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Thursday, October 30, 2008

We’re Partying Like It’s 1980!

The Phillies have won the World Series! The championship drought in Philadelphia is over. The curse is broken. And we were right there tipping cars with the best of them!

Okay, not really. I didn’t break windows or light anything on fire, but I did hit the streets and it surprisingly was not nearly as wild as some national news outlets would lead you to believe. We even had little kids with us (though we did have to wake one of them up by forcing socks and shoes onto her feet before dragging her out onto South Street. Trust me, she’ll thank us in ten years.)





The game was incredible exciting for being only three innings long—after the rain delay that set us back a couple days. But it was so worth the wait. Congrats to Harry Kalas for predicting before the game that the Phillies would not need to bat at the bottom of the ninth—he was right, we had it locked up!

Fans were honking, high-fiving, climbing stoplight poles, and dancing on Septa buses. (There were also a few women flashing boobs. Not sure how that ties into baseball, but the fans liked it. Poor girls will regret that one day.)





So tomorrow marks the city’s first ticker-tape parade in a quarter century, and we got seats to see the rally at the Linc—though we’re going to try to first see the parade go by in my neighborhood. I think we’d get a closer look at the players from the street than from the nosebleed section of a football stadium.

Stay tuned for more Phillies photos and for the announcement of the winner of the final installment of the Amigas and School Scandals October Extravaganza. Don’t enter for your last chance to win an ARC!

The FINAL Question of the Week is…

In my Amigas and School Scandals flipbook, it says that Lilly moves to Spring Mills. Once there, what does Lilly “instantly” become?


E-Mail me your answers via MySpace or my Contact Me form for your chance to win! And if you post a link to my Flipbook on your site or blog, you’ll be entered to win the Grand Prize next week! So send me those links! Good luck!

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Feel A Curse Lifting…Plus the Next October Giveaway Winner!

You know a game is going your way when the pitcher hits a homerun. Seriously. Could the Phillies have had a better night? Four homeruns in ONE World Series game!





And we got to see it all live, because of karma.

For those of you who don’t read my Twitter posts, let me bring you up to speed. About a week ago, my husband and I went to Modell’s to buy a Phillies hat and a Phillies shirt. We went up to the register, dropped our credit card, went all the way out to the car, put the key in the ignition, when my husband looks at the receipt. He sees that the cashier only charged us for the Phillies hat, not the shirt.

Moral dilemma: Do we get out of the car, go back in the store, and tell them that we didn’t pay for the shirt they put in our shopping bag?

Truthfully, I’d like to see some statistics about what percentage of Americans would actually do this, because I think my dear hubby is in the minority. To his great credit, he went back in, showed them the receipt, and asked to be charged for the Phillies T shirt. Obviously, the salesclerks thought he was nuts. They were sure he meant he wanted to return the shirt. No, he just wanted to pay for the shirt they had accidentally given to him for free.

When he gets back in the car, the first thing he says is, “Karma. It’s good karma.”

And guess what? One week later, he gets an email from Citizens Bank Park stating that his name has been randomly drawn from the lottery of millions of baseball fans hoping to score World Series tickets. We got to go to the game last night and pay only face value. And what a game it was!





It was one of the coolest nights of my life. We each bought an awesome sweatshirt to commemorate the event (it’s the blue one I’m wearing in the photo). Think of how long you hang on to a sweatshirt. Now we have ones that we purchased at the ballpark during the WORLD SERIES. This is something that hasn’t happened in Philadelphia since ’80. Hey, if you reverse those numbers, what do you get? I believe it’s ’08. Coincidence? I think not.

Also I am pleased to announce the latest winner of the Amigas and School Scandals October Giveaway Extravaganza:

Congratulations: Khyrinthia! The correct answer to last week's questions was "Ballet auditions."

Khyrinthia has won an ARC of Amigas and School Scandals! Please email me with your mailing address and the name you’d like the book made out to.

And for all of you still clamoring for a copy, this is the last week of the Amigas and School Scandals October Extravaganza. Please enter for your last chance to win an ARC before it hits stores.

The FINAL Question of the Week is…

In my Amigas and School Scandals flipbook, it says that Lilly moves to Spring Mills. Once there, what does Lilly “instantly” become?


E-Mail me your answers via MySpace or my Contact Me form for your chance to win! And if you post a link to my Flipbook on your site or blog, you’ll be entered to win the Grand Prize next week! So send me those links! Good luck!

And in separate news, I was nominated for a 2008 Cybil Award! The award is given by children’s and young adult book bloggers. What an honor! Thanks, everyone!

POP CULTURE RANT: One More Game!!!

Mark my words, America, if the Phils pull this one off (please, pretty please!), that tiny little William Penn statue on the Comcast Building is going to become mighty famous, mighty quick. The Duck Tours are gonna start stopping there. And if you turn on your TVs and see hordes of fans freaking out in South Philly tonight, rest assured I will be one of them. My brother and sister-in-law are coming in with their two kids—they’re letting them both stay home from school tomorrow. Right now, their friends think they have the “coolest” parents ever. One more game! One more game!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Went to Jail, Spoke with Teachers All In the Same Week

Not too many people think of spending their anniversary at the local prison, but that’s exactly what my husband and I did. No, we didn’t get arrested (though that would probably make for a more interesting blog). We went to the Eastern State Penitentiary, now a historical landmark but formerly a maximum-security prison that was fully operational until the 1970s. Romantic, right?

What can I say? We’re fans of the macabre. We visit Paris and go to the catacombs, travel to Prague and see the church made out of black plague bones, and spend our anniversaries at 19th century prisons. And it was really cool.

We got to see Al Capone’s cell, which was decorated like a luxury hotel. We saw some old escape routes and tunnels. And we got to visit the original solitary cells, where in the early days prisoners were kept completely isolated. They ate, slept and exercised alone in their cell without communication of any form, ever—for years! That’s my version of hell. I don’t think I would’ve lasted a day. Charles Dickens even agrees with me. After visiting Eastern State in 1842, he wrote that, “the System is rigid, strict and hopeless solitary confinement, and I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong.” I think me and Charlie would’ve gotten along well.

If you haven’t visited Eastern State, which is smack dab in the middle of Philadelphia (near the Art Museum), ‘tis the season to check it out. They have one of the coolest haunted houses in the country going on right now, Terror Behind the Walls. It takes place in an entire wing of the prison, lasts 40 minutes and it’s completely awesome. This is mostly because of the built-in creep factor. Let’s face it, if Eastern State isn’t haunted, then no place is.

  

And after my spooky stint at the local, historical prison, I spent Saturday at Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse Square doing a panel discussion for some of Philadelphia’s fabulous public school teachers. It was wonderful that these hard-working teachers showed up on their day off to talk about books.



And it was great meeting children’s book authors Gene Barretta (Jack the Tripper) and Judith Kristen (Henley the Old English Sheepdog). Their books are fabulous and I picked them up for my niece and nephews—check them out!

And don’t forget to enter this week’s installment of the Amigas and School Scandals October Extravaganza for your chance to win an ARC of Amigas and School Scandals! This week’s Question of the Week is…

In my Amigas and School Scandals flipbook, it says that Mariana has “auditions” coming up. What are the auditions for?

E-Mail me your answers via MySpace or my Contact Me form for your chance to win! And if you post a link to my Flipbook on your site or blog, you’ll be entered to win the Grand Prize in November! So send me those links! Good luck!

POP-CULTURE RANT: My Own Worst Enemy

Besides having one of the most clichéd names in television, the show is rather interesting. I’m all for complex plot lines (I’m still following Lost and I loved Alias), but I hate the fact that I missed the pilot and I’m already having trouble following the story. I didn’t really expect to be lost by picking up a new show with episode two. How the two personalities came to be is still beyond me, and I don’t get why some coworkers are helping him and others not. Though I do think it’s funny that when his “other” personality sleeps with his wife, he feels like she’s having an affair. Hehe. Also, I think Christian Slater has one of the coolest voices ever, so I plan to give the show a fighting chance just to listen to him speak.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Move Over Biden, I’m Coming to Wilmington

There is now another reason to put Delaware on the map. Of course the tiny little state (America’s First State!) has tax free shopping—many of us Philadelphians commute across the border for our electronics and alcohol (is it illegal to bring liquor across state lines?). And then there’s Joe Biden, the potential vice president who walks through the mean streets of Wilmington with his Joe Six Packs and Jane Hockey Moms. And it’s home to a very cool Barnes & Noble located right next to the Concord Mall.

What makes this B&N so cool? Because it’s hosting me! Yup, I’m having my first ever solo book signing, reading and Q&A at the Wilmington B&N on Friday, October 24th at 6:30pm. And the store is so nice and friendly that they’ve already posted signs, displays and posters promoting the event. Check it out:

  

How cool is that?

I’ve never seen my face in a bookstore before. It’s so surreal. That’s me. On a poster!

And to celebrate the event, I’m announcing the latest winner of the October Giveaway Extravaganza!

Congratulations…Book Junkie!

Your name was selected via a random drawing for correctly answering the Question of the Week:

In my Flipbook for Amigas and School Scandals, it says that Mariana and her friends are planning a “road trip.” Where does the Flipbook say they are planning on going?

Answer: Cornell


The Cornell scenes are actually some of the funniest chapters in Amigas and School Scandals. I hope you all check it out when the book launches in November!

POP-CULTURE RANT: Phillies!

OMG! They’re going to the World Series. They’re actually going! Wow. I’m telling you folks, I think the curse may be lifting. If they win, creating the first championship in Philadelphia in a quarter Century, you will never hear the end of the little William Penn statue on the top of the Comcast Building. Mark my words—that little dude could become real famous, real quick. Even faster than Joe the Plumber.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Flipping Out—Elections, Book Launches, NLCS, and More

We went to a bar in Philly to watch the NLCS game last night (Let's go, Phils! Only one more game!). It was a great crowd and we even won some free stuff (beer cozy and t-shirt), but we didn’t go merely to watch the game. We also went because I thought if I didn’t get out, I’d go crazy.

I work from home, which 99% of the time I love. I can make my own day, wake up and decide what I need to get done without anyone else telling me. There’s a lot of freedom in that, and I’m doing a job that I love. It keeps me happy. But the down side is when you’re extremely busy and ridiculously stressed, you can start to feel like you’re going a bit nuts.

In moments like those, it would be nice to have a coworker. Especially when you’ve spent hours adjusting fonts, colors and image sizes to Web friendly levels. Yup, I finally finished my Flipbook for Amigas and School Scandals. And you’ll be happy to note that the shades of pink, green, blue and purple are exactly the same as they are on my website, because I know that’s very important to all of you (see what I mean about the “crazy” part?).

So enjoy! There will be a quiz afterward. Seriously. I’m basing my Question of the Week on a clue in Flipbook. (FYI, clicking on the image opens the Flipbook in a new window. And there's music involved. Enjoy!)



Awesome, right? You’ll notice that all those colorful borders around the pictures are exactly the same width, and that each line of text is the same size, and that the photos have been expertly manipulated so that the models representing Mariana now have reddish hair (again, you see nuttiness involved).

So, I took a stress break at a local pub and cheered on the Fightin’ Phils. Though I must admit most of the good stuff happened while I wasn't paying attention—go to the bathroom, Victorino hits a two-run homer. Turn my attention briefly to the Giants game (They lost by the way, yay! I’m an Eagles fan.) and Lidge finally gets the third out. I’m starting to think my sudden involvement with baseball might be jinxing the team.

But it is providing a nice distraction from the other endless race going on—the elections. I heard Michelle Obama say the other day that they’ve been on the campaign trail for 20 months. Twenty months! That’s insane. I think we’re all ready for this to end (the candidates included).

So take a break from all of this craziness with me and flip out over my Flipbook! And if you watch it, it’ll help you answer this week’s Question of the Week:

In my Flipbook for Amigas and School Scandals, it says that Mariana and her friends are planning a “road trip.” Where does the Flipbook say they are planning on going?

Send me your answers, via MySpace email or the Contact Me section of my website. A winner will be selected on Friday, and will receive a free Advanced Reader Copy of Amigas and School Scandals and a bookplate of Adios to All the Drama. Both the ARC and the bookplate will be signed.

Also for a chance to win the Amigas and School Scandals October Giveaway Extravaganza Grand Prize, post a link to my Amigas and School Scandals Flipbook somewhere on your website, blog or MySpace page and tell me where you posted it. Here’s the direct link to the Flipbook: http://www.flip.com/people/flipbooks/481614

If you post the link, then you’ll be entered to win once. If you embed the Flipbook onto your site, you’ll be entered to win FIVE times.

The Grand Prize, given away on Friday, November 7th, will include:
--A personalized signed copy of Amigas and School Scandals (the final version that’s in stores)
--An Advanced Reader Copy of Adios to All the Drama
--And two exclusive Amor and Summer Secrets bookmarks

Good luck!

POP-CULTURE RANT: Flyers

So, you may have heard that the Philadelphia Flyers asked Sarah Palin to drop the puck on opening day this past weekend as part of a search for the “Ultimate Hockey Mom.” Now, I have two issues with this. First, let’s not turn sports into a political forum. What’s next? Barack throws the first pitch at the World Series? McCain tosses the coin on Monday Night Football? Can we not have one area of our lives not infested with this election? And second, Comcast cleverly amped up the background music when Palin stepped onto the ice to drown out the predictable boos from the Philadelphia crowd. Hey, you’re the ones who asked her to come. If you don’t like the reaction, that’s not our fault. But let’s keep it real.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Curse of Billy Penn, and the First October Extravaganza Winner!

“Hello, my name is Diana. And I’m a Philadelphia sports fan.”

Those of you who follow sports, know that I am in a category worthy of a support group. Because Philadelphia is home to a sad bunch of fans famously devoted to teams who collectively haven’t won a championship in 25 years. It is the largest championship drought of any city with four major sports teams—ever.

And it’s all thanks to William Penn.



Yup, that peace-lovin’ Quaker who founded our state was so humble and pious that our city put a giant 37-foot statue of him on top of city hall. And there he’s stood since the late 1800s. It’s a nice sentiment if you think about it. Instead of a telecommunication tower on top of the building, we’ve got a statue dedicated to the man who made us. Except…

Penn hates us.

Well, sort of.

You see, when the building was erected, it came with a “gentlemen’s agreement” stating that no building in the city would be constructed higher than William Penn’s hat. And that ordinance lasted until the 1980s, which in itself is impressive because the building’s not that tall, 548-feet high; in comparison, the Empire State Building’s 1,250-feet. But Billy Penn remained our highest point until One Liberty Place sprouted up in 1987, just three blocks away from City Hall. One Liberty Place is 945 feet tall.



And Billy Penn has been none too happy ever since. In fact, Philadelphia hasn’t won a major sports championship (football, baseball, basketball or hockey) since the NBA title in 1983. You know how long ago that was? Dr. J, Mose Malone, and Maurice Cheeks led the team (they’re all still awesome, but a tad bit grayer). And it’s all because we’ve been cursed by the very man who founded us. However…

The spell may be lifting.

You see, this past year a new skyscraper opened, dwarfing the two Liberty towers only a few blocks away. Oh, yes, I’m talking about the Comcast Center—57 stories, and 975 feet of corporate America. And it’s not only the tallest point in the city, it’s now also home to William Penn’s famous hat. When the building topped off, construction workers attached a small statue of William Penn (a tiny replica of the one at City Hall) to it’s highest beam. Thus, allowing Billy to sit atop his city once again.



Why am I telling you this?

Because the Phillies are fighting to win the NLCS! Because they could, God willing, go back to the World Series for the first time since 1993. And hopefully if Penn is satisfied with his new home (aren’t Quakers supposed to be about peace and harmony?), then he might toss a bone to us freakishly dedicated sports fans. (Who sometimes get a bad wrap in the media, but seriously how pleasant would your fans be if they hadn’t seen a single championship in their entire lifetimes? Gee, it must be soooo hard to be a Yankees fan. What devotion you all have. Win, after win, after win. Except this year, oops.)

So my point is, cheer for the Phillies! Rally around us! The Cubs already let you down. And do you really want to see the Dodgers win? Like Joe Torre needs another championship!

Embrace what it feels like to be a Philly fan—go throw a snowball at Santa, or boo a neighbor, or loyally pack in at a major sports game despite the 25 years of disappointment. Because our sorry little city needs a ticker-tape parade!

And to add to the October excitement, I’m please to announce the first winner of the Amigas and School Scandals October Giveaway Extravaganza!

Congratulations…..Rachael Stein!

Your name was selected via a random drawing after having answered the “Question of the Week” correctly!

In Amor and Summer Secrets, when Mariana goes to Puerto Rico with her brother, they meet a teenage cousin who looks like Mariana (a lot). What’s Mariana’s cousin’s name?


CORRECT ANSWER: Lilly

Please email me with your mailing address and who you would like your ARC made out to! Congratulations! And stayed tuned for next week’s installment of the Extravaganza where I’ll have a new Question and a link to my new Amigas and School Scandals Flipbook.


POP-CULTURE RANT: Life on Mars

So I’m trying to DVR some of the new shows on TV. And I decided to give this one a go because it comes on after Grey’s Anatomy—I’m a tough sell, I know. First off, what’s with the name? Life on Mars sounds like it should be the next incarnation of ALF, but instead it’s more like a lame rip off of that movie Frequency. You know, where there are weak time travel elements and a cop trying to solve an old murder to save someone he loves from the devious acts of a murderer in the present? And as a former resident of Lower Manhattan on 9/11, I take issue with shows using the Twin Towers purely for shock value. Though I did get chills when the guy woke up in the ‘70s and saw the buildings still standing, I found it weird that he was still focused on trying to save his 2008 girlfriend rather than creating a way to stop the towers from ultimately collapsing. Seriously, if you ended up back in time and saw those towers still intact, wouldn’t that be your first priority?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Amigas and School Scandals" October Giveaway Extravaganza!

In honor of the launch of Amigas and School Scandals in November—or October 28th if you preorder from Amazon–I’m starting an October Giveaway Extravaganza!

Every Friday from now until November (Oct. 10th, 17th, 24th, and 31st), I will be giving away one free Advanced Reader Copy of Amigas and School Scandals, the sequel to the first book in my young adult series, Amor and Summer Secrets. I will also include a bookplate of Adios to All the Drama, the final installment of the series. Both the ARC and the bookplate will be signed.



All you have to do to enter is send me a message via MySpace or via the Contact Me section of my website, and answer the “Question of the Week.” A winner will be selected every Friday. You’ll need to re-enter each week. I’ll post a blog notifying you of when you can begin entering that week’s October Giveaway Extravaganza (it will generally be on Mondays, but I got a late start, oops).

For the finale of the Amigas and School Scandals October Giveaway Extravaganza—on Friday, November 7th—I will be giving away the Grand Prize:
--A personalized signed copy of Amigas and School Scandals (the final version that’s in stores)
--An Advanced Reader Copy of Adios to All the Drama
--And two exclusive Amor and Summer Secrets bookmarks.

To win the grand prize you will need to keep track of all the answers to the “Questions of the Week,” and also post a link to my Amigas and School Scandals Flipbook somewhere one your website, blog or MySpace page. The flipbook link will be posted on Monday, October 13th—so check back!

And now…. to enter to win the ARC Amigas and School Scandals being given away this Friday (just two days away, that’s hardly even waiting!), send me a message and answer this week’s “Question of the Week” (it’s an easy one to get you started):

In Amor and Summer Secrets, when Mariana goes to Puerto Rico with her brother, they meet a teenage cousin who looks like Mariana (a lot). What’s Mariana’s cousin’s name?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Why People Who’ve Lived in Manhattan Should Have to Retake Drivers’ Exams

Here’s a philosophical question for you: if a person has had a driver’s license since she was 17, yet hasn’t driven regularly since she graduated from high school, should the state of Pennsylvania really keep renewing her license unquestioned? Because they do. And for the past dozen years or so, my license has been decorative. It fills that little photo-spot in my wallet and is used for identification purposes only. Until now.

Oh, that’s right—watch out Philadelphia, because I am back on the road! Philly Car Share has happily added me as a member based on an unblemished driving record from the past 12 years of non-driving. And on Sunday, they let me borrow a brand new Mini Cooper.



Um, anyone else see the flaw in this plan?

If you live outside of Philly, let me explain. Philly Car Share is similar to other programs, like Zip Car, where residents join in order to have the ease of renting a car without having to fill out paperwork or go to a rental office. You sign up once, become a member, and from then on you can drive off in any of the cars conveniently parked in your urban neighborhood. Great, right?

Well, what this ingenious little company fails to recognize is that if someone’s living IN a city, and doesn’t have their own car, that probably means they don’t drive much. Take a person who moved to Boston for college and took the T to class everyday for four years; then she graduated and moved to Manhattan where parking spots cost as much as rent thus no one actually drives themselves; and then this person moves back to Philadelphia where she gets a job 15 blocks from her house and just takes the bus because it’s not like there’s a parking lot at her office or anything. And so here she sits at 30 years old with less driving experience than most 16 year olds with a learner’s permit, but no biggie. If you’ve got $9.90, then you’ve got yourself a Mini Cooper for an hour!

So that was me on Sunday driving on 1-95—yup, that multi-lane mega highway that goes from Maine to Florida! Though I only went from Philly to Springfield (about 20 minutes).



You see, I’ve been setting up school events throughout the area. And unfortunately taking a taxi to these suburban locations doesn’t seem financially responsible. And there isn’t exactly public transportation (trains, buses, or subways—oh, subways, how I miss you!) that takes me from door-to-door. So if I’m going to get from my house to these schools, I’m going to have to drive myself. Thus, I needed some practice.

Hey, remember that Ludacris song from 2001? “Move! Get out the way; Get out the way; Get out the way!” (This is obviously the radio-edited version for those more familiar with the dirtier one). Anyway, that was me on I-95.

I really should’ve been driving with my flashers on as a warning. However, the big white “Philly Car Share” logo is prominently displayed on both doors, which might as well be a blinking “Student Driver” sign because that would be a more accurate description. (Take note of these drivers if you live in the area. You don’t want to get near them.)




And to make things more challenging, these car shares have funky “key fobs” that unlock the doors by waving a magic wand on the windshield. Then you have to stick this plastic disk into a computer slot and press a “start” button to get the engine going. I’m not kidding. There’s no metal key. It’s like a spaceship in there.

My only saving grace was that I was familiar with the route we were traveling—from my house to where my parents used to live. But that didn’t stop the panic attack of having to merge onto the highway. I completely forgot about the sideview mirrors. Talk about blind trust—I made that first merge based purely on my husband’s say-so. (All the other drivers on 95 that day can send my husband a thank you card.)

I did get better by the end of the trip. My confidence boosted when I safely got to the Borders in Springfield. (Of course, I was going to a bookstore. Where else?) And I was able to merge onto the highway all by myself on the way home (I even treated myself with Starbucks afterwards as a reward). I think I did rather well, though my husband never stopped biting his nails, and when we got out he wondered out loud whether it might be a good idea for him to take off work and drive me to those high schools. Man, no faith!

I mean, if I can learn how to write a book, I can lean how to drive (again). Or I can hope to strike it rich on my next advance, and get one of those fancy Maybach cars that are meant to be driven by drivers with little hats for people named “Trump.” A girl can dream, right?



POP-CULTURE RANT: Phillies!

So the Eagles are sucking it up big time as of late, and I’m doing what any good Philadelphian would do in this situation—I’m jumping on the nearest bandwagon! Go Phillies! You realize that this is the first time they’ve made it to the NLCS since 1993. You know where I was in 1993? In tenth grade. So come join me on the wagon! Because if the country can get behind Red Sox Nation and the curse of the Big Bambino, then they can get behind the Phils and the Curse of William Penn. It’s not like we’re swimming in championships, here folks. Let’s Go Phillies!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oh, the Place You’ll Go to Research a Novel

At the Baltimore Book Festival on Saturday, I fielded an interesting question I thought worthy of further blogification (yes, I made up that word). An audience member asked what sort of research we (the panelists and I) do for our novels. And given my current WIP, I actually have a lot to say on this subject—starting with my ongoing love for the Google Guys.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I posted about my desire to thank Google on my Acknowledgments Page should my WIP ever make it to print. Google not only rocks, it’s probably the most helpful tool ever invented. If I need to know what a specific church in Italy looks like, inside and out, I can find photos from every angle. If I need a list of political scandals that took place in Poland in the 1980s, all I need to do is open a search engine. All my research is a click away.

But even still, it’s not enough.

In my opinion, regardless of whether you’re creating fiction, you shouldn’t write about a place unless you’ve been there. If you’re setting a book in Boston, you should swing by Beantown and check out the lay of the land before you presume to write that you know what life is like there.

For example, my WIP has a car chase in Boston. Now I went to college there (ahem, a few years ago), so I wrote the car chase based on what I “thought” the streets looked like. And that worked—for a rough draft. But I still ultimately traveled back to Boston. I mapped out exactly how my character would get from her apartment to the “car chase neighborhood,” and how she would navigate her getaway—because anyone who knows Boston, knows the majority of streets are one-way. I wanted my route to be accurate.


The Boston setting for my WIP

I know what you’re thinking, who cares? It’s fiction! Can’t you just have her weaving through cobblestone streets in the North End and call it a day? Sure, if I were lazy. But locals will notice. And they’re not shy on calling you out, trust me.

I have a scene in Amor and Summer Secrets where Mariana and her friends go to a concert at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. I say that they’re sitting on grass as the music’s playing. Now, I live in Philadelphia (not far from where that scene takes place), and I still had a local tell me that the scene was “impossible,” because there is no grass at Penn’s Landing. I obviously disagreed, and insisted that Mariana was sitting on a “grassy knoll,” not a field. This person continued to stand her ground.

So you know what I did? When I went to Penn’s Landing to watch Boyz II Men on July 4th weekend, I took a picture of people sitting on the patches of grass in between the concrete riverfront area. If the topic’s ever brought up again, I have proof (of the grass, and my mild neurosis).

Anyway, that’s why I went to Italy to research my WIP. Sure, I wrote about 60% of the book before I got there based on what I “thought” it looked like. But I changed almost all of those descriptions after I actually spent time there. I could now describe real restaurants, hotels, plazas, food, cafés and scenery.


Me in front of a café featured in the book

As a reader, I think that this is important. No, I’m not writing nonfiction. But I am writing about a real place, so I think my portrayal should be real. And if I’m going to take liberties with the locale, then I’m going to purposely, and openly, fictionalize it—as I did in Amor.

I say that Amor and Summer Secrets takes place in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia. This is true, and the lifestyle I describe is accurate (for the uber-wealthy). But the town of “Spring Mills” doesn’t exist. Why? Because I wanted to create my own world—make the school look the way I wanted, make her neighborhood the way I pictured it, and have her teachers react how I wanted, unquestioned. But in the midst of those fictionalized settings, I do add in real places in both the Main Line and Philadelphia (like the King of Prussia mall, Suburban Square, and South Street).

So that’s the line I draw with fiction. If you’re going to make stuff up, then make up the whole dog-on town. But if you’re going to set a book in Rome, get a passport. Believe me, traveling to Europe (or Puerto Rico as was the case for Amor) for research is not a hardship. Plus, it could be a tax write-off—how awesome is that?

In other news, I wanted to announce the second winner of PART TWO of the Amor and Summer Secrets Back-To-School Giveaway!

Congratulations…Lily Polley!

You not only share a name with one of my main characters (hehe), you also have just won a complete Amor and Summer Secrets Prize Pack, which includes a copy of Amor, and ARC of Amigas and School Scandals, two signed bookplates, and two exclusive Amor and Summer Secrets bookmarks!

Lily won, via a random drawing, for posting the following review posted on her blog:

Diana Rodriguez Wallach tells a fantastic story that I reminded me of some of the challenges I had growing up multi-ethnic and all the sacrifices that my family made just so I could be where I am today. I laughed and cried and I even learned a few things about myself. I was so touched by the sincerity of the story. I highly recommend reading this book and following up with the next two in the series: "Amigas and School Scandals" & "Adios to All The Drama"

Thanks, Lily and Congrats! Please email me with your mailing address and who you’d like the books made out to.

POP-CULTURE RANT: Lou Dobbs

You know it’s a scary time in American history when I agree with Lou Dobbs. Admittedly, he and I have not agreed on much in the past (specifically, his anti-immigration crusade). But I have to say, this past week he’s been the only reporter calling out Washington on the craziness of this now $850M BAILOUT. And I find it particularly ridiculous that on the request of politicians and lobbyists, the media is now calling this plan a “rescue effort,” because the word “BAILOUT” was turning off Americans (uh, I don’t think it’s just the word). And I commend Lou for using “BAILOUT” in almost every sentence of his broadcast last night. It would be nice if the rest of the media did a better job of reporting on what this bill actually means and why it is/isn’t good, rather than just featuring a bunch of pundits spouting generic talking points that vaguely dance around the issue. Step up to the plate, media! Because Lou seems to be the only one speaking his mind.


Copyright © 2008 Diana Rodriguez Wallach, All Rights Reserved