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,