Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hey, It’s a Book Review!

Spying In High Heels, by Gemma Halliday

I was a triple finalist in the Golden Heart contest this year. Now I swear, that’s not a Shameless Self-Promotional statement—well, actually, it is. Hey, it’s my blog! It’s all about SSP, right?

But seriously, I mention the Golden Heart by way of explaining how I met Gemma Halliday, the author of Spying in High Heels. We shared an elevator ride at the RWA conference in Atlanta, and she introduced herself to me because she would be announcing the winner of one of my categories, Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. Gemma won that same category last year, so that made her the designated presenter this year. She also commented on the name of my entry, Snooping in Stilettos, and we laughed at the similarity in the titles of our books.

And the night of the Awards ceremony, when she opened the envelope, I heard her say “I love this title.” Gulp. It was my title! I won! (Still in shock, by the way.)

So naturally, I love Gemma Halliday, and to prove my love, I rushed out the following week and bought her book. And I’m so glad I did, because it is fabulous. And okay, I’ll go ahead and admit it: I’m so jealous! Because, well, the book is fabulous! Did I say that already? Well, hey, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Spying in High Heels received a starred "Publisher’s Weekly" review (that’s right, a STARRED review from PW!!) and 4-1/2 stars from RT, along with a gazillion other “highest ratings” from any reviewer who read it.

One of those reviews compared Gemma’s style to Janet Evanovich’s, and let me tell you, if you think Ranger is hot, wait until you meet Ramirez! Yeeow!

What's really neat is that the book takes place in my hometown—Los Angeles. I know it's La-La Land, but Gemma makes it look cool. Our heroine, Maddie Springer, is adorable, a classic LA girl, right down to her suede ankle boots and her utter outrage when it actually starts to rain. It never rains in LA!

This book is so funny and charming, I didn’t want it to end. Gemma has totally captured the LA melting pot to perfection. Maddie blithely tackles the freeways in her cute red Jeep as she tracks down a killer, following leads from Downtown LA to the Westside to Hacienda Heights—where she unexpectedly meets Ramirez’s adorable mama—to the heart of the San Fernando Valley porn industry where she interviews a murder suspect named Bunny Hoffenmeyer, because as Maddie says, “My money was on Bunny. Who could grow up with a name like that and not be homicidal?”

But you don’t have to be an Angeleno to appreciate Gemma’s style. You just have to love clever writing and a fresh voice and a heroine who’s spunky and smart and simply hilarious. I promise that you, too, will fall in love with Gemma Halliday and Maddie Springer. Not to mention Ramirez. Yeeow! Check it out!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Just In Case I Wasn't Neurotic Enough...

Last week I had conversations with two different agents. Each of them asked me, if I had to choose one of my romance subgenres to stick with, which would it be (i.e., straight contemporary, light paranormal, chick lit mystery). In other words, pick one subgenre and stick with it? I confess I was taken aback. My answer went something like, "Uh...I don't…gosh, contemporary? Uh, with a twist, er-umm, I never...hmm...duh..."

Brilliant. What a dork.

To complete my misery, I also ran across an agent blog that honed in on the issue and gave it a name. Genre-Hopping. Ouch. Just when I thought it was safe to sneak off and work on my young adult paranormal vampire princess novel, I discover I’m stepping into some potentially disastrous muck.

So what’s the deal? Genre-hopping? Yikes. But I’m unpublished! Don’t I have an excuse? First off, I write fast, so I’m always trying something new—still in the genre, but maybe adding a paranormal twist to this one or a bit of suspense to that one. It all depends on the story that comes into my head. I’ve been writing for a number of years so yes, I’ve experimented with different subgenres, trying to find the style of writing that best suits my voice and the stories I want to tell.

And when I DO get published, I hope I’ll continue to work in at least two of those subgenres, ideally with two different publishing houses, just as a number of my published friends do. I figure it’s a matter of survival, both creatively and monetarily.

So in a burst of optimism, I’m choosing to believe that I am not the problem. I am not a genre-hopper (sounds like an eight-legged freak, doesn’t it?). A genre-hopper jumps on a trend—say, urban fantasy—and writes the book, gets it sold, realizes she hates writing urban fantasy and goes back to writing historical romance (for instance), then wonders why her editor and agent are gnashing their teeth and why her readers have deserted her, then wonders why her career is in the toilet.

I swear, that’s so not me! Okay, young adult paranormal vampire princesses aside, I don’t jump on trends. In fact, I’m normally so far behind the latest trend it’s embarrassing. Take bell bottoms. Are they in or out? Platforms? Hell, I don’t know. Viking romance? I don’t know! I’m starting to sweat. Is this a test? I don't feel well...

Do you genre-hop? How’s that working for you?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fluke or Destiny? You Be the Judge.

I received a phone call last week that changed my plans to start a new book. An agent called me from NYC, out of the blue, and asked to see the full manuscript of a partial of mine she’d read through a contest. This was an unfinished book I was ready to put on the back shelf and suddenly this big time agent is calling me and asking to see it.

Cool, huh?

Here’s the thing. I really loved this story but I never completed it because I didn’t think it would go anywhere. Yes, it’s a fun story, but I wasn’t sure the world needed another young adult paranormal vampire princess book.

But what can I say? The story bubbled into my head one day, I spent some time brainstorming it with a writer friend, then I quickly wrote four chapters and a synopsis. Then I stopped. Because it was a fluke, that’s all.

But then another friend read it and sent it to her editor who really liked it. Another fluke? Maybe. Then that editor left the company. Sheesh. I decided to give the story one more chance and entered it in a short pitch contest and that’s how this agent came to read it.

And the thing is, this particular agent wasn’t even on my radar. She's big, really big, so it was a real shock when she announced herself and told me she really enjoyed my story. Now chances are, she'll never be my agent, but she made me think maybe this book isn’t such a fluke after all. Maybe I should finish it and give it a fighting chance.

So before starting my new project, I’m finishing this book, because hey, I'm absolutely positive the world needs another young adult paranormal vampire princess book! Don't you agree?



Saturday, August 19, 2006

Reality Check

It's been a few weeks since I was in Atlanta for the 2006 RWA conference. I had tons of fun seeing my friends and meeting new people, attending a few workshops and hanging out in the bar. It was an extra special conference for me because I was a triple finalist for the Golden Heart, RWA's contest for unpublished writers. And...I won! My book, Snooping in Stilettos, won the Golden Heart for Best Novel with Romantic Elements. It was a huge honor, and even though it's not a publishing contract, I still consider it validation and recognition of years of hard work and good writing. So yay, me!

I came home and unpacked, started the laundry, then went through the mail that had stacked up while I was gone. There were two rejections from agents I'd queried before I left, plus a packet of judges' scoresheets from another contest I didn't win. I leafed through the judges' comments and found this one: "The pacing is off for a suspense." Sigh. My book isn't a suspense. I put the scoresheets down and took a nap.

Back at the day job, my friends gathered round to hear the good news and admire my Golden Heart necklace. One friend said, "But you were a triple finalist. So that means two of your books lost, right?"

It's great to be home.



Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I heard on National Public Radio yesterday that according to Technorati, 175,000 new blogs are being created every day. I did the math. That's more than two new blogs every second. That's insane, isn't it? I said to myself, why would I want to add to the blog frenzy? Then I said to myself, why wouldn't I? Ha! So here I am. We'll see if I distinguish myself among the 175,000 others who've jumped on with me today.

A little bit about me. I'm an award-winning unpublished writer of romance novels. I hope to be published someday soon and I'm actively seeking representation for my books. That's mostly what I'll be blogging about -- the highs and lows, the trial and tribulations, the good news and the bad news. My latest really good news is that I won Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart for one of my books, Snooping in Stilettos, at the RWA conference in Atlanta a few weeks ago. That was a monumental moment for me and I'm thrilled about it. Doesn't mean I'm published yet, but it's a nice addition to the resume and something I'll mention in my query letters from here on out.

I'm about to start a new book and I'm really excited about it because it's been almost six months since I started a new book. This one is a story I brainstormed during an online writing class I took with Susan Mallery. I plan to keep y'all posted on my writing progress and--ooh, yeah, I can feel the excitement rising out there! Settle down, people!

Anyway, I hope you'll check back often to read about and comment on my latest adventures out here on the verge.