Everything Books
Writing and reading and books, books, books (and anything that might relate)

February 7, 2013

The creative hunch

“A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.” — Frank Capra

Right now I am at my desk many, many hours every day (that includes weekends). The current project: American Blonde, the fourth novel in the Velva Jean series. Technically, I’m supposed to be editing the novel right now, based on my editor’s first round of notes. But what I’m actually doing is re-envisioning and re-outlining and, for the most part, rewriting the entire book from about page 15 on, which means I am throwing out around 600 pages of material.

While my editor did have lots of notes, rewriting the book wasn’t one of them. That’s all me.

I have until May 1st to do this, and it’s going to be– let me think of the polite word– challenging. The easier thing would be to implement her notes and some of my own, cut and rewrite here and there, work on one of the characters who needs working on, and maybe move some scenes around or re-envision small sections. But that would be cheating Velva Jean and American Blonde and, ultimately, myself.

Because I know, deep in my creative bones, the story I want to tell in this book. The story I should tell. The story that is more organic to Velva Jean and her journey and the setting she finds herself in. It’s the story I almost wrote last year when I was working on the book for the first time, but ended up putting aside for one reason or another, mostly time constraints– I just didn’t feel I had enough time to do that original story justice in the short period I had to write it.

The lesson: Always, always listen to your first instinct. This is something I’ve learned time and again. Usually I listen. This time I didn’t. Now I have less time than before to come up with, essentially, a brand new book. But it has to be done.

If I didn’t rewrite it, maybe no one would know. Maybe they would even enjoy the story as I wrote it last summer. But I would know. And every time I picked up that book, I would think of what it could have, should have been.

So the next time you have a creative instinct, listen to it, try it out, sit with it for a while, let it simmer, see if it flourishes. Honor it. That particular idea may not be something you need to follow all the way to the end. But then again, it may be exactly where your story wants to go.

It’s funny how stories let you know the way they want to be told.

December 10, 2012

Readin’ around the Christmas tree

I’m allergic to real Christmas trees, which means that all my life I’ve had an artificial one. This isn’t as bad as it sounds– the tree doesn’t turn brown, you don’t have to water it, and there aren’t any pine needles to clean up.

Also, about half of the ornaments come from my childhood, which means the tree and its contents have great sentimental value. There are the ones I made myself in grade school, the cloth globes from Japan, the pink rocking horse I tried to eat because I thought it was candy, the angel who sat at the top of my very first tree, and who still sits atop my tree today. I even have my dad’s favorite Santa ornament from when he was a boy.

Last week, we decorated our Christmas tree (as you can see, Rumi the cat helped us), and it got me to thinking: what if I made a tree out of books? What better way to combine two of my favorite things– Christmas and reading?

Here’s some inspiration:

(Library tree from the Gleeson Library in San Francisco)

(For those with limited space and a red wall)

(A German book tree)

(From the Moravian Book Shop in, of all places, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)

(A little tree for those limited on space)

(A book tree centerpiece)

(The perfect use for those first editions)

(A tree for your office)

(A tree of books)

(A printed paper pine tree)

October 13, 2012

Stick It

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , , — phoebe @ 12:00 pm

Reading, writing or researching, I am always sure to have sticky notes and a pen next to me. However I had never thought about how sticky notes came about. I found the research of such a seemingly simple object, to be quite fascinating.

First invented in 1968 by a chemist, they were unsuccessful because of their low adhesiveness. Years later in 1977 a colleague of his sold them under the name of ‘Press and Peel’. At this point they were still ineffective, however after a redesign, three years later they were launched as ‘Post it notes’. Yellow was accidentally used as the color, as the lab next to the Post it team had scraps of yellow paper. Today they are used in areas from art through to the virtual world.

Having progressed since the original yellow square, here are some unique sticky notes that can be found today.


September 30, 2012

Viva La Orphelines!

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , — jenniferkathleen @ 7:58 pm

To celebrate Jennifer’s Becoming Clementine making her debut, her blog is taking a French state of mind. Ah, France! Home of Edith Piaf, french bread, croissants, french braids, viva la France!

Oddly when I think of France, I think of the Happy Orphelines. You might be scratching your head, thinking what are the happy orphelines?  Merde! You never heard of them! Tsk, tsk!



The happy orphelines woudn’t hang out with Annie or Harry Potter. Maybe they would, but they wouldn’t get why they were so sad about having no parents. They were happy about being orphans (orphelines is what they are called in France) They were well fed, well dressed, and went on field trips around Paris; touring the sewers (yes, this was an actual field trip, hard to believe)  walking around Paris, having a lovely time.


I loved the books for the stories of course, and the fact that several of the books were done by Garth Williams. I loved Charlotte’s Web, so I knew his drawing style right away. I remember noticing Bridgette and Fern looked alike with their coloring; I almost wondered (and I know this is awful of me) if Mr. Arable was in France during the war. Can we prove that he might’ve fathered a little girl? Who knows? Oh, I went there. Yes, I’ve watched too many soap operas in my time. But there is a similarity.

When I was older I was surprised that Natalie Savage Carlson was not French. She grew up in the South (and wrote a middle grade novel about race relations) yet all the orpheline books are set in France, along with The Family under the Bridge, another middle grade novel that won a Newberry Honor and made into a musical written by Kathie Lee Gifford.
What I loved about the orpheline books is that they loved their lives. Yes, it would be great to have parents, but they had Madame (the woman who ran the orphanage) they had Therese the helper. What more could they want? The orphanage they lived in was falling down all around them, but they had each other. They accepted life as it was. Sometimes that is incredibly hard to do. I’ve been bummed this past week; a possible writing opportunity has been delayed. However, I remembered the orphelines. They accepted whatever was thrown at them, and were grateful for the small things. For me I realized a delay did not mean it was over, kaput. It’s just a delay. Nothing more, nothing less.

When I was little and my mother was done with a book she was reading to me, I would say “Make more!” I wanted more of the story, more of the author. I felt like that when I realized there were no more orphelines books for me to read. But they are forever alive, walking in Paris, happy in the knowledge they were together.


September 18, 2012

Rumi on my desk

Rumi was named for the Persian poet and mystic, famous for his poems of love, which is very fitting since Rumi the cat is the most loving creature I know. His purr runs all day and night– he doesn’t even turn it off at the vet. He’s been keeping me company at my desk since he was a kitten, and has seen me through every Velva Jean book. So with Becoming Clementine due to come out one week from today, here’s a little tribute to the sweetest literary kitty of all.

September 12, 2012

Passport to Paris Giveaway!

Summer 1944. Paris. A secret mission. A dangerous passion. A spellbinding story you will never forget.

Becoming Clementine takes Velva Jean to World War II France, where she works with the Resistance as a spy and falls in love with a handsome French agent…

The book will be released September 25, but you can enter now for your chance to win an autographed advance copy and an assortment of treasures directly from Paris.

Okay, so you don’t actually need your passport for this one, but this giveaway will make you feel as if you’ve spent the day in Paris. My lovely assistant Lara has just returned from a French vacation with a bag of Parisian souvenirs. What better complement to Becoming Clementine? You can read about Paris while snacking on delicious Garni de Biscuits Pur Beurre (packaged in a retro collector’s tin), rest your drink on coasters featuring some of the more famous and picturesque landmarks, and enjoy the view from your trio of mini Eiffel Towers. You can use one of the vintage postcards as a bookmark and, last but not least, hang the Mona Lisa on your fridge.

To enter, simply follow me on Twitter, like me on Facebook, and enter your name and email address here. The winner will be announced Monday, Sept 17 at 5:00 pm PDT.

In the meantime, read an excerpt, watch the trailer, and pre-order your copy now!


Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — phoebe @ 12:50 am

In the midst of Apple’s reveal today here is a list of the best writing and reading apps for your iPhones and iPads.

1. 3D Classic Literature Collection –  World’s first 3D book flipping held in your hands.

2. Collected Works – Classic literary pieces, from Alice in Wonderland to War and Peace, available right from your iPhone

3. Evernote – Organise notes, and basically anything else. Available on and offline and syncs between all your devices. Great for college students!

4. British Library 19th Century Collection – 100 free available titles.

5. Red Laser Barcode Scanner – Scan a barcode of a book and find the closest library, purchase online, or near by store.

6. iBooks, Kindle and Nook App – For reading on the go!

7. ElectricLit – A quarterly release of some of the best writers and their short stories.

8. Wattpad – The Youtube for readers and writers. Share and discover stories.


September 4, 2012

Literary Snacking

For me, reading, writing and snacking just simply go hand in hand. Here are this weeks sweet and savory snacks to help keep you focused and energised for your next sit down session.

Parmesan Popped Popcorn

½ cup popped popcorn kernels (popped using favorite method)

¼ cup melted butter

2 tbs parmesan cheese

1tbs garlic powder

⅛ tsp black pepper

1. Toss popcorn with melted butter. Add the remaining ingredients and toss until all mixed through.


Brain Booster Smoothie

1 cup apple juice

1 banana

1 ½ cups frozen blueberries

½ cup frozen raspberries (these berries can be substituted for alternate berries)

¼ cup raw walnuts

1. Blend all ingredients together until smooth.

September 2, 2012

Stars who read

I hear too many people say, “I don’t read,” as if it’s something to be proud of.

John Waters said, “We need to make books cool again.”  Here are nine stars who did their part.

Reading is cool.

Reading is glamorous.

Reading is swashbuckling.

Reading is smart.

Reading is manly.

Reading is sexy.

Reading is genius.

Reading is fun.




August 31, 2012

A library gift shop. I have gone to heaven.

My recurring fantasy about libraries is that at night, after everyone goes home, , the books come to life and mingle in a fabulous cocktail party. — Neal Wyatt

A perfect Saturday: a trip downtown to the vast and gorgeous Los Angeles Central Library to do book-related research. Before leaving, browse (and shop) their Library Store (more on that in a minute). Then walk a few blocks over to the Grand Central Market, most specifically to market vendor MF Gourmet, for the most decadent grilled cheese you’ve ever eaten. Then skip around the corner to the historic Million Dollar Theater to see a screening of a classic black and white film…

But back to that Library Store.

I’m a writer, of course, and a voracious reader, and so I completely and rather scarily nerd out over anything that has to do with writing and reading. I also love gift shops. LOVE them! And I’m not a girl who generally enjoys shopping just for shopping’s sake. So you can imagine the way my head spins when I merely step inside the Library Store, which is one of the most fun and creative gift shops I’ve ever seen– and it’s in a library! The store has everything from Reading is Sexy mugs and bumper stickers (I’m a longtime fan of the artist, Sarah Utter) to literary coasters to some swanky knee-high bookworm socks to typewriter placemats to a Personal Library Kit, which I would have done just about anything for as a little girl because– it may not surprise anyone– I used to love playing “Library” almost as much as “Charlie’s Angels.” Because I’m an only child, I would make my mother, cats, friends, and, on rare occasion, my father check out my books, which, at the time, were things like Little Bear’s Visit and The World of Christopher Robin. I loved saying, “Those will be due a week from tomorrow.”

Older Posts »