4

Deb Susan Chooses Joy

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a creative person in possession of a good story must be in want of a book.

And a publisher.

And readers to share it with.

It is also a truth, universally known, that writers are balls of writhing insecurity held together by caffeine, lemon cupcakes, and unquenchable dreams. (Booze and chocolate may also be involved. Your mileage may vary.)

Before publication, we worry about publication. In the publishing process, we worry that no one will read. Once the book is released, we worry over everything we worried about before and a half a dozen other things we haven’t even imagined before we’re in print.

In case you’re not getting the message: WRITERS WORRY.

In such situations it’s tempting, and easy, to focus on the scary things. The inequalities. The fears. But in that direction lies a slough of despair from which some authors never return.

I’m making another decision. I’m choosing joy.

In the days that come, I will see my book become a real thing – my words bound up in print for the very first time. I’ll have my first good review and my first bad one (because, as surely as daily sunrises, unpleasant reviews will happen to us all). I will sign my book for people who know me and, also, for people who don’t. I will laugh, and cry, and eat more cupcakes than I should.

13B Icing on the Cupcake

(Which is, after all, what happens when you self-medicate with sugar. But I digress…)

And through it all, I will remember that I am fortunate to have this chance.

I will enjoy every moment, because in life there are no guarantees than any of this will ever happen again. I will share my joy with friends, and help other authors celebrate their milestones – because everyone deserves the joy of seeing a dream come true.

Just before Christmas, one of my friends surprised me with a gift that made me cry:

13B Framed cover

The cover art for CLAWS OF THE CAT, matted and framed to hang in my writing office. It brings me joy every time I see it, and not only because I love the art itself. This gift reminds me of three things I try to remember every day:

I am a published author – which means my oldest and greatest dream is coming true.

I have family and friends who love me – which means I am fortunate and blessed.

And, I have reasons for choosing joy over sorrow and positive thoughts over negative ones.

Does that mean I never succumb to fear? Of course not – I’m as human as everyone else (and more flawed than most). But I try my best to remember the choice is mine – and that I have chosen joy.

What do you choose to be joyful about today?

11

Deb Elise’s Wild Terror of New Beginnings

New Beginning TerrorCreatively, there’s not much that’s more daunting than a totally blank page waiting for you to spin it into either gold… or crap.  Those are of course the only options — each blank page will either catapult your career to that coveted next level, or reveal you for the fraud you truly are.

Know what helps me?  Writing freelance, and having all kinds of deadlines.

Since I still have all my “Let’s Analyze 2010” stuff out, I checked to see how many new beginnings I had in the year.  This isn’t counting things I was working on in 2009 that carried over — these are projects that were blank pieces of paper in 2010:

Two Book Manuscripts

One Travel Guide Chapter

Three DVD Features

One Website/Blog

Two Web Project Pitches

Two TV Show Treatments

Three Movie Pitches

Two Book Pitches

Six TV Show Episodes

Now I’m not saying I did these all start to finish in 2010.  Some are still very much works in progress, some I started just recently, and some are much smaller projects than they sound.  Yet whether I’m starting a blog post or a manuscript, there’s still that blank screen with the blinking cursor, and the nagging moment of paralysis where I can’t get started because I’m worried I’ll fail.

For me, I do best when I know I don’t have the luxury of time to wallow in that fear, because if I have the wallow-time, I tend to take it.  When I know I need to get over myself and get to work, I (most of the time) can shake off the neuroses and hop to it.

How about you?  Do you exult in the blank page, filled with possibilities?  Or does it make you recoil in terror?  And if the latter, what do you do to combat that?

Can’t wait to hear!

(Oh, and just for the record, I’ve already defaulted on several New Year’s resolutions.  Making several pages of them might not have been the best idea…)

~Deb Elise

8

Deb Elise Blogs on Friendship, Courts Death

Good friends are the ultimate external hard drives: they enhance your memory.

I remember a lot, but there’s also way too much that’s slipped through the cracks over the years.  Yet when I’m with the friends who really shared my life at various points, everything comes rushing back like no time passed at all.

For 6th grade through high school reminiscing, there’s no one like Temperance.  Our friendship started rocky, with her shaking me down for my Capri-Sun juice pouches, but by 11th grade we were roommates, and there for each other’s every drama, obsession, and late night punchy cram session.

Temperance, by the way, is not at all her real name, but given what I’m about to insert into this post, I’m hoping to subliminally help her restrain herself from killing me.  Yep, this is where I do what I promise in the title of my post, and court death:

The Tampon Pic

Personally, I think it’s quite flattering to both of us, but she’s a highly esteemed professional now, and might not be thrilled about an on-the-net pic of her with a tampon up her nose and a maxipad on her forehead.  Love ya’, Temp!

If it’s college and my 20’s it’s all about Patches.  Not her name either, though it was her name for the way cool murder mystery business we ran for years, Dial Us for Murder.  I was Mittens.  The picture below, however, is something different entirely:

Dr. Bob and Supergrover

Yup, that’s right.  We’re Supergrover and Dr. Bob.  And we were hot.

No really, we were.  We were in giant fur suits, sweating like freaks as we paraded down the wrong Halloween street party (Hollywood is so not the same as West Hollywood) and barely skirted a riot.

Since my daughter started preschool three years ago, she has done me the incredible favor of growing particularly close with kids whose parents I love.  I have a circle of “mommy-friends” now with whom I can and do talk about anything, and who I bet many many years from now will still be my touchstones for this incredible time when my daughter (now nearly 6) is young and just starting to come into her own.

Do you have certain friends who hold the key to specific periods in your life?  Tell me about them — I’d love to hear the stories!

~ Deb Elise

14

One last time across the floor, by Deb Katie

PhotobucketOh my goodness, this is the last time I’ll type a blog post and add “by Deb Katie” to the title.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “what it means to be a Deb” as we coach the new class and prepare them for their turn in the spotlight.

I can remember very well when I didn’t know which Deb’s book matched up with which Deb, or what any of them were about, or what to expect. All I knew was that four strangers and I were being thrown together and trusted to carry on The Debutante Ball, a website I’d been visiting as a reader for years.

To have that kind of responsibility seemed a little awe-inspiring.

The Debutante Ball was started by a woman author to focus a little extra attention on women authors debuting their first books. It is that, but it’s also a network, a cooperative, an increasingly-rare example of teamwork and mutual respect and fondness.

I hate to hear people say that “women are catty” and “women are bitches” and “women can’t work together.” Since the first time I had to work with women, I’ve never believed any of that, and my time at the Ball has reinforced what I do believe–women are creative. Women are hilarious. Women are compassionate. Women are resourceful.

The women of the Debutante Ball are a class act, even as they take off their gloves and pack up their pearls and retire their tiaras. In fact, everyone connected with the Debutante Ball is a class act–our commenters, our author friends, and other bloggers who have supported us over the years.

I keep saying to the new Debs, “Just wait. You’ll see.” They don’t know, you see, how much it means to have a soft place to fall, a built-in cheerleading section, a community that understands and wants to be there for you. But they’ll find out.

Sure, there have been weeks when I wasn’t in the mood to write my blog post (usually those were the weeks when I wasn’t in the mood to do anything). There was even one night when I woke up at two in the morning, heart pounding, remembering that I had to have a post up by the start of the morning on the east coast… whoops!

What pulled me through those moments was knowing — feeling, even — that I was part of something bigger than myself.

I guess, last year, I didn’t know being part of the Ball would mean so much.

But what a joy and a privilege to discover that it does.

And now, I suppose, it’s time to go.

Farewell!
Katie Alender
Bad Girls Don’t Die, Debutante Ball Class of 2009

PS – Please stay in touch. You can find me at KatieAlender.com and Twitter.

PPS – The Debutante Ball’s semi-official fairy godmother, Larramie, is giving sneak peeks at the Deb class of 2010 all week! Check it out!

11

I’m not a vampire, but I still feel pretty darn sparkly, by Deb Katie

(Before I begin, may I remind you that today is 2007 Debutante Mia King’s release day for TABLE MANNERS, her third novel? Longtime Friend of the Debs Larramie is featuring it at her website, The Divining Wand. You can even win a signed copy! Or visit Mia’s website.)

Now, back to business. Our topic this week is: “You should go on Oprah!” because that is probably the single most common bit of advice given to freshly-published authors.

My go-to reference whenever I’m talking about success in publishing is the Rich and Famous Contract. If you’ve ever seen Muppets Take Manhattan, you’ll recognize the phrase. After the Muppets debut their hit Broadway musical, the big producer orders “the standard Rich and Famous Contract.”

And the odds of being called in front of Oprah for one’s literary achievements are roughly the same as being handed the Rich and Famous Contract.

The vast majority of people think the publishing business is friendlier and more lucrative than it actually is. You can tell by the way people will ask, “Can I get a signed copy?” when what they really mean is, “Will you give me a free signed copy?” I’ll blur the details to protect the innocent, but let’s just say a significant figure from my past who ought to be very interested in my book (and supporting it) asked a version of that question. (Luckily, not to me.)

People tend to assume that getting published means you’re instantly living the high life. It’s just not true, folks. I already posted about the dollar sign end of things (here), but now let’s get real about the fame bit.

Think of your five favorite authors. Now imagine calling a restaurant and giving one of those names to hold a reservation. I’m just going to assume your first try is, “I’d like a table for Katie Alender.” Well, I’ve tried to get tough reservations with my particular name, and let me tell you, it doesn’t do much. In fact, here in LA, the best strategy is to use the name of a casting director—since the hosts and servers are all actors.

So I’m not riding on parade floats or being ambushed for my autograph at the mall (well, okay, at Target). I can probably name on three fingers the authors who do actually find themselves in that situation, and one of them is Stephen King and one is Anne Rice and one is living in a castle full of house-elves somewhere in England.

But here’s the kind of cool part—thanks to the internet, an author might never know that her influence is confined to a small sphere of readers. Because, using tools like email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc., people actually get in touch with you just to say they liked your book! And they email you and ask questions and they tell you which part they liked best and how they can’t wait for your next book to come out. And it’s all incredibly flattering and thrilling.

What is being famous, after all? People seem to crave it, though it’s such a strange thing to crave—for instance, I just read an article about how Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen from the “Twilight” movie series) can’t even walk the streets of New York without being dangerously mobbed. You often hear famous people express their wish that they could just be normal, anonymous, blended in. (Of course, then they go out for a night on the town in a glorified tank top and “OOPS! Forgot the panties!”, but that’s neither here nor there.)

My theory is that people think fame is about connecting. On some level, we all long to connect with other people.

Poor Robert Pattinson isn’t connecting with anybody (except that taxicab that hit him last month as he was running from a mob). But me? I may not have the Rich and Famous Contract, but I get to connect every day! I’ve met so many wonderful people—authors, bloggers, readers, fans—and it all started with my book. For that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

So Oprah, if you’re reading this, yes. If you call, I will come to your show and talk about teens and maybe even jump on the couch if you aren’t looking.

But if you don’t call, I have a feeling I’ll be just fine.

~ Katie Alender

PS – BIG NEWS at the Debutante Ball! We’ve announced the Class of 2010! Click here to read all about the new Debs!

PPS – Are you following the Debutante Ball on Twitter? Well, why not, silly? Click here for daily reminders of what we’re blogging as well as special edition news tweets!

PPPS – Oprah, if you’re still reading, just kidding about the couch. I’ll behave. I promise.

13

I Love to Laugh, by Deb Meredith

_mg_4081_ppI love funny books. Not ones that are archly funny, always examining whether or not they’re funny all the time, but ones that seem to effortlessly reveal a hilarious new angle on life. I enjoy David Sedaris (his description of taking French in Paris is the best) and Bill Bryson’s take on American culture. They often are laughing at themselves as much as the people around them. And I always try to inject a little humor in the mysteries that I write (mostly making fun of hipsters).

But the best way to enjoy a funny book, to really laugh, is to read it out loud. Every Christmas Eve, my family sits around the living room after dinner and reads aloud from winter/seasonal literature that we’ve chosen to share and sings Christmas Carols. I love this tradition. It’s way more fun then the presents. Every year we have the usual stuff (my step-father reads an excerpt from the bible), and we often fall back on old favorites. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes some great Christmas chapters, and the story of catching the giant Christmas tree in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN always makes me laugh (and makes me teary). But it’s always “Ashtray Christmas” that really gets to me.

If you’ve never read CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, then you’ve really missed out. It’s a great book (and no, I haven’t bothered to see the movie—I know it’s not the same). Two efficiency experts have twelve kids and much hilarity ensues. And the book BELLES ON THEIR TOES continues the Gilbreth family’s adventures. It is their first Christmas without their father and one of the boys decides he’s old enough to buy his own Christmas presents for everyone in the family. So 12 strange shaped packages appear under the tree. No one can guess what the presents are, even though his sister and mother are great snoopers.

The story of Dan’s presents is so funny and poignant, no one in my family can possibly finish the reading on their own. As the first present is unwrapped revealing the most hideous ashtray in the world… I collapse into hysterics. The book must be then passed several times when the reader (myself, my brother, my mother…) each starts laughing, and of course each of the listeners can’t stop laughing either. But somehow we make it through, sing another carol, and reward ourselves with a big Christmas cookie feast.

What have YOU read lately that has been laugh out loud funny? Please share!

7

You probably had to be there, by Deb Katie

The problem with telling “LMAO” stories is that, 99.9% of the time, you had to be there. For instance, here are three incidents that had me crying with laughter:

* The time in college when my roommate, who sucked at swallowing pills, tried to swallow one and came running down the hall gagging on it. Employing my lightning-fast (though misguided) reflexes, I leapt from my desk into the hallway, where I proceeded to try to Heimlich her. At which point she spat a tiny pill across the hallway and cried, “Katie, Katie, I’m not choking!”

* The time when the husb and I were driving somewhere with a friend in the backseat and one of us made an offhand remark about something, to which our friend replied, “Oh, yeah,” in what was basically a dismissive action, but which prompted about five minutes of all of us saying, “Oh, yeeeeaah,” in our best nasally wiseguy voices. Every time the laughter died down, someone else would say, “Oh, yeeeeah!” and start everybody going again.

* The time my family was playing Pictionary and one of us asked which was right and which was left, and my mother spit her coffee all over the gameboard and pieces.

So, even sitting here writing these down, I’m giggling to myself at the memories. Is there anything more incredible than laughing with our friends? More miraculous than sharing joy with people we care about?

Every time I see or think about a person whose life is falling apart because they spent their efforts in pursuit of a bigger house, nicer car, prettier wife, etc., I wonder what that person would change about the way they defined success.

Do you think Bernie Madoff would give his left arm right now to erase the massive wealth he gained and go to a life in a modest home in the suburbs, spending his weekends playing Pictionary with his family, having someone spit coffee on the board, and then everyone laughing until their sides ached?

Throughout my life, the friends I’ve kept over the years are the ones I’ve laughed with. And one of them, the one who could always, always makes me laugh, I married.

May your home be full of laughter, even if your house isn’t full of equity and your closets aren’t full of designer clothes.

~ Katie Alender

PS – In case you missed the News Flash, my big news this week is that Disney-Hyperion has decided that Bad Girls Don’t Die should be a 3-book series! So thank you so much for your support.

PPS – After Mother’s Day, we did “mom” posts, but we don’t have a “dad” week. So, Par, if you’re reading this, let me just say that I’m so glad to have you as a father, and I’m so glad we learned to get each other’s jokes… even if it took a little while. I still remember the time you told that guy that was bugging me to stop calling the house, and the time you stopped to help that old man with his broken down car in the parking lot at the office, even though you were in your fancy work clothes. I remember how, at my wedding, you reminded me to stop and look around at everyone’s faces, like I asked you to. And I especially remember how you told me you thought I should major in something that I could make a living doing–like writing. I’m happy and proud to be your Dar!

15

I must have sat on a leprechaun or something, by Deb Katie

So, married folks, you know how when some major household malfunction happens and you think, “Geez, some people are married to plumbers who can just FIX this and do it FREE and get it right the first time!”

When I sold my book, I became aware of these things called “book trailers” that were available on YouTube. They were little videos designed to get you all hepped up on whatever book they were advertising.

Now, my husband may not be an plumber, but we did meet in film school… do you see where I’m going with this?

About a month and a half ago, we decided to make a book trailer, and the result is a trailer that I happen to think is the finest ever made. (And I played a relatively minimal role so I’m allowed to say that.)

(If the embedded video below doesn’t work, just click here to go to YouTube.)

So, yeah, we’re talking about luck? I feel lucky. I think I lucked out by marrying a man who not only bought me the book that inspired me to finish my book and put it out there, but also by having such amazing and talented friends who were not only willing but excited to help out. Everything, from the set design to the cinematography to the music to the sound design to the voice-over to the hand modeling was done by people who just wanted to lend a hand.

I’m visiting New York City right now, but when I get back to LA, I’m going to do a series of blog posts about the making of the trailer. I hope you’ll join me for those.

~ Katie Alender

How about you? What makes you feel lucky today?