Thursday, December 30

Movies Vs TV

I had a major realization this year. I like TV shows more than movies.

This is strange for me because in my teens and twenties, I always preached that TV was mostly crap with the exception of shows like Twin Peaks and The X-Files that were quirky or shows like My So-Called Life that was the most realistic portrayal of teenagers I'd seen on TV (and I was the same age as the characters when it came out so I was highly critical) and of course got canceled after a year. Now I still watched some TV. I wasn't a huge sitcom fan (which might have been part of the reason I was so dismissive of TV because that's what seemed to rule network television in the 80s and 90s), but I'll totally zone out to some Seinfeld. And I'm a sucker for melodrama; I've been watching the soap opera One Life To Live since the summer before freshman year of high school. But with the exception of the X-Files for many many years, TV was nothing but mind-numbing entertainment for me. I watched it when I was sick or to wind down from a hard day. Movies were what I went to for real storytelling.

Now the tables have turned.

The realization was shocking for me, but the shift was probably gradual. First, I stopped going to the movies as much. The movies I've seen in the theater the past two years are Harry Potter (which I saw twice), Sherlock Holmes, Alice In Wonderland, Zombieland, and The Hangover... or did that last one come out even longer ago? I also saw the recent (and totally disappointing!) X-Files movie, and I can't remember when that one came out. I might be forgetting something, but I think that's about it. In two years. I used to go to the movies like once a month. Part of this is because it's expensive so I only see things I think are essential to see on a big screen. At least that's what I kept telling myself, but then I realized I haven't been watching many movies at home either.

Up until last month, my husband and I each had a Netflix queue. We determined together what would go in them together and made it so one queue had movies and one had TV series. We get two discs at a time, so this way we always had a movie at home as well as the latest disc in whatever series we were watching. But we'd always choose to watch the TV disc over the movie disc. I only have a couple nights off a week since I work nights, so the movie disc would just languish sometimes for a whole month until I eventually decided to watch it more out of obligation than enthusiasm. I tried rearranging things, examining the queue to find the movies I was most excited about. Then I realized that I just wasn't very excited about movies anymore. We switched it so that Netflix only ships from our TV queue now.

Being the analytical person I am, I spent a long time pondering this and I've come the conclusion that just like I prefer to read and write stories that are driven by unique, fully drawn, multi-dimensional characters, that is what I prefer to watch as well. A TV show has more room to grow its characters and it seems that with all the great dramas on cable TV in particular that TV has finally realized it's potential for doing this.

The two shows that I got completely addicted to this year as we watched them on Netflix were Battlestar Galactica and The Wire (which we are only on season 3 of, so no spoilers please!). I do love sci-fi, but I'm picky about it. I don't watch cop shows AT ALL, so I resisted The Wire for a long time even though so many people told me how brilliant it was. I adore both of these shows because of the characters. Even the "bad guys" are multi-dimensional, they have their own quirks and you get what motivates them even if you don't completely agree with it. If I find myself sympathizing with the guy I'm rooting against, that's some good story telling.

Other extremely well written stories with characters I love include Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls (only on season 5!), and Deadwood, which are recent discoveries for me that I'm catching up with on DVD and True Blood, The Walking Dead, and Californication which I've been watching as they air and in the case of True Blood and Californication, I actually *pay* for premium cable networks so I can see them--something I thought I'd never do, but I am saving that money I used to spend on movies.

Now that's not to say that I've completely written movies off. This year, I had a couple of friends loan me movies and insist that I watch them and I was glad I did. Those movies were Green Street Hooligans and Gran Torino, both centered around unique characters, and I am intrigued by Sofia Coppola's new movie, Somewhere, because the characters interest me. The Harry Potter movies remain my favorites, but I think that's because of the books and since it's a long series, I'm invested in the characters. Those are the exceptions and for the most part movies are mindless entertainment because I either like the goofy comedies (my movie version of Seinfeld but usually with more swearing) or fun blockbuster stuff like Sherlock Holmes and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

What about you? Are you more of a movie or a TV show person? And any character driven movies or shows you'd like to recommend to me?

Wednesday, December 29

Best Album of 2010!

I love year-end lists! Best books, best movies, best sandwich of 2010 – I love all of it! I know of course that it’s almost absurdly subjective. “Best” is truly in the eye of the beholder and it’s almost impossible to judge art by anything resembling a universal standard. I know that, but yet I love reading the wrap-ups of what various publications or people thought was the best thing of the past year. (I’m especially interested if you had a great sandwich in 2010. Please share in comments.)

I’m not going to touch "best books" because I know way too many authors and I can’t speak with any sort of authority on best movies because I have little kids at home and they rule the DVD player. I could easily tell you what the best “Handy Manny” episode was of 2010 ("Chico Goes to Preschool," obvs.) but that’s about it. And OK, I don’t listen to music nearly as much as I used to, but I am happy to nominate my favorite album of 2010. It is ….. (*drum roll*) “The Monitor” by Titus Andronicus!

I very rarely buy CDs anymore, but I was given a giftcard to Border’s and decided to not just buy books (shocking!) but some music too. I forget when I first heard Titus Andronicus, but when I saw their disc at Border’s I was like “Oh yeah, those guys!” So I bought it and listened to it pretty much non-stop for the next few months.

Now, if you google this album, you will no doubt read that it is a punk rock concept album about the Civil War. Maybe that sounds awesome to you, maybe it sounds terrible. But I don’t think it really has all that much to do with how great this album is. There are little spoken passages between some of the songs quoting Lincoln and so on, and some of the songs do mention the Civil War, but the songs aren’t history lessons. They’re sometimes fun and sometimes sad and always well-written and they really do rock hard. There are shouted choruses, huge guitar solos, and even some good storytelling. There you go: best album of 2010.

(Note: on the album, this song is twice as long, but this is a pretty good intro to their sound if you’re curious.)

One more fun thing: One of my Twitter friends (she works at my publisher) was tweeting about Titus a while ago and I was like “I love that band!” And she was like “Yay, that’s my brother!” And I was like “Wait: what?” And she explained that her brother is the singer of the band! I was like “Tell him I love his band. And his beard.” So I feel happy about that connection. Also I feel like the possibility exists that I might get a chance to hang out backstage at some time in the future, or possibly be invited to sing with them at a show. Call me, guys: I know all the words.

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 28

Movies and Books


MOVIES


The holidays are a great time to catch up on movies and books. Recently I watched a movie with my boys that left me with that "What a blast!" feeling. It was "MEGAMIND." Yeah, it's a silly and cartoonish flick, but it's also creative, has quirky characters (including a kick-butt heroine and a heroic villain), cool music, and is fun for all ages. And what's more, it's actually kinda meaningful in that sticks-with-you-after-the-final-credits kind of way.

Movies I've watched at home recently (as I'm a brand new Netflix subscriber, even though our internet service has been sketchy at best these past few weeks due to avalanche problems) include: "The Good Heart" (love those quirky characters), "Letters to Juliet" (sweet, but maybe too sweet), "When in Rome" (cute with some LOL bits), and "Ira and Abby" (Abby is quirky to the point of being crazy).

As always, there are lots of movies I want to see, including: "Easy A," "Tron," "Little Fockers," and "Life in a Day," which will be shown at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival here in Utah.


BOOKS

I've also had a chance to dig a little deeper into my TBR pile, including Glimpse and The Chosen One, both by Carol Lynch Williams, Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, and Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall. I loved every page of each of the aforementioned novels and am happy to say every one of these authors is a talented and amazing person to boot.

So ... what movies have you seen over the holidays? (And is it just me, or is Russell Brand everywhere you turn?) What books have you read lately? (And is it just me, or does trying to keep up with all of Lauren Baratz-Logsted's book releases make you dizzy?)

Monday, December 27

Movies, Books, TV, Music...But Really: Snow!!!


I'd really like to talk about the movie I'm going to go see today but I can't...because there's a four-foot drift of snow outside my door! I'd also like to talk about all the TV shows and music I'm interested in but I can't...because I'm obsessing about the foor-foot drift of snow outside my door!

So what can I do?

Well, I guess I can talk a bit about the upcoming year and how excited I am about all I've got going on. But really, I'm only doing that...so I can stop thinking for a few minutes about the foor-foot drift of snow outside my door!

In 2011, I've got a lot going on. Three of my YA books will have their paperback releases: Crazy Beautiful on January 3 (just eight days away!); The Education of Bet in April; and The Twin's Daughter in August. The next two books in The Sisters 8 series for young readers will also be released simultaneously in hardcover and paperback: Book 7 Rebecca's Rashness in May and Book 8 sometime in the fall. But finally, what I'm perhaps most excited about...

LITTLE WOMEN & ME comes out in hardcover on August 16!

Here's the publisher's description of LITTLE WOMEN & ME:

Emily is sick and tired of being a middle sister. So when she gets an assignment to describe what she'd change about a classic novel, Emily pounces on Little Women. After all, if she can't change things in her own family, maybe she can bring a little justice to the March sisters. (Kill off Beth? Have cute Laurie wind up with Amy instead of Jo? What was Louisa May Alcott thinking?!) But when Emily gets mysteriously transported into the world of the book, she discovers that righting fictional wrongs won't be easy. And after being immersed in a time and place so different from her own, it may be Emily-not the four March sisters-who undergoes the most surprising change of all. Lauren Baratz-Logsted's winning confection will appeal to fans of Little Women as well as anyone who enjoys a modern twist on an old favorite.

And why, you wonder, am I so excited about this particular book? Because even though it's not coming out for another eight months, it's already receiving lots of early blogger love, appearing on several lists of Most Anticipated Titles of 2011.

I hope all the anticipation proves worth it. I hope people read and enjoy the book. I hope the book does well enough that I can go on having a career as a writer. I hope no one curses the day I was born, or at least not over this. I hope...I hope...I hope...

I HOPE A GENIE APPEARS AND DOES SOMETHING ABOUT THIS FOOR-FOOT DRIFT OF SNOW OUTSIDE MY DOOR!

Oops, what's that you say? All the genies are currently busy? Rats. I suppose that means that I'm going to have to save myself from that foor-foot drift of snow. Ah, well.

Before I go do that, let me just say that I hope that, whatever you celebrate, you got to read great books, saw great movies and TV, and heard great music this year. Please use the comments section to tell me what those were so that if I ever make it back inside from outside, I'll know what to look for.

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Thursday, December 23

The great social media debate

In keeping with Sara's theme of To blog or not to blog (that is the question), I want to take that a step further and ponder the point of social media in general.

Last week, after 2+ years of blogging, I had my web guy take my blog down. Partly because Wordpress has been a NIGHTMARE this year for me (that's a whole other post), but also partly because I started blogging before Facebook became the sensation it is today and before Twitter even existed in a public way. I spend a lot of time on Twitter (probably more than I should, truth be told) and try to update Facebook at least once a week. So the question became, What is the point of my blog?

Much like Sara, I had to stop and think about what I really wanted to accomplish and how much I cared about it. And the truth was, I just didn't feel like it made sense to rehash in a blog post something that I've already tweeted or FB'd about. Sure, a blog gives you unlimited space to share your thoughts. But with unlimited space does not come unlimited time, and so I made the decision to remove blogging from my list of things to do.

But the more I got to thinking about my blog, the more I got to thinking about social media in general. And I realized that, for the most part, it requires a lot more energy than it probably nets in benefits for me.

The benefits of social media (at least to me - your mileage may vary!) is to be able to connect with like-minded people. Whether they're fellow booklovers, people you're friends with in real life but don't get to see very often, or people who share your passion for kittens or underwater basket-weaving, it's nice to be able to make a connection with people at your leisure. No more coordinating schedules or avoiding a phone call because you fear a friend's new baby may be asleep.

But what I've also discovered is that I don't get as much personal connection value out of it anymore. I love being able to cheer someone's good news as it happens (it's usually on Twitter long before they get around to blogging about it or sending a mass email with news). And people make me laugh... a LOT... which can be just the thing I might be needing when I check Twitter at that moment.

That's the upside.

The downside? It can be a HUGE time suck if you let it. I'm one of those people who feels bad if they don't respond to every tweet or FB comment. I'm just wired that way. :-) And yet to respond to all of them would require me to take more time away from my real life (you know, that life you have when you're not attached to your keyboard or your phone?). In many cases, I'm taking time away from my family and my closest friends to respond to people I have never met and probably will never meet.

That realization was a powerful one for me.

What is the purpose of social media for me then? I think the answer is that it's a way to stay active in the book world. I like hearing what's going one, who has good news, and seeing what fabulous new books people are recommending to feed my book habit. But it has to come with balance. Family and friends first, writing second, social media further down the list.

2011 is going to be the year I put my real life first. We'll see how that goes. :-)

What about you? Any plans to change your social media ways in 2011?

Saturday, December 18

To blog or not to blog.....

That is the question..... and something I've been thinking about a lot lately. I'm not thinking of TFC, even though I'm ashamed to admit I forgot to post the last couple of times (purely a memory problem, which is nothing to do with age, before anyone says anything), but my own blog.

I look at some people and they blog at length every single day, and at the moment I'm lucky to blog once or twice a month. I'm not sure why this has happened, though I suspect Twitter has a lot to do with it. I seem to either Tweet or blog but have trouble doing both. And then there's Facebook, that too takes time. If I'm not careful I'll end up spending all my time networking at the expense of writing!!!

So, what to do? I don't know. I've been blogging for over five years, and it would be sad to stop. I have no idea how many people regularly read my blog because my stats don't reflect all those on Google reader etc.

What do you think? If you're a blogger do you blog as much now? Has your blogging suffered as a result of Twitter and Facebook?

Wednesday, December 15

FASHION (?) STYLE (?) and HIGH VIOLET too!

There’s this really old cartoon called Rocky and Bullwinkle. Each episode would start with Bullwinkle (a moose) announcing to Rocky (a squirrel?) that he was going to pull a rabbit out of his hat and then he’d proceed to pull out a growling lion and frantically shout that he must have grabbed the wrong hat. Well…watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.

Here…I’m just going to reach inside, grab this guy by its little ears, pull…and, um…well, here’s my pick for favorite album of the year! I guess you could say that, like fashion or style, picking a favorite album is a highly subjective endeavor. I have to admit that my selection isn’t as meaningful to me as it was when I was younger. I used to agonize over my favorite album. Now I just pick. Perhaps this is the way it is with fashion too: one day you’re wrestling over what to wear, pulling out this and that, and then one day you’re old, living in some senior citizen community and you’re pulling out a pair of old brown polyester pants without really caring what anyone thinks. Anyhow. This year my pick for favorite album is: The Nationals, High Violet. They had me with the line – “I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees.”

I assume by now you’re all asking yourselves what the Christmas does my favorite album have to do with fashion and style? Well, that’s a good question and worthy of an answer other than “I must have grabbed the wrong hat.” Hopefully I’ll manage to connect the dots for you and if I don’t there’s worse things in life.

Now, I’ve been told I look good in a suit but I’m not so sure, I think it’s just a line people feed me. I’m really more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. You see, when I wear a suit I always feel like an impostor, the same as if I slipped on a white lab coat and pretended to be a highly intelligent scientist. I might be able to walk around the lab for a while and blend in but sooner or latter I’d have to actually do something. I’ve heard that there are elements that will explode if you don’t mix them properly. I’ve never felt comfortable in a suit. I think that’s the most important aspect of fashion: you have to wear something with a degree of confidence. If you don’t, well, it’s just not going to work. The Nationals’ High Violet is a very confident album played with a straightforward honest attitude. Maybe that’s another reason why it’s so enjoyable.

Here’s another connection The Nationals have with fashion. Unlike many popular bands these guys perform in concert tastefully dressed in suits, ties, and nice shirts. Although I do feel there’s a slightly Monty-Pythonish quality to their fashion tastes. Like me, they don’t seem able to pull off the whole wearing a suit with confidence routine but for a rock band that might be a good thing. Rock stars can sometimes find themselves being perceived as egocentric elitists. A little awkwardness goes a long way in establishing a common bond with their fans. Although I have to admit that lead singer Matt Berninger rivals only myself in his apparent suit-wearing discomfort. He also has a tendency to appear slightly inebriated and I’m not sure if that can be contributed to his attire or the consumption of alcohol but I suspect the ladder.

Music and fashion have always had a long-standing common-law marriage. Music sets a tone; it establishes style. Try to picture a fashion show without music. And need I point out the countless marriages between rock stars and fashion models? I didn’t think so. So in closing, let’s review: fashion requires confidence, style is subjective, The Nationals’ High Violet is the best damn album of the year and always remember if you’re going to pull a rabbit out of a hat make sure you’ve got the right hat.

Anyhow, I guess this has all been a long way for me to say…check out this video, and tell me it doesn’t get stuck in your head! And since everything’s subjective – what’s your favorite album of the year? Bend my ear and tickle my brain.

Love this song.

Tuesday, December 14

A Very Bag Day

So this week at Teen Fiction Cafe it's all about fashion and style and since I've got nothing but a looming deadline, I thought I would give you all a little visual of some of my favorite retro handbags - okay, so I say retro but my husband calls them something else that I couldn't possibly repeat on a nice blog like this!


Handbag one - The Doormat. I love this bag so much and I'm pretty sure that it really is made out a doormat. But since it pretty much goes with everything and is incredibly robust, it's a keeper!





















Handbag two - The Dynasty Collection. How adorable is this? I mean it's fake patent leather and it has a very large fan in the middle of it. Of course it's also totally impractical and considering the size of it you can only fit in a lipstick and some cash, but sometimes you've got to suffer for retro handbag fashion



















Handbag three - Fancy Dynasty
. Yes, very similar to the fake patent leather but instead it's fake snakeskin in a gorgeous navy. It can also be worn as a clutch at night time and it has a zip so it doesn't matter if you turn it upside down, nothing nasty can fall out (and by nasty I mean all the shopping dockets that I forget to throw out).






















Handbag four - The Seventies Never Left People
I can't tell you how long it took me to find this little baby but it was so worth the wait. I love it, and of course in the true spirit of retro handbags, it only cost six dollars!



















Handbag five - Apple Green Heaven. This gorgeous little creation was actually the one that started my love of old handbags in the first place. Isn't it gorgeous and it even comes with with a little mirror in case of any spinach-in-teeth emergencies!



















So that's me and my life of retro handbags. Does anyone else have any little treasures that can't stop buying regardless of what certain misunderstood people in their life might think???????

Thursday, December 9

Food and Family and Holidays

Ah, Christmas.

In my childhood, Christmas Eve meant eating the smelliest mushroom soup made with sauerkraut juice. And it was black. As in the color of crude oil. And it stank. Bad. Real bad.

Then we had the tradition of, from oldest to youngest, getting blessed with the sign of the cross on our forehead. In HONEY. If my grandmother got you real good? Your bangs were plastered to the bridge of your nose for the rest of the night.

Then there was Polish kielbasi. Pirogi. Horseradish and beets.

Your mouth is watering, right?

But that's what the holidays are to me. So here I am . . . years later . . . still serving that every Christmas Eve (with the exception of the soup . . . I mean, COME ON. SAUERKRAUT juice???).

And something about it connects me to my larger family, to my childhood, and makes new memories with my kids, who are half-Mexican, and half-Russian and Slavic. They may love Mexican food and have Mexican last names. But once a year? They eat a bunch of weird stuff they can't spell.

So . . . how are food and holidays tied together for you? Anything weird?

Tuesday, December 7

Yay, Food! A Lot on Her Plate

I just discovered a great new blog called A Lot on Her Plate.

It was started by Dayna, who says, "In an e-mail discussion with a fellow feminist and a proponent of fat acceptance she described blogs that were sometimes nothing but images of bigger women. Seeing these images over and over, she explained, helped normalize that body type--her body type--reducing some of the pressure society and mainstream media placed on her to be thin. Within minutes I knew what image I wanted normalized, for myself and for women everywhere: Women eating food. Plenty of food. Healthy food, unhealthy food, big vegetarian meals, burgers dripping grease down women's knuckles while they take the first giant bite. Cake. Steak. Bowls full of ice cream. Shiny red apples, funnel cakes, and homemade cinnamon rolls. I want to flood the internet with images of girls and women eating and loving food unabashedly, so that we don't have to hesitate before asking for seconds."

How cool is that? Check out the blog and all its celebrations of fabulous food and awesome Women Who Eat. (Yes, I did make a guest appearance recently, hence that photo of me with my friend Anne.) And don't forget to submit your own eating pic to Dayna!

Monday, December 6

The Soup/Salad/Sushi Diet

I find it highly appropriate that this week’s blog topic is “Food.” Especially since I still haven’t recovered from all of the aforementioned topic I consumed during Thanksgiving week.

Notice, the use of the word “week” and not just “Thanksgiving Day.” Because Thanksgiving isn’t a day anymore. It lasts ALL week. Especially when you arrive at your in-laws the Monday before Thanksgiving and don’t leave until the Monday after. Let it suffice to say that all we did the ENTIRE week was eat.

So after stuffing our faces for a full seven days, my husband and I became resolved to go on a diet when we got home. Except we never diet like normal people. We don’t buy diet books or subscribe to fancy websites that count your calories. We prefer to make up our own diets.

Like this week. We decided that as soon as soon we got home, we would go on a “Soup Diet.” That’s right. Nothing but soup for five days straight. YUM! (We do love soup!) So off we went to the supermarket to stock up on all our favorite organic soups. And the diet was going quite well until about…well, six hours later, when we’d both consumed an unbelievable amount of soup and were craving...well, just about anything else but soup.

So I said, “You know...come to think about it. Soup might not be enough. I think we should be allowed to eat salad too. After all, salad is perfectly healthy and no diet should ever exclude salad.” My husband readily agreed and our diet quickly transformed from the “Soup Diet” to the “Soup and Salad Diet.” YUM! (We do love soup and salad!)

Well, that went pretty well until we were driving around the next day, feeling pretty hungry and not at ALL in the mood for soup or salad, when we happened upon a sushi place. Our mouths immediately started to water. (We do both love sushi!)

So I said, “You know...come to think about it. Sushi is really healthy too. And as long as you don't have any tempura rolls or anything with cream cheese in it, the ingredients of sushi are pretty much the same as the ingredients of soup. Except...you know...without the broth.”

My husband readily agreed and our diet soon after became known as the “Soup, Salad and Sushi Diet.”

Well, it went on like this for a good couple days. And eventually the title of our "Diet" contained so many foods, we stopped calling it by all the things we could eat and started calling it by all the things we couldn't. And by Thursday afternoon, it had turned into the “No Fried Foods or Dairy Diet.”

And that lasted until around Thursday night when my parents treated us for dinner and my mom just had to order those sinfully delicious Fried Cheese Wontons. And...well...you can probably guess what happened next.

Oh well, better luck next Thanksgiving.

So come on…who else has invented crazy diets (successful or otherwise)?

Friday, December 3

Good News Friday!

Hoorah! It's Friday. Which means "Good News!"

And I'm so excited to share mine this week because I've had to keep it "mum" for months! But now the mumness is over and I can sing out and do my happy dance in public!

As reported in Publisher's Weekly this week, I recently sold four new books to my publisher, Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Macmillan Children's)!!!

The first three are part of a new sci-fi/love story trilogy, starting with the first book titled, UNREMEMBERED. (A sixteen year old girl awakes amongst the wreckage of a devastating plane crash with no memories--the only clue to her identity is a mysterious boy who claims she was part of a science experiment 100 years in the future) And I've also sold another one of my contemporary stand-alone titles (along the vein of The Karma Club and my forthcoming, My Life Undecided). This fourth book is not yet titled.

Also, the Unremembered trilogy was optioned to producer Doug Davison (The Departed, The Lake House, The Ring, How to Train Your Dragon) with screenwriter Whit Anderson attached to adapt it as a film. Doug and Whit are both also attached to the recently-announced reboot of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie.

SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

If you want the full details (including more info about the Unremembered trilogy), you can read Publisher's Weekly's write up here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/book-news/deals/article/45329-deals-week-of-11-29-10.html

And now, I better go. I have a LOT of books to write! :)

Happy weekend everyone! I'm off to do more happy dancing. :)

XXOO,
Jessica

Thursday, December 2

Winter Writing Retreat!

This fall has been an epic battle for me in terms of my writing, so I've decided to reward myself by going on a writing retreat in January. Normally I try to find a cheap place a short distance from home when I've gone on retreats lately. But this time some writer friends who live in other parts of the country and I don't get to see much invited me to share a house with them for a week in....

San Diego!!!!!

I couldn't pass this up for a few different reasons. I have the same thought process about vacations as Wendy, I love to either go to places I've never been or places I adore visiting and whenever possible I want to visit with friends that I don't get to see very often. Well, the last part is definitely true and while I've been to California a few times and I do love it, I have only been to L.A. and San Francisco, not San Diego. I've heard nothing, but wonderful thing about San Diego, including that it should be decently warm even in January. And believe me, coming from frigid Chicago, even mid-fifties will feel like a heat wave at that time of year!

So I get my warm weather in winter fix, my friends I rarely see fix, my new city in a state I love fix, and I get to write.

People laugh at that last part saying, "Are you really going to write when you have a house near the beach with a pool?"

Well, I am disciplined so it will happen. Not to mention, I have terrible luck going to warm places during winter. My honeymoon to Florida at the beginning of this year? It was 40 in Miami when we arrived, the coldest it had been in decades. My first trip to L.A. in January 2002? Also in the 40s. Shhh, you probably shouldn't tell my housemates about this bad luck of mine or they will boot me off this trip and I need it!

Though personally whether it is warm or cold, I'll enjoy having a scenic place to write. I went to New Brunswick, Canada right after Thanksgiving to write a few years and I froze my butt off, but it was still inspiring to wake up every morning, walk down the block and see this:


And I wrote 10 to 14 hours each day on that trip. I can only hope San Diego is just as productive. Though preferably warmer!

What about you? Any winter getaways planned? Do you have bad luck like me when going to "warm" places in the winter?

Tuesday, November 30

Vacation in My Home State of Utah (& a CD Giveaway!)

When I am deciding where to go on a vacation, there are certain things I weigh. If it's some place I've never been, that is a bonus. Hot on my list are New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, and New England. (I've been to NY, but only once.) I also like to go to places I've been but want to go back because there are things I didn't get to do the last time I was there. This includes New York, Costa Rica, and Europe (I know, that last one is a doozie.) I also like to go on vacations that are very different from where I live. Beaches and tropical islands, for example. And last but not least, I like to go somewhere to visit a friend or family member. Any time I can combine several of these things, the better.

But many of the things people travel near and far to do and see are right in my backyard. For example, I've skied and snowboarded in many states and two countries, but I still think this area has some of the very best winter resorts. In 3 minutes I can be at a quaint family ski resort, Wolf Mountain. In 10 minutes, I can be at Powder Mountain, which until Blackcomb and Whistler (in British Columbia) combined, offered the most acreage of North American ski resorts. And in about 20 minutes, I'm knee-high in powder at the glamorous and extreme Snowbasin, home of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games downhill. And that's not counting all the Salt Lake City- and Park City-based resorts like Snowbird, Alta, and Deer Valley, which are about an hour away from where I live.

Of course, cross country skiing, snow-mobiling, snow shoeing, and sledding abound in snowy, mountainous country like this. And that's just the winter stuff! One day I'll tell you all about the amazing adventures you can have in the warmer months here in Utah. But for now, tell me what fun, exciting, and/or relaxing things people like to do this time of year where you live. I'm feeling particularly fond of my home state, and to celebrate, I'm giving away a signed copy of "I Believe You," a folk/jazz/inspirational CD by Utah native and fabulous skiier (and my dear friend and yoga teacher), Danielle Vaughn. Leave a comment to be entered. My middle son (pictured above) will choose a winner on Friday, December 3. Good luck!


Monday, November 29

Take Me Away: Vacations/Travel Week

It's Vacations/Travel Week here at TFC. There's just one problem: I don't have any travel plans for the near future, much as I wish I did, given that's it 25 degrees in Danbury this morning. I suppose, to alter my mental reality - i.e., raise the temperature - I could tell stories of past trips to warmer climes, but the space heater in my basement cave of an office is taking its sweet time powering up so let's make this quick.

Name one YA novel that you loved that managed to transport you somewhere exotic, preferably warm, or at the very least different than the town/state you currently reside in. I'll go first.

I absolutely love HOW TO RUIN A SUMMER VACATION by Simone Elkeles, about a 16-year-old girl who travels with her estranged Israeli father to...Israel. Israel! How exotic is that? Warm too. The novel itself is also smart, funny, romantic and entertaining as all get-out. And if you read the book, you get the added benefit of traveling somewhere without having to submit to a full-body scan or a pat-down. I've also read the sequel, HOW TO RUIN MY TEENAGE LIFE, also excellent, and am looking forward to reading the sequel to the sequel, HOW TO RUIN YOUR BOYFRIEND'S REPUTATION.

So how about you? What are some of your take-me-away-from-here - wherever "here" might be for you - favorite YA reads?

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Brr.

Tuesday, November 23

school days...and parents

I had no idea what I was going to write about for this week's topic, which is school, and then I remembered one thing that always seems to fascinate people:

In high school, I had both my parents as teachers.

Sounds like ready-made trauma, right?

But, you see, when you grow up knowing that a. your parents are teachers and that b. if you take certain classes you'll have them as teachers (because they are the only people who teach that subject) then it really isn't much of a surprise. I mean, by the time I finally got to their classrooms, I'd known it was coming for over a decade.

So, you know, I did have a little time to prepare.

I didn't call them Mom or Dad in class (because, ewww!) and they treated me just like they would any other student (they'd had time to get ready for it too, after all) And that was that.

Now, if you want to talk about my mother telling me I didn't need to take typing because "it wouldn't be that useful," well--that's another post altogether :-)

Wednesday, November 17

EMBARRASSING TALES.

Now here’s a topic I’m well qualified to talk about. If embarrassing tales were quills I’d look like a porcupine. As a teenager I just assumed that as I grew older I’d find myself in less and less embarrassing situations. Unfortunately I still manage to embarrass myself on a fairly regular basis. But since this is Teen Fiction Café I thought I’d focus on a couple of my more distressing teenage memories.

The first one is a private embarrassment. Nobody really knew the crushing disappointment and embarrassment I felt at that moment except me. Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? In my freshman year of high school I had a huge crush on this girl. She was the one that would turn my legs to rubber and my mind to mush every time she walked by. One day she sat next to me in a study hall and started talking about an upcoming dance. She kept asking me questions about what I was doing Friday night and I really thought she was hinting that I should ask her to the dance. I was just about to, building up my nerve, thinking about the best way to phrase my query, trying to remain cool. I was excited and tense, debating my options, almost dizzy with anticipation.

I decided to go for it.

But right before I was about to open my mouth, she said, “So, what I wanted to ask you is, you know Dean – do you think he’d want to go to the dance with me?”

The surprise and disappointment was explosive, so much so that I must have momentarily let down my guard because she gave me this long look of dawning understanding before finally saying, “Oh.”

Just “Oh,” not “Oh, I’m sorry you got the wrong idea blah, blah, blah.” It was just “Oh.” The word hung in the air like this huge mirror reflecting all of my insecurities and ineptitudes and the longer I let it hang there the greater my embarrassment grew. Finally I managed to laugh and say something, backpedaling with everything I had and saving some face. I managed to smooth over the situation but inside the embarrassment I felt was like this heavy stone that I was forced to swim with and it took every ounce of strength I possessed not to sink.

And then, of course there was my very embarrassing public experience. I was sitting in my Spanish class, doing what I normally did back then: feebly trying to pay attention and not really doing a good job. It was late autumn and the leaves outside were lush and vibrant; I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them. I just sat there, chewing on the end of my pen, staring off at the rolling hills peppered with orange, yellow and red leaves. It was the height of the season and the colors were spectacular.

The teacher interrupted my daydreams with a request to repeat some phrase in Spanish. I tried my best and thought I nailed it but she just smiled and asked me to repeat it. I did so and this time I did an even better job but she actually laughed at me. Then she asked me to stand up and try it again and when I did, not only did she laugh but the whole class also started to laugh. I couldn’t understand what was so funny and why everyone was being so cruel. I kept repeating that stupid phrase over and over again and each time I did the class would laugh even louder.

Finally the teacher told me to go down to the boys’ room and look in the mirror. When I got down there I could understand why everyone was laughing but it didn’t make me feel any better. The pen I had been chewing on had leaked and my teeth and lips were blue.

So, which of these things would you rather have happen to you? Bonus points if you explain your answer.

Tuesday, November 16

Just say no to...embarrassing moments

So here at Teen Fiction Cafe we're talking about embarrassing moments and a funny thing happened as I searched my mind - I couldn't remember any of them! Now, normally this could be explained away by the fact that I'm a BIG fan of denial (also my approach to housework but that's a blog post for another day).

However, this time, the reason I couldn't remember any of them was because about six months ago I made the conscious decision to stop beating myself up about my past mistakes.

There was a time when I could be quite happily walking down the street and I would suddenly be overwhelmed with negative feelings because of something that I had done twenty years ago. It was actually getting to the point of ridiculousness and I would find that a perfectly good mood would suddenly be gone and I'd be anxious and upset all over again.

Then, after it happening one too many times I finally decided that I'd had enough of reliving the past so I decided to forgive myself for the stupid/dumb/embarrassing things that I had done (and while I was at, I even included the stupid/dumb/embarrassing things that I will no doubt do in the future) and I can't begin to tell you how much better I feel for it. Of course some of them still sneak through but I know what they are now and I know what to do them with!

So my challenge to everyone is pause next time you have a flashback to an embarrassing moment and instead of letting it overwhelm and own you, just have a laugh, forgive yourself and let it go the way of all unwanted thoughts (you know, the place in our mind we leave the Brussel Sprout Souffle recipes that our mothers mistakenly think we might be interested in knowing).

Monday, November 15

Evolution of Embarrassment

My apologies to the guys in our number. I'm going to talk about girl stuff for a moment, but I hope you'll stick around, because I'd love your input at the end.

This week's topic is Most Embarrassing Moments. As I was contemplating what to write about, it struck me how many embarrassing moments - for girls, anyway - center around our bodies, how they are presented, and how others see us. It also interested me to note how some of those perceptions and embarrassments have changed over the years.

For example - my grandma was mortified by underclothing. She couldn't even bring herself to use the word underwear. To her, everything worn under street clothing fit under the category of "unmentionables". If her lingerie was not to be mentioned, it definitely was not to be seen. Girls when she was growing up used to wear bloomers, which were basically loose underwear with elastic casings around the waist and legs. She told me once that the elastic in the waist was prone to snapping, and gravity would have its way. The prospect of one's bloomers around one's ankles was so humiliating, she said, girls would feign fainting to save themselves the embarrassment. The goal was to hit the ground before your bloomers did.
.
My mom was a little less rigid, but even she used little code words for underclothing rather than just outright talking about it. For example, if your slip was showing (eek!) she couldn't bring herself to tell you in those words - she'd discreetly pull you aside and say, "It's snowing down south..." She must have had a thing with slips, because one of her most horrifying dreams was forgetting to put on her skirt before she left the house and walking down the street in just her slip.

By the time I was in high school, we hardly ever wore slips, let alone were embarrassed by them. Our greatest sources of embarrassment had shifted a bit. We weren't as concerned about what we were wearing as we were about our bodies themselves. We still might pin our bra straps to keep them from showing, but we were more focused on bodily function faux pas. Like "starting" at school and not being able to stand up for fear of what might show on our clothes - or be left on the seat. Or the classic urban legend about getting picked up for a date and having to fart so bad you let one rip when the boy is walking around to the driver's side door (hence outside the car and unable to hear), only to discover you're going on a double date and the other couple is already sitting in the back seat.

Girls don't seem to get hung up about underwear at all any more at all. Bra straps are meant to be seen. Thong underwear peeks up purposefully from the waistband of jeans. Some girls talk and joke about bodily functions just like guys.

So here's my question - what are some of the greatest sources of embarrassment for girls now? And... guys, what - if anything - embarrasses you?

Friday, November 12

Good News Friday!

So excited everyone! After six long months of work in the studio, I can finally announce the release of The Karma Club Book Soundtrack!

It will be coming to all digital download sites on December 14, 2010!

So what is a book soundtrack you might ask? Well, it's exactly what it sounds like! A soundtrack for a book! The album will include 10 songs inspired by my novel, The Karma Club. Each song is inspired by and meant to be listened to while reading a different section of the book. A reading/listening guide will be available on my website soon but in the meantime, please enjoy these fun promos that we've produced to help spread the word and give you a sneak peek (er...listen) to a few of the songs.

As you'll notice from the promos, the soundtrack features brand new exclusive songs by Madisen Hill and Radio Disney star Savannah Outen. Both talented rising teen stars in the world of music.

So that's my good news for the week! I hope you enjoy the promos!























Thursday, November 11

Bad Boy or Misunderstood?

Okay, so when I wrote the adult romantic comedy Freudian Slip, it had the requisite bad boy in Jules/Julian Shaw. Except he really WAS a bad boy, complete with drug and sex addiction, and a mean streak. The novel is as much about redemption as it is about heaven and hell. I didn't set out to make Jules a nice guy hidden underneath a bad guy. I set out to write a very bad boy who had to fundamentally change.

But in most of our romantic comedies and TV shows, our bad boys aren't really all that BAD, are they? I'm MAJORLY dating myself, but who remembers the guy here, Mallory's boyfriend on Family Ties?

Nick, play by Scott Valentine, wore an earring (OOOOH, so bad, right?). He wore a leather jacket. He may even have had a motorcycle. Well, heck, add a switchblade and replace with actor Andy Garcia, and he's a dead ringer for my ex-husband (I kid you not!). But really? Nick wasn't bad. He was MISUNDERSTOOD.

All he needed was the love of a good woman to bring out that heart of gold, right?

Somehow, that's the romantic comedy model, the YA model, it's the stuff of our romantic fantasies. Bad, but not TOO bad, right?

So tell me, who is your favorite pop culture "misunderstood" bad boy? Favorite book bad boy?

Wednesday, November 10

Love and Facebook


This week's TFC topic is friends and boyfriends, and I have a question for everyone: WHAT is it like to be dating/have a crush on someone in the age of Facebook? Seriously, I can't fathom it. I met my husband in 2002, so we never really had to deal with the "in a relationship" status change or a social networking public breakup.

The other aspect of this is: Uh, stalking. It's an extreme word, but you know what I mean: Watching some other girl write on the guy you like's wall, tracking photos of a party you weren't invited to, just generally seeing angst roll by in the form of public posts all day long... I think I would have gone crazy as a teenager.

I'll admit it: I still look up people I used to have crushes on, just to see their photos and updates and make sure they're happy and--okay, yes--to check out the girls they DID end up with. Anyone else?

Love and Facebook, man. It's complicated.

Sunday, November 7

Friends with the Opposite Sex: The Ultimate Debate

So this week at the Teen Fiction Cafe, we're blogging about friends and boyfriends and I'll tell ya, I had the hardest time coming up with a topic for this. I racked my brain for hours! (Okay, maybe it was only a few minutes, but any writer will tell you: a few minutes with no inspiration can definitely feel like hours).

And so in the end, I decided, instead of waxing poetic and/or inspiring with some clever anecdote about my most influential friendship or the worst boyfriend I ever had (and trust me, I could go on for a while about that one), I decided I would pose a question instead. Primarily because I'm interested in what others have to say about this and also, to be perfectly honest, because I'm feeling just a little bit uninspired about the blogging thing right now.

So here's the question:

When in a relationship, can you or can you not be friends with someone of the opposite sex?

And let's take that a step further...can you or can you not be good friends with someone of the opposite sex? How about besties?

I'm in a committed relationship and have a few good friends who are guys. I wouldn't call them best friends, but I'd definitely call them close friends. And my hubby has assured me that he's fine with it. And likewise, he has a few friends that are female, one of which, is the girl who introduced us. And they've known each other for much longer than I've known either of them so I've always looked at is as, "If something was going to happen between them, it would have already."

But then again, I've been in relationships before where I couldn't stand the fact that my boyfriend had female friends, so perhaps it just depends on the relationship.

My uncle is a relationship therapist and I once posed this very question to him and he said, (quite adamantly, I might add) "No. It shouldn't be done. Once you enter a committed relationship, you must sever ties with all friends of the opposite sex." He did go on to clarify that he meant friends who are not friends of the couple. Friends who are only friends of one of the members of the couple.

This always felt a little extreme to me. I think there are circumstances where you can have perfectly platonic, harmless opposite-sex friends outside of your relationship, but what are those circumstances? Or what are they for you? As I trust everyone is different.

So, in the end, my one question actually turned into several. But would still love to hear what everyone else thinks about this relationship hot topic.

And just for fun (and for those too lazy to comment), here's a poll on the issue:

customer surveys

Thursday, November 4

Bullying *in* politics

I have to say that I'm in keep my head down, try to write mode. (Not for NaNoWriMo. No, I swear I have not started a new project for NaNo. And I definitely didn't get another new idea right on its heels and now I can't decide.... Okay so I did, but I am going back to my work in progress soon, I swear!) Because of this I have only been paying attention to two things in the news lately: the elections here in the United States and the continuing coverage of bullying, specifically of gay teens.

And these two things started to almost meld together in my mind. Why? Because of those awful commercials that Lauren posted about. I fast forward through since I never seem to watch TV live, but I also suck at fast forwarding so I seem to catch a few and I'm thoroughly convinced that the senator that won in my home state of Illinois, won largely because he was the biggest bully and that's not to say that the guy who lost didn't do his fair share of negative campaigning. According to the local news:

"More than a third of Illinois voters saw neither of the candidates as honest and trustworthy, according to preliminary exit polls. Fully half of the voters said each candidate attacked the other unfairly. Voters, tired of the negative campaigning, were generally doubtful that either candidate could pull Illinois out of its devastating financial mess."

I definitely fell into this group of voters. And I was sickened when the winning candidate used his acceptance speech as just another opportunity to knock his opponents rather than finally speaking to what he would actually do with the power he'd been handed.

Personally the headline I would have liked to see this week, even more than any particular candidate winning or proposition passing is:

"VOTERS DECIDE UNANIMOUSLY TO PUT AN END TO NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING"

Seriously, don't tell us what a screw-up the other guy is, tell us what you are going to do for us. And then instead of name-calling and bullying up on Capitol Hill, trying getting some actual work done for the people.

Sorry to vent, but as a writer, I really hate words being used out of context and politicians seem to be experts at misusing a word just because they know it will get a reaction.

When we hear nothing but inflammatory hate speech from the people who are supposed to be our leaders, are we truly that surprised when kids use it to push other kids over the brink?

Now, if you know me, you know I'm no censor. Making a law about what any can or can't say is not my cup of tea, but I just wish that the politicians would use a little common decency, that they would see that their negative campaigning only harms them. It makes voters doubt what they can do, probably because they haven't taken the time to tell us!

However, I'm sad to say that I think we have a better chance of legalizing marijuana than toning down hate speech in politics. But I love to daydream about how we could make a statement about it. Maybe next election, everyone should write in Sesame Street characters to show these politicians that we want leaders who know how to be kind and cooperate!

Who else has ideas about how to make this world a friendlier place?

Wednesday, November 3

Insane people against insanity!

Time to talk about the news! And I know what you’re thinking. I’m going to write about this. And, OK, the thought crossed my mind because that story is awesome. It has everything! But instead, I’m going to write about the Stewart-Colbert “Rally for Sanity” even though I'm a few days late for breaking reportage. Also it's not like I went or anything. But I have thoughts. So I shall blog them.

First of all I am a big fan of the shows and of the spirit of the whole thing, but a few things bother me about it. Such as (1) I like insanity. I don’t think you should rally against it. (2) More seriously, I think that the Comedy Central shows actually feed the cultural insanity they’re purporting to be against. Because they give lots of screentime to the weirdest politicians and blabber-mouth-iest newspeople. If you really wanted to be against that specific type of insanity, you should just ignore it. A lot of nuttiness would best be treated by just letting it go away, not by publicly mocking it. The mocked doesn’t really get or care that they’re being mocked -- they just like being on TV. The regular media does this too, but so does Comedy Central.

I imagine that that Jon Stewart liked the idea of a “million moderate march” because it would be pretty great to see level-headed people getting together and being like “we’re not extreme in any way!” It’s a fun idea. But the problem is that I don’t think Stewart is a moderate. I think he has a particular very strong point of view, and is in fact a little insane. Which I very much like. So really it wasn’t a “march of moderates united for sanity” it was a wacky collection of slightly wacky people having a good time and making fun of stuff and making each other feel better that they’re not alone in the world. Which is a lovely thing. So that’s my take on it. But really my favorite thing about it is the signs.

So many of them are precisely my own (slightly insane) sense of humor! And some of them even make a good point, such as the one here, which pretty much sums up my ideas on things.


Here’s a good link to lots and lots of signs. I only wish someone had one of these:

Tuesday, November 2

Last Trip for America's Oldest Space Shuttle

This week at the Cafe, we're discussing what's In The News. Maybe it's because I'm the daughter of a NASA aerospace engineer (or rocket scientist, as we like to call him), but I like to know what's going on in outer space. I love watching shuttle launches from Kennedy Space Center, and I'm happy to say there's going to be another one tomorrow!

The Discovery is America's oldest space shuttle, beginning its career in 1984. Since then, it's made 38 trips and flown over 142 million miles. The first female shuttle pilot, Eileen Collins, flew the Discovery in 1995, and back in 1988, the oldest astronaut, John Glen, went up in the Discovery at 77 years old.

On Wednesday, November 3 at 3:52 PM (weather permitting), the Discovery will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, its final trip into space before going into retirement. Its mission is to transport 6 American astronauts to the International Space Station (a project my dad has worked on) so they can attach a pressurized logistics module (just a fancy way of saying "storage area") and drop off Robonaut 2, a human-like robot that will become a permanent resident of the space station. This mission will mark the fourth and final one of 2010.

Have you ever watched a space shuttle launch? Have you ever visited space museums? Would you ever like to go into space someday?

Monday, November 1

In the News: Please Vote

Apologies to my Kiwi readers, Aussi readers, and readers in other non-U.S. countries for the following U.S.-centric post but hopefully everyone will still find something of value here.

In 1972, I had a favorite T-shirt. It was white with the word "VOTE" on it, spelled out in the stars and stripes of the American flag. At age 10, I figured myself to be pretty cool, a regular hippie in my pro stance on the importance of registering political choice.

Flash forward to 28 years later when, my one and only child being less than one year old at the time, I brought her into the voting booth with me to help me pull the lever in the presidential election. I so want my daughter to undertstand the importance of voting that in the years since, whenever possible, I've brought her with me. This has occasionally led to moments of embarrassment, like the year one mayoral candidate had so many signs up in town that my daughter would have been justified in thinking he was the only candidate for the job. Since his was the only candidate's name she knew that year, when I pulled the lever for the other guy, she shouted, "Mom, why didn't you vote for Candidate X???" I doubt there was a person in the polling place who didn't know how I'd voted that year as we pulled back the curtain and exited the booth. So much for the privacy of a person's vote. Oh, well. As I explained to my daughter, I did not vote for Candidate X because he did not embody the ideals I believe in.

My daughter is 10 now, the same age I was when I so proudly sported my VOTE T-shirt, and she's pretty politically savvy. She can't stand the attack ads on TV, nor can I. Attack ads have become so much the norm that when I heard an ad for New York's Chuck Schumer last week, talking simply about all the positive things he's done while in office, I wasn't sure what to do with that information.

If attack ads are the norm, then robocalls are the norm nuisance. Where I live in CT, one candidate for U.S. Senator has been phoning my home with automated calls on a regular basis. This is extremely annoying because this candidate is not a member of my party and even if you hang up the phone during the call, if you pick up the phone again the voice is still droning on until the message has been completed. I picture myself having to call an ambulance or the fire department and not being able to do so until Candidate Y's message is complete. Late last week, a real live person called me on behalf of Candidate Y while I was working. I made the mistake of picking up the phone, thinking it might be one of my husband's customers, only to have this real live representative of Candidate Y drone on so long, he might as well have been a robocall. At last, he finished his spiel and the following exchange transpired.

Him: So, can we count on your support next Tuesday?

Me: No, you cannot count on my support. I wish you Candidate Y people would stop calling because I would never, not if I lived another million years, vote for Candidate Y. Not. In. A. Million. Years.

Him: Oh. Well, this message has been paid for by Candidate Y.

Me: Well, clearly, Candidate Y is not spending her money wisely.

The truth, though, is that tomorrow's election has nothing to do with attack ads or robocalls. It has everything to do with choice. Someday the U.S. may have a viable third-party choice or even more. But while some states this year have third-party candidates that stand a chance, for the most part and for the purposes of this discussion, your choice will come down to one of two candidates. In the words of Bill Clinton, regarding tomorrow's election: "Is is not a referendum. It. Is. A. Choice. A choice between two different sets of ideas."

That's what you've got, America, a choice. Figure out who best represents your idea, and then make your choice and your vote count.

So how about you? Got any voting/political anecdotes to share?

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Thursday, October 28

TV vs. books... the great debate!

Elizabeth's note got me thinking about my own TV viewing habits. For a long time, I was an American Idol fan. Granted, I only watched from Hollywood week on because I think there was so much negativity in the early auditions that it was a big turn-off for me. But I was thinking the other day that the last season I watched in its entirety was the David Cook/David Archuleta year. I watched on and off the year Kris Allen won. Since then? I'm not even sure I know who won.

Among other shows that I used to be a big fan of and now rarely watch: Dancing with the Stars, Life Unexpected, and even... (gasp)... Glee.

What happened? There's nothing wrong with the shows. It's just that life got in the way. We got DVR several years ago so we could DVR things like Idol and not have to rearrange our lives around our TV viewing habits. But I think that made us kind of lazy about our favorite shows. If we can watch an episode anytime, what's the incentive to watch it right now?

And so weeks go by (I still haven't watched the Britney episode of Glee yet) and you know what? I'm finding I don't actually miss any of them. They're still DVRing so I could watch them if I wanted to. And maybe I will. Someday. But you know what I've been finding time to do instead?

Read.

For someone who is forever wanting to read more, I'm pretty excited about this revelation! Reading is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, it's my job to read books because I'm an author and I need to keep current with what's out there. Not to mention the fact that everyone deserves to enjoy their favorite hobby, right? On the other hand, there's always that guilt factor of "If I have time to be reading, I have time to be writing."

But without the TV intrusion, I've been able to read some great books lately without the usual guilt. Some of the goodies include: CRUNCH by Leslie Connor, MISTWOOD by Leah Cypess, THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES by Jody Feldman, THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB by Elizabeth Eulberg, and THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger. And those are just off the top of my head. I wouldn't have been able to read them if I'd been keeping up with my former favorite shows because, the truth is, there just isn't enough time to do everything.

So reading it is. :-)

What about you? Would you rather be reading or watching TV?

Wednesday, October 27

Interview with Denise Jaden on Losing Faith

Hello TFCers! I just wanted to share a chat I had with debut author Denise Jaden. Her debut novel is Losing Faith and it sounds awesome! Read on for the deets!

A terrible secret. A terrible fate.

When Brie's sister, Faith, dies suddenly, Brie's world falls apart. As she goes through the bizarre and devastating process of mourning the sister she never understood and barely even liked, everything in her life seems to spiral farther and farther off course. Her parents are a mess, her friends don’t know how to treat her, and her perfect boyfriend suddenly seems anything but.

As Brie settles into her new normal, she encounters more questions than closure: Certain facts about the way Faith died just don't line up. Brie soon uncovers a dark and twisted secret about Faith’s final night...a secret that puts her own life in danger.

Hello Denise, it's great to have you here! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how
you made your first sale including the title and publisher?


Denise: My first published novel is called Losing Faith and it was just released from Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster in September. I've been writing for about seven years, and have several other novels in various stages of revision. I met my editor at a writers conference shortly after finishing Losing Faith and she was interested! After getting an agent, we sent my book on submission to the editor from the conference and she loved it. The rest is history!

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Denise: I write at least six days per week, usually for about an hour to an hour and a half per day. I'd love to write more, but at this point life doesn't allow. I homeschool my son in the mornings, then hit the gym. When we get
home, it's time for a quiet time for my son and a writing time for his mom.

Please tell us about your novel, Losing Faith, and what we can expect from your characters.

Denise: Losing Faith is the story of sixteen year old Brie, the black sheep of her religious family until her older sister Faith dies. Through the bizarre and devastating grieving process, Brie discovers that certain facts about Faith's final night just don't line up.

Sounds great! What's up next for you, Denise? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Denise: I'm working on another YA novel called Appetite For Beauty. It's about a cheeky and forthright girl who discovers a dangerous, self-destructive side in her sister, and has to decide between helping her sister and a powerful and unfamiliar desire to become appealing to a mysterious boy.

Thank you for sharing with us, Denise! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Denise: Write every day. It helps stimulate the creative juices and for me, I often start dreaming about my characters and stories when they're a regular part of my day.

Denise Jaden lives just outside Vancouver, Canada. When she’s not writing, she can often be found homeschooling her son or dancing with her Polynesian dance troupe. Losing Faith is her first novel. Find out more at www.denisejaden.com.

Tuesday, October 26

did someone say tv??!

TV is a weird subject to talk about with other writers. Some--like myself--love it and others don't watch it at all.

Now, while I fully admit I can't imagine life without TV (I mean, can you imagine never ever seeing Arrested Development? Because I can't!), I also have to confess I haven't been watching much lately.

In part it's because I've been sick (which is annoying and boring) and in part because I've got a lot of deadlines, and--at the end of the day, no matter how much I love TV, work has to come first.

But! A few weeks ago, one of my blog readers, Haley, mentioned a show called Raising Hope. I checked out the first episode--and then watched all the other ones. I'm totally hooked on it, and I think it is my fave of all the new tv shows this season. (Granted, I've only seen two of them, but still!)

How about you? Do you watch TV? If you do, what shows do you consider can't miss? And are there any new shows you know you *have* to watch?

Thursday, October 21

Blogs ‘N Websites

Writing blogs can be a little tricky because sometimes the wrong people will read them and get the wrong idea. You’ve got to be a little careful. It’s so easy for someone to pick up one of your feet and shove it in your mouth even when you know there’s absolutely no reason for it to be there.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I was once asked to write a guest blog about my memories of Christmas and because it’s my nature I gave it a slightly different spin. I claimed that my family celebrated the holiday in a very dysfunctional manner and then went on to describe a very traditional and conventional Christmas experience. It’s just that I gave it a sinister air and made everything seem dark and disturbing. For example, I likened my dad and me hunting for a Christmas tree to the actions of a father and son serial killer team. I also described how we would later prop up our Christmas tree (the trophy of our hunt) in the corner of the room and then sit around and watch it die a slow death.

As far as I can tell 99.9% of the people who read that blog realized right away that it was a joke and that its underlining theme was that my memories of Christmas were actually fond ones and the same as the vast majority of others that celebrate the holiday. But of course there was that 0.1% that read it and found it outrageously offensive. I think the email exchange went something like this:

Gregory, What do you mean our family was dysfunctional! I’m VERY offended and deeply hurt!

Mom, Please reread that blog! It was a joke! Really! I didn’t intend to offend or hurt you! I love my memories of Christmas!

So here’s a little free advice. If you write a blog, beware of family and friends. What they see might not be what you intend.

Since the topic this week is Blogs AND Websites, I’d like to comment on a type of website that I predict will only grow in popularity. It’s the web-based comedy show. They’re normally about three to five minutes long and some of them are really very entertaining. They’re perfect for quick little diversions during your workdays. I also like that they can be done on a small budget which means a couple people with a good idea can compete with the big guys. So for all you creative types out there, here’s another opportunity knocking.

This is one of my present favorites. It’s a show called Decision/Decision.

What do you think? Fun, huh? Why not make one? I bet you could come up with a two-minute show using only a deck of cards and a couple voiceovers. There’s a big world out there…catch it by the tail and take it for a ride.

Also let me know if you’ve ever had something you wrote in a blog taken the wrong way? I’d love to hear about it.

Tuesday, October 19

Blogs


Sorry that I'm a day late to post. It's been a bit of a crazy week - not only is my mother over for a holiday but my daughter has gone away to camp for the first time and let me tell you that trying to pack for a nine and a half year old girl isn't a barrel of laughs!!!!!

Anyway, this week it's all about blogs and websites so I thought I would give a shout out to the Crossroads Halloween tour, which has been organized by the fabulous Judith Graves. It's a scavenger hunt that involves 16 authors over 16 days and there are lots of prizes and fun interviews to be had!!!!!

Thursday, October 14

jeggings: yay? or naaay. please discuss.

I've been racking my brain this week to come up with a post for fashion & style week, when the muse poked me in the ribs and said, "You are wearing incredibly warm, soft, and comfortable stretchy pants that look like cords. What more do you need for a topic?" Yes, after repeated, skeptical viewings at the store, I finally said what the hell, and came home a few weeks ago with a pair of Hue corduroy-esque legging/pants. They are sort of a bastard sibling of jeggings, which, if you don't know, are leggings that look like jeans.

Now, leggings have always had passionate defenders and detractors, so I probably don't have to tell you that jeggings inspire even greater heights/depths of appreciation and disdain. Personally, though I shunned leggings for a good long time, shaving over 60 pounds off the old bod has brought them back into my life, for better or for worse. Because, damn, they are comfortable, and a writer needs to be comfortable. And though I'm sure you can guess they don't exactly look like the picture on the left on my body, the cord leggings look a lot better than I thought they would. With a long-ish T and boots, I can do my work and my errands in total comfort aaand then pretty much transition straight into bed. Without the boots. Usually.

What about you? Have you already taken the jeggings plunge? If not, will you? Or did you swear to yourself upon first seeing them in the store: "As God is my witness: never"?

I'm taking off for a long weekend getaway, but I will eagerly check back on Monday to see if there's consensus. Now I have to go pack my jeggings.

Tuesday, October 12

Style Secret: Etsy

It's not much of a secret since the site is at rockstar status, but Etsy is my style guru these days. I get daily emails in which fashionable types curate items that relate to a theme (today's theme was "Opalescence" and it featured this two-tiered necklace that was sold out when I clicked!):


You can find all manner of adorable items on the site--from fancy vintage kitchenware like this spoon and container set (below top) to slingback 80s pumps (below bottom, sadly not my size).


Sure you have to dig through some odd items (see Regretsy for a hilarious run-down of those), but isn't that the fun of getting a bargain or a lovely vintage piece to add to your stylish collection?

Happy Etsy-ing! Now, tell me where you secretly shop!

Thursday, October 7

Plotting Vs. Pantsing in... food?


Plotting versus Pantsing is discussed quite a bit when it comes to writing. Do you plot out your books or do you write by the seat of your pants? Until recently I've always been more of a pantser who plots only when she needs to (hmmm, maybe all the plotting in my current WIP is what led to this dang writer's block...). It is possible that I do this because the rest of my life is so incredibly plotted out and scheduled that I need one place to cut loose (and again, hmmm, maybe this is why I'm not enjoying writing lately).

When it comes to food, I'm a major plotter. I go on a big grocery shopping trip every other week where I get everything except for the produce I need to be super fresh. This means that right before I go grocery shopping, I plan out a dinner menu for two weeks. I'll usually eat the same meal two nights in a row, my husband and I go out once a week and every other week I am cooking for my writer's group. It's all meticulously planned mainly because my life is so busy that if I don't plan out my meals, I'll rely too much on frozen prepared foods and even the vegan versions of these aren't that good for you. Basically I'm a health nut with an overly crammed schedule, so I do what I have to in order to fit cooking in. I also love to cook!

However something is about to change my meal planning ways this fall. I've joined my very first CSA! What is a CSA? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It means a local farm (and since I'm in Chicago, "local" means southern Wisconsin) will deliver a big box of produce that is organically grown on their farm straight to my door every Monday night. And I pay them directly, meaning no middleman, my money goes directly to the farmer. I love this concept politically on so many levels. For one, I am supporting a small, local business--and believe me small and family-owned farms were hurting *long* before the current recession. Two, it is good for the environment. Two years ago, I decided to eat only organic food whenever possible because I just don't like consuming chemicals. But a lot of the time, I would notice that my organic apples were coming from as far away as Chile!!! What a huge carbon footprint to bring me my food all that way when there are perfectly good organic apples fifty or sixty miles from me. In the summer, I solved this problem by going to farmer's markets to buy my produce. One of the farmers at my local market, Tomato Mountain Farm, had a CSA sign up for fall. I convinced my mom to try it with me. It means for 10 bucks a week, I get to split 5/9 of a bushel of produce with her.

It starts in two weeks and I am so excited! Except that I realized I go shopping on Fridays and I will be getting my food on Mondays, so how am I to plan a menu? I can't rearrange my schedule to go grocery shopping on Tuesdays and I won't know in advance exactly what vegetables I'll be getting (though from their website, I know there will be a lot of winter squash, kale, potatoes and leeks which I've never tried so I'm excited about that). I have a ton of cookbooks and plenty of spices on hand, so my plan is just to keep my pantry and fridge stocked with the vegan staples such as tofu, lentils, chick peas, beans, canned tomatoes, veggie stock, and rice. Then hopefully when I get my box, I can look up the vegetables in my cookbooks, find a recipe, hit the pantry and fly by the seat of my pants. It's somewhat nerve-wracking to this queen of organization, but I'm too excited about fresh local vegetables--some that I have never tried before--to let it get me down.

What about you? Do you plot out meals in advance or can you just whip something together--and if so do you have any advice? And know any good leek recipes?