April 18: The Day of the Deal!

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Exciting news: Amazon has selected THE LOVE WARS as a Kindle Daily Deal!

You can snatch up an e-copy for $2.99—a whopping 63% off (give or take a decimal)—for one day only! It’s like a mad sample sale, but you don’t have to try anything on* to know it will fit like a glove.

In case you’re not familiar, The Love Wars has been recommended by Shape Magazine, Philadelphia Examiner, Working Mother Magazine, Refinery29.com and Sheknows.com, and has also been praised as quick-witted, briskly-paced and the perfect beach read.

So, go! Tell your friends! And once again, the link for this amazing deal.

*If you DO want to try it on, there’s no line for the dressing room.

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Blog Hop! Authors in Bloom

NOTE: If you have trouble commenting below, just email the information to alison@lalisonheller.com! 

This week I’m thrilled to be part of the Authors in Bloom Blog Hop, an amazing giveaway spanning one week and over 70 blogs. There’s an incredible grand prize—an e-reader of your choice!—as well as goodies to win at each of the stops, which are listed below.

The Giveaway

Here, the prize is a personalized advance copy of my so-new-it’s-not-even-out-yet novel, THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS, to be published June 3.

An absorbing, highly entertaining novel about family secrets, The Never Never Sisters introduces you to the strong-willed and big-hearted Reinhardt women, as they reunite one summer in New York. Gifted storyteller L. Alison Heller has written another witty and moving page-turner that will captivate readers and keep them guessing right up until the satisfying end. (Want more? Click here)

Rules for entry:
1. “Like” my facebook page and then comment below that you’ve done so.
2. Leave your email in the comments so that we know how to reach the winner for both this giveaway and the grand prize.

The tour ends on April 16th and by April 18, I’ll use random.org to pick the winner. (US mailing addresses only, please.)

Gooey Chocolatey Recipe

I’ve been in NYC for most of my adult life and trust me—you don’t want my gardening tips! (Although I have managed to keep alive some silk flowers from IKEA for years now and they are thriving.) I do have a kitchen here in my concrete jungle, though, and can offer a recipe for the most delicious chocolatey fudge/brownies/cookie things going.(adapted from the wonderful Mark Bittman):

1 stick butter (soft)
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
pinch salt
¾ all purpose flour
1 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate
¼ cup pecans (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Line 8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil and grease foil
3. Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate over a low heat. Transfer to bowl with electric mixer
4. Beat in sugar until smooth
5. Beat in egg
6. Add salt
7. Gently stir in flour, chocolate chunks and pecans
8. Pour into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes (middle should be just set—is better to undercook than overdo it)
Enjoy!

List of Sites

To be eligible for the grand prize, make sure you visit all of the sites listed below. Have a blast—lots of excellent fun ahead—and good luck!

 

 

 

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The Next Giveaway—Chapter Critique with my Editor at Penguin!

Don't worry—he will not be doing the critique.

Don’t worry—he will not be doing the critique.

UPDATE: Congratulations, Jessica Ferguson! You’ve won! Send me an email for next steps.

When I handed in my copyedits for THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS, I couldn’t help but take a moment appreciating how far the book has come since I first sent it to my editor Kerry a year ago. Then, I thought for the ten-thousandth time that writing a novel is a team effort and that I’m incredibly lucky my team includes my editor, Kerry Donovan.

And now . . . you can have a chance to work with Kerry as well because she’s agreed to do a chapter critique for the winner of my next giveaway!

A little about Kerry: besides being wonderful, whip-smart, lovely and generous, she’s a big shot Executive Editor at Penguin/NAL. I can guarantee that no matter what stage of drafting you’re at, she will help. She has provided crucial, blasting-through-mountains kind of input on everything I’ve thrown at her—from ideas to chapters to full-blown drafts.

She was the one who nudged me to build up Molly and Henry’s relationship in THE LOVE WARS (resulting in the brownie bites scene), and after reading  THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS, Kerry urged me to see what would happen if I gave Vanessa her own point of view in addition to her journal entries.

Check out the rules below, but all you need to do to enter to get a piece of Kerry’s genius is:

  1. Like my Facebook page.
  2. Comment on the Giveaway Post as instructed there.

If you don’t have the need for Kerry’s expertise, please feel free to forward this link to someone who might.

Also, stay-tuned for the next giveaway, which I’m planning right now, as you read this!

The Rules:

  1. To enter, leave a comment on the Giveaway post on my Facebook page with the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received. Here’s the link again: Alison’s Facebook Page
  2. Winner will be picked at random on April 11, 2014.
  3. Entrants completely release Facebook and furthermore, we all acknowledge that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by or associated with Facebook.

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And the winner is. . .

Victoria Powell!!! (Congrats, Victoria, on being the very first winner of an ARC of THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS.)

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Zen and the Art of the Style Sheet

first pass

One of the all-time coolest parts of the editing process occurs after copy edits, when an author receives a little thing called a “Style Sheet.” In addition to outlining the basic grammatical rules and tenets of the manuscript (which is frankly less exciting to me than it probably should be), The Style Sheet itemizes and provides page numbers (!) for:

-Characters/people/places 
-Initials and abbrevs (like how I did that?)
-Slang and vernacular
-Foreign words/phrases
-Books, journals, TV shows, etc. 
-Song titles
-Trademarks (see below)

In case you’re not already riveted, let me explain why this is so cool.

I have almost no recollection of actually writing any of the terms I read in the style sheet. (I’m 2/2 with this—it also happened with THE LOVE WARS.) I do *usually* remember the character’s names—a sign of great mental sharpness, I know.

Part of this is because it’s usually been a few months since I was deep in the manuscript, but there’s also something else at work. It’s evidence of one of the best parts of writing—the state of trance.

Drafting can be, for me, very uncomfortable: I stare at the screen. I type  pages and pages of sentences that will eventually get axed. More than once, I’ve been frustrated enough to literally fill a page with repeating “AHHHHHHHHHH”s in a written scream. It’s strangely satisfying. (Google searching for “AHHHHHHHHHHH” is less so. At least for me. But I’ve tried that too.)

There are times, though, usually after a fair amount of background work and written screaming, that the words start to pour. I’m truly not so aware of the details of what I’m writing, just that I am and that it’s in service to the story I’ve been trying to tell.

I’ve been referring this to as a state of trance, but it’s probably not specific to writing. It’s zen or flow or being in the moment, i.e., when there’s no separation between you and the task that engages.

For your amusement, I’ve included the Trademarks list from THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS below. I noted with surprise the many junk food references. I wondered at what point I’d conjured a Toyota (Camry), so I went to page 199 and saw that a pivotal family memory occurs in the car. Plexiglass, Scrabble and SPAM? Isolated, they’re meaningless, but when I looked up how they fit into the story, it was like seeing long lost friends.

What gets you in the zen/flow/moment?

(And, as promised, a glimpse at the trademarks in all their random glory:)

  • Advil, 42
  • Bananagrams (game with letter tiles), 183
  • Bankers Box (per previous style sheet), 95
  • Band-Aid, 71
  • Barcalounger, 109
  • Calvin Klein, 211
  • Coke, 46
  • Disney, 203
  • Friendly’s (restaurant name), 258
  • Fritos, 181
  • Hershey’s (Hershey’s Kisses), 1
  • History Channel, 180
  • Keds, 200
  • McDonald’s, 201
  • Party City (store name), 234
  • Pictionary (game), 236
  • Plexiglas, 266
  • Pop-Tarts, 99
  • Redweld (brand name of file folders), 153
  • Scotch (tape), 8
  • Scrabble (game), 235
  • Spam (canned luncheon meat), 38
  • Toyota (Camry), 199
  • Trivial Pursuit (game), 236
  • Walmart, 21
  • Werther’s (candy), 2
  • Ziploc, 253

 

 

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By Any Other Name

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Titles are a bit of a process for me. I want to love the name of my book, of course, and it also has to pass muster with the smart people responsible for selling it.

With both books I’ve experienced days of “title fever”—when all I do is google song lyrics and phrases and idioms and quotations. And annoy people because I’m constantly interrupting perfectly lovely conversations with, “How about [proposed horrible title]? No? Really? Okay, how about [even worse one]?”

The holy grail is something that is both short (there’s something magical about three words, if you can stick to that) and sticky (i.e., having a quality that causes it to lodge in your brain.)

For your amusement, here’s a tour through the title-making factory:

THE LOVE WARS . . .

Started in life as PUTTING ASUNDER. When I got my agent, agent suggested I change it because it was inaccessible and when spoken sounded like “putting us under.” Excellent point.

Before submission, it was changed to PAYNE OF LOVE, which was rejected after my editor bought it because it was forgettable, I think? And too confusing with that spelling (which matched the name of the law firm where Molly Grant works).

After a few mad days of round robin emails and brainstorming my editor and I changed it to . . . THE LOVE AND WAR DIARIES. We all liked this much better and then at the copy editing stage, my editor and publisher asked whether it could be shortened. They were right as always (see below), and with a few chops . . .voila, the much improved, in my opinion . . .

THE LOVE WARS

THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS

Early on, it was Confessions of Paige Turner. I never even attempted to share that one with my editor and in fact, cringe a little typing it. This is the factory tour, though, so . . .full disclosure.

Then, it was ON THE BLINK and BLIND SPOT because the book explores quite a bit the line between truth and perception. I don’t remember which was first, but neither one really fit the tone of the book.

The first real contender was KNOW WHAT I KNOW. Both my editor and I loved this one. (Still do.) But I worried it was too vague and so a part of my mind kept working on other titles.

Next up: FIRST DAYS OF SUMMER, which is when the book takes place. I love the word summer—so evocative—but when people asked me the name of my book, I kept forgetting, which didn’t seem the best indicator of stickiness.

So, we discussed THE ESCAPE PLAN, which works great for the story, but . . . there was an action movie coming out with the same name. I kept picturing a shirtless Sly Stallone with an uzi, one arm around each nervous Reinhardt sister on that lovely beach.

Finally, I asked my editor about THE NEVER SISTERS. (As is probably clear by now, my editor has the patience of a saint.)

It fits perfectly—the book is about two estranged sisters—and once it popped in my head, it stuck. My editor and publisher loved it and thought to add the second NEVER. Even better! The nod toward never never land gave me chills, because there are some Peter Pan references in the book.

What do you think? Did we do okay?

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It’s Cozy Winter Giveaway Time

cozy winter giveaway

The goods, hand selected from some of my favorite neighborhood spots:

*Jacques Torres classic hot chocolate!!! (if you haven’t had this, it’s INSANE)

*A Brooklyn Roastery coffee mug!!! (comes with its own cheeky but clean Brooklyn attitude on back—I’ll let that be a surprise.)

*A signed copy of THE LOVE WARS!!! (Works well for reading AND holiday gifting)

The inspiration:

Last weekend. The weather was cold, the Sound of Music (Julie Andrews version) was on the telly and I was curled on the couch, under a blanket, hot beverage in hand. . . READING! In broad daylight! Without being interrupted! I’m simply sharing the joy.

The assist:

Help me get the word out! Please share via Facebook, tweet, email, etc . . .

The link:

Alison’s Facebook Page

 The rules:

  1. To enter, leave a comment on my Facebook page’s Cozy Winter Giveaway post (make sure you’ve liked the page too) with your favorite cozy beverage. (U.S. mailing addresses only.) Here’s the link again: Alison’s Facebook Page
  2. Winner will be picked at random on Monday, December 23.
  3. Entrants completely release Facebook and furthermore, we all acknowledge that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by or associated with Facebook.

Good Luck! Soon, you may be enjoying life like these happy souls . . .

This could be you!

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. . .And the Odd Movie Review

My family recently went to see the Disney movie Frozen. We saw it in Manhattan which means our first choice and second choice shows were sold out and we had to stand on a massive line to get into our third choice show. By the time we sat down, I was more relieved than anything.

Over the past few years I have seen more than my share of animated Disney films and have never felt the need to report in excitedly about them. But Frozen had much of what I look for in a good movie or read—quick pace, funny bits, beautiful imagery, and even a few well-hidden plot twists. Also, you know how Disney always has that one “character” whose job is to embarrass himself for laughs? In this case, he (Olaf the Snowman) is genuinely funny.

The best part, though, is that it drop-kicks to the curb some Disney tropes. Frozen is the first Disney animated movie to be directed by a woman, by the way—and she wrote it too. For those of us wary of feeding little minds the everyone-needs-a-prince philosophy, the messages in Frozen are a relief.

It must be mentioned, Frozen is all about the power and complexity of sister-love, a topic close to my heart (and mind) as I prep to send The Never Never Sisters out into the world . . .

So, I highly recommend Frozen! (Especially if you’re not seeing it on opening weekend in Manhattan.)

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In Which I Try to Explain Why I Wrote a Book

And why I did so at the worst possible time. Link below to my original article in the Wall Street Journal:

http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/

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The Letter of the Day is. . .

In THE LOVE WARS, it was “L” (Liesel, Lillian, Lolly, Laura).
In THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS? Names that start with “P”
In my current WIP, it’s an “R” problem, so after spending MONTHS with Rick, I’ve renamed him. He is “Eric” and I can tell that he doesn’t yet “feel” like an Eric, so I’ve asked him to bear with me for a bit.

Readers: is this something you notice? Are you distracted by “alliterative” characters in books?

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