Sunday, January 31, 2010

SNL and Jon Hamm

I kind of wish Jon Hamm hosted SNL every single week. He's hot and hilarious. Sort of the perfect combination, right?

These were my two favorite skits of the night. Randomness at its finest.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Friday Funk

It's Friday and I'm in a nasty mood. TGIF? More like TGTWIFO (Thank God This Week Is Freaking OVER). Yeah, it's just been one of those weeks. But all is not lost. There were five things that made me happy this week:

1. Our review of SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT is featured on the front page of the Teen Fire Ning. What's that you say? You're not a member of Sourcebooks' Teen Fire Ning? Um...not to be rude or anything, but what are you waiting for? Our fabulous publisher has put together a killer social networking site for all of you YA lovers out there. Join us!

young adult,teen,fiction,Kaleb Nation,Bran Hambric,Joy Preble,Dreaming Anastasia

2. I read CATCHING FIRE. Yeah, I admit I've had the book sitting on my shelf forever. I knew I was going to love it and I knew I'd be sad when it ends knowing that I'll have to wait more than 6 months for the final book in the series. And the book did not disappoint. Suzanne Collins is a genius. Seriously.

3. I'm pretty sure Apple might have just saved the future of publishing. iBooks? Can Steve Jobs make reading cool again? I think yes. Nerds across the world rejoice and start saving up for the (unfortunately named) iPad. But don't take our word for it, check out what the experts are saying.

4. The fabulous Melissa posted an interview with us on her blog. As if the interview wasn't exciting enough we got some of the nicest comments ever. Melissa has some great readers! Those comments were the highlight of my week. Seriously.

5. Twilight is finally on cable. That's right bitches Showtime is playing Twilight in HD and I've got it on my TiVo. You know what that means, right? Laura and I are having a Twilight party at my house. There will be Twizzlers, cheap white wine from Target and SPARKLES. I've also got Lifetime's The Pregnancy Pact cued up, so we could even make it a double feature. Maybe I can talk Laura into a sleepover next Wednesday...

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book Review: SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers

I brought SOME GIRLS ARE with me on the plane to Chicago this weekend thinking that I'd read a few chapters on my way home and then take a little nap on the plane. Let's just say the nap never happened.

Here's the book description from Amazon:
Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard--falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around. Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.

This book was riveting. I literally could not put it down. Regina is an intense character and easily could have been unlikeable or difficult to relate to in the hands of a lesser writer. But Summers nails her voice and I found myself cheering for Regina as I watched her grow and develop throughout the course of the story. The writing is superb and the pacing is fantastic.

Go pick up your copy today. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The High Fashion Haiku

Took a little break from the rhymes and tried my hand at a few Haikus*. No, they are not about nature.

Open-toe, boot shoes
80s frames, signature scowl
let’s go to the beach.

Jutting collar bones
extending down the middle
I die, Rachel Zoe.

Early morning walk
torn men’s button down, black sneaks
added 50 years.

Pillows whilst traveling
okay if you’re under ten
not for twenty plus.

Yes, you rock the curves
but not a spandex onesie
another bad choice.

Oh dictionary
please paste this under d-bag
move over Gosselin.

*And yes, I might be practicing for this. I mean, they're having these contests once a week and it's like they were created for me, right?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tell the Truth Tuesday...

1. I'm totally reading the copy of Gentlemen Prefer Succubi that we're giving away. Sorry Simply Stacie! Hope you don't mind very gently used books. Send us an e-mail with your address and we'll mail the books in a week or so because there's no way I'm sending them without finishing. I haven't read anything this steamy since, um, ever.

2. We have another Vlog in the works wherein I'm going to kick LMJ's ass in Pop Culture Trivial Pursuit. Yeah, this isn't exactly a deep dark secret, but I'm really, really good at Pop Culture Trivial Pursuit. My family refuses to even play with me.

3. I've officially added The Buried Life and My Life as Liz to my already bloated TiVo. The Buried Life is good TV. What's not to like about cute teenage boys in driving around in an RV checking things off their bucket list? Think Jackass meets Pay it Forward. And My Life as Liz is an entertaining look at the high school caste system. Required viewing for all wannabe YA writers.

4. We're going in...Again. That's right. It's time for us to start a new project. Pemberly Brown #2 here we come.

5. I'm on the lazy girl's diet. Our kitchen refrigerator broke a couple of weeks ago and the replacement is finally being delivered today. We have this really old , crappy refrigerator in the storage room in our basement, but I'm terrified of going in there. As a result we've been living off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and popcorn. My kids probably have scurvy.

Now it's your turn. What's your truth this Tuesday?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ask LiLa: First Chapter-itis

This week we've got a question from crafty Kerri at CK Farm:

Ok here is my question Lisa and Laura. Are you ready? You threatened it out of me, lol!

Topic: First chapter woes

I have done my first chapter over several times and was wondering if this tells me something about my story or am I just obsessing to get that hook, line, and sinker. Any advice to get that first chapter perfected would be nice! I hate to think it would send me into a bag of twizzlers stress eating!

Warmest regards,
Kerri C at CK Farm AKA Kerri C at the funny farm!

Oh Kerri, we have been there, my friend. I can't even tell you how many times we've rewritten the first chapter of Pemberly Brown. In fact, we've rewritten the first chapter of all of our manuscripts approximately a bazillion times.

First chapters are critical because agents, editors and readers decide whether or not to read the entire manuscript within a few paragraphs. No pressure or anything.

But don't panic because we have a full proof system for perfect first chapters:

1. Avoid cliches. Confirm that you aren't opening your manuscript with one of these tired cliches. Sure writers get away with this stuff all the time, but why risk it?

2. Conflict is key. One of the easiest ways to engage your reader is to make sure the central conflict of the manuscript is clearly described within the first chapter. It's really hard to hook your reader without conflict.

3. Start at the beginning. Um, duh. This seems kind of obvious, but make sure your first chapter starts where your story actually begins. Don't start with an infodump or backstory.

4. Get a second opinion. And a third, and a fourth and a fifth, uh yeah, you get the idea. The more people you have read your first chapter, the better. Brave enough to hear the answer to "Are you hooked?" Then enter one of MSFV's Secret Agent contests. This is a great way to get feedback from other talented writers and a literary agent.

5. Take the leap. Eventually you're going to have to take a leap of faith and send out your manuscript. Whether you're sending queries to agents or sending a new manuscript to your editor it can be hard to let go and stop tinkering. But in the words of the immortal Demi Moore in the cinematic masterpiece Indecent Proposal, when you love something you've got to set it free. Well, something like that anyways.

Hope this helps a little bit Kerri. First pages are a bitch!


Friday, January 22, 2010

What Judy Taught Me

Last Sunday I got the news that my friend and mentor passed away. Judy will be missed by a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, but here are the five reasons I'll miss her most.

1. Judy led by example. Judy was a living legend. By the time I started at the company she had already been there for 30 years, served on the board of directors, and founded their women in leadership group. She had a reputation for being tough, difficult even. And the first time we met in the bathroom she told me I looked like I was in between classes at college. I was silly enough to take it as a compliment at the time.

It wasn't.

But when we started working together it was magic. Judy knew how to bring out the best in people because she led by example. I learned more from watching her sell one client than I had in my five previous years with the company.

2. Judy taught me that appearance counts. And not just physical appearance, but the way you market yourself to the world. Every e-mail, every menial task, every tedious meeting was an opportunity to demonstrate my value and kick some corporate ass.

3. Judy showed me the importance of being passionate. Judy never did anything half ass. If she was professionally or personally invested in something she was ALL over it. Her enthusiasm was contagious and that's probably why she made such an amazing leader. Judy taught me that when you are passionate you invoke passion in others.

4. Judy helped me find my voice. I didn't even know what voice was back then, but when I sent her my first draft of a newsletter for our team she sent it back and said, "Boring! Where is your signature Lisa style?" Judy had picked up on my voice from more casual communications and she taught me how to channel it and use it in everything that I write. Priceless.

5. Judy was the life of the party. I'll never forget being at some horrible corporate function and feeling someone sneak up behind me and whisper in my ear, "Your breasts look fantastic!" It was Judy, of course. One of her most memorable antics was taking clients to a Madonna concert wearing a hot pink satin bra on top of her conservative button down. Judy was always the life of the party and as a result people gravitated to her.

I always thought Judy was grooming me for a career in corporate America. I naturally assumed that she wanted me to follow in her distinguished footsteps. But looking back at everything I learned from her over the years, I think she was secretly teaching me how to be a writer.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Succubus Diaries: Author interview and contests!

Today we've got an interview (and some extra special contests!) with the fabulous Jill Myles whose debut novels Gentlemen Prefer Succubi and Succubi Like It Hot are impossible to keep on the shelves (and not just because they're so steamy). I ended up having to order them from Amazon because all of our local bookstores were sold out!

Lucky for us, Jill is also working on a young adult novel and agreed to talk to us about the difference between writing smoking hot paranormal romance and YA.

LiLa: Gentlemen Prefer Succubi (click here to read the first chapter) follows Jackie Brighton after a dark stranger's bite transforms her into an immortal siren with a seductive itch. Not exactly PG...I'm assuming your YA is somewhat different.

Jill: Yes! My YA is about a girl in an alternate United States who can turn invisible, and keeps it a secret. But the government finds out and whisks her away to a secret compound which is a school for 'augmented' kids. It's about her trying to figure out her place in the world when the world is definitely not what it seems to be. It's very 'coming of age'. We'll be shopping it (hopefully) in January, so cross your fingers for me!

LiLa: Sounds like a ton of fun! So, why did you decide to try your hand at YA? Did you know right away that the story was young adult or did that become clear after you'd already started?

Jill: I actually didn't start out writing the book as a YA! I wrote the book and it involved a 24-year-old who'd been whisked away to a school of super-powered teenagers, and she was the oldest one there. And I sent it around to my beta readers and everyone liked it, but they all said it was missing something. No one knew what. And then the YA market really started to boom and I wondered if I had a YA on my hands instead. I sent it to my agent (who had quite a few YA sales) and asked her if it was something that would be better off as YA. She more or less said "Duh" (hee) and so I basically rewrote the story from the viewpoint of a teenager. It works much better now. I just love the book so much and I've rewritten it easily a dozen times trying to make it "right".

LiLa: Voice is so important in young adult lit, it's impressive that you were willing to put in the time to get it just right. Was your process any different writing for teens versus writing for adults?

Jill: Well, yes! I pretty much did it all wrong! I basically had to start over when changing the story to YA. Rewrote a ton of stuff. And then I had to rewrite it over and over again (and OVER AGAIN) because I continued to add adult things in. My radar was set to 'adult' stuff so it was hard for me to get character reactions just right. For example, I had one guy in the story that was very cocky, and swaggery and alpha. Which is great when you are writing adult romance, but in a YA, he came across ass. Unlikeable. So I had to sit down and really think his personality through and what had shaped him, and had to basically "backpedal". Sure, he was swaggery as an adult, but would he be the same at sixteen?

Did I mention it involved lots and lots of rewriting? ;)

LiLa: I love that you took a fully developed adult character and imagined him as 16. We'll have to remember that trick! Is the voice in your YA similar at all to the voice in The Succubus Diaries?

Jill: Yes and no. I think pretty much everything I write has a similar 'tone' to it, but my YA has a different narrator, so she sounds different than my adult heroine. She's less flip and a little more vulnerable and secretive. But I still think you could pick it up and get that it's a Jill Myles book, if that makes sense.

LiLa: That makes perfect sense! Do you think it will be easier to sell a YA novel than it was to sell the books you've written for adults?

Jill: Well, yes and no! There are so many factors that come into play when selling each individual book. I mean, if my adult book somehow takes off and hits the bestseller list (excuse me while I giggle to myself at the thought) and stays there for like, a dozen weeks...then I do think it'll be easy. Who doesn't want a piece of the next bestseller, right? But on the other hand, if it sinks like a stone, it'll be a lot harder for me to sell anything else (YA or otherwise) because I'll have a failed book on my record.

But I don't know that it'll be 'easier' to sell a YA novel because it still depends on the novel, you know? What if every YA line has already bought up similar stories? What if my voice is all wrong? There are so many factors - and not to mention the fact that everyone is shopping YA right now because it's so popular. So easy? I don't know about that. :)

LiLa: Yeah, so that's totally terrifying. Let us never speak of debuts sinking like stones ever again. Rumor has it Gentlemen Prefer Succubi is pretty steamy. Do you have sex scenes in your YA? Did you approach them differently when writing for a younger audience?

Jill: Gentlemen is very steamy! I think it's because of the subject matter (a succubus). And no, there are no sex scenes in my YA (which is another reason why it seemed to confound everyone). I wrote the story and sex didn't seem to be on my heroine's mind, so sex didn't come up. There is a kiss, though! And I don't know if it's more or less steamy kiss than an adult one. The scenario in which it happens is a little more innocent than the scenarios that my succubus normally gets into, so there's a bit of a difference there.

LiLa: I can't wait to read all of these kissing scenes. They can be so hard to write for prudes like us! Will you use a pen name for your young adult work or are you hoping to stick with Jill Myles?

Jill: Whichever the publisher prefers. Jill Myles is a pseudonym as well, so I'm happy to go with whatever name they prefer for me to use. I wouldn't mind keeping Jill Myles, but I totally understand if it gets contracted and a publisher decides that they don't want the audience crossing over. Wouldn't blame them! :)

Now cross your fingers for me and hope it sells!

LiLa: Fingers officially crossed.

And now for the contests!
  • And even better, Jill is hosting a contest to win a personalized query critique from her agent Holly Root! For more entries in this contest, comment on the other blog tour posts (a full list of participating blogs and a schedule can be found at Market my Words). You can earn one entry per blog per comment. Winner will be chosen at random by Jill Myles and announced on her blog on Wednesday, January 27th along with an interview with Holly.
Next stop on the tour: Tomorrow Marissa Burt is going to be talking Jill about what inspires her to write.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Waxing Poetic Wednesday

It's shaping up to be artifacts week in LiLa land. Turns out the Regulator has been a-regulating--mainly in the form of threatening to trash all of our old junk unless we dump it in our own basements. Thankfully I dug through my pile before she incinerated it because beneath my old yearbooks, ratty-looking stuffed animals and piles of bent birthday cards, I pulled out Laura Roecker's Writing Folder.

Duh duh duh.

Here's my dirty little secret. I used to write poems. Lots of them. In the margins of my notebooks, in random journals, on my mom's stationary. Everywhere. They were angsty, severely depressing, mildly alarming poems. The kind of crap Dr. Seuss would write if he were clinically depressed and going through puberty. Back when I was 15 I considered them art, but these days their primary purpose is to entertain.

This poem was written in 7th grade. And yes, it rhymes.

Editorial Note: Since I do not have access to a scanner, I have maintained authentic spelling/punctuation. It's funnier that way.

Untitled by Laura Roecker

What was going through your mind?
How could you do a thing of this kind?
Do you understand taht you have no friends?
Beleive me Jenn this is the end.
Through all the memories we have shared
I actually thought you really cared
But now I know, what I should of known before
You are not my friend, your just a horror
Do you know what a friendship means?
Obviously not for all I have seen
I've seen the hate in your heart
Which I actually saw from the start
Well, through all that us friends
have been through
I have to say, Jenn I hate you!
Your a backstabbing, self centered, no good, selfish, lowdown, freakin bitch friend*
What was the message you were trying to send?
You hurt everyone and now it is our turn
and you really have a huge lesson to learn.
Who knows, you will probably do this again!
And to think these fights are all over men?!
Who are you to say that I am at fault
You come off as if your in a cult!
Go away, leave me alone
don't talk to me, or call me on the phone
You are not my friend, that it is all.
I will not help you when you fall.
For, have you helped me?
Well, if you have, I can't see!
Good luck finding friends hopefully youll have something else to lend.
I was not helped when I fell, no longer will you be helped by me,
so Jenn Orlando**, please Go to Hell!

*All-time favorite part. I had originally written bitch, but scratched it out and wrote friend above it.
**Name changed to protect the innocent.
***Ironically, this particular poem was written on stationary that features a butterfly and flower with the quote, "You are quite remarkable! You take it all in stride." There doesn't appear to be a whole lot of taking it in stride going on here.

There's more where this came from. Get excited.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mike Roecker Memorabilia

My first memory of reading is with my dad. I was probably in kindergarten at the time and we were sitting on this God-awful navy blue floral couch with The Cat In The Hat and I was bound and determined to read the book myself.

There was always something magical about my dad reading out loud to me; the way his voice could make the tiny black words typed across the page come alive. And I was greedy. I wanted it for myself.

That night a reader was born.

Once I began reading, I never stopped and once I'd plowed through the sparse young adult section at our local library, I began raiding my parents' bookshelf. My parents let me read whatever I wanted and my dad was always up for a discussion after I was done.

But the very best thing about borrowing books from my dad were the treasures you'd find inside. My dad is known for using completely random things as bookmarks and when I loaned my brother-in-law my dad's books in Stephen King's Dark Tower series he dubbed them Mike Roecker Memorabilia. You just never know what you'll find in one of my dad's books.

The other night when I was at my parents' house flipping through some of our old books I found some truly random things including:
  • Three of my dad's business cards (all for completely different jobs);
  • Another business card for a Robert Hawkins at ITW Insert Businesses (Hi, Bob! Hope you don't have a google alert on your name);
  • A blank United States Customs Declaration form;
  • A daily behavior and work chart for family friend Kevin Hutchings (he's now in college) complete with tiny little stickers; and
  • An bookmark from Summer 2001.

I also dug up a truly wretched snapshot of my engagement picture. Why anyone would have wanted this picture in wallet size is beyond me.

But my best find (by far) is this random little note:

After reading this I'm left with so many questions:
  • Where was Laura going at 7:00 on Wed the 18th?
  • Did she wear jeans?
  • Who is Diana?
  • Did she like Laura's jeans?
  • Was a $350 portfolio required? (Note this part is in my dad's handwriting)
  • Was it a pyramid scheme?
  • Did Laura and Diana somehow get sucked in?
See, this is the stuff I'll miss if real books ever go away. Kindles don't need bookmarks and it's sort of fun when your book doubles as a time capsule.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ask LiLa (Um, actually ask Joanna...): The Dreaded Synopsis

It's time for our second installment of Ask LiLa. This week we received a great question from Lexcade:

Hey ladies!

Just wondering if you have any advice on writing a killer synopsis. I've gone a number of different routes and just can't get the hang of it. Any insight would be awesome right now.


P.S. You should totally come down to Cinci for a weekend... just sayin'...[Editorial note: We are SO in. Cinci is driving distance from Cleveland and Laura and I have grand plans for some kind of road trip involving Frosties, audiobooks and (of course) Twizzlers.]

Sadly, Laura and I weren't even sure what the plural of synopsis is (synopsi? synopseses?), so we decided to consult an expert, and who better than ├╝ber agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe at Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation.

Here's what Joanna had to say:

Okay, here are synopses guidelines:

Unless an agent/editor states otherwise in their submission guidelines, synopses should be no more than 2 pages (1 page is always preferred).

Synopsis Basics:

2 pages
Size 12 font
1" margins
Title, Author, Word Count (at top)
Double-space between paragraphs

Think of a synopsis like a book report--it can be boring! In fact, they usually are, and that's OK. A synopsis is just a fact-filled run down of your story.
  • Only mention characters and plot points that are relevant to the larger story arch. You don't need to tell us every subplot. You don't need to tell us every character. In fact, a good rule of thumb is that if you can only think to mention a character once in your synopsis, then they shouldn't be there at all. Only characters that are integral to the beginning, middle, AND the end of the story.
  • Always, always give away the end. None of this "She stepped to the ledge of the cliff'll have to read the story to find out!" bull crap. We're professionals, and to make an educated decision, we need ALL of the pertinent facts.
  • Agents view synopses as a tool. We don't consider them a representation of your ability to create an exciting story or beautiful prose. That's what your manuscript is for.

Now you can see why we have a HUGE girl crush on Joanna. And lucky for you, you can now stalk her on Twitter and, of course, query her by following the submission guidelines outlined on Publisher's Marketplace.

And don't forget if you have a question for LiLa e-mail us. Um, please? Because if we don't get questions we're going to have to start making them up and randomly attributing them to blog followers.

And yes, that is a threat.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

You know that feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time but it feels like you've known them your whole life? That's how the entire room of book lovers in a conference room at the Hudson Public Library felt as they listened to Beth Hoffman speak about her book SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT on Wednesday night. She was a genuine, inspirational and dynamic speaker. Beth has an incredibly magical story about how she came to publish her first book and we urge you to check out her tour schedule to see if she will be coming to a city near you. Trust us, she's worth it.

You can check out some other recaps of the event over at Red Lady's Reading Room and Stacy's Books.

Here's a picture of three card carrying members of the Catherine Drayton fan club.
Now, on to the book...

I was not patient enough to buy SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT the night of the signing, so I purchased it the day it was released. Like Beth's words on Wednesday night, this story is pure magic. CeeCee Honeycutt is a twelve-year-old girl from a broken family in Willoughby, Ohio. When even more tragedy strikes, she is left with no other choice but to move to Savannah, Georgia with her great aunt Tootie. There, she is surrounded by an array of dynamic women who all lend a hand in saving this broken little girl and helping her grow into a woman.

Listening to the story unfold through CeeCee's eyes reminds you what it is like to be twelve-years old again, trying your hardest to come into your own. As strange as this sounds, the book tastes and smells exactly like summer in the South. Absolutely magical (have I mentioned that yet?), especially when you're stuck in three feet of snow in Cleveland, OH.

Go buy your copy today and drink it up over the weekend. Happy Friday!

P.S. Did we mention that we met Christina from Write-Brained at the signing? We did and she was awesome!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daisy's Digital Do's and Don'ts

Our favorite marketing guru, Daisy Whitney, is back with tips and tricks for those of us trying to figure out this whole vlogging thing. Daisy is going to be guest blogging for us on a monthly basis and she's dying to answer your questions, so ask away in the comments!


If I could impart only one piece of wisdom to writers who are jumping into videoblogging it's this - less is more.

Short and sweet reign on YouTube. So if you're trying out your on-camera skills or even thinking about how to market yourself or your books with video, the best way to start is to take whatever it is you were about to post on YouTube and slice it in half!

Why? Because our attention span is phenomemally low online, especially on YouTube. The online audience measurement service comScore reports that the average session on YouTube is under four minutes. So even though Internet users collectively watch more than 10 billion videos each month on YouTube, and even though the average YouTube user watches 83 clips per month on the site, they're not hanging around YouTube for very long. In Internet lingo, they come to "snack." And they want small little bites.

So give them what they want! My general rule of thumb for video blogs is endeavor to keep them under 90 seconds. I know that seems tough and I know there are a lot of interesting things to chat about in video blogs, but most viewers won't watch the whole thing. Or if they do, they'll do other things - like check email - and let your video play in the background. Rather than let them tune out, cater to their short-order needs. Give them something quick and pithy. I have found that one of the best ways to tighten a video blog is to do so in advance by writing a script. This doesn't mean you have to memorize it and it doesn't mean you have to stick to it word for word. But writing it out can help you refine and tighten your ideas before you begin shooting.

Here are some other tips if you're getting started in video blogging.

- Get a Mac. Shooting and editing videos is just easier on a Mac. If you don't have one, borrow a friend's or try using Movie Maker on a PC. I hear it's not quite as easy to use as Apple's iMovie, but it can do the trick. On your Mac, shooting a video is simple. One way to do so is just open QuickTime and hit record! Then edit it using drag and drop tools in iMovie.

-Use a light. If you shoot at a desk or table, grab a desk lamp and position it behind the computer. You don't want the light in the shot but you want it directly behind the screen so it lights your face. In video, you look better in the light than the shadows - trust me on this! Try a few angles for the light, back it or move it closer, to see what works.

-Don't fidget, swivel in your chair, or play with your hair. These can be distracting to the viewer! If you do those things, just shoot over!

-Shoot a few times, or twenty or thirty, til you get it right.

-Run a comb through your hair and freshen up your makeup before you shoot. This may sound obvious, but sometimes the simple stuff bears repeating.

-Know what you're going to talk about. Having a topic is usually far more interesting than rambling (see above about writing scripts).

-Keep the computer (or camera if you're using one) steady and on a flat surface. Shaky cams aren't fun to watch.

-Be lively! The camera is merciless. It shows every wart and that's why it helps to be your best self on camera. So dial it up a few notches. Be crisp and clear in enunciation, be playful, be buoyant. And check out this master at work. This is a video from Gary Vaynerchuk, host of WineLibrary TV, who oozes enthusiasm. Imitate him!

By day, Daisy Whitney is a producer, on-air correspondent, podcaster and raconteur in the new media business. At night, she writes novels for teens and is the author of The Mockingbirds, to be published by Little, Brown in Fall 2010. When Daisy's not inventing fictional high school worlds, she produces conferences for iMedia and provides strategy consulting to businesses on online video. She is the host of her own online newscast The New Media Minute that covers the business of Internet video and of the top-ranked iTunes audio podcast “This Week in Media."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kindred Spirits

It is no secret that Lisa and I read entirely too much YA. This may or may not contribute to the fact that we still think we're sixteen. So it was only natural that a few months ago I sent out a notice to all of my neighbors advertising a teen book club that would take place in my living room.

We just moved here last year and I think 90% of them were creeped out by the invite, the other 9% think that I'm 15 and were concerned that no parents were going to be home, and 1% were interested! Last night was our first ever meeting, and I have to say, it was a raging success!

Okay, fine we had two girls show up, but it was a raging success!

We read HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick and the girls absolutely loved it. They thought Nora was realistic, Patch was dangerously dreamy and Vee was entertaining. They loved how elements of fantasy were woven into a realistic setting and were thrilled to hear of a sequel. We even discussed who we would cast in a HUSH, HUSH movie--a little Taylor Kitsch as Patch anyone??

Anyways, spending an evening with two living, breathing young adults? So, so much fun. Lisa just couldn't resist asking some of her burning questions...Are you on Facebook? Yes. Do you have cell phones? Yes and No (had never heard of a pager, which was the equivalent to a cell phone in our YA days). Do you have a bedtime? Yes.

The talented Christine Fonesca interviewed us over at her blog! Check it out if you're not totally sick of us already. And if you are sick of us, check out some of Christine's other posts because she rocks.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The D-Bag-O-Meter: Vloggy Style

P.S. Be sure to check back with us on Thursday when we have fabulous marketing guru Daisy Whitney here to talk to us about the art of vlogging. Anyone want to take bets on how many rules we broke? Spoiler alert: We broke a LOT.

P.P.S. Does our Vlog seem sort of familiar somehow? Like maybe you've seen this whole schtick before? Well, that's because you probably have.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ask LiLa: Prosecco for the Cultured Palate

After thousands of requests to do an advice column (or one random question that was sent to us last Friday) we've decided to start a new feature called Ask LiLa.

That's right. E-mail us at lisa-laura(at) and ask us ANYTHING (well, anything that would qualify for a PG-13 or lower rating) and we'll answer all of your burning questions via the blog.

Need advice about how to keep Twizzlers fresh? We're your girls. Want to know how to write a decent query? We can totally help. Have questions about Blackwater vying for a new contract with the Pentagon? We'll make something up.

And now, for our very first ask LiLa we have a question from Lou at Lou Writes, she claims that she's all about life minus the style, but she seems pretty stylish to us:

Hey there,

We met a long time ago when my sister Sarah and Laura were in college. Sarah pointed me toward your blog recently, and I've been reading for a few months now. You guys are hilarious! [Editorial note: Sarah was our first ever blog follower AND she lets us stay with her when we go to NYC. All that and she's also referring blog readers? We love you Sarah!]

Anyway, here's my totally random question. My sister tells me that you are a big fan of prosecco. I'm planning a bachelorette party for a close friend and having pre-dinner festivities at my house. I have this grand vision of a signature cocktail: prosecco and pomegranate. What does all this have to do with you? Well, nothing really... I just thought you'd want the back story.

Here's my question: Do you have a suggestion for a lower-priced (say around or under $15) bottle of prosecco?


Dear Lou,

You have come to the right place! We like to consider ourselves prosecco connoisseurs and in our experience they all sort of taste the same. I'm not sure if that's due to our general lack of refinement or because we're typically sipping through a Twizzler straw. (Kidding. Sort of.)

Anyway, Trader Joe's has a great bottle of Prosecco for $6.99! You can't beat it. Especially if you're planning on mixing with pomegranate juice.

Our only request is that you send us the recipe! It sounds fabulous!


We've learned the hard way that it's best to drink prosecco with an Advil chaser. No joke. Prosecco induced headaches are brutal, so why not kill two birds with one stone?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

An Interview and a Desperate Plea

The lovely Rachel Simon interviewed us on her uber cool blog. Definitely go check it out because you know you're dying to find out how we plan on celebrating the release of Pemberly Brown...

And we've established that I'm a crazy OCD control freak, right? So for the love of God will someone just click the follow button so we can make it to 400 followers? This 399 bullshit is killing me.

Happy Sunday,

Laura is coming over tomorrow so we can tape our second vlog. It's a doozy. Get excited.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tiffany Charms and Firearms

We give you...the top five things we've learned this week...

1. Social Networking works. We've got some AMAZING guest blogs coming up from some incredible authors we've connected with over the interwebs. Get excited!

2. Sourcebooks' editor Dan Ehrenhaft (ahem, our editor) is one smart dude. Dan participated in a fantastic Q&A on #yalitchat last night answering tons of questions about Sourcebooks' new Fire imprint. Check it out here and here.

3. If you're joking around that your next book should be titled TIFFANY CHARMS AND FIREARMS, it's probably not a book you should be writing.

4. Laura has taken over as the true Idea Whore. That's right, she's kicking my ass in the Idea Whore department lately. Not only did she think of an awesome new title for one of our books, she also had the BEST IDEA EVER for Book 2 in the series. I officially think the second book is going to be even better than the first, which is a major step up from where we started (see #3 on this list).

5. The Glee Soundtrack rocks. Our parents got us the Glee soundtracks for Christmas and I've been dancing my way through carpool ever since. The kids are loving it too. Their fave song is Goldigger. $10 says Jack is singing it at school which pretty much cements my #1 spot in the Worst Mom Ever Race. I like to console myself with the fact that they edited out all the f-bombs.

Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I hereby summon the idea whore!

So we've got this idea whore file that's filled with (as you might have already guessed) ideas. Some of the ideas are fully fleshed out books and others are just little snippets like "ski trip." I mean aren't ski trips a universally good idea for young adult books? Yeah, I thought so.

As some of you might know The Haunting of Pemberly Brown is meant to be the first book in the series and as it turns out it's kind of helpful to have the second book in the series mapped out while you're editing the first book. Who knew? Believe it or not, we had a really great outline for the second book that we wrote back in June. The problem is that the first book has changed since then. It's changed a lot. So, the old outline? Meh.

And now comes the time where we must take our original craptastic outline and dig through the idea whore file and come up with an amazing Book 2.

Wish me luck friends because I'm going in...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Years Resolutions Resolved

OK, it's the moment you've all been waiting for...or not. But either way here are how the resolutions match up.

1. Learn to Vlog - Lisa

Ok, so I currently sort of suck at vlogging and I want to get good at it. Really good. Like Daisy Whitney/Jackson Pearce good. And that's going to take practice and you my dear readers are going to have to be subjected to lots and lots of it. I apologize in advance.

2. Become a better beta reader - Laura

I've beta read a few manuscripts and I find myself line editing as opposed to pushing myself to find ways to make a manuscript even stronger. We've met some beta reading ninjas since we began writing and I would LOVE to learn how to critique well. Funny how back in my middle school teaching days I had no problem ripping *!?@ up grading, but when it comes to my peers, I fall apart.

3. Learn Twitter - Laura

It's like a foreign language. I've tried to tweet (?) and failed to link properly and I have no idea what a hashtag is or why there is a number sign in front of it. It basically makes my head spin, but I vow to try. Lisa should be able to help me navigate the twittosphere (does that word work here?)--she just taught me how to strike through text on Blogger. Have you noticed? While I'm not sure anyone would want to know how I waste spend my day, you are all about to find out. Get excited.

4. Meet writer friends in person - LiLa

We LOVE you guys and now we want to stalk meet you in person. It's only natural.

5. Get 1,000 blog followers - LiLa

Oh yeah, go big or go home in 2010 people. We're already busy thinking of ways we can increase our foot soldiers loyal subjects network. Stay tuned.

6. Try to be less judgy/bossy/impatient - Lisa

Was there ever any doubt who this one belonged to? I'm not sure I'll make any headway on improving my three biggest faults, but I'll try. Well, at least a little.

7. Learn how to say no - Lisa

I can't remember the last time I said "no" to anyone. I just can't make the word come out of my mouth. How else do you think I ended up as room mom for the past two years running?

8. Write two books this year - LiLa

Oh yeah. Two books. We can totally do it. At least we think we can...

9. Come up with an idea first - Laura

It is no secret that Lisa is the big idea whore. We keep a folder in our email account called "Idea Whore" and there are a few underdeveloped baby ideas of mine in there, but the majority are Lisa's. They consist of at least five paragraphs outlining her next big idea. I stand by the fact that Lisa's days are longer than everyone else's. How else could she watch just about every show on TV, write and contribute almost every day to our "Idea Whore" file all at the same time? Yeah, I thought so.

10. Do a public speaking engagement - LiLa

As we've learned from the many benevolent dictators who have come before us, exemplary public speaking skills are mandatory in order to achieve world domination. So...we're going to do everything we can to get comfortable speaking in front of crowds, including teaching a local community course about writing and publishing. That's right. It's world domination one community at a time. Watch out.

Now, before we announce our winners I thought you might be interested to see how some of our close friends and family did on this little pop quiz:

  • The Regulator (AKA our Mom) scored a whopping 6 points. A result of not knowing her daughters very well or a prolonged senior moment? You decide.
  • Tara (real life bestie) scored a respectable 7 points. Not bad T!
  • Stacey (sister and Poochie Prints proprietor) opted out completely. Shocker.
As for the winners there were four loyal blog followers with a score of 8 points. Very impressive! But there can only be one winner and thanks to the Interactive Fruit Machine it's...

Congrats Kat! Please send us your address to claim your fabulous (and slightly random) regifted prize package!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Hotels are dirty. Well, at least according to Dateline and the Regulator. Oh, and I guess I have inside information—take it from me, the bathroom in room #314 at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago will never be the same. Anyways, we were scarred raised with a very specific set of hotel occupancy rules.

1. NEVER step bare foot on hotel room carpet no matter how nice you think it looks. (The carpets are only cleaned once a year.)
2. NEVER use a hotel comforter. (My husband likes to play this game where he traps me inside the comforter which results in me having a panic attack. Fun!)
3. ALWAYS wipe down the toilet seat before sitting. (You can't be 100% sure that they've been thoroughly disinfected. Apparently the Regulator had friends who worked housekeeping in high school and she's never looked at hotel rooms the same since.)

For the record, I follow these rules religiously. I have even added a couple of my own.

1. ALWAYS check for bedbugs. (You don’t even want to know.)
2. ALWAYS avoid touching shower curtain with anything more than your nails. (I almost cried once when the entire thing got stuck to my body.)
3. ALWAYS avoid letting your bare skin touch anything within the hotel room. Particularly upholstery. (It can't be disinfected.)

I guess I sound like a germaphobe. I guess I am a germaphobe. Damn you Dateline and your black light, damn you. Anyways, during my most recent travel fail, I learned that these rules do not apply to 20 month olds. Let me back up…

We rang in the New Year with family in Charleston. It was fun (aside from the fact that Lydia woke up no later than 5:00 AM. Every. Single. Day.) The morning we were scheduled to leave, Lydia woke up barking. BARKING. I never believed that a cough could actually sound like a bark, but I stand corrected. Watch out fellow flyers, we’ve got a barker on our hands. Good. Times.

We made it as far as Atlanta and were trying to console our little barker when the delay to Cleveland was posted. First an hour, then two, then three…then CANCELLED. Throughout the four hours we were in the airport, Lydia managed to touch a piece of chewed gum stuck on a chair, pick up a furry-looking French fry and bark in the face of at least five people. I have rules for the airport too, but I was forced to abandon them after I watched Lydia pick up and promptly consume an M&M she found in between the cushions of two seats.

Lucky for us, the airline put us up in an airport mhotel. I threw the ‘m’ in because “hotel” is a loose term. I didn’t even need a black light to know that the comforters on the bed hadn't been cleaned since the early 90's. And, I know, I know, it could have been worse. We could have been stuck sleeping in the airport. Now that would have been an epic blog post.

Anyways, within minutes of unlocking the mhotel door, Lydia had cuddled up on the bedspread, wedged herself between the wall and the bed making contact with bedspread and carpet simultaneously, put the remote control in her mouth and touched the toilet seat. My head almost exploded. Because our luggage was on its way to Cleveland (how that works, I’m not sure), I used a bar of soap to wash my hair and scrub down Lydia, attempted to “comb” my hair with my fingers and threw the barker in an unsanitized mhotel-provided pack-n-play.

Silver lining? She was asleep within seconds. Bark + one hour flight + four hours in airport + touching as many pieces of germ-infested mhotel furniture as possible = one tired baby.

Flight from Charleston to Cleveland: $300
Tetanus shot to clear baby of any germs ingested via the dirty M&M: $145
Mhotel Room provided by the craptastic airline that stranded you in the first place: $0

Child sound asleep in potentially swine-flu-infested-mhotel-provided pack-n-play?


Monday, January 4, 2010

LiLa's Random Regifting Resolution Challenge

Happy New Year everyone! The day has finally arrived where we unveil our New Year's Resolutions and all of you get to compete in our first annual Random Regifting Resolution Challenge.

But first a brief Skype conversation between Laura and I that just might provide a clue (or two):

Lisa: I need your three resolutions. I'm getting the blog post ready.
Laura: Ok. [Lists like 5 different resolutions.]
Lisa: Which 3 do you want me to use?
Laura: Which do you think?
Lisa: Well, they're your resolutions...but that one about [redacted] sounds pretty good.
Laura: Oh God, did you just make my resolution for me.
Lisa: Um, yes. Yes, I did.
Laura: Crap. Maybe I should have gone with something about being more assertive considering I'm asking you to make my resolutions for me.
Lisa: I'm totally posting a Lisa/Laura conversation about this.
Laura: Good idea, Idea Whore.

If you can't see the form for some reason, please click here to complete the challenge.

Good luck! And for the record, we've pulled together a very interesting prize package. Let's just hope the winner enjoys long hot baths with a book!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The No Kiss Blog Fest!

Today is the day in which we celebrate all of the kisses that should have been. The kisses that never were. The kisses that miss.

It's the No Kiss Blog Fest, brainchild of the fabulous and slightly unhinged, Frankie. Tons of writers are participating, so be sure to check out all of the almost kisses today.

Our non-kissing scene is from She's Leaving Home. Poor Sarah, she has a nasty case of acid reflux and is smoking her very first cigarette desperately trying to impress Australian hottie, Luke.


“So you've been here for three months?” I looked over at Luke.

“Graduation present,” he said, taking a long sip of his beer. “All of my brothers came for a year. The last hurrah before your real life starts, yeah?”

I stared at him for a second watching as disco lights danced across the angles of his profile. His nose was crooked in a tough-guy-who’s-been-in-some-fights kind of way.

“Yeah.” Wow, copious amounts of alcohol apparently made me very profound.

“You?” he asked, turning to look at me for the first time.

When I met his eyes, they held real interest. In me. Acid burned the back of my throat, but thankfully no burp followed. I stared down at my hands trying to think of something interesting to say; something to keep his flicker of interest burning.

“Just needed a break from everything,” I slurred. “I was supposed to come with my sister,” I began, reaching in front of him toward the ashtray to put out my cigarette, “but …” I saw it all happening in slow motion. My arm hit the sweaty neck of his beer. The beer tipped, my cigarette dropped and suddenly Luke was on his feet.

“Oh shit!” he yelled, throwing his hands up. The beer soaked his pants and somehow the cigarette managed to burn a hole in the knee. If I was lucky, the beer would have at least put out the cigarette, saving me the humiliation of catching him on fire, but when I saw the small charred mark on his knee, I remembered my luck had run out a long time ago.

“I’m such an idiot. I’m so sorry,” I began mopping up the beer on the bar, which caused even more to spill off the bar, splashing his shoes. “Oh God, you’re all wet.” I grabbed a fresh napkin and began vigorously wiping at him. He shielded himself from me, but even that didn’t make me stop.

Don't call this a comeback

So it’s been a minute. Or 10. Or truthfully more like 2,102,400. At least we think that’s how many minutes there are in 3 years, but let...