Yearly Archives: 2007

Get Yer Freak On!

And not just because it’s Skank-O-Ween. Remember, say NO to Skankoween. I just can’t think of anything LAMER than needing Halloween as an excuse to dress sexily.

People, we must dress sexy all the time!

Especially when we are young!

I think Nora Ephron said it best–Put a bikini on this minute! And don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four!

When I was nineteen, I used to wear a tiny Victoria’s secret corset, even tinier Daisy Dukes, fishnets and Doc Martens. TO GO SHOPPING.

It only occurred to me that this was a rather revealing outfit and could possibly be considered slutty when I happened upon the photos a few weeks ago.

I never needed an excuse to dress this way. AND NEITHER DO YOU!

All my friends dressed the way I did–in fact, in the early 90s all our tops came from Victoria’s Secret. (The tighter and the sexier the better.) And I have to add, we were good girls. We went to Columbia. We were from nice families. And we didn’t sleep around. (But even if we did–SO WHAT?) We just liked to dress provocatively because it was fun, and we were young and pretty and we felt confident in our bodies and…mainly it was just FUN.

I think we were also very innocent.

Mostly because we hung out with a bunch of fabulous gay guys and the point really wasn’t about sex at all–but how fun it was to be young and beautiful and fit into a gorgeous corset and show off our legs.

And when straight guys took it the wrong way–I remember this one guy, at a party, totally checking me out in my tiny corset and jean shorts, and he was one of the campus hotties, and he had come to my party, and I was kind of into him sort of but not really, but then he got this LOOK in his eye, like he KNEW what kind of girl I was because of how I dressed, and I just felt…REPULSED.

He didn’t get it at all.

Or maybe I didn’t get it at all.

And that was the first time I realized that some people might make assumptions about me from my tiny outfit that was totally off-base.


I was at the gym yesterday and watched some morning talk show about how this "Freak Dancing" that all the kids are doing today is freaking out all these parents and school administrators so much that one principal at a high school has CANCELED all the school dances, including Homecoming and the Prom for fear of the kids getting their freak on.

And I was like, Oh my god. It really IS time for a new Footloose movie!

Can you believe that DANCING is still freaking out the fuddy-duddies?

The hosts of the show were saying in super-shocked tones, "This ‘freak dancing’–it’s just SIMULATED SEX isn’t it?"

Um, when has dancing NOT been simulated sex??? Elvis could only be broadcast from the waist UP because back then the censors thought his hip-shaking was way too provocative.

Then the principal said "The kids are really PUSHING IT!"



Kevin Bacon, we need you now! So do you think in the new version of Footloose they’re going to freak dance?? I hope so!

When I was a teen, the dance we used to do was called "THE SANDWICH" because it meant that three people would shimmy and writhe against each other, simulating… I dunno… A THREESOME???

It was really fun and I was part of many many sandwiches on the dancefloor.


When I was a kid, and all my friends and I yelled the lyrics to LIKE A VIRGIN, TOUCHED FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME in the back of the station wagon while my mom drove us to the country club, my mom raised an eyebrow and pronounced Madonna,


Which means vulgar in Tagalog.

Then she laughed. She knew we had no idea what we were singing. And that we were innocent kids who knew there was SOMETHING bad and dangerous in the lyrics, which is why we liked them, but that we didn’t really understand WHAT that was.

And mom left it at that. She didn’t get her panties in a huff like Tipper Gore and try to slap parental stickers on all those records. Jeez.

There’s so much hysteria over stupid things in this world.

Freak dancing –it might not be your idea of dancing, it might look vulgar to your eyes. But really…

The kids are all right, people. The kids are all right.

Happy Halloween!


The Self-Publishing Scam

Good news from my Barneys shopper – they have another Balenciaga blazer! In my size! (Or a size normally larger than I wear but actually abnormally smaller than Balenciaga makes as usual.) Pretty confusing, but the good news is the blazer is still within my grasp! If I motor down to Barneys tomorrow and snag it, of course. AND if it fits. Crossing fingers….

In other news, I’ve been getting a ton of email from you guys asking about how to get published and what about these publishing houses where you pay a fee for them to publish your book, and if you can trust those publishing houses, and if that’s how to get published.

First of all, let’s clear things up: If you have to pay someone to publish your book, that is not a real publishing house.

Sure, they can MAKE a book. They can typeset it and print it and put a nice cover on it and it will LOOK like a book. It will smell like a book, it will weigh like a book. But it is NOT a book. Not in the sense that Lord of the Rings, or Gone with the Wind, or Gossip Girl or Confessions of a Shopaholic or The Au Pairs or Blue Bloods are books.

Those are called VANITY presses. A vanity press is exactly that–a company that TAKES your money and makes your book to assuage your vanity as a writer. Because ANYONE can have their work made into a book. As long as you pay the fee.

Notice I said "make" your book not "publish" your book. Because publishing is something else entirely.

REAL books, those sold at book stores, and at Target, and at airports, and that are reviewed by newspapers and blogs, are PUBLISHED. My publishers PAY ME for my work so they can publish my books–which means that my work goes through a committee of professionals who DECIDE whether they like my work enough to pay me money for it. I make my living off my writing, I DON’T PAY anyone to publish it. It is the other way around.

(A side note: I think Amazon makes this very confusing because they give self-published books an ISBN number and there are tons of self-published books on Amazon. So those self-published books look just like the real published books because, hey, they’ve got an Amazon page and everything! It just means Amazon isn’t above taking money from the self-publishing world either.)

When I had my first novel published, my agent told me that a committee of twenty people has to decide whether it was good enough. This is not just the editor who acquires the book, but her boss,  her fellow editors, the sales team, the marketing team, the publicity team, her boss’s boss, and on and on. LOTS of people have to feel good about your writing for you to get the green light.

Which means not everyone can publish a book. (Although it looks like more and more books are published a year, it is actually a tiny amount compared to the vast numbers of people who WANT to be published but are not.)

What are vanity presses good for? Well, there are some books that get the attention of real publishers by going that route.  Christopher Paolini’s Eragon and Laurie Notaro’s Idiot Girls Action Adventure Club were both self-published before they found a traditional publisher. And both are great books. 

So you COULD go that route. But Christopher and Laurie are the exceptions to the rule. The traditional route to go is through sending your manuscripts to agents, finding an agent who will represent you, and then the agent has the task of SELLING your book to a publisher for a commission.

Do not think I am being too harsh on the self-publishing industry. I am not. If you would like your stories or novel to be bound and made to look like a book–go ahead. But this is not the route to take if you would like to make your living as a writer. Or to be considered a "published" writer.

And yes–you are a real writer even though you are not published. Of course! It’s not even a question.

But for me, I always wanted to be published. I wanted, I needed, that validation. I wanted to see my book in libraries, in bookstores, in airports and at Target.

I never felt as happy as when my agent called me while I was at a boring-ass business meeting in D.C. for the dumb software company I used to work for, to tell me that Simon & Schuster was making an offer on my first novel. I left that meeting a corporate drone and I returned to it as a published writer.

REMEMBER: Any company that CHARGES A FEE for publishing your work is not a real publisher. Please please remember that.

It is like when bogus MODELING AGENCIES charge a fee to work with a model. This is just bogus. Real modeling agencies are like book agents. They take you on so that you can make money, and charge a commission from it. If you have to pay them up front from your own pocket–they are not a real modeling agency.

Nothing that is worthwhile is had without difficulty. Most writers pay their dues, work their way up and work on their craft before making it.

I wanted to be a writer–a published writer–ever since I could remember wanting to be ANYTHING. It was the only thing I ever wanted to be. And when I graduated from college at 21, I couldn’t wait for it to happen soon enough. By the time my book sold when I was 27, I felt ANCIENT. It felt like it was six years too late, even though everyone was calling me a young writer and how great it was that I was publishing my first novel before I was thirty. I felt OLD. Because I’d wanted it for so long, that when it finally happened, the major emotion I felt was simply: RELIEF.

But here’s a happy story from the self-publishing experience. When I was twenty-two and recently graduated from college, I entered a poetry contest I saw advertised in a literary journal. I had won some poetry contests in high school, and I thought, why not? I was working in a bank, and wanting to be a writer, and I thought it would be fun–not expecting anything to happen from it.

You can imagine my surprise a few months later, when I received a very official letter telling me I HAD WON! I had  won a poetry contest! I was so excited! I told all my friends, and when the letter said I could ORDER BOOKS with my winning poem in it, for $50 each. Well–what was $50? I had WON A WRITING CONTEST!

I sent $150 of my hard-earned money to receive the book that my poem was in.  I wanted two copies, and one copy to give to my parents. And a few weeks later, the book arrived.

People, it was the size of the telephone book! It was a brick! THIS was the book that had all the poetry winners???

It was then that I realized I’d been CONNED.

EVERYONE who entered the contest was declared a winner so that they could sell us this dumb book for $50. It was basically a self-publishing operation.


I was not a real writer.

I didn’t win anything.

I was a dupe.

And yet–and yet–for those three glorious weeks, that letter had given me the CONFIDENCE that I might be a real writer, and that confidence burned in me, and even after I discovered I’d been had, I thought, why do I need some dumb contest to tell me that I’m a real writer? I’m a writer–and I’m going to go out there, and I’m going to get published. And I’m NEVER going to pay anyone to get a copy of my work again.

Two months later, I had an agent, and two months after that, I met a real editor at a real publishing house who told me I had a "voice" and that I should not give up writing. And two years after that, I was published in a real paper.

I was paid $100 for my story.

I used it to buy a round of drinks at a bar for my friends. The same friends who’d congratulated me when I "won" that poetry contest a few years before.

And I’ve never looked back since.


Fashion Victims Come in All Sizes

So I thought there was something wrong with my outfit today. I had bought these very cool wool black balloon-y culottes from Agnes B ($150 or something–I can’t remember exactly but they were in that price range) a few months ago, and they are my favorite thing to wear lately, because they have an elastic waist and are roomy and sooo comfortable, yet avant-garde enough so they look tres chic. OR SO I THOUGHT.

I paired it with a printed flowy-kimono-sleeve top ($20 at the Billion Dollar Babes sale last year) and my brand-new Lanvin criss-cross nubby brown leather flats ($545 bought at Barneys the other day). And topped with my Joseph cape sweater ($100 at the sale a few years ago, from $400 I think) I thought I looked pretty cute. It was my baby’s "Music Together" class and I always try to dress nicely because I actually have to leave the house and see other people.

But something nagged at me. Somehow, with the pants and the printed top and the criss-cross ballet flats. I looked AMISH. Not that there is anything wrong with looking like that, but something about my outfit was very starchy and screamed I DO NOT BELIEVE IN TECHNOLOGY!!

It did NOT scream hip.

But it wasn’t until I saw my sister, (she and my younger nephew are in Music Together with Mattie and me) that I discovered what was truly wrong with it.

Christina took one look at me and asked, "WHY ARE YOU WEARING HAMMER PANTS???"


You remember those balloon-y parachute pants for the 80s?

I thought I was being avant-garde. I did not realize I was merely being retro-grade. MC HAMMER???


Now I know what is wrong with those pants. SIGH!

Defnitely a fashion-victim moment.

But I will still continue to wear them. They are the only comfortable pants I have that are not made of jersey and come from Target.

That’s right, people, for me, it’s always going to be…


In other sad news, my Barneys shopper called me and told me that my fabulous Balenciaga Blazer had arrived!!! And I had exactly one day to rush over there to buy it otherwise they were going to ship it to Dallas to another greedy Balenciaga lover! So of course I high-tailed it over there, ready to part with $2500 so I could be one of the very few women in the world who would have this jacket. (According to the New York Times Critical Shopper column, NINE were ordered by the Balenciaga store for their customers, if you didn’t order one, you don’t get one. NINE New Yorkers! Yikes!)

The jacket wasn’t even the fabulous black one with the stripe on the arm that I really wanted. It was gray. But it was faaaaahhbulous. The construction of it–the architecture of the sleeve! The big-ass Balenciaga buttons! The silk lining with the insane manga graphic…it was TO DIE.

I slipped it around my shoulders, loving how the fabric felt against my skin.

Then I tried to pull the two sides of the blazer together, to see how it would look buttoned.


There was a good five-inch gap between the button and the buttonhole. A yawning chasm.


I was devastated!

Friends, I am not that big. I fit into a Balenciaga size-40 (which is an American size 4) in the military jacket! I usually wear a size six.

So why, why, why, couldn’t I fit in the blazer???

Because the blazer is made for those with Agnes Deyn proportions. It is not a real size 42 (Am 6) it was more like a negative minus two. TINY, TINY, TINY!!

Because they ONLY want skinny-mini modelicious girls to wear them.

I don’t know who was sadder, me or my Barneys shopper who would have to forgo her commission and send it to the lucky lady in Dallas.

Apparently, if I WANTED a jacket IN MY SIZE, I should have gone to the TRUNK SHOW and ORDERED one in a "custom" size. You give them your gigantic-lady size and pay half six months in advance. And that is the only way one who is not a negatory size can score the jacket.

But, when fashion slams a door, somewhere it opens a window…

I consoled myself with buying the criss-cross Lanvin flats, as well as a pair of red patent mary-jane ballet flats from Lanvin as well ($545). My FEET at least, are TINY, TINY, TINY!

I also bought a hyper-cool studded metallic leather belt ($275) since the only belt I ever wear, this white studded super-zexy belt tore in half since it was made of pleather and from the mall (and bought for $20). I don’t know why I decided it was time to upgrade exponentially on the belt, since I keep buying this same white belt for the last ten years and I always get tons of compliments on it. And I probably should have just gone to the mall and bought another one. But I was at Barneys, and I needed a belt…and at Barneys, belts START at $275. So what are you going to do? SIGH.

I took my fat ass home and trolled the web for knockoff blazers. They make a decent one at J. Crew ($225) but it’s just not the same…


The Perils of the Privileged…or Why I need My Own Butler

Hey kiddies.

I’m sorry I don’t have time to comment back lately. And we are waaaay behind in all the emails. I read them all, you know, but it takes a long time for me to write back because I always want to attach the latest MELDLC newsletter with news on all my upcoming books and stuff. But the thing is, the latest newsletter is still unwritten! Because a couple of my books are being re-shuffled around in the schedule and I have to figure out what I want to say in the newsletter exactly. I realize this is an incredibly lame reason why your email has not been replied to, but fear not, one day you will get a personal note from me with a handy-dandy newsletter attached! This is my goal for this year, to get all the emails replied to and start 2008 with an empty in-box.

Anyway, the paperback of Angels on Sunset Boulevard is being sent back to the drawing board. You know that zo zexy cover? Sales wasn’t feeling it. I thought it was hot, but they know that they’re doing. So Angels is coming out in paperback next fall (instead of next spring), along with Angels on Sunset Boulevard Two, or The Strip. Which is soooo hot it’s burning my fingers as I type! (God I’m a cheeseball.) What else is coming to Fall 2008? Blue Bloods: REVELATIONS! Whoo hoo. It’s juuuuicccy. I promise once I have something to put up, like a chapter or an excerpt or something, on either of these books, I will do so. But right now everything is in very messy first-draft phase.

Right now I am in the middle of revising THE ASHLEYS: JEALOUS? and my head is going to explode. I have read and re-read this book so many times I think I’m going to go insane. So I’m taking a little break and blogging.

Did I say I love revising? I hates revising. I hates it. I hates it. But I’m almost done, Hallelujah! The only thing that is keeping me going is that I get to have a fun fun spa treat when I turn it in. My brother got me a gift certificate to the Beverly Hills Hotel La Prairie Spa for my birthday and I promised myself I would hurl myself at their massage table as soon as I hit "Send" on the manuscript.

I finally figured out what my family can give me as presents–because I never ever like any clothes or jewelry anyone else picks for me (you can’t really shop for fashionistas since they shop all the time themselves). But I’ve become a spa junkie ever since my daughter was born.

When I lived in New York, my favorite spa was the La Prairie Spa at the Ritz-Carlton. Oh my god, if you haven’t been there, you HAVE to go. It’s the best spa in the world. It’s beyond fabulous. So I was delighted to find out they have one here, at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I kind of want to rent a bungalow there for a day too.

By the way, the St. Regis Monarch Beach is amazing. Our suite came with its own butler! At first I was like, what do I need a butler for? But you know I was pressing that butler button every five minutes. I am totally sad I am now home and there is no butler to order around anymore. I totally regressed to my pre-immigrant self, to the kid who grew up with nine maids in Manila.

When I was growing up, the maids used to dress me while I was still asleep for school. I would not even bother to wake up until I had to get into the car. I totally remember lying down, eyes totally closed, while they put on my school uniform, socks and shoes. And I was like, ten years old or something. How SICK is that? This is why my husband thinks I am totally lazy. Once you have house-staff you’re pretty much ruined for real life.

The only thing my family’s old lifestyle prepared me for was to write my books set in high society. I know from spoiled, man.

In the meantime, our curtain lady is coming this week and we’ve finally decided what to do about the curtains (automated for sure–one of our friends once said our house was "slightly more advanced than everyone else’s, almost like living in the near-future" so of course we must automate!). Now we are on to landscaping the property. We’ve got to re-do the decks and put in fountains and gazebos and fire pits and maybe even a waterfall. They’re very popular in the hills where we are, and the idea of having our own little waterfall is very appealing.

I’m sure it’s going to be a nightmare to construct it all though. Those things always are. And when we finally get the house totally done, I’m sure it will be time to move… Such is life!

Anyway, the Ashleys are calling me back to finish their story, so I must go back and see what those crazy girls are up to. Seventh-graders are SO demanding!


Gossip Gurlz and Good Books…

I have been meaning to post about the ahhhsome Gossip Girls TV show! As a big fan of the books, I was very excited to watch this! I love the show, but I agree with the New York Times–the books are MUCH better. But who cares?? It’s still a great show! The main thing that I think is "off" is that they made the main character Serena, probably because Blake Lively (who is gorgeous) plays her and she’s the most famous actress they have on the show.

But c’mon now, the books were about BLAIR. BLAIR was the flawed, evil, lovable, bulimic, insecure, too-human character. She’s been relegated to cardboard-cut-out evil. Lame! Serena was just some beautiful blonde who was always happy and carefree in the books.  Oh well. Also, I don’t heart the parental storyline. Eccch. Keep the story on the bright young things not the wrinkly (or Botoxed) old folks. I love Chuck. I love Nate. And Dan is hot too. And what about those uniforms?? I love Serena’s knee-high boots and tie-on-t-shirt look. Whoever is the stylist for the show is doing a Pat-Field worthy job. This is the new 90210. Let’s hope it runs twenty seasons!

Who watches 90210 reruns on the Soap network? You know you do!

What dear friend Liz Craft and her writing partner Sarah Fain (authors of the hilarious and touching "Bass-Ackwards and Belly-Up" have a new show on TV–The Women’s Murder Club based on James Patterson’s bestselling books. I can’t wait to see this!! Yay! It’s on at 9pm on Fridays on ABC, and I predict a big big hit. Tune in!!

I’ve been batting a thousand with books lately, and by that I mean books I’m reading! Here’s what I’ve recently enjoyed:

THE PINHOE EGG by Diana Wynne Jones. I read an article on Slate a
few years back about how there was this great fantasy author who was
nowhere near as famous as JK Rowling and that it was a shame, and how
we should really read her books. And so I did, and I love all of them.
I realized what I love so much about her books aside from how sly and
cool and subtle they are is that they also project this totally ideal
version of the countryside. A countryside that really does not exist
anymore. It’s like countryside-porn, you know, all home-made pies and
little villages and stuff. I totally lapped it up because hey wouldn’t
we all want to live in this beautiful, quiet rural place?

The short
answer, my friends, is no.

My husband comes from the rural countryside,
and it’s beautiful. There are farms, home-made peach and blueberry
pies, horse farms, no one locks their doors, etc, etc. And it is
deathly, deathly, deathly boring. Mike couldn’t wait to get out
of there and get to New York City. Grime and graffiti and all its glory! Still, I enjoy the books and like to imagine that I am
the kind of person who would enjoy the rural countryside instead of the
kind of person who is allergic to silence, greenery and insects and wears Blahniks to picnics and then complains about how the grass has ruined her heels.

Sometimes when I read popular novels I realize that I so sympathize more with the villain. I am the bitchy, fashiony, evil girl that the sweet protag hates. But whatevs. Like in Devil Wears Prada? I would totally be Emily Blunt ("when I feel faint, I eat a little cube of cheese") rather than the Anne Hathaway character (who has no memorable lines for me to quote). And BY THE WAY, that movie was great except that in the end, when Andie works at some dumb newspaper and it’s like the best job ever??  No way! As all journos will tell you, Conde Nast pays more!

SKIN HUNGER by Kathleen Duey. Another awesome YA Fantasy read. Gets under your skin, literally. Unputdownable.

DRAMARAMA by E. Lockhart. I’ve been feeling kind of low lately. It
kind of hit me the other day that I really do live in L.A., and most of
my friends live in New York, and I am just not in New York often
enough. And we don’t really get to see our L.A. friends all that often.
Most of the time Mike and I are just so worn down from childcare,
career anxiety and architectural obsession (we’re getting the curtains
in the house custom-made right now, a grueling process of choosing
one-or-two track systems, to automate or not to automate, fabric and
light allowance, all these tiny tiny issues and because there are so
many choices, all our windows–we practically live in a glass
house–are naked) that we have no time to really enjoy our
life. Which is lame! I realize I have first-world problems. I realize I
have no right at all to complain.  But you know that song Mo Money Mo
Problems?  Life was so much simpler when  all we had to do was buy some
cheapo bamboo blinds from Urban Outfitters and hang them and that was
the end of it.

With money comes the anxiety of spending it correctly. Are we
turning into those tacky awful people whom we used to hate when we were
younger and poorer?

Don’t answer that!

Anyway, that was my state of mind and it was a relief to lose myself
in Dramarama, which is funny, upbeat and reminds me of me and my best
friend Morgan when we were younger and cooler and used to think of
ourselves as Liza Minelli and Michael York from Cabaret.

Anyway. Life IS a Cabaret my friends. So go out and live it! Or you can just sit on the couch and watch Gossip Girls, that’s good too.


Is There Ever Such A Thing as Detachment Parenting?

There has been no blogging in a while because there has been major shuffling the baby to her activities! My goodness, she’s only eleven months old, and already she is as over-scheduled as a high-schooler trying to get into Harvard. (Or as the case is in L.A., as a fifth-grader trying to get into Harvard-Westlake!) Me, I’m pooped!

The funny thing about all these classes is that the babies kind of do what the babies do–they just wander around, crawling or walking aimlessly, picking up lint from the floor and occasionally looking up to see what the crazy grown-ups are doing. I suspect all these music and gym and yoga classes are really for the moms! Because I have worked up a sweat doing them! Foof!

I am trying not to let my natural competitive streak manifest itself in my relationship with my child. Her classes are the first time we’ve been exposed to other babies her age, and I am trying not to feel that "Oh My God, your child is walking already??" thing that I was feeling when I saw the other cherubs run around pushing at a large rolling ball while Mattie was content to just sit and hold up two rattles and shake them. She’s finally crawling on her knees (she was commando-crawling for a long time). And I would list all the other ways she is "advanced" (waving! clapping! language! She has a big vocab for an 11 month old!) but I will not. Although I guess I just did. Ha.

It’s hard. How does one raise a child really? And the whole point is the "raising". You can just sit back and let the child do whatever, of course. But being a parent means TEACHING the child things like manners, and why you can’t stick your finger in the electric socket, and how to go to the bathroom. My sister said all the technical things–walking, potty training, etc, are easy compared to the real things–like how do you raise a good and moral person?

My parents were big on parenting. They were the yuppies of their time, with massive parenting books and lots of lectures about life and success and happiness. I’m one of the few people I know whose parents actually sat me down and talked to me about sex. They were excruciatingly embarrassing lectures, but I’m glad my parents were brave enough to teach the birds and the bees.

Other things they taught me…my mom taught me not to be afraid of failure, to always do my best, and even if you don’t reach your goal, at least you tried and you’re farther along than where you started if you’d never even attempted your goal.

My dad taught me three key things: how to play poker, that one should never embezzle money from one’s company (I think I was eleven when Pop taught Wall Street ethics. He was an investment banker and there was a huge banking scandal in Manila at the time. The essence of his lesson: Cheaters Never Win), and how to choose a mate (I’ll share that with you all one day).

Today is the first day the baby’s nanny is going to driver her to her activities so that Mommy can finish writing her books! I just waved them off the driveway. They’ll be fine, I know. It’s just so hard to let go!

In shopping news, hit the Fred Segal sale and scored a fab Mayle fur-trimmed coat for $450 from $900! Perfect for my trips back to the East Coast this winter!


Advice for Young Writers

So many of you have been sending me emails asking me for writing tips. So I thought I would put some of my thoughts down here about writing and the writing business. This is what works for me. It might not work for everybody.

1.    Getting Started

Before you begin to write your story or novel, write a detailed outline and character backgrounds first. So many unpublished first (or second or third or 44th) novels begin halfway through the book because the writer has spent the first 150 pages giving us the background story instead of starting with THE STORY. Know your characters inside and out, where they came from, where they want to go, so that when you begin writing the book, you already know how they will act/react to events in the story.

I love outlines. I read somewhere that Stephen King said writers who like to write outlines wish they were writing masters theses instead of novels. For the longest time, I thought this was true. Now I think he was just exaggerating. You need an outline. Even just the barest outline so that you know the story’s beginning, middle and end. Sometimes, I don’t stick to my outline. The story begins to take off in a different direction, so I chuck the outline. But when this happens, I write a new outline. Outlines are the blueprints of stories. It will also keep you working, since you will see how far along you need to go. In general I write 10-20 page outlines, with a paragraph for each chapter in the book, describing the action that will occur in that chapter.

2.    Begin Writing and Don’t Stop

Now that I am a mother, I write on Monday to Wednesday from 10am – 3pm everyday at a writer’s office. On Thursdays I do revisions at home and on Fridays I spend time with my baby. When I’m on deadline, which means the book was DUE YESTERDAY, the schedule goes whacky, and I just work ALL THE TIME and try to see my family in between.

The three-day writing week usually results in a solid ten to twenty pages. The manic work that happens during deadline crunch can result in anywhere from twenty to fifty pages a day. This is when the novel really happens.

Before I had my baby, when I was not on deadline, sometimes I didn’t work at all. I went to the movies, I went shopping, I hung out with my friends, I tanned by the pool, I read a ton of magazines. But that only lasted for a week or two. Most of the time I’m banging it out. Which means I force myself to sit at my desk and write.

Now that I am a mother, the time that I am not writing is spent with my child. I try to read magazines and watch TV when she is asleep.

When I did not make a living as a writer, I wrote AT EVERY CHANCE I COULD GET. I was a computer consultant at a major bank, but I would say I spent six hours writing to the two hours I spent working on my computer programs. I also spent weekends writing.

3.    Cliffhangers are Key

How do you write a page-turner? By making each chapter end with a cliffhanger. What’s a cliffhanger? A cliffhanger is when the action reaches a feverish pitch and then the chapter ends with the protagonist hanging on a limb or about to kiss the boy or about to open the secret safe—but not revealing what is inside. It has to keep people reading to find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

I got schooled in crafting page-turning cliffhangers because I used to write a serial novel in GOTHAM magazine called “The Fortune Hunters”. My story appeared every month, and every month I would end it on a cliffhanger to keep readers interested in reading the next story, which they would have to wait a whole month for.  Apparently, it worked. The serial novel was very successful, and I even sold it as an adult novel. But I have not had time to whip it into shape for publication, so we will all have to wait for that for now. (I even had to return the money!)

But writing THE FORTUNE HUNTERS taught me how to write cliffhangers. Also reading Michael Crichton novels. Those taught me about cliffhangers too. And of course, the best advice to any writer is to READ. You can’t be a writer without being a reader.

4.    Always Say Yes To Everything

Making a living as a writer or an artist means that some years, you can make a lot of money, and some years are very lean. One of my producer friends in Hollywood said that whenever he feels like blowing a lot of cash, he looks up at the Hollywood Hills at all those half-built mansions and reminds himself that sometimes, one hit is all you can get, so don’t get too cocky. The people who started building those houses didn’t have enough money to finish building them. Yikes!

All through my writing career, I have taken EVERY assignment offered to
me. In addition to big-name magazines, I have written for obscure
websites, shopping catalogs, health and fitness magazines, free
newsweeklies, blogs, anything and everything. I have written about my family, my sex life, my staggering credit card debt. I have endured humiliation and good-natured ribbing. I have survived to write about it. Did I want to dress up as a man and crash my husband’s bachelor party? YES! Did I want to try out every position in the karma sutra and write about it? YES! Did I want to go around New York and ask men to tell me the length of their bananas and see if they could get women to date them if they wore their inches on a t-shirt on their chest? Um…er…do I really have to..oh well..YES!

The first year I was a published writer,
I made $3,000. I was also making $75,000 as a computer consultant, so
it wasn’t so bad. The writing money was “fun” money. What I called,
very smugly, “handbag money” since I didn’t need the money to live on,
I usually spent it on whatever expensive handbag was trendy at the
moment. (I still call lame advances handbag money.
Like when my film agent tells me we’d sold the option to one of my
books, I’ll ask, “Did we get handbag money or real money?” “Well,” she
said, “Let’s say you can buy a Birkin but not the crocodile one.”)

When I was laid off from my corporate job during the bust of 2001, I was making $150,000 as a consultant. It was a huge blow, because I only made $10,000 as a writer that year.  Suddenly my “handbag” money had to become my “pay-the-rent-put-food-on-the-table” money. Eeks! Suddenly, I had to stop feeling so smug. I had to get to work. Real work. I wrote four proposals for books that year, and sold every one of them.

The books now pay for a lot of handbags, and to my surprise, it didn’t take too long to match what I’d made before as a computer consultant, or to double it, triple it, quadruple it, quintuple it, exponential it, until finally I got to the point where I was so sated I had to say, "IS THIS ALL THERE IS?" and have to go get spiritual or something. Or you know, set my shopping goals even higher.

Like a private jet. I’d really like one of those.

I kid. (Only a little.) And the specter of those half-built homes in the Hollywood Hills haunts me so much that I’ve finally started doing something I never did before. Now I save my money. For the lean years, if they ever come again.

BTW, I only worked with Alloy on the Au Pairs series. Everything else (Blue
Bloods, Angels, Ashleys, Social Life, etc.) is mine and mine alone. I
just add this because people ask, and that is the answer. But I loved
working with Alloy and wholly recommend working with them. If they come
calling, say YES!

5.    But Don’t Sell Yourself Short Either

Never take a first offer. Always try to push the deal to the farthest you can push it. Glossy magazines have paid me $1 a word, $1.50 a word, $2 a word, and at my highest, $3 a word. I’ve heard other writers can command $4 or $5 a word. So it’s possible. And it never hurts to ask.

Book advances are NOTORIOUSLY low for first-time novelists. Mine paid for three months’ rent and living expenses in New York, and that was it. (And I lived in a rent-stabilized apartment! Still, it wasn’t as small as some others I’ve heard. I’ve heard unagented writers are offered $1500 for a book. I mean, my god. That’s not even enough for a Chloe Paddington these days!) So you need to push. Ask for more. Or don’t sell them all the rights. Definitely not your movie/film rights. Hold on to stuff. MAKE YOUR AGENT WORK FOR YOU. In the end, you have to be the judge of your work. You know how much it’s worth. Publishers can always say no, but most of the time, they will try to say yes.

A CAVEAT: If you’ve pushed and pushed and pushed and they still won’t budge, take the money and do the job.

6.    Write what you know, write what you love, but research is fun too

Sometimes I have really happy days when I realize I am getting paid to write the kind of stories I used to write in my notebooks when I was a teenager. I used to write soap-operatic dramas modeled on Dynasty, but starring the members of Duran Duran. I know. Very sad. Thankfully, my writing has developed since then. But I still sometimes feel like I’m fourteen and I’m just writing things that I think are really, really fun to write about.

I’ve written about fashion shows, sample sales, private school, the Hamptons, all subjects that I am very familiar with. But I’ve also written about surfing, skateboarding, college radio stations, and other subjects I’m not so familiar with. I’ve always been interested in surfing, skateboarding, and college radio, but I didn’t know so much about them so I did research. I love doing research. I love figuring out subcultures and learning new slang. It widens my horizons as a writer. So don’t be afraid to tackle new subjects, writing about what you don’t know can be fun too.

7.    Finally, live a little

So many people want to WRITE but they have not yet even begun to LIVE. I think that the reason so many of us YA writers are in our 30s is because at this age, we finally can see clearly, what being a teenager really meant. When you are too close to the experience, you don’t have the objective distance with which to write about it. I can’t wait to be 50 and write about a young mother in her 30s. 🙂

Also, a lot of the fun in my books is inspired by the REAL fun I had going to clubs, covering fashion shows, trying to get into all those crazy parties, dancing on tables with my friends, indulging in a lot of boyfriend/girlfriend drama. I went out there and experienced life. I recently read about a young writer who had published her first novel (a teen romance) and she said she had never even been kissed! How can you write about boys if you don’t know what they are like? If you have never even had a boyfriend? I was quite appalled. I don’t want to read a romance from someone who has never experienced love. Puh-leeze.

So, get out there. Kiss tons of boys. Fight with your girlfriends. Go to a lot of parties. Spend too much money. Have FUN. Fall in love. Fall out of love. Make mistakes. Wear platform shoes and trip on them.

Then, a few years later, write about it. You have all the time in the world to be a writer, but you are only young and can fit into that size 2 Betsey Johnson silver micro-mini skirt once. (Ah, I remember that skirt very fondly. It came up to my upper thigh, barely covering my butt, and it got me in a lot of trouble with many cute boys.)

8. All the Usual Stuff…

How to get an agent? How to get published? I found my first agent through the WRITER’S MARKETPLACE. Are they still around? Everything is on the web now. Follow their instructions. Be patient. Try again. Don’t give up. Try to have a day job while you’re doing this, so you can still afford to shop at Barneys and get $150 dollar haircuts at Frederic Fekkai while you’re only making $100 an article (like I did). 🙂

A lot of really great writing advice is already out there– see Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Lawrence Block’s Telling Lies For Fun and Profit.

On this page, I have tried to answer questions you guys have sent me, essentially, how do you write a fun and glam page-turner like the Au Pairs, or a sexy thriller like Blue Bloods. I hope I’ve helped.

A very successful friend of mine in Hollywood (who has a new show coming out this September on a big network and she’s the EXECUTIVE PRODUCER hello!) says, the world is ALWAYS looking for new voices, new writers. If you have talent and determination, you will succeed in this business.

Good luck!!!


PS- I recently devoured and very much enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and she has some great writing advice too. There are many different kinds of writers in the world, and it gets easier when you figure out what kind of writer you are. For example, I once thought I would be the kind of writer who wrote self-conscious poetry and published small books titled "Epiphanies." LOL! I mean, gack, Epiphanies?? It turned out I was much, MUCH better at writing about partying nannies and hot vampires!

Event Sept. 30 in the O.C.! New interviews!

Hello, Hello!

First off, I’ll be at the Orange County Children’s Book Festival this weekend – on Sunday, Sept 30th from 2-3pm at the First Page bookstore.

Orange Coast College
2701 Fairview Road
Costa Mesa, CA  92628

Come by and say "Welcome to the O.C., biatch!"

Hee hee!

Also, I did some interviews recently.  Here is one and here is the other.


If loving Fashion is Wrong, I don’t want to be Right

I just got back from Barney’s….mmmm. There has been a LOT of shopping going on. UNDOCUMENTED! LOL! Once in a while I get paralyzed by guilt or wake up to the fact that people actually read this blog. I started this blog documenting my shopping because I myself am fascinated by what people buy, and what they actually spend on things. I like to know the hard numbers. I think it makes shopping much more realistic. But this past month I got kind of freaked out by the fact that people–anyone–could see how much I was REALLY spending on clothes and that scared me. Like, my husband? Or my mom? (Actually only those two.)

Also, I think that when you put things in hard numbers–people tend to judge. You know? Like the "what kind of person would spend THAT much money on THAT" kind of thinking. And I started to shudder. Because, you know, I’m a writer, and us writers have to wear like holey sweaters and look really frumpy for anyone to consider our writing worthwhile. Somehow being fashionable and a writer shouldn’t go hand-in-hand. Unless you’re Danielle Steele or Candace Bushnell.

So glad for the Candace Bushnells of the world! Also, I have to say that many writers I know are tres tres chic. Like Cecil Castellucci, who always looks marvelous in her beaded vintage sweaters and quirky glasses (if you ever have a chance, you must go hear Cecil read from her work, she is SUCH a great reader and puts on a riveting show), and Lisi Harrison, who rocks a sexy, sexy jean look with her fabulous shaggy hair (she looks like the coolest AND nicest girl in school–you know, the benevolent popular one), and Gigi Grazer, who wore skinny J. Brand jeans, Lanvin gold flats and a solid-colored balloony-silk blouse to one of the readings for our anthology Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys (and whose outfit inspired me so much that all I wear these days are skinny J. Brand jeans, Lanvin flats and solid colored balloon-y blouses).  My dear friend Anna David whose novel Party Girl recently came out always looks divine in her casual, sexy Cali-girl vibe. I know so many good-looking writers. And no, they’re not just "book hot" as Gawker says. They’re hot-hot! See, you can be pretty AND smart…

Anyway, I digress. I haven’t been posting my shopping expenditures because I have also been in denial about my shopping. I thought this season I could try to contain it by only spending $10,000 on new clothes. $10,000 should be enough right? Even though I work from home and only go out one night a week when the nanny can babysit. Hee. But then I spent a little here and a little there and didn’t keep track and now I’m worried I’ve already spent my budget and I don’t have anything "editorial."

So I’m starting anew. Here are my purchases for Fall 2007: A fabulous black Balenciaga jacket (it’s the 10th one when you click through the collection). It’s tres tres fab. It fits LIKE BUTTER. Oh. My. God. It’s insane.  It’s the best thing that’s ever fit me. I want to wear it everyday. It was $2300. Yoiks. But do the fashion math: It’s a museum piece! And apparently this might be Nicholas Ghesquirre’s last season for Balenciaga, and everyone (that is fashionistas in the know) agrees it’s his best yet. I’m also on the wait list for this blazer (it’s the third one from the left, the blue with the piping). Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s about $2500. And yes, I know it’ll get knocked off from here to Forever 21, but no one can copy the insanely beautiful fit, and the lush fabrication (yes I know fabrication sounds like a stupid word. But it’s actually a real word that fashion people use. It’s a technical term). And just how awesome it is to have the real thing. I can’t wait!

I also bought two black cashmere knit Rick Owens skirts at $500 each and two black Marni tops ($455 and $420). Everything I bought today was black. I tell you, I’m feeling a solid-color fall and back to black. The Rick Owens skirts are amazing–so comfortable and sexy at the same time. They’re body hugging but flattering. One skirt wraps over criss-crossed like ( I tried to find a pic on the web and can’t find one) so you show just a bit of tanned leg, and the other skirt goes all the way to the floor, but kind of gently trumpets out at the hem for a very chic look. One Marni top has a bit of a baby-doll, empire thing going on, but it’s very high-armhole and tight on top so you don’t look pregnant (god forbid!) and the other one is kind of balloon-y and sculptural.

A good haul for the day, I think and it’ll last me all season. Plus I think I still have around $6000 left on my budget (not counting the blazer–oops, well, minus the blazer I’ll only have $3500 left hmmm.) If I don’t buy a new handbag, I should be able to get a couple of new shoes. I am loving the platform peep-toes. If I were younger I would rock the toe-less Prada socks. But I feel like it would look silly to wear them at my age. Those of you who are under 30 should wear them though! They are sooooo cool.

My dearest fashionista friend Karen (a writer and shopper like myself) and I are obsessed with the crazy, ethnic Balenciaga scarves. But get this–they are FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. FOR A SCARF!! That really is crazy. Although I have to say, I did think about it for a second. My Barneys shopper told me they are only ordering two for the store. Because who is crazy enough to spend that much money on a scarf? Apparently there is a lesser version–$2500. But it doesn’t come with THE CHARMS. Which MAKES the scarf. You know? So what’s the point? And also, you have to remember, it’s still a lot of fracking money to spend on a SCARF.

I have to say in my defense that everything else in my life is incredibly cheap. I am the biggest penny-pincher when it comes to everything outside of fashion. For instance, I am writing this on my husband’s old broken Eames desk. One of the legs lost one half of the leg. But the desk still stands! And I’m too cheap to buy another desk since this one is still standing! And last night, I bought us the cheaper rotisserie chicken from Ralph’s. There is the ten-dollar kind that comes in the plastic tray and a five-dollar kind that comes in a plastic bag. Guess which one I bought?  I would eat Ramen noodles for a year to wear the Balenciaga jacket. Fashion money doesn’t seem like real money. It feels like mad money. Because, really, the prices are crazy enough right? It’s  not real. It’s just fashion.

I think everyone has something that they spend mad money on–whether it’s your car or your collection of vintage guitars and synthesizers (like my brother-in-law Tim who plonks down four thousand dollars a weekend for some electronic equipment). Tim has as bad a shopping habit as I have, we just have different obsessions. His apartment is FILLED with musical instruments he will never play. While my closets are filled with clothes I hardly ever wear.

What’s your poison? (If you’re reading this, I think I know! LOL!)


Turn down the volume?

Okay, so the prizes are OFF MY COUCH! Now they are on my sister’s couch. (She is my assistant.) BUT, they are now all in thick brown envelopes READY FOR SHIPPING! So hopefully sis will get her butt to the post office this week and mail all your wonderful prizes.

How great is it to have my sister be my assistant? It’s wonderful! And yes, I pay her. It’s a paying gig. (You think she’d work for free?? You don’t know my sister!) I tell everyone I have the smartest assistant in the world–after all, sis went to Yale and got an MBA and an MPH from Columbia. So why is she working for me, you ask? Well, she quit her job to raise her two boys (my darling nephews) and was looking for something to do that was no-stress but still fun. And I told her I was looking for someone to help around here, so she volunteered and she was hired on the spot!

My sister and I fought A LOT when we were kids. I’m 22 months older and deeeeply resented the arrival of the new baby. (I realize "deeply resented" is my favorite phrase right now. Can you tell I’m cranky lately?) But now we are total BFFs. The only reason why I would have another child is that I can’t imagine Mattie not having the kind of relationship my sis, my brother and I share. We are all BFFs.

Anyway, I have been reading the September issues of the fashion mags. And horror of horrors – volume is out! So the small fortune we spent on all those trapeze, a-line, bubble, empire-waist dresses…WASTED!! I counted and I have NINE of these dresses. I’m so annoyed! And I’m really annoyed with myself because whenever the new trend comes around–I totally EMBRACE it. I also owned like, seven ponchos when those were in style. Remember ponchos??? So I can’t believe I fell for it again. Grumble, grumble.

I always shop thinking YES, THIS IS ME! And for a season, it is. I also have DOZENS of those Indian-style tunics and printed Marni shirts. I really thought that was my look and that was it forever. But now I want to put them all in storage. They are sadly not me anymore.

Now all I’m feeling is basics…I only want to wear crisp white shirts and expensive black cashmere and lots of grays and army greens. And lots of streamlined pants and tailored blazers. I think that’s going to be my uniform for awhile.

The last time I wore a uniform it was white Agnes B. shirts, slim-slim-slim Joseph or Daryl K pants and lots of Helmut Lang sweaters (remember those? With the cut-out elbows??) I think that was around 1998 or so. And now it’s back! And my new wardrobe is now out of style. Argh!

Fashion is a cruel. cruel muse and hell on the pocketbook.