Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last Day In Los Angeles

Well, today is our (hopefully) last day in L.A. I've had a great time here, but I'm anxious about home. Part of me wants to flee to Hawaii so I can avoid seeing New York City in ruins, but I also want to get home to my friends, family, cat, apartment and my real life.

We made the most of today by visiting museums in the L.A. area. We first stopped by the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum. It's tiny, but houses some beautiful work and also has a great sculpture garden. We hung out there for a while and it was very peaceful. We then went to the California Science Center to see the new Endeavor shuttle exhibit. That was cool! We got to ride in a space simulator and enjoyed a 3D IMAX movie about the Hubble Telescope.

Still, as much fun as I've had here and despite my mixed feelings about returning home to a disaster zone, I am looking forward to my next projects. My Virtual Book Tour kicked off today; head over there to get your chance to win some cool prizes. Meanwhile, my interview at YA Promo Central goes live tomorrow! And I, of course, want to get going on my next book.

So wish me luck as we attempt to fly from L.A. to Philly, and then drive to NYC. And don't forget to read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Join Me On My Virtual Book Tour!

It's the first day of my book tour for REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD! Sorry I haven't posted as much as I'd promised; Hurricane Sandy did some damage on my family's home and we're still in California due to canceled flights. Needless to say, my mind has been elsewhere. But I'm trying to get back into gear (especially since I'm not sure if I'll have Internet or power when we return to New York)so let's get this thing started!

Today, my tour begins at the prime hosting site Virtual Book Cafe. Head over to this link and you can sign up to win that grand prize giveaway that I previously wrote about: one winner selected will get a free copy of BAND GEEK, a free autographed FLUTE PATH CD and a free pair of handmade G clef music earrings. Meanwhile, I'll also be giving away more free copies of my book. So head over there or to their Facebook page and sign up. All you need to do is click and add your name; it's that easy.

Tomorrow, my tour heads to Cindy Vine's Blog, where I'll be writing a guest post. Make sure you follow me there and check it out!

Meanwhile, please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Free Kindle Books! Special Giveaway!

Just two more days until my Virtual Book Tour for BAND GEEK takes off! As I said earlier, I will be doing interviews and guest blog posts. I'll also be offering some exciting giveaways and freebies for readers!

In addition to giving away several free copies of my Kindle book, one GRAND PRIZE winner from the tour will get a very special triple treat: a FREE book, a FREE pair of handmade earrings and a FREE autographed copy of my jazz flute CD! Here is some more information on each prize.

A FREE copy of REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD (sent by me as a Kindle gift)

My ebook follows the story of Melinda, a shy high school flute player who loses her seat in band to popular girl Kathy. Mel teams up with cute trumpet player Josh and they plot to take down Kathy. Along the way, Mel and Josh fall in love, but Melinda begins to question Josh's behavior -- and is forced to grow up as she deals with some tough decisions.

So far, BAND GEEK is getting rave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads! Many are saying that though it's a high school story, readers of all ages will enjoy it. I describe it as a dark comedy, a la Heathers or Welcome To The Dollhouse or Election. There's drama, friendship, romance, suspense; all in all, it's a very fast-paced read. This will be a chance to get a copy for FREE!


In my book, Melinda loves to play the flute. I also play in real life and this is an example of my work. This CD was a true challenge for me to put together. I composed all of the songs, taking inspiration from jazz greats like Dave Brubeck. I then played both the flute AND piano parts (I hired a drummer and guitarist). Many ask how I played both and the answer is simple: I first recorded the piano section and then played flute over it. I didn't play both instruments at the same time! Still, piano is not my best instrument; I describe myself as being conversational on piano and fluent on flute. So it was interesting to get my piano playing up to a level where it sounded good enough to record.

FREE pair of handmade Treble Clef earrings!

When I'm not writing or making music, I run my two jewelry businesses Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations. All of my pieces are handmade by me and these earrings are no exception. They're made from 20 gauge silver plated copper wire, which I twisted into a G-clef. On the ends hang Swarovski crystal hearts. The winner will get to choose which color heart he or she wants. I make earrings in many designs, but wanted to go with a musical theme in honor of BAND GEEK.

So there you have it. These are the three items that I'll be giving away to ONE grand prize winner on my book tour. So keep checking in on this blog for updates and that day's tour location. And make sure to read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD!

Random Acts Of Kindness In California

I had an absolutely wonderful time yesterday with my cousin Rachael and her friends. For her birthday, Rachael wanted to perform "random acts of kindness," so a bunch of us met up in a park near the ocean in Long Beach and formed a "kindness mob." We then approached, well, random people and Rachael would hand them a small wrapped gift. She gave a tub of Play-Doh to a mom and little girl and California Pizza Kitchen gift certificate to the man who took our photo, among others. I didn't hand out any gifts, but I liked being outside in the sunshine with new friends.

One thing that pleasantly surprised me was that every person accepted the little gifts without much question. The Play-Doh even got the little girl to stop crying! I wasn't expecting people to be so willing to take things from strangers because we're a pretty suspicious bunch in New York City. We're all, "If you see something, say something," so we'd probably call the cops on someone who as handing out presents. Sad, but true.

However, Rachael is pretty tiny and youthful looking so she hardly looks dangerous. The most suspicious anyone got was the man who took our picture and kind of looked at us like "WTF?" when she handed him the gift certificate. Rachael now wants to hand out gifts in Central Park so she can see what happens. I told her that if she wants to take on an even bigger challenge, she should hand them out while wearing a tinfoil hat.

That evening, we celebrated Rachael's birthday at a garlic-themed restaurant in Beverly Hills called The Stinking Rose. There, I got to meet her uncle from her dad's side of the family (in other words, not related to me), as well as some other friends. What's interesting is that the uncle is also a writer, mainly of short stories. It makes me wonder if certain talents and types of creativity are genetic? It's funny how Rachael and I spent years not knowing of the other, but she, too, is a writer and plays the flute.

Only two more days of vacation and then it's back to the grind -- but it will be an exciting grind since it's the start of my book tour. Woo hoo!

Meanwhile, please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shake, Rattle And Roll

I've been thinking a lot about Hurricane Sandy and my friends and family back East. I hope that the storm turns out to be not as bad as feared; I also hope that we can fly back on Wednesday when scheduled and that we have power.

But is seems as if I can't escape Mother Nature. Apparently there was a minor earthquake in the Los Angeles area this morning. Yikes! That would be terribly ironic if I escaped Sandy only to have to deal with The Big One out here.

Being a New Yorker, I haven't experienced too many earthquakes, only very minor ones. Last year, we felt the shaking that came from the quake in Virginia. It was very minor; it almost felt like the subway were running beneath our building. However, we didn't have a subway in that location so my officemate (who was from England, by the way) suspected that it was a quake. He looked it up online and yep... it was. It didn't feel like much of anything, but everyone in our office started screaming as if it were the end of the world. I love it. We can handle blizzards, storms, mass power outages... but a quake makes us shriek like babies.

The good news is, no natural disasters ruined last night's dinner. It was SO good to see my Soap Opera Digest friends and catch up on old times. These particular editors have always been very supportive of my writing and continue to be supportive of my book. I appreciate that because I feel as if they know what they're talking about!

We also talked a lot about how print media is dying. Much as I love the idea of books being online, I'm saddened that most traditional magazines and newspapers are having to switch formats or are just completely folding. There's something to be said about holding a glossy magazine in your hands when you're reading on a train or in the doctor's office... or are standing in line at the supermarket. Plus, print media was really good to me. I enjoyed all of my reporting experiences from writing for the small papers to the national magazines. I'll never forget the thrill of picking up a paper that was hot off the press, being able to smell the ink -- and seeing my byline in print. Digital media reaches a much wider audience, but I do miss those days when I got to be a "classic" newspaper reporter. I'm glad that I got to experience what's sure to be the tail end of print media as we know it.

Anyway, I'm off to celebrate Rachael's birthday and to participate in our Random Acts Of Kindness project. I'm also going to be posting more BAND GEEK excerpts in honor of my upcoming book tour, so stay tuned!

And, of course, please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Greetings From California -- New Twitter Address!

Hello from sunny California! We're having a great time in Los Angeles. The weather is gorgeous and we're missing the "Frankenstorm" Sandy that's barreling toward the East Coast. Seems like we picked a good time to get out of town.

My cousin lives in a beautiful Spanish-style ranch with nice, open rooms. She and her husband have two dogs and an African Gray Parrot -- and the bird and I are roomies! Their guest room also doubles as the room where the parrot's cage is kept, so I got to sleep with the bird last night (not in the bed; he was safe in his cage). When I awoke this morning, the bird was staring right at me.

Last night, I had a couple of odd experiences. First, I was jolted awake when I heard an electronic voice barking at me from beneath the mattress. I thought tht I was going crazy -- or the house was haunted. But when I woke a bit more, I realized that it was one of those toys that says things. I managed to dislodge it and it stopped talking to me, but man, did that freak me out. I then woke again around 4 a.m. and could see a single bright star when I looked out the window. I didn't expect to see any stars in Los Angeles, so this one was super bright. I'm thinking that maybe it was Venus?

Once we were up for real, we spent the day relaxing, reading, writing and puttering around the neighborhood. We're having a barbecue tonight and I'm going to reunite with a couple of my old pals from Soap Opera Digest. I worked with these guys for 14 years so it's going to feel weird seeing them with me no longer working for the magazine. Still, we'll always share a bond because we went through something together that not too many people can understand. Tomorrow, I'm seeing an old childhood friend who is also in the publishing industry. It's cool to be surrounded by so many other writers.

Meanwhile, some exciting news -- I finally set up an official Naomi Rabinowitz Author page on Twitter, so I'm no longer using my jewelry page for book tweets. My handle is simply @NaomiRabinowitz Check in and follow me so you can get news on me and my book!

And you can still get REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD for 99 cents!

Friday, October 26, 2012

California Dreamin'

Greetings from 38,000 feet! Right now, I'm on a plane to Los Angeles. I've never used in-flight WiFi before and I have to say that it feels weird to be communicating with all of you Earth people while I'm in the air.

I'm heading out to see my cousin Rachael, who, as I'd previously mentioned, edited my final version of BAND GEEK. Since she's my cousin, friend and editor, does that make her my ... creditor? Heh.

I'm excited to meet more family whom I haven't yet met. My immediate family is very small, so it's nice to get in touch with more relatives. It's even nicer when said blood relations become friends.

Rachael has a lot of weird, but fun ideas for us, such as doing a zombie walk and taking dancing lessons. She also wants to do this thing called "Random Acts Of Kindness." I can't wait to see what goes into that!

It will also be nice to take a few days off from the craziness of my book launch. It's been fun, but busy, and it's only going to get more so when I return. Though I will keep blogging and will fill you in on my California adventures.

Until then, please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents.


Here are a couple more excerpts from BAND GEEK:

Josh offers to drive home Melinda for the first time and she's surprised by his car. FYI, my mother-in-law, Sharon, is an avid Star Trek fan, so his car decor is in her honor:

Josh led me across the parking lot to his car, which turned out to be an old, beat-up station wagon. Several bumper stickers were plastered onto the pea-green vehicle, including ones that said, "Honk if you love Tribbles!" and "I break for Spock."

"What?" Josh said, when he caught me chuckling. "This belonged to my Aunt Sharon. She really loves Star Trek."

"I'm sorry," I said. "This just isn't the type of car I expected you, of all people, to be driving. I thought you'd have something cooler, like a motorcycle." I tried to open the door to the passenger side but it wouldn't budge. He crawled across the driver's seat and pushed it open for me.

"It only opens from the inside," he explained. "But really," he went on, as he cleared a bunch of soda cans off my seat (none were Coke, I noticed). "What did you expect me to drive? I mean, I'm 16 and have hardly any money. I'm just glad my aunt was getting rid of this old thing."

"Well, you're lucky you have your license at all. My parents don't seem too anxious to teach me how to drive when I get my permit." Actually, they haven't wanted to discuss it at all. Whenever I bring up the idea of getting my permit, my mom will be like, "You don't need to drive. There are a lot of crazy people out there." I think she's so reluctant for me to get my license because she hardly drives herself, only on Long Island, but never in the city. But I love the idea of being able to get in a car and go wherever I want. I love the thought of being able to escape when I need to.

Josh turned on the engine and the car made a few choking sounds. "Get someone else to teach you to drive," he said. "It's not like your parents can make you do what they say forever."

"You don't know my parents," I sighed.

In this excerpt, Mel talks about her paintings. Fun fact: In college, I had several Dali posters in my room. I then invited over this guy I liked ... and he was horrified by the paintings. He thought that I was "sweet and nice" and was appalled that I liked Dali's out-there work. Needless to say, he and I didn't end up dating...:

For my last birthday, Lana gave me a professional painting kit, mainly because she thought I needed a hobby other than playing the flute. "It's perfect for you," she said as I opened her gift. "It's artsy and it's the type of thing you can do for hours without having to talk to anyone."

At the time, I'd jokingly told her to shut up, that I'm not that much of a shut-in, but she is right about me loving the arts. Before my dad started working such long hours and my mom began to take care of my grandfather, they'd take me to the city to see concerts and visit the museums. My favorite was the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met is huge; it took us all day to go through about a quarter of it, but I loved how every time we entered a different wing, it felt as if we were going into a new world.

As for my own paintings, I've been on a Salvador Dali kick lately. After Lana gave me her present, I purchased a bunch of art books so I could see what various painters' styles are like. I really like Dali's. His stuff is really strange; for instance, he has this one painting called "The Persistence Of Memory" that has all of these melted clocks in it. I love how his stuff looks like one thing at first and if you keep looking at it, you see something else.

So I've been trying to do some Dali-like paintings myself. Right now, I'm working on one where I'm making everything in my room appear melt-y. I was in the middle of painting a melted version of my bed (which is harder than it looks because the cover is floral and I had to make all the flowers look distorted) when I heard someone come home. I looked at my clock (which isn't melted, by the way); it was 9 p.m.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents!

Countdown To My Virtual Book Tour!

My VBT is all set and kicks off in just a few days! It begins on October 31 and will run through November 23. During that time, I will be featured in guest blog posts, share excerpts from BAND GEEK and will be doing a few author interviews. Plus, I'm GIVING STUFF AWAY! In addition to giving away free copies of my ebook, one grand prize winner will receive my book, an autographed copy of my CD FLUTE PATH and a pair of my handmade treble clef earrings. So check in each day, download my book and leave comments, especially if you want a chance to win my grand giveaway prize.

Here are the details and dates for my tour:

October 31 - VBT Cafe' Blog

November 2 - Guest Blogging at Cindy Vine's Blog

November 2 - Guest Blogging at A Book So Fathomless

November 5 - Guest Blogging at The Official Blog-Zine of Terra Little

November 7 - Reviewed at Oh Chrys!

November 9 - Book Feature & Excerpt at Dream Big, Read Often

November 12 - Interviewed at Reviews & Interviews

November 14 - Book Feature & Excerpt at Blooding Book Reviews

November 16 - Guest Blogging at Wise Words

November 19 - Guest Blogging at Lori's Reading Corner

November 21 - Reviewed at Teena in Toronto

November 23 - Interviewed at Angels & Warriors Radio

November 23 - Book Feature & Excerpt at Library Geek Girl

Meanwhile, please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Writing The NEXT Novel

Now that BAND GEEK has found its home on Amazon, I'm thinking about my next book. It's been difficult to get into that frame of mind, because I've been so caught up in BAND GEEK's release and promotion. But the best way to succeed as a writer is to keep on writing. I have many more ideas for stories and am excited about actually putting them into print.

Right now, I'm still in the outline stage of Book No. 2. I can't say too much about it at this point except that it's going to focus on the friendship between a straight girl and a gay guy -- kind of like a younger Will & Grace. Josh and Melinda have a traditional romantic love story in BAND GEEK, but this is going to be a different sort of love story -- a platonic one.

I have my main characters' names and basic personalities down and I have some ideas for a working title and plot. The trick is now putting it all together ... and then editing, editing, editing. I woke up a couple of nights ago all excited because I finally came up with a solid ending to my story. Still, nothing will be definite untill I actually see my tale and characters come alive on the page.

I shared some of my ideas with a good friend and he was very excited and enthusiastic. This is a good start and means that my story is at least potentially interesting. Tying it all together is the real challenge, though!

My plan is as follows: after I return from California, I have two weeks of my book tour for BAND GEEK. I'm going to concentrate on that and then get down to business on my second book. I'd love to have four or five chapters wrapped up by the end of the year, and then have the story ready to go sometime in 2013. Given how long it took me to get BAND GEEK out there, this is a tall order, but I have confidence that I can do it. So stay tuned for more news about my next novel!

Please read and review my first novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents on Kindle!

Writing A Novel: Rejection Blues

If you're writing a book or are thinking about writing one, I can give you one guarantee: There will be at least someone out there who doesn't like your work.

If you plan to send a manuscript to agents or editors, be prepared for this fact, because they're going to reject you harder than any unrequited love ever did. Don't take it personally. They're just doing their jobs and are looking at your idea as a possible business investment and not just as a form of entertainment.

When my first round of rejections from agents rolled in, I took it really hard. There was one agency who'd liked my manuscript enough to ask for it in its entirety. I got my hopes up ... and it was sent back with a note saying that my book started off strongly, but then went downhill and that my narrator, Melinda, was "wound too tight." Ouch! I cried for hours, thinking that my dream was over. Which was ridiculous. I'd just gotten started at this point!

I quickly grew a thicker skin and got used to the rejections. Some were form letters: "Sorry, but your book is not the right fit for our agency." Some agents were very nice about it: "You're story is great and I love your writing, but I don't have the right connections to properly sell it." Others offered some sound editing notes: "I didn't find X scene with Mel and Josh to be very realistic. You might want to work on that and then consider resubmitting."

I actually came to value the last kind of rejection. It meant that a busy agent had enough faith and interest in me to read my work and make notes on it. Plus, I was getting some valuable critiques in the process. I really tried to listen to their notes and work with them if I felt that they'd genuinely help improve my story.

Now that BAND GEEK is on Kindle, I'm gearing up for a different type of rejection: rejections from readers. Right now, my ratings on Amazon and Goodreads have been four and five stars, but I'm not delusional enough to think that all of my reviews will be that positive. SOMEONE out there is going to hate BAND GEEK. He or she will find Josh's schemes unrealistic or Mel and Josh's relationship to be lame, or will just hate band geeks in general. I don't know what it will be, but if I sell a lot of copies -- and that IS my goal -- I have to take the bad with the good. In my past job, I dealt with a lot of celebs who called anyone who was against them a "hater," but I don't want to automatically assume that about my future detractors. Our tastes vary and someone might just not like my writing.

This doesn't mean that I'm looking forward to getting bad reviews. Quite the opposite! I hope that I continue to get 4 and 5-star ratings and that everyone loves, loves, loves my work. That's what we all want as writers, right? But after already surviving some major rejections, I know that it sucks -- but it isn't the end of the world. You might even learn from them.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents!

Publishing On Kindle: Technology Is Awesome

I'm not a very technology-oriented person. I never feel a rush to buy the latest gadget and don't own n iPad, iPod or even a working DVR. I've never used Skype. I didn't get a cell phone until 2007 and I haven't felt the need to upgrade. I can't send e-mails or photos from it, but it works just fine if I need to call or text friends.

Still, I can't ignore the fact that I wouldn't have the career that I do if it weren't for technology. All of my ventures from selling my writing to selling my jewelry take place online. I network using social media sites like this blog, Facebook and Twitter. And I'm almost never without my trusty laptop. I use it for everything from watching movies to reading books. It's my lifeline.

My husband and I had a recent discussion about technology and how much basic communication has changed in even the past 10 years. When we were kids (both children of the 70s/80s), our vision of the "future" mainly centered around big changes in transportation. We expected teleportation and flying cars. But it's really entertainment and communication that have been revolutionized -- and our tech just keeps getting better.

I was reminded of this today during a cab ride, of all places. I'm leaving for California for a few days, so I dropped my cat off to stay with our vet. The cab driver who picked me up to take me back home ended up being the nice guy who drove me quite often when I broke my leg a few years ago. He asked what I've been up to and I told him about my book (even though he's way out of my demographic, but hey!). He took out his Kindle Fire and spoke my novel's title into the speaker ... and there it was, ready to be purchased! So cool! It was like something right out of The Jetsons.

I don't know if I'll be buying any gadgets any time soon. I'm happy listening to music on my laptop and don't have a burning desire to get the most high-tech cell phone that's out there. But I am grateful for how good the Internet has been for writers, artists and musicians, and can't wait to see what comes along next.

Please read and review my 5-star novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Publishing With KDP Select: You're My Obsession

Sorry for the slow blogging. I've actually been busy writing guest blog posts for my upcoming virtual book tour. My VBT kicks off on October 31, so stay tuned for more information!

Meanwhile, I think that the free Kindle book promotion has ruined me. During my two freebie days, it was so much fun to see my book's numbers rise. It got to the point where I was checking in every two minutes to see how many people had downloaded BAND GEEK.

And now I'm still checking in. Unfortunately, my stats have slowed down considerably and it's just not as much fun to head to the page. But yet I keep checking in to see if anyone has bought or reviewed my book. I feel like a crazy person who's repeating her actions over and over again.

I think that I keep looking at my stats because this is still very new to me. When I first set up my jewelry store on Etsy, I'd check in all of the time, but I now only click on that page a couple of times a day. I'm still not used to seeing my book on Amazon, though, so it remains a novelty.

I'd like to think that I will never get used to getting good reviews; that it will always be exciting to hear that someone likes my work. So for now, I'll continue to obsess over my stats and enjoy every increase and new review.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thoughts About Self Publishing And Indie Publishing

When I started writing BAND GEEK in 2002, there was no way that I would've considered self-publishing my novel. At the time, I felt as if that were the last resort, a thing that a "writer" did if his or her work sucked and had no other choice. 10 years later, my very humbled older self knows how much more complicated the situation is -- and readily welcomes the changes that have taken place within the publishing industry.

When it came to getting my work noticed, I didn't do too badly the first time around. I received plenty of rejection letters, but was ultimately asked to sign on with two agencies -- and actually got to be the one who rejected one of them. I signed on with Jean V. Naggar's literary agency and had very high hopes. I was going to sell millions of copies of my book and be rich! BAND GEEK would be made into a movie! I even had an idea of who I'd cast for certain roles. Back then, I thought that a not-so-messed-up Lindsay Lohan would've made a great Kathy.

Well, things didn't work out as I'd hoped. My agent was great. She was very supportive and gave me some wonderful editing notes. She's the one who'd suggested that I change my title from its original name WHO'S ON FIRST? That's when I came up with REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

My manuscript was sent to a dozen houses that handle YA books and it got a lot of positive responses. Most publishers liked my general story. Two houses actually came close to purchasing it, but wanted me to make a few changes. But no one was on board with it 100 percent. Some editors didn't like the beginning. Some loved the opening, but hated the ending. Some thought Melinda was too immature. Some thought that she was too wise beyond her years. I kept making small changes in an attempt to please everyone, but it felt as if I were twisting my book into a pretzel. I was open to constructive criticism; I wanted to make my book as good as possible, but it just wasn't working out. It wasn't just the story that mattered; its earning potential and marketing abilities were also concerns. I wanted to sell that "perfect" story to them, but couldn't figure out how to do so.

Finally, my agent exhausted all of her YA connections and basically dumped me as a client. But I have absolutely not hard feelings. She was just doing her job and had run out of options for me. I was disappointed, but didn't take it personally. As I said, she was great and really encouraged me.

I continued writing for fun and with the hope of finding another agent. Meanwhile, my husband and I came up with an amazing idea for a quirky travel guide. I'd rather not give too much information away because this is something that we're still working on, but we put together an outline and business plan. We then landed an agent (sorry, I forget her name) and she sent our outline to about 20 publishing houses.

The editors LOVED it. They went crazy over our idea and were all prepared to gvive us an advance. I was ecstatic. I seriously thought that our book would be part of a bidding war. Again, my head filled with dreams of riches, best seller lists and all that jazz.

This time, it was the marketing people who hated us. The marketing people! They couldn't figure out where our book would go in a bookstore since it straddled two categories and so they refused to take it. We were so disappointed!

It was at this point that I began to get frustrated with the publishing industry. Don't get me wrong, I think that traditional publishing is still very important. But it felt as if I had to cross one obstacle after another from landing an agent to pleasing the marketing people. Moreover, the number of people whom I was trying to please really isn't that large because the publishing industry is pretty incestuous. It may seem that you have a choice of many agents or editors, but only a certain percentage will even look at your genre. And then there are sub genres within that genre, i.e. "YA Paranormal Romance." In the end, it's only a handful of people who decide your fate. Do they really represent the opinions of the general public?

This is why I decided to become an indie author. Is it because I couldn't get my book sold to a traditional publisher? Yes. I wish it had been sold, but I gave it my best shot. However, the industry has changed and being an indie writer comes with so many exciting possibilities. I call the shots. I get to participate in my cover's design. I get to market my work. I get to plan my book tours and speaking engagements. I get to choose my own deadlines and release dates. I can write my story the way that I want to without having to worry about pleasing anyone else ... except, of course, all of my readers. Which is who we're all trying to cater to in the first place!

That said, I definitely take back any thoughts I ever had about self-publishers being "losers." There's some garbage online, but there are also many, many amazing and talented authors, many whom have "unmarketable" stories to tell. I'm so glad that we now have a platform where we can easily share our work.

I still think that there's a place for traditional publishing and I'm curious to see where it heads with ebooks growing more popular. I'm just thrilled that the Internet has provided writers, artists and musicians with so many thrilling opportunities.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents!

My Free Kindle Book Promotion Results

Well, it's the day after my free Kindle book promotion and the results are well ... mixed. On the one hand, my book rank has gone WAY up in several important categories. If you do a search on Amazon under "Young Adult Romance," BAND GEEK is now on the top of the second page! And if you click again on the link for Young Adult Romance books published in the last 30 days, I'm now No. 2! So my promotion has definitely given me a lot more visability.

Unfortunately, it didn't translate into any extra sales -- and because I've been doing this special promotion for the past two days, my overall sales rank on Amazon has dropped.

I'm not yet discouraged, though. I mean, BAND GEEK was published less than two weeks ago and already hundreds of people have downloaded it. Now I just have to hope that they actually read their free book and review it. I'm also hoping that my novel will start appearing in those "customers who bought this book also bought..." lists that appear on the Amazon pages.

I have three more free days to use before the end of the year when my 90-day contract with KDP Select expires. Next time, I intend to be more prepared. This time around, I promoted my giveaway with blog posts and Twitter blasts, but apparently there are dozens of sites that advertise free Kindle books. I came across this really useful blog by Katrina Parker Williams that lists them all. So next time, I intend to promote my book on all of these sites -- and reach that audience that's specifically looking for free ebooks.

Meanwhile, I just bought advertising space on The Kindle Book Review and will soon be doing a virtual book tour with Virtual Book Tour Cafe. Both kick off on October 31. I'm really looking forward to the tour, not only because I could make more sales, but because it'll be fun writing guest blog posts and doing radio interviews. I've never done either, so to me, that seems exciting.

I did put some money into these things, but I'm confident that it will be worth it in the end. Part of being an indie author is being a business person. It took me years to get my writing to a point where I felt comfortable enough to share it with the world. Everything else will work out in time, too.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Publishing A Book On Kindle: Finding A Good Editor

When it comes to editing my work, I'm pretty obsessive. At Soap Opera Digest, I'd read over articles multiple times and I did the same with BAND GEEK. And yet, I'm only human. There have been many times where I've read my work in print and have seen typos or have -- gasp! -- spelled an actor's name wrong. Trust me, I beat myself up over those errors; I didn't take them lightly. I'm sure that there are even typos in BAND GEEK. I did my best to catch them all, but no one is perfect.

This is why it's so important to have a capable person edit your work before it goes to print. At the magazine, we had a system of checks and balances where pages would be edited by multiple people. It wasn't 100 percent effective (again, we're all human), but it worked pretty well. For my book, I had several people do reads on it -- but I made sure that these were people who know how to write well and who'd give me an honest critique. Having friends and family read your manuscript is a great way to get some feedback, but it helps to have your work looked over by someone with actual editing skills.

I'm very fortunate in that I know other writers and journalists. My first draft was read by my journalism pal, Marybeth, who went through and commented on every single line. Meanwhile, I had my parents and several friends also look over and comment on it. But Marybeth was the one on whom I counted to offer serious writing critique.

For the next go-round, I had my novelist friend, Amy, go through the book. Marybeth then did another read. Again, they were both very honest and gave me some ideas of things to change.

For this most recent version, I got a nice surprise. Back in January, I received an e-mail from a young woman named Rachael who claimed to be my cousin from my mom's side of the family. I checked it out and she is indeed my second cousin. Turns out that she is also a writer/journalist, who writes personal histories for people. Basically, they tell her their life stories and she puts their history into a book. Her work is amazing.

She and I quickly bonded and she spent a week with us in June. She then graciously agreed to edit this final version of BAND GEEK. I asked her because I knew she'd be thorough and honest. And she was! She gave me such great feedback and had notes on everything from how I could improve certain lines to how I could make Josh and Melinda's relationship work better on paper. I've had many agents critique my work, but her notes rivaled any of theirs.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have journalist friends or a long-lost cousin who happens to be a writer, but you can still find someone capable to edit your book. Perhaps you have a friend who was an English major and teaches a writing course or perhaps you could turn to a former teacher for help. If not, consider joining a writing group or even take a writing class. You could hire a professional editor, but that can be very expensive. Plus, I think it's more helpful to figure out the editing on your own. Marybeth, Rachael and Amy didn't rewrite my work for me. They simply made suggestions and then it was up to me to implement them. A writing class or critique group will be helpful in the same way.

Even with all of this editing, I KNOW that BAND GEEK isn't perfect. I tried. I worked on this novel until my brain felt as if it would explode. Really, all I could do was make it as clean as possible -- and hope that my efforts paid off.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

FREE Kindle Book Promotion Continues....

OK, so apparently I'd signed up for two days of free promotion of my book instead of one. Oops! Oh, well, it seems to be working. REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD is now... drumroll, please ... #5 in the Free Kindle Store under Girls & Women (in the Children's Fiction subcategory); #9 under People And Places, #18 in Love & Romace and #437 OVERALL! That's right, it's #4-freaking-37 out of about 60,000 ebooks. Sweet!

I'm also moving up in other search categories; if you search under "Young Adult Romamce" and then click "Last 30 Days," I'm now on the first page! I was on Page 5 before. If you just click "Young Adult Romance," I'm now #103, whereas I was in the 800s before. So this crazy plan is definitely getting more eyeballs to my book. Any authors who are reading this: definitely try having a giveaway day!

Now the real challenge comes in seeing how my book fares AFTER the promotion is over. Will the momentum keep up or will it fall to the back of Kindle again? I hope not. I intend to keep this thing going.

Until then, you can continue to read for FREE, so go for it. Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD -- for FREE!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Promotion! FREE Kindle Book!

Just a reminder that I'm having a special sale on my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD. For two days only -- October 21 and 22 -- my book will be FREE in Amazon's Kindle store. So check it out!

FYI, you don't actually have to own a Kindle to download a Kindle book. You can get a free app that works with pretty much any computer, from a PC to an iPad. I have a Kindle app on my laptop.

If you download my book, please make sure to review it on my Amazon page. Let me know what you think!

Meantime, keep checking back with this blog for more reviews, behind-the-scenes stories about my books and for more of my thoughts on the writing process.

Publishing With KDP Select

After much thought, I've decided to enroll BAND GEEK in Kindle Direct Publishing's KDP Select program. Yes, you have to sell your ebook exclusively with them, but that contract is for only 90 days. Plus, you get five days during that period when you can sell your book for free.

Before making this decision, I read many articles from authors about their experience and most have been happy with the program. Many have seen sales take off after doing a freebie promotion. That said, I'm offering my first freebie promotion tomorrow. It's run for one day, Sunday, October 21. So make sure you check out BAND GEEK because I'm literally giving it away!

As I've said before, I'm not in this business for the money. I'll be happy if I can make a few thousand a year from writing. I'm really not expecting to get rich (though if I do, that will be very nice!). But I would like to get my work out there, have people read my words and be entertained. If doing a promotion like this helps with that then it will be worth losing some cash.

Please read and review my novel (for FREE on October 21!) REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

How Writing About Soaps Influenced My Own Writing

For 15 years, I wrote for soap magazines. I began as an intern at Soap Opera Weekly in 1997, then became a full-time staffer at its sister magazine, Soap Opera Digest. I stayed at SOD until I was let go earlier this year. No hard feelings. I consider myself lucky to have had such a unique job.

During that time, I've received many questions about working in the daytime industry, at least peripherally: "Do you have to watch all of the shows?" Answer: Yes, but each editor is given a specific beat and show to cover. "Have you ever met Susan Lucci?" Answer: Believe it or not, no. "Uh... what exactly do you DO?" Answer: A little bit of everything! Over the years I covered ONE LIFE TO LIVE, PASSIONS and BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL. I interviewed actors, went on set visits at the studio (when I was writing about NYC-based OLTL), wrote reviews and news stories about the shows and had a long list of other duties. It was great fun and occasionally glamorous, but a lot of work.

It was also one hell of a learning experience. When you're writing for a weekly magazine, you very quickly adjust to the ins and outs of putting out a publication. Deadlines were tight and when it came to writing, I had to think on my feet. If a three-page interview were due the next day and I didn't get to speak with the actor until the last minute, I didn't have time to dwell on every word. I had to get my piece out fast ... and make it sound great.

A huge part of my job involved critiquing the shows. There are challenges in writing effective positive and negative reviews, and I grew accustomed to dissecting every TV program. However, in writing about OTHERS' writing, I learned much about what to do -- and what not to do -- when it came to crafting my own novel.

For instance, one thing that we editors (and fans, too, for that matter) often complained about were "insta-romances." Soaps are built on romance and couples, and the shows would unfortunately attempt to speed up the process by having characters experience an instant love connection. They then robbed viewers of having the pleasure of watching people actually fall in love.

When it came to my characters, Melinda and Josh, I really took my time in getting them together. Yes, they start to interact in the first chapter, but it takes about half the book until they act as more than friends. And it takes even longer than that for them to actually get physical! Agnes Nixon, creator of OLTL and ALL MY CHILDREN once stated, "Make them laugh, make them cry and make them wait." I really tried to follow this advice.

Another soap-related concern of mine was how well shows used their vets and showcased the different generations. Some, like DAYS OF OUR LIVES, kept their vets front and center and gave storylines to characters of all ages. Other shows ... not so much. Though BAND GEEK is a teen novel, I still wanted to showcase Mel's family. One of the side storylines involves Melinda's stormy relationship with her mom. It's told from Mel's point of view, but over time you really begin to understand what her mother, Lydia, is feeling. Meanwhile, Josh's story is centered around his relationship with the band conductor, Mr. Francis. Mr. Francis is portrayed as a villain at the start of the book, but by the end he also has more depth -- and you can understand why he'd be fed up with a talented, but naughty, student like Josh.

That said, I made sure that characters were punished for their misdeeds. Too often, soap villains would get away with murder -- literally! Josh is not a bad guy, but he's an anti-hero; he does many wrong things for what he believes are the right reasons. He also does some very sweet things. In other words, he's human. But eventually, his actions catch up with him ... and he (hopefully) learns from his mistakes.

Finally, I made sure that my teens acted like, well, teens. There have been some amazing youthful storylines on soaps. My favorites include the tales of GENERAL HOSPITAL's Liz and Lucky, and DAYS's Belle and Shawn. However, there have also been many instances where soap teens act like younger adults and that's really not fun to watch. Most teens don't go around solving crimes (unless they're Veronica Mars -- and let's face it, most of us are just not cool enough to be her). But many teens can relate to school and family problems, or what it's like to have a boyfriend/girlfriend for the first time. Mel and Josh are on a mission to get back at Kathy, but the bulk of their story is about friendship and love.

When you've been a part of something for as long as I was, it sticks with you. I'll always be grateful for my time writing about daytime.

Please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Recommendation: 6 Seconds Of Life

Being a writer is hard enough. Being an indie author is even tougher because we have to market ourselves. We don't have a publishing house behind us to arrange book tours and interviews, etc. And, as I'm learning, many book review blogs ignore indie authors and will only do write-ups on novels that are published the old-fashioned way.

In some ways, I can understand this. It's so easy to publish on Kindle that anyone can do it -- which inevitably means that there will be some terrible indie books out there. Hell, you may even think that BAND GEEK is one of them, but trust me, there's worse!

Anyway, I'm attempting to start a little project called "Project Pay It Forward." What I intend to do is select and read promising-sounding indie YA books. If I think they're must-reads, I'll post reviews on this site and Amazon. This way, I can help give some publicity to those talented authors who've decided to go solo. I may be only one person and I'm a tiny fish in a huge pond, but I'd like to do what I can. I'm hoping that other indie authors will join me and will help pay it forward by reading and reviewing other great indie books. I'm not asking them to necessarily take a look at mine -- though it would be nice!

The first book that I'd like to share with you is called 6 SECONDS OF LIFE and is by Tonya Fitzharris. In short, it's about a suicidal teen who flashes back on her life while jumping off a bridge. Before she takes that fateful last step, a stranger muses that it takes about six seconds until one hits the water ... hence the intriguing title.

This book blew me away. It was honest, raw and you really felt for the narrator, Maura. In a short time, she deals with her parents' marriage crumbling, a shaky relationship with her first boyfriend and a disastrous freshman year at college. All at lot to take in, especially for someone so young. At times, she was very unlikeable and many of her decisions were questionable. However, she was REAL. Though she was flawed, she was ultimately a good person and I rooted for her to finally come to her senses and look to the future. I really wanted her to succeed.

I especially liked the realistic way in which the author portrayed teen relationships and a not-so-great start to college. Personally, my freshman year at Binghamton sucked. In high school I was always told that things would "get better" in college and I longed for those years. When they didn't get better, and in fact got worse, it was hard to deal with. Fitzharris ably conveys how lost one can feel during this time.

My one minor quibble with the book is that there were a few typos and grammatical mistakes ... but that's another issue that indie writers have to deal with: not always having a professional editor on hand unless you want to shell out big bucks. Overall, thought, I was impressed with this story and encourage you to check it out!

Meantime, please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now on sale for only 99 cents!

How I Fell In Love With YA Literature

When I decided to write a novel, it was no question that it was going to be a book about teens. What can be more angsty than being at an age where you're old enough to make some adult decisions, but are still so young that you haven't experienced much of the world?

I actually began reading YA books before I was a teen. As I've said before, I'm a huge fan of Judy Blume. While I loved her books aimed toward younger kids, like the Fudge series, I really enjoyed reading her books for older girls like, "Are You There God? It's Me Margaret." I read that when I was 9 and LEARNED things from that story. I wanted to hang out with Margaret and her friends.

A few years later, I got into the Sweet Valley High series. My grandmother had a friend whose son worked for a big publishing house -- Random House, I think -- and he'd send me stacks of free books. So for the next few years, I'd receive stacks and stacks of free Sweet Valley Highs and various other teen romances. My parents had always encouraged me to read classic authors like Mark Twain and Dickens, but I worked really hard in school and they understood that these books were my not-so-guilty pleasure. I devoured these YA novels, wishing that I could be as cool as Liz and Jessica, and wishing that I could be as pretty as the girls who were hired to model for the books' covers.

Whenever I read these books, I'd make up stories to go along with them. Much as I loved SVH, some of the books seemed to be a little thin for me so I'd think, "Hmmm... I would've had Jessica do this or Liz say that..." In the back of my mind, I always had a plan for writing a teen book of my own.

What's great is that YA books have really evolved. When I was a teen, most of the books that were considered to be strictly for teens were romances or series like SVH or All That Glitters. These days, you have many YA books that cover heavy topics like rape, abuse, etc. In my opinion, they're more sophisticated. Even the series like Gossip Girl are edgier. Let's face it -- Blair Waldorf would eat Jessica Wakefield for lunch!

Recently, I went back and read some of the books I had from my teen days. SVH still held up; it was fluffy and fun, and that's what it was meant to be. As one of my Soap Opera Digest colleagues once stated, SVH was basically a teen soap in book form. But some of the other YA books I had were AWFUL! And yet, I loved every one.

We really have come a long way in the YA industry. I hope that my novel entertains readers the way YA books entertained me in my youth.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now 99 cents!

Promotional Kindle Sale for BAND GEEK!

I've read many articles and books which offer advice on how to market your book on Kindle. Almost all suggest that you play around with the price and offer some promotional sales. So I'm doing just that and am currently offering REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD for just 99 cents! Less than a dollar -- that's pocket change!

I've debated whether I want to do this. Honestly, I feel like my book is worth more than that. I don't want to give readers the impression that this is a pile of junk and that's why I'm practically giving it away. But... every author does promotional work and I need to keep up. So 99 cents it is, at least for now. So get it while it's hot!

I'm still deciding if I want to sign up for Kindle Select. With this program, you get five days in a 90-day period where you can give away your book for free. It's a great way to get many readers and reviews, and move your book up the ranks. The only downside is that you can't sell your book on other sites like Smashwords. Still, 90 days isn't THAT long a period... I'm mulling it over.

For now, I'm going as low as I can with the regular Kindle program. So please check out REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK, review and hopefully enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Best Friends Since Birth

Of all of the characters who exist in BAND GEEK, the one who's the most like a real-life person is Melinda's best friend, Lana.

True, Mel is based a bit on me, but we're also very different. She's edgier and willing to break rules when pushed to it. I'm well... not. That's what made writing her so much fun; she ended up doing things that I never would've done as a teen.

Lana, however, is an homage to my real-life childhood friend, Lani. Lani is a year older than me, but I've literally known her since birth. Her family lived across the street from mine (still do, in fact) so my parents used to have us play togther as babies. They figured that if Infant Me played with One-Year-Old Lani, she'd be a good influence since she was ahead in skills. I did learn to read ar a very early age so perhaps their strategy worked.

Lani has two siblings who are much older and I'm an only child, so we grew up like sisters. She'd sometimes sleep over at our house for days at a time. Other times, we'd fight like siblings. She used to drag me around the floor by my hair. I once tied her up with a jumprope and pushed her down the stairs. Good times!

Lani has always been very outgoing and knew how to charm adults. My mom loved her because she'd VOLUNTEER to help clean the house. She could -- and still does -- make friends with anyone. She met her first boyfriend when she was 13 and dated steadily until she got married. She often got into trouble for being mischevious in school.

I was the opposite. I was shy, quiet and studious. I wasn't the life of the party. Yet we remained friends.

When we were younger, we mainly hung out with the neighborhood kids, but as we got older, we fell into separate crowds. Lani was fairly popular and loved high school. She had steady boyfriends and, as far as I know, never felt like an outsider. I had a group of nice friends, but I didn't date much and saw myself as a dork. High school was mixed for me.

She and I went through a brief period where we didn't hang out too much. This was during my junior and her senior year. Lani was busy with her boyfriend and large group of buddies. I was busy with my Positive Image Club (yes, this was really the name of the organization) pals. I figured that we were growing apart; after all, that happens when people grow up, but once she entered college, we grew close again. She had a car and I didn't yet have a license so during my senior year, she'd drive us to the movies every weekend.

Now that we're adults, we're closer than ever. We don't see each other as often as I'd like but we were in each other's wedding parties and traveled to London, Mexico and Puerto Rico together. She's still way more outgoing than I am, but always supports me. She's also really honest with me when the situation calls for it.

When writing Lana, I tried to capture Lani's loyalty, goodness and off-beat sense of humor. I didn't want Lana to be just a sidekick; she has passions, interests and problems and stands up to Mel when need be. I think I did a pretty good job in creating a literary version of Lani because Lani -- without having yet read the book -- made the exact same joke as Lana in real life. Spooky, but cool!

BAND GEEK is about so much more than Mel's revenge scheme or even her romance with Josh. It's about her relationships with everyone in her life and how they help her grow as a person. Lani certainly influenced my life and Lana does the same for my narrator.

Here we are on May 15, 1992 when Lani came to see me off before my prom. That's me on the left in the white gown and Lani on the right. Gotta love the hair!

Please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

How I Became A Novelist -- And Beat My BUFFY Addiction

While working at Soap Opera Digest, I interviewed many actors who told me how they were born to act and couldn't imagine doing anything else. This is how I feel about writing.

I discovered my love for writing when I was really young. I'd make up characters and stories in my head and loved to play games like "House" where I could be creative. Then when I was 8 years old, my second grade teacher entered my poem in a local competition -- and it won first place for my age group. I got to read my work in front of a dining hall full of people and was introduced to the event's guest speaker, author M.E. Kerr. A few kids in my class asked for my autograph. It was awesome.

But I really didn't write for the glory, as nice as that was. I wrote because I enjoyed it. In elementary school, I was a HUGE fan of Judy Blume (still am, actually) and wished I could grow up to be like her. I'd write my own stories, which I'd also illustrate. I wrote recently about how I have no plans to write a horror novel, much as I like them. Well, when I was in the fourth grade, I did attempt to write a short, illustrated horror novela. In it, the characters fear that the zombies will be like the ones in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. This was in 1984, mind you, so the pop culture reference was very current!

I tried my hand at writing a real novel in the sixth grade. It was called WAR OF LOVE and was about a bunch of hijinx that take place in the band room (sound familiar?). The characters were based on my friends -- and I even used their real names! I worked really hard at this thing, churning out pages on a typewriter at first. When we finally got a computer the next year, I carefully saved every page onto a floppy disc. In the end, it was about 200 pages, an honest-to-goodness novel. I have to say that for a 12-year-old, it wasn't bad. The story took a very weird turn toward the middle and there were some silly, unrealistic sections that didn't make sense, but the dialogue wasn't horrible and my descriptions were vivid. When I showed it to my husband, he laughed and laughed at some parts, but genuinely enjoyed it.

Once I entered junior high, though, my focus turned to journalism. By now, I was starting to think in practical terms: I wanted to be a writer, but I didn't want to starve, either. Journalism seemed like a good way to go. I wrote for the school paper all the way up through college and did various internships. Finally, I landed an internship at Soap Opera Weekly in 1997, right out of grad school. Nearly a year later, I was hired for a full-time position at its sister magazine, Soap Opera Digest. I remained there until earlier this year.

I took a few creative writing classes during college, but beyond that, pretty much put fiction writing on the backburner. This changed in 2002. At this point, I'd been at SOD for four years. I loved the job and had a great time there, but it was busy and stressful, and I was resigned to the fact that I was writing ABOUT soaps, which were other people's creative work.

Meanwhile, I'd become addicted to the show BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. I faithfully watched every episode and obsessively read fanfiction online. Then I'd discuss the show with other fans at work or in chat rooms. I'd never been so into a show before, but well, it's an awesome show and I was working in an environment that encouraged fandom.

It got to the point, though, where my mood would be affected by plot points. If I didn't like the way Spike behaved in an episode, for instance, I'd be upset -- not just during the episode itself, but for the rest of the day. If a great episode aired, like the fantabulous musical ep, "Once More With Feeling," that would make my week.

As 2001 rolled around, though, I started to become antsy. I didn't like the way the show was going and it frustrated me to know that I had absolutely no control over the characters. The writers were going to do what THEY wanted to do; after all, this was Joss Whedon's creation, not mine.

The turning point came for me after September 11, 2001. This was an awful, tragic event for the entire world, but I was physically in Manhattan at the time of the attack. I didn't lose anyone that day, but Jon was in the National Guard at the time and was called up to do some work around the city. I'm grateful that he was never called to duty overseas.

Anyway, after 9/11, I was really depressed and kind of messed up. I went to work every day, but I hadn't played my flute in years nor had I done any writing outside of magazine assignments. So for New Year's 2002, I made a simple, but important resolution: Do Stuff.

That next year, I really stuck with it. I picked up my flute again and played a few gigs at a restaurant with a guitarist. Jon and I traveled to London for the first time. And that April, I began work on BAND GEEK. The idea came about when Jon suggested that I take the band novel I'd written as a kid and turn it into a more mature story. Using that as my starting point, I set out to write a story about what life would've been like had Jon and I known each other as teens. Pretty soon, the story and characters took on a life of their own and BAND GEEK was born. I loved having complete creative control over my characters and I enjoyed having something to do other than write about soap operas.

So far, BAND GEEK is my only novel that's seen the light of day, but I've written many other pieces. I have a lot of half-started novels or outlines for future books. I actually finished a second novel, but it's very outdated; I'd love to go through it and see how I can make it a bit more current.

I haven't yet made it big as an author, nor do I really expect to, but writing makes me feel complete. I'm glad that I found my way back to being creative.

Please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Excerpts From My Novel

I've spent a lot of time writing about the story behind REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, but haven't shared too much about what's actually inside my book. In order to whet your appetite, here are a couple of excerpts:

Introduction of Josh

Josh is a junior and is pretty cute with his shaggy, light-brown hair and deep blue eyes. But the feature that stands out -— at least to his many female admirers —- is the lopsided grin he flashes whenever something amuses him.

When it comes to Josh, though, he thinks everything is a joke. He's a musical prodigy and plays trumpet even better than Mr. Francis does, but insists on sitting last chair. If our conductor forces him to audition, Josh will purposely make mistakes. He claims that it's because he doesn't believe in the auditioning process, but I think he just enjoys getting a rise out of Mr. Francis.

Meantime, Josh shows about the same amount of respect in the rest of his classes. Though he aced his PSATs and gets straight A's without studying, he often skips classes. When he is there, he's always pulling pranks on his teachers. One time he brought a lawn chair to math, then plopped down in it holding a beer as if he were at the beach (he got a week's suspension for that). Another time he locked his English sub out of the room when she was clueless enough to step outside (that only got him a week's detention). Last year, he even got us a day off from school. When workers began fixing the roof, several students complained about the fumes but the school refused to let us go home. So what did Josh do? He alerted the media about our "plight." Not wanting to look bad, Principal Muller was forced to let us stay home until the roof was fixed. Needless to say, Josh became the school's hero. Now he's never without a girl on his arm and gets invited to the jocks' parties, even though he's not on any sports teams.

Introduction of Mel's best friend, Lana

Lana Brody and I have known each other since kindergarten when her family moved in across the street from mine. But that's about all we have in common. While I've always been quiet and studious, Lana's more outgoing. She's not afraid to go up to guys at the diner and tell them she thinks they're cute or to do something funny like dance on top of a table at a party. When we were younger, my parents loved it when she'd come to our holiday dinners (since she's Jewish, we always have her over for Christmas) because while I preferred to watch all of the action, she'd chat with all of their grown-up friends. "Why can't you be more like Lana?" my mom would ask me after everyone else had gone home and we were cleaning up the dishes. "All you have to do is talk to people like she does and they'll like you."

My parents don't understand that some people are just born friendly, like Lana. She has this way of making everyone notice her, whereas I always seem to say the wrong thing or even worse, can't think of anything to say at all. This is why everyone likes her and I’m basically invisible. Sometimes I worry that the only thing that keeps us friends is the proximity of our houses, but so far, she hasn't ditched me for the cooler crowd.

Please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Publishing On Amazon: The Importance Of Reviews

I'm sure you've noticed by now that I end each post asking readers to review my book on Amazon. I'm not doing this just so I can fish for compliments. Reviews can help make or break a sale.

Think about it: are you more likely to see a movie that's been reviewed or one that's gotten no notice? Sure, you can find out what it's about by going to the movie's website or by watching the trailer, but this is information that's put out by the studio. It's different when you read a review that's been put out by the masses.

Studies have actually been done to determine the effectiveness of reviews ... and well, they're very effective. I'll fully admit that I'm swayed by reviews. Two of my favorite sites to look at are menupages and tripadvisor, both which encourage people to share their experiences. I tend to look at the restaurants or hotels which have received the highest number of positive reviews. I feel like I'm getting the "real picture" when I hear what people like me had to say.

Reviews can also be helpful to an author. When I was shopping my book to agents and then publishers, I received many positive reviews ... and many critical ones. I found both to be useful. However, these were all opinions from people in the publishing industry who were looking at my book artistically and monetarily. Getting the opinion from someone who just wants to read a good book is a different story.

On Amazon, reviews can also help with rank. I don't quite understand how Amazon or Kindle ranks its books, but "active" pages are ranked higher. As I said before, reviews help prompt sales, which makes your book active ... and well, that moves it up to a spot where it can be seen more and get even more sales.

So whenever you download a book on Kindle -- mine or any other author's -- please take the time to review it. While I'd love to get all 5-star reviews, I'm realistic and know that not everyone is going to like my work. So if you dislike a book -- mine or another author's -- don't just say that you hated it and wanted to throw it out the window. At least take the time to say WHY you disliked it and what we can do to improve our next work.

Once again, please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Writing Tips: How To Write A Novel

I get many requests from friends and family members, and even friends of friends, to read their manuscripts. Many want to try their hand at writing a short story or novel and I applaud the effort. I almost always agree to do a read on their work, but I'm honest with my critique. I'll usually find at least one thing that I like, but won't sugarcoat the problem areas, either.

I've read some great pieces and some that were not as great. Whether you like MY work is up to you, but I'm confident in my abilities to at least recognize good writing in OTHER people. What I often tell wanna-be novelists is that knowing how to write won't automatically make you a great novelist.

You may know how to string a sentence together so that it's grammatically correct and know not to confuse there, their or they're, but constructing a novel goes way beyond writing the words. You need to build characters, weave A, B and C stories together and write convincing and realistic dialogue. And that's just the tip of the iceberg! You can write enough sentences to make up 100-plus pages, but if they don't really build a story then your novel isn't going to hold together.

I'm always encouraging writers to take classes. I've taken many and plan to take more in the future. You can never learn too much. I attempt to share some of my knowledge in this article I wrote for HubPages on novel writing.

If you want to become a novelist, the first step should be to take a class and learn HOW to write a story. Of course, keep at your writing, keep learning and never give up.

Please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Real-Life Band Geek Moments

In my book, REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, Melinda endures many "band geek" moments. She's picked on by her classmates, her pants split in the middle of the hallways and she blows an audition in front of the entire band -- causing her to lose first chair flute. While I've never personally gone through any of those things, I have had some real "band geek" moments of my own.

When I was in school, our high school jackets were really fashionable. Our school colors were black and yellow, and all of the cool kids wore jackets that had those colors, plus the school's name on the back. Most of these kids were also on some kind of sports team so their school jacket would say, "Sachem Soccer" or "Sachem Cheerleading."

I really wanted a jacket of my own so I asked my parents if I could get once that said, "Sachem Music" on the back. They agreed and bought me one for my next birthday. It was a beautiful fleece jacket that had my name embroidered on the pocket. It was comfy and warm -- and expensive. I couldn't wait to wear it to school and show it off.

As soon as I stepped into the school, the mocking started. I could hear the laughter all around me, "Sachem Music -- what a dork!" "You're only supposed to wear a jacket if you're on a sports team, not if you're a band nerd!" and so on. I wanted to curl up and die. I wished I could just burn the jacket, but it was freezing out so I had to wear it once again when I went home. I then hung it in the back of my closet and never looked at it again.

One of the things that I like about Melinda is that she eventually learns how to stand up for herself. I wish I'd done that back in high school. I really loved being in the band and was proud of my accomplishments. I just wish I'd had the guts to let my classmates know that.

I can't change the past without the help of a time machine, but I do have control over my characters' actions. Still, as an adult, I PROUDLY wear my band geek badge of honor!

Please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Writing A Novel: Oh, The Horror

One of the reasons why I love October is because many horror films and TV shows are aired on TV in honor of Halloween. Tonight's the premier of AMERICAN HORROR STORY's second season and I can't wait!

I've been a fan of horror movies and books for as long as I can remember. I joke that this is because the first movie I ever saw was Jaws (I was just a baby, so don't remember the experience) and the first show I saw was Dracula (I was three and remember it pretty vividly). I still love horror to this day. When I was a kid, I preferred gory movies, the bloodier the better. My dad once rented a movie called "Film Gore," which was clips from movies' bloodiest sections. One scene showed an old lady being attacked; the camera then panned around to the attacker's hand, which slowly opend to reveal the lady's eyeballs. Blech!

These days, I prefer my horror to be psychological and love films like The Sixth Sense and Paranormal Activity. I do not like blood at all. I can't even watch hospital dramas because they're too bloody for me. I'm not exactly sure when the shift happened, but it did.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise then that I also love horror literature. When I was 10, I won $5 in a bet with my dad while we were on vacation in Egypt (it's a really long story that I'll share another time). I used that money to buy a book called Truly Murderous that was sold in the hotel gift shop. As I got older, I became addicted to Stephen King's novels. My parents weren't thrilled because they thought that I should be reading "classic" books like Little Women. I argued that King's books took just as much talent to write and that they weren't filled with scene after scene of murders. They listened and though I don't think either is a fan, I think that they at least appreciate him as an author.

Knowing my love for horror, some friends have asked why I don't write a ghost or monster story. Um, because it's freaking hard! For one thing, I feel that at this point, most scenarios have been done to death. There are tons of books on haunted houses, ghosts, vampires, etc. I honestly can't think of a new twist on the genre that I could do well. I think that there are authors out there who can, but I'm not one of them.

Also, while I enjoy being entertained by scary literature, I feel most comfortable writing realistic fiction. I spent a good portion of my life interviewing and writing about real people, so non-fiction is where I made my mark. I feel like I can apply that to stories like BAND GEEK that have to do with things like family and friendships. Ghosts just don't fit in very well there.

Getting back to horror books, though, I'll bet it will surprise you to learn which King story is my favorite: It's The Long Walk, which he wrote under the name Richard Bachman. It's about a 400-mile walk in which the losers are killed and the winner goes insane. There are no ghosts or vampires or scary clowns. But it's terrifying! I highly recommend it.

Please read and review my (non-scary) novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Publishing A Novel: Keeping Count

Over the years, I've been asked many questions about my writing career. "How do you make any money?" Answer: For the past 14 years, I wrote for a magazine. "How much time did you spend working on your novel?" Answer: 10 years -- though on a day-to-day basis it varied. "Do you think you'll ever be as rich as J.K. Rowling? (yes, I have been asked this!). Answer: Er... I hope so! But the question that I get asked the most often, and is usually the FIRST thing that people wonder, has surprised me.

It's "How many pages is your book?"

To me, this seems like a random aspect of the writing process. When I hear that someone I know is writing a book, my first question is always, "What is it about?" or "Where did you get the idea?" If they're pretty far along in their writing, I might ask, "What do you plan to do with your book when it's done -- get an agent or self publish?" But I never think much about the page count. Even when I download books on my Kindle, I don't look at the pages. I really don't care if the story is 40 pags or 400 -- as long as it's a good story and keeps my interest. It's a difficult question to answer, anyway, because the page count really depends on what type of font is used, whether you double space and how your book formats on a particular ereader. According to Kindle, BAND GEEK is 278 pages ... but my draft copy is 350. It's probably because I changed the font to be more readable when I formatted it and I got rid of the extra space between chapters. That's a huge difference!

My husband put this whole page count thing into perspective for me. He says that people are curious about the page length because to many people, the idea of someone actually writing a book is unfathomable. Many find writing 1000-word papers for college difficult and so the idea of sitting down to write hundreds of pages for one document seems insane. For the record, I NEVER found it easy to write college essays, regardless of the length!

I guess I can understand this. One of my friends runs marathons. To me, the idea of running 26.2 miles in one setting seems impossible, but he's done this several times -- and he's not even a pro. There are people who complete dozens of marathons a year, whereas I consider walking 10 miles to be a big accomplishment. So I guess writing a novel is a bit like that to a non-writer.

As with anything else, though, things will be completed if you want them to be. BAND GEEK's original draft only took me four months to write, but I then spent the next few years really working on it. I didn't do it all at once. I spent an hour or so each day working on a few pages and then went about living the rest of my life. I worked really hard, but it wasn't all in one setting.

So if you are thinking about writing a novel, don't worry about the page count. Just write the best that you can and put your energy into crafting a great story.

Please check out and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I'm With The Band

It's hard for me to choose a favorite scene from BAND GEEK; after all, the book is my "baby." But one of my favorite sections is when Josh takes Melinda to a dive bar for the first time and she's introduced to the world of jazz music.

During my early years of performing with ensembles, I mainly played in concert halls or high school auditoriums. I also played in some churches and nursing homes. But my experience with dive bars came later, well into my adult years.

From 2005 until about 2010, I played flute with my friend Isabel's band Isabel And The Whispers. She wrote and sang the songs, and also played piano and guitar; we then had a drummer and guitarist. We had several bass players whom mainly joined us for concerts -- it was kind of a SPINAL TAP situation with them, LOL. But overall, my time with the band was a very positive, enlightening experience.

Isabel frequently got us gigs that were mainly in the back of dive bars on NYC's Lower East Side. In each, it was a similar set-up: the ramshackle stage was in the corner and the bar always looked as if it were about to fall apart. The place reeked of beer. We never played in trendy, upscale places. But you know what? I loved it!

Playing for a huge audience in an auditorium is exciting because you're performing for so many people. For my first jazz band concert in college, the auditorium was PACKED and we received a standing ovation. It was amazing! But playing for a smaller crowd is exhilarating in a different way. It's much more intimate. Your audience isn't separated by rows of seats and aisles. They're right there in your face while you're on the "stage." You're not performing AT them, you're performing FOR them.

At one bar performance, a drunk guy shouted, "More band! I want more band!" when we'd finished our set. At another, a bunch of girls danced right by the stage. Then there was one where some audience members slurred out, "You go, Naomi!" I felt like a rock star!!!

Playing with chamber groups and orchestras was great, but I'd be happy if I could perform in little dive bars for the rest of my life. And yes, I really did tell the bouncer, "I'm with the band."

Please check out and review my book REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Selling An Ebook On Kindle

Writing my novel took 10 years of blood, sweat and tears, but actually selling my book on Kindle is a whole new challenge -- one that is admittedly frustrating so far.

I've had a lot of experience selling my work online. I have a jewelry shop, Naomi's Designs, on Etsy. I write for HubPages, another online enterprise. I sell my CD FLUTE PATH online. And I keep a jewelry blog. So I'm pretty familiar with tags, keywords and basic SEO.

Still, I've had mixed success with it. I've done fairly well in all of these things, but I've never been one of those people who's sold millions and millions of items, either. I'd love to do that with my book, though I'm realistic.

Right now, my book is still very new so it's waayyy in the back of Amazon's search engines. It's so frustrating. I've waited 10 years to see my novel in some form of print .... and now that it finally is, I have to patiently wait for it to be in a place where people can actually FIND my work. I've incorporated all of the SEO -- I've used all of my tags and am pretty secure in the categories for which I chose to place my book. I just have to wait and see. I really wish that I can get at least one good review because that would help a lot. Yes, my book has only been out for a week, but I wish I could jump ahead in time to when it's a big success, LOL.

Seriously, the two things I've learned from working online are a) you have to work really hard to get results. This means blogging, networking, doing whatever you can to get your product out there. And b) You need to be so patient. You won't find success overnight, mainly because it takes a while for your Web pages to get in the system. I'm still working on both!

Please check out and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Welcome To The Dark Side

On of BAND GEEK's major plot points is how the narrator, Melinda, discovers her dark side as she and Josh scheme together. Having been an English major and a literature nerd, I put a lot of time into incorporating the scenes with symbolism.

That said, many of Mel's encounters with Josh literally take place in a "dark side." They often meet in the shadowy corners of the band locker room. He takes her to a bar at night, where his true colors come alive once the lights are dimmed. He gives her a musical "tour" of the New York City subways. And Mel learns some harsh truths about her partner-in-crime in the basement of a house party.

Showcasing darkness and light is nothing new in literature or TV and film, but I wanted to do this in a way that would work for Mel and Josh. I didn't want to stick symbolism into my book just for the sake of making it look profound. I wanted it to be organic to the story. I think that I accomplished this!

That got me thinking about some of my favorite dark/light scenes. I'm a huge Joss Whedon fan and he often used this symbolism on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. The vampires, of course, can only come out at night (in the dark), but as Spike became a more sympathetic character, he had more daytime scenes. There were even a few instances where he ran out into the sun -- though he was covered up while doing so. Meanwhile, you see a lot of light/dark imagery in Whedon's Internet musical DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG. I especially like how in the song, "In My Eyes," Billy (a.k.a. Dr. Horrible) sings about evil while hiding in the shadows, while Penny is practically glowing as she sings about goodness.

What are some of your favorite dark/light scenes in books, TV or movies?

Please check out and review my book REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Family Drama


One of the most difficult things that I had to do while writing BAND GEEK was write adults who antagonized the kids, but were also sympathetic. Melinda, the narrator, has a very shaky relationship with her mother and Josh constantly clashes with the band's conductor, Mr. Francis. But while the teens see these adults as "villains" (though in some cases, Mr. Francis really is in the wrong), I also tried to portray the situation from the adults' point of view.

In real life, I sometimes argued with my parents as a teen and in my mind, they were always wrong. Now that I'm an adult, I can look back and see things a bit differently and understand why they did some things they did. When it came to Mel and her mom, I tried to write it from both sides. Melinda is hurt by her mom's comments about her weight and resents her parents for not being around often enough. Meanwhile, her mom is stressed because she's taking care of a sick parent and is concerned about her daughter's health. Her mom is not the enemy, but Mel sees her as that.

In Josh's case, he and Mr. Francis are both in the wrong. Josh hates the conductor's tyrannical method of teaching and likes to bug him until the teacher gets angry. Mr. Francis, on the other hand, is sick of having a student interrupt his class and doesn't know how to deal with it. Josh has a much bigger role than Mr. Francis in the story so you can see things more from his point of view, but the conductor does have valid reasons for why he acts the way he does.

When I began writing this book, I was still in my 20s and figured that I have an advantage when it came to writing young adult literature. After all, I was still close in age to my teen characters. But now that I'm in my 30s, I actually feel like I have more of an edge because I've lived through my teen years and have been an adult for much longer. I can now relate to the younger and older characters. Because of this, I think the adults are more realistic.

I attempted to give all of my characters depth and show how they do good and bad things -- and learn from their mistakes. I hope you think so, too.

Please check out my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

High School Reunion

This year marked my 20th high school reunion... which means, among other things, that I'm old. But while I didn't actually attend my reunion in person, I have reconnected with many high school friends on Facebook.

They've been very, very supportive of my writing and several have purchased my novel. However, their response so far has been pretty funny because everyone is asking, "Will I recognize any characters? Am I a character in it?" One friend, Greg -- who was in almost all of my classes and was a fellow band geek -- is currently reading it and had a lot of questions about my characters' origins. I sent him a long list of "Easter eggs," a.k.a., little funny in-joke type things that are hidden throughout the book.

It's a little surreal having this book read by people whom I grew up with. Greg knew me very well in high school and I'm sure is comparing Melinda to me as he goes through the story. The books means something to me because many parts are very personal and I'm sure he recognizes this more than the average reader would, just because he was there at the time. It's nerve-wracking, too, because the opinions of people I know mean more to me than a stranger's. I worry about my writing all the time, and whether it's actually good. I put a lot of sweat and tears into the book and just hope that people like it -- especially those who in some way inspired me.

Meanwhile, the husband of my childhood friend, Dina, is also reading it right now. I find it amusing that the two people I know who are actively reading my work are married men with kids. Not exactly my target demographic! But hey, if they enjoy it, great! Maybe I'll find a new audience.

Most of the time I feel like my age -- 38 -- but when I'm chatting with high school pals, it takes me back and I'm suddenly 18 again. Facebook is a lot of fun, but it's weird, too, because you get instant nostalgia. In the past, people would see their high school classmates maybe once every 5 or 10 years for a reunion, but now you can have a virtual reunion almost every day. Still, I guess it's good to be young at heart ... and perhaps being in a teenage mindset will help me with my writing!

Please check out my young adult book REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Young Adult Books: Some Great Books For Teens

I'v always been an avid reader. I'm also a very fast reader. That comes from having been a journalist for so long. When you're working against a deadline, you don't have time to waste when it comes to doing research. So I've learned to plow through articles, books, newspapers, etc. very quickly.

That said, I average about three books a week. I was against ereaders at first because I do like the feel of physically holding a book in my hands. However, I love my Kindle because if I crave a book, I can download it right away and have it in my library. Plus, it saves a lot of space. My husband has a bad habit of leaving stacks of books all over the house. A good chunk of my books are now on my laptop.

I love to read all different types of genres -- horror, women's fiction, historical fiction. I also adore young adult books. I read plenty of these, partially because as a YA writer myself, I believe that it's my job to do so... but I really do enjoy teen literature when it's written well. As I said earlier in this blog, I like coming-of-age stories and the idea of characters experiencing things for the first time.

There are many, many wonderful YA books out there, but here are a few recent ones that I've read and think are worth checking out:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver: This follows a day in the life on a mean girl on her last day alive before she's killed in a car accident. She then gets six more chances to live out that day, Groundhog Day-style, before making things right. At first, the character is rather unlikeable, but by Day 7, you're really rooting for her and praying for her to somehow stay alive. Each section is one (repeated) day; it's just a very fast-paced and intriguing story.

Farsighted by Emlyn Chand: This is the first in a series about a group of teens with special powers. That's been done before, but what's interesting about Chand's tale is that the lead character, who is able to "see" the future, is blind. What I also love about this story is that it's very character-driven. There is a lot of action, but a big portion of the book centers on the narrator's relationship with his father and love interest. It's a very well-writtern, realistic tale, which is quite a feat considering the fact that it's paranormal.

The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot: This series has been around for a while, but is one of my faves. It centers around Suze, a "mediator," who can see the dead and her love interest, Jesse, who's a ghost. Suze is a kick-ass narrator and heroine and Jesse is hot and sweet. Their romance takes time to develop and they make a great team. Meg Cabot's written many wonderful books over the years, but this series in her best, in my opinion.

Just As Long As We're Together by Judy Blume: This one's an oldie, but goody! I think I feel a special connection to it because it came out in 1987, when I was 13, and the characters were 13. Also, the narrator Stephanie's birthday is February 2 and mine is February 3... which would mean that if she were alive, she'd be a day older than me. But I digress. Though the book is 25 years old, the story itself it still very modern. It's basically about Steph's life as she drifts away from her old best friend, Rachel, and becomes close with a new best friend, Alison. Meanwhile, Stephanie also deals with her parents' divorce and her first crush. It's a very simple, sweet family/friendship drama, but this is something that we can all relate to, regardless of our ages. Still, I do laugh whenever they talk about old tech things like the idea of computers being a novelty. This also makes me feel very old!

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: I finally read this fabulous book this year, right before Jon and I went to see the movie. Both were great, but the book is slightly better. This was seriously one of the best teen novels I've ever read. It follows the life of Charlie as he deals with his freshman year of high school. He tells his story through letters to a never-named "friend" and the book reads like a journal. Charlie is hardly perfect, but is basically a sweet, good kid who's just trying to fit into the world and find his place in it. The story is raw and heartbreaking at points and you'll be thinking about it long after you're finished reading.

I could go on and on with recommendations, but I'm going to save more books for another blog entry. Meanwhile, please check out and review my book REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.