Diary of a debut

Diary of a Debut: 7 fun facts we learned on our book tour + giveaway!

You guys are awesome. Thanks for filling all the chairs! #booksigningselfie We're baaaack from our book tour. Actually, we each arrived home over a week ago, but we took a much needed mental, physical and social media break (more on that in a minute). And now we're refueled and recharged and ready to share 7 things we learned while "on the road."

(Oh, and because we love you all so much, we're doing a giveaway. Just leave a comment on this post and be entered to win a surprise bundle of 10 books! The contest will close on Saturday, July 5 at 8am PST.)

1. Our readers are effing amazing!

We already knew you guys were amazing, but now we're putting an effing in front of that word because you showed up at our events! Not that we doubted you would want to be there, but we were a little nervous that only our Moms would actually fill the seats. Because everyone is so busy--especially in the summer-- and taking even a couple hours out of your schedule is a lot. So we want to say THANK YOU for putting us on your list of things to do. It means the world. And it also saved us loads of potential embarrassment.

PS:  Not to get too greedy, but while we're on the subject of how amazing you are :), if you've read and liked Your Perfect Life, we would be crazy thankful if you'd post a review on Amazon or on Goodreads. As you all know, positive reviews really, really help! And for those of you who have already done so, THANK YOU.

2. And so are other authors!

Jen Lancaster did an event with us and Andrea Lochen stopped by! #authorlove

We feel so lucky to have so much support from other authors. Not only did they blurb our novel and give us shout outs when our book published, but several of them also participated in events with us and even showed up at them too! It's such a wonderful community of writers and we feel so fortunate to be a part of it. We could never list all of your names, but you know who you are and we love you! xoxo






3. We can talk with our eyes!

We silently exchanged a message with our eyes: We have no shame.

Have y'all seen How I Met Your Mother? Those guys have entire conversations with their eyes. And we discovered that we can do it too. Thank gawd! Because we were able to handle some sticky situations with no more than a few words spoken silently between our eyeballs. Like when we were being interviewed and that interviewer seemed to think our book was non-fiction and we had a holy shit how do we save this? mental chat. Or when we were at Rick Springfield's book signing and, at the last minute, we had a subliminal talk about how we should thrust one of our signed books upon him!





4. A slight head tilt can save the day!

We've never taken so many pictures in our lives! And a very smart author friend warned us that you will learn VERY fast how to take a good picture. So, after many, many, many terrible attempts, we finally figured out that a slight tilt of the head toward the person you are standing next to can do wonders for your face in a photo. Although when your eyes are closed and the pic still gets posted, there's no saving that. But at least it won't look like you have seventeen chins! (It feels weird to post a picture of ourselves that we think is good, so just take our word for it, k?)


5. Stick to one cocktail before an event!

In our defense, it was National Martini Day.

We were a little nervous before our first few events, not knowing what to expect. So we might have said yes to a second drink before we were scheduled to "go on." While it definitely loosened us up, we may have been having a little too much fun out there. (We also blame the hand-held microphones that made us feel far more important than we actually are!) Our apologies to a certain someone (Liz's Mom!) we poked fun at for coming in late. We hope we made up for it when we thanked you for bringing 10 people? And a big thanks to the several people who said we should have our own sitcom. (See, it wasn't all bad!)




6. We can survive 3 weeks together!

They Key to staying friends all these years? Starbucks!

We have to admit we were pretty worried about spending so much time together. So we took a lot of precautions to help us get through it. We didn't stay together every night, we never spoke or texted or even looked at each other before being caffeinated and we made sure to be as agreeable and flexible as possible. (We learned a lot from the mistakes made at BEA 2013! Remember Diary of a Debut: New York City edition?) And we almost made it all the way through without so much as a disagreement. Until the very last day together when we got into over, what we'll refer to as, "the great soap debate of 2014."  It's a long story but all you need to know is that someone brought someone else Starbucks an hour later and all was right in the world again.



7. We got pretty damn sick of ourselves!

In the weeks surrounding our publication, a lot was going on. And of course we wanted to share it all with you. But it finally got to a point where we couldn't upload one more photo, compose one more tweet or so much as look at our Liz and Lisa author page on Facebook. Enough was enough. We. Had To. Stop. So we took a week off to give us (and you!) a break. And we think it was a good decision, because we can now upload a pic to Instagram without spending 15 minutes debating whether the Amaro or the Sierra filter is best. (We were looking pretty tired there toward the end!)

Thanks again for everything! This has been an amazing journey which would never have been possible without your support!



Diary of a debut: In search of the perfect cover for Your Perfect Life

FentonSteinke_Your Perfect Life coverWe have to admit, there is no feeling to describe what it's like when you first hold your novel in your hands. For a time, the characters you've created live only in your head, until they eventually make their way onto your computer screen. So the the experience of gripping the actual paperback--of feeling the pages between your fingers, the emotion of seeing your name on the front, the details about your plot on the back, the amazing blurb from your author idol Jen Lancaster (thank you, Jen!), the dedication, the acknowledgments, well, there are no words.

But I suppose if we tried, if we really took a shot at conveying what it felt like to cradle Your Perfect Life, it would be something along the lines of holy f*cking shit, we actually wrote a book! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

When we were told our cover was being overnighted to us, we were like little kids on Christmas Eve, tossing and turning in our beds, eyes wide open, unable to wait to open that big gift the next day. Then the doorbell finally rang and we found ourselves walking, then running, then walking to the door, equal parts scared shitless and excited beyond belief to see it.

There are so many covers out there--a gazillion different ways to use images to encapsulate what a book is about, to call someone's attention to it when it sits in a store, in a sea of other novels.  Would we love it? Would we *gulp* not? Hand on the doorknob, we took a deep breath and opened, then grabbed the box and ripped with wild abandon, unable to get that damn perforated tab to pull just right, then finally, we just say eff it and take a steak knife and slice through, then put our hand in and slowly slide the picture of the cover out of it. Eyes squeezed shut until finally, popping them open and...

Screaming with joy--so loudly that a neighbor or two *might* have popped their head out of the door to check that there wasn't a mass murderer roaming.

The cover was, in a word--perfect.

And also eerie. *cue Twilight zone music*

Because what the designers of this oh, so perfect cover, could have never known is how much the images on the front would mean to us. They could have never in a million years known that at Lisa's wedding four years ago, she picked orange Chinese lanterns and white lights to dangle above the atrium where she would be married. Or that just a few months ago, Liz and Lisa spent two painstaking hours hanging Chinese lanterns and lights over the dance floor where her closest friends and family would come together to celebrate her 40th birthday.

This cover is so much more than a perfect representation of what our book is about or a beautiful way to attract a curious reader as she peruses the aisles of her favorite bookstore. It is us. And for that, we want to say thank you to our publisher, Judith Curr and our editor, Greer Hendricks and everyone on the team at Atria who worked so hard to create it.

So to celebrate, we are giving away a signed arc of YOUR PERFECT LIFE which, btw, is available for pre-order! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winner on Sunday, December 15th after 12PM PST. And also, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive info about more giveaways, contests and details about our novel.

Lisa's wedding

And, as always, thank you so much for being there for us through it all! We could NOT have done it without you!

Liz's 40th birthday party



Diary of a Debut: Lessons learned in the Big Apple +5 book giveaway!

I love New YorkOMG you guys...we seriously heart New York City! We just returned from a fantastic trip--we had a great time getting lost as hell (more on that later) as we ran to meetings with our publisher, editor, agent and some super cool fellow authors--all of us excitedly talking about the publication of our novel, Your Perfect Life in June (there was even some clapping involved!). The best news? We saw the cover! Y'all--it's absolutely perfect and we cannot wait to show you. (Soon, we promise!)

And just when we thought we knew everything about each other, even MORE things came to the surface of our ever-evolving friendship. Much like the characters in Your Perfect Life, Rachel and Casey, we discovered (without switching bodies!) that there are always more things you can learn--even about your best friend.

Some of you may recall our trip to the Big Apple back in May. Well, without rehashing it  (because you can read all about the dramz here) let's just say it was kind of a shit show. And even though we don't mind watching other people's shit shows on TV (helllooo Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), we don't really care for it in our own lives.

The real lesson we learned?  That sometimes you need to hit rock bottom so you can build your friendship back up.  That it will be stronger once you do and you'll appreciate it more than ever.  The bottom line? We aren't perfect, and our friendship certainly isn't either.  But we wouldn't have it any other way.

And to celebrate our fabulous trip to NYC and how excited we are that our book is being published by Atria and in honor of Thanksgiving and, well, because we love you, we are giving away a bundle of 5 books by some of our fellow Atria/Simon & Schuster authors! The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany, The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen, The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner and Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winner on Sunday, December 1 after 3pm PST. xoxo

5 Lessons Liz & Lisa learned in NYC

1. Robots need love too

It's effing hard to be vulnerable. Especially now that we're forty. Talk about being set in your emotionally unavailable ways! But during a dinner that *might* have involved more cocktails than food, Lisa *might* have hugged Liz right there in the middle of The Dutch restaurant after Liz *might* have shed the first tear Lisa had seen from her since Bill Clinton was in office. And although Liz claims she hugged Lisa back, Lisa begs to differ. But it was still a hug and it was still a step. A step toward hanging up our hardware and embracing our inner softies.  And maybe even  finally abandoning our alter egos, Short Circuit and WALL E.

2. Separate hotel rooms are the key to...everything!

So who knew that this was the solution?  After we almost killed each other on the last trip-we decided a little space might do us some good.  And by space, we mean the half mile between our hotels.  At first, it felt odd, almost as if we were failing by not being able to spend 24 hours a day together for four straight days.  But when we realized how much more we LIKED each other after a twelve hour break each night, it was hard not to argue that it was the best effing decision we had ever made, not counting when we decided to get rid of our unibrows and start plucking our eyebrows back in college.

3. We are NOT photogenic AT ALL Liz and Lisa in black and whiteSo we sort of already knew this, but, for some reason, we looked extra horrible in most of the pics we took on this trip.  Someone kept closing their eyes (Liz!). And someone else had runaway bride eyes (aka "crazy") in every other shot. (Lisa!) We ruined several great photo opportunities, including one while signing the Atria wall and another with Emma and Nicola, the fabulous authors of The First Affair. Even on the ladder in our agent's dazzling office, we couldn't get our shit together. And somewhere along the way, when the double filters stopped working (you know, when you put the photo through Instagram and then through Facebook editing too?) we gave up and started posting all of our pictures in black and white. #photofail

We finally realized the answer was to go to our beloved DryBar! After that we were instant supermodels! #drybarcustomersforlife

4. Neither of us has a freaking sense of direction!

Okay, so maybe this isn't the biggest revelation considering Lisa ONLY knew how to find places in Cali because she used the ocean as her guide. Don't even get her started on the eye rolls her husband still gives her four years after moving to the Midwest when she asks "which way is North again?" But still. We had our trusty apps that were SUPPOSED to help us, yet we STILL GOT LOST. Like when we went anywhere. And once, we even went to the wrong restaurant (turns out there were six locations) to meet someone. (Not sure we can blame that on Google Maps?) But the important thing we learned through this process is it doesn't have to lead to a murder on the corner of 47th and 7th. (See #5)

5. Pleasantries go a long way

We couldn't have a convo without biting at each other on our last trip to NYC.  This time?  We couldn't Not agree.  Lisa held the door for Liz, Liz let Lisa choose the restaurant.  "Whatever you want" became the catchphrase of our trip.  And for any of you that know us well, you know that is NOT something we usually say. Ever.

THANK YOU so much for following along on our journey and for understanding that we are human as we do it. Fights will happen. People will get lost. Bad photos will be the rule not the exception. But we're still doing what we love and that's what matters. And we couldn't do it without you! . We've only just begun this wild ride and look forward to you joining us all the way! #holdontoyourhats


Diary of a Debut: What happened to IHWSH and The D Word? And 5 Self Pub Do's and Don'ts.

As you may have noticed, we are pretty much still jumping up and down about selling The Toast to Atria late last year-We can't WAIT until early 2014 when it comes out.  But, for those of you that have been with us since the beginning, you may be wondering, what the hell happened to our first two books,  I’ll Have Who She’s Having and The D Word?

The answer is complicated.

While we love our first two novels, we made the decision to shelve them.  Many of you that have followed our VERY LONG writing journey know that traditional publishing was always the goal for us. (Thank you, btw, for listening to us bitch about it for the past four years!)

We queried both IHWSH and The D Word long and hard, enduring more rejection letters than we care to admit.  Like so many manuscripts, they just weren’t the right book at the right time that made in front of the right person. And let’s face it, there’s always a fair amount of luck involved too!

So we grudgingly made the choice to self publish them after trying in vain to get an agent. And the books did….okay.  Mostly well reviewed but not as much traction as we would like for the financial investment we had put into them. (We’ll get to what we think we did wrong later so you can learn from our mistakes…) It was then we decided to write another manuscript and we made an agreement it was traditional publishing or BUST, damnit!

We aren't dogging self publishing at all.  It takes incredible drive and talent to be successful when self pubbing your novel and there are some AWESOME authors out there. (Dina Silver and Dee Detarsio come to mind.) Many have done so well both critically and financially that they've been picked up by traditional houses, like Jamie McGuire, Jessica Park, and of course, EL James.  But for us, we wanted it old school.

So, for now, IHWSH and The D Word are resting comfortably on Liz’s hard drive.  We hope one day they’ll see the light of day again(especially IHWSH—it’s campy and fun and inappropriate and we love it!)  But we’re honest enough with ourselves to know that they would both probably need some TLC to be traditionally published—our writing had definitely grown with each book and we’ve had to learn from the many writing mistakes (so much overwriting! Too many super long flashbacks!  Telling, not showing!) we made in the first two to get where we are today.

We hope y’all understand. From our experience, neither the self or traditional publication paths are perfect, but you just have the make the best choices for yourself and hope they work out. xo

Are you thinking about self pubbing?  We’ve put together a list of Do and Don’ts.  And we’d love to hear what you think too!

Liz & Lisa's top 5 Self Pub Do's and Don'ts (aka all the ways we effed up when we did it.)

1. DON’T forget to edit, and then edit some more, and then hire someone to edit your manuscript.

From both an author and book blogger viewpoint, this is the BIGGEST problem we see.  We had both IHWSH and The D Word manuscripts professionally edited but there were STILL embarrassing typos.  It doesn't mean the editor didn't do a great job, but we're dealing with humans and it's nearly impossible to make it perfect.  But typos are distracting to the reader and make you look unprofessional, so just edit the shit out your ms and then go back and edit some more. And then hire someone to edit it before you hit the publish button on Amazon.

For those of you querying agents and publishers: Consider sending the ms out for a grammar and developmental edit before hitting the query circuit.  Not only will your manuscript look great, they can help you fix plot holes or inconsistencies in the story.  We hired Emily Heckman to edit The Toast, and her notes were INCREDIBLY helpful--worth every penny!

2. Choose your early readers wisely

Make sure to choose people that will give thoughtful, honest feedback.  It's really great to have your girlfriends read your manuscript, but if all they're going to say is "I LOVE it!!!" without any specific notes, it really doesn't do much except inflate your ego. Choose people that are hugely supportive(no haters please!) that will take the time to think through your plot points and have the balls to tell you that your heroine is actually a heinous, unlikable bitch. (Happened to us with IHWSH! And they were right!)

It may sting a bit, but good, honest feedback can make or break your book.  We let everyone in the world read our first two and then had to decide which feedback to incorporate--it ended up pulling us into a lot of different directions.  While writing The Toast, we chose only three people who we felt would provide fantastic, critical notes.  And you know what?  Those notes SAVED the book.  True story.

3. Write an AWESOME pitch

Okay, let us put our book blogger hats on for a minute: PLEASE write a great pitch.  PLEASE include all the links.  PLEASE research the sites before you send a personalized pitch to them. PLEASE check out this post. Your book is never going to get off the ground with great word of mouth, so make sure to get it in from of the right people.

Having trouble writing something short but sweet??  Your story might be too complicated.  We've started writing the pitch before the book, just to make sure we've got a concept we could pitch it in thirty seconds in a elevator, if need be. (You never know when that might come in handy!)

4. Become a social media whore.

Get your mind out of the gutter!  We don't mean you should write back those strange foreign men that send Facebook messages asking if they can make friendship with you.  We're just saying you need to devote some time each day to promoting yourself online and building a following. And don't forget--it's not just about Facebook and Twitter anymore.  Now you've got to give Instagram, PinterestGoodreads and many other sites some lovin' too.

5. Don't get discouraged!

Not gonna lie-we got discouraged and wallowed in some really good wine over the fact that we didn't become eBook millionaires overnight.  And it probably affected the effort we put into promoting our books and the end results we saw.  So remember to be realistic when making goals and don't give up--it takes time for the word to spread!  Just keep the faith in your book, and yourself.  And hey-when you become the next EL James, just don't forget about us!






Diary of a Debut: 5 reasons to have a writing retreat in Vegas

Vagas_nightWe're still pinching ourselves that our book is going to be published by Simon & Schuster/Atria Books next year. As Lisa's two-year-old would say, O-M-G. As Lisa and Liz would say O-M-EFFING-G. Did we mention EFFING? So there we were. Sin City. Lisa with her Beats by Dr. Dre hugging her ears and Liz with her shiny new Macbook air polished and ready to go. Lisa with her never-before-listened-to-but-oh-so-perfectly-planned-writing retreat-playlist filled with umpteen songs to inspire her but who would only end up playing Undermine from Nashville(SUCH a great show!) on repeat for thirty-six hours instead. Liz with her gossip magazines scattered about for "research." (Stars without make up can be very motivating!) Both trying not to think about the dinging of the slot machines thirty-seven stories below.

The screams of people winning at the craps table. The multiple bars with cocktails at the ready. You see, we might now have a dream agent. We might now have a dream publishing deal. We might now be living the dream of writing our second novel. But...

We are also moms. Moms who NEVER GET OUT.  Moms who, after seeing multiple bachelor parties streaming through the lobby as they checked into Mandalay Bay, had to exercise MAJUH will power  in order to stay in their room and meet their word count goal. And you know what? Not only did we meet that number (and then some!), but we'd do it all over again (well maybe not the sharing a bed part--more on that in a minute!).

And so begins our Diary of a Debut--the online journal chronicling our road to publication. We'll also be snapping photos along the way and sharing them on Instagram. (Follow us there: LisaandLiz.)

And of course we have a GIVEAWAY. Leave a comment and be entered to win a bundle of 15 *surprise* books! We'll select the winner this Sunday, January 20th after 3pm PST.



1. You could get randomly upgraded to gigantic suite so large that you wonder if Mike Tyson, a tiger--or God willing--Bradley Cooper-- will round the corner at any moment. And while neither of us woke up with a missing tooth or a baby in our safe, we did have quite an adventure. Dedicated to our craft and feeling palpable pressure to perform, we spent the entire time in one small corner of the suite. Why? Because that's where the only desk was located, of course. Apparently, most people don't come to Vegas to write. The 12 flat screen TVs unwatched, the second and third bathroom unused, the minibar *sniffle* untouched, we pecked away at novel number two. (Check out the view from our room in the pic!)

What Lisa learned: JUST SAY NO when you get upgraded to a palatial room with a steamer shower (gotta get me one of those!) and an incredible view of the Vegas strip--only before seen through the eyes of a doe-eyed girl vying for a rose on The Bachelor, when you are told that there is only ONE bed that you're going to have to SHARE.  Lisa, with her ear plugs secured tightly is ready to get her first full-night of uninterrupted sleep in months was awakened every hour by Liz, who was tossing and turning because she couldn't sleep through the noise of the elevator shaft nearby and drunk ass people stumbling back to their rooms. #getLizearplugsforchristmas

2. When you need to take a "break" the people watching alone is enough to inspire the next three books Let's just say being holed up in a room--albeit 2500 square feet large--can get claustrophobic. (Bradley Cooper still hasn't shown up! And this has nothing to do with anything, but did you know he's fluent in French?  ) The walls start to close in when the pressure to write that book your aforementioned dream editor and agent are hopefully going to swoon over, when that pressure is so overwhelming you seriously consider chucking that MacBook Air into the jacuzzi tub, heading down to the casino and ordering a bloody mary (extra spicy, please!) instead. But you don't--mostly because one of you (ahem, Lisa) is a nazi and has imposed a strict rule: we cannot even breathe in the stale smoky air of the casino until we've met our word count goal. But because she's not a totally meanie and, at one point, suffered from a case of writer's block so bad she wondered if she had in fact switched bodies with a qualified author while writing THE TOAST, gives in and allows you to take a break and stroll through the casino. Stroll.

Not stop. Not sit. Not order. And so we head downstairs in our sweat pants (because if you wear something cute who knows what could happen?) but immediately curse ourselves when the first encounter we have  is with two smokin' hot guys who also happen to write for Esquire magazine. And despite the sweats--or maybe in spite of them--we still get our flirt on because maybe they'll write about our book! #flirtinginsweatpantssucks

40-is-the-new-20-t-shirt3. Getting carded can inspire 5,000 words Before you fall into (a shared!) bed after a long day of writing, you might just be inspired by the encounter with the Esquire guys and change into something sassy. And you might just make your way back down to the bar for a nightcap (or two). And when you do, you might nearly fall off your bar stool when you are asked for an ID. Did we even bring them down with us? we bemused, rifling through our purses.  Turns out, getting carded can be quite inspirational! After celebrating plowing through the first day, only breaking for Starbucks, we wrote 5,000 more words. (Who cares that the bartender was probably required to inspect the drivers license of anyone who appeared to be under 50.) #we'lltakeit


RoomServicebreadbasket-1-of-1-14. Room service never tasted so good--not In an unexpected twist, the gluten gestapo (a.k.a. Liz) joined us on our writing retreat. Apparently, just before heading to Vegas, she decided that she was no longer going to consume wheat. And neither was anyone around her! Cut to the first time we order room service. Two cobb salads, please. The salads arrive, looking delicious. But so did the bag of warm bread that came with them. Lisa reaches out to grab one, and her hand is instantly batted away. "You can go ahead and take that," Liz says to the server. Lisa watches the bread basket leave, tears in her eyes. They couldn't drink. They couldn't gamble. And now they couldn't even have bread? And don't even get her started on the gluten free waffles that were consumed. Good thing we are in Vegas and the food choices are endless. There may or may not have been a secret hamburger WITH THE BUN consumed when Liz wasn't looking. #wheatbellyisunattractive


5. After you meet your writing goal, dancing like you're 21 again never felt so good.  The reason we were in Vegas was not just for a writing retreat. Liz was also hosting her hubs 40th birthday party there later that week.  So we decided to arrive early, write, then drink our faces off! And party we did. Let's just say we cleared out the dance floor, (and not in a good way) our arms flailing, sipping from our drinks, dancing to remixed versions of songs by MC Hammer and Ace of Base that the horrified twenty-somethings looking on had never heard of. No matter that we were celebrating like we'd finished our second book, not just made a dent in it! #anyreasontohaveacocktail

As far as what happened next? I think the sign proudly displayed on the inside of Lisa's Spirit Airlines plane said it best: Vacuum sealed to hold all Vegas Secrets

THANK YOU for taking this journey with us. We couldn't do it with out you! Here's to the next 55,000 words!

xoxo, Liz & Lisa