Thursday, August 30

Girls Just Wanna—Stay Home and Watch TV!

One of my favorite things to do after a long day of writing is either read or watch TV. I know, exciting right? And you thought the life of an author was glamorous. Trust me, my best friend’s the glamorous one, juggling a social life so frenetic and busy it makes my head spin. While I—well, I really hate to miss my shows.

I’m fiercely loyal to my favorite programs, some might even say obsessive. I care as deeply about Vince and Ari, as I do Pam and Jim, (and just in case I’ve already lost you, I’m referring to Entourage and The Office respectively).

I get character crushes too, though not on the one’s you might think. Because in a room full of Brad Pitt and George Clooney clones, I’ll take James Roday, the guy who plays the fake psychic on Psych—but only if he stays in his Shawn Spencer character—any day.

I love Bill Henrickson’s sense of place and duty in a life so crazy I can’t even fathom it (Big Love), Tommy Gavin’s struggle with addiction and survivor’s guilt that somehow comes off as humorous (Rescue Me), Mr. Monk’s longing to be normal as he’s trapped in a mind that’s anything but (Monk), Wayne Malloy trying to do what’s best for his family even though it’s all based on deceit (The Riches), Alison Dubois doing the dishes while talking to dead people (Medium), believe me I could go on and on, referencing Dirt, My Name is Earl, Scrubs, Damages, Extras, and back in the day—Gilmore Girls . . .

But that’s what a good TV show does, pulls you so far into the character’s lives, you not only feel like you know them, but you also think about them when they’re not around, and then you go on to discuss them with your friends.

A good book does that too. And the other night, after all my shows were over and I went to bed, I ended up finishing my book. And as I closed the cover I turned to my husband and said—O—my—God!
And he went—I know. Can you believe it? (He’d read it before me)
Then we spent the next fifteen minutes discussing the character as though he was real.

What about you—what characters do you wait all week to see, or think about well after their story has ended?

PS- The book I finished was Shutter Island, by the amazing Dennis Lehane.

And speaking of good books—I’m blogging over HERE today to celebrate the release of the lovely Sara Hantz’s debut novel, THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN (talk about a great title!). My post is just under the amazingly prolific, Lauren Baratz Logsted, and anyone who leaves me a comment will be eligible to win a free copy of my September release, SAVING ZOE! Hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 19

Vacation! (and Calendar Events)

I think we were supposed to be shouting "Vacation!" back in June when school let out. But since I leave on mine tomorrow, I get to shout it today. We'll be going on a cruise from New York to Canada, the same cruise we took last summer because my daughter made friends with a girl on the ship, we've seen the family several times since, and so we're going to take the same trip with them all over again.

The other day a writing acquaintance asked if I'd take her manuscript along with me to see what I thought and I said no. I'll gladly read it when I get back, but I try not to do anything that constitutes work anymore on the few vacations I take. I used to take work with me all the time, but since I work seven days a week when I'm home - I'm here now, aren't I? - I just refuse to take anything with me. While on the ship, I will force myself to relax and have a good time...even if it kills me.

Before we had our daughter, we used to travel a lot. Some of my favorite vacations? Scotland, where we did a hiking tour across the country and climbed a mountain. Iceland, which in case you don't know it, is the cheapest way to get from the U.S. to mainland Europe provided you're willing to stop in Iceland, where everyone smokes and uses cell phones like crazy. Israel, which I just love. England, because - my God! - Shakespeare came from there. Seattle, three times, where it's always perfect weather for us while we're there, never raining. And a few other trips, totalling about 30 states and 15 countries.

In terms of calendar events, it looks like the biggies are the two books I have coming out early next year. First up, SCENES OF MY SUBURBAN LIFE, a YA about a girl whose novelist mother is crushed to death by a stack of Harry Potter books. In the aftermath, she and her father move to CT where she becomes involved in a sort-of mystery featuring an online predator. It comes out from Simon & Schuster on January 8.
OK, I keep trying to upload images of the covers, but for whatever reasons, it won't appear on the page. Bleagh. Anyway, the second book is called ME, IN BETWEEN, my first tween book about a precociously well-breasted 12-year-old who feels ambivalent about her endowments.
I'm still bummed about those cover images. Anyhoo, I was thrilled this week to learn that ANGEL'S CHOICE has gone into a second printing. That doesn't happen to me every day, so I am still enjoying the moment. There are plenty of moments in life that suck - might as well enjoy those that don't.


See you when I get back!

P.S. Obviously, I just figured out how to get the images up...but they're all in the wrong places. Honestly. Some of us should *not* be allowed anywhere near modern technology!

Thursday, August 16

Culture Shock: Religion

When I first moved to Utah, I have to say it wasn't the best experience. For one, I was moving away from everyone in my family. For two, I was moving into a state where I would be in the religious minority. Before I write another word, I want to say that I love religion. I find it facinating. I studied it in college and am always up for chatting about it with whomever is willing, learning more every day about the many different and intriguing religions of the world. I consider myself very open minded and nonjudgmental.

As many of you know, roughly 50% of Utahns are Mormon (LDS). I am very happy and secure in my religion, which isn't Mormonism. But many of the core beliefs are similar (as I've found is true with most religions) and my family hasn't been shunned or made to feel uncomfortable. Sure, there have been some rough patches and some times when I've needed someone to define a word or phrase so I can follow what they're trying to say, but I think it's going well so far. I really believe I can live here, being in the religious minority, and still be respected. Sure, it's been a huge culture shock, and after living here for 12 years, there are still times I'm shocked. I want to thank Utah for being open minded and for welcoming people of other religous cultures into its beautiful land. And for those of you who are in the religious minority wherever you live, keep your beliefs close to your heart and enjoy the diversity around you.

Wednesday, August 15

Hometown Culture

Salinas Valley

I’m not much of traveler, and I’m still a resident of my hometown.

But one thing I’ve always felt was that my hometown has always been rich with Culture and History.

I live in Salinas, CA where the agriculture is one of California’s richest farming towns. We have fields galore with a strong Mexican culture from families who settled here to work in the fields, and now some own their own patch of land.

My mother and father were both born and raised here as well with their 12 siblings, during a time of prejudices where my father couldn’t take a girl to a dance because he was dark and she was light. Our town today is so diverse I couldn’t imagine how it was years ago.

Come every July, the town fills for four days with cowboy culture for the California Rodeo. With parades, chili cook-offs, competitions, and cowboy poetry.

And if you are updated to in your literary history, you’ll know Salinas is the birthplace of Nobel prize laureate, John Steinbeck. His novel East of Eden was primarily set in the Salinas Valley. (My mother’s friend is actually the girl in the field in the opening of the film as the train passes by.) Steinbeck’s childhood Victorian home has been restored and we also have a wonderful Steinbeck Center filled with memorabilia such as the notes he actually wrote with his own hand.

Salinas is far from perfect, especially with its high cost of living and the tension of gang violence, but it’s my hometown with so much history intertwined with my own memories and experiences.

One day we may leave, but it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else.

Monday, August 13

Culture shock!

That's the theme this week, and I'm here to tell you I'm totally hoping to feel some on the 18th, when I'm off to New York City for a couple of days, then Cape Cod!

Yeah, I know, NYC in August smells like a cesspool. I don't care--I just wanna shop till I drop. (It's been a tough year and I deserve it.) Also want to soak up the atmosphere. Bring on the rude cabbies and the snooty waiters!

Then I wanna flake out on a beach. And get into the simultaneously relaxed/party vibe in artsy Provincetown.

Okay, I'm not leaving North America--I rarely do, being as I'm not JK Rowling & usually drive to my vacation destinations--but it's incredible how each and every city/town over Canada and the U.S. has its own unique feel. (Heck, I even experienced culture shock when I moved one neighborhood over! Totally different demographic, totally different feel.)

Have you ever experienced culture shock even when you haven't travelled very far? Share your stories!


P.S. Beyond Cool was released this past Tuesday--woohoo! I really love this book, got to know my I Was a Teenage Popsicle characters so well (talk about people experiencing culture shock!) that the book practically wrote itself. I think it's funnier, too. (And btw, you don't have to have read Popsicle to 'get' Beyond Cool.) Check it out if you're in a bookstore this week. (Which you probably will be, picking up Eclipse, like the rest of the world...)

Thursday, August 9

Sister Golden Hair Surprise

Not long ago I spoke at a book club for my adult novel, Fly Me to the Moon, and as I was signing books, a woman walked up to me and said, “Where’s your curly, frizzy hair?”

My hand immediately sprang to my head, smoothing my flat-ironed locks as I bit down on my lip, her disappointment ringing loud and clear. “Believe me,” I assured her. “It’s still there, still obstinate with a mind of it’s own. It’s just temporarily subdued for the evening, it’ll be back in full force by morning, I swear.”

I’m used to people thinking that book is autobiographical. After all, like the protagonist I too was a flight attendant and now I’m an author, but that’s all I’m willing to cop to. Well, that and my character’s temperamental hair.

Growing up, I never really thought much about my hair. It was long, wavy, and present. Demanding to be washed more often than I liked, but other than that, it went mostly ignored.

And then came seventh grade, and suddenly, it refused to do anything right, like it was plotting against me, sabotaging all of my efforts, clearly out to get me, and sadly things haven’t changed much since.

I’ve done just about everything a person could possibly do to their hair—
Big eighties perm? Check.
Japanese straightening? You bet.
Home dye job gone wrong? Um, yes.
Blonde ambition turned Brassy Rendition? Sad but true.

And after all these years, I still can’t figure out just what it should be when it grows up.

My best friend never changes her hair. Oh sure she may trim a few inches, before growing it back out a few more, but basically, it’s exactly the same as it was back in eighth grade. “Hey,” she says, smiling. “When it works, it works.”

And even though it definitely does work for her, I just couldn’t do it. It would feel too much like surrender, as though I was forfeiting the game before it really got started. So as long as I’ve still got the fight in me, it’ll continue to be my own personal work in progress.

So how about you? Any hair neuroses you’re willing to cop to??

Sunday, August 5

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

When it comes to physical beauty, have you noticed how we often disagree about what makes someone beautiful. Very often my husband and I will have totally different views about whether someone is attractive. I might say that girl/guy is gorgeous and he'll totally disagree. And vice versa.

Is it a man/woman thing?

And do you think there is any connection between our own physical appearance and what we think is beautiful? So, for example, are dark haired women more likely to find dark haired women attractive. And the same for blonds. I don't have any answers to this, I'm just posing the question ;)

Wednesday, August 1

How to Rule Apres School

It's coming.

Early morning football practice has started. Band camp is just next week. Back to school ads have been popping up on the TV and newspaper since the 4th of July. Before you know it, you'll be straightening your leggings and slipping into your ballet flats and heading off to school.

You've got your classes scheduled and your extra-curriculars lined up. Maybe you've got an after-school job. You've thought of everything, right?


Let me fill you in on a little secret that I guarantee will make your entire school year better - volunteer. Offer some of your time and talents for free. Just to be nice. It may sound trite to say that giving service can make you happier, but it's true! And it makes those you serve happier, too. Win, win all around.

Don't know where to look for those opportunities to volunteer? Here are some ideas that should be available in about every community:

Hospitals: Many hospitals have volunteer programs so that the staff could concentrate on other things. You know, like making people healthy.

Animal Shelters: Since many animal shelters are non-profit, they rely on volunteers to take care of the animals, keep the place clean, and help with the paperwork.

Habitat for Humanity: Check out their website to see if there is a Habitat in your area and how you can help.

Food Banks: Food banks are always in need of donations. You could organize a drive in your community to gather the staples they could use.

The Red Cross: Did you know that the Red Cross has an entire youth division called the Junior Red Cross? I didn't. Check out what you can learn and how you can help here.

Literacy Programs: When I lived in Japan, I learned very quickly what it was like to be an illiterate. I developed strategies for getting along without being able to read kanji, but what I was able to learn and accomplish was severely limited. If you could help even one person learn to read, think of how you could enrich their life! Check for literacy programs in your community or check out Reading is Fundamental and/or ProLiteracy to get involved.

Don't have time for a regular volunteer gig? Keep your eyes open. Watch for a need you can fill, like babysitting for a overworked parent or raking the leaves for your neighbor who can't move around so well. And don't forget the power of organizing volunteer groups yourself. The students at ASIJ raised money and awareness for causes as diverse as the crisis in Darfur to the tsunami victims in Thailand to local homeless families.

The trick is to find a moment here and there to think outside yourself and get involved. You'll be glad you did.


NOW AND ZEN, Now Available!
THE FINNISH LINE, Coming your way Oct. '07