Race to the Finish Line

Hi everyone, my book ANGELS ON SUNSET BOULEVARD is due this Friday so it’s been manic over here as I try to finish it. I know it’s just a first draft, but I really want to make sure all the plot kinks are worked out before I turn it in. Right now it looks like it’s going to be a 300 page book, which is a bit of a shock to me since I was only planning to write 240 pages, but the way it’s shaping up, the first act is so long I need to balance it out so it’s not so top-heavy.

The good news is that I finally figured out the book but now I have to go back and rewrite a lot of the beginning chapters so that they match with the end. This is something I have learned the hard way, novels that are too "episodic" in which separate incidents happen that don’t seem to add up to a whole, are essentially considered plotless. You have to think of your novel as one whole book, and every chapter has to work as part of that whole–you can’t introduce scenes or characters and then drop them later, or never explain what they’re doing there.

So now that I have my big plot, I have to make sure that everything ties in to the big bang at the end, and if it doesn’t it either gets deleted, or changed so that it fits. Novels are like puzzles, I think.

In other news, our air-conditioning is still on the fritz, so I’m still living here at the family home in Pasadena. Mike and I are going to Palm Springs on Wednesday again for his work, so I’m looking forward to writing poolside.

I probably won’t blog until I turn in the book, so have a good week everyone!

xoxo

Mel

Classical Music and the Benefits of a Classical Education

Thanks to everyone who emailed, Pop’s surgery went well. It was harder than last time, the doctor said, but Pop is recovering and was able to go home the same day. PHEW.

Mom and I are such old pros at the hospital now, we know where everything is, what time the cafeteria closes, etc. But everytime my dad has surgery, I am always so struck by how CARING and NICE everyone is–from the nurses to the orderlies, to the doctors, to the guy who transports patients in the wheelchair (who basically lifted my dad from the chair to the car when we went home).

The doctor always comes to visit a few minutes before surgery starts, and no matter who it is, (my dad has a LOT of doctors) they always say "Don’t worry, we will take care of him" right before they wheel him in. They can tell how nervous everyone is. Just hearing those words makes us feel so much better. We are so lucky to have come upon so many kind-hearted, patient people during the course of my dad’s illness.

Even the paramedics who have come twice to our house (my dad had two emergencies in the past two years) – these big, burly guys, they could not have been more efficient, or more gentle. We are so thankful.

Last night Mike and I went to the opera to see La Traviata, a friend had tickets (third row–sweeet) that he couldn’t use and it was a nice distraction from everything. I have always enjoyed the opera, even though sometimes it feels like cultural medicine. But I like to think of myself as someone who enjoys opera.

The first opera I ever saw was Wagner’s "Parsifal", with friends from college who were opera buffs. We saw it at The Met, in Lincoln Center, and we had these nosebleed seats, but my friends who had grown up in the city, and knew how to enjoy life without paying for it, were shameless.

After the first act, they led us all the way down to the orchestra level, and we snagged empty first and second row seats. (They were $350 each if we had paid for them!) The old people next to us were so charmed by our brazenness–we were probably a good forty years younger than the average audience member (it helps when you are young and cute I think) that when they left after the second act they gave us their tickets so that we would not get kicked out. One of my fondest memories.

And then when Mike and I first started dating, I thought it would be so romantic to go see Wagner’s Ring Cycle. All four operas. We bought tickets way in advance, and when it came time to see it, I had just had my wisdom teeth taken out, so I slept through almost all of "Das Rheingold". And we forgot to check our tickets for the next one, and when we arrived for Die Walkure (you know the one that goes Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit from Bugs Bunny), the little screens in the back of our seats said "Act II". We were flummoxed! How did we miss Act I? It turned out that the opera was so long, that it started at 6:30pm and not 8:00pm as the others did. And it was just a coincidence that as we were going in at 8pm, it was intermission and people were returning to their seats. We still laugh about that one. 

Verdi’s "La Traviata" was by far the most enjoyable. I think you really have to be an opera fan to appreciate "Parsifal". During Act I, when they were doing the Drinking Song (a really famous melody), I felt the baby kick! So perhaps the little guy or gal is an opera buff. 🙂

Everytime I go to see an opera or classical music, I am always glad I got a really solid classical education at Columbia. Columbia is famous for its Core Curriculum- you have to take two years of required courses in Western history, philosophy, literature, art, music, science, non-Western history and now math (yuck, but I’m glad I wasn’t there when they added that one). It just gives you a really solid liberal arts education. I can’t believe there are kids out there who have graduated from Harvard or Yale and who have never read Plato or studied Bach’s concertos. (Yes, I’m talking to you, my siblings.)

My Music Humanities class was taught by this really cool chick who played in a band downtown (we saw her play at the knitting factory) and she would play Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze and then make us listen to Mozart. She was awesome.

Anyway, I have thirty pages to write of ANGELS today. There’s a lot of music in the book (but not opera) so I guess that’s why music has been on my mind… I want to fast-forward to June 15th when I turn it in, but I know I have to slog through the writing process first.

xoxo

Mel

Surgery Day

My dad is having surgery today. Aghhh. It’s only minor surgery, which means he should be able to go home at the end of the day. He’s had the same type of surgery before. It’s his fourth time to go under the knife (and under the gas – anasthesia).

When my dad got diagnosed with cancer, the first year was really rough–he had a 10-hour surgery to remove the tumor, and looking back, I don’t even know how we survived it. Our doctor was a good friend of my dad’s from high school, so we knew he would do *anything* to make sure everything went OK. The biggest fear we all had, of course, was that Pop wouldn’t make it out of surgery, um, alive. But his doctor reassured us that that was just not going to happen.

But still, with major surgery, you can’t always predict…

At hospitals, there is a waiting room with several TVs where you can go and sit and wait while your loved one is in surgery. The nice thing about the waiting rooms now is that there is a phone, and every other hour or so, our doctor would call and talk to my mom and tell us how the surgery was going. So we had a lot of updates. It was a relief to have this, otherwise, for ten hours we would just have been so anxious we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.

The surgery went really well, and although recovery was tough (we had a terrible time in the ER when my dad got toxic shock from the bacteria in his blood – which is something that can happen from surgery), but in the end, everything has been fine.

A year ago, when the cancer came back, my dad had to have surgery again, and we were all prepared for another ten-hour wait. But then the doctor actually came OUT of the surgical room and into the waiting room maybe two hours into it. My mom and I looked up, totally SHOCKED. He was still wearing scrubs. This HAD to be the WORST news of our lives.

The doctor took one look at our faces and said, “Oh, no, don’t worry. He’s alive. Everything’s fine.”

It turned out that the doctor decided not to operate on the tumor, because he felt chemotheraphy would be better…

We sank back in our seats, totally relieved. We were kind of glad Pop didn’t have to have the major surgery again, but we were also distressed that the tumor was “inoperable.”

PHEW. Anyway, my dad went on this massive chemotherapy regimen with all those hot new drugs – he takes the “Martha Stewart” drug – Erbitux, made by Sam Wascal’s company. And early this year, his oncologist told us his scans were CLEAR. There was no trace of cancer found in his system! The tumor disappeared!

It’s crazy! Of course, it can come back (but we hope it doesn’t) and Pop has to go in for more scans in July to see how it is going, and his oncologist says he might put Pop back on the drug later this year, just to make sure, even if there is no trace of cancer.

Anyway, Pop’s surgery today is pretty minor, chemo causes a bunch of side-effects, and the surgery today will just take care of one of them. He’s had this minor surgery before, so we know it will be OK. But you know, you can’t help but be nervous.

I thought I was going to be able to get some work done this morning, but now I think I’ll just go to the bookstore to find a book to read while Pop’s in the operating room.

The book is going well now, at a steady clip. There’s a lot going on in it, and I think I’ve been a bit ambitious about what it’s about, but I *think* I can pull it off. I hope so.

I also found this really, really, really nice review of Blue Bloods on the web that a friend found, from a YA reviewer. Here are some pull quotes: “Its not like any other young adult novel Ive ever read. Cruz doesnt underestimate her readers which is something we find all to common in this genre…It is true and untamed fantasy meets modern realism.”

Yay!

And now, off to the hospital…

xoxo
Mel

Fab Publisher’s Weekly Review of Blue Bloods!

What a nice way to start the week with a great review from Publisher’s Weekly. This is by far the nicest review they have ever given any of my books! Yay!

Here are some pullquotes: "PAGE-TURNING!" "HARD TO RESIST!"

Yeeaaaah, boyyyyy….!!! I realize this is very 80s of me. Eek.

Anyway, here is the complete Publisher’s Weekly Review:

"De la Cruz combines American history, vampires and a crew of rich New York City kids, delivering a page-turning debut to her new series, sure to appeal to fans of her Au Pairs titles. When 15-year-olds Schuyler and Bliss find out that they are vampires, as are many of the city’s elite, they learn what’s behind some of their weird symptoms (such as Schuyler’s blue veins, which form "an intricate pattern, visible under the skin’s surface," or Bliss’s cravings for raw meat), and that "nothing could kill vampires." But something is hunting them, even killing some, and Schuyler grows more determined to stop it, even as the Conclave, the vampire leaders, attempts to cover it up. Readers will recognize the character types here: Schuyler the outcast, Bliss the pretty new girl and Mimi the popular queen bee (who nurses a somewhat incestuous relationship with her equally gorgeous brother). Not many question are answered along the way, even for the start of a series. Still, it’s hard to resist a book that combines expensive clothes, modeling jobs, blood-sucking and even diary entries from aMayflower vampire. De la Cruz plants enough seeds (e.g., What does it mean that Schuyler’s father is human- Will her mother come out of her coma- Who are the Silver Bloods, and is one of them hiding amongst the vampires-) to give readers a stake in what happens next. "

God, do you know what that means??? PRESSURE. I am writing BB2 now, and damn, I really wish I had been able to write it before the reviews of Book One came out.

Anyway, I got so many nice emails and messages and comments over the weekend – thank you everyone!

xoxo
Mel

Trying to Keep Cool

DEEEEEP BREATH.

OKAY.

Much better today. Whipped the first 100 pages into shape–like a ringmaster cracking it over the elephants’ backs at the circus. (ooh, bad metaphor.) But it was like, book, stay! Behave! Roll over!

I spent the weekend at my parents’ house in Pasadena because I accidentally broke the air conditioning unit in our condo, and it’s like, 900 degrees in L.A. right now. Okay, it’s only 95, but man, it’s hot! I accidentally pushed the switch from "cool" all the way to "heat" and the pipe burst. Mike tells me it’s because it’s an old unit, and it wasn’t really my fault (don’t I have a nice husband?) but I still feel guilty.

I loooove air-conditioning. Growing up in Manila, air-conditioning is like God. It’s so hot and humid in Manila, when you step out of your air-conditioned car or home, you IMMEDIATELY start sweating. It’s like New York in July, or Florida, but SO MUCH WORSE.

In seventh grade, the thing to do was to carry around an Evian spray bottle that we would spray our faces with, and also a little Chinese fan. When I was little one of my earliest memories is how I would climb up on the dresser and turn on that lovely air-conditioner in mine and my sister’s room.

Electricity was so expensive (even for the wealthy) that my parents had a rule that we could only turn on the A/C right before we went to bed, and we had to turn it off right when we woke up. None of the houses had central-air back then, so each room had its own air-conditoner. When the economy tanked, right before we moved to the States, my whole family slept in the master bedroom so that we only had to run one A/C.

So of course, having been brought up to loooove air-conditioning, the first thing I did when ours broke was to run home, where the A/C was working.

Except, on Friday night. It stopped. My parents have central air in the house, except for the new addition, which has its own unit. (Wow is this blog really boring? It’s all about our A/C problems!) And the central unit just stopped blowing cold air. My parents are away in Napa for a wedding, so they are going to be really upset when they come back. They love A/C as much as I do.

I have cursed all the air-conditioning units I have touched! Eeeek. So right now I’m writing in the addition, with the fan blowing.

The good thing about having been here for the last couple of days is that I am literally, just locked in with the book. There is nothing for me to do, but write.

(Although I did sneak in some reading. Scott Spencer’s A Ship Made of Paper and Michael Crichton’s Prey. Both were entertaining. Mike asks me why I read cheesy pretentious crap like "A Ship Made of Paper" –Oh, the humanity of it! The ship that will sink! Clutch chest, beat at heart, wail at the tragedy of it all! But I explained that I enjoy reading these novels because they are so different from my own, and so unlike anything that I will ever write, or attempt to write, that it is relaxing for me. Prey was good, riveting, but totally unrealistic at the end, which is not a surprise. Crichton always devolves into bad movie moments in his books, but the research and the ideas that propel the novel are always so interesting you kind of forgive him for the flaws of it later.)

But it was great to get some writing done. And writing is the only solution for yesterday’s problem. Banging head against the wall? Not so helpful.

So the immediate goal is to get this book done this week so I can start rewriting it next week so I can turn it in next Friday. And so I can go back to finishing BB2 which has been on the backburner while I get Angels into shape.

After I turn in Angels and BB2 I am going on vacation to Saint-Tropez, where my next book, SOCIAL LIFE is set. I’m soooo excited to start Social Life. It’s going to be so fun, fun, fun and scandalous and sexy and yummy.

I like writing BB2 and Angels, both of which are a little darker and moodier than what I’m used to writing, but writing books like SOCIAL LIFE is like coming home. Not to mention, I get to go to Saint-Tropez for "research". Hee!

Anyway, I should go since my parents will be back soon and will find out about the great A/C disaster that is awaiting them. Why, why do I still feel like I’m 14?? Because I gotta hide the keg in the living room! LOL.

xoxo
Mel

Angels Angst

Arrrrrgh! That is the sound of one writer pounding her head against the wall. The. book. is. not. going. well. Did I say it was? I did, didn’t I? I was all cocky and confident that I would be done by the end of the week. I know the book will be done (I really have no choice, I NEED to turn this in by June 15th and I will, but god, it’s going to be a Herculean climb up the mountain to finish it.)

The problem is I have a beginning and an ending but no middle. I need to slow down the action, expand the characters, keep the mystery going. And I’m going to do all that. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I am going to whip the first 150 pages into shape, so that the second 100 pages will just write itself.

Today I am going to bang my head against the wall and curse myself for even wanting to write this book in the first place.

What is Angels on Sunset Boulevard about?

-Rockstars

-The Internet

-Los Angeles

-Skaters

-Popularity

-Cults

-Cult brands

-Why some people always seem to be having more fun at a party than you are.

Doesn’t that sound like a good book? I thought so. But I have so many storylines and subplots and the book is a mess right now. I know that in two weeks it will be fine, that I will have a decent first draft. I have been here before and I know I can pull this book out of my psyche like I have done before with my other books. But right now I’m just suffering…

Arrgh!

God, I’m whining…

xoxo

Mel

Vanity Kills

Today while I was having breakfast, I tuned in, like I always do, to The View. The View is one of my guilty pleasures, I despise this program, and yet I can’t help watching it. Like a car accident. I used to curl my lip at Reeege and Kelly as well, but now I have come around…after all, it’s just entertainment. Kelly’s kind of cute, she has a good stylist. Mike, however, cannot stand either of these shows, so we have to breakfast separately.

Anyway, I happened to catch the segment on “Tanoxerics” and they had an 18 year old woman who was a self-professed tanning salon addict, and another lady who used to suffer from tanorexia. (They actually used this word as if it were a REAL disease and not a trendy word made up by lifestyle journalists.) They even had a dermatologist who was all grave and serious about the consequences of this disease. And what did the orange-skinned 18 year old have to say? Simply that she feels good when she has a tan, because of all the compliments she gets, so she “can’t stop”. THAT’S IT.

It was seriously so asinine. I’m so sick of everything being labeled a “disease” when it is a lifestyle CHOICE. This woman is not suffering – she is simply VAIN. And if she looks like a leathery Mulberry handbag in twenty years, whose fault is it but hers?

How can anyone take their looks so seriously? I have never understood this. I like to look good, and dress nicely, and get compliments as much as the next girl. But in the end, I also really like to be comfortable. There has to be a balance. I dress up when the occasion calls for it, but most of the time I just slouch around in my sweats and oversize t-shirts, since I’m just writing in front of my computer at home.

Lately I have been missing my hectic New York social life, I have been a little cooped up like a hermit with my books due, I haven’t had a mani/pedi in weeks, my eyebrows are grown in, and I just don’t feel like myself. But I don’t feel ugly either.

I also don’t understand when the culture bashes women’s magazines for making women feel inadequate. Huh? How can a magazine make you feel inadequate? As Eleanor Roosevelt said, the only person who can make you feel inadequate is yourself. (I’m paraphrasing here.) Magazines are fun and filled with fantasy. And beauty is to be admired and respected, but so is intelligence, diligence, and perseverance. All good qualities.

Anyway, what really got me was Elizabeth on the View taking the 18 year old tanorexic’s hand and saying that they are “there” for her and “she is beautiful” with crocodile tears in her eyes. Bleccch. I almost choked on my cereal.

I guess I should stop watching The View.

Yesterday I wrote twenty pages of ANGELS. I’m pretty confident I can finish the book by the end of next week, and then I’ve given myself a week to go in and rewrite it before I turn in the first draft to my editor. The fun thing about writing is that as you get into it, you discover all these new twists that can happen, which I didn’t even have in my outline. (I’ve kind of chucked the outline out the window, although I’m still hitting all the major plot points.)

The funny thing is some days, I really HATE my book and think it just SUCKS because it is ruining my life. All I do is worry about it. And then some days, I really enjoy it, and I’m having so much fun writing it, and it’s really cool to have that experience. Which makes the bad days worth it.

Does anyone else read this blog? She’s a crime writer, and she is soo cranky! I love it, it’s so funny. I love that she’s so honest about how miserable writing is most of the time.

And thanks to all the emails about Blue Bloods!! I’m sorry the second book isn’t out till next year. I’m actually still writing it now. It’s really fun and has tons of surprises!

xoxo
Mel

Blue Bloods iMix!

Remember mix tapes?? I know everyone does mix CDs or iTunes playlists now, but I still think mix tapes were the best… since CDs can hold SO much information, it’s not really a mix but more of a list of all the songs (who really listens to 4 or 5 hour mixes??)… But when I was a teen, those 60-minute mix tapes meant that for a certain specified time, you could control the songlist. In college, making a mix tape for a friend was the HEIGHT of sealing a friendship…and to make one for a crush, or to receive one from a cute boy, the HEIGHT of love.

My friends always laughed at me because I made the WORST mix tapes. I would put two or three songs from the same artist (usually Madonna) in a row, which was AGAINST THE RULES of mixes…we always aimed for a high/low aesthetic–Color Me Badd and then Elvis Costello, Lou Reed segueing into Pump Up the Jam.

One of the most important lessons I ever learned from my friends at Columbia was to cultivate a sincere appreciation for highbrow and lowbrow culture. To say you only listened to opera and classical music made you a stuck-up nerd, but to only listen to Top 40 meant you were kind of brainless. We all aspired to a fun-loving sophistication. Mahler one day, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch the next.

Our mix tapes reflected this ideal– we would put in Mozart’s Concerto No 19 and then play The Connells right after it. I even have a mix tape with the Hallelujah chorus that fades into Like A Virgin.

Anyway, because I am kind of mix-tape handicapped, when I put together the iMix for Blue Bloods, I asked my husband Mike to help me. Mike was a college radio station DJ in his youth, (one of the inspirations for ANGELS, which is partly set at a college radio station) so he has to take the credit (or the blame) for the iMix.

You can access the iMix through this link which will launch iTunes on your computer.

You can also search for it– it’s called Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz Book Soundtrack!

And if you don’t have iTunes, here are the list of songs on the mix that you can get from any other online store I believe. Or maybe you even own these songs already…And don’t worry, there is no classical music on this, but there is a nice instrumental piece.

All these songs inspired/inspire Blue Bloods…

1. Muse: Time is Running Out – Jack and Schuyler’s Theme
2. Love and Rockets: Haunted When the Minutes Drag – Michael and Gabrielle’s Theme
3. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness: I Want to Die in the Hot Summer – The band’s name sounds like something Mimi would say
4. Jelly Roll Morton: Blue Blood Blues – Is there any other kind?
5. Death Cab for Cutie: I Will Follow You Into the Dark – Bliss and Dylan’s Theme
6. Stellastarr*: Love and Longing – The Blue Blood Anthem
7. The Crimea: Lottery Winners on Acid – Oliver’s Song for Schuyler
8. My Bloody Valentine: Sometimes – A Gothic Love Song
9. Run Run Run: Fade Into You – Schuyler’s Wish
10. M83 : Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun – A Conspiracy Tune

Enjoy! As we used to say, “chair-dance” away….

xoxo
Mel

PS-I will also be putting up an Au Pairs iMix very soon!

Literary Crushes

Rivers Cuomo is graduating from Harvard next week! How cute is that. And he even lived in the dorms. Read the story here. When I was writing Sun-Kissed, I had to think of three new hot guys, and one of the guys I always had a crush on in college was Rivers, so he was the inspiration for Ben Defever, the cute guy with glasses who is one of Jacqui’s three boyfriends this summer. I gave him Warren Defever from His Name is Alive’s last name because I wanted a rockstar last name, and His Name is Alive is one of Mike’s all-time favorite bands, so it fit.

I was so excited to see Ryan Perry from the Au Pairs made the list of this reader’s Top 20 literary crushes. I get SO much email about Ryan, and I have to admit I have a bit of a crush on him too… he’s just so adorable isn’t he? I was happy to find a couple of my literary crushes on the list too. Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow from the Song of Fire and Ice Series, Will from His Dark Materials. I should add Paul Atreides from Dune, Laurie Lawrence from Little Women, Aragorn from LOTR.

The two guys in my new book ANGELS are pretty crush-worthy as well. Although Nick Huntington, the male protagonist, is a bit different from the other guys I have written. He’s the type of guy, like Ryan Perry, who always got everything he ever wanted, he’s handsome, rich, and popular, who’s always kind of cruised by on life but then something happens and he’s shaken out of his contented life and he has to make some interesting choices…The other guy, Johnny Silver, with ‘platinum hair and violet eyes’ is kind of a “ghost” in the book, he’s in the first and last chapter, but his influence is felt throughout the novel. Anyway, I should probably stop talking about these characters and start finishing their story!

xoxo
Mel

My First Starred Review!

Just wanted to share that the Booklist review, which I have posted on my blog previously, was printed in the Booklist magazine with a STAR and in its own BOX! This is very, very special. I have NEVER gotten a starred review before! And I have always dreamed of having one! And now I do. Hee!

You can check out the full content of the Booklist review on my site and click on the “Press” page.

There are many new additions to my home page, in “Photos” you can see MORE photos of the fab launch party, and under “Publication Schedule” you can see what books I have coming out in the next year. I also added a few new links to some friends’ websites in “Links”.

Yesterday we went to see X-Men 3. It was just OK. We were pretty excited for the movie (Dark Phoenix! Whoo!) but in the end, it was just like a Justice League cartoon. Enjoyable, but eminently forgetttable. I guess we’ll all just have to reread the comics and be satisfied with that. We also saw The Da Vinci Code the other day, which was SO boring. The book kept me up until 3AM, and the movie was such a snore. We knew we were going to be disappointed and yet we saw it anyway. We also saw Mission Impossible 3, which was just Alright for me, dog, as Randy on American Idol says. Mike and I love summer blockbuster movies, but I think after this round we’re going to go see some quirky independent or foreign movies now. Although our hopes are high for Superman Returns. (Or as Mike calls it, “Superman Returns…His Blockbuster Video!” “Superman Returns…His Library Book!”)

Today I’m going over the first 100 pages of Angels and figuring out if the pacing and story are working. I was a little worried it was moving too slowly, but now I think it’s moving too fast. You gotta get it *just right*. 🙂

Have a great Memorial Day everyone!
xoxo
Mel