Thursday, October 12, 2006

Where Have All the Sex Jokes Gone? Oh, And On G.W. Bush, The Taliban, and Vogue

I remember a time when the most widely circulated e-mails among my friends and colleagues were of the raunchy joke variety, and perhaps the odd chain mail or two (usually forwarded with an apology and an explanation as to exactly why the sender just couldn’t resist sending us this one).

Nowadays, it seems like every time I open something with an attachment, said attachment contains pictures of someone’s newborn offspring. This used to be pretty exciting. But, (and I say this at the expense of coming off as a cold-hearted biatch with icicles for feelings) not a week goes by these days when one of these doesn’t pop up in my inbox, whether from an old friend I’d lost touch with, a colleague I barely know, and yes, often from close friends or family.

It makes me wonder if we don’t have a baby boom on our hands. Of maybe I’m just at that age when this happens to most people and I’m the stubborn odd gal holding out, or am I officially a withered ol’ curmudgeony childless shrew?


While we’re on the topic (again – at least I spared you my latest baby shower rant), I finished Emily Giffin’s Baby Proof last week, and it was the first book in a looong time that I managed to finish in a few sittings. I enjoyed it quite a bit more that Something Borrowed, probably because it felt very timely to me.

It’s also one of those books that’s hard to categorize… the pastel yellow cover with the booties say chick lit, so does the heroine’s honesty as a character, but the tone is quite literary, the writing sparse and unpretentious. I can also see why the Amazon reactions to Claudia Parr, the heroine, were extreme – she’s a complicated character, but isn’t that what real people are like? Is she selfish? A bit… but so is everyone around her. I won’t give away the ending, but this wasn’t a book that left me with the all’s-well-with-the-world feeling that you would expect from ‘fluff’. Again, it just gets me thinking about the whole chick lit debate, and I wonder if maybe it’s time we dropped the label and the kitschy covers. Unless, of course, if the literary world snubs its nose at the likes of above-par women’s fic writers like Emily because, well, who cares about women’s issues when there’s war, environmental disasters, subversion of political rights and so on to worry about, then why waste our breath and energies on ‘women’s issues’?

The cool thing about blogging is that I get to answer my own rhetorical questions (ha ha) and hop on my soapbox whenever I feel like it. Here goes.

Women’s issues are WORLD ISSUES. In addition to representing just over half of the world’s population, women control 80% of household spending (at least in Western countries, who, let’s face it, hold 80% of the world’s wealth anyway). My mind about George W. Bush was made up a long, long time ago, long before he had a chance to offend his first diplomat or tear up his first environmental treaty, when Vogue (yes, the fashion magazine) interviewed him during his first run for presidency. Vogue, being concerned with women’s issues, asked the now American president how, if elected, he was planning to deal with the Taliban’s atrocious treatment of women in Afghanistan, a type of abuse not even closely rivaled by ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia where women can only travel with written permission from the male relatives, and cannot drive automobiles.

The Vogue reporter was not kind in her description of Mr. Bush’s reaction, which pretty much amounted to “Taliban who?”

So yes, while women’s issues can sometimes seem domestic on the surface, they’re a pretty good indication of the inner functioning of a society and what’s wrong with it at a grassroots level.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

And The Winner of the Fashionably Late ARC Is...

Before I go any further, it's my great pleasure to announce that the first person to ever get a corrected, spelling-mistake-free and somewhat typeset version of Fashionably Late (one that I have not even seen yet) is... ZARA HEFLIN!!! Wooo hoooo!!!! That's right, neither Turkey nor Iran are Arab countries at their people speak Turkish and Farsi respectively, and the Turkish (via the Ottoman dynasty) rule dominated Arab (and Greek) societies for many, many centuries and Iranians ascribe to Persian culture. Take a bow Zara. I will also take this opportunity to say I was contemplating offering a get-your-name-in-my-next-book prize to go with the ARC, and as fate would have it, the name 'Zara' is ALREADY IN THE WIP!!! How freaky is that? (don't believe me? Check our Dona Sarkar's blog entry last week, and my comment)

I'd also like send out a massive THANK YOU to all the authors who let me interview them for blog week - thank you so much JoAnn, Wendy, Cathy, Shannon and Jane - I will be referring to your inspirational answers every time I get stuck in my own WIP or on the brink of giving up this writing thing altogether. And thanks to all the winners for sending me their mailing addresses (just need yours, Zara)... you'll be hearing from me soon.

And thanks to all the blog readers who took the time to learn a little bit about the cool things about Arabs, and send me their answers to the daily questions. My dream as a young Arab kid growing up in North America was to do something, even if it was the smallest little thing, was to show that facet of my culture that was good and pure, and that made me proud, in an environment that always made me question, or at least have to justify that pride.

There are as many ways of showing your cultural pride as there are people... some of my cousins have taken the activist route, some have assimilated so well into their adopted countries that they wear their Arab identity as some leaders of the Black community in America wish to wear theirs - not as a way to differentiate themselves from the whole, but as a way to explain that making ANY value judgment on the basis of race/ethnicity/culture is NOT ACCEPTABLE, whether that value judgment is good or bad (see the South Park episode about the 'lynching' flag as a fantastic example of this).

I think I'm somewhere in the middle - I want neither to watch from the outside or integrate into the innermost core. One of my favorite depictions of the Jewish culture was 'The Nanny'. No, not all Jews have big hair, nasal voices, and Uncle Marty's. But c'mon... It's funny, and is sorta, kinda true in an endearing, self-deprecating way. Not all Arab women are vain and wear too much make-up and are out to snag the rich Aran husband (in fact I can't say that any of my good Arab girlfriends fall under this category)... But I challenge anyone who thinks this a totally bogus statement to go to a big Arabic Wedding and say it ain't so...

It's funny, not racist to say that you too, are flawed (if you consider gold brocade and too much make-up to be a flaw, of course...) and to resist self-righteousness. It also allows you a margin of authority when you actually do come out and address something more substantial than poor make-up application skills... like an unjust war that has cost tens of thousands (have we made it to 100,000 yet???) of innocent lives. We live in a global village... it's time to think about the cost of conflict not just to our tiny sliver of the world, but how this conflict is going to affect this Earth that we all share.

And so while Fashionably Late is pretty irreverent about lots of topics (fashion, the Lebanese, Cuban-American relations, Communism, accounting...), I hope more than anything else, that you will find it honest, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit eye-opening.

That's all for today folks. Have a great rest of your weekend!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Nadine's Website Promo Blitz Week - LAST DAY!

The end is now upon us (but certainly not the end of my blogging!) and boy do I have a treat for you today.

But first, the answer to yesterday's question... who knew this one would turn out to be the most controversial? One of you faithful blog readers pointed out to me that the name 'Mizrahi' can be traced back to Middle Eastern Jewish communities. How far back, and how much this makes Issac an Arab, I couldn't say... however, it's intersting to note that though there are some very, very old Jewish-Arab familes with roots that run very deep in Middle-Eastern (obviously, what with Jesus et al.). According to the bible, the ethnic division between Arabs and Jews goes back to Issac (Abraham's son with Sarah who went on to found the Jewish community) and Ishmael (Abraham's son with Hagar, who the considers is the first 'Arab'). So if we use the bible as our reference point, then it's pretty safe to say Mizrahi is NOT an Arab. However, seeing as I'm of the opionion that the Bible is the last place one should look to for historical accuracy or questions of ethnicity, I pronouce Mizrahi of some Middle Eastern ancestry (wonder what he would think about that...).

What this means to you, is that you were all entered in the draw, regardless of your answer, and the winner is.... Kristin Brunori! Woo hoo!!! You are the very lucky recipient of a book that will be hitting your local bookstore next January, as well as some nifty Cuban postcards.

Some background on the other designers mentioned: Norma Kamali and Reem Acra are both Arab-American (Reem is based in New York City), while Elie Saab is purely Lebanese... his atelier is actually in Beirut, despite the fact that his creations show up at vitually every red carpet event to come out of Hollywood (especially on Halle Berry).

Onto today's interview...

An author who truly needs no introduction, Jane Green has been regaling us with fish-out-of-water tales on both sides of the Atlantic since chick lit was but a twinkle in the publishing industry’s eye. Jemima J., Jane’s take on the timeless Cinderella tale made it onto my all-time favorite reads list, and her latest, Swapping Lives (Life Swap in the UK) hit the bookshelves in the US in June. Here, for your note-taking pleasure, is a glimpse into the mind of this women’s fiction novelist extraordinaire.

1. What inspires you to write?

Usually something going on in either my life or the lives of people around me. With Jemima I wanted to tackle women's unique relationship with food, which I had always struggled with, and in The Other Woman, I was fascinated by how many women seemed to have awful problems with their mothers-in-law. However, the novels, whilst inspired by real life, are very definitely fiction.

2. How long does it take you to write a novel?

Far longer than it used to. In the old days I could dedicate myself absolutely to writing, but now, with four small children and a busy life, I find that life gets in the way far more. Generally around nine months is about right.

3. Do you have a writing technique beyond getting yourself into your chair and getting it done, or is that pretty much the best way to do it?

Best way to do it. Discipline discipline discipline.

4. How do you deal with writer's block?

See above.

5. What's the biggest myth about being a writer?

I think people would be astonished by how ordinary the life of a bestselling author is. It sounds fantastically glamorous, but most of my days are spent ferrying children back and forth to activities, doing laundry, paying bills etc etc. Twice a year I go on book tour and then do morph into my more glamorous self, but it's not really who I am.

6. In Straight Talking you wrote a chick lit novel before the genre even had a name. The landscape has changed quite a bit since then. What advice would you give to would-be authors eager to break into the genre today?

I would give the same advice to someone wanting to write chick lit as I would to someone wanting to write anything: write what you know, and tell the story you want to tell. Never start a book wanting to please others, or because you think it will be commercially viable. In essence, be true to yourself. The critics of chick lit say it has reached saturation point and is about to die out, but they've been saying that for ten years, and there's still clearly an enormous market for it. Frankly I think there's room for everything in the publishing market today.
7. You've said of your earlier books (Straight Talking, Jemima J) that they mirrored the single-girl-in-London life you were living in your late twenties and early thirties. To have and to Hold, The Other Woman, and most recently Swapping Lives have chronicled (at least in part) the social landmines of privileged small town America, a topic you're well placed to write about since your move across the pond. How do you keep reinventing these themes and characters you know so well to keep your books fresh and engaging?

Thank you for the compliment! I always worry that I'm never going to find inspiration again, but there are always themes that crop up and events that happen around me that seem to inspire me.

8. What are you reading at the moment?

A stack of self-help books. Not like me at all, but have found myself going through an enormously stressful time recently, and they seem to help give me a sense of peace.

9. What was the most fabulously indulgent fashion purchase you ever made?

I have to say I do have a collection of Hermes Birkins which now feel horribly extravagant, but they are classics, and I'll never get rid of them.

10. What's next from Jane Green?

I'm writing something at the moment that has no title yet, but is the story of a group of friend reuniting after one of them dies, but I have to say I have a slight penchant for writing a mystery - not sure why, but I'd like to see if I could do it.

11. And just for the record, what's your upper limit on Fashionably Late-ness? Is two and a half hours pushing it?

Just ever so slightly. I think half an hour would do it. (Really?? Whoopsie...)

12. What was your most memorable fashion faux pas?

Oh God. Do I really have to answer this? (Ha ha, yes you do Jane. I'll go first... acid-washed jeans and peach rhinestone-studded sweatshirt circa fifth grade. Your turn). Going to a day wedding last year, I think in New Jersey, wearing a fabulous and enormous hat. In England we all wear hats to weddings, and a day wedding calls for a suit, but at this one everyone was in sparkly black evening dresses, and these women spent the evening looking at me as if I was completely bonkers. Also, I couldn't take the bloody thing off because I had the most disastrous case of hat-hair underneath. Mortifying!

Thanks Jane!

I’m afraid we’ve come to the end of Nadine’s Website Promo Blitz Week… and I’ve saved my most treasured prize for last. An advance reading copy of Fashionably Late, which are being printed as we speak (sniff, sniff).

And for your final question (a seriously easy one at that...):

Which of the following countries are NOT Arab countries?
a) Iran & Turkey
b) Morocco & Tunisia
c) Egypt & Syria

d)Bahrain & Oman

Best of luck!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Nadine's Website Promo Blitz - Day 4

The end is almost upon us! Wow - it passed so fast... maybe because promo week also coincides with an especially busy period at work for me, but I've managed so far, so maybe I'll treat myself to a mojito tonight... or two (who am I kidding... I'll take any excuse for a mojito, whether deserved or not! Speaking of mojitos, they can be very hit-or-miss, as my editor Paul, who recently tried his first and hated it, can attest. I've just discovered a place here in Cayman which does a fantastic job of them, and if I can twist the bartender's arm, I may just reward you faithful blog readers with a recipe one day...)

But I digress. Without further ado, I bring you the winner of Cathy Yardley's Chick Lit How-to book as well as a critique from your truly... Erin E!!!!! Erin, show thyself and you shall receive your prize.

Yesterday's question was a toughie that even I got wrong the when I did the quiz, so I am absolutely flabbergasted that you all got it right (could it be that I get the cyber equivalent of blasting the answer through a blow horn right into your ears??)

That's right, over 60% of Arab Americans are Christians of various denominations, the most important of which is Catholic. This is exemplified in my novel through Sophie and Jaz, the two major secondary characters, who are Christian. How can this be when most Arabs are Muslim, you ask? There is a very logical is somewhat unscientific explanation... (feel free to skip over the history lesson to straight to our featured author interview, I won't hold it against you, promise).

Well, just like the Puritans of yore escaped to discovered lands so they could establish a society where they wouldn't be the downtrodden minority, so did Christian Arabs (like the famous Khalil Gibran of 'The Prophet' fame) emigrate to North America in the 1800s, where their religion would no longer be an issue as it was in some Arab countries, depending on which way the wind blew (this is a bit of an exaggeration as Muslim Arabs were for the most part very tolerant of their Christian brethren, but I can see some Christians getting nervous every time religious fundamentalism makes a a comeback... which it is these days. This has not always been the case throughout history).

Nowadays, larger numbers of Muslim Arabs are emigrating to North America. When I was a growing up in Montreal, I was one of a handful of Arab Muslim kids in a predominantly Lebanese neighborhood. I counted many more 'Maroun's (a very typical Christian Maronite name) than Mohammeds among my acquaintances. If you went to my old neigborhood now, the picture would be quite different.

So, all this to say, unless the Arab you meet at work, at school, or in the street is wearing a head scarf or is called Mohammed, it's a safe bet they're Christian. Surprised? Thought so. In fact, unless they go out of their way to tell you, most Arab-American/Canadians, whether Muslim, Christian, Druze, or a passionate atheist, are in fact an invisible minority, and you'd never know you were speaking to one. So be nice. But you were going to be nice anyway, right ; )

The history/sociology lesson officially ends here, and we get down to the REAL businesses at hand... today's featured author, fellow Tor/Forge author, Shannon Mckeldon!!!

Shannon holds the honor of being the first humorous women's fiction writer bought by Tor/Forge's Natasha Panza. For those of you who don't know, Tor is an imprint known mostly for their Sci Fi and paranormals, while Forge delves into mainstream fiction. We, Shannon's writer friends, are very anxiously awaiting the release of her debut novel because Shannon is a lovely person and we adore her, and also because the title of her novel totally rocks: Venus Envy. (and it's out for pre-order on Amazon...)

1. What inspires you to write?

I'd have to say it's the love of reading, the love of good books. I've wanted to write since I was in 6th grade and began to see that the short stories I wrote got rave reviews from my teachers. I've sold a few short stories over the years to confessions mags, but my first love is books. Just seeing all the wonderful novels on the shelves and wanting to see my own up there is all the inspiration I need.

2. Do you have a writing routine, if so, what is it?

I really don't have much of a routine. I have arranged my hours at my job to give me three days a week where I'm available to write when my kids are in school. However, too often, I have to work extra and don't get that time in. I'm a bit of a binge-writer, too, I'd say. I can't write in little 5- to 10-minute increments like some writers can. It takes me longer to get into my work, so I write best in long stretches.

3. Have you developed any tricks or self-manipulation techniques to keep your butt in the chair and writing?

Does guilt count? When I go too long without writing--because I am an awful procrastinator--I begin to feel so guilty that I just have to write.

4. What are you reading at the moment?

I've been reading a lot of Harlequin NeXt books lately. I'm reading one now called SUBURBAN SECRETS by Donna Birdsell, and I'm loving it! It's really fun...and funny. I also read a lot of paranormal, which I didn't used to read at all. But, now that I've written what is basically a paranormal romance, I kind of had to figure out what's available in this genre.

5. What's the biggest myth about being a writer?

That it's easy. That you can just "whip out" a full-length book based on an idea you get. It just doesn't work that way. I don't know how many books I've started to write with an idea, and it doesn't pan out because there's not enough to the idea to carry it out. Doesn't mean I can't use the idea elsewhere someday, but it by no means "easy."

6. What advice would you give to budding authors?

Never, ever, ever give up. It might not happen today or tomorrow, or with your 5th or 10th book, but it can't happen at all if you give up. I look back at when I had written my 2nd or 3rd book and how much I wanted to be published back then...but you know, I really don't think I was as ready for it as I thought I was. I am in a much better place now for taking on this career than I was then. So don't give up no matter what. I guess you have to make the decision that you are either going to keep going until you sell because you want it that much and are willing to keep learning until you get it right, or you aren't meant to be a writer in the first place. Harsh, but true. I even had to go through that myself once...making the decision to either be willing to keep going until I sold or just give it up right then and move on to other things in my life. The fact that I couldn't imagine with what else I would fill the gaping whole left behind if I didn't write, was enough to tell me that I was willing to keep trying until I succeeded.

7. What can readers expect from you in the future?

Hopefully I will be working on the next Venus book very soon. Venus ENVY is part of a trilogy, so there will be at least two more books from that. I'd also love to write YA and contemporary romance genres.

8. How long does it take you to write a novel?

You know, that all depends on how well thought out the idea is. VENUS ENVY took me six months AFTER I finally had the idea down pat. I've written books in as short as four months, before, though. Or I've taken much, much longer. And I don't always think that the ones that take longer are necessarily better. :-)

9. Is it harder to start or finish a novel?

Hmmm...I don't know. Sometimes the momentum of beginning a novel propels me
forward. But other times I have a hard time getting started. I do know that a sticky part for me is usually long about the two-thirds to three-quarters point. I've realized after 5 completed novels that it is at that point that my brain is trying to root out what the book is REALLY about. I usually get stuck and feel like I can't move forward anymore, but I've come to trust the process and realize that if I just step back and let it sit a while, I can usually figure out what is trying to come to the surface. And then the end of the book usually comes pretty quickly after that.

10. How did you go about finding an agent and do you think it's necessary to have one?

I think having an agent is pretty important. Especially after seeing the contract I got and realizing that it was like reading Chinese for me. My agent is indispensable for stuff like that. Plus it leaves the writer with the ability to have a writing relationship with their editor and to not have to deal with the sometimes sticky business aspect of things. I found my agent, Deidre Knight, by querying various agents listed by Romance Writers
of America. She took me on based on my 3rd completed book (my first chicklit). We shopped that one and one other around before I finished VENUS ENVY, which is the one that finally sold.

11. How do you deal with writer's block?

I'm not really sure there IS such a thing as writer's block. I tend to think, in my case, that it is sheer laziness that prevents me from writing. And writing isn't always about putting the words on paper. Sometimes it's a mental thing, thinking out the problems, imagining the scenes. I find that when I'm stuck it's because I haven't been mentally going over the book as much as I should. I've been filling my mind with other things, busy work. I find that driving in the car with no radio on and no other distractions really helps me get past any "blocks" I may think I have.

12. We've all heard the adage "write what you know", but some of us have also heard "write what you can imagine". With a novel told from the perspective of a fashion-minded, millennia-old Greek goddess, you've clearly taken the latter nugget of wisdom and run with it. How did you manage to get into character when writing Venus, to figure out what she's like, what she would be thinking, and how she'd react? And how much fun was it write this character?

Venus was a BLAST to write! The whole book started with her and blossomed from there. Okay, really, it started with the title. I was sick of never having good titles and determined to find a great title for a book. Somehow VENUS ENVY popped into my head and I knew I had to write a book for it! So my next step was, "Who is Venus and why does someone envy her?" It wasn't until Venus told me she was really the goddess who had been banished here on Earth by her very unfair, irrational father that all the rest started to fall into place.

Venus was very easy to get into. Not sure why, as I am the most un-fashion-minded person alive. I wouldn't know Prada from Gucci if it was labeled clearly in front of me. But Venus did, so that was all that counted. I kept on my monitor a picture of Portia de Rossi, in a siren red dress, looking all pouty and misunderstood, as my vision of Venus. I really and truly can't explain why she was so easy. She was, by far, the easiest character in the book to hear. I can't wait to write the next book just to see what Venus comes up with next!

Thanks so much for being here Shannon! [insert load, obnoxious applause here]

Alright people, today's prize is really special - Shannon's novel hasn't even hit the shelves yet - I haven't even read it yet - and I'm giving it away. Sigh. Consider yourselves spoilt. To today's very lucky winner goes a copy of this collector's item and I'm also throwing in a set of postcards, direct from Cuba. To clean your palette from the spate of serious questions you've had lately, here's one on a subject near and dear to my heary... fashion! (And though that website will help somewhat, you'll have to google some names here, unless of course Instyle is your version of crack, is it is for me, then this'll be a piece of baclava...) Here's your question, drop me a line via the In Touch page on my website, and you're entered to win:

Which of the following fashion designers is NOT Arab or of Arab origin?

a) Reem Acra
b) Issac Mizrahi
c) Norma Kamali
d) Elie Saab

... on your marks, get set, pick up your Instyles!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Nadine's Website Promo Blitz Week - Day 3

Hump day already... And I've got a MAJOR treat for you aspiring chick lit/humorous women's fictious writers out there... today's featured author, you see (and prizes...) will be of special interest to writers who are breaking into the genre. Back when I was a wide-eyed wannabe writer, armed with nothing but the Shopaholic trilogy as my guide into the world of pink covers and shameless designer name-dropping (yes, in 2002 most people thought chick lit was a brand of bubble gum, not a cutting-edge literary genre), I would have killed for today's featured book. But today's newbies are being spoiled… with not one but two Chick lit writing guides out in one month!

But first, the winners of yesterday's draw: Risha Parker, Chris Ganim, and Sanjay Sirinvas! Congratulations, you've earned yourselves signed copies of one of the following: sMothering, Goaing Coastal and After the Rice (you can e-mail me with your preference, as well as your address please), AND a mini Coco taxi direct from Havana's Calle Tacon.

And well done to all of you who guessed 3,000,000 (judging by the responses this question seemed to be easier than yesterday's...)

And now, onto our interview of the day.

A self-professed writing guide junkie, how could I miss Cathy Yardley’s Will Write For Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel? Like Jerry Cleaver’s Immediate Fiction, this volume is short on pages but long on useful information. It cuts to the chase of what chick lit is about, gives a little historical perspective on the genre, and has the most useful appendices I’ve ever seen (sample chick lit query letter, synopsis, chick lit friendly agent list, etc…). Just check out the table of contents for yourselves. Cathy is well-placed to be writing about, well, writing since she’s sold to RDI, Duets, Blaze, and has even penned a YA among other things. Here’s a Q&A with the accomplished author.

1. What inspires you to write?

Everything! Although I will say, I usually get a title first, then create the story around it. I love a good title! (Unfortunately, I don't often get to keep the title... but that's another story.)

2. Do you have a writing routine, if so, what is it?

I just had my first child, a son, in July, so my routine is now whenever he's sleeping or I can get my husband or the "Mom squad" (my mother, his mother) to watch the boy!

3. Are you a plotter or a pantster, or a little bit of both?

I am a hard core plotter. In fact, my book covers what I call "Cathy's Insane Plotting Guide." It really does help, though, especially if you're writing to deadline.

4. How long does it take you to write a novel?

It depends. If pressed, I can write a 75k word novel in a month, a 100k word chick lit novel in 3 months. It all comes down to the outline (hence my insane guide.)

5. How do you deal with writer's block?

A lot of meditating, reading books I really love, and reading new books seems to help.

6. What's the biggest myth about being a writer?

That it's fun. It's usually like yanking out your hair, slowly, over the course of hours. Having said that, however, it's a hell of a lot more fun than any other job!

7. Which of your many novels was the most difficult to write? Why?

Couch World was the hardest, I think, because it involved a lot of research into the world of DJ's and it was completely alien to me. Also, I wrote alternating first and third person, so it was a creative challenge as well.

8. What do you think is the biggest mistake new chick lit writers make?

They write something that's only a little bit different than what's out there. Like "It's Bridget Jones' Diary set in Detroit." Granted, that's different... but it's not enough to really set you apart.

9. What advice would you give to budding chick lit authors in this competitive environment?

Take risks, and write something that scares the hell out of you. When I say that, I mean be utterly truthful, to the point where you wonder if you'll scare the neighbors. That's the sort of writing that has juice. Right now, the market's too tight for knock-offs. You've got a much better chance with something daring. It's a perfect time to take advantage of it -- dust off your really "weird" ideas!

10. What kind of attributes do you think make a good chick lit writer? Are they different from those of other genres?

I think that chick lit writers need to have a good sense of humor and a lot of girlfriends to kvetch with. That's the best sort of tone, and the vibe (and support) will help with your writing.

11. Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jennifer Crusie, Mary Janice Davidson, Nancy Warren, Laurel K. Hamilton,
Stephen King, Dean Koontz.

12. What can readers expect from you in the future?

I've got an anthology out now, called COME SEPTEMBER, with a novella about a winemaker (Oooh… looks like wine’s going to be a hot topic in the literary world next year!); in January '07, I've got a Blaze called JACK & JILTED; and in June '07, I've got another Blaze, called ONE NIGHT STANDARDS. I hope you enjoy them!

Thanks Cathy!!!

Cathy has very graciously donated an autographed copy of her latest release Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel, so get those fingers ready to send me the answer to today's question!!!. And just like every fabulous pair of shoes needs a great bag to go along with it, I will be providing a free critique of the first three chapters of the lucky winner’s chick lit (or humorous women’s fiction) novel. I’ll be using the same critique guidelines as those of last year’s Stiletto contest. Here’s your question. As always, you can check out this site if you’re stumped, and then send me your answer via the In Touch page on my website. Good luck!

What percentage of Arab Americans are Christian? (and since you guys said you couldn't find the info on the site, here it is... can't get any easier now!)

a) 5%
b) 35%
c) 45%
d) 63%

Good luck!

Change to Comments Settings

I do apologize for this, but it seems my blog has been set up so that not everyone could comment... this has now been changed and all should work for everyone.

I'm soooo not a techie...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Nadine's Website Promo Blitz Week - Day 2

Thanks to all of you who logged on to my website yesterday and sent me your guesses. I'm hoping you found the link to the Arab American Institute to be, well, fun and educational (did you know so many Arab Americans were into politics, entertainment and activistm? I didn't...)

And the answer to yesterday's daily question is... Demi Moore.

That's right - Selma Hayek is of mixed Mexican and Lebanese origin, Marisa Tomei is Lebanese, while Shannon Elizabeth is of Syrian, Lebanese, French, English, and Cherokee descent. Demi Moore is half Greek. Well done to those of you who guessed right... and there weren't many! Marisa Tomei was the no.1 answer.

Congratulations to Jennifer Collins and Dona Sarkar for winning the draw!!! They'll both be getting mini-paintings (one oil on canvas, one set of matching textured acrylic prints) along with autographed copies of Salsa Goddess.

Onto our author interview of the day...

Wendy French

One of the things I love best about crossing the 'pubbed' threshold is that I get to look back and snicker at my old, delusional, not to mention naïve unpubbed self. Of course, that may have more to do with the fact that I was trying to market the only manuscript I'd ever written and not something that was the product of years of honing my craft, acquiring market savvy, or learning the rules of publication: that there are in fact no rules.

What does this have to do with today's featured author? She's a Canadian (now living in Portland) who likes to set her novels in Canadian cities and pepper them with Canadian references... and some industry folks in their infinite wisdom, though impressed with her work, wondered if perhaps she could, you know, keep the witty banter and sharp observations but perhaps change the setting... to something more American.

Funny, I have a few rejection letters in my own filing cabinets saying something along those lines.

Now I don't know about you, but I like reading about other places, places I may not have been to and discovering them via literature. I also like reading about places I have been to and relishing sweet memories of those settings if only to say: Hey - I've been there!

Luckily for Wendy and her readers, an editor at Forge Books got this, bought her debut novel, sMothering, about a girl who has to contend with her mother moving in with her and the hilarity that ensues. Wendy's latest, After the Rice, deals with an issue we've been hearing lots about lately (one that I've also ranted about) - the pressure on a young, successful 'perfect' married couple to have children. It's a brave book that pokes a finger in gaping hole of our society's current (misguided?) obsession with fertility. Oh, and as if After the Rice weren't controversial enough, it's also set in Victoria, BC.

1. What inspires you to write?

I'm one of those annoying people who always wanted to write. As a little kid, I always wanted to find my own book in a library someday - it seemed terribly exotic. Now that I'm finishing up the fourth book, my inspiration comes from readers much of the time. It helps me write when I receive e-mails from people anxious for the next book.

2. Do you have a writing routine, if so, what is it?

My writing routine is to write when I feel like it. Take that! No, really, I have a day job, so that limits me to evenings and weekends, and I've never been one to force the writing. I produce light, hopefully humorous stuff (my goal is three out-loud laughs for the reader per book), so it's important that I be in the right frame of mind to work on it. If things aren't clicking, I go for a walk, or see a movie to distract myself for a bit, then I can usually get back into writing upon my return. This seems more effective than sitting at my desk, pounding staples into my forehead as penance.

3. Are you a plotter or a pantster?

A pantster? Does that require a belt, or maybe a sash? I'm not a plotter, though I probably should be. I prefer to just start writing and not restrict myself. I really like being surprised by what happens along the way, and I can always go back and make changes when I'm finished a draft.

4. How do you manage to balance writing and the day job?

I don't really know. I've just always had to do it. Lame answer, but there you have it!

5. How long does it take you to write a novel?

About a year to a year and a half. The one I'm finishing right now has taken quite a bit longer than I'd like, due to upheavals in the personal life, but I guess that's the way things go sometimes.

6. What's the biggest myth about being a writer?

This isn't so much a myth as a misconception, but I can't even tell you how many people have told me they want to write a book. Almost all of the time they mean that they would like to HAVE WRITTEN a book. Until you've done it, you can't appreciate the isolation of physically doing it, or the uncertainty of wondering whether anyone will ever publish it. My first book is stashed in a drawer, over 400 pages of "learning experience" that will never be published, but when I finished it, I moved on to the next one. Writing is fueled by a unique combination of optimism and delusion.

7. How do you deal with writer's block?

Beyond the brief walk or movie pause in writing, I don't think I've dealt with writer's block. I do little superstitious things, like whenever I start a newchapter, I type the word "when", because it seems like such a good starting point. I end up deleting it almost every time, but at least I'm not looking at a blank page right off the bat.

8. How receptive have you found American readership towards your choice of

Two out of three books have been set in the States, and the most recent was set in Victoria, BC. So far, so good on reactions to setting from both sides of the border.

9. Who are some of your favorite authors?

This will be pretty random, but I Like Amy Tan, David Sedaris, Carol Shields, Joe Meno, Patty Friedmann, Jack Hodgins. . .

10. What are you reading at the moment?

I am one of the lucky few who are reading an advance copy of YOUR book, Nadine. That's right, I'm reading Fashionably Late. (ha ha! Thanks Wendy!)

11. What advice would you give to budding authors?

If you really want it, don't give up. It took me 5 years, 3 novels and 137 rejections to get a book deal, but it happened. I'd also recommend Writer's Market as a resource. It was like a bible for me when it came to how to formatting a manuscript, writing a query letter, knowing who to approach, etc.

12. What can readers expect from you in the future?

They can expect a new novel, titled "Full of It" in 2007. Beyond that is top secret (okay, I don't actually know what they should expect beyond that. . .)

Thank you, Wendy, for the great interview, not to mention, giving away autographed copies of one of each of your books! That’s right folks – we’ll be giving away three books today, sMothering, Going Coastal, and After the Rice. And the surprise gift of the day? Mini coco taxis! (Don’t know what these are? Check out the ‘Cuba Si!’’ page on my website)

Now for our educational question of the day:

How many Americans have Arab ancestry?
a) 50,000
b) 750,000
c) 3,000,000
d) 11,000,000

Don’t forget – you can find the answer by browsing this site (this time the answer is pulled directly from the site, so no tricks!) . Good luck

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Nadine's Website Promo Blitz Week - Day 1

Finally!!! It's here! The website I have been spending every moment of my spare time working on is now up and running! Yippeee!

In honor of this momentous event, I've been busy busy busy putting together a star-studded lineup of authors who will share with us their thoughts on life, fashion, and the writing process (mainly the writing process) over the next week. AND, every day of Website Promo Blitz Week I'll be giving away a signed copy of the author's latest release AND a surprise gift that's in some way related to my novel, Fashionably Late.

Just in case you think I'm kidding, here's our author lineup:

Monday - JoAnn Hornak, author of Adventures of a Salsa Goddess
Tuesday - Wendy French, author of After the Rice
Wednesday - Cathy Yardley, author of Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel
Thursday - Shannon McKelden, author of the upcoming Venus Envy
And, last but certainly not least... the fabulous Jane Green!!!

Them's the rules: There will be one or more prizes up for grabs every day over the next five days. Winner gets a copy of the featured author's book as well as one of the prizes seen in the picture above. To be eligible for the draw, you have to correctly answer the Daily Question which I will post at the end of the interview. The questions have been designed to be fun and educational (do I sound like a PBS announcer yet??!). No seriously, seeing as the main character in Fashionably Late is a Lebanese North American, I thought it would be fun (and yes, educational) to have a contest designed around this theme. If nothing else, you will come away from this experience with some quirky trivia you can impress friends and colleagues with at your next cocktail party. All the answers are very easily googleable, and, as though that weren't enough, I will tell you exactly which site you can go to to find them. You may have to do five minutes worth of digging when you get there, but it'll be (say it with me now) fun and educational, I promise. You enter the draw by going to the
In Touch page on my website and leaving me a message with your answer (and anything else you feel like communicating to me - I'm open). You have one day (ie until the next post goes up early the following morning) to leave me your comment. I'll anounce the winners of the previous draw at around lunchtime everyday. Ery'tin Ay'ry? Good.

Now, without further ado, our first featured author of the week, JoAnn Hornak.

First, the totally delicious cover of JoAnn's debut novel caught my eye (tall, dark & handsome, not to mention light-on-his-feet dude dipping a blonde in a sparkly pink dress). A salsa aficionado myself (caught the bug on my first trip to Cuba), the title sang to me: Adventures of a Salsa Goddess. I picked up the book, dove into the opening paragraph, and didn't come back up for air until my legs started to go numb from standing in the Borders aisle for too long. JoAnn's witty and well-paced novel would sit on the edge of my writing desk and inspire me to keep on writing on those days when I found myself wondering if my life wouldn't be better fulfilled with a full bag of BBQ Lays, my couch, and the full set of Sex and the City DVDs.

A teaser, if you will:

They say a never-married woman over forty has a better chance of winning a million-dollar lottery than getting married. Samantha Jacobs plans to beat the odds...

This New Year's Eve, Samantha Jacobs is finally getting married. Everything
for her fabulous wedding has already been arranged - except for one teensy
detail. She still has to get herself a groom. It's all part of her assignment
for Tres Chic magazine, inspired by her boss's determination to publish
a story proving those nasty statistics wrong. So Samantha is sent to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, statistically the worst city in the world in which to snag
a husband - to find herself someone smart, successful, and hunky.

Now this gorgeous 41-year-old Cinderella has just one summer to meet the man of her dreams and fall madly in love. That's fine with her, as long as it isn't with her too young, too poor, too sexy new salsa teacher. Even if he does have all the right moves...

So why did this novel, amongst many set against the magazine publishing world and dealing with marriage angst grab me so much? Besides the quality of the writing, a level of hilarity that had me rolling on the floor clutching my stomach, and hot Latin characters for which I am a huge sucker, it was when JoAnn began delving into the salsa scene in a random North American club that she really nailed it. It didn't matter that the book was set in Milwaukee, it could have been Cubanos in Montreal, or any city for that matter. Salsa has a peculiar kind of grip on some people, becoming a quasi-obsession, an obsession that brings you outside of yourself, makes you skilled at something most people would love to be able to do, infects you with romanticism and carries you to a world of where it's hot and sultry, where "the man is the frame and the woman the picture", if only for a couple of hours a week. And it's a world JoAnn knows very well, something that comes across strongly in her novel.

Though Salsa Goddess was penned a few years ago, it came to light this year that the 1980's Newsweek headline which became gospel to so many women (and perhaps nudged them into some less-than-ideal marriages?...) was in fact completely bogus. A marketing experiment gone horribly wrong. The statistic had misled women everywhere by drawing upon completely irrelevant assumptions (for example, that women would only marry men on average three years older than them, which meant that only a tiny sliver of bachelors out there were considered marriage material), and used a sample population that had an abnormally skewed men-to-women ratio.

Huh. Newsweek issued an apology. Too little, too late, I say. But I digress. Today the salsa goddess herself joins us to talk about writing, dance, and grinding wheat germ in Tanzania...

1. You have a background in law and a few years of globetrotting under your belt. What inspired you to write fiction?

In 1999 I took a one-year unpaid leave of absence from my job as an Assistant District Attorney to volunteer in Tanzania. (I volunteered through a great organization called Visions in Action. Volunteering in a developing country was something I'd wanted to do since college. I was getting burnt out with my job so the timing was right. Luckily, I brought my laptop with me and because there was so little to do at night - no TV, no shopping malls, movie theatres, etc., I started writing by keeping a detailed journal of my daily adventures in Africa. I sent excerpts from my journal to an e-mail list of about 50 people who started passing them on to other people. Soon I was overwhelmed with feedback about how funny my e-mails were and many people asking me if I'd ever thought about being a writer. By the end of the year, I was convinced it was something I needed to try. I went back to the D.A.'s office for one more year and then quit to try my hand at writing. I've never looked back.

2. Do you have a writing routine, if so, what is it?

For Adventures of a Salsa Goddess, I learned that what works for me is to write 1,000 words a day and I write 5 or 6 days a week. Sometimes that 1,000 words came quickly and other days it seemed to take forever. If I stopped at 800 words I would write 1,200 the next day. I was pretty disciplined about it.

3. How long does it take you to write a novel?

Adventures of a Salsa Goddess took a year. My second novel, which is much more complicated, is taking a lot longer. I am not a fast writer.

4. Are you a plotter, a pantster, or a little bit of both?

A little of both. I like to come up with an outline before I start writing but it is not very detailed - maybe a paragraph or two per chapter. I like to see where my imagination takes me while writing and I learn a lot about my characters as I write, not the other way around.

5. What has been the most rewarding aspect of publication for you?

Getting feedback from fellow salsa lovers like you Nadine! (aww, shucks...) It has been really been so rewarding to know that people enjoyed my book and felt they could relate to the salsa scenes. Also, I've been able to encourage many people to finally write that novel they've had stuck in their hearts and heads for years. I was one of those people who thought I could NEVER write a book.

6. What's the biggest myth about being a writer?

That it's glamorous. It's actually a lot of hard work and I've had to learn how to promote myself, something I'm not comfortable with.

7. What advice would you give to budding authors?

Believe in yourself and don't give up. Imagine the cover of your book and don't listen to the people who say you only have a one in a million chance of getting published. And, stick to your writing schedule, whatever that may be, especially on the days when you don't want to write. Get the first draft of your book down on paper and then revise, otherwise you may never get beyond the first chapter.

8. What can readers expect from you in the future?

My second novel is also a romance with a lot of humor but has several main characters, instead of one, and a serious theme running through it about not letting fear stop you from following your heart. And yes, there is some salsa dancing in it although not as much as Salsa Goddess. Also, I just took a wine immersion course in Napa Valley and am thinking of a mystery novel set in the wine world.

9. Who are some of the authors that inspired you when writing Salsa Goddess?

Definitely Jennifer Weiner and Helen Fielding. I especially loved Helen Fielding's spoof on the spy world, Olivia Joules and The Overactive Imagination.

10. In Salsa Goddess, Samantha's relationship with Javier is attacked by her mother and boss because they both view the young roofer-by-day/salsa-stud by night is not worthy of anything beyond a fling. Samantha herself thinks this at times. Do you think society conditions us, even in this day and age, to choose partners within our own social/financial spheres? Do you think this is universal, or something that could change?

I think this kind of social/economic snobbery exists in certain parts of the country. Luckily, in my own family, this couldn't be further than the truth. As for whether this needs to change, I believe that anytime someone limits who they will socialize with or have a romantic relationship with, they are only hurting themselves. There are a lot of very interesting, wonderful people out there who don't have blue blood or a trust fund.

12. How did your love of Latin dancing come about?

Right after I quit the District Attorney's office, a friend invited me to go Swing dancing. I was shocked to find 100 people there, about half men, half women, on a Tuesday night in Milwaukee. I started going every Tuesday until a few weeks later someone told me they were also taking Salsa lessons. I started salsa, instantly fell in love with it and gave up Swing dancing after a couple months.

13. Okay - you knew there would be a desert island question somewhere. Here it is: if you had to be stuck on a desert island with a laptop (one that magically never runs out of power), an iPod loaded with Latin music, or a younger, unmarried Antonio Banderas, which would you choose?

Antonio Banderas, por supuesto! A laptop could get very lonely and we could always hum our tunes as we salsa and tango on the beach under the moonlight and tell each other stories (okay, yes, a little unrealistic and sappy but what did you expect from a romance writer.)

JoAnn has very graciously donated TWO autographed copies of Adventures of a Salsa Goddess to be given away today. And the first set of surprise prizes going to the lucky winner of the draw is... authentic Cuban art!!! I'm giving away the painting of the Plaza de la Catedral as well the set of two mini prints. Both of these were purchased from the Calle Tacon market in Old Havana.

Now, to win one of today's two giveaways, you must correctly answer the following question (if you're stumped, you can find the answer by surfing this very educational - and sometimes surprising -

Which of the following actresses is NOT of Arab descent?

a. Shannon Elizabeth
b. Selma Hayek
c. Demi Moore
d. Marisa Tomei

I will be drawing two names amongst those who guess correctly and send me their answers via the In Touch page on my website. You have until the next time I sit at my computer to compose the next post, say 8 am Tuesday morning Cayman Islands (i.e. central) time. Good luck!