Saturday, June 30, 2007

There's No Crying in Baseball... or Pitching!

The Buzz Girls' Conference Tips Week Continues with : Pitching!

If you've never been to a writers' conference, then you may not have encountered the animal known as the pitch appointment. Basically, this is where you sign up to meet with an agent or editor, usually in a group of 4-6 people and "pitch" your book to them. You cover the basics of the plot, talk about word count, sub-genre, etc...

The pitch appointment is a HUGE source of stress for most people. I've pitched many times, including once when I stressed so much about meeting a particular editor, I got up at 4:30 am and rewrote my (don't laugh) *four* page pitch for the third time. Yikes! When I got to the appointment, the editor looked down at my notebook and said, "You're not going to read all that, are you?" I gulped and said, "Oh, of course not!" then shut the book and pitched by the seat of my pants. I've learned a lot since those early days, and I'm happy to pass on that knowledge to you!

So, the first thing I'm going to say -- and feel free to disagree -- is that the pitching appointment is not all about your book. It's not even about you.

You're shocked. I can feel it permeating through my keyboard as I'm typing...

In my experience, the pitch appointment is your opportunity to meet someone you might work with in the future. The pitch appointment is your chance to see if you connect with a particular agent or editor. Seriously, they cannot tell if your book is a blockbuster or utter crap (which I'm sure it's not) until the pages hit their desk back in NYC. So, why stress out?

Seriously, my agent has told me stories of people *crying* during their pitches. He ususally helps them out by changing the subject. I think once he asked a lady what her favorite flavor of ice cream was to get her to stop shaking. Relax, people.

Some of the best pitches I've done were composed mostly of me giving a brief outline of the plot, asking the editor if she had questions, asking her questions about her line or the books she's recently edited, and genuinely listening to what she says.

Unless you are pitching something that she doesn't handle, or you pitch a book that sounds completely insane (two-headed alien hero meets vampire heroine during the American Revolution) the editor or agent will most likely invite you to send chapters. So, use the time to get to know the publisher or agency, and to see if this is someone you would like to work with.

Okay, you're saying.... that's great, but I want to pitch! So, if you're old school and you're determined to pitch that book the normal way... then fine, go for it. Some people are more comfortable doing it like that. In fact, I've been to conferences where the agent says at the beginning, I'd like to take chapters from everyone at the appointment and people got mad!

All this says to me is that they are not focused on building a relationship with the agent. Listen to me -- see beyond this one project you're focused on pitchin! See how you might work with the agent or editor. Ask questions and if they don't want to hear a canned pitch, be glad. I know that's only my opinion... I'm just saying...

Anyway, here are some pitching tips:

1) Dress in something professional and comfortable. Eat a breath mint. Introduce yourself and SMILE! You may be nervous, but you'll only make the agent nervous if you don't relax. And soooo many people forget to say who they are! It's the very first thing you do.

If you have a business card, you may want to give it to the agent at this point. You may want to say a line or two about yourself. "Hi, I'm Heather Davis. I write young adult fiction, and last year I was a Golden Heart finalist..." (Or whatever applies to you -- "I've been writing for three years..." Keep it simple and short.)

2) Say the name of your book, the word count, and sub-genre. "My book is called Never Cry Werewolf. It's a 65,000 word Young Adult paranormal romance."

3) Give a brief pitch that tells about the main characters (heroine and/or hero.) Start with how the heroine is at the beginning of the book. Move to the conflict. Finish with how she overcomes the conflict. Tell the ending of the book. In a romance, you'll want to cover what keeps the hero/heroine apart and what brings them together in the end. Goal, motivation, and conflict are helpful here. For example:

"In Never Cry Werewolf, 16 year-old Shelby is a sweet but reckless teen. She fibs to her parents, doesn't follow through, and constantly trusts and befriends the wrong people and guys. After being caught out past curfew with a boy (again!) her parents banish her to brat camp, a cushy resort in the forests of Oregon. Shelby's warned if she can't follow the rules at Camp Crescent, she'll be sent to a hellish bootcamp in the Utah desert for the rest of the summer, so Shelby resolves to fly straight.

Until she meets Austin, the son of a rockstar, who's hiding a major secret -- he's a werewolf and the camp has confiscated his anti-change drug. He tells Shelby his secret because the full moon is approaching and he needs help -- and he sees in Shelby someone he can trust. At first Shelby doesn't believe him and she knows she must stay away to keep herself out of trouble. But when she gets real proof he is telling the truth, and starts falling for Austin too, she must decide to break the rules of Camp Crescent in order to save him. In keeping his secret and helping him to freedom, she learns that she is a trustworthy person and that sometimes you have to do the wrong thing for the right reason."

Okay, so that's a really, really brief example and I left some stuff out -- but do you see how I show the "character arc" for Shelby? How she is at the beginning, what changes her in the middle, and how she is different at the end. Notice I included some "hooks" of the story -- brat camp, werewolf hero, etc. I also gave a little bit of the theme of the book...

That's what an effective pitch should do, in my opinion.

4. Then you say, "Do you have any questions for me?" And the agent may ask a follow up to the pitch. "How does Shelby help Austin escape?" "Has the manuscript been submitted anywhere?"

5) Then, you ask a brief question or two of the agent or editor. "What was the last project you sold that you fell in love with?" "How long have you edited for HaperCollins?"

6) Hopefully, she'll ask to see some chapters of the book. Make sure you know how she likes things submitted -- email, paper, with or without a written synopsis, etc... Take her card if she offers it.

7) THANK her for her time! She has other pitches to hear, so you'll want to move things along out of courtesy. Listen politely to the other pitchers at the table. Take note of the agent's reaction to each of the projects -- and file that away in your memory bank for future reference. "Note to self -- agent hates Cowboys, etc..." Even if it's not useful to you now, you may be able to help a friend who asks about that agent... You never know.

8) When you get home IMMEDIATELY send a well-chosen thank you note to the agent, referencing your pitch appointment and letting her know you'll be sending your submission soon. This is a crucial step, especially if it might take you a while to get the submission together. This keeps you in the forefront of the agent's mind, and is just plain nice. They have to sit through so many pitches -- but you will be remembered for your courtesy. Choose a cute yet professional card. Don't spend a million bucks on the card, but send something that shows a little personality. If I wrote a book about a dog trainer, I would send a card with a dog picture on it... Anything to jog her memory and brand yourself.

9) Submit the damn project! They always remember when they really liked something and you wimped out on them and didn't send it. Even if it takes you a few months (see #8) to send the project, make sure it is your BEST work. Take the time to polish and make the most of your shot.

10) Whatever the outcome of the submission (even a rejection!) send a thank you note -- especially if they gave you any feedback.

"Thanks so much for reading my submission CATS IN SPACE. I agree with your comment that the hero appeared a bit finicky in the opening chapter. Though CATS IN SPACE wasn't right for you, I hope to try you again with my next project, a thriller called TWO FEATHERS AND A PISTOL. Sincerely, Heather Davis." Or something like that.

Agents and editors have great memories. That's part of what makes them so good at what they do. So, throughout the pitch appointment and submission process be professional, polite and friendly. Set yourself apart by getting to know them and listening to what they say. Be nice.

Remember -- it's not all about you or your book. It's about the start of what could be a beautiful relationship.



Heather Davis is the author of
Never Cry Werewolf
coming in 2008 from HarperCollins

Friday, June 29, 2007

You're taking how many suitcases?

Last year about this time, I was seriously freaking out about what I was going to wear to RWA Nationals. I remember writing a frantic email to Serena Robar (Braced2Bite, Fangs4Freaks, Dating4Demons), I think she probably thought I was going to have a stroke. But she wrote back and gave me some very good tips on dressing for conference. I've been so busy this year that I haven't had much time to stress about it. Here are some of my tips.

Obviously you want to look nice, duh. But that doesn't necessarily mean wearing a really fancy dress and uncomfortable shoes. If you are a person who likes to wear pencil skirts, hose, and five-inch heels, go for it. You're going to look smoking, but if I tried to pull that off I'd probably look like a streetwalker. So you need to find a balance between looking good and being comfortable. If you are uncomfortable in your outfit sitting in a workshop, just imagine how uncomfortable you'll be in it when you have your agent or editor appt. A nice jacket and pair of slacks is a good choice for just about anyone.

A suit is a good choice because you can dress it up or down. For an agent appt, you can layer a silk blouse underneath with some classic jewelry. For a night on the town you can switch out the pants for jeans, stick a T-shirt underneath the jacket, and go with more funky accessories and shoes. Parties, parties, parties. You are going to be going to tons of them. Casual dresses, nice sweaters and skirts, and pantsuits are what I saw most last year. Just wear something that will be comfortable to mingle in but that still looks professional.

Everyone really goes all out for the Rita and Golden Heart Award Ceremony. Think the prom for romance writers and you don't even have to worry about having a date because you'll have about 2000 of them! You'll have a blast so bring something that you'll sparkle in!

Don't forget your flip-flops and swimsuit. You'll want some downtime in the pool with your new friends. I'd throw a pair of tennis shoes in too. You never know when you might have time to go shopping!!!

A word to the wise. Everybody wants to smell like a princess but take a moment and imagine if all two thousand plus convention-goers all wore perfume. That's LOTS of perfume. These days a lot of people are very sensitive to lotions, perfumes, and body sprays. Don't take the chance of ruining someone else's time because you go a little overboard with the scents.

If this hasn't helped and you still just don't have a clue what to bring then just throw some clean underwear in a bag and put on your cowboy hat because we're going to Texas, Baby!!!!!

What I'm reading....The Time Traveler's Wife...what? It's really long.



All that matters is what's long as your outside is wearing the tiara!

REVENGE OF THE HOMECOMING QUEEN, July 3,2007, Berkley Jam Books


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Conference Tips: Meals

First things first, here's a list of the meals that the RWA conference fee is taking care of:
  • Thursday, luncheon with keynote speaker Lisa Kleypas (bring your willpower, as you will likely be staring at the dessert long before your entree arrives)
  • Friday & Saturday, continental breakfast (I'm not certain whether these are included, but they are listed on the conference schedule)
  • Saturday, luncheon with speaker Lisa Jackson
  • Saturday, dessert reception after the awards ceremony
For the other meals when you're on your own, here are some restaurants in the area that will probably not be as crowded as the ones in the hotel (except for the sushi place, they are all within 1/2 mile of the Hyatt):
  • Daily News Cafe & Grill at 306 S. Houston
  • Founders Grill at 302 S. Houston (Italian)
  • Hoffbrau Steakhouse at 311 N. Market (um... Steakhouse)
  • Landry's Seafood House at 306 N. Market (seriously?)
  • RJ Mexican Cuisine at 1701 N. Market (Mexican, I think...)
  • Gator's Croc & Roc at 1714 N. Market (Southwestern)
  • The Palm at 701 Ross Ave. ($$$$ Traditional American, self-proclaimed celeb hangout)
  • Cadillac Bar at 1800 N. Market
  • (Sushi is in short supply and although there is a restaurant less than 1/2 mile from the hotel, the reviews were so-so and their website is down. The best close sushi place I found is Kenichi at 2400 Victory Park Lane, just over a mile from the hotel.)
Tips for meal time:
  • If you are planning on eating with a big group, make sure at least a couple of people are in line early and have their cell phones on. I am inevitably the person guarding seats for my friends and frantically trying to explain to them exactly where in the massive room we're sitting.
  • That being said (and as others have said before me) never pass up an opportunity to welcome a stranger or two to your table. Chances are they won't be strangers by the time the meal is over.
  • Don't skimp on the salad, because the entree may not be as appealing as you'd hope.
  • Along the same line, you might want to keep a snack in your purse/tote in case you get sidetracked out of a meal. I've often found myself chatting with someone through mealtime and then scrambling to make it to the next workshop. With a snack on hand you won't suffer for the skipped meal.
  • If all else fails, there's a Starbucks in the hotel! Hopefully they understand that a couple thousand romance writers luv them sum S*bucks. My personal addiction involves a caramel frappuccino, a cinnamon chip scone, and a fruit and cheese plate.
Extra tips from Heather:
  • It's great to save seats for friends for one special meal or something -- but if you share your table with new people, you could be sitting next to a powerhouse!
  • Bring some granola bars or peanuts in your purse. If you hate what's served, at least you'll have a snack later. Don't let yourself get too hungry or you might be shoveling in food when the surprise editor at your elbow asks you the plot of your book.
  • If you're shy -- introduce everyone at the table. They're probably more bashful than you are! I ususally say, "Hi, I'm Heather from Seattle, have you met my friend Dona here? She writes Young Adult." And then they introduce and so on...
  • Be polite -- pass things around the table -- use good table manners. Duh!
  • Be extra polite to the SERVERS! They're doing a hard, underpaid job. And not only that, but the people around you will notice if you're a jerk to the servers and think less of you. No one likes a diva at dinner!
  • Be sure to tell people discreetly if they have something on their face, on their blouse, or in their teeth. They could be going to their pitch appointment right after the meal and feel like a total loser if no one lets them know.
  • Have business cards to exchange with folks at the table. You never know what connection you could make. :)
Extra tips from Tina:
  • make a point of sitting with new people at each of the group's a great networking opportunity!
  • cereal bars and fruit in your room is a cheap and easy breakfast
  • try not to overeat at lunch if you plan to stay awake in the afternoon sessions
OH. MY. GODS, Summer 2008 Dutton Children's Books

what I'm reading ... THE SECRET DIARIES OF MISS MIRANDA CHEEVER by Julia Quinn (because it just came out yesterday and I couldn't not buy it and I've already finished it and it's wonderful as always)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Conference Tips: Etiquette & Other Tips

From Gabrielle Luthy
--there are a whole ton of articles on Gabrielle Luthy's site on conference

From Houston Bay Area RWA
--a great article by member and phenomenal writer Sandra K. Moore

From RWA
--get some conference tips straight from the RWA website

From Simone
--don’t stalk editors or agents

From Stephanie Bond
--she has two terrific articles on conference in her vault of resources for writers

From Tina
--if you know you're going to slip out of a session early, sit in the back
--keep your cell phone silenced during sessions
--(and this is a personal favorite) take pity and buy the book of the authors who no one is approaching at the Lit Signing, especially YA authors with pink prom dresses on their books :-D

From TLC
--never interrupt a private conversation
--don't dismiss unpublished authors as unimportant, they could be next year's bestsellers (and we were all unpublished once)
--if a workshop you are attending is full, don't use a chair for your belongings and let others know if there is an available seat near you
--if you take notes on your AlphaSmart, please take a seat near the back of the room so the clicking doesn't drown out the speaker for other attendees

Okay, what have we missed?
[honorary Tina for the day]

Monday, June 25, 2007

Conference Tips: Networking (and Contest!)

As most of the Buzz Girls prepare to head to Dallas, Texas for the Romance Writers of America's National Conference, we thought it would be great to pass along some advice and tips for attending writers' conference that might be useful to our readers. I'll start with Networking.

The word "networking" sometimes freaks people out. They think it means not being yourself or acting in a way that gets you notices or doing things you wouldn't normally do while interacting with people. No. No. And, no. Networking, by definition, is very simple:

Networking (noun) is a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.
See, that's not scary at it?

In any business, it's important to get your name and face out there so that people know you're a serious player in your industry. This includes shaking hands, eye contact, active listening, being positive, having confidence, but most of all...being yourself.

When meeting people and networking...

  • Everyone is not born an extrovert...and that’s okay, but you can learn to talk to strangers.
  • Recognize the person within yourself...and bring your personality out when you meet people.
  • Have the courage and self-confidence to go up to people, insert yourself into a conversation (but never rudely interrupt) and introduce yourself.
  • When we start writing about characters, we think of their goals, motivations, conflicts wants and desires. Get to know yourself the same way. What makes you tick? Who are you? What makes you unique?
  • Listen when introduced to someone. Be attentive and participate in the conversation.
    Find common ground and similar interests.
  • A smile and a laugh will go a long way to make a new friend.
  • Be confident and offer a firm handshake. You’ll be remembered more for a weak one.
  • Have one liners or topics you can easily toss out that will help include you in a conversation. Movies, books, TV shows, pop culture, food, wine, your kids, your family, your job, anything...all of these things that interest us that help craft our own soul and what makes us who we are.
  • Non-verbal communication is almost more important that what we verbalize. Pay special attention to the way people say things with their eyes, facial expressions, hands and the way they stand.
  • Don’t cross your legs away from people as you’ll appear closed off.
  • Try not to slouch or hide behind people as it shows you’re hesitant to get into a conversation and transmits an “unapproachable” signal.
  • As wonderful as it is to see old friends, try to make new ones. The best way to do this is to sit with people you don't know at meals. Ask them questions about themselves. You already know you have a common interest in writing.

When networking with agents and editors...

  • Remember, agents and editrs are people, too, and you shouldn't be afraid to approach them in a professional manner.
  • Always have good eye contact and speak confidently.
  • Have an "elevator pitch" prepared for your manuscript to drop in at the appropriate moment. "My book is 300 meets Evan Almighty." (Just kidding, but you get the point.)
  • Be sure to thank an editor or agent for their time and try not to monopolize them for too long. Leave them with a lasting positive impression.
  • Watch for signs of disinterest: looking around, leaning back, arms folded in front. This means you don't have their attention or what you're pitching isn't right for them. Smile, thank them and move on.
  • On the flip-side, watch for signs of interest: leaning forward, head bobbing, smiling, legs crossed toward you.

And, with any good networking opportunity, always remember the follow-up. E-mail new friends, send thank you notes to editors or agents you pitched to, send pictures to people you met. You never know who you'll meet, what new friends you'll make or what contacts might pan out for you down the road. Above yourself. Let your true personality shine through and that will make for the best impression.


Did someone say contest? A contest? Why yes! I'm giving away a copy of THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, by the fabulous Jennifer Echols. The book just came out and it's A. Dor. A. Ble! If you'd like to win the copy of the book, just post a comment here in this thread, offering your best networking tip. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday, July 9th.

Marley = )

Sorority Rush Begins - May 2008!
Rush - A Sisterhood Novel
Pledge Class - A Sisterhood Novel
Puffin Books

What I'm reading... Still reading TWILIGHT

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Books and Bookshelves -- Take 2

So, here you go, Buzz Blog readers... I finally have a digital camera! (Just in time for the Buzz outing to conference!)
So, here is the "book corner" in my apartment. It's a little cluttered at the moment, becacuase my walls in the apartment are plaster, so I can't hang stuff on them without the wire hanger thingees... so, on the shelves it all goes.

A lot of the books on the main shelf and to the right belong to my rooommate... the book shelf on the left (with the miniscule TV) is all me. And look at the little hand weight! Makes me seem all sporty, huh? You'll notice the blue monkey in the middle (given to me by Dad in 1981) -- he's sporting a scarf knitted by a fifth grade student in one of my classes a year or so ago. Also, the angels and the three graces -- who stand guard over my wishes...
Okay, anyway... on to the important stuff...
One of the books that most affected me as a young reader was... BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Patterson.
Contrary to what Disney would like you to believe -- this is not about the freaking "kingdom" that comes to life in the woods. There are no special effects in the book. Ms. Patterson herself was upset about the marketing campagin of the movie version, because it made it seem like some kind of LORD OF THE RINGS thing.

This is a book about growing up. About choices you make. About the hereafter. The book actually asks the question if you don't believe in God, do you go to Heaven when you die? The book has Jess, the hero, choose to attend an exhibit in the city with his hot art teacher over spending time with his best girl who's a friend.
It's a deep book, people. There are not talking trees or other crap like that. It's about the opportunities you make for yourself and unlikely friendships. If you haven't read it, please do.
In fact, I read this book aloud to a group at school when I was teaching, and the students were so into it. I love this book. I think it's one of the ones that made me want to become a writer. I love the idea of escaping to your own private world. As a writer, I do that daily. And as destiny would have it... TERABITHIA is published by HarperCollins Childrens, just like my book will be! I'm just a little excited about that...

After reading in the NY Times about Ms. Patterson's disappointment with the movie version, I decided not to see the film. I would rather spend time in Terabithia in my mind and in my memories...
Did anyone else read the book or go to the movie?
Happy Writing!
Heather Davis is the author of
Never Cry Werewolf
coming in 2008 from HaperCollins

Friday, June 22, 2007

Not for the faint of heart....

Books have always been a huge part of my life. I remember the rush I used to get filling out those Scholastic book order forms in elementary school then the pure joy when the books came. I think my fellow classmates probably thought I'd spent too much time around the glue as giddy as I would get to touch the smooth covers of my new Clifford, Cricket in Times Square, Pippi Longstocking, etc, etc, books for the first time.

As entertaining as all of those books were, the one that had the most impact on me when I was younger was, Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret. I was probably about eleven at the time, and for all purposes, I was Margaret Simon. I heard about the book in hushed tones in the girls bathroom. The rumor was that it talked about girls getting their periods and it wasn't anything like that stupid movie we had to sit through when they gave us the pamphlet that we had to hide in our textbook. I had to get my hands on a copy. Not a reader of books, my mom probably would have bought me The Thornbirds and not noticed, so I'm sure I had no trouble getting my own copy.

I was stunned to open the first page and find that Margaret was secretly talking to God inside her head! I thought I was the only person alive who did that. I'd make secret bargains with him to catch the attention of a certain boy or get on the cheerleading squad (he didn't think that last one was necessary). I wasn't conflicted about religion like Margaret was, but I didn't know that much about it either, and it was nice to know that I wasn't alone.

Like the PTA's (the pre-teen sensations) I had my own Gretchen, Nancy, and Janie. Our mothers would gather for coffee at the local restaurant every morning and gossip. I was mortified one morning when my mother accidentially disclosed that one of us had started our period. It was horrifying. What if I was the last one to be discussed? Would it make me less of a woman somehow? As scared as I was for the day to actually come, I was even more scared that it never would. Margaret's struggle to want to grow up, but be fearful of it at the same time, matched mine exactly. Of course, it eventually happened for both of us and while Margaret was brave and bought one of those jumbo-sized boxes from a boy cashier, I spent twenty extra dollars piling stuff I didn't need on top of my tiny box rung up by a girl cashier.

There were so many themes in this book that resonated with my life at the time. I had been dumped by my best friend since kindergarten and felt a little like Margaret does when she realizes that Nancy is a liar. My parents were divorced and I was being shuffled to another state every summer being uprooted from my life. Margaret had two selfish grandparents who cared more about her religious label than the fact that she was their only grandchild. I could go on forever with how much Judy Blume touched me with this book. So thanks, Judy! I haven't read their book yet, but several authors recently released an anthology about how Judy Blume's novels affected them, see it here, http://http//

Last year I sent Judy an email to let her know that on the television show Lost, the character of Sawyer (back off, Tina) was shown sitting on the beach reading this book. She actually wrote back and thanked me for letting her know. She had never watched the show but was going to try and get ahold of that episode. And yes, it was her writing me and not some assistant. I was in heaven! I don't think you ever get over your first author crush!

What I'm reading... The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger



All that matters is what's long as your outside is wearing the tiara!

REVENGE OF THE HOMECOMING QUEEN, July 3,2007, Berkley Jam Books


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Books to Remember...

This week's post was hard for me because I really didn't read a lot outside of school during my teen years, but I read voraciously (read: consumed) tons of books in elementary and middle school. So my diplomatic choice is to present a handful of the books that were most meaningful to me when I was younger...

#1. FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E. L. Konigsburg. [Newberry Medal Winner, 1968] I think the fact that I can remember the entire title (spelling included) without having to look it up speaks to how much I loved this book. It's about a girl and her younger brother who decide to run away... to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (in NYC). The adventure begins with them standing on toilet seats to avoid detection of the security guard and they manage to stay in the museum for a week, studying the exhibits and becoming fascinated with one in particular. The true quest begins as they try to determine the mysterious origins of the "angel" statue, ultimately digging through the files of the its former owner, none other that Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I remember being so in love with the idea of running away to a museum and finding a mystery to solve once there.

#2. THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin. [Newberry Medal Winner, 1979] Another mystery/puzzle book. This one is an absolute classic. The sixteen residents of Sunset Towers apartments in Chicago are paired up and sent on a quest to solve the mystery and win Sam Westing's fortune. Crazy characters, clues, puzzles, and a lovable heroine. I love a good mystery, and it's probably because this book meant so much to me. Can I tell you how excited I am to be published by the same house that published this? Who could have known when I first read this book like twenty years ago (omg I'm getting old) that I'd be sorta among it's future ranks? It's gotta be fate. (On Amazon, this book has 709 reviews with an average of 4.5 stars. Now that's a winner.)

#3. THE EGYPT GAME by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. [Newberry Honor Book, 1968] This is my most obscure favorite. I swear, if not for the Scholastic catalog, I would be severely less well read than I am. Anyway, this is the book the dove me head first into ancient cultures. It's about a group of kids who get enthralled with ancient Egypt and start an elaborate make-believe world that recreates that past. There's also a mystery (duh, right?) and plenty of Egyptian mythology. After reading this book I became obsessed with ancient Egypt. I bought books about it, tried to learn hieroglyphics (ha), and ultimately this love of ancient culture spread into other cultures... like ancient Greece. Which definitely influence my own writing career, since much of my book relates to Greece myth. It's amazing, when you think about, how the most seemingly insignificant thing (like picking a book out of the Scholastic catalog) can change a person's entire life. (Oh, and this one was set in California, so I have the East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast covered in my selections!)

[The Book Without a Title], Summer 2008 Dutton Children's Books

what I'm reading ... THE STAND by Stephen King (finally broke down and bought the uncut edition, sigh...)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Book I'll Never Forget...

Has anyone heard of this book? It was originally published in 1968, and at some point, Scholastic Books offered it in their school book orders. (Which, considering it’s about a teen pregnancy, in hindsight, I find rather racy!)

I bought it in 6th grade, read it, and filed it away with my growing book collection. Pretty much end of story, except that I pulled it out again in 10th grade, and with a more mature comprehension, fell head-first into the story.

It follows middle class kids, 16 year-old July and 17 year-old Bo Jo, who “lost control” one night, and found themselves “in the family way”. They elope, and, with the support of their parents, drop out of school and basically become grown-ups. He goes to work at a bank and she becomes a housewife, while they wait for the next stage of their lives for which they are totally unprepared: parenthood.

This book intrigued me on a number of levels. I thought the whole playing-house-with-a-popular-football-player was cool, loved the idea that teens my age didn’t have parents breathing down their necks, could do whatever they wanted. But I also felt their desperation at being forced into dull-as-dirt adult lives, all from the consequences of a reckless act. I wanted them to run from each other, to give the baby up for adoption, and have fun again--yet I also wanted them to live happily-ever-after together, too.

The book has a very satisfying ending--believe me, I know, because I read it at least five times. If you’re interested, you can read it, too. The publisher released a new version that I found listed on Amazon:

But you can also find used copies of the old version, which I did, and plan to read again soon. From what I’ve heard, the book not only holds up well, but adults like it as much as teens. We’ll see!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones, or about any teen books that affected you!

What I’m Reading: Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen (yes, still--my life's pretty crazy right now)

Tina Ferraro
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress
How to Hook a Hottie, January 2008
The ABC’s of Kissing Boys, Spring, 2009

Monday, June 18, 2007

A treasured book...

This week, we're talking about teen books that had a profound impact on us growing up. A book that might have influenced us to become writers. For me, this one's a no-brainer.

Sure, I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books and Charlotte's Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, Little Women, Frog and Toad Are Friends (what?!)...they were all fantastic. However, they were just wonderful, creative stories that I enjoyed reading. They didn't spur me to pick up pen and paper and begin crafting myself.

Until I read The Parent Trap. This book came out in 1968 (I know...a lifetime ago) by Vic Crume when following the 1961 Disney movie starring the ever-charming Hayley Mills (no...not Lindsey Lohan's version) playing the duel roles of Sharon and Susan, twins separated after birth when their parents divorced and went their separate ways.

Now, it wasn't particularly the plot of the book that I identified with -- seeing how I don't have a twin sister I was separated from or divorced parents (mine just celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.) Rather, it was the whole atmosphere and setting and...what if factor that the story created. And, the fact that these two thirteen year old girls could swap lives and manage to bring their parents back together.

When I was younger, I read this book to death, cover to cover, several times over. The thing was so tattered and torn, it looked like it had been through a shredder. At some point, I re-wrote the story in screenplay form in a notebook. I would have my stuffed animals act it out as a "play" with various set of animal twins playing the roles of Susan and Sharon. Sometimes, I'd even switch up the plot a little bit, ad-libbing here and there. I couldn't get enough of it, somehow wanting the story to be part of me, to have created it.

It wasn't novel-writing, at that point, but it was writing. I mean, I was like nine years old. But, it was a seed that was planted and set to grow and develop...until one day I'd be lucky enough to sell one of my stories.

So the rest of the Buzz Girls will weigh in this week on the books that influenced them. We'd love to hear from you and find out what books have meant the most to you through your life.

Marley = )
Sorority Rush Begins - May 2008
Rush - A Sisterhood Novel
Pledge Class - A Sisterhood Novel
Puffin Books

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Heroes have always been...

People who support loved ones in creative careers!

This is especially close to my heart because I know so many writers, artists, musicians, etc who don't get the kind of love and support from their families and friends that I do. Who hasn't heard the story of the husband who tells his wife, "You can write after the kids are grown, right now they are your full time job." or the tale of woe of the parents telling their twenty-something musician son who is playing at the local Nordstrom while waiting for his big break, "Get a real job!"

So, my thank you goes out to all those people who show their love, support and never-ending belief in those of us in the creative field.

I have always been extremely lucky to have a husband who is more enthused than even me when I start writing something new. He's always ready with new plotlines and book titles. He tells the world his favorite author is Dona Sarkar-Mishra. He is counting the days till I hit the best-seller list so he can retire :)

So, that's my hero...slightly untraditional in terms of heros, but these are the kind of people who make creative types like us believe we WILL succeed and we WILL make our dreams come true.
Dona Sarkar-Mishra
HOW TO SALSA IN A SARI - January 2008 Kimani Tru

Friday, June 15, 2007

My heroes have always been.....


As I was trekking through the mall with a bad leg yesterday, I realized that my heroes are moms everywhere. I was on a mission to get my four-year-old a Surf's Up penguin ice cream cake & Thomas the train balloons for his birthday. It was bad enough he got sick and we couldn't go to Chuck E. Cheese, I wasn't about to not get him the cake he had been looking forward to. The pain of walking through the mall faded quickly after seeing the smile on his poor little chapped face!

In the last four years I've figured out that once you become a mom, you sacrifice yourself. Everything you want or need takes a backseat to your child or childrens needs and wants. Some days it's really hard. Some days you want to run away to the nearest spa and get a massage instead of cleaning up an entire 20 lb bag of dog food or figure out how to get an entire bottle of blue body wash out of the carpet. These are just a few examples from the last week at our house.
Being a mom is also the best thing in the entire world. Nothing can compare with hearing your child say, I love you, and top it off with the world's best hug. But no one can prepare you for how much your life gets turned upside down when you decide to share it with a little person. Moms have to be on guard constantly. There is no vacation or sick time. Moms don't get a review to let them know they are doing good, which they constantly doubt, and there are no pay increases or pay for that matter.
They have to stand calmly by and watch you make mistakes even though they know you might get hurt. Moms know that you some things you have to learn the hard way. And eventually they know that they are going to have to let go which might just be the hardest part of being a mom. So for goodness sake, call your mom today and tell her that you love her!

What I'm reading....Twisted Sisters revisions...UGH!
All that matters is what's long as your outside is wearing the tiara!
REVENGE OF THE HOMECOMING QUEEN, July 3,2007, Berkley Jam Books

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My heroes have always been...


There are so many reasons to respect and hero-worship firefighters. Tagging on to Marley's post, I'll point out their reputation for saving animals (helpless kittens, etc.) and their dog-friendly policy. (see the cute dalmatian pup driving the fire truck below)

In times of crisis, many people rise to the occasion and perform heroic acts, but firefighters do so on a regular basis. Risk is an everyday occurrence for them. When wildfire breaks out in California, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, or anywhere, firefighters from across the country brave the unpredictable blaze to save local residents and their homes. When hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, firefighters were on the front lines of evacuating residents from the city, rescuing those left behind, and recovering those that didn't make it.

With all the amazing things that firefighters do, it's no surprise that I've had a crazy minor obsession with firefighters for a long time. It all began when I was in school in NYC. The firefighters there are H-O-T-T!!! And, unlike some other public servants that I will refrain from mentioning, they are super friendly. Whenever a fire truck rolled by me on the street, the firefighters on board always waved hello.

Then, on 9/11, I earned a newfound respect and awe for the NYC firefighters. So many men and women went above and beyond the call of duty that day, plunging into the face of danger without care for their own safety. Many were lost that day, but all are remembered. Firefighters everywhere are phenomenal, but the ladder companies of NYC will always hold a special place in my heart. I hope the city of New York never needs their services with such sacrifice again, but if the city needs them... they'll be there.

Men that are honorable, hot, and always heroic... no wonder they are so often the heroes of romance novels (and women's fantasies).

Firefighters of the world, you are the ultimate Hump Day Hotties!

GROWING UP GODLY [soon to be retitled], Summer 2008 Dutton Children's Books

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Oceans 13 + Me...

I love the theme of “My Heroes Have Always Been...” this week, but unfortunately, I had promised to do a follow-up on my trek to see George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon put their hands and feet in the Grauman’s Chinese Theater cement. And a promise is a promise...

To back-up a bit, this all started with the “confession” here that I had had the opportunity to meet my crush, Mark Wahlberg, but passed it up for fear of finding him “less than” the prototypical romance hero bad boy I needed for my writing. Some people understood my logic; others did not. I remained on the fence myself, wondering if I’d made the right decision.

Then I heard an announcement for this Ocean’s 13 event, and in addition to thinking it would be great fun for my friend’s visiting exchange student, decided it was also a way to test the waters and see if these guys jump-started my romance writer’s brain--or not. I went last Tuesday, in a group of five. We arrived and joined a line we hoped went somewhere. It did--we were moved with a crowd to a secured area in the street, which actually had a pretty decent view of the event, and only one set of heads in front of us, so we were happy. Here’s a view from where we stood:

However, fate had different plans for us! A security guard came by, offering VIP seats to foreign visitors, so we pointed out our exchange student, and what do you know? Our whole party got tickets and sent on our way, across the street. (Looking at the previous area photo, we moved to group on the left.)

Now, here’s the rub: this time, there were lots of heads in front of us (and, it turned out, lots of camera blockage). Which would require lots of jockeying for position, and handing our cameras around. But what I quickly realized was that while I wouldn’t always be able to see, when I could see--YOWZA!

The crowd seemed quite nice, and the one difference between them and your average Southern Californians being their unabashed starstruck-ness. So when I spotted Matt Damon’s wife, I said as much, and instead of people’s eyes glazing over, all southern California cool, I got a lot of “Wow, where? Oh, yeah, that’s her!”

So the event started. I took this picture, and may I tell you, that while I’ve always thought Brad Pitt to be a 10, in real life, he is a 12, okay? GOR-geous! I mean, I think that low guttural sound I kept hearing was me moaning...

Here’s a picture of the guys putting their feet in cement. It was taken by my friend (as was the stage shot at the top of this blog):

After a time, I wandered around a bit. And found myself in an incredible position, behind the stage area, with a direct shot of George Clooney (with his back to the cameras) saying something deliciously wicked to Brad Pitt. His eyes were glittering, his brow was arching, and his mouth was pursed in that perfectly evil smile of his. I’ll never know what he said, but wow, the way he said it! He was every bit as sexy and smooth as I’d dreamed.

After the ceremony ended, the guys came toward the crowd barriers. My friend took these two:

(And notice the women hugging each other behind Brad, and that horrendously awful boil on the guy's hand in front of George!)

I took this one as Matt Damon signed an autograph down a bit from us.

Matt stopped and signed an autograph for our exchange student and talked very briefly to her, which was terrific. Even though I had the camera in my hand, I was suddenly stunned by his presence...his looks, his smile, his voice. It short-circuited my writer-girl senses!

So...summary time. Did seeing these guys in the flesh help or hurt my romance writing? Help. Big time. So if anyone knows Mark Wahlberg, tell him I’m up for a meet!

Top Ten Uses for An Unworn Prom Dress
How to Hook a Hottie, January, 2008
The ABC’s of Kissing Boys, Spring 2009

Monday, June 11, 2007

My heroes have always been...

...people who take care of little animals.

I'm one of those types who cries at the drop of a hat when I see any kind of ad or mailing about mistreated or abandoned animals. My heart goes out to them so much because they're so helpless. They can't speak up and go, "Hey, can you help me over here?" So, I've always admired vets, their assistants, and rescue workers who, in the face of a disaster, are as concerned about the animals as the humans.

Case in point, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, literally thousands of pets were either abandoned or unable to be evacuated with their owners. Groups like the Louisiana SPCA went in and rescued pets in the heavily flooded areas. The Guard even helped out whenever they found animals.

It touched my heart seeing beloved pets reunited with their owners.

But many are still in shelters without their owners. Organizations like the Humane Society and the SPCA work hard to help these pets find loving homes.

It must be so hard not to get attached to all the little animals you work with in a time like this. But God bless these people for the work they do. Animals are strong-willed and smart and can take care of themselves for the most part, but I have to say that I greatly admire all the men and women who put themselves out there on a daily basis to help our animal friends.

My husband and I rescued an abandoned cat many years ago. She was probably 7 or 8 when we took her in and she had many medical problems. But we got her to the vet and got her on the right track and she was with us for another 7 years before crossing over the Rainbow Bridge. Here's my Puddy Tat:

And let's not forget our favorite boy here on Books, Boys, Buzz...Knut the Polar Bear in Berlin. Thomas Doerflein, one of the zoo keepers, has dedicated his life for the past six months to raising Knut so he would survive. He's definitely one of my heroes! As is everyone at the Berlin Zoo.

For more information on these wonderful heroes, visit some of these websites:

Louisiana SPCA
Mississippi SPCA
Boston's MSPCA Angell Memorial Hospital
Kitty Angels
Greyhound Rescue
Humane Society

Thanks so much to those people who help out the animals!!

We hope you'll stick around all week and let us know who your heroes are, as well.

Marley = )
Sorority Rush Begins - May 2008
Rush - A Sisterhood Novel
Pledge Class - A Sisterhood Novel

Puffin Books

Still reading: Twilight...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

My Bookshelf

Unfortunately, hubby has stolen my digicam for his trip to India, so I'll have to use my magical words to explain my book organization system :)

In one of the hallways of our condos, we have a ceiling to floor bookshelf that takes up a whole wall. This shelf is crammed with every book I've ever owned. In one corner, I have my YAs (Tina Ferraro, Barb Ferrer, Mari Mancusi, Simone Elkeles) . The middle is filled with women's fiction and my mystrey novels. (Nadine Dajani, Diana Peterfreud, Shannon McKelden, Jeffrey Deaver, Janet Evanovich() The other corner is filled with my husband's adventure (Jeffrey Archer, Tom Clancy) novels.

The lower shelf is full of our computer science books.

As for keepers vs. giveaways, I keep every single book I ever get. I never borrow from the library and I never give books away. Every single book has some sort of great sentimental value to me and I hang onto each and every one of them.

I better build a second bookcase!

Like most of the other BBGs, next to my bed is a TBR stack. Right now at the top of the stack is ANGEL'S CHOICE and NEW MOON. I've heard such good things about both that I'm reading them simultaneously!

So that's my organization. Not terribly exciting, I'm afraid. :)
Dona Sarkar-Mishra
HOW TO SALSA IN A SARI - January 2008

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Kinda bookshelves...

Well, I don't have photos of my bookshelves, so the picture of the desk at which I wrote my debut Never Cry Werewolf will have to suffice.

It's since been donated to another up and coming writer who was a member of a weekly critique/goals group I went to in my old home town.

The desk was purchased with money left to me by my great aunt Opal. It had great built in shelves which I filled with reference books and magazines, mementoes, and YA paperbacks.

I always have a bulletin board nearby with clips of things, pictures, inspirational card, etc..

Currently, I have a friend's portable desk (which I can lift and carry myself, yay!) and I use a book shelf I found in the alley in the back of my apartment building. All it needed was a good cleaning. That shelf is filled with paperbacks and reference books and sits next to my roommate's iron baker's rack which is filled with "brainy" novels and books on the human condition. I would like to say I've perused his collection, but alas... my TBR pile is too big.

Speaking of my TBR pile, the other place I keep books is in a massive stack next to my bed. I read every night. Sometimes I have two or three books going at a time. I also keep a journal there -- a book in which I write all the things I'm grateful for and make lists to remind me of the good things in my life.

Happy Writing!


Heather Davis is the author of
Never Cry Werewolf
Coming in 2008 from HarperCollins

Friday, June 08, 2007

I dream of custom built bookshelves.........

But for now I share a 900 square foot house with 2 toddlers, a man/boy and a dog. I am currently fighting for book space with diapers, wipes, and more toys than you could possibly imagine. SO....for now, I am pretty much limited to my nightstand (see below) where I keep a few of my favs and my TBR pile. I also have my pretty plaque that my bookclub made for me there. Simone, your book is right on top of Diana's which is the very bottom one. Tina, I gave my copy of your book to a girl who was drooling over it at the prom dress charity. Can't wait to get an autographed one!

I also have two designed writing shelves in the hall closet sharing space with the racecar bandages and anti-bacterial ointment. I keep all the hard copies of my revisions, writing books, ink cartridges, my RWA badge from last year, Tera's Prison Break DVD's so I don't forget to pack them in my suitcase next month, file folders, my pathetic hole puncher that only you can only put about four sheets of paper in at a time and tons of boxes of discounted Christmas cards that I keep buying and never using.

I also try to keep a book in my purse at all times in case I get stuck somewhere with nothing to do. This hardly ever happens when you have two toddlers, but I keep hoping. Right now residing in my knockoff Kate Spade is Serena Robar's latest which I haven't gotten to read a page of yet.

I did find this in the back though. hehehehe! Yep, that's me sandwiched in between MaryJanice Davidson, Julie Kenner, Johanna Edwards, and Serena! I thought I would die of happiness when I saw it!

Since I don't have much room, I take all of my books to the library. I swear I've stocked their young adult section singlehandedly. Someday I dream of custom built bookshelves where I can keep all my treasures, but for now, I figure I'll share these stories with other people who can't afford to go out and buy them new!
What I'm reading....The Celebutantes by Antonio Pagliarulo
All that matters is what's long as your outside is wearing the tiara!
REVENGE OF THE HOMECOMING QUEEN, July 3,2007, Berkley Jam Books

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bookshelf Meme with tagging involved...

Some people go to dinner parties and look in the medicine chest and bathroom drawers to see what kind of interesting medications people have. Not me. I sneak peeks at people's books and bookshelves.

People who come to my place would see the following:

This is our second bedroom which is known as "The Writing Room." It overlooks the harbor and is painted in a lovely three-version shade of the same blue. Very calming. This particular bookshelf sits under the window and, as you can see, houses a lot of crap. The books here are mostly annuals from high school, my husband's non-fiction books, our Anne Rice collection, and a lot of his political books.

Back in the corner, behind my writing desk, is another bookshelf that's kind of funky in its build. We got it eons ago at Crate and Barrel and it houses a lot of our Hollywood books. Things like how to write screenplays, entertainment guides, autobigraphies of Gable, Grant, and Chaplin, to name a few. My husband's two prized book collections (Maupin's Tales of the City and The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet) are here.

To the left ( the left...every book I own is to the left, to the left...) is my bookshelf. It's sectioned off into the top section with most all of my cooking books, the next shelf with all of the travel books, maps, and guides, and then the rest is dedicated to my romance novels. You can't really tell, but where Mr. Bigglesworth and Austin Powers sit, the books are stacked three deep. I have every Sandra Brown and Barbara Delinsky book ever written. (Including the ones Sandra wrote as Laura Jordan, Rachel Ryan, and Erin St. Claire.)

This is my Young Adult bookshelf. As you see, it's a little sparse, but there's a reason why. I only started reading YA two years ago, whereas I've been reading romance and women's fiction for 28 years. (I know!) So, it was only fitting that I get the YA shelf ready to hold even more books. As you see, one shelf features my critique partner's, Diana Peterfreund, books with a picture of us. That section will only expand when the rest of her Secret Society Girl books and her new killer unicorn YA urban fantasy series hit bookstores.

One shelf has my First Love by Silhouette books. It's a complete series of all the books they put out starting in like 1981. These books were amazing and my best reading friends. As you can see by how beat up they are, they got read a lot. My niece "inherited" the books and read them to death, as well, showing that the stories stood up for generations to come. You can bet I'm keeping these forever!

The top shelf is for me. See those Greek temples? Well, those are antique bookends that my husband bought for me for my last birthday. They are to sorority books when they come out. Get it? Sorority...Greek... Awww... Also on that shelf are fellow Puffin authors, like my friend, Linda Gerber and her Students Across the Seven Seas books.

More books. No order. Mix of mine and hubby's with some "household" stuff in there, as well. I think that's the binder with all of our mortgage information in it.

Here in the living room, in the secretary I inherited from my grandparents, is my collection of "vintage" books. The red ones up top are all classics with copyright dates going back to the 1930s. I have one book of "Plays for Little Actors" with an 1896 copyright date! (Also, note the pic of dear old Dad when he was in the Navy in WWII and the dried flowers in the middle are what's left of my wedding bouquet.)

I should be embarrassed to show this, but what they heck. This is the kingdom of books that lives next to my side of the bed (note photographic placement of five-fingered slippers from The Carlton Hotel in Cannes, France. LOL!) These are the "must read soon" books that line my bedroom. These are the books that constantly get rearranged into preference order and the stacks move according to my reading mood. If a book is really luck, it gets moved up here... the bedside table. (I took these pics a while ago, so both of these books have been read and stored back in The Writing Room.)

So, that's a look at my condo full of books. This doesn't include the myriad cookbooks in my kitchen, or the boxes full of books in the closet at my sister's house in Florida that I sent to her to read.

Now, I tag, Alexgirl, Elizabeth Mahon, and Mel Francis.

Where is the strangest place you store your books?

Marley = )
Sorority Rush Begins - May 2008
Rush - A Sisterhood Novel
Pledge Class - A Sisterhood Novel

Puffin Books

What I'm reading right now: TWILIGHT by Stephanie Meyer