Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bumping it up a Notch

Last weekend my friend Irene generously hosted a snow weekend at her Big Bear cabin. It was restorative, replete with good food, good people, good skiing, good Olympics and GREAT reading.

Upon renting my skies, the guy asked my skiing level and I blurted out "Intermediate." Now, this isn't really true. I usually only ski once a year, if that, and I am a chicken, often taking the easy route. I decided right there and then that this trip would be the trip where I bumped it up a notch.

The next day on the slopes, I suited up, clicked my boots into my skies, bypassed the beginner line and marched myself up to the advanced beginner chair lift. Upon reaching the top, I swooshed down the hill with ease. I did it again and again until a little voice inside said, "Eh hem...Intermediate." I listened to that voice and hopped on another chair lift, one I'd never been on before. At the top of the mountain I swallowed hard and got ready to snow plow down. I thought about my mom - when she first got her computer (before she became an expert, editing home movies, etc.) she'd touch it and gasp, worried she'd make some horrible mistake that would wipe out her hard drive. "Don't be scared of the computer," I'd say in frustration. "The computer is your friend." And so I switched 'computer' to 'mountain' and followed my own advice. Voices of lessons past echoed in my mind: "Push the button!" (a technique for keeping your knees together), "Turn with your shoulders!" and the most important, "Have fun!"

And boy did I ever.

Sure, thoughts of Sunny Bono and Natasha Richardson raced through my mind, but I pushed them aside. By ten in the morning, on the empty mountain, I'd done about eight runs, zipping down slopes I didn't even know existed. I took a break and studied the map. There were chair lifts that lead to higher chair lifts, there were circuitous runs that wound around the mountain, there were even jumps and moguls to conquer. I bumped it up a notch again and found an advanced intermediate slope - little Shaun White's cruised passed me on their snowboards. I skied wide, making long, arching spirals. The snow was fresh, the day was gorgeous. I kept thinking, "I'm doing it! I'm not falling! And I'm having fun!"

I truly believe that I tricked myself into believing I was an intermediate. The possibilities suddenly became endless. What if I trick myself into believing I can get a great raise at work? Or that my new book will end up as a NY Times Bestseller? Or that I'll finish the third book in a matter of months? Meet and fall in love with Apolo Ohno? (okay, okay...)

So, if you are stuck in "beginner" mentality, why not try bumping it up a notch? See where it takes you. You might wind up on a slippery slope going nowhere, but then again, you might have the ride of your life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Everyone Else's Girl

It is a busy month for book releases! GCC member Megan Crane has a new novel out. A little bit about the book:

Meredith does things for other people. She irons clothes for her boyfriend, she attends her ex-best friend's horrendous hen party for her brother (who's about to marry the girl) and she moves back to her parents' house to look after her dad when his leg is broken. She's a good girl and that matters. But when she gets back home, all is not as Meredith remembered. Especially Scott, that geeky teenager from her old class at school. He's definitely different now. And so, it seems, is she. One by one, her family and old friends start to tell her some home truths and Meredith begins to realise she's not so perfect after all. Maybe it is time she stopped being everyone else's girl and started living for herself...

"Megan Crane rules! Cancel your evening plans: You won't want to stop reading until you've devoured every delicious word."
—Meg Cabot

"Amusing, heartfelt and emotionally sophisticated chick-lit." —Kirkus

And here is my interview with her:

Mel: Which came first, the title or the novel?
Meg: In this case, I think the title came first--which is very unusual for me. I usually agonize over titles which are then changed by my publishers. This, in fact, is the only title that I actually chose on any of my published books!

What other art form inspires you as much as writing?
Music. In fact, I think it might inspire me more than writing, but I love it too much to break it apart and study it the way I do writing. I could never be a musician for that reason. I don't want to make music do what I want it to do, I just want it to carry me away.

Which comes easier for you - beginnings or endings?
Definitely beginnings. I like to launch myself into the beginning and write until I hit a wall, then go back and figure out what I'm doing.

How many drafts until the final draft?
I am one of those desperately linear writers, who can't go forward if I know what's behind me is a big mess. So I usually write the day's words, then set it aside to pick up and read the next morning. I revise it before starting the next day's writing. So when I have a full draft, it's usually pretty tight, and then I go over that at least once or twice. So... three?

What are you reading right now?
I just finished Karen Marie Moning's Dreamfever, the second to last of her incredibly addictive Fever series. How on earth will I wait until December for the next and final book? I have no idea.

What's next for you?
I am currently working on my fifteenth novel, a romance, which should be out sometime next year!

Congratulations to Megan!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


It has been a busy winter between teaching, writing, swimming and lots and lots of cooking. One book is out in the world looking for a home while another is being written. Cooking comes in handy when I just can't deal with the waiting, or when I'm stuck on a plot point or when I want to give my poor eyes a break from staring at a screen. Currently I'm experimenting with crock-pot baking - banana bread? Delish! Cranberry orange walnut bread? OMG. I'm going in for a corn bread later today.

Speaking of food, my dear friend Lisa Harper, who runs this fantastic blog, has just won the River Teeth Nonfiction Prize. Her book "Inside/Out," a beautiful memoir about pregnancy and how it turns you inside/out on so many levels, will be published next year by the esteemed University of Nebraska press. This is doubly exciting because Lisa has been working on and trying to find a home for her book for years and years. Hers is a story of tenacity and patience, with a happy ending, to boot. I am inspired by her perseverance and can't wait to buy the book.

In other good news, Girlfriend Cyber Circuit member Hank Phillippi Ryan has a new novel out. Here's a little Q & A with her:

Tell us about your new book Drive Time.

DRIVE TIME is about secrets. TV reporter Charlie McNally’s working on a story about a dangerous scheme that could absolutely happen…and let me just say, if you own a car, or rent a car, you’ll never look at your vehicle the same way after reading DRIVE TIME. In fact, after writing the book, I now get a bit creeped out when I go into a parking garage. That’s all I‘ll say.

Charlie’s also drawn into another frightening situation—this one at the prep school where her fiancĂ© is an English professor. When Charlie learns a secret that might put her step-daughter-to-be in danger, and might also be an blockbuster investigative story—how does she balance her loyalty to her husband-to-be—with her need to protect the public?

So this is a tough one for Charlie. And she must make many life-changing decisions. Just when she begins to think she might be able to have it all—a terrific career and a new husband and a new life--revenge, extortion and murder may bring it all to a crashing halt.

Which novelist most influenced your own work? And which writer, past or present, would you like to spend some time with?

I love Edith Wharton’s cynical take on the world, and the way she illustrates the social structure even while being dramatic and entertaining. Her stories have such with such depth and texture, and her characters are wonderful. Julia Spencer Fleming. Margaret Maron’s wonderfully authentic dialogue and settings. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for clever plots. Lisa Scottoline for her contemporary and hip take on the world. John Lescroart for story story story. PD James. Who I’d love to spend time with? Shakespeare. I have many, many questions for him. Whoever he was. Oh! And Stephen King. What a genius, on so many levels.

Any mistakes you’ve made along the way, have you learned anything from them?

Hah. That’s another long blog for another day. Mistakes? Ah, on a huge level, people always yell at me for working all the time. ALL the time. Is that a mistake? None of this would have happened without that. Would I change it? I have to say no. So is that a mistake? I'm not sure. On a tiny level, I should have put together a mailing list of bookstores. Still haven’t done that. Wish I had.

What’s next for you?

Exactly what I'm trying to figure out. DRIVE TIME came out February 1, with fantastic blurbs from the much-missed and iconic Robert B. Parker and Suzanne Brockmann and Margaret Maron and Carla Neggers and a rave starred review from Library Journal. So I'm hoping people love it. (And I'll be visiting lots of places across the US--hope some of our readers come visit!) And then...we’ll see. I can't tell you how excited I am.

Anyhow, that's it for me right now. Heading up to Big Bear tomorrow to pretend I'm Lindsey Vonn on the slopes. I have a major case of Olympic Fever!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Gorgeous Nephew

Lots of rain here in L.A. as of late... Peter plays hide n' seek with an umbrella. Can't stand the cuteness...