Thursday, December 29, 2011

Intentions for 2012

by Maggie Marr

There is a certain weight attached to being the 'final' something. The final score, page, sentence, word, second. With the word 'final' a breath-holding heart-stopping moment happens where I wait for those final seconds to tick off the clock--so that I actually remember whatever final I am experiencing. I've had a number of 'final' moments in 2011 and they are all seared into my brain, but I have one more final before I finish out this year.

I am the final Girlfriends Book Club blogger for 2011.

For me, the end of year always includes hints of melancholy, but it also brings rejuvenation--hope--excitement for the newness that is the beginning of the adventure that is the new year. I am a soulful believer and participant in The New Year's Resolution. I even write them down and some years when I can actually remember where I put my resolutions--you know so I wouldn't forget where they were--they serve as fabulous entertainment around mid-July (okay sometimes as early as March) of all that I'd hoped to accomplish on January 1.

There is always the requisite 10 pounds (post childbirth it's 20). The new exercise regime (my muscles already ache just thinking about Sunday). The writing regime, housekeeping regime, cooking regime, and of course the being a better parent, wife, daughter, friend, volunteer...human.

But this year I am not making any resolutions. None. Not one. I guess in some sense the act of deciding not to make a resolution could actually be considered a resolution in itself--you know not making one is actually making one--suddenly I feel as if I am staring into a funhouse mirror.

I digress.

This year instead of resolutions--I am making New Year's Intentions.

What's the difference, you ask? Tomaytoe, Tomahtoe, you say. Oh, no, no, no, harbinger of doubt--there is a difference. If not convincing for you, loyal reader, at least let me try to convince myself.

An intention is an aim or a plan whereas a resolution is a firm decision to do or not do something. Now--I decide to do a whole lot of things but it is when I actually make a plan--set a goal--that these things actually get done.

What about all those Mid-July funnies (okay fine March) that were former resolutions, you ask--weren't those plans--goals--intentions in disguise?? Hmm??

Well--no. For some reason the term resolution has a negative connotation for me (and not because it always causes my muscles to ache for at least 2 days) but because a resolution seems as if it is barring some action even when it is a resolution to do something. Whereas the word intention--well it seems so light and carefree in comparison--filled with good will and hope. While Resolute is a stern-faced older man with a disapproving glare.

This year I am going with intentions and while I won't bore you with my entire list, I will share a few.

1. I intend to try and be the most magnificent me that I can be. (This one encompasses the whole better Mom/Wife/Daughter/Volunteer/Author/Human Being resolution.)

2. I intend to be grateful for all that I have and all that I am given.

3. I intend for Can't Buy Me Love to be the very best contemporary romance that I can write right now.

(Publishing E-Book March 2012!--read an excerpt here).

4. I intend to be healthy. Which means continuing my yoga (yes--I've finally found an exercise I like and I do nearly every day) and eating healthy most the time. (I can eat unhealthy when I really really want to.)

5. I intend to try and embrace all the moments that race by--not just the final ones--because all these moments make up my life and I am blessed to get them.

So what about you, brave reader? What resolutions, intentions, plans, goals--whatever you want to name them will you be making in the final moments of 2011. Share them in the comments section--there is a free e-book of Can't Buy Me Love available for one lucky winner--of course you'll have to wait until March for the e-book but hey, it might be good companion reading for all those funny intentions you make right now!

HAPPY NEW YEAR Pictures, Images and Photos

Maggie Marr is a reformed resolution maker who lives in Los Angeles. She is married and attempts to be an excellent mother of two. She has a law degree she no longer uses--much. She also was a motion picture literary agent. Now she writes books and screenplays and produces films. Can't Buy Me Love her latest book and first contemporary romance publishes March 2012 and will be available on e-book. You can follow her at

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bad Habits? P-lease.

By Sandra Novack
I don’t know about you, but I spent Christmas and the pre-holiday season drinking red wine and eating spoonful after spoonful of cookie dough. This has left me with the serious problem that is my ass. Pounds, Girlfriends.  I have put them on!  I am excessive. An all-or-nothing girl.  And this ass situation, it has also left me wondering why I even signed on for that gym membership that I haven’t once used the entire month of December.  Did I mention it was expensive? I am wasteful.  I am wasteful, fat, and boozy.  We’re not swimming in dough over here (well, cookie dough, maybe). 

This isn’t even half of it.  I am a pretty neurotic person.  Rest assured:  Once you go down that road of dwelling on your bad traits, you just get heavier.  Soon you’re feeling like you have more bad habits than anyone else you know.  You start to get nervous, even fidgety. You start deflecting, using the more removed ‘you’, when what you really mean is ‘I’.  

So since this blog post was starting to depress me, I decided to talk about how bad habits can sometimes also be good ones. Focus on the positive! 

1)    Fussing!  So I fuss.  So what.  In my early drafting stage, I am the queen of writing the crap out of a sentence.  I try and find just the right words, just the right rhythms. I can go at one line ten times over, then ten times more. This is not the best habit.  Whole paragraphs, entire scenes might be cut. I have lost many good words.  While part of me thinks, What a waste!, the process slows me down and often makes me more methodical. As I read over a draft, I fall into the rhythm and language and both become part of the story landscape. Plus, I am a writer prone to some serious bouts of discouragement.  When I read too many bad sentences, I fall into that even deeper problem of despair, thinking, I can’t write to save my life!  At least when my sentences feel smooth, I can stay invested.  Does this make my process slower?  Yes.  But it takes what it takes (to keep going).

2)    I don’t write in any linear way.  For years I considered this an annoying habit.  All that extra time to organize!  I’ve often wondered why I couldn’t have a more disciplined mind.  A logical one.  You know the kind, where one thought follows the next, orderly? That’s not me. From one paragraph to the next, I can write things that seem unrelated, things I know will end up in different chapters.  The good aspect of this, though, is that it allows me to work through juxtaposition, which usually leads me to see the ‘big picture’ in more complex, associative ways.  I can layer a lot. I can build structure.

3)    On the subject of red wine:  I never write (as in actually write for my publisher) under the influence.  Oh sure, I might e-mail or call friends under the influence at 6 p.m., but they’re usually under it, too, by then, so all is right with the world. I will admit that some of the best lines in my novel came after two (uh-hum) glasses of wine. Many writers know that liminal place, where we are in this world but flirting with another (liken it to peyote).  To be fair, I’ve also jotted down some lines that were terrible, too, and frankly some lines that were just illegible.  Still, occasionally there is a gem!

4)    Given how long this post is already, I should fess up to overwriting.  I will always be more of a ‘full’ writer.  Just like my ass situation, my sentences also want to expand.  I wish I could be leaner from the start, but it just never works out that way.  Call my writing a robust 8 and not a skinny 3, and let’s just embrace it and move on.

5)    I love animals. Find me on Facebook and know I am nuts over all things with fur.  How, you might ask, is this a bad writing habit?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that ‘animals are automatically sentimental’.  In early writing classes,  my teacher would say, “Sandy, geesh, another dog?”  So I love my dog.  Most people love their dogs.  Maybe someday I will just get this out of my system and write an entire book about a big white dog, who will happen to be just like my giant white dog , Chloe (who sadly we had to put to sleep last week, at age 13).  Sniff, sniff.  If you didn’t get a holiday card or even, in the case of my husband, a present (well, okay, he got ONE present), that is why.   I’ve been weeping.  Yes, and it was over a pet.  Is there no place for this in literary fiction? 

Anyway, no one says just because a dog or cat appears in a novel or story means the scene is sentimental.  It can be more interesting, like:

“Do you love me, Jane?”
“No, you don’t.  You never loved anything but the toy poodle.”

Okay, that was just off the top of my head (and not the best).  Still, this year I am concentrating on making my bad habits just work better for me.  Why all this New Year’s guilt? Celebrate those bad habits!   Have red wine!  Eat cookie dough!  Embrace your size 8 ass!  Friends, we live in a tough world.  I say: Hey, whatever keeps you going.

I will leave you with a picture of Chloe, who was not a poodle but a Great Pyrenees.  To her I say:  Until we meet again, my dearest friend, know that my love travels with you.

Sandra Novack has a fat ass, loves all furry creatures, and drinks red wine.  She also writes novels.  You can follow her on Facebook.  When you friend her, please tell her you met her here! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Favorite Books Round-Up by Sara Rosett

I absolutely love the last week of the year.

I love the lull between Christmas and New Years Day, the slower pace, the weird out-of-sink quality of those days. They almost feel like vacation days, even if they’re not. You may have to go into the office, but you know nothing much is going to get done during that week.

It’s a perfect time for the year-end round-ups of everything from news to fashion to movies. Here's a sample from pop culture...

Most Viewed YouTube Ad:

Classic is hot again, thanks to Kate Middleton.

And Harry Potter ruled at the box office, according to BoxOffice

I won't delve into the top news stories of the year...there are too many to choose from and hard news isn't really our forte here.

What is perfectly appropriate is a round-up of some of my favorite reads of 2011.

If you like women’s fiction…

Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan. Funny and sweet story of a Pasadena socialite finding her way after her husband’s unexpected death.

A Vintage Affair by Isobell Wolff. Vintage clothes with vintage mystery circa WWII.

If you like historicals…

The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig. Love the mix of contemporary romance plotline with the historical one, this one set in Regency Paris where spies and intrigue abound.  

Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander. I always enjoy Lady Emily’s adventures. In England, she acquaints herself with the early women’s rights movement and hunts a vandal.

Naughty in Nice by Rhy Bowen. 1930’s French Riviera intrigue with the delightful Lady Georgina, who is once again on assignment for the Queen.

If you like traditional mysteries…

Death on Tour by Janice Hammrick. A contemporary Death on the Nile.

Murder Most Persuasive by Tracey Kiley. A modern who-dun-it with a Jane Austen twist.

A House to Die For by Vicki Doudera. Great debut about a realtor in Maine.

If you like suspense…

Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry. Compelling from the first line.

Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron. Creative take on our digital lives. 

If you like thrillers…

Rip Tide by Stella Rimington. Smart spy thriller set in England about a female MI5 agent.

What were your favorite reads of the year? What books are you looking forward to in 2012? 

Sara Rosett is the author of the Ellie Avery mystery series, an adult “whodunit” mystery series in the tradition of Agatha Christie. Publishers Weekly has called Sara’s books, “satisfying,” “well-executed,” and “sparkling.”Library Journal says, “...Rosett’s Ellie Avery titles are among the best, using timely topics to move her plots and good old-fashioned motives to make everything believable.”
Visit for more information or connect with Sara on FacebookTwitter, or Goodreads.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Don't Blink, There Goes the Year!

By Laura Spinella

Given the post-holiday, pre-New Year date, not to mention the one-year anniversary of my debut novel, it seems a foregone conclusion that I write a retrospective blog. I saw a really good year-in-review on the Christmas Day CBS Morning Show. Of course, that one was dedicated to well-known personalities who’d passed, the montage segueing beautifully from Elizabeth Taylor to Steve Jobs to the guy who invented the teleprompter—sometimes, it’s the invention we recall, not the inventor. Thankfully, sadly, the major loss at my house was the cat. While I’d tear up over a photo-filled post devoted to Ted’s memory, I assumed you might not feel the same. Aside from the dead, the other thing we regale over this time of year is lists: Best Of, Biggest Blunders, Most Popular, 2011 Trends. So in keeping with our GBC writing theme, and sparing you my personal life’s little inventory list, I chose to focus on a Top Ten Retrospect for the Newly Published, aka, As the Debut Light Dims.

1) Authors are accessible. Some of the smartest people I’ve met this year are writers working to become published authors. While waiting to get their ticket punched, or book bound, they’ve made great contacts and friends with published authors. From what I can gather, it puts them miles ahead of the curve. I’m impressed by their networking and appalled by my own lack of foresight.

2) Not everybody is going to love your book—soon-to-be-authors, take note! There’s no avoiding it or the sting. Suck it up. And the sting is equal whether it’s a place like Publishers Weekly or a live-wire on Goodreads. I believe the ego-annihilating phrase was, “Just halfway through and it is nauseating…” Well, if you felt compelled to post that, and my book made you physically ill, I guess we’re even (-;

3) Signings are fun, but they come with a level of tension that’s difficult to corral—at least this was the case for me. Note to self: gray long-sleeved blouse, pretty as it is, will show pit stains every time. I know; I have the pictures to prove it.

4) Promotion can be all consuming. Our very own Maria Geraci gave me some of the best advice early on: Figure out what you’re comfortable doing and do that. Every time I find myself overwhelmed, I check in with those words of wisdom.

5) In the same vein, find the dividing line between what you wrote and what you’ve yet to write. Promoting a book and writing one are polar opposites. One requires you to be a social butterfly. The other is a cocoon. You have to figure out how to transition fluidly from one to the other.

6) If your book happens to get nominated for a nice award, go to the party. This is my big book blunder from 2011. I gave myself the, “It’s a thrill to be nominated,” speech and stayed home. In retrospect, it would have been really cool to have accepted the invite and the award personally.

7) Book clubs are God’s gift to writers. Again, this goes to my last-off-the-turnip-truck naiveté, but what an unexpected bonus! Where else can you make eight to ten instant friends by showing up? And even if they don’t love your book, they will congratulate you on the achievement of being published. Well, except for that one woman. I’m still considering having her comment tattooed to my ass. About Flynn, my protagonist: “He was just so… so dirty.” Silly me. I thought it was part of his charm.

8) “So, how much of your book is autobiographical?” Say what? For a lot of reasons, this question bothered me a great deal. I should have had the sense to let it go early on and just be glad they were reading.

9) Regarding BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the college-age boys who emailed me: Glad you enjoyed it… So happy you learned something… These things take practice… And it’s probably best we’re not Facebook friends.

Me writing...

10) And my number one newly published author conclusion: I am happiest writing a book. It gives me a sense of self, peace, if you will, that tends to escape me in everyday life. Honestly? I’d probably be happier writing in the name of self-satisfaction. But for some reason, that mindset never seems to be the proper path. I am muddling my way through the rest, making it up as I go. And, well, there you have it, life imitating art. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and my best to you all in the New Year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Are You Good at Christmas?

I don't know about all the other writers on this blog, but I'm rather fond of attributing many of my worst qualities to "being a writer." It's the perfect excuse for being scatterbrained, insensitive, overly sensitive, self-conscious, self-involved, melodramatic, too forthcoming, and nosy.

And at no other time of the year are my worst qualities more painfully on display than Christmas. Frankly, I'm just not good at Christmas. I'm not a grinch or anything. I love the festive holiday spirit, the decorations, the lights, the eggnog -- especially if it's spiked. It's just that I'm horrible at making Christmas happen.

This year we only have a gorgeous Christmas tree (pictured) is because I'm married to a wonderful man who procured it from a car commercial, for which he did the lighting design. He's also the one who made sure that all the ornaments from Christmas trees past were neatly stored in one place. And long after my attention span for the project had petered out, he kept on hanging and stringing various things until the Christmas tree was "done."

If you are one of the very few people who received a Christmas gift from me this year, it's probably because my husband picked it, bought it, and even mailed or delivered it -- though I was kind enough to take care of wrapping the gift and writing the card. At the very last minute before saying, "Honey, can you do me the biggest favor?", but still...

He also bought (and spiked) the eggnog, strung the lights, and streamed the ridiculous amounts of Christmas music he's downloaded throughout the years through our television. You see, he's great at Christmas. I'm just terrible at it. I blame this on being a writer.

Being good at Christmas requires a lot of forethought and organizational skills. However, I tend to keep those skills in reserve for things like story and plot mechanics. While other people rush around trying to find the perfect gift for their loved ones, I'm rushing through a draft, trying to get to a good stopping point on my project before I'm forced to stop writing and you know, actually spend a large amount of time with my loved ones as opposed to the characters I've made up in my head.

Other people love making Christmas happen. I just love writing about it. I rarely buy gifts, but adore writing gift guides for And my main excuse for being even worse at Christmas this year than in years past (I didn't even send out cards -- the one thing writers kind of excel at) is that I'm hard at work on my third novel, which rather ironically, takes place during the holidays.

But now I'm wondering if being terrible at Christmas is actually one bad quality I really can't blame on "being a writer." Show of hands (in the comments). Who's great a Christmas? And who else is just terrible at it like me?

In any case, have a fantastic new year. Like most writers, I'm actually awesome at New Year's. Written resolutions and copious amounts of drinking -- now that's a great writer's holiday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

With a little help from my girlfriends

by Samantha Wilde

I am a terrible blogger. I don't like to read things on the computer. Sometimes I don't like to write things on the computer. I fit the dictionary definition of "Luddite" snugly. I'm not on facebook. I have never twittered. I act like an appalled old lady when someone reads an e-book. No call-waiting, GPS, voicemail...the list goes on! I tend to get inspiration from books (paper), nature, long talks with friends, and, of course, chocolate. But every time, every time, I tune in and read this Girlfriend's blog, I feel uplifted, connected, part of a bigger circle of writers. It's one of the best things on the internet.

Let me tell you why.

My year in review doesn't include book sales, big deals, great press coverage or Oprah (alas). However, I had one great triumph.

Sometime in the beginning of 2011 I got a call from my agent informing me that the second editor for my second novel (in the midst of revisions), had left. I would have a new editor, a third editor, who would take a look at the book.

Well, she took a look. She took a good, long, hard look. I got a 13 page revision letter that terrified me. This book had already been through three major revisions for two editors. The original thought was that it would be published in summer of 2010. It was winter 2011 and the thing had not even been accepted.

I had a long talk with my agents then sent out an email to the members of this blog explaining the situation. The flood of email replies, support, encouragement and wisdom met and exceeded my every need in the situation. In fact, I took it to heart. I rewrote the book--with all my soul.

About two months later, I heard word that the book was accepted! With no revisions! I couldn't believe it, and I could believe it--I really tackled what I thought was impossible. I had been, in fact, ready to give up and return the advance.

It's a bit like Judith Arnold's message to have faith in yourself. It's also a big shout of praise to the members of this blog, the women who write honestly and helpfully and spiritedly about the trials and joys of writing and publishing. Writing can be isolating--connection is a saving grace.

On a humorous note, that editor? The one who, in the end, through her excellent comments, helped bring the book together? She's left too. I'm on to my fourth editor now. And I laughed when I heard the news. Sometimes good things come in packages we don't know we need.

Any unexpected blessings for you in 2011?

Sam Wilde lives in Western Massachusetts where her main occupation involves three small children, lots of diapers, and the occasional novel writing. Her first novel THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME came out in 2009. Her next books will be published by Bantam in December 2012! Visit her at

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HOW I GOT HERE by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Bro-Magnet

Back in 1999 when I was first trying to sell The Thin Pink Line, I used to get the most glowing rejections from editors - sometimes running to several pages - saying how much they loved the book but that humorous fiction was too hard to sell. One editor even told me that Americans don't like to laugh when they read (!!!). Then Bridget Jones hit, followed by the awful events of 9/11, and suddenly there was a boom of demand in a new subgenre that came to be known as Chick Lit because it turned out that Americans did want and need to laugh. But then publishers did what they always do and overpublished, glutting the market, and then the economy began to tank. By 2008, publishers were basically telling their Chick Lit authors to go away, that no one wanted to hear from Chick Lit anymore. It's true that consumers rarely wanted to pay $15 for paperbacks and $25 for hardcover Chick Lit books in tough economic times, but did the publishing industry really think Americans no longer needed and wanted to laugh?

My last Chick Lit novel - and my last book for adults, period - was published in 2008. It was called Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes. Don't feel bad if you missed it. It was published just as RDI was rolling back their red carpet and I suspect that pretty much everyone in the world missed it! In the three years since, I've mostly devoted my time to writing Young Adult and children's books, because that's what the publishers have been buying from me. Two of my YA books did start out as adult novels - The Twin's Daughter and Little Women and Me - but I ended up revising both into YA, again because that's where the market was for my work.

But it wasn't as if I'd stopped having ideas for adult novels. I'd just stopped trying to get them published.

Then, sometime last year, I got the idea for a new book, one that was clearly a comedy for adults. Based on the story matter, one other thing was clear: Whatever else happened with this book, there'd be no re-tooling of it into YA.

What was that idea? It was for THE BRO-MAGNET, which is officially described thusly:

Women have been known to lament, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." For Johnny Smith, the problem is, "Always a Best Man, never a groom." At age 33, housepainter Johnny has been Best Man eight times. The ultimate man's man, Johnny loves the Mets, the Jets, his weekly poker game, and the hula girl lamp that hangs over his basement pool table. Johnny has the instant affection of nearly every man he meets, but one thing he doesn't have is a woman to share his life with, and he wants that desperately. When Johnny meets District Attorney Helen Troy, he decides to renounce his bro-magnet ways in order to impress her. With the aid and advice of his friends and family, soon he's transforming his wardrobe, buying throw pillows, ditching the hula girl lamp, getting a cat and even changing his name to the more mature-sounding John. And through it all, he's pretending to have no interest in sports, which Helen claims to abhor. As things heat up with Helen, the questions arise: Will Johnny finally get the girl? And, if he's successful in that pursuit, who will he be now that he's no longer really himself? THE BRO-MAGNET is a rollicking comedic novel about what one man is willing to give up for the sake of love.        

But once I'd written it, just what was I going to do with it?

Enter 2011, and the surge of the ebook. Many former Chick Lit authors, including myself, have turned to putting our books in that format, at reasonable prices. And guess what? The readers are still there. You can even see the resurgence of chick-friendly comedies in the film industry with the huge success of The Bridesmaids etc.

Probably the greatest thing about publishing in ebook is all the freedom, the greatest of which is the freedom to change: change the cover if I decide it's not working, change the cover copy, change almost anything. If the book takes off, I can even change the size on the cover of my own ridiculously long and unwieldy name and make it as large as Stephen King has his on his books. (Kidding. Kidding! [But only because it would never fit.])

So there you have it: How I Got Here, which could probably be subtitled And How Many Of You Got Here Too.

Now am I going to turn into one of these people who says, "Traditional publishing sucks; DIY ebooks rule"? Hardly. I'm rarely an absolutist in my opinions, unless they involve wine or General Hospital. Believe me, if any commercial publisher out there wants to offer me a contract for my next adult comedy, I'm happy to listen. But right now I'm just happy to have something to offer the people who do still regularly write and say, "I enjoy your YA stuff...but when will you do another adult novel???" And I hope they'll be happy too.

Your turn: If you've epubbed, how have you enjoyed your experience so far? And if you're a writer who hasn't or if you're just a reader - as if there's ever anything meagerly just about being a reader! - what's been your experience reading ebooks?

Be well. Don't forget to write. Oh, and Happy Hanukkah too!


Monday, December 19, 2011


by Judith Arnold

Janus is the ancient Roman god of beginnings, so it’s appropriate that January—the beginning of a new year—is named after him.  However, Janus has two faces, one looking forward and one looking back.  The arrival of a new year is an occasion for looking forward, but it’s also an occasion for looking back and assessing the year that has reached its end.

As I was living through the past year, I worried that I wasn’t accomplishing much.  Yet when I look back, I realize I accomplished three major things with my writing.  Thank you, backward-looking Janus face, for allowing me to see this!

My first accomplishment: I sold my novel, Good-Bye to All That.  This sale has a story attached to it.  I’d written the book a couple of years ago.  My then-agent read about forty pages of it and told me she hated it so much she could not bear to read further.  She and I agreed to part ways.  I met another agent who asked to read the manuscript.  He read it and fell passionately in love with it.  He shared it with everyone in his office, and they all loved it, too.  I signed with him.  He didn’t sell the book.  So, early in 2011, I parted ways with his agency, as well. 

Within a month, I’d sold Good-Bye to All That on my own.  My new publisher is thrilled with the book, which they’ve scheduled for a March 2012 release. 

Lesson learned: have faith in yourself.

My second accomplishment: I established myself as an indie-publisher, issuing e-book editions of some of my out-of-print novels.  I re-edited each book, struggled with formatting, commissioned new covers, learned how to upload the books to various sales venues, decided the covers weren’t working and commissioned a second set of covers, promoted the books, experimented with marketing strategies and swapped information with other indie-publishers.

There’s a story attached to this project, too.  It’s the story of a technophobe who used to fantasize about living in a remote cabin somewhere, pounding out novels on a manual typewriter, mailing them to a publisher and never thinking about them again.  Yes, I’ve traded my old cast-iron Remington for a computer, but I still curl into fetal position and whimper whenever it suffers a glitch.  Even uploading (or is it downloading?) my blog posts to the Girlfriends Book Club is a challenge for me.

Yet I somehow figured out how to publish my books electronically.  After months of crazy-hard work and a learning curve as steep as Mt. Everest, I have managed to make these old books of mine available to a new generation of readers, and I have plans to make more of my out-of-print books available in the new year.  Woo-hoo!  The Queen of the Technophobes can do this! 

Lesson learned: have faith in yourself.

My third accomplishment: I finished writing a book that has been burning inside me since I was—no kidding—twelve years old.  I started writing it then, but moved on to other things.  I gave it another shot in my twenties, abandoned it and focused on writing plays, then romance novels, then women’s fiction.  A few years ago, I tried to start it again, but quit after about thirty pages.

In 2011, I decided the time had come to liberate this book from its cage inside my soul.  It’s a story unlike anything I’ve ever written.  It’s deep and dark and big, and it fought me every day, every page, every word.

I have no idea if it’s commercially viable or if it will ever mean anything to anyone besides me.  I’m not yet ready to show it to an editor or even a friend.  But I wrote it, and—to recycle that Mt. Everest metaphor—I climbed to the top of the world and here I now stand, cold, tired, gasping for oxygen but relieved and pretty damned proud. 

Lesson learned: have faith in yourself.

My advice to all of you as you step across the threshold into 2012, as you shift from Janus’s backward-looking face to his forward-looking face: Try something new.  Don’t be afraid to climb the mountain looming in front of you.  If professionals and experts tell you what you’re doing is no good, trust your own judgment, not theirs.  Keep going. 

Have faith in yourself. 

And have a Happy New Year!

Judith Arnold has published more than 85 novels. Her new novel, Good-Bye To All That, is scheduled for March 2012 release, and her indie-published  e-books are available at Amazon, B&N and Smashwords, through Backlist eBooks ( or at her web site ( 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Best Christmas Gift Ever

by Susan McBride

Christmas tree hand-picked by Mom.

My family moved around a lot when I was growing up (my dad worked for IBM, aka I’ve Been Moved). So every few years, we celebrated the holidays in a different place. My mom was good about keeping up traditions so that Christmas was Christmas, no matter where we lived. Sometime after Thanksgiving, she’d pillage packing boxes marked “Xmas Stuff;” and once she got going, there was no stopping her. The scent of evergreen permeated the house as she wrapped boughs of it tied with red bows up and down the banisters. Other decorations crowded table-tops, bookcases, mantles, and the piano. Mom’s mix was eclectic: an elaborate nativity set from Italy, trees made from tuna cans, sculptural metal angels, and paper-mache snowmen with painted faces. No surface remained free of holiday cheer.

But before any counting down of days ‘til Christmas could commence, we had to do two things: (1) Bake my great-grandmother’s shortbread cookies (that had at least 150 ingredients and all had to be iced in appropriate colors), and (2) Get a fresh tree. The cookie part was almost easy compared to the tree trip. Mom had to bundle up three kids in enough layers to nearly render us immobile then we’d pack into the station wagon, bound for the nearest lot. My dad would grab the first tree he saw and say, “This looks good to me!” Only my mother’s idea of “good” was a wee bit different from his. A half hour and two dozen trees later, my mother would nod and say, “This is it!” She always liked the biggest, fattest balsam that took eons for them to tie atop the car. Once home, Dad stuck the tree in a bucket and prayed the water didn’t freeze overnight. The next day, he’d stuff it into the stand and put the lights on, and Mom would spread the skirt beneath. Ta-da! Let the tree-trimming begin!

Hanging the ornaments was a huge honkin’ deal. My mother made sure the whole family was present before she put out eggnog and placed a holiday album on the stereo. While my sibs and I unearthed equal parts hand-made doo-dads and delicate glass baubles from the tissue stuffed cavities of cardboard boxes, Nat King Cole crooned of chestnuts roasting on an open fire. I loved glass birds with clips for claws so I could stick them on the ends of branches, like they’d flown in and were just resting. I adored silver orbs that reflected every color in the rainbow. But one pair of ornaments remained the most special for years: a burlap man and woman my sister and I had named “Speed” and “Trixie,” after the characters in Speed Racer. Every Christmas, their ink faces rubbed off a little more and their yarn hair disappeared, but Molly and I couldn’t wait to place them on the tree next to one another so they could chat about the latest shenanigans of Spanky and Racer X.

Once the ornaments were up, it was tinsel time! We were tinsel-flinging fools back then. Despite Mom’s instructions to put it on one piece at a time—“like a dripping icicle”—we’d toss fistfuls at the higher branches and see what would stick. By the time we’d finished, our tree looked gaudier than the Vegas Strip.

We had our big family dinner on Christmas Eve (still do!). The menu forever seemed to echo our Thanksgiving meal: turkey, spiral ham, green bean casserole, corn casserole, cranberry mold, and fat black olives that my sister plucked off the garnish tray and stuck on each fingertip like a freaky manicure. After dinner, we opened one present from a far-away relative before we put on our coats to attend Christmas Eve service. I loved to warble with the choir on “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and sit in silent awe as the star vocalist belted out “Ave Maria” and “Oh, Holy Night.” Once home and sleepy, we’d set out cookies and milk for Santa, glance at our empty stockings, and head up to bed. Before I nodded off, I’d listen for reindeer on the rooftop (I swear, one night, I heard them!). At the crack of dawn, I’d awaken and fling on my quilted robe as the rest of the house slowly roused. My dad would bark a reminder not to go downstairs until he had his camera ready.

While Dad played Spielberg and Mom sipped coffee, my siblings and I tore through whatever Santa had brought, usually something like Tonka trucks, games, and trains for Jimmy; stilts, a slide-making kit, and a baseball mitt for Molly; a rock tumbler, dolls, and books for me. Always books. My favorite part of Christmas, once the chaos had ended (and it was always over quickly), was curling up somewhere quiet with Nancy Drew, Black Beauty, or Laura Ingalls Wilder. Bliss!

Much about the holidays has changed since my childhood as my husband and I strive to keep life—and Christmas—simple. We don’t go big on the decorations and often opt for a pint-sized tree (less muss, less fuss). I don’t bake shortbread cookies with 150 ingredients, and I’m not much for turkey. But, as long as I have a pulse, two things will never change: the pleasure of being with family (because, yes, my mom’s still big on fresh trees and decorations!) and the joy of un-wrapping a book. Honestly, was there ever a better gift?

I’d love to know if you have a favorite gift you’ve received, long ago or recently. Was it a book, an E-Z-Bake Oven, an e-reader…or something else entirely?

Susan McBride is the author of Little Black Dress, a Target Recommended Read, and The Cougar Club, a Target Breakout Book. Visit her web site at

** This essay previously appeared elsewhere but was tweaked for its appearance today. I figure recycling is good for the environment, right? Plus, I’m on deadline and WAY behind, which makes it very hard to be clever with fresh blog posts. On top of that, I’ve got pregnancy brain like you wouldn't believe (I’m a little over 12 weeks as of this moment!)—talk about the best Christmas gift ever!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mistakes Were Made: Authors Confess Their Greatest Career Blunders

The biggest mistake I've made in my writing career is underestimating the tyranny of marketing.
Christa Allan

The biggest mistake I made was taking my rejections too seriously.  I believed if five agents rejected me, there must be a consensus that the book I'd sent them was terrible.  I would drop the manuscript and start another.  I didn't understand that when you find an agent, and then an editor, it's more like finding a soulmate.  They have to fall in LOVE with your work.  So what I did in my younger years would have been like having five guys on not answer my ad, and decide I must need plastic surgery.  Silly me.  Maybe it was good for my writing, as I do think my first books were weak, but I spent a lot of time feeling unworthy and afraid to call myself a writer, simply because of random people 'passing' on my work.

Sheila Curran

Is this question for everyone or just for me? Oh, everyone.  Because I was pretty sure I could max the word-count out all on my own.  Biggest mistake? I can only narrow it down to a dead heat of three: 1)Sticking too long with an agent who was as clueless as me. We both needed to move on long before we did.  2) Thinking gusto and a bit of raw talent would get me there.  There were some necessary lessons in craft needed in between, which I ended up learning the hard way. 3) I continue to make the mistake of being unable to engage in my own fate.  In other words, I really like having a published book. I’m too reluctant to involve myself in things like sales numbers, self-promotion or anything else that might otherwise rock my cushy little world.  Those are my biggies.  If any girlfriends have advice on the last one, consider me a GBC student today!  

Laura Spinella 

 Biggest mistake?  Boy, I’m glad you asked me to narrow it down.  Kidding!  Hopefully in publishing more goes right than wrong, but these days, I tend to say that thinking a 'two-book contract, at auction' meant more than it did.  Let me elaborate: when I got an offer for a two-book deal and was ecstatic that one house wanted not one but two of my works, a person very close to me who knows the business said, "Well, yes, that always sounds good, but if things go wrong, you're stuck in a bad contract, not just for one book but for the other as well."  Who wants to hear this, especially as a debut writer?  As always, though, my friend offered sage advice. That was in 2007--things were looking fine and dandy then!  My first book, PRECIOUS, was published in early 2009, and my second book, EVERYONE BUT YOU, in 2011.  Let me tell you, in three-and-a-half years a LOT can happen at any given house.  The economy might tank, e-books might cause disruption to traditional publishing models, a house might downsize, an editor might leave or change imprints, people might be fired, et cetera.  Generally speaking, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle.  It's terrible to have a book come out and know that it is already dead in the water.  Like so very, very dead in the water.  We are not speed writers here, and even the most gallant efforts result in a literary novel once every, what, two years?  (Keep your fingers crossed for me on that one!)  You want to make sure that each work is getting the maximum benefit in terms of backing.  (This still doesn’t guarantee things will go right, but it helps.)  I would never let multiple babies go to any one house, editor, and contract anymore unless I felt 200 percent sure they would be taken care of, on all fronts.
--Sandra Novack

There are so many to choose just one! But if you're going to hold a gun to my head, I'll say that I haven't fought enough over certain things. A big example would be book covers. I've had some I've loved and some I liked well enough, but I've also had covers that either didn't serve the book as good as they could have or - even worse - were actually misrepresentations of what's inside the book. It's bad if readers pick up something and expect one kind of read only to discover it's something else entirely. Think about if you went to a restaurant and ordered pizza and you got served lobster instead. You might even love lobster! But it's not what you ordered or wanted or expected on that day. Why haven't I fought harder? There are probably two answers to that: one, I'm cursed with a disposition that wants to "play nice"; two, with more than one book coming out most years, there's never enough time to focus on any one thing for too long. OK, now I'm mad at myself.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The constant self-doubt.  We've talked a lot about this on this blog lately, but sometimes the doubt about your writing can be crippling, and lead to long bouts of writer's block.  What I'm learning is that it's far better to just keep writing, even if what you write is garbage and needs to be heavily edited later.  The thing is to write.  I met Jenny Egan at a reading two years ago, and her advice was to keep writing.  She said that you have to get out all of the bad stuff to get to the good stuff.  I love that advice.  It gives you permission to just move forward and keep doing what you love to do.  It tells you that the good stuff will come-- you just have to be patient.

-Brenda Janowitz

I made the classic newbie mistake of falling for a scam. I was so eager/frantic/desperate to get an agent, that when one "offered" representation I leapt at it and ignored the red flags. $250.00 later, I had to admit to myself (and friends) that I'd been taken. So, never forget the mantra--reputable agents NEVER ask for money up front.

Judy Larsen

I've always just assumed that making mistakes was an essential part of being a writer.  You make mistakes because you've tried something new, you've pushed yourself beyond your limits, you've taken silly chances.  How can you grow as a writer if you don't do those things?

That said, I think my biggest mistake was signing a second contract with a publisher when my gut told me not to.  I'd completed a three-book contract with them, and I wasn't happy with the way they'd published my books.  But they waved a lot of money at me, and my agent urged me to sign another contract with them, so I agreed to a two-book deal.  They published those last two books even more incompetently than they had the first three, which threw my career into a tailspin.  I love all the five of the novels I wrote for this publisher, but I'll probably never get the rights back to them, which means I'll never see them published the way they should have been.

Judith Arnold

Back in 2003, I had the chance to get my book Learning to Fly featured by Carl Lennertz when he was still running Book Sense.  All he needed was buy in - a simple "okay" - from my editor.  I sent off a request, and didn't nudge.  I should have nudged, because by the time she finally said it was fine with her, Carl had moved on to Harper Collins

April Henry

I'm not sure I can point to my biggest mistake, but I can name my biggest regret: I wish I'd started writing fiction earlier. It's really a tribute to how much I love this job. I spent years as a newspaper reporter, and could have written a novel during my free time (now that I have three young kids and am writing full-time, I know that I actually had a ton of free time back then, despite the fact that I didn't realize it!) So, if I could do things over, I'd have started writing fiction in my twenties instead of my thirties. Of course, sometimes I think that I needed to acquire all of the experiences of my twenties and earlier thirties to begin writing fiction!

Sarah Pekkanen

I could write an entire book on mistakes I’ve made. Certainly there have been several abandoned novels, a few wrong business decisions, but the mistake I’ve made most often is thinking I’m done with a novel when it really needs several more revisions. I get a little too impatient. In between revisions, I need to let a novel cool a while before I touch it again. Also I do a lot more novel planning ahead of time instead of impulsively plunging forward.

Karin Gillespie   

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy Holidays and Scary Writing

Fa la la la la la la la la!  Happy Holidays from NYC! 

So, when we started this cycle, it was Halloween.  Note: if I'd been scheduled at the start I absolutely would have posted a picture of my dog in her vampire costume; it was from last year when the whole Twilight thing was in full force, though come to think of it, it still might be, but I digress.  Back at the start of this cycle, one of the topics was things that scare us about being writers so I was giving that some thought today in advance of my post. At first I was all, I'm brave, I'm adventurous, writing doesn't scare me at all.  But then, I thought a little more.  

I'm scared of bad reviews.  I'm scared of going to and seeing what people are saying about me. I'm scared of the google alert I set up for my name. I'm scared of pissing off everyone at my publishing house when I have cover / cover copy / pub date issues. Because I have those. I'm sacred I'll never think of a next book. I'm scared that people I know (and people I don't know) will read my books and think, wow, she's really weird / off her rocker / a really bad writer. I'm scared it's possible to angst oneself to death.

But then, reading the paragraph I just wrote, and knowing that I still sit down almost every day to write, I'm going to full circle it and say that I (along with every last person in the world who writes) am brave and adventurous, because I think, no, believe, that in order to write, you must be.  And also, maybe, a little bit weird / off your rocker, too.

And also, just saying, my books make really great gifts, especially for the dog lover in your life.  If you happen to be giving or getting any of my books this holiday season and would like a signed bookplate for it, please just send me an email (alison[at] with address and inscription instructions, and into the mail it will go...

Happy Holidays!