangover to prove it. My apologies in advance for any misspellings, typos, or gaffaws. The party was so good that I know Martha Stewart at this very moment is considering retirement because she simply can't compete with Beth, reigning party diva. Thanks, Beth - you're the greatest!

I also want to say hello to Sarah, who wrote and asked if I would consider writing a sequel to "Pink Slip Party," or another book involving Jane McGregor.

I love Jane. She's one of my favorite characters. I would love to write more about her. Unfortunately, "Pink Slip Party" didn't sell quite as well as "I Do (But I Don't)," so I think the only way I could sell my editor on it is if Pink Slip Party miraculously found a second life. But never say never. Jane could be back. I'd like nothing more than to give her some new adventures.

Thanks for writing, Sarah!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Let's Party Like It's 1999

Every so often, I get to leave the house. It's one of those rare moments when I actually change out of my pajamas and see sunlight. Ah, Vitamin D, I've missed you.

This Friday, I'll be leaving the house for a soiree at my friend Beth K's house. Now, for those of you who don't know, Bethie is the best hostess on the planet. She throws parties that put pre-jail Martha Stewart to shame. Case in point: she once threw an Asian-food theme party where she made (from scratch) her own potstickers, egg rolls and fortune cookies. That's right - HOMEMADE fortune cookies.

She owns every gadget ever made by Williams- Sonoma, and she actually knows what they're for - unlike me. I get confused with microwave popcorn directions.

Beth also happens to be one of my best friends in the world. Who else would pick up my book at Borders, put on a waterworks show fitting of an Oscar nomination, and cry to everyone in the vicinity, "My friend wrote this book. Look! There's my name in the acknowledgements. You have to buy this book! Buy it! Buy it now!" I swear she's responsible for at least half of my book sales.

The shindig this Friday celebrates Dixieland Sushi. It's a hen party - girls only - which means we can be total pigs. Stay tuned for goofball pictures...