Sunday, September 28, 2008

Have You Seen the Muffin Man?

Okay, total silliness, I know, but if I have to talk about politics for one more minute this week or listen to yet another inane sound bite, my head may implode. So, really, I'm talking about high-caloric foods for health reasons.

Specifically: Muffins.

I remember this place in my undergrad university town that served these grilled double-chocolate-chip muffins. OMG, were they amazing! And some of the guys who took the orders from my friends and me were kinda hot, too :-). Well, I included a line in a new manuscript about a coffee shop that served something similar, and one of my good friends called me on it as she critiqued those pages. She said, "Marilyn, muffins are baked, they're not grilled."

Au contraire, mon amie!

FIRST, they're baked. THEN they're grilled. They're split vertically into three sections, liberally buttered and put on a sizzling grill until you can see the stripes. Then they're buttered AGAIN and served warm.

Like I said: Amazing.

In an attempt to force a feeling of fall (despite the uncharacteristically warm Midwestern weather), I baked muffins this weekend. They were not the extra-buttered version that I remembered from my college days, nor were they double-chocolate-chip (they were banana-walnut-chocolate-chip), but they were still delicious and reminded me of old times.

And so I ask you all in the Blogosphere, if you care to share, what's your favorite kind of muffin and how do you like it served?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Roberta Isleib's Latest Mystery

On the GCC tour bus again, this time for an exciting new mystery! ASKING FOR MURDER by Dr. Roberta Isleib (Berkley Prime Crime, September 2008) is the 3rd book involving psychologist-advice columnist-sleuth Dr. Rebecca Butterman. A clinical psychologist herself, Roberta says the work of the detective in a mystery has quite a bit in common with long-term psychotherapy: Start with a problem, follow the threads looking for clues, and gradually fill in the big picture. Her advice column series debuted in 2007 with DEADLY ADVICE and PREACHING TO THE CORPSE.

Roberta is the president of National Sisters in Crime and the past president of the New England chapter. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards.

Welcome to Brant Flakes, Roberta. It's great to have you here!! Thanks, Marilyn!

New readers want to know about your novel. Can you tell us the basic premise? ASKING FOR MURDER: When Dr. Rebecca Butterman's dear friend, a sandplay therapist, is found beaten and left for dead, Rebecca's determined to help search for answers. With a would-be killer on the loose, she can only hope the clues are buried within easy reach. How intriguing! I've never read a book involving a sandplay therapist. What a fascinating occupation...

What's one scene from this story you loved writing and why did it excite you? Dr. Butterman goes to see a sandplay expert, hoping to unearth the killer's identity in an arrangement she discovered at her friend's house. Instead, she learns a lot more about herself and her own sad past than she ever imagined. It gives me goose bumps to reread this scene!

Do you have a favorite food? I love to eat so this a hard one--I'd say anything with cheese in it. Maybe cheese puffs stuffed with hot pepper jelly? Lucky thing my protagonist is a very good cook. So she prepares wonderful recipes as she solves murders--gives me a chance to cook and eat for research purposes! Now, see, I'd love this, too :). Could I join you and Dr. Butterman for dinner sometime??

Who was the first person you told when you got The Call announcing you'd sold your first novel? Definitely my husband. He's been a super-supporter every step of the way. In the beginning, he read every word. And he's gone on countless research and book promotion trips. He's absolutely there through all the ups and downs.When my agent called to tell me she'd landed a 3-book deal, but it wouldn't include the one book I'd written, I was devastated. My husband reminded me that this was REALLY GOOD NEWS. I couldn't do it without him! He sounds like such a wonderful man :).

What's your Writer Fantasy (I love, love, love this question!!)--i.e., to see your book made into a feature film, to be on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.? How about all of the above? As a psychologist, I know the importance of having "big goals" for my subconscious to aim at. So I keep a copy of the NYTimes bestseller list pasted up over my computer. Then I forget about it and work on the books word by word...

What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication? Don't rush off too soon to try to get your work published. This business is extremely competitive, so it's crucial to have your writing polished before sending it out. The internet makes querying too easy! I have lots of info on my website about agents and getting published and some of the scams writers fall for. Read it over. http://www.robertaisleib.com/

Do your neighbors or hometown acquaintances know you're a published author or did you just choose to tell those closest to you? Oh gosh, I look for opportunities everywhere. My family's trained to look for openings, too! How else are people going to know to look for it?

What's a personality trait you love about one of the characters in your novel? My protagonist is a loving and loyal friend. She has two really close girlfriends that make all the difference in her life.

Sounds like a fantastic book, Roberta! Thanks so much for visiting this week :).

Monday, September 15, 2008

I Need an Event Planner

Not because I'm getting married. Thankfully, I'm very happy with my husband, a fact I'm sure he'd be pleased to hear.

I do, however, need a wedding-planner-esque checklist or, heck, a 200-page guidebook for this whole publishing process. Brides-to-be have that ginormous binder thingy where they're told at, say, 12 months pre-wedding to make sure the church/ceremony site and the reception hall is booked. They're informed they'd better get in their caterer requests by month #8 or something, and hire the band or DJ by month #6. I can no longer remember the dates by which we needed to order our cake or send out our invitations, but I do remember clinging to that damn planner like a lifeline amidst the endless yards of white tulle and my mother's overenthusiasm.

I want a planner like that right now for the pre-book-debut year. When do I have to get the author bio in to the publicity department? When does the art department need cover ideas? When should I do a photo shoot? (And do I have time to lose 20 pounds first? Answer: Um, no--because the novel comes out in 2009 not 2019...) When should I place ads in magazines? Send ARCs to reviewers? Update my website? Write a press release?

OMG. All I know is that there's a freaking LOT to do. (And my mom, unfortunately, is not going to be able to field my questions or manage the endless details on this one.)

Any suggestions or useful articles? I've gotten some helpful hints from a few online loop friends but, ohhhh, I'm very open to more ideas. Or, you know, links to funny YouTube videos that'll take my mind off the madness...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Joanne Rendell's Delightful Debut!

The GCC tour is zipping through the Blogosphere again, this week featuring the lovely Joanne Rendell and her first novel, The Professors' Wives' Club (NAL/Penguin). I've already had the pleasure of reading a few posts on this intriguing new book, as well as an excellent interview by The Book Lady just last week. (Check out Caryn's 9-2-08 Q&A with Joanne if your can!! :-)

The book's gotten a lot of buzz, including praise from New York Times bestselling author Kate Jacobs who said: "As an NYU alum, I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes escapades at the fictional Manhattan U. in THE PROFESSORS’ WIVES’ CLUB. Joanne Rendell has created a quick, fun read about a wonderful group of friends."

Joanne knows what she's talking about when it comes to the wild world of academia. She was born and raised in the UK and, after completing her PhD in English Literature, she moved to the States to be with her husband, a professor at NYU. She now lives in a student dorm in New York City with her family, which would--I imagine--provide a perfect atmosphere for observing some of the otherwise unseen antics of university life.

Welcome, Joanne!
Thanks so much for touring me!

My pleasure! New readers want to know about your book...can you tell us the basic premise? Four professors’ wives’ do battle with a mean dean to save a faculty garden.

What's a personality trait you love about one of the characters in your novel and why? I particularly love the character Sofia in my book. She’s a real firecracker. It is Sofia who leads the fight against the ruthless dean. She’s feisty and witty, but also sensitive, smart, and intensely loyal. I love her blend of guts and passion, but also her kindness. If THE PROFESSORS' WIVES' CLUB is ever made into a movie, I imagine someone like Selma Hayek or perhaps Tina Fey playing her.

Who was the first person you told when you got The Call announcing you'd sold your novel? I got The Call when my family and I had just arrived back from a trip out of town. The only thing is my husband, who was the person I really wanted to tell, had to go and park our car – which in New York City is a long and arduous task. I was bursting with excitement and my son, who was three at the time, wasn’t really the perfect sounding board. In fact, he was watching my whooping and cartwheeling with a wide, slightly alarmed gaze! So I called my mum. She lives in Spain and the timing was off, so I woke her in the middle of the night. She didn’t care though. She whooped and cartwheeled too!

What's your Writer Fantasy (yes, I love this question :), i.e., to see your book make into a feature film, to be on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.? All of the above, but perhaps 80 weeks on “the list” would be even better! Seriously though, my biggest writer’s fantasy is to be able to keep on writing and publishing books. It’s such a fun vocation, but in this day and age when books aren’t selling like they used to – and to be a bestseller is like winning the lottery – there are few guarantees.

Would your high school friends be surprised to discover you'd become a novelist? It’s funny, through the powers of Facebook and Google, some of my old school friends are now finding out that I’ve become a novelist. Some seem surprised, some not. I was always a studious kid and was often nicknamed a “swot” (which in Britain means a kind of egghead, goody two-shoes student). I don’t think it would surprise any of my classmates that I went onto to do a PhD in literature. But my more recent turn to fiction, with sexy legs on my book covers (!), might raise a few eyebrows.

What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication? Join a writer’s group, either on or offline. Other writers can be fonts of infinite wisdom, not only about the craft of writing but also about the publishing industry. Plus, writing can be pretty isolating sometimes and finding a community of like-minded souls can really help. I have a small group of writer friends who live in New York , like I do, and we exchange drafts and emails regularly. I’m also a member of Backspace (a wonderful online forum for writers), as well as various writer’s listservs.

Thanks for being here, Joanne. I'm really looking forward to reading your novel! Any readers out there have behind-the-scenes experience with universities? If so, are any of those fiction-worthy tales? (Or shouldn't I ask?!)