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?