OUIJA: Room 9 and my real-life ghost story

New York, Writing, YA Fiction

I was pretty flattered to have been asked by Wattpad to contribute a story in support of Universal Pictures’ theatrical release of Ouija: The Movie. The only requirement for the story’s plot was that it feature a ouija board.

Seriously… no problem.

When I was a student at NYU, it was common knowledge that the school’s biggest freshman dorm, Rubin Hall, had been an apartment building before being converted into the Hotel Grosvenor in 1925, and then was turned into a dormitory in 1964.

Assigned to a room on the twelfth floor as a freshman, I hear rumors about strange occurrences on other floors all the time. There was (terrifyingly) one corner room at the end of a dark hallway that was sealed and unavailable for student occupancy, and as far as any residents knew, it always had been. Equally scary was room 903. The girls who lived there said that the water in the bathroom dripped constantly from the sink and tub unless you marched in there and demanded that it stop. Then, it did. Without fail. Items went missing in that room, doors closed on their own. The occupants never felt unsafe, but were all convinced that the room was haunted by a benevolent ghost who just enjoyed messing with them. He, who they called Stanley, just wanted attention.

This was the early nineties, a few years before all college students had their own computers and could easily Google the history of their dorm room assignment. The stories about the haunted rooms at Rubin were passed down in a vocal history that spanned decades. Another common rumor about the hotel was that Mark Twain had once lived there back when it was a hotel, and that Rick Rubin began his career as a music producer in his own room there, hosting parties at which the Beastie Boys were in attendance (sources are conflicted on the latter rumor, as it’s also believed that Def Jam originated a few blocks away at Weinstein Hall).

I did not have a ghostly disturbance in my room freshman year, although I did have two bothersome roommates. However, my luck ran out the summer between sophomore and junior years when I landed in Room 903 by myself for a few weeks. Like the girls I’d known as a freshman, I never felt like I was surrounded by an evil presence in the room, but I also never felt… alone.

My experience that summer inspired my contribution to the Ouija marketing campaign, Room 9C, which quickly found a fan in Poland who asked Universal Pictures if she could translate it into Polish.

Ouija cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room 9C in Polish

 

Breaking hearts, enchanting minds

Light as a Feather, Writing, YA Fiction

Every author likes to imagine her reader reaching the last page of a book and wondering how life will possibly go on now that the story has ended.

Or, at least, that’s one of my favorite fantasies (mine, truthfully, are more elaborate, involving tears, negotiations with God, and a slow descent into madness). When I reached the last page of The Goldfinch, I stared at my Kindle for a good half hour wondering how on earth I could continue on with affairs not knowing what becomes of Boris.  This is not a new phenomenon. As a teenage I cried for an entire weekend at the end of Tiger Eyes.

My fantasy has sort of become a reality, because I hurriedly posted the last chapter of the interim sequel to Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board that I’ve been writing for the Wattpad community on Sunday, and madness ensued.

Here, for your enjoyment, are some of the comments.

jadox

Jeraldfaelnar KaciDanielle Keysiheart Leilani163 madika101 michk96

A New Cover, and Tips for Writing for YA

Light as a Feather, Writing, YA Fiction

My paranormal romance for teens, Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, was published just about a year ago, and to switch things up, we changed the cover last week. I think readers approve, because it’s suddenly #1 on the Amazon free teen paranormal romance and Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00036]horror lists. Exciting!

Here are a few things that I’ve noticed from readers’ comments that I never would have guessed as a novice YA writer. Use them to either avoid pitfalls, or capitalize on what I’ve learned!

1) if the prose of your book contains the words “one” and “direction,” whether you were intentionally trying to reference the boy band or not, female readers will find those two words together and freak out instantly.

2) if you develop a cute, emo teen boy love interest, threatening his life or killing him off will provoke a greater reaction from your readers than anything else that might happen in your story, including having your heroine die, commit terrible sins, or experience dire hardship (John Greene co-signs this point, with Augustus as evidence).

3) teen girls actually really like feisty, strong-willed female characters. In writing this book, I didn’t think too much about the sharp-witted, pint-sized character Mischa, but because she’s the most outspoken character in the book, she’s by far the readers’ favorite. There’s an abundance of wishy-washy female characters in YA, and this generation of teen readers doesn’t identify with them.

4) Female readers will discover and invent references to pop culture influences in their own lives whether you want them to or not. There’s no need to load your book up with mentions of Austin Mahone, the Beebs, Harry Styles, or whatever style sneakers kids happen to be wearing today. Mahone fans will find context in your work even if you try to avoid it. How can you possibly memorize every single lyric? You can’t. You don’t have to, your readers have already done it.

TV Shows I Volunteer to Executive Produce

Uncategorized, Writing

1.  The F Team

A reboot of the A-Team. A group of really shitty special ops guys bungle every assignment they’re given in the greater Los Angeles area.  The only casting requirement here is that Kathy Griffin must play Murdock. I think it would also be pretty great to see Jay Baruchel as a bumbling explosives expert.

2. Eugene Hwang: Food Poisoning Hunter

In a classic reality show format, a panel of personalities who serve as authorities on bad food experiences (my friend Spencer Wong, maybe Bourdain–what show wouldn’t benefit from a little Anthony Bourdain? maybe Johnny Weir because why not?) challenge my young friend Eugene to eat the most disgusting dishes in the dirtiest, C-rated dining establishments in NYC. There’s no gamification element here; we just wait and watch Eugene suffer.  This is a show that probably only my friends would truly enjoy, but it would be ridiculously easy to produce since it’s a slice of our daily lives.

3.  Tha Hood

This is a reverse concept show based on Diff’rent Strokes. A rich white dude dies and his spoiled brat kids go live with their family’s black maid and her kids in Crenshaw.  All joking aside, I actually wrote a pilot for this situation comedy and won tickets to a weird event at which I met Robert Smigel and Norm MacDonald told me all about his pee saved in bottles when I bummed a cigarette off him. Truth.  I couldn’t even make up the kind of stuff that happens in LA.

4. Situation: California

A nuclear reactor has some kind of scientificky malfunction on the coast of California (just like in Japan) and a weird zombie-like virus infects all of the residents who were exposed to the radiation. The US government seals off the state to prevent the infection from spreading, and those who are trapped within state boundaries have to battle zombies as well as other survivors for power. Think Point Break meets World War Z with a dash of Private Practice and a hell of a lot of guns.

5. Chance and the Big Guy

Chance Munroe, a down-on-his-luck, aging bit part actor in LA, teams up with his college roommate, a divorced single dad living in his ex-wife’s basement, to make a living as bounty hunters.  The first time I started half-heartedly writing a pilot for this, I thought, no one will ever want to see a 1-hr drama about two unsuccessful guys trying to get money. Now, after the wild success of Breaking Bad, I’m not so sure about my original hypothesis!