Monday, December 31

Win a Free Book!

Wow, what an exciting week! My family and friends came in to help me celebrate the launch of my debut novel, The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren. My husband planned the most elegant party at the Eccles Art Center, pictured here in all its splendor. We ate delicious food, listened to live piano music, and visited with new and old friends. I also signed quite a few books, as you can see in the photo below. It was, in a word, perfect.

In honor of Teen Fiction Cafe's promo week, I'm pleased to offer a FREE autographed copy of The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren. Its official launch date was Dec. 26, 2007, so this baby is hot off the press and just dying to make it into a pair of deserving hands. What do you have to do? It's easy! Just leave a comment, sharing your New Year's resolution. I'll have my one year-old choose the lucky winner, so check back at the end of the week to see if it's you! Good luck, and Happy New Year!
P.S. If you'd like to read more about me or my book, two TFC authors have recently posted interviews. Check them out at YA Fresh and Sara Hantz's blog.

Monday, December 24

Do movie reviews matter to you?

So, this weekend at the box office, National Treasure: Book of Secrets did just over $45.5 million and landed in the number one spot. The reviews, however, were mixed. A couple of weeks ago, The Golden Compass opened at the number one spot. Critics' reviews? Not so great.

The trend of movies being huge blockbusters over the weekend but not getting good reviews seems to be a trend--(Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Alvin and the Chipmunks, to name a couple).

Do you pay attention to reviews? It seems that many people don't. Is it the same for book reviews? If you read a bad book review, does it influence your buying decision?

Happy holidays to all!

Sunday, December 23

Movies: Enchanted

So this week at TFC, our topic is movies. The next to the last movie I saw was "Enchanted." We won't even talk about the last movie I saw, a week ago today when I missed the plane I was supposed to be on to Florida and had to take one 12 hours later. That movie was so awful, I've selectively forgotten the name. Bleagh.

But "Enchanted"? "Enchanted" was a movie I'd heard so much about. Unless you live under a rock, as I sometimes do, you probably already know that "Enchanted" is revisionist Disney, a sort-of satire where The House The Mouse Built pokes gentle fun at some of its most spectacular successes: Princess stumbles out of cartoonland into New York City where she meets a modern prince, a divorced divorce lawyer complete with cute daughter. Mice clean the house, birds land on extended fingers, people occasionally break into song.

I'm not sure what I expected, but I know I expected to enjoy it more than I did. I think part of the problem, like with a lot of movies, is that each scene is 30-60 seconds too long. Then, too, a good part of the movie is prologue and then - boom! - you feel like you're close to the end. But I find that all movies, even the bad ones - and this was by no means a bad movie, just not as good as I expected - make me think about something. Sometimes it's about writing, since the story arc of enjoyable fiction often mimics or shares the structure of film. Sometimes it's about life itself.

So what am I thinking now? I'm thinking about the concept of Prince Charming, the promise of lasting romance (for realism's sake, we'll skip Happily Ever After). Is the idea of loving one person forever a fantasy? Is the idea of Prince Charming in general damaging to women? Am I just reaching for questions here because it's Sunday, I need to write this blog, and now I'm starting to ramble???


I'll tell you one thing I do know: More people should just spontaneously break into song.

A belated Hanukkah if that's your holiday, a Merry Christmas or Kwanzaa if yours is yet to come, if you're atheist I hope you enjoy every day and don't find the rest of us too annoying, and a Happy New Year to all.

Oh, and SECRETS OF MY SUBURBAN LIFE will go on sale January 8, so if anyone/everyone wants to ensure I have a great holiday season...

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Wednesday, December 19

Hot Topic

Like Bev, my current events knowledge is sketchy at best. My eighteen year old helps me vote on the issues and the candidates because he loves political science and keeps track of those things. I, on the other hand, like to write. Beside's reading, writing is the only other thing I really do. (Except watch House, but that's another blog)

So I never really paid much attention when the big story in these parts and nationally, was those two boys from McMinnville, Oregon who were in a world of trouble (facing permanent expulsion from school and sexual harassment charges) for slapping girls' fannies as they went by in the hallway at school. Now, I knew about the case mostly because of the age of the kids... these boys were in middle school... no older than thirteen. There were lots of opinions, but most everyone agreed that though the deed should be punished, years in juvenile detention was a bit much for kids who had never been in any kind of trouble before. The kids were punished, but (as I recall) the criminal charges were dropped. Bet they'll never slap another girl's fanny as long as they live. In fact, I would have thought, given the attention to the case in our area, that no one in Oregon would be slapping a strange girls fanny.

I was wrong.

This past week my daughter was at a wrestling match helping out as a mat girl.
She was keeping score (that's what mat girls do) when all of a sudden someone slapped her on the fanny. Hard. She turned, expecting one of her girlfriends/fellow mat girls. She was a bit annoyed because she was working. Instead of another mat girl, she looked into the smirk of a wrestler from another school. Someone she had never met before. He raised his eyebrows and gave her his best come-hither look, which pretty much meant creeper to my daughter. She handed another girl her score sheets and went to find her school's coach. Luckily, she found him at the same time she found the varsity wrestling team, otherwise things might have gotten ugly. The coach kept his boys under control and found the slapper's coach. An apology ensued.

But my daughter will never forget how she felt. Kind of like a peice of meat hanging on a hook. Violated.

I remember that feeling from my teen years... how a boy could make you feel cheap because of a nasty comment, a leer, or crude gesture. Slapping girls on the fanny was pretty common during the late seventies/early eighties and the term sexual harassment was just being bandied about. If you haven't watched the movie, North Country, you should. It's based on a true story about sexual harassment in the work place.

We've come a long way since the seventies/eighties... but we obviously have a long way to go. If all the coverage surrounding the McMinnville case didn't put the fear of God in young men regarding touching strange girls fannies, what will? These kid's lives were disrupted for months--both the boys in question and the girls who were slapped. So what do you think it's going to take to get this kind of behavior stopped? Do you remember a time when a guy made you feel cheap?

Sunday, December 16

Current Events Theme This Week--Just My Luck!

I have a confession to make. When the newspaper arrives at our house in the morning, the first section I grab is not 'World News'--it's 'Entertainment'.

Here's the thing. While I am definitely interested in the state of the world vis-a-vis global conflicts and issues, the truth is, I am slightly (okay, a lot) more interested in who's filming what where, and who's said what about which movie/book/theatrical or dance performance.

To my credit, I am not remotely interested in the latest Britney/ParisLindsay antics. (Pet peeve: why does MSN include this stuff in their Entertainment section? Isn't this gossip?)

I consider myself smart and well read, but I seem to lack the political understanding gene. I just can't seem to keep all the key players in a given situation straight. Sometimes I think I'd like to know more about a certain world conflict, but then I start reading about it and boom, once more than three groups are involved (and there always are--and let's not even talk about groups that were out of favor and now are in!), I'm lost.

I'm not shallow--really! I'm quite passionate about social issues and the environment. (Yay, Al Gore, for winning the Nobel Prize!) And I still do read that World News section, albeit after I'm done with Entertainment. I can only hope that one day, somebody comes up with a readers' guide for current events impaired people like me...

Blog ya later!


Current Event: The Writers' Strike

On Nov. 5, 2007, the Writers Guild of America (comprised of the West and East divisions), which makes up approximately 12,000 movie and TV writers, went on stike in their contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The WGA went on strike 15 years ago, and that one lasted five months and cost the entertainment industry about $500 million. Word is, advertisers are already pulling out. So yes, this stike could amount to a Very Big Deal.

What's it all about? In a nutshell, the writers want to come up with some kind of compromise for payment for shows released on DVD and those delivered via Internet. Until an agreement is made, how will this strike affect us, the movie-goers and TV-watchers of America?

1. The stockpiled TV programs should get us through to early 2008. But, well, that's just a few weeks from now! I'm gonna be desperate for Desperate Housewives!

2. Reruns of Jay Leno and other such TV shows. Though it is kind of fun to see Jay Leno and his guests back in the 80's.

3. Rise of unscripted TV shows and gameshows. That's right, folks. More reality TV. Can we handle it?

4. Possibility of TV shows and writers coming from abroad. Hmm. Might expand our minds, eh?

5. As for movies, apparently it will take about a year for the movie theaters to show the effects. So we can cross our fingers that the strike is over before then. Then again, You Tube videos will still be in ample supply, right? I wonder what "Spaghetti Town," (my sons' all time favorite and worth a peek, IMO) would look like on the big screen?

6. More time to READ BOOKS! :) Speaking of, just 10 days till THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN is out. Woot woot!
I'd love to hear your insights about this strike and how it's affecting you.

Saturday, December 15

Yikes....... animals

When I was eight my parents bought us a dog (black lab) because I was afraid of animals..... due in no small part to being knocked over by a poodle when I was 18 months and also falling off a horse when I was on holiday (why, was I the one to get the horse which was as wide as it was tall and made me slip from side to side????). I grew to love our dog 'Sam' very much - after overcoming my anxiety on the first day we had him when (at 8 weeks old) he had me cornered by the front door. But I still didn't like any other animals.

So, imagine my shock/terror/angst (pick any, or all three) to discover that my husband LOVED animals. We bought a dog (yellow lab) just before we had our daughter, which was fine because I was OK with labs. THEN as the children got older suddenly the house was a menagerie. We had two rabbits Angel and Peter (later to be named Petra when we discovered he was a she), a hamster, several fish, a cockerel (named Cocky.... all pet names down to the children), and chickens (who were very partial to pasta and peanut butter and would come running toward you when you called them).

And when we came to New Zealand, sans all above pets some who were no longer with us and some (rabbits and chickens) who we gave away to good homes, we seemed to start again - though living in a motel and NZ regulations did thwart us a bit. Nevertheless, we bought a dog 'Ellie' (see photo for Ellie as a puppy - she's now nearly 6) and my son rescued a couple of mice from someone who was being cruel to them and he kept and bred them (intending to sell the offspring to pet shops, who, it turned out didn't want them) , and we had a tank of fish - and let's guess who ended up cleaning them out every few weeks!!!! And the children also took riding lessons.

So, am I now an animal lover? I'm much better than I was. Cats worry me, as do horses and cows, and certain dogs. But I'm getting there.

Thursday, December 13

Pet Problem

Right now the only pets we have in our household are of this variety. Know them? Because I can assure you they really are like having a real pet. For a start they cost a lot more than one might imagine, they always end up under your feet and no matter which way you turn, they're always looking at your with those big eyes. The truth is that we've moved so many times in the last few years that these are close as my kids have got to the real thing.

However, next week we finally move into a house that we know we'll be staying in for a good long time so the pet question has been raised once again and right now the battle is on between whether we get a dog or a cat (though my five year son is totally batting for a giraffe). The thing is we've been petless for so long that I've got comfortable in my hair-free house that we can lock up and leave without a moment's thought, and the idea of all that extra commitment is more than a little daunting. Has anyone else had the pre-pet freak out and if so is there a twelve step program for me to take??

Wednesday, December 12

Year of the Cat, Dog, Bird, Horse, Rabbit, etc.

This week’s topic is pets, and the sad truth is, at the moment, I don’t have any.

Growing up I had lots of pets, ranging from the exotic—lizards, snakes, tarantulas, parrots, etc., to the not-so-exotic, like—dogs, rabbits, turtles, and even a horse. But no cats, since my dad was allergic.

And even though you’re not supposed to play favorites, I still did. And I’m not ashamed to admit that Snoopy and Lucky were my chosen ones. Probably because I didn’t have to “share” them with my sisters since they were received as much hinted for birthday gifts, which clearly designated them as “mine.”

Snoopy came first. As a major fan of Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts Gang” I’d longed for a beagle of my own. And on my eighth birthday, when I was presented with an adorable tri-colored pup, I didn’t even hesitate to name him after my favorite character.

“Are you SURE you want to name him Snoopy?” My mom asked, phrasing the question as carefully as she could.

“Of course!” I said, overcome with the glee of wish fulfillment.

“Because, the thing is, Snoopy is going to live for a VERY long time. You’re going to have him WELL into your TEENAGE years.”

“So?” I shrugged, having no idea what she could possibly be getting at—until six years later, when boys started coming over, and I found myself cringing every time they’d ask my dog’s name.

For my twelfth birthday, I got Lucky (my horse!). And as it’d only taken three years of begging, three years of riding double on my friend’s horses, I felt like I’d finally arrived.

Ours was a horsy kind of neighborhood and all of my friends had one. We were obsessed with our horses, riding them everyday after school and on weekends, making up songs about them, dedicating our art projects to them, making up conversations of what they’d say to each other if they could actually talk, and as my parent’s were soon headed for divorce, Lucky provided the perfect escape from what was becoming a volatile house.

So two years later, when Lucky became ill and had to be put down, (an experience I touched on in FAKING 19), it felt like the end of the world. And I found myself turning back to Snoopy, not that I’d ever turned AWAY from him, but it’s not like I could saddle him up either. And true to my mom’s earlier prediction, he lived for a very long time, passing on when I was well out of school and on one of my travels through Europe.

I’m glad I wasn’t home to say goodbye, because back then; I wasn’t very good at them. And truth be told, I haven’t owned another pet since (other than a brief flirtation with a goldfish I referenced in FLY ME TO THE MOON.)

Yet there’s a special kind of joy that only a pet can bring into your life, which is why, soon, sometime soon, I plan to try again.

What about you—did you have a favorite pet growing up??


Tuesday, December 11

Puppy Love

I'd like you all to meet the newest addition to our family - Kali. She is a Jack Russell mix - mixed with what, we don't know, because Kali is a rescue dog.

We 'adopted' her in August. The home she had come from was small, filthy and crowded with other animals. At only 10 weeks old, Kali was already undernourished and infested with fleas. When we first brought her home, she hardly moved at all, except to shiver or to duck her head whenever a human hand came near. She kept her ears flat
against her head and the little stub of her tail (someone had docked it way too short) never wagged.

Over the weeks, Kali relaxed in our home. Her personality completely changed. In fact it was only after those first initial weeks that she got her name... Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction.

We've changed, too. The kids, who couldn't have a pet in the corporate housing in Japan have learned to put Kali's needs to walk, go out, get fed and be loved before their desire to park in front of the TV or computer screen. (OK, to be fair, sometimes they park with Kali in their arms.)

It's like having a baby in the home. Each day with her is a new discovery. Last week,we got our first 'real' snowfall, which was fun in itself since we didn't get accumulating snow in Tokyo, but the most fun of all was watching Kali's first experience in the white stuff. She loved it and bounded around like a little bunny (when she wasn't pushing snowballs with her nose or eating the snow.)

Anyone else have pet or rescue stories? How do you celebrate the holidays with your pets?

Share with us!


Friday, December 7

Holiday Contest


Thanks everyone for taking part.

Holiday Contest

Amanda Ashby (good friend and critique partner) and I are getting together to have a holiday contest with a New Zealand theme.

If you’d like to win a signed copy of The Second Virginity of Suzy Green and You Had Me At Halo, together with a mystery piece of Kiwiana then leave a comment on either Teen Fiction Café, my blog, Amanda’s blog or one of our Myspace pages.

The draw for the prize winner will take place on Monday and we’ll announce the winner on all of the above places.

Thursday, December 6

Winners of Graffiti Girl

This was a really hard choice, and I appreciate all of you who chatted up some fantastic artists and your very own talent. So I've decided to give two copies of Graffiti Girl away. I wish I had more to share for the holidays.

And the winners are...

The Page Flipper and Valeria Rodriguez!

Please email me at Kelly Parra at Earthlink dot net with your mailing addresses and I'll get the books out to you both.

Thanks again, Everyone, and Happy Holidays!

~ Kelly

Wednesday, December 5

New Website Page

It's day two of promo week here at Teen Fiction Cafe and while I don't have a book to promote (yet!), I've got something else. new Website page for schools and libraries. I know, not as exciting as a book. :)

The page went up last week after I got my first e-mail requesting a library visit next year. At first, I had no idea what to put on the page, but after thinking about author visits I'd been to and what kids would (hopefully) like to hear and do, the content went up.

Has anyone done a library visit? If so, how did it go? If not, what library visits have you liked?

Tuesday, December 4

Enter To Win...

Hi Everyone,

It's promo week @ TFC, and that means I get to gush all I want about my young adult novel, right? *grin* Well, I can't really, because I'm currently Writer with Deadline Looming. Yiiikes. But I'm more than happy to give away a copy of Graffiti Girl to an interested visitor. Just leave a comment to the question below from now until Thursday evening and I'll announce a winner soon after.

Here's a little about GG...

Graffiti art. It's bold. It's thrilling. And it can get a girl into serious trouble....

Raised by her single mom (who's always dating the wrong kind of man) in a struggling California neighborhood, Angel Rodriguez is a headstrong, independent young woman who channels her hopes and dreams for the future into her painting. But when her entry for a community mural doesn't rate, she's heartbroken. Even with winning artist Nathan Ramos -- a senior track star and Angel's secret crush -- taking a sudden interest in Angel and her art, she's angry and hurt. She's determined to find her own place in the art world, her own way.

That's when Miguel Badalin -- from the notorious graffiti crew Reyes Del Norte -- opens her eyes to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. She's blown away by this bad boy's fantastic work and finds herself drawn to his dangerous charm. Soon she's running with Miguel's crew, pushing her skills to the limit and beginning to emerge as the artist she always dreamed she could be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies with a shared past, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to life and art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.  

You can even read an excerpt here.

Interested? Just tell me about something art related...such as, who is your fave artist? What's your fave piece of artwork that you own, wished you did, or something you do that's just cool crafty. Yeah, that's the ticket. I'm not picky. ;)

I'll start off. I've always been partial to Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. And I used to be quite the little painter. :)

Thanks and good luck, 

Friday, November 30

Amazing Teen Romances!

I'm going to talk about teen romances in novels. Why? Because I've always been drawn into these books. I can actually say that I specifically like reading teen romances above any other
books. When I find a good one, I can't put it down until I finish it.

These are some teen romances that I couldn't put down:

If you read teen romances, then you've heard of Twilight. You've probably read it. Did you like it? I loved it! I thought Stephenie Meyer did an amazing job of introducing Bella and Edward and the writing was excellent, she drew me right in to her story. If you haven't read it yet, go out and get it!

Another one of my favorite teen romances is Flipped. My editor told me to read it. Okay, so I thought it was strange that there was an upside down baby chick on the front of the book, but after you read the book you realize it's a perfect cover for this book! Juli and Bryce are such wonderful characters you fall in love with both of them. Wendelin Van Draanen did an amazing job with the book, I was captured from the first page when Bryce met his new neighbor, Juli. If you read this book, do you agree? (I can't imagine anyone NOT liking Flipped) It's told in alternating chapters between Juli and Bryce, which I did for my own book Leaving Paradise.

I picked up Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (the first version, with the cover of the guy kissing the girl) and I read the first five pages I was like, "Huh?" I didn't get it. The stream of consciousness writing confused me. But then I got used to it. I must say that this was a great book, and the authors totally get inside the head of teens. I fell in love with these characters and am happy it's being turned into a movie. I met David Levithan (one of the authors) and he was amazingly nice! Go out and get this book so you know what the movie is about before it comes out.

I admit when I picked up this next teen romance novel, I didn't know the content. Yes, hit me over the head with a brick, but even though there were three boys on the front and the title is Rainbow Boys, I didn't know it was a book with gay characters. I found out pretty quick I was in for a read I'd never read before.... But Alex Sanchez, the author, sucked me right in to the novel. I couldn't put it down even if I'd wanted to. The love story is as engaging and realistic as any other teen romance novel. For alternative lifestyles, or if you want to know what it's like for gay teens today, go out and get Rainbow Boys!

For a romance novel I WANT to read, it may surprise you that it's a historical novel. I watched Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth and a separate one with Keira Knightly (is that how you spell her last name???). The one with Colin Firth is the BEST one (although Keira is absolutely beautiful in the other one), so be sure to watch it. Because of it, I want to read the classic novel by Jane Austen. Has anyone else read it? Okay, so it's not necessarily a teen romance, but it is the most read novel in the world.

I can't help but fall in love with teen romances, so I've written my own. Leaving Paradise was written like Flipped and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist...with alternating chapters between Caleb and Maggie.

The next two books of mine are How to Ruin a Summer Vacation and its sequel How to Ruin my Teenage Life. Both are teen romances, and I have to say that most of my email from teen girls say that they love the romance between Amy and Avi. Have you read them? What do you think?

Simone Elkeles

Thursday, November 29

Before and After

There have been a few books that have stayed with me so much that there is life before I read the book . . . and life after. Something about the book fundamentally touched me. A couple of books for me, in this category, are The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, and Judy Blume's Deenie. I liked that book so much that I wrote an essay about it in Eveything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume.

I can tell you precisely what each of these treasured Before and After books did for me. The Handmaid's Tale touched a place of grief deep inside me that I didn't even know was there. It also awakened an even greater commitment to feminism. Good Omens was the most audacious, subversive book I had ever read--and I thought "Hmm . . . I want to write a book that's just as bold. It's in me." Next year, Red Dress Ink will publish Freudian Slip . . . and in it God is a woman who hates the singing group ABBA, and Albert Einstein is a supervisor in a place between Heaven and Hell--and he has a penchant for PowerPoint. I love it--probably my favorite book I've ever written, and I can thank Gaiman for helping me, as a writer, to let go of conventions.

The Joy Luck Club . . . well, I wept through nearly all of it. As a mother of four, I related to each mother-daughter relationship, the sacrifices of the mothers, the misunderstandings. Deenie . . . I read at age 12 or 13, and all Deenie's pain and misfit status spoke to me. So did Judy Blume's dead-on depiction of adolescence. The book still resonates.

I could go on . . . there are books I love, books that make me laugh, books that make me cry. But then there is that handful that you never forget, that become part of you.

How about you? Do you have Before and After books?

Monday, November 26

Favorite series

Lauren's post from yesterday got me thinking about favorite books. I've always been a fan of series and there are several from childhood that I still love. Recently, however, I've been engrossed in Private by Kate Brian, Libba Bray's series, Harry Potter by JK Rowling, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (as if you didn't know the author!) and Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita.

When I was younger, series I devoured were: The Saddle Club by Bonnie Bryant, Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin and Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal.

Sure, the subjects of the series have changed, but one thing seems to remain constant. All of these series have characters that make us care and want to read about them for multiple books. There's something about these books that just wouldn't work as well if the author wrote just one and left us hanging. Seriously, could Stephenie make Twilight as great if she had to cram all of Bella's ordeals into one book? Would Gemma in A Great and Terrible Beauty grow and discover her powers in book one? Doubtful. We need books two, three and so on to take us on the journeys of series characters.

So, what are your favorite past and/or present series? Why?

Sunday, November 25

We're talking about - what else? - BOOKS!

Some people start writing in a particular genre because that's the genre they like to read the most themselves, so it feels like a natural fit. Some people start writing in a particular genre because it's a "hot" market at the moment and they think it will be easy to break in, little realizing how quickly hotness can cool.

I came to write teen fiction in neither of those ways. Rather, I had an idea for a story - about a girl on the fast track for Yale who finds herself pregnant during her senior year in high school - and I realized right away that for the story to be as powerful as I wanted it to be, it couldn't be written in the past tense that characterizes the overwhelming majority of my writing for adults. The distancing effect of time would take the urgent immediacy out of the tale, giving it the safety net of, "Yes, this hard thing happened to me when I was young, but now I play a doctor on TV." But once I started writing in present tense, the voice became authentically young and a new area for me to write in was born.

Since writing that book in typical cart-before-the-horse fashion, I've actually started to read in this genre I'm now published in and what I've come to realize is that teen fiction rocks. With no further ado then, here, in chrnologogical order, are some teen fiction books I've read so far in 2007 that particularly rock:

The Abundance of Katharines ~ John Green
Pretty Little Liars ~ Sara Shepard
King Dork ~ Frank Portman
The Boy Book ~ E. Lockhart
Sold ~ Patricia McCormick
The Christopher Killer ~ Alane Ferguson
The Private Series ~ Kate Brian
Goose Girl ~ Shannon Hale
Son of the Mob ~ Gordon Korman
The Invention of Hugo Cabret ~ Brian Selznick
The Case Against My Brother ~ Libby Sternberg
What Happened to Cass McBride? ~ Gail Giles
Speak ~ Laurie Halse Anderson
Are We There Yet? ~ David Levithan
Harmless ~ Dana Reinhardt
Twisted ~ Laurie Halse Anderson
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress ~ Tina Ferraro
Golden ~ Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Haters ~ Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
Life on the Refrigerator Door ~ Alice Kuipers
Prom ~ Laurie Halse Anderson
Peak ~ Roland Smith
Vampire Academy ~ Richelle Mead
Tantalize ~ Cynthia Leitich Smith

And, of course, goes without saying, all my sister TFCers have written great books that everyone should read.

So, now that I've provided everyone with a reading list to last a while, it's your turn. Please holler back at me and tell me what I've been missing, what books I really must read.

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Friday, November 23

Music To Write To

I’ve been writing for about five years, and I’ve never been one to write while listening to music.

However, since joining myspace and picking profile songs, I’ve been hooked on some songs that really strike a chord with me.

You know the kind of songs that make you have to tap your feet, or wiggle your hips, or just get up and move. :)

So for my birthday in a few weeks, I asked for something small to download my music—the iPod nano was on sale for Black Friday and we picked up my present early.

Okay, I’m picky with my music and I have about 9 songs downloaded for my first day--haha--but they are songs that I can’t help singing along with, and now I’ll be moving along to the tunes as I write.

How about anyone else? Music while you write, or silence works for you?

Tuesday, November 20

Indie Musician Spotlight: Lanes

This week’s topic at the Teen Fiction Cafe is Music and I thought it would be fun to learn more about a style of music that's all the rage, but some of us might not know very much about, including me. I've asked my friend Lanes, and outstanding artist and totally nice guy, to tell us more about Electronic Music and his life as an indie artist. Enjoy!

How would you describe your music style to someone who’s not familiar with it?
What I write is officially called Electronic Music. It's a huge genre that have several subgenres like Techno, House, Trance, Breakbeat, Jungle/Drum'n'Bass, Industrial, etc which, in turn, have their own sub-subgenres and its more than 50 of those.My music style is an experimental attempt to recreate some kind of a sonic adventure I invest quite a great deal of emotions in it and what I do is I try to express them thru certain combinations of sounds that if I were a listener would make me feel a certain way or even place me in a certain emtional state.

What kind of training do you have?
I'm self-taught. My older sister is a professional pianist, she is the one who sparked my interest in composing music. That's actually pretty strange given all the time I was brutally exposed to listening to her playing the most boring music on Earth.

What is a typical day like in the life of Lanes?
Mornings are usually uninspiring so I spend them on posting updates, answering messages and bothering other people. Afternoons are more fun so i either work on my existing songs trying to make them sound nicer or surf the Net looking for more places to post my music on. And evenings are usually for creating something out of nothing.

What is your all-time favorite track?
'Porcelain' by Moby

Where can we listen to your music?
My page on myspace ( has full versions of my latest tracksI also have samples from my songs on my official website ( and a whole bunch of other music sites like SoundClick (, PureVolume (, iSound (, etc etcMy CDs are sold by CD Baby ( and my downloads are on iTunes, Rhapsody, Beats Digital, Indiepad, etc. My page on myspace and my website have all the links to the stores.

Thank you, Lanes!

This year, listen to the words...

I bring you a story set to music. To Christmas music. Yeah, it's early, I know, but bear with me. 'Tis is a true story that just happened--this past Sunday, to be exact, the day of Toronto's ultra-fabu annual Santa Claus Parade.

Hubby and I were downtown, though not to watch the parade. We're Jewish, but that wouldn't stop us from watching; what did stop us was that we weren't with our kids, and the last thing we wanted was to line up on a sidewalk with hundreds of other people's kids :) Our teen was at her volunteer gig, and we'd just dropped our pre-teen off at a drama class, during which hubby and I usually take a nice long walk up Yonge Street, all the way from King to Bloor, then back down again.

The first leg of the walk went fine. But by the time we got back down to Yonge and Dundas, just north of King, the site of the beautiful Bay Department Store windows (and the point from which the Christmas music blared), the crowd lining the sidewalks was pretty thick. It was about 11:30 and the parade was starting at 12:30. So we decided to cut one street west and continue south on Victoria.

When we crossed the road, we had to navigate pretty carefully through the hordes of people on the other side. When we heard a familiar, "Buy a paper, sir?" we stopped. In Toronto, some members of the homeless community publish a small newspaper, which hubby and I always purchase when we pass somebody hawking it. (Hey, it's hard enough for me to get stuff written and published--I have nothing but admiration for the people who manage to get a monthly publication out when they don't even have homes!) I don't carry a purse with me on long walks, but hubby had change in his pockets (men always do), and he gave the sad looking, middle aged guy doing the selling a couple of loonies (Canadian one dollar coins). "Thanks," he said, taking a paper.

"No, thank you," the guy said. "I've been here for an hour and you're the first person who's stopped."

Hubby and I exchanged looks. He'd been there an hour. In the midst of a huge crowd attending a Christmas parade.

Don't They Know It's Christmas blared from the speakers outside The Bay.

So much for the holiday spirit.

As we walked on, I muttered to hubby, "If I put that in a book, an editor would say it's too cliched, too ironic, or too unbelievable."

We went on to discuss other depressing stuff, like how all the Bat and Bar Mitzvahs we'd been to recently (with the exception of one) had been more about parents outdoing each other party-wise than the actual morning synagogue service at which the child becomes an official member of the adult community and is informed of all the responsibilities that entails, including performing good deeds and giving to the needy.

When you're celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend (I won't be--the Canadian one's in October), or whenever you hear Don't They Know It's Christmas over the next couple of months, please take a moment to think about the sad homeless man futilely attempting to sell his newspaper to people at a parade supposedly celebrating a holiday about goodness, to the strains of a song about giving to others.



Sunday, November 18

Love, Hate and Music

I'm the odd duck in our family. I have a love hate relationship with music.

I never knew I was this way until I met and married a musician and then had babies. I thought I loved music. I listened all the time, especially in the car. I enjoyed how music added to my life experiences. For instance, The Cars, Cars, album reminds me of being fifteen and getting my first job. ACDC's Back in black reminds me of being sixteen and hanging out with my best friends, Jay and Kenny. Great White takes me back to when my husband and I first set up house together. We would blast the music at 5am while he got ready for work.

So I loved music. WHEN I WAS IN CONTROL OF THE VOLUME. When I'm not in control of the volume, it makes me nuts to have loud music playing. Like insane. With a teenage daughter who is both a figure skater and a dancer, an eighteen year old son who plays the drums and a husband who plays the guitar, I am often subjected to loud music beyond my control. I get, "you have to hear this," all the time. No, no I don't have to hear it. GRRRRR!

I'm not stuck in the past either, my musical taste runs the gamut from Josh Groban to Fergie, from Tool to Carrie Underwood. In fact, a lot of the music I listened to in the eighties embarasses me now... think Winger, Warrant and Firehouse. Shudder. I love alternative rock, classical, classic rock and the blues...As long as I am in control of the volume!

Friday, November 16

Playing Hooky!

I love going to the movies. Especially matinees. There’s just something about sitting in a nearly empty theatre, munching on popcorn, while everyone else is at work or school that makes me feel like I’m living the good life. Which also makes me wonder why I don’t do it more than my usual once or twice a year??

But yesterday I decided to go for it, so I grabbed my husband, and headed for the theatre, where we hunkered down with six other hooky players and watched, “Lars and the Real Girl,” and it did not disappoint.

If you haven’t seen and/or heard of this movie yet, here’s the one sentence plot outline from IMDB:

"A delusional young guy strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet."

Which may have you thinking: What???

But with an amazing script by Nancy Oliver, superb acting by the entire cast, and great directing as well, this story about a shy, isolated, young man in love with a doll that he thinks is real, is both heartbreaking and hilarious, and the way the town rallies around him, welcoming “Bianca” into the community in a bid to support Lars, is so sweet and inspiring it made me want to move there.

If you get the chance, go see this movie. If not, rent it. Though I’m warning you—the popcorn won’t be near as good!

What about you—what are some good movies you’ve seen this year??

Monday, November 12

Make room for the romantic comedies!!!!

Movie week...... hurray...... I LOVE going to the movies, and have been known to see a movie I love 8 times at the cinema and then buy it on DVD (and then wear it out!!!)

My taste in movies, however, isn't that broad. I mainly watch romantic comedies, chick flicks and musicals. Why??? I think it's because over the years I have worked in some fairly stressful jobs, so whenever I go to the movies I want to be able to laugh, relax and feel all warm and squidgy. I don't want to leave the movies feeling wound up and tense.

And in my favourite movies, I have my favourite parts. In Love Actually (best movie ever, ever ever) I adore the bit when Colin Firth is in the restaurant asking the girl to marry him. In Notting Hill (another totally fabulous movie) I love at the end during the news conference when Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts are smiling at each other, totally oblivous to the flashing cameras. In Pretty Woman when Richard Gere sees Julia Roberts in the bar all dressed up (for the first time) it gets me every time. In Calimity Jane (got to adore the oldies) it's so awesome when Doris Day takes off her old army coat to reveal how gorgeous she really is....... I could go on forever.....

So, tell me some favourite movie clips of yours.

Sunday, November 11

Books to Movies

Beowulf is coming!

Just thought I'd spread the word. You know, in case you hadn't already heard. This Old English epic already has critics ranting or raving, depending on who listen to, and it isn't even officially released yet. Beowulf is just the latest of a long string of literature into film. It's supposed to be really cool visually - another CG like THE POLAR EXPRESS... coincidentally another based-on-book movie.

So, all this movie adaptation talk got me thinking. What is it that makes a good movie version of a well-loved book? Is it artistic license? Cinematography? Following the heart of the book?

Did anyone read INTO THE WILD and then see the movie? It was beautifully done and just as heartbreaking on film as on paper.

Contrast that to ELLA ENCHANTED a few years back. It was a charming book, but the movie was a silly mess.

Adaptations I've loved:

My all-time favorite: SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, based on a Stephen King novella, RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.

Runner-up and most quotable: THE PRINCESS BRIDE

Most enjoyable Kenneth Brannaugh-directed Shakespeare: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING


Best film-to-musical-to-film: HAIRSPRAY

And not so much:

Most questionable costuming in a book-based-film: ERAGON

Most tedious war sequences in a book-based-film: LOTR: RETURN OF THE KING

Eagerly anticipated book-to-movie: THE GOLDEN COMPASS

Book-to-movie I'd love to see done as long as they do the casting right: TWILIGHT

So what are your favorite (or least favorite) books-turned-movie? What books would you love to see on film?

Saturday, November 10

Shaun of the Dead

It's movie week here at Teen Fiction Cafe and I have an embarrassing confession to make: I'm not a big fan of zombie movies. Why is this embarrassing you ask? Well, it's because I've actually written a young adult zombie book and sold it to Puffin. Yes, I thought it was a bit odd as well, but the truth is that there is something so hilarious about the word 'zombie' that I just felt compelled to write about them and then once I started, I just couldn't stop (you have no idea how many wonderfully bad brain sucker jokes are out there!!)

However, saying all of that, I might not be a fan of many zombie movies but I'm a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead, which is one of the most perfect films I've ever seen. It's got Simon Pegg in it and a whole host of other British actors doing cameo appearances. It has that hilarious 'zombie' word in it and most importantly it has characterisation. You see, the reason I'm not normally a fan of horror movies is that I just don't care if the main characters do get chewed up, hacked down or splattered all over the place. Not so with Shaun - not only does he girlfriend problems, but he's got a rotten stepfather, a boring job and flatmate issues. In fact, dealing with the zombies is pretty much the easy part of his day!!

Thankfully, since taking the leap to Shaun, I've started to discover some other good zombie movies. 28 Days Later, which has the gorgeous Cillian Murphy and the brilliant Christopher Eccelston and Slither ,which has my guy Nathan Fillion in it. And now zombie expert and wildly funny person, Mark Henry has kindly taken me be the hand to try and improve my zombie education.

So what about everyone else - what sort of movies have made you cross the genre fence for and then got you hooked??

Thursday, November 8

The Best Laid Promo Plans....

So I had these big plans of launching my website this week amidst much whooping and hollering (you supply the whoop, I'll supply the hollering:) Contests, confessions, and general mayhem.

One small, tiny, hiccough in that plan. The website simply isn't done. "There will be a delay," said my webmistress.

Okiedokie then.

So amidst much fanfare I debuting my....


Okay. Not quite the same is it?

But that's all I got and I'm sticking to it. (It really is a cute little MySpace) I am blogging over there, as well, and would love to friend all and sundry. (disclaimer-- no perverts)


Sunday, November 4


I'm not sure what I'm supposed to write about here for Promo Week, so I guess I'll just tell you a little bit about Angel's Choice. It's about a girl on the fast track for Yale who finds herself pregnant, winding up in that condition after having sex for the first time, in an act she can't even remember the details of because she was so drunk at the time. Talk about a bad night. For a long time Angel is in denial, but when the truth becomes obvious, what path will she choose as being the right one for her?

I wrote this book not as a polemic or prescription, but rather as an exploration of the choices available to girls both current and historical. And I wanted to tell the story of this girl who I like very much and how she arrives at a decision that is exactly right for her; not the rest of the world, just her.

The reviews of the book have been pretty good - Kliatt said in their review, "readers will be changed by the total reading experience" - but even more important, the letters from teens have been outstanding.

So here's the contest: Leave a comment telling me what your favorite YA book of the last year was, so I can add to my shopping list. Contest closes midnight tomorrow night (that would be the midnight separating Monday from Tuesday for those of you who get as confused about these things as I do), at which time I'll throw all the commenters' names into a hat and pick a winner for a signed copy of ANGEL'S CHOICE. And hey, even if you don't win, you can always go out and buy the book.

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Monday, October 29

California Wildfires & Other Natural Disasters

For the past week or so, I’ve been watch lots of coverage of the California wildfires. At one time, over 500,000 people were evacuated and there were several fires raging in California. It was horrible to see people and animals displaced while homes, businesses and land burned to the ground.

Fortunately, the situation is now much more under control and aid is pouring in to the affected areas.

In 1992, it was my first day of kindergarten and my family had just moved to Ocala, Florida from Nashville. We went to school and the entire campus was closed. There I stood—in my first day dress (something very floral!) and hair in a bow—while my parents looked for someone to ask about why school was closed. We found a Red Cross worker who told us a hurricane was coming and we needed to seek shelter. We’d never been through, nor paid much attention, to hurricanes while living in Tennessee. By the time the hurricane had passed, we had a tree in our bathroom, no electricity for weeks and glass blown out in our kitchen. That was Hurricane Andrew.

Every part of the country deals with extreme weather and none is worse than the other. But at least with new technology, lives are being saved and people are one-step ahead of disaster.

So, have you survived a natural disaster or know someone who has? Share your story!

Sunday, October 28

Current Events: Politics

Oh, no! Did I really just use the P-word on a blog???

I was ten years old when Shirley Chisholm made a run for the White House in 1972. She was the first African American candidate for the presidency but not the first woman; there had been women candidates before and since, although not so memorable, not until now.

I wanted Shirley to win.

Back in 1972, I was big on Civil Rights and big on Women's Lib. Regarding the latter, I drew up my own petition, using Magic Marker on the white front of one of those rectangular cardboard pieces that were inside my dad's dress shirts when they came back from the dry cleaner's. The heading read "Women's Lib" with two columns below "For" and "Against." I wasn't looking for anyone to sign their actual names - you know, in case the Unamerican Acticities Committee got a hold of my cardboard. I merely wanted to take the pulse of the neighborhood, see who was on board with me. More than one housewife slammed the door in my face. I suspect that years later, divorced and with no credit history to their names, some of them wished they'd paid more attention to the cause of the dark-haired girl with the Magic Marker.

Well, Shirley didn't win. And no woman has made a serious run since. But now, for the first time in the history of our country, a woman is making one: Hillary Clinton. This is not a "Vote for Hillary" piece or a "Don't Vote for Hillary" piece; your politics is your own business, as is mine. Rather, it's a celebration. My daughter is seven years old and I love it that she's growing up in a time when a woman is making the first viable run for the highest office in the land, even while I do resent that it's taken so long to get here. Should a candidate's gender matter in a voter's decision? A lot of people will tell you no, and they'll particularly say it when they're trying to tell you that that's no good reason to vote for a woman. And yet such factors have affected voting patterns here throughout the country's history. It's no accident that for over 200 years the only people to hold the office of president have been white and Christian and male. I don't think it makes me particularly paranoid to say that I see a design in that, even if the design is unintentional. It's like when the New York Times composes a list of the greatest books of the last half century or what-have-you, and out of 25 names only two are woman: Toni Morrison and Marilynne Robinson, the latter for a book, Housekeeping, that the Times didn't even deign to review when it was first published. Or when a list of greatest whatever is drawn up by the Times, and no women are on it at all. Nope, it's not intentional at all! It's simply, they will tell you, that no women in this area are "the best."

But, you know, maybe in one important area, one woman finally is or at least has the chance to be. Maybe she'll be judged by her strengths and not her gender. Who knows how it will all turn out? I sure don't. But I do know that it's exciting to watch, exciting to live in these times, exciting to have my daughter witness history in the making, even if J has asked, more than once, if Hillary Clinton is Paris Hilton's mother. S'OK. Politics can be confusing to the young. J was less than a year old when Al Gore made his 2000 bid. I was flipping through a magazine with her after the fact, when Al was going through his bearded stage, and as we passed his picture she pointed and squealed, "Doggie!" I thought it was a fluke, so I flipped through in the other direction. Again, she stopped me: "Doggie!" Yes, politics and politicians can be confusing; life, too, these days.

So vote for Hillary or don't vote for Hillary, but at least, as women and/or people who care about equality, enjoy the moment. Me, I'm just enjoying watching her run and I don't even hardly hold it against her that when I posted a MySpace bulletin to all my friends there, she didn't personally respond to my request that everybody order SECRETS OF MY SUBURBAN LIFE.


Be well. Don't forget to write.

Friday, October 26

The Perfect Pet

I’ve had a few pets in my lifetime…

High points – cute to look at and they don’t complain.
Low points – stink city if you don’t clean the tank once a week, and bottoms up if you overfeed them!

High points – loveable and can be a person’s BFF.
Low points – needs lots of love and tender care just like a person, and tough to do so when you have a busy lifestyle.

High points – cute and cuddly.
Low points – very active and can be stink city.

But I am and will always be faithful to Max, the family turtle. He’s the perfect pet.


--He doesn’t complain if I’m too busy to chat with him for a couple of days.

--I drop him some lettuce and he feeds himself.

--When he’s hungry he scrapes against the sliding glass door.

--He'll live for years, and he’s pretty laidback. :)

What’s your perfect pet?

Tuesday, October 23

Why I Won't Get a (Second) Dog

Anybody out there read the ultra-fabulous book Marley and Me? It's a by turns hilarious and heartwrenching account of life with an, erm, difficult dog.

Been there, done that.

Hubby and I got a dog a couple years after we were married, not yet ready for children, but feeling the need to expand our family. We purchased Casper, a beautiful Bichon Frise, the son of champions, from a highly reputable breeder, and immediately enrolled him in obedience school.

Which he promptly flunked.

Casper was lovable and spirited and strong-willed. And he took up way more of my time and energy than either of my two (human) children ever would in the coming years.

I actually had to leash him and keep hold of the leash whenever we had more than two people over to the house. Sometimes juggling a baby at the same time. I had to leash him not because he was dangerous, just, um, overly rambunctious.

Furniture was destroyed, not just during his official period of puppydom, but long after, and vacations became a thing of the past. Nobody wanted to take care of Casper for us, even for a short time.

Still, we never dreamed of giving Casper away. He was ours and we loved him.

In his later years, he developed diabetes. The vet told me if I bribed him with a treat, he'd soon accept his insulin needle.

Ha! It was a cinch for him to quickly grab the treat and wriggle away before I ever had a chance to inject the needle. The only thing that worked was taking him out to the car (which he hated, for some reason), to get him all nervous and shaky and distracted.

In the end, he developed an inoperable tumor. The day we put Casper down was the saddest day of our lives. We were all heartbroken for months--years.

Now, fully four years later, the men in the family (hubby and son) have expressed a wish for another dog. To which I say, uh, thanks but no thanks. My daughter and I would like to try a cat, if any pet.

I will never, ever forget Casper, will never stop loving my highly imperfect but still somehow lovable dog.

I just don't want to repeat the experience.


Monday, October 22

Loving Pets, Losing Pets

As some of you already know, I'm a bit of a pet lover. I have a nice assortment of animals and am always acquiring new ones. But I never had dogs until I got married. I have to admit that the biggest reason I didn't want a dog is the whole death thing. I know, I know. "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved" and all that. But still. Losing any animal is sad enough, but for some reason I have a really hard time imagining the day my dogs die.

My neighbor just lost her beloved dog this weekend. It was early, still dark, and it ran under the tires of a truck. I took the dog to her door and we cried. Naturally, she was so sad and shocked that she couldn't barely speak. Though I'm rarely at a loss of words, I didn't know what to say. Sometimes it is best to just be there for somebody, quiet and sympathetic.

Sheesh. This is a bit of a somber post, isn't it? I hope it doesn't make you sad. Rather, I hope it inspires you to give your pet some extra love today.

Thursday, October 18

Folks, I've got a problem...

When I tell people that I’m a writer there are always two questions that I dread getting asked. First up is the old standard: “Are you as rich as JK Rowling?” And the second one is: “What’s your favorite book.”

The first one has an easy answer. I just smile and say yes, I have so much money that I can roll in the stuff (after all, I’ve read The Secret and it never hurts to let the Universe know that you’re eager) but the second one is just impossible. I mean for a start, there is no way I can narrow it down to one book. Hell, I can’t even narrow it down to one author, though because I’m an obedient sort of girl, I always try and be polite and give it a go.

Obviously, Jane Austen is right up there and has been since the moment I first read her when I was 19. But what about Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy? I mean I love that book and it’s had a profound effect on the way I think and write. Oh, but if I’m going down that root then I have to include Marion Zimmer Bradley and her Darkover novels not to mention Anne McCaffrey and her Dragonriders of Pern.

Which would be fine, but that doesn’t leave me room to mention Georgette Heyer, PG Wodehouse, Jerome K Jerome and all the other hugely funny books that my father introduced me to when I was young. But why am I just looking at authors of my past. What about the authors that I’m reading now? I mean my TBR pile is long as my arm and it’s filled with contemporary books that I’m just dying to get my teeth stuck into. Yet I’m meant to pick just one?

It’s madness I tell you, madness. In fact I refuse to do it on the grounds of international laws against mental cruelty and torture. So there, take that you non-bookish person who thinks it’s funny to mess with someone’s head like that. You wouldn’t make me choose between my kids (though between you and me, the 5 year old boy is being a bit annoying today) so how can I choose between my favorite authors. It’s just wrong. So stop talking because I’m not going to listen to another word that you say. Lalalala. And actually, this is about the point when I remember the exact reasons why I never like to play this game in the first place.

So what about everyone else? Do you have a favorite or are you a mass of indecision who ends up in the fetal position at the very thought of having to narrow it down?

Tuesday, October 16

Books! Books! Books! What are you reading?

Mine is a book house.

There are books on end tables, books on the coffee table, books on the bookshelves, books on my desk. Books are tucked into every nook. I have a stack of books on my nightstand (my TBR pile,) and even more on my dresser. (Those books used to be on the floor next to my nightstand until our puppy discovered her own love of books...) I keep a book in the car and carry one in my purse.

There are so many good books out there!!!

Anyone else addicted to books the way I am? I can't go into a bookstore without coming away with more. I get books for myself, I get books for my kids. I buy books for gifts. I just can't get enough!

In the past couple of months, even in the midst of an endless string of deadlines, Friday night football games, school activities, an anniversary trip and my own book launch, I've read some fantastic fiction. Among my favorites...

I reread the TWILIGHT series by Stephenie Meyer for an anthology I'm working on. I've decided I want Edward and Jacob to merge, and then we'd have the perfect man (or, um were-vampire?)

Devoured CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY by Ally Carter, her second in the Gallagher Girls series (and #8 on the NYT best seller list this week!)

Pondered Scott Westerfield's latest, EXTRAS. I wish I had his brain.

Enjoyed MS.ZEPHYR'S NOTEBOOK by Canadian author KC Dyer (who happens to be a dear friend of mine...)

And speaking of Canadian authors, I loved our own Bev Rosenbaum's BEYOND COOL, the continuing adventures of Floe, a cryogenic teen.

In adult fiction, after meeting him at a conference, I picked up Marcus Sakey's THE BLADE ITSELF. Intense! And the movie rights have just been picked up by Miramax. Go, Marcus!

Also loved Pat Wood's LOTTERY, about a man with an IQ of 76 who wins the Washington State lottery.

And that barely dents my TBR pile.

What about you? What good books have you read lately?

Monday, October 15

One Lucky Bird

We have always had a lot of pets. Cats, dogs, rats, fish, rabbits. It’s always something. Right now we have two dogs, Penny and Scrappy (the love of my life) and five cats, Little Bear Bubbo Brown, Groaner, Julia, Snaps and Gabish. All our pets have given us something: love, amusement and, in the case of a blind guinea pig, scars. But I think the animal that touched my heart in the most amazing way was Lucky Bird.

No one thought Lucky Bird was going to live, including the folks at the Audubon Society. My children had found a nest knocked to the ground and brought the birds to me to save. I wasn't sure what to do and quickly ran them up to the Audubon Society. "Take them back," they told me.

"The parents won't take them back," my then six-year-old son informed them. "They have our scent on them now."

"Actually, that isn't true," the kind lady told him. "That's an old wives tale. The parenting instinct in them is so strong they will take them back no problem. You just have to get them back to the parents as quickly as possible."

My son glared at me -- the purveyor of this myth -- and I winced.

Lucky Bird didn't look very lucky that day. He wasn't huddled with the others in the corner of the box, but alone to one side. He was smaller and not as mature as the rest. "It will be more dangerous for the parents to raise them on the ground, but it can be done."

The parent birds led his siblings away and we became the family of a small and sickly bird. We raised him on a combination of dog food and egg. We watched as his feathers became glossy on the new diet and he made the children laugh with his imperious and demanding squawks. I learned what it was like to become the mother of a baby bird.

We knew he was a finch of some kind and in between feedings we poured over bird books trying to further identify this little creature that had taken over our home and stolen our hearts. Not only did we identify him as a house finch but learned to identify other birds as well. The Back Yard Bird Shop became our favorite store and we put up different types of bird feeders for all the different birds in our community. Watching him fly led us to books on flight and we became the avid collectors of feathers. One small bird left us with a big hunger for knowledge.

We were heartbroken when Lucky Bird was killed by a senseless accident, but he left us with an undying love for birds and the sure knowledge of the fragility of this particular species.

Just to let you all know, THIS IS ILLEGAL! I didn’t know that at the time and wouldn’t do it again. But the memory of my baby bird still causes a ping in my heart.

Saturday, October 13

Is it me?????

This weeks topic is books. Hurray!!

I LOVE books. I write books. I read books. I spend hours in the bookstore touching all the books. So.... why is it that I rarely, if ever, read a book more than once? This is something I've thought about for a long time. I never get the urge to re-read anything. Yet, when it comes to movies I watch them over and over (and over and over) again.

If you asked me whether I prefer to read or watch movies I'd probably choose reading. I can't ever remember not reading from when I was a tiny child. So what's with the read it only once scenario???

Any ideas, anyone? And are any of you like me?

Thursday, October 11

And The Winners Are...

Names from a hat drawn completely at random by my daughter:

Emily Marshall
Terra Lynn Childs

Thanks everyone for stopping by and commenting yesterday! Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, October 10

Win a copy of THE FINNISH LINE!

And promo week continues...

I'm pleased to be able to share with you my new book, SASS: THE FINNISH LINE, which was just released last week!

THE FINNISH LINE is the story of Maureen (Mo) Clark, a Nordic ski jumper who travels to Lahti, Finland on a student-athlete exchange to work on her jumps - and to escape the shadow of her former Olympian dad. While Mo does get to indulge in a romance with gypsy jumper and superhunk Leevi Patrin, she faces some heavy issues in the story, including prejudice and the sexism and politics of the IOC, who still cannot see fit to include her sport as an Olympic event.

That last part, unfortunately, is not fiction.

When I began writing this book, the Olympic Games were underway in Torino, Italy. I learned that Alyssa Johnson, one of the top women ski jumpers in the world, was in Torino, but only as a forerunner (testing the jump before the competition.) She had to sit on the sidelines and watch the men - including her younger brother - compete. When asked why women jumpers continued to be excluded, FIS President Gian Franco Kasper said in a NPR interview, "It's like jumping down from, let's say, about two meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view." Give me a break.

My character Mo came to life after I had a chance to meet and to watch the athletes at Women's Ski Jumping, USA - a team that trains in Park City, Utah (Mo's hometown) - five of whom have been named to the US Ski Team. I watched their competitive spirit, their drive, and their frustration and disappointment as they fought for inclusion into the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, only to be denied once again.

Nikki Stone, Olympic gold medalist in aerial skiing said of THE FINNISH LINE, "Linda Gerber truly brings the world of ski jumping to life. She has crafted the perfect blend of fun, sporting adventure and a compelling first-time romance. Convincing, intimate, stimulating!"

Here's what you can do to win a copy - reply to this post. Tell me what you think of the IOC's decision to exclude women ski jumpers from the Olympics. Tomorrow I will randomly select three of you to receive a signed copy of the book.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to learn more about women's ski jumping, or better yet, to show your support of these amazing women athletes, check out WSJUSA.


SASS: NOW AND ZEN, Puffin 2006
DEATH BY BIKINI, Puffin 2008
DEATH BY LATTE, Puffin 2008

Monday, October 8

Decision time

Did I mention that I suck at making decisions? Consider the question of what is my favorite chocolate bar? I mean off the top of my head I would say it's a Mars Bars, but then I it's so hard to discount the goodness of a Snickers, but at the same time, one can't ignore the perfect delight of eating a bag of M&Ms. So if I struggle this much to decide what chocolate to eat, imagine how hard it's been to pick a winner. Thankfully I found which picked a number for me!!! So, anyway, the winner is....


Anyway, thank you to everyone who entered, it was so much fun to read your comments and if you want another chance to win a copy, I'm blogging at The Debutante Ball on Sunday and will be giving away another book then!!!! (Oh, and btw, that whole chocolate thing I mentioned before? It's not really so tough because I normally just eat them all!!!!)

Saturday, October 6

Win a copy of YOU HAD ME AT HALO

Hooray!! Since it's promo week here at the Teen Fiction Cafe, it means I get to talk about my favorite thing in the world - David Boreanaz. Oh, hang on, I've just been informed that apparently this is neither the time or place for me to go on about my obsession so I guess I'll have to talk about my second favorite thing, my debut novel.

YOU HAD ME AT HALO has been out in the world for two months now and I still have to pinch myself everyday that it's real!!!! I wrote this book just after my dad died and so not only is it dedicated to him, it is also inspired by him as well, since I based it on a conversation we had on the day of his funeral. It went something like this:

ME: Okay, so this is a bit boring doing all this dusting just before a funeral. Besides, when people come back for the wake, they're not going to look underneath the bedroom bookshelf.

HIM: Is that right is it? If you're going to clean the place, do it properly.

ME: Who said that?

HIM: I said it and since it's my funeral you have to listen to me. It's the rules you know.

ME: Dad, is that you?

HIM: Well, duh. I mean I'm meant to be dead but can I just sit back and enjoy the moment? No, I've got to make sure that the whole thing doesn't fall apart because of some sloppy cleaning habits. Now, hurry up and get that done because I've got to go and talk to your brother about the way the half-hearted way he's mopping the floor. Honestly, if you want something done...

Now, as you've probably gathered, this conversation didn't really happen. But it did happen in my head and once I got the idea that my dad was sitting up in heaven and passing comments on the whole proceeding, I just couldn't lose the imagine and so my book was born. Here is the skinny:

Holly Evans has just seen her own body laid to rest. Now she would like to move onto the afterlife. But apparently she has some mortal baggage to unload first, starting with the matter of how she died. Her heavenly shrink isn't buying that she didn't kill herself- and says she must return to earth to straighten things out. The thing is, she needs to borrow the body of computer geek Vince Murphy to do it. Oh, and although Vince was supposed to have vacated the premises, he apparently never got the memo. Now, Holly has forty-eight hours to resolve her issues while sharing arms, legs, and...other things...with a guy she barely noticed while she was alive. But the real surprise is what life has to offer when you have only two days to live it.

YOU HAD ME AT HALO is available online and in most bookstores in the US and Canada, and if you want to have a sneaky peek at the first chapter, then just head over to my website. Also, if you want to win yourself a copy, all you need to do is leave a comment and tell me why.

Tuesday, October 2

My Music...

I love listening to music - it calms me, and brings me out of the everyday hum-drum of life. I used to fantacize about being a dancer for a rock band...or being a (I'm going to show my age) Solid Gold dancer even though I couldn't dance.

I used to tape record songs from the radio. I had records galore.

Now I have my iPod. I love my iPod. Here are the top songs I've been listening to:

Smooth by Rob Thomas (isn't he a hottie!)

Real World by Matchbox 20

Hanging by a Moment (Lifehouse)
This is also the theme song for my book Leaving Paradise

Lips of an Angel by Hinder

I love those bands. But I also love a local guy named Pat McCurdy. You can go to or his website at Pat is a genius. He can play ANYTHING on his guitar, and even has an 80's montage he does at his local shows in Wisconsin and Illinois. When I was in college, I used to be a Pathead. Yes, a Pathead. Every Monday night he would play at a local bar and I'd be there, singing along and knowing every single one of his original (and totally politically incorrect) songs. Pat, wherever you are...even though I'm not able to come to your shows often, in my heart I'm still a Pathead. and I also listen to your songs on my iPod!
Simone Elkeles
author of:
Leaving Paradise
How to Ruin a Summer Vacation
How to Ruin my Teenage Life

Monday, October 1

Musical TV Shows

Hi, everyone! I'm Jessica (Jess) Burkhart and this is my first post for TFC. Yay! Today, I'm talking about music. What's with the sudden surge of shows on TV about music, lyrics and making it in the music business?

FOX has Wayne Brady's Don't Forget the Lyrics. Anyone seen it? Wayne, thankfully he has a good singing voice, sings along with contestants as he/she tries to earn money by singing lyrics. Miss a word and you're outta there!

NBC offers a slightly different variation with Joey Fatone's The Singing Bee. This is a karaoke style game show, again, for knowing lyrics. Plus, there are dancing girls in bee costumes. Sort of. I'm not really sure if that adds anything to the show, but it's a fun contest.

FOX had the now canceled Nashville. The site called it a "docu-soap" that followed young people on the road to Nashville to become a singer. It sounded interesting, but ratings said otherwise.

So, any other shows on TV about music that you watch? Or have you seen any of these?