Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dial Up, Schmile Up

I have come to the conclusion that without the advent of high speed internet, THERE WOULD BE NO BLOGS.

A) No one would read them.

B) No one would write them.

There would be no discussion boards either. Amazon would be a text-only site.

Yeah, it looks as if we are on dialup for another week or so, thanks to Earthlink's giant fuckup. In the next few days, though, be on the lookout for a great interview with Alison Pace, author of PUG HILL. I SOOOOO owe Alison a blog. She's been quite patient!

Um... It might be a little un-intensive, graphics-wise. That's okay, though, I'll link you with Alison's site so you can experience the splendor of PUG for yourself! (It really does have an adorable cover. Google and see.)

What the hell did we used to DO when we were waiting for pages to load? I seem to remember arranging paperclips and pencils a lot more... I may have even had a BOOK near my computer as I awaited things to load onto the screen. I might have even EDITED! One thing is for sure. A lot less Internet time-wasting takes place around here!

If you are waiting for an email reply, I beg for patience. I cannot get into my website email at all, and won't be able to until the DSL comes back. The Yahoo account works, but I am soooo behind. Bad me! Bad!!!

See you soon,

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Out of It

Hey all, I am offline for the foreseeable future, mainly coz Earthlink sucks. *SIGH* If you are trying to reach me, try the phone, or be patient. I got some nice emails from people who got my book at the Shecky's promotion on Thursday and from others who've recently read it as well. I really appreciate them, and will try to respond soon.

Lots of love... XO M

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Brush with Greatness~Random Meeting with Anne Lamott

Yes, one of my life's dreams has been fulfilled and I have met the inimitable Anne Lamott in person.

Anne is one of my favorite writers. My personal favorite of her books, Traveling Mercies, was tremendously moving to me, as was the follow-up, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. I can completely relate to her idea of the Good Bad Christian, because that's what I am too, I think. Bird by Bird is the indispensible writer's handbook (I read it every year or so), and her novels are terrific too! I love Anne's little sayings about life, such as:
"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up."

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor."

"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."
I always loved these kinds of pithy sayings from Anne, but I appreciate them even more now that I am in recovery. *SMILE*

Which brings me to another great thing about Anne Lamott. Anne's candid sharing of her issues with drugs and alcohol and how she finally got help were part of what eventually helped me seek out the help I needed, too. Through her books, Anne had shared her experience, strength, and hope for anyone who cared to read her story. While I didn't pay a whole lot of attention for a long time, the message began to sink in over the years and along with Stephen King's discussion of substance abuse in On Writing (his memoir), I eventually saw enough similarities that I could no longer ignore the clanging bell of Truth in my head.

You can see why I adore Anne Lamott. I have wanted to meet her forever!

Yesterday, I was shopping in the market with my kids and saw a petite, pretty woman who looked sort of like this:

There are not that many people who look like this, so I stared for awhile (she probably thought I was nuts), just to make sure I was right. Anne Lamott lives in Marin County, about five miles from me. In fact, I am almost certain I saw her driving her car once about a year ago.

Anyway, I was pretty sure it was her. I got in line to pay; Anne Lamott was paying at a nearby register. As she was leaving I stopped her and said:

Me: Excuse me, are you Anne Lamott?
AL: Yes (smiles)
Me: I just have to tell you how much I love your work, especially your writings on faith and spirituality. They're the kind of books you can just read over and over again.
AL: Well, I'm so glad (humble smile, seems genuinely happy to hear this)
Me: I know you're on your way somewhere but I just had to tell you that.
AL: No, it's OK. (smiles again) Thank you so much for telling me!

Then we said our goodbyes and Anne walked out to the parking lot as the cashier is now asking me who the famous person was that was in her store. ***GGG***

I am so glad I got to meet the Amazing Anne Lamott IN PERSON and tell her how much I like her work. I only wish I had said something about Bird by Bird and her novels! Oh, well.

Oddly, since I have told this story a few times, every single person has asked me why I didn't say something about MY work.... "I'm a writer too, may I send you a copy of my book?" something like that. To be honest, it didn't even cross my mind.

(Now, I'm sure Joe Konrath, the book promotion machine, would dismember me if he knew I didn't take the opportunity to do so, but it would have polluted the moment with horrid black dreck and mold. All wrong. Ya know?)

No, no, the moment was not supposed to be like that. Really. It was just about me telling her how much her work meant to me. If we are meant to meet at some time in the future to discuss work, that will unfold on its own. If not, well, that's the way it's meant to happen, too.

Yesterday was a beautiful moment with a beautiful author. I'm so glad it happened.

Here's a montage of Anne's incredible, inspiring, moving work. Please check it out if you have not already done so and prepare to be bowled over.

If you CLICK HERE, you will be taken to a page where you can visit each book's Amazon location. Remember, please buy books NEW to support your favorite authors! Authors receive no funds from used book sales.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Best Author in the Known Universe!

Well, he's my current fave, anyway.... :o) I promised you guys a book recommendation today, and I won't back down.

Sure, I have my own "personal" favorite authors. They include Joyce Carol Oates and Mary Gaitskill. However, once in awhile you encounter an author who truly knows how to speak to his audience and hold them enraptured. Once in a blue moon, you will find an author who weaves a type of magic with his words that is unbelievable. Our son has found just such an author. It is the great Gary Paulsen.

Paulsen's books include the immortal Newbery Honor book, Hatchet. BEST. BOOK. EVER. (image is Amazon hotlink)

(If you're thinking of buying it, please buy your book NEW to support this fabulous author! Authors get no royalties from used books... thank you...)

Hatchet is the tale of a young boy, Brian Robeson, whose single engine plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness. For the next fifty-seven days, Brian must survive by wits and willpower alone... with no tools but a hatchet.

Of Hatchet, Publishers Weekly said:
"When the pilot of a small, two-person plane has a heart attack and dies, Brian has to crash land in the forest of a Canadian wilderness. He has little time to realize how alone he is, because he is so busy just trying to survive. And learning to survive, to plan on food not just for a day but until and if he is rescued, only begins when he stops pitying himself and understands that no one can help him. He is on his own, without his divorced father, whom he was to visit, or his mother, whom Brian saw kissing another man before the divorce. This is a heart-stopping story: it seems that at every moment Brian is forced to face a life-and-death decision, and every page makes readers wonder at the density of descriptive detail Paulsen has expertly woven together. Poetic texture and realistic events are combined to create something beyond adventure, a book that plunges readers into the cleft of the protagonist's experience. Ages 11-13."
Hatchet is a stunning, thrill-a-minute glimpse into survival and the human spirit. Wow. What an amazing piece of writing. Our son is 9 and it takes a really special book to get him excited. The book is at the top of his reading level and still he cannot put it down. THAT'S REMARKABLE.

This book has swept him under its spell, and he will often read extra, beyond the reading assignment... reading Hatchet instead of playing with the rats, building solar panels, and other things of interest. Hatchet has swept me away too! I keep sneaking the book away from him in order find out what is going to happen next.

Hatchet is my current favorite book of all time. Clearly, it is brilliant and Gary Paulsen is a genius. After almost 20 years in print, the book still ranks very high (low 2,000s today) on and has almost 1,000 reviews posted, overwhelmingly positive.

Something about the story of survival has spoken deeply to our son. Perhaps it is because of his own day-to-day struggle for survival against his chronic disease. Perhaps it is just because he loves a good, solid adventure story. This book has a wonderful message for anyone, and its emphasis on positive character qualities can be applied to anyone's life, young or old.

Best of all Paulsen has written dozens upon dozens of books, and other Caldecott/Newbery winners, including Brian's Winter, which speculates on an alternative ending to Hatchet. Whatever the case, God Bless Gary Paulsen. And long live Hatchet!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Found These Things in My Pocket

Hey guys, today is a mishmash of things. I'm trying to get back to regular blogging while preserving my writing time. It's a tough balance, especially when I'm on a HUGE roll with the book (see below).

Thank you so much to everyone who emailed and called with supportive messages about my last post. I hope I didn't come across as a dark, depressing person! I'm not! Or if I am, a trusted friend immediately calls me on my bullshit. I certainly don't FEEL dark and depressing. I feel fantastic! And, as my entry led with the other day, addiction is truly a horrifying darkness, the depths of which you do not quite understand until you have found your way into the light. But fortunately, I have found my way out of that dark and ugly place. And I am finding an amazing world of happiness opened up to me as I progress further along on this journey.

There are people out there that some friends of mine refer to as "dry drunks" who try to do it alone or without the benefit of a program . I'm so glad I don't have to do it alone. I am very blessed in all respects, to have the recovery program I do, and to have the opportunity to take this journey of spiritual growth, which I would not have tried, I'm sure, had I not come into this program. So as I said in the comments section, I'm not sad about anything... only grateful!

On another note, I was sorry to see Elliott Yamin leave us on American Idol--did anyone else tear up when he and his mom rode in the convertible among the throngs of people, and his mom had a tear in her eye? I just lost it and began crying. This young man has been through so much, and I know first hand what his mom has been through. When they tell you your baby has diabetes and it's forever, that he will die without insulin, that he faces numerous, devastating long-term complications.... it's crushing and terrifying and unreal all at the same time.

In addition to being a talented singer, Elliott seems to be a great, unassuming, unpretentious person. Like many people I've know who have pulled through great difficulties, it has only built his character. Not just his juvenile diabetes, but his partial deafness and his mom's lengthy illness and taking care of her... Elliott has faced these challenges, and become a better person. Bravo Mr. Yamin! I am your fan forever!

I was thinking about the fact that Elliott went to school before the advent of Lantus (long acting insulin that does not have the terrifying 'peaks' of the older long acting insulin NPH), which means his mother had to deal with a strict diet and specific number of carbs for snacks--and more horrible, the pretty significant chances of terrifying, potentially deadly middle-of-the-night hypoglycemia continually hanging over their heads.

My understanding is that Elliott now wears an insulin pump, which as all my diabetes friends know, improves matters but is still only a tool to control a lifelong, difficult, and always unpredictable disease. Middle-of-the-night hypoglycemia is something our kids will always have hanging like the sword of Damocles, but at least Lantus, and Novolog basals via the pump, do not have those nasty, nasty peaks. (Now I know I'm going to get an email pointing out that Lantus has a peak. Yes, I know Lantus has a peak. I know many kids who have had middle-of-the-night lows while on Lantus or the pump. Sadly, I have even heard of some who have died from middle-of-the-night lows. But my point is only that Elliott grew up in a time when children did not have the flexibility and freedom that Lantus and the insulin pump offer.)

Elliott deserved to go to the finals in American Idol. While all of the top singers are talented, in my opinion, he has the richest, most textured voice of the three finalists. Anyway, the finals were screwed up when Chris was voted out. The final two really should have been Elliott Yamin/Chris Daughtry.

I love Elliott... and his mom! I am sure he will be a successful R&B singer when this is all over and it's so fantastic he has had the exposure he has had so this album will be made and we can buy it! If he ever wants a biographer, he can let me know... **GGG** I'd be all over an Elliott Yamin biography! I hear he is going to be the spokesman for either JDRF or the ADA now. There, ladies and gentlemen, is a person of character.

On a vaguely related note, check out this magnificent New York Times article about Type 1 diabetes. In it, the controversial "First Five" ads about which I blogged awhile back are mentioned. It was OUR PARENT GROUP who coordinated the email campaign to get the ads altered--and we are mentioned in the New York Times!

As for the writing, things are going so swimmingly right now, I can't even tell you. The work is just flowing, and going in directions I never expected. Yesterday I wrote 22 pages! That's what Honesty, Open-Mindedness and Willingness will do for you!

Here's my thought for the day:

A joy shared is twice the joy,
a pain shared is half the pain.

More tomorrow on the BEST BOOK EVER for boys 8 and up! And NO... IT IS NOT HARRY POTTER!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Walking Toward the Light~Some Musings on Recovery

"In my disease I was running from the dark.
Now that I am in recovery I find that I am walking toward the light."

~I wish I could claim this beautiful quote for my own.~
~But like most good things, it comes from my recovery program.~

Recovery is something I have never discussed on the blog, but is of extraordinary importance to me. Since it is, to a great degree, an issue about which I am currently writing, it seems time to bring it up here in Martha-land. If I am to continue to write honestly here, and elsewhere, it is something I must discuss, at least briefly.

Many of you do not know (and many of you know very well! ***winky thing***) that I am an alcoholic. I no longer drink, but I will always be an alcoholic.

Those of you who are wondering whether someone you love might have a drinking problem, but tell yourselves 'no' because the person holds down a job, functions apparently well during the day, doesn't go on three-day benders, etc.... you might be interested to know that in my drinking days, I always completed my daily responsibilities. I never went on benders and rarely drank heavily in public. I was never hospitalized for alcoholism, I never drank in the mornings... hmmm, what else didn't I do? I didn't hide bottles, I didn't drive drunk, I never drank after 9 PM, at least not until the very end. Yet, I was, and am, an alcoholic.

It is really quite simple. I was powerless over alcohol, and, despite the fact that I believed I "had it together", my life had become unmanageable. "Hitting bottom" doesn't mean you're in jail, or on Skid Row. "Hitting bottom" means you have decided to stop digging.

Now that I am living in recovery, a whole new world of peace, serenity and happiness has been opened up to me. I never could have imagined I could be this happy. Faded to distant memories are the resentments, fears and anxiety that used to have me beaten. They still crop up from time to time, but on a much smaller scale than they used to. What's more is I have a set of tools now to deal with these things whenever they come up, so that I know there is nothing I cannot handle.

One fascinating thing about being in recovery for a good chunk of time is I run into people from the program ALL OVER THE PLACE. At school and sporting events, I've met fellow moms in recovery, and a few dads as well. I've run into other recovering addicts and alcoholics in the grocery store, at fundraisers, at the health club, and in my various writing groups. EVERYWHERE! I never knew this about them until I started my journey of recovery myself!

Now I know so many people who have their heads together and are absolutely genuine, honest and giving human beings. It doesn't matter how far down the spiral of addiction one has gone--if you were a "functioning" alcoholic like me, or a thrice-convicted meth addict, or anywhere in between--I am friends with them all. What is more, they are true, honest friendships that are difficult to come by in most venues.

If anyone out there is hesitating about seeking help for an addiction, or doesn't think they can live without alcohol or drugs, please know that there is a wonderful world of sobriety awaiting you. You will have so much fun in recovery. Being an alcoholic is not the worst thing that can happen to you--not at all! But being an alcoholic who never finds her way into recovery just might be.

If you've ever worried you might have a drinking problem, or someone close to you ever has wondered if you might... YOU DO! It's as simple as that. Being alcoholic is not your fault, but alcoholism is a progressive, deadly disease. Untreated, it will kill you. Whether it is from a car crash, suicide, liver problems, pancreatic problems or anything else, alcoholism is deadly.

One of the best things I heard since starting my recovery program was: You don't have to drink. And what's great is it is 100% true!

So if you are wondering about your alcohol habits or about those of someone you love, please take the Johns Hopkins Survey. It is a completely confidential, online survey that will help you analyze your drinking practices and decide whether it is time to seek help.

You can also visit Alcoholics Anonymous for more information. AA is a completely anonymous organization whose only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. Also, they conduct open meetings so you can simply learn more about the disease of alcoholism. There are other recovery programs as well. You can ask your doctor what is the best program for you. And anyone who likes can certainly drop me an email and ask me how I quit drinking. It was very simple and I am more than glad to share.

I'd rather live sober wondering if I'm really an alcoholic,
than die drunk trying to prove I'm not.
~Not my quote either... True, though~

Have a wonderful day, everyone! I know I will!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

North of Sunset, West of the Mood

Back eons ago, when I was doing my signing in LA, a man I didn't know came up to me in order to get his book signed. "Hello," he said, "I'm Henry."

I broke into hysterical laughter. "No way! The Henry Baum?"

It was the one and only. I was gobsmacked.

I can't even remember how I met Henry Baum, but I know it was on the Internet somewhere. Perhaps our blogs somehow got linked and we found each other that way. Henry's blog, Ash Tree, is an addictive read. His work has been published with Soft Skull Press and elsewhere. Henry, writing as Shirley Shave, an alleged female sex worker, has also had work appeared in Best American Sex Writing 2005. The Shirley Shave blog stirred up its own kind of controversy awhile back. You can read about it here.

Now, Henry has a new book out, North of Sunset.

I caught up with Henry and asked him a few questions.


Henry Baum was born in New York City and grew up in Los Angeles. He is the author of the novel Oscar Caliber Gun, retitled The Golden Calf in other editions. Currently, he lives and writes in L.A.

If there’s an everyman, then Michael Sennet is every celebrity. Michael Sennet is a movie star. He should be happy, but he’s bored. What does he do after he’s achieved the best of everything: the best women, the best cars, the best homes, the best drugs? He doesn’t have an answer. Meanwhile, the Vanity Plate Killer is roaming the streets of Los Angeles looking for new victims and dreaming of fame of his own. When Michael Sennet uses the M.O. of the Vanity Plate Killer, they find something that eclipses any starring role.

MO'C: How did you get this idea for this book? Please describe how the book grew from a glimmer of an idea into a whole novel.
HB: This is the first and only time that I’ve woken from a dream and started writing something. Actually, let me backtrack. I had the basic idea for the plot of the novel: a serial killer who goes after people with Vanity Plates and a celebrity who starts killing people using the serial killer’s M.O. as a scapegoat. Cut to a couple years later. I was living in Paris and dreamt a scene about road rage on the L.A. freeway. A very vivid dream, complete with dialogue. I woke up and wrote the entire scene down and didn’t stop until I had the entire story for the novel laid out. I can’t say I’ve ever had that experience since then. At the time, I was holed up with gout and I was taking two kinds of French painkillers that you can’t even get in the States. Might have had something to do with the vividness of the dream.

MO'C: Is Michael at all like you? How and why?
HB: I’m a fairly self-conscious person. I tend to look at myself the way I look at my writing: always revising, always for looking ways I could and should do better. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be a movie star and have every single person eyeing you and whispering about you when you leave the house. It’s really my nightmare, and a complete exaggeration of how I live my life. Michael Sennet is not exactly predisposed to that kind of scrutiny, like myself, and he kind of loses his mind over it.

MO'C:Your book takes an edgy approach to Hollywood life. How have your background and your location in LA helped you explore the characters?
HB: Here’s the story: I was born in New York City. My dad was a novelist and my mom worked in publishing. They moved us out to L.A. and my dad became a screenwriter and my mom became a producer. I grew up with nightly dinner table conversations about the industry. I went to high school with the children of celebrities: Cher, Jack Nicholson, Jackson Browne, directors, producers, and on. It’s part of me, as much as I’ve tried to excise it from myself. Hating Hollywood is in some way like hating myself, which isn’t exactly healthy. Instead, I’ve tried to study the place and come to terms with it in fiction.

MO'C:You chose to go the POD route instead of traditional publishing, yet you have been traditionally published in the past. Why the switch? Also, can you describe some pros and cons to this, and introduce the blog readers to the process of POD? How do you promote a POD book and get it distributed?
HB: You’re looking at the way to promote it. I’ve sent the book to a lot of lit blogs and review sites trying to promote the book. I’ve had some great responses so far. Because I’ve published a novel traditionally, it has been easier to get people’s attention for the book. Distribution is the main problem. There’s no good way to distribute the book to bookstores, short of walking into a bookstore and selling it directly. The main way for people to buy the book is online. It’s hard when people can’t read a few pages, so I’ve gotten excerpts posted online as well.

I have to say that POD was a last resort. I had an agent who sent the book to 20 places and he was done. I sent it to a few more small presses myself. No luck. I was reluctant to self-publish the book. I had pre-conceptions about self-publishing like anybody. It’s been a very good experience. Just having a book in my hands is a shot in the arm, so I recommend it for that alone. I’m getting interviewed, getting reviewed, getting read. Not on a huge scale, but much larger than if it was a manuscript gathering dust in a desk drawer.

MO'C: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
HB: My advice is to not worry about getting published. Write something, send it out, then write something else before waiting for a response. My other advice is to not judge yourself on your first draft. I’ve found a lot of times that new writers quit something if it’s not a work of genius right away. It’s like picking up a guitar and expecting to be able to play immediately. People think writing should come naturally and immediately because they’ve been writing since they were kids. A piece of fiction, or any writing, needs to be refined. Writing is about being hard on yourself, which isn’t the easiest road to go down. You have to be self-critical or nothing’s going to get better. Raymond Carver wrote 40 drafts of a story. His first drafts might not have been that readable either.

MO'C: What's your writing day like? Any tips or tricks for getting organized?
HB: My writing day used to be a bit more uniform. I’d work quickest after my first cup of coffee, for about 4 hours. It was heartening to me to read that Truman Capote only wrote 4 hours or so a day. He had all the time in the world to write, but he was only strongest for 4 hours.

Since I’ve gotten married and have a daughter, my writing schedule sort of fits around family life. Sometimes I write at night. Sometimes I write in the morning. I’ve got a paying job to do so that fits in there as well. I guess the answer is: whenever I can. A trick for getting organized is to throw out your TV and internet service. I just can’t follow my own advice.

MO'C: What's been the most exciting thing about publishing? The most frustrating?
HB: The most frustrating thing is not getting published. North of Sunset is my fifth novel, but only the second published, and I put it out myself. I’m a better writer than that record suggests. In the past, I might have been taken on by a publisher as a writer with promise. These days it’s about marketing and if one book doesn’t sell you’re done. Which doesn’t make an ounce of sense. Anything takes time to mature, and writers should be given the chance. Look at a book like Big As Life by E.L. Doctorow. Not his best and in this climate he might have never gotten another book published.

MO'C: Do you think you might write a sequel to this novel? If not, what else is in the works?
HB: I think I’m done with Hollywood for the time being. I think I’ve purged it from my system. I’ve been writing short stories lately. I’ve done things backwards: I wrote novels first and then started writing stories. Most writers do the opposite. I never thought I was restrained enough to be that concise. I’d get attached to characters and not want to leave them after ten pages. Now I want to write stories.

I’ve also got a couple of ideas for novels. I’m not sure I want to spend a year or more on a book only to see the thing not get published. My publishing history has made me skeptical about getting the types of books I write published. I’ve put a lot of work into releasing my book myself, but I’d really like to not do that every time out. I’d much rather spend the relatively short time it takes to write a short story, send it out, and get immediate feedback. Readers have been positive. It’s the editors and agents who haven’t been so helpful. Putting out stories is also a way to get people interested in the novel.

Thank you for joining us, Henry! You can buy Henry's book at Lulu, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; or ask for it at your local independent bookseller.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday=Merry Olde England and Boston and Berkeley

Hi everyone! Hope you had a GREAT weekend! Ours was fairly quiet, aside from seeing Akeelah and the Bee (very good movie--take the kids!) and I'm going to take a quick breather between author interviews for a real, honest-to-Mike POSTING.

I promised you my NEWS from England, and here it is. After the book had been in print for just TWO WEEKS, I learned it had sold out not just one--but TWO--printings. So, the publisher (Orion Books) has gone back to press a third time. That's just amazing news! So whoever out there is buying my book (it's now in a mass market edition, so I guess it is in grocery stores next to those fabulous curry flavored 'Crisps' that you have over there...), THANK YOU!

Also, I received from Orion both a gigantic poster featuring the book, 200-some of which are going to be plastered throughout your fair country, and some of these very cool Bitch Badges that are being used in a promotion over there! They are being distributed via Waterstone's booksellers. Notice how the font matches the font on the cover of the book.

(Many thanks to the Bookseller to the Stars for providing the image. He also sent me a bunch of pix of the stacks of my book in his store, which were very frightening...)

So, here's hoping some of you Englanders are stopping by your local Waterstone's and trying to get some of those stacks a little smaller... those are some scary piles of books!

And now for two great new book releases this week!

(Image is a Hotlink)
COUPON GIRL by BECKY MOTEW (Merry Olde Boston)

From the Publisher
No one can resist a little drama at work. But what happens when drama is your work? You get COUPON GIRL, a riotous debut novel that will capture the minds and hearts of the Sex and the City generation. With the charm of Carrie Bradshaw and the chutzpah of Samantha, this zany tale takes readers on an unusual ride—one filled with characters both colorful and true-to-life.

From the Back Cover
Hi, you’ve reached the voice mail of Jeanie Callahan. I'm auditioning right now for the lead role in the The Sound of Music. Hopefully, I am not throwing up or fainting. Oh yes, if you're a business owner and would like to offer your customers coupons, leave me a message. BEEP

"Hey, Jeanie. I can't give 25% off my donuts, so just forget it." BEEP "Hi, it’s Meg—your soon-to-be-pregnant best friend. Call me!" BEEP "Just wanted to let you know that the fire department was over to get your grandfather down from the roof. Don’t worry, he’s okay." BEEP "My name Mike. You call." BEEP

Did you ever wish you could redeem your current life for a completely new one? Believe me, I’m right there with you. And if I've learned anything from selling coupons, it's this: 10% off won't cut it. You have to go big. Large. Whole hog. I say it to my customers every day. I just never knew taking my own advice would prove so difficult. …

Check out this terrifically funny new novel. You won't be sorry! Becky is an Internet friend of mine from waaaaay back.

And the next new release:

(Image is a Hotlink)

Book Description
Madeline Dare isn't your average detective. Born into a blue-blood family, she followed her heart to marry ruggedly handsome Dean, a farmboy-genius inventor who's as far from high society as humanly possible. Now Maddie's stuck in the post-industrial wasteland of Syracuse, New York, while her husband spends weeks on the road perfecting the railway equipment innovation that might be their only chance to escape. She can handle churning out lightweight features for the local paper--it's the Dean-less nights in their dingy, WASP-castoff-crammed apartment that Maddie can't stomach. Obsession trumps angst when a set of long-buried dog tags link her favorite cousin to the scene of a vicious double homicide. Drawn by the desire to clear her cousin's name, Maddie uncovers a startling web of intrigue and family secrets that could prove even more deadly.

STARRED Booklist, STARRED Kirkus, Booklist TOP TEN of the YEAR--this book is a winner.

Check 'em both out!

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Secret Life of Mormons

It's GCC time once again! Really, what that means is that I've gotten very behind on my blog postings, thanks to a wonderful splash of writing in both of my two works-in-progress. So, the lovely UK news will have to wait until Monday, as I don't want to take a thing away from my phenomenal guest, Natalie R. Collins!

Nat's written a book I know you all won't want to miss. You probably all know about the highly successful TV program about Mormons, Big Love? Well, Nat's novel, WIVES AND SISTERS (now in paperback) anticipated the trend... and she has had a remarkable publication story. Check out WIVES AND SISTERS... you won't be sorry. And watch for Natalie's upcoming novel, SAINTS AND SINNERS. She'll tell us a bit about it in the interview. Let's have a round of applause!


When Allison Jensen was six, she and her best friend were playing in the woods near home. One moment her friend was beside her; then she was gone. When no leads emerged, she was given up for dead. Now, years later, trying to fill in the gaps of a patchwork memory, to make sense of the senseless, Allison still can get no answers from the Mormon community in which she lives. Why is she being fed half-truths? Why is her father able to tyrannize and torment as the self-appointed messenger of God? When a brutal attack on her as a young adult makes her desperate to escape Mormon bonds, Allison finds herself on a collision course with community leaders as they cover up the steps of a sexual predator. She must stop them before they find her and keep her from piecing together the tragic past that has haunted her life.


Natalie R. Collins was born in Logan, Utah and attended the University of Utah. She worked for eleven years at The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's largest daily newspaper, before leaving to devote more time to her family. During the ensuing years, she wrote five novels. She also worked for the 2001 and 2002 Sundance Film Festivals as an editor.

SISTERWIFE, her first published novel came out in 2003 from Zumaya Publications. SISTERWIFE was nominated for many awards, and was followed up with a sequel, TWISTED SISTER, which was recently sold to Five Star. Natalie's second book WIVES AND SISTERS was published by St. Martin's Press in October 2004. This book is now available in paperback. WIVES AND SISTERS received high acclaim from both readers and reviewers, receiving an extraordinary amount of print coverage, and reviewers praised Natalie's ability to blend fact and fiction in this page-turning thriller that's ripped from the headlines. She also received blurbs from Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Gardner, Perri O'Shaughnessy and many other bestselling authors. Her next book, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, will be available in hardcover from St. Martin's Press in January 2007. Writing as Natalie M. Roberts, she also recently sold a mystery series to Berkley, scheduled to begin publication in April 2007.

Natalie's Blog, Trapped By the Mormons--Living Life Behind the Zion Curtain, about her exploits living as an Ain't in a land of Saints, has a large, loyal readership. Although the blog is considered somewhat controversial--especially by faithful Mormons--the humorous spin on the rich culture that is Mormonism seems to appeal to all types of readers.

She also has a listing of legitimate, vetted, non-fee charging agents on her site, and has interviewed and collected information from agents for the past six years.

Natalie is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

"A dark, powerful debut novel. Natalie Collins pulls no emotional punches crafting this searing tale of one woman's search for justice."

—Lisa Gardner,
NY Times bestselling author of The Next Accident, The Survivors Club, and The Killing Hour

"Startling and compelling— I could not stop turning the pages. Natalie Collins weaves an absolutely riveting tale.

— Tess Gerritsen, NY Times Bestselling author of The Sinner

"Wives and Sisters is an authentic, fast-paced and surprised filled journey that will fill your soul with empathy for Alli. The memory of Alli and her struggle to inner strength will stay will you long after you read the last page."

—Jennifer Apodaca, Author of The Samantha Shaw Mystery Series

"Natalie R. Collins' Wives and Sisters is a journey through heartbreak, tragedy, and self-discovery with a courageous woman who dares to think for herself in a dogmatic society. This is a story for anyone who has ever questioned what they've been taught all their life; anyone who has ever doubted their self-worth, and everyone who loves to cheer on the underdog and watch them triumph in the end. You'll be glad you took this journey with her."

—Tina Wainscott, author of Unforgiveable, and I'll Be Watching You


MO'C: How did you get this idea for this book? Please describe how the book grew from a glimmer of an idea into a whole novel.
NC: I actually had intended to write a memoir of growing up a young Mormon girl, but my family had a conniption fit, and my mother was REALLY upset about it, so I decided not to take that route. But I had some stories that were worth retelling, and when I started compiling them, and then began elaborating, Allison Jensen was born. She had a very intense, compelling story to tell. While it is my story in some ways, in others it is very, very different. The beginning of the novel, though, is all me. I was held at gunpoint at age six, and at that point my childhood was lost. I don't think I ever regained it. And Cindy represents that loss. I could go through the book and point out things that represent events in my own life, but it really isn't what happened to me. More than the names have been changed to protect the innocent. For example, my mother is alive and well, and going to Church every Sunday. I don't have a lesbian aunt, that I know of, and my brother is also alive and well, and driving a truck cross country somewhere, even as we speak. One thing I did want to offer readers was an authentic look at what it is like to be an Ain't in the world of Saints.

MO'C: Is Alison at all like you? How and why?
NC: Yes, Alli is like me in many ways. She's stubborn, outspoken, and sometimes strident, and she doesn't ever feel like you have to do something just because someone says so: at least without a good reason why. She's also very common sense, and questioning, and able to understand logic and reason, as opposed to mysticism and unfounded belief. Alli also loses her way a bit when she abandons the one thing she was always taught was true. It happens a lot when you abandon an absolute. If that one thing isn't true, why would anything be? It takes a while to right yourself. Like a lot of ex-Mormons, I went through that time. Luckily, I came out on top.The one thing I have that I think Alli is lacking is a sense of humor. I truly find humor in so much of this. It's helped me get through some really black times. But humor did not fit this story.

MO'C:Have you gotten a lot of flack from the Mormon church for your book? Or have they remained fairly quiet?
NC: The creepiest thing that happened was when the Church called my publisher and asked for advance copies of Wives and Sisters. This was before the book was originally published in hardback. Before the book was in any catalog, and when it basically existed in my house, my publisher's office, my agent's office, and some mention on my Web site. It happened when the only people who knew I had sold it were those closest to me, my agent and editor, and those monitoring an ex-Mormon Web site to which I belong. It was unsettling to know that they WERE monitoring me. It was the only way they could have known. I mean, I had heard the stories all my life, but I really didn't want to think they were true. Even my agent was a little unsettled. My publisher decided it was easier to just send them copies and let them read it. Then they read the story, dismissed it as a fiction story by an unknown author with an "axe to grind," and that was that. Sorta. I was hardly Martha Beck. She was Mormon royalty, and her story was a memoir. I think they thought it would just die away. But it hasn't. More and more people are reading it, and loving it, and I get a lot of fan mail. I also get lots of hate email. Lots of angry Mormons. A couple who promised to burn the book. And, honestly, some who want to engage in honest dialogue. It's a little tiring sometimes, because they really only want to lead you "back in the fold," but I have found that not all of them are that way. I like that. I have a regular commenter on my blog who is Mormon, and while she doesn't agree with me on many things, she respects my right to an opinion, and I respect hers. It's a wonderful thing. I wish it would happen more.

MO'C:Wives and Sisters seems to have really broken out from the pack! What part, if any, have you played in promoting the hardcover and will you do in promoting the paperback?
NC: I know more about my computer than I do my children? LOL. It is really hard. I did everything I could think of to promote this book, or at least everything that didn't require a lot of cash. It got the most incredibly stellar reviews. But it was hardly a bestselling title in hardback. And it's hard to watch that happen. But a big distributor got behind the paperback and picked it up, and that distribution has really allowed it to blossom and get out there, and it's been spotted everywhere. For the most part, fan mail now outnumbers the hate mail probably 100 to 1, and that tells me that people everywhere are relating to the book, despite it's "Mormon" theme. I get emails daily from people asking where to find my other books (which are not available. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS comes out in January 2007). BIG LOVE, of course, has not hurt me, either. This society, formerly closed to the world, is now being opened up. I would like to point out that I was writing about POLYGAMY and MORMONS long before it became trendy. I have had a few people accuse me of "jumping on the bandwagon." My first book, SISTERWIFE, was first published in 2002, even before Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped and returned home.

MO'C: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
NC: You have to believe in yourself, but be flexible enough to know when to move on, and when to accept criticism. This is not always easy to do. While I spent a lot of time trying to get SISTERWIFE, my first book, published, I never stopped writing. I asked my friend Evan Hunter, best known as Ed McBain, of the 87th Precinct Novels, when do you KNOW it's time to stop? To quit trying. His answer was not simple. He said to trust the professionals and move on. So I did... You know what? For the most part, he was right. To this day, my first book has not been picked up by a big New York publisher. It was rejected a WHOLE lotta times. But it's sequel, TWISTED SISTER, has been sold. So believe in yourself, but don't ever fall so in love with your own prose that you are immovable and believe you are all that, and most of all, KEEP WRITING. You have to have a tough hide in this business. It's brutal. What most unpublished writers don't realize is that it becomes EVEN MORE BRUTAL once you cross over into the published field. Keep it in perspective.

MO'C: What's your writing day like? Any tips or tricks for getting organized?
NC: Um, perhaps you are asking someone ELSE that question. LOL. Right now, I am still working a day job, so my writing time starts about five p.m. Sometimes I wake up early and do some writing, but more often than not, I am comatose until the alarm goes off. I actually promote from five until about eight every night, then try to throw in two good writing hours. This will soon come to an end, as I told them I cannot continue working full-time with all these deadlines, but MAN, it's hard, sometimes, to even comprehend meeting these deadlines while working other jobs.You always pray that you get enough money and enough sales that you can write full time. Right now, I just know I have enough deadlines that I had to say NO MORE.

MO'C: What's been the most exciting thing about publishing? The most frustrating?
NC: The most exciting is finally "making it," knowing you will be in bookstores, and online, and also knowing that people can go in to the stores and say, "I want this book," and read it, and write to the author. The most exciting thing is receiving the first copy of your book, and realizing "this is actually happening. I am there!" The most frustrating is realizing you are not even close to being there. You BELIEVE you will be at bookstores, and then you find out there is this thing called PRINT RUN and DISTRIBUTION and "Who the heck are you?" It's all about the numbers, and the distribution, and only occasionally about writing an awesome book, and that can be frustrating. Watching a book that is only, eh, okay, climb the charts because the publisher got behind it in a big way, as opposed to YOUR book is incredibly disheartening. And it happens a LOT. Of course, then you have to put yourself in check and say, "Do I only THINK I am better?" Entirely possible.

MO'C: Do you think you might write a sequel to this novel? If not, what else is in the works?
NC: Well, I would love to revisit Alli. But at this point, no that is not in the works. My next book is BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, and it will be in available in stores and online early January. It's the story of Jannie Fox, who has always been a little jealous of the regular, everyday, Mormon life her good friend Melissa leads, especially since Jannie has a secret. She hides from reality, because of one event from her past that has altered her forever. But she isn't hesitant to tilt at windmills for other people in her job as a domestic violence counselor. When Melissa disappears one sunny summer morning, everything changes for Jannie, as she, and a Salt Lake City police detective, unravel the few clues that are found regarding Melissa. Detective Colt Singer convinces Jannie it's time to live again, and face her demons, but she might not get the chance, because the real danger is lurking closer than she ever could have guessed.

I'm also currently working on a new book, tentatively titled SAINTS AND SINNERS, for St. Martin's. It's a very deep, very complicated plot that delves into Mormon history, and also present day Mormonism, and I think it will be awesome. It steps into that "what if" part of the LDS history that is so intriguing.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Natalie! Buy Nat's book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the very best choice---your local indy!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Domestically Challenged!

Hello, patient bloglings! I've been very busy and somewhat absent from the Internet, but the good news is I've been AMAZINGLY productive, writing anywhere from 7-20 pages per day on two separate projects. And before I knew it, it was Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit time all over again.

My plan: I'll devote this day to my guest, and in the next few days post something about the very exciting things happening over in Jolly Olde England! In the meantime, you may check out an interview with The Bookseller to the Stars, most talented purveyor of books in England AND in the known Universe.

For now, let's welcome the lovely Alana Morales to the blog, author of Domestically Challenged. You can believe I was ALL OVER this title! I, in fact, have the following magnet SOMEWHERE on my cluttered refrigerator!

I figured it wasn't going to change, so I may as well embrace it. I need to put one next to it that says CAUTION: OPENING DOOR MAY CAUSE AN ENVIRONMENTAL INCIDENT. Blech.

Alana is a very sweet person. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by her for her side project, Mom Writers Talk Radio, back when my book came out! The interview ought to be archived there somewhere--click around if you're inclined.


Gilbert, AZ (April 2006) – More and more women are opting to leave the rat race in favor of staying home to raise their children. While most of these moms are happy with their decision to put their career on hold, they are also discovering that being an at home mom is much more difficult than they thought. Luckily for them, there is a new book that offers humorous support and practical advice just for them.

Domestically Challenged - A Working Moms Survival Guide To Becoming A Stay At Home Mom by Alana Morales is written as a guidebook to new at home moms to offer them support and practical ways to adjust to their new lifestyle.

“When I first started out as an at home mom, I had no idea what I was getting myself into” states Morales. “My house was messier, I was more stressed out and I quickly realized that I needed help. I turned to books, but I couldn’t find anything that offered practical advice, so I wrote my own.”

Domestically Challenged (Wyatt-MacKenzie, $13.95), which tackles such tough topics as the myth of the Super Mom (hint – there isn’t one) and keeping the kids entertained without hiring a circus, is intended to help moms find ways to make their life as an at home mom easier.

“When I was looking for books about being an at home mom, I found a lot that were either religious or talked about my spiritual journey through motherhood. It was 3:00 in the afternoon and my kids and I were still in our pajamas. I needed to know how to manage running the house full time, not a spiritual pep talk.”

Morales, who also writes a bi-weekly humor column and co-hosts a weekly online radio show for moms, wants her book to help new at home moms find systems that work for them so they can actually enjoy being home.

“I want this to be a resource for moms, so when they are freaking out because they feel bad that they are a little bored or they feel guilty for wanting to take some time for themselves, they know that 1) it’s ok to feel this way and 2)it’s natural.”

Alana Morales has been published in numerous places, both online and off. She received a Bachelors degree in Psychology from Arizona State University and went on to teach English for six years before staying home with her kids. She began her writing career with a parenting humor column, which she still writes to this day.

Ms. Morales is also the host of the online radio show Mom Writer’s Talk Radio and runs a copywriting business called The Write Decision.

Ms. Morales resides in Arizona with her two very active kids and husband of ten years.


Julie Watson Smith, founder of Mommy Hullabaloo and author of Mommyhood Diaries: Living the Chaos One Day at a Time states:

“With quick wit and unending warmth, Alana Morales has created for stay-at-home moms a must-have handbook for traveling the precarious path of parenthood...and life!”


MO'C: How did you get this idea for this book? Please describe how the book grew from a glimmer of an idea into a whole book-length manuscript.
AM: It all started when I began staying home. I was really lost as an at home mom, so I went to the library to check out every book I could find about being an at home mom. I was really disappointed with what I found. The books were either outdated or they were really religious and spiritual. I didn't need to read about my spiritual journey through motherhood, I needed to know how to get dinner on the table when I had two kids who had been creating havoc all day long. I was sitting at the computer, complaining to my husband about the whole thing and his response was "Well, why don't you write your own book?" So I did.

MO'C: If you had to give one piece of advice to aspiring stay-at-home moms, what would it be? Also, what's the biggest pitfall for stay-at-home moms?
AM: Have a game plan in mind. What I found is that if you don't have a plan for how your weeks are going to go, the days start to melt into each other. Have certain days for running errands, certain days for cleaning bathrooms (don't do all the cleaning at once - it's too overwhelming) and certain days for vegging out. Now, obviously the kids won't always want to stick to the plan, but at least having a plan in mind gives you a sense of control. It may be a false sense, but it's a sense nonetheless.

I think the biggest pitfall is not allowing ourselves our own personal time and space. There are so many at home moms who feel guilty about no longer bringing in a paycheck that they think they aren't entitled to do anything for themselves. I was like that for a while too. I learned that moms need to take time for themselves, otherwise they get Mommy burn out - which is not fun. We all need to recharge our batteries, even if it's just going for a walk by ourselves once in a while. Just because we stay at home doesn't mean we can't be our own person once in a while too.

MO'C:Can you comment on your work with Mom Writers Talk Radio?
AM: I love it! It has been so much fun to interview the variety of authors we have talked with. One of the really cool things about it is that even though we talk to these very successful authors, they are still moms just like any other mom. They have the same issues with juggling everything that we do - it's nice to see that you can juggle it all and still put out some good work.

MO'C:What are your thoughts about the animosity between stay-at-home moms and working (in business) moms? I have heard many women on both sides of the fence get VERY defensive. It's disconcerting.
AM: I agree. I think the issue here is women being catty. In my not so humble opinion, you can't truly have an appreciation for the women on the other side of the fence unless you have been there. When I worked, I thought all at home moms did was watch TV, decorate their houses like Trading Spaces and dote over their husbands. I was one of those working moms who looked down on at home moms, because they obviously couldn't handle being a working mom. Boy, did being an at home mom shut me up quick. Both sides of the argument have merit - it's difficult to be a mom whether you work outside the home or inside. Each has its unique challenges. I think we all need to get over ourselves and stop looking at who has the harder job and instead see how we can all be better moms. When I look at how some kids are being raised now (no manners or respect for "elders" for example) I think that should be the focus, not "Well, I work harder because I'm [fill in the blank]"

MO'C: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
AM: Write. You can't be a writer unless you write. It seems that there are so many moms who want to write, but then they waste time watching Survivor or American Idol(Editorial--Please ignore the FLASHING ARROW over my HEAD... *blush*) or whatever their shows of choice are. If you want to be a writer, you have to get your butt in the chair and actually do it. One of the authors we interviewed had a great quote that I switched around to suite my purposes - "Reading isn't writing, outlining or researching isn't writing. Only writing is writing."

The other thing I would say is don't give up. This is a brutal industry and it's easy to get discouraged. You have to make a decision - do you want to roll over and give up or do you want to push forward and be one of the success stories? If your bummed, give yourself 10 minutes to wallow in sorrow with some chocolate (I have no idea why chocolate makes rejections so much more bearable) then get over yourself and move on. That's the only way to have any success in this industry.

MO'C: What's your writing day like? Any tips or tricks for getting organized?
AM: HA! My days are so chaotic that no day is like any other. What works for me is using the time I have available to me in the best way possible. This may mean typing on my laptop while the kids are playing or writing while I wait to pick my son up from school or staying up late to reach a deadline. As far as tips for getting organized, you obviously haven't seen my office! LOL I do use spiral notebooks for each project that I work on, so that I can keep all my notes for the project together. This helps with portability - if I need to work on stuff for the book, I take my book notebook with me. If I want to work on the radio show, I take that notebook with me. This at least helps me organize the notes I take. I am also real big on file folders with typed labels. Now, if I actually filed the folders, I would be in business.

MO'C: What's been the most exciting thing about publishing? The most frustrating?
AM: The most exciting - where do I begin? Seeing a book with my name on it. Landing interviews with my local news media on my own merit (without the help of an overpriced PR agent, thought if I could afford one, I would have one). Hearing people say they can't wait to see the book.

The most frustrating - Feeling like I can't be successful without a HUGE national campaign run by an overpriced PR person (thought I would have one, if I could - notice a theme?), Feeling like I can't get places to take me seriously as an author simply because I don't have a PR person.

MO'C: Do you think you might write a follow-up to this book? If not, what else is in the works?
AM: I think so. The trouble with that is writing something that hasn't been overdone. I have a few ideas and I would like to keep the Domestically Challenged theme going, because I think it has merit, but I don't have any specific plans at the moment. All I have in the works is promoting as much as I can handle.

Thank you so much, Alana! Alana's book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local independent bookseller.