Monthly Archives: January 2010

What I’m Reading

A reader asked me what I am reading currently. I thought I would blog about it.

Lately I have been reading a lot of food books. My dad died of cancer, and something that happens when someone you love dies is that you get a kick on the seat of your pants about your own mortality. I was the type of person who scoffed at vegetarians and yoga, that Rupert Holmes “Pina Colada” song was written for ME (“Coz I like Pina Coladas, and taking walks in the rain, I am NOT into yoga, I am *INTO* champagne!”) Especially if it was sung by Kiki, the boozy 60 year old drag queen persona of Kiki and Herb fame, a character played by the genius actor Justin Bond. I wanted Kiki to sing at my wedding. My husband said No. It’s still a sore point.

Anyway… So. I was a red-meat-eating, martini-drinking, hard-living kind of gal. I think I counted French fries as a vegetable. And anyway, who ate? Back in my 20s I was a size two! I did not eat. I did not starve, mind you. But I did not eat that much either. But just because I did not eat a lot did not mean I ate well. Mostly I just skipped meals and drank a lot of coffee. Anyway, I thought eating healthily was something only annoying people did to make the rest of us look bad. But now, I’m older, and much wiser, and much kinder to myself. As much as I still like to indulge, I save those times for special occasions (which I really really REALLY look forward to: it’s like meeting your past self) and make my every day life more about eating well. I always enjoy reading cookbooks anyway, and food memoirs, so now I read food philosophy books also. Did you read about how you could be of normal weight but SECRETLY OBESE? Oy vey. I figured I have to get smarter about what I eat if I want my kid to eat well.

I really liked Michael Pollan’s Food Rules because it is so simple. A fast quick read. Helpful to remind oneself how to eat and shop. I have recently switched from Diet Coke to Iced Green Tea. Same amount of caffeine, and hopefully less cancer!

I always enjoy girls with attitude, and found the “vegan rant” Skinny Bitch very amusing and helpful. It’s a bit severe. We are not going vegan anytime soon. But helpful to keep you from reaching for those sodas—which have formaldehyde in them—which, honestly, I still enjoy once in a while at the movies. (You gotta live a little even if it means you die inside.) And hey, formaldehyde – it just means I am getting preserved earlier! Heh. But I’m just kidding. The kid has never had a drop of soda. I can’t seem to shake the habit at the movies, but am trying.

People always ask me to recommend some YA books. Rachel Cohn writes books that will make you cry and think. And they’re incredibly sexy and romantic as well. I highly recommend all of them. This is her latest book. What a lovely cover! I can’t wait to read it on the plane tomorrow.

Also, Elizabeth Scott. I can’t say enough about how ROMANTIC her books are. I just adored Perfect You. I read it in one sitting in the middle of a deadline and just devoured it. The guys in her books are so heart-breakingly real and gorgeous and you just fall in love with them.

I’ve said before that War and Peace is my favorite book and it is just incredibly romantic, with Natasha and Prince Andrei and Pierre and Nicolai and Princess Maria. There are these wonderful balls and sleigh rides (it sounds like Currier and Ives already) and bankruptcy and war and romance and faith. I spent three weeks of my 23rd year reading this book on my futon. I remember feeling depressed during that year and this book lifted the gloom. You don’t have to read the WAR parts, just the PEACE parts. I like my romance against an epic backdrop, and I like stories where there IS romance but it’s not the center of the story, or it is SNEAKILY the center of the story.

And you MUST see The Young Victoria. Because OMG SWOON. SO romantic. I like a strong heroine and the fact that she had all the money and the cards and he was a really, really great guy. And she was just lucky. Because he could’ve been a scoundrel but he wasn’t. And he died so young and she mourned him forever. I mean, can you even? I like romance when it is also about tears and partnerships. Yeah, and c’mon how hot is he???

People also always ask me about Blue Bloods’ influences. And it’s what you would expect: Stephen King, Anne Rice, Tolkien, Tolstoy, Sex and the City, Harry Potter, Flowers in the Attic. But I also really like soap operas. My favorite ones were Dynasty and Falcon Crest. But I just realized my love for soap operas goes all the way back to my childhood. To this Japanese anime called CANDY CANDY about a little orphan girl who has all these mean things happen to her but then grows up and dates the cutest boy. I can’t remember all the details and there isn’t an English language DVD to buy at the moment (SADLY!) but I did find these on the web which just jolted my memory.

Here’s Candy:

And here she is with Anthony. I think Jack Force has some Anthony DNA in him because I think Anthony was my first crush. I think I was eight years old when I started watching Candy Candy. At some point in the 70s the Philippine government BANNED all the Japanese animation because it was “corrupting our youth”. Of course by the time they took them off the air, the corruption was complete! At least in my head. I already had a fondness for soaps by then!

Well. I should go. Have fun storming the castle!


Spring Shopping List

This year I am trying not to buy so many clothes. Or at least do no more mindless shopping, which like mindless eating is the kind of shopping you do when, say, you’re just taking the kid to her music class – but oh looky! There’s a Nordstrom, how did that get there? And a thousand dollars later you are leaving with a shiny new Marc Jacobs cape which you have worn exactly ONCE. And no more buying stuff from before eating breakfast. But just because we are curtailing over here does not mean we are cutting it out entirely. The horror! There are so many great things for spring so I thought I would share them with you. I have thought long and hard about what I want to buy this season so that I am not as tempted to just buy, well, anything new and sparkly I see when I leave my house. Instead, let’s call this meaningful shopping. In that desire is built in for a couple of weeks, debated through endless emails with like-minded fashionable friends, and then finally the coup de grace: PURCHASED! And hopefully worn more than once.

My friend Tom Dolby and I are obsessed with this lady who was featured in Domino who only had FORTY things in her closet – and that’s all she wore and she was super-stylish. So you know: trying to do basics and not trends and to live and look more stylish than trendy. It’s a hard thing to do for those of us who live and die by what’s new (as Karl Lagerfeld said, “I have to wear what’s new, it’s my job.”), but it’s no longer my job to be on the cutting edge. There are way too many once-in-a-lifetime outfits in my closet than day-to-day savoir faire.

A navy-and-white striped t-shirt. It’s a staple. I bought this one from Calypso. It’s so comfy and very flattering. Looks great under a blue blazer with three-quarter sleeves (get your old J. Crew ones shortened at the tailor’s) and a white silk scarf.

I am also loving scarves. I have a couple that are artsy and have lots of little bits hanging off it like those Balenciaga scarves from a few years ago. But I also just like a nice sheer silk scarf. Does many wonderful things for the neck. Mainly, hides it. Jigsaw makes some nice ones that aren’t too expensive either. I like this one for the fun checker pattern.

Although if you want to get fancy. This LV stole always “steals” the spotlight. My friend Minty was wearing one to a party the other month and all the girls POUNCED on it. The next day several of us had bought it. Something about that leopard against the pink, I think. And also the way Minty wore it: over a white tanktop and jeans. Tres casual. Like, this old thing? Pshaw. I always need my clothes to say something. Maybe that is my problem. But still: a gorgeous scarf. Guaranteed to make you the prettiest girl in the room for an evening.

Lately I am wearing a lot of long sheer tunics and short Helmut Lang jackets over them. It makes you look so much thinner! Who needs to go to the gym? Well, we all do for our health. But you know what I mean. Sometimes you can do yourself no favors by just dressing fat. Try to dress thin. Long layers and skinny jeans seem to do it for me.

I love Alexander Wang t-shirts. Comfy, flattering and relatively affordable! Look how drapey they are. And they’re very sexy on. Especially with leather leggings.

This year I cannot get enough of Stella McCartney’s new collection. This jacket is insane. I have been obsessing about it for a month now with my friend Kam. Every day we email each other begging the other to buy it so that at least the other can live vicariously. Oh dear. I might have to capitulate. But only *for a friend.* You know? Ha! An upgrade to the J. Crew blazer.

Well that’s all I have in my closet today. Happy Tuesday everyone!


Candy Fairies, What Parents Look Like

So one of my FAVORITE people on the planet is Helen Perelman, who was my original editor on Blue Bloods. (It goes without saying that my current editor Jennifer Besser is ALSO one of my favorite people on the planet!) But this is about Helen, who since leaving me and the BB’s has become a writer herself. Back when Blue Bloods was still a massive outline and not a book, Helen was the one who said “Mimi! I love Mimi!” and “Hmm, but we gotta work on Schuyler, okay?” and “Can we have at least ONE character who does not smoke??” Helen and I are both former smokers and I think I was on nicotine withdrawal in Blue Bloods because the characters all smoked (since I couldn’t). Anyway, the smoking has lessened in my life and in my books (I don’t even miss it anymore!) mostly because I got all these emails from YOU GUYS who said “Why do they smoke? It is BAD to smoke!” And you know what, you guys are RIGHT. Sigh. It is bad for your health. And even if you’re immortal, you probably should not smoke. Sometimes, it’s your readers who become your role models, not the other way around.

Anyway, you know an editor gets you when they are fond of the character you are most fond of. I love all my characters equally, but I always had a soft spot for Mimi since I’m the type of person who sympathizes with spoiled brats being a former spoiled brat myself.

And this is all a tangent for a plug for Helen’s new delicious series for 6-9 year olds called CANDY FAIRIES. And don’t forget to check out her tween books as well on her site!

Look how cute!

And this weekend the internets were abuzz with news of Angelina and Brad’s breakup. Yeah, I’m on a first name basis with them, just like the rest of America. I was riveted by this news. (Ask my husband!) Because: c’mon! Perfect couple! Great kids! BREAKUP??? JUICY! I crowed “SO! You can’t have it all! Ha! Ha!” But I was worried, since the tabloid gods as in People Magazine, which is a NEWS ORGANIZATION – I once interviewed to become a reporter there and that place is like, LEGIT, you should see the phone-book sized instruction book they give all their reporters. I got one even though I never filed any stories. Did you know that if you want to be in People, you HAVE to allow them to photograph you at home with your family? And that they will reveal your REAL age? Think about it. Some celebs are never in People because of the age fact-checking. Oh yeah.

Anyway, so. People was mum about the Brangelina breakup for a day or two and then finally on Sunday, they REFUTED the break up. Which meant that there was no break up because as someone pointed out, how can they get divorced if they’ve never been married??

Here they are looking all fabu at some red carpet thing.


And here they are with their family.

And you know why I think the breakup rumors are wrong? Because god they look like such parents. Look HOW BORED they look. That is how parents look. A mixture of TIRED and BORED. And that is a happy family right there. You know if you saw me and my husband and kid, (and we only have one not six) Mike and I look just as BORED and TIRED. And we’re together. No breakups here either. That’s just what having a family looks like. You’re out. The kids are being cute. But it’s still a bit of drudgery. Don’t get me wrong: kids are a joy and they are awesome. But the day to day life with them looks pretty much like this. BORING. (And they’re at Cafe Metro! In New York! Cool!)

I admit it is kind of ridiculous to talk about celeb’s lives as if they are our BFFs but I didn’t make the culture, I just live in it. BTW, where IS Tiger Woods???


Who Was that Masked Girl? Photos from the Book Tour!

Some fun photos from the tour! Been meaning to put these up forever. Thanks again to everyone who came (and dressed up!)

Here is the kid in a mask! My littlest fan. Heh.

Here are some lovely dressed up readers!

Look at that ballgown! Awesome!

Gorgeous feather headband! And a dress inspired by Mimi’s masquerade ball dress! Hi Jackie!

You guys are too adorable!

Black dresses are always good for masquerade balls!

Fabulous masks! (The winner of the contest on the left!)

A few more masked teens!

The crowd in Wichita!

And here are the two thousand books I signed at the Levy warehouse (which sends books to Target, Walmart, grocery stores, and other big box stores!)

Photoblogging is fun!


KEYS to understanding

Last Friday, I turned in my book, BLUE BLOODS: KEYS TO THE REPOSITORY, which includes expanded character profiles, a summary of the story so far, four short stories as well as sneak peeks at BB5: Misguided Angel and the new BB spinoff, Wolf Pact. For some reason I thought this would be an easy book to write, since it wasn’t a novel, and it sort of was easier, but it also sort of wasn’t, because in order to write it I really had to *know* every aspect of the story so far, and hint at the future story without giving it away. And it was in writing this book that I realized, MAN, MY STORY IS HUGE! (That’s what she said – snarf! Okay, sorry, I am juvenile today.) But what I mean is, when I first imagined the Blue Bloods series, I imagined this large, sprawling epic with tons of characters and back story… and what I have written is a large sprawling epic with tons of characters and back story. Heh. Which made summarizing it quite a challenge. I also had to make sure that I wasn’t contradicting anything that came before, but I also took it as a chance to FIX things that for some reason or other, slipped through the cracks when I was writing the books.

A couple of things that have always bothered me about the first Blue Bloods book is that it went to print with two big contradictions: one is the age that Allegra died – did she fall into a coma giving birth to Schuyler or did she fall into a coma when Schuyler was three years old? (Both are stated as fact in book one). Originally when I wrote the first draft, I had Allegra fall into a coma upon childbirth. But then I realized that I wanted Schuyler to have some MEMORY of her mother, and also, that Allegra succumbed to the wasting illness of not taking Red Blood because something HAPPENED in her life that caused it, which was not the birth of her daughter. (What happened? Something with her human husband, of course!) But for some reason in my countless re-reading of drafts and copyedits and final passes I still didn’t catch all the references to Allegra’s coma/Schuyler’s birth. Sigh.

The other thing that I’ve always wanted to correct was the question of whether there are only Four Hundred Blue Bloods in existence or Four Hundred living at a time (again in BB1, both are stated). I had always meant it to be Four Hundred at a time, and only for the New York coven, since I wanted a large story and since these vampires were so powerful it wouldn’t make sense if there were only four hundred of them ever. Especially with some of them being taken every hundred years or so. (Heh. My editor wanted to call it “The Three Hundred and Seventy Five Ball if that were the case.) The Four Hundred figure was important to the story because several myths have said that when Lucifer fell, four hundred angels fell with him, and because I wanted to tie the Blue Bloods’ history to that of New York Society, I also wanted to tie it into Mrs. Astor’s Four Hundred – the number of people who could fit into her ballroom and therefore, the number of people who made the cut into high society. Again, I should have caught it after countless re-readings but I didn’t and that inconsistency really grates on me.

KEYS TO THE REPOSITORY fixes and explains all the contradictions and inconsistencies. Very satisfying process that is. I just noticed, for instance, that Charles is described as sixty years old in BB1 and Allegra as a woman in her 40s. And they are twins, how? Tolstoy used to call these kind of mistakes “sunspots” in that the author is so close to his story, you are almost blinded to the small details. For me, part of it is because while I write a front story, there is a back story that will only come to light after you have read all the books, so I have to make sure the back story is consistent as well.

So that’s the great part of KEYS. It’s like a do-over to set the story straight as we go forward. It’s also a fun way to get back into the story and the characters so that when you read the next book, you’ll be completely caught up. I love companion books. For instance, in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, one of the things that always bothered me was that he describes Co-Op City as in Brooklyn. Everyone who has ever lived in New York knows Co-Op city is in the Bronx. In the companion book, he explains why that happened, in a scenario similar to the one I described above. He wrote it, it didn’t get caught during the fact-checking and copy editing, and yeah, it’s a mistake, and one he’s lived with. And he said, “It’s fiction. Maybe in this world, Co-Op city is IN Brooklyn. Also in writing the series, he ditches some characters, changes the names of others (Elaine becomes Susan, etc.)  and that’s just part of the writing process.

Publishing a series while you’re still writing it is almost like ‘writing out loud’ – you’re still in the middle of the story and thinking of it while you’re writing it. But that’s exactly what I love about writing Blue Bloods, I’m never bored, it’s always a challenge, and I try my hardest to get the books in the best shape I can in the deadline given me, and that’s all I can do.

In an ideal world, I would write the books and work on them until the end of my life and then release them only when they are absolutely perfect, like JRR Tolkien, who published the Lord of the Rings in his sixties. But then who’s to say anyone would want to read them forty years from now? I am a working writer, working on a series that is continually expanding and growing but one that is still adhering to my original outline I wrote in 2005. It’s fun. It’s wild. And the coolest thing of all is that you all are reading it!

Sneak peeks to the sneak peeks to come!

Happy Monday!

Happy New Year / An Announcement of a Different Sort

Happy New Year to all!

Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2010!

When I was growing up in Manila, this was (is?) the standard Filipino New Year’s greeting– a wish for prosperity, which always brought to mind an image of a Daddy Warbucks-like character puffing on a cigar. Or maybe it was the little old rich guy from Monopoly. Prosperity seems an old-fashioned thing to wish to people, and somewhat materialistic, but it is not. It means we wish you a year filled with joy and abundance instead of anxiety and diminishment. So: Daddy Warbucks it is.

Anyway, I have been receiving a lot of emails asking about the sequels to Girl Stays in the Picture and Angels on Sunset Boulevard. While there always seems to be a very chest-puffing and triumphant announcement when NEW projects are born, usually when projects die…they die in a whimper. There’s shame and failure and embarrassment when a project does not come to fruition. And that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

Sadly, I don’t have very good news today about these books. 2009 was a very tough year for me, and a few of the things that were left by the wayside were several books that I really wanted to write. Let’s get to each book in turn.

Angels Lie: the sequel to Angels on Sunset Boulevard. I have been writing and rewriting and tearing my hair out at the writing of this book for the past three years. Last year, after turning in Van Alen Legacy, I took a week off and dived right back into Angels 2 so I could make the November 2009 publication date. My editor had come up with a great plan: repackage the book WITH the first book, I was even given leeway to completely rewrite the whole thing to make a brand-new novel. I was pumped, I was excited, I wrote the book through several drafts.

I was about to send it to my editor when I did one more re-read and came to the blunt realization that I could not release the book. I wasn’t happy with it—it felt rushed, it felt forced, and I was so exhausted already. I knew I had to rewrite it but I did not have the mental capacity to do so. I was on the verge of a breakdown when I had a second realization: I didn’t have to do this to myself. I didn’t have to drive myself crazy. I could just cancel the book and return the advance. I would buy myself some peace, and some time.

I am so very sorry for those of you who are still waiting to find out how this story ends. But I am just not ready to tell it—I am blocked on it—I thought I knew how to end it, but I don’t. Not right now. I believe I will write the sequel at some point, but I can’t tell you when, or if it would ever be published even, since the contract has been canceled. I’m truly sorry—but I would rather not release a book that I didn’t feel was worthy than release something that was half-baked. Believe me, releasing the book would have been the easy way out.

And when I said no to that, I realized that I didn’t have to continue to write the GIRL series either. I sold the GIRL series almost four years ago, and it kept getting pushed back and pushed back because of my schedule. I loved writing it but at the end of that book I was bone-tired. I was so tired last year, tired of being sad, tired of working too hard, tired of the writing treadmill. Maybe I’m just in a different place than I was four years ago, I don’t know, but the days when I could turn around a revision in two weeks are long gone.

I know some of you guys are still waiting for short stories to complete the Ashleys series too, and I’ll write a story that will wrap up the GIRL series as well. I meant to do this by the end of last year but did not have the chance to do so. I can’t apologize enough about keeping you hanging, and I will be posting these stories at some point in the future.

Thanks for understanding. Sometimes, like this post says, you have to know when to quit.