Tuesday, May 26


This week we're talking about blogs and web sites---the ones we read, the ones we mean to read, maybe the ones we write, and anything else we want to remotely relate to the topic (because we're rebels that way).

When I started networking with the online YA lit community, about a year before I sold my first book, I read a TON of blogs. It was a great way to get an inside peek at the lives of writers---the creative side, the business side, not to mention the tv-watching and soup-making sides! Basically, I was trying to get a glimpse at what I hoped would be my future. Highly educational, maybe even more so for witnessing some not-so-lovely behavior and thinking about how I didn't want to come across when it was my turn to Be An Author. And, leaving comments and participating in the dialog and accumulating blog readers was a huge part of what helped my first book build by word-of-mouth.

In the last year, I've had to cut way back on the number of blogs I read because, let's face it, you can read blogs and Twitter feeds and Facebook updates all darn day and never a) write, or, b) live life, which is totally necessary for writing. But, there are still a good number I do read. Here are some of my favorites:

Debbi Michiko Florence - One Writer's Journey (the bumpy road)
I love Debbi's blog not only because she's a great person, a huge supporter of others, and a thoughtful reader, but also because Debbi has shared her ups and downs with writing and publishing so honestly. She's got a couple of great nonfiction books out, but is also a talented and disciplined writer of fiction who'd love to publish in that category as well, and it hasn't happened yet. I spent about 10 years there, wondering when it would be my turn, and know how it feels. I marvel at Debbi's ability to be so supportive of friends' success, good books, and good causes, while also keeping it real and sharing when she's just. over. it. Never cynical, but never faking it on a bad day. That's why I love Debbi's blog.

Space Station Nathan
Nathan Hale is an illustrator (most recently famous for illustrating Rapunzel's Revenge), and I'm so far out of the illustrator world that I don't even know my cyan from my red dye #5. But, I do know what I like, and Nathan's art is whimsical and colorful and humorous and GOOD. His blog is all about the art, and it's a nice break from all the talky blogs I like to read (and write).

The Bennett Madison Extravaganza
Okay, so YA author Bennett Madison doesn't post all that often, but when he does it really is the promised extravaganza. Where else can you read about Roxette, the hipster grifter, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all on one page? Nowhere, that's where. And look for his latest, The Blonde of the Joke, this September.

Good Letters
If you're of a Judeo-Christian religious tradition, and also a culture hound, this is your blog. Under the umbrella of the quarterly arts/faith journal Image, GL features brief but deep reflections that connect life to film, visual art, dance, poetry, culture, the natural world, and spiritual and artistic disciplines.

So there you have it---four vastly different blogs from my reader. Use them in good health!

Thursday, May 21

Fashion Week: Standing Out or Blending In?

It's always odd for me when it's fashion week here at TFC because I'm not exactly a fashion maven. I mean, it's not like I do anything particularly awful clothes-wise, like wearing high-waist double-polyester pants with a plastic belt, but I don't have a wardrobe that makes Vogue say, "Ooh, let's put *her* on the cover!"

OK, I'll admit it. There's more than just my wardrobe keeping me off the cover of high-fashion magazines.

Back in high school, it seemed like people tried to do one of two things: stand out (the punk look would fall under this) or blend in (preppy style). Me, I simply didn't *fit* in. I'd transferred from a school where I was Queen of the Hill only to find myself in a place where the social structure was foreign to me. So I didn't follow any fashion trends. I was like a fashion nonperson. Recently I joined facebook and a guy from high school commented favorably about my photo, said he hadn't remembered me looking at all like that. Well, of course he hadn't, because: 1) those were the most unattractive years of my life; and 2) someone had done my hair and makeup for that photo.

Now that I'm older, I still don't care about fashion trends. Why would I want to look like everyone else? But I do care about personal style. I have a wardrobe that screams, "Lauren!" So while I'm not a big shopper, it does make me happy when I pull something out of a drawer or my closet with full confidence that it is an item *I* would wear. You see, I want my outward appearance to reflect me as opposed to reflecting someone else's opinion of what is stylish. Who knows? Maybe that was the statement I was trying to make in high school too by being a fashion nonperson: that I was rejecting the rigid social order I'd found myself flung into.

Oh, one thing I am a sucker for? Shoes and handbags. But maybe I'll save that obsession for the next time it's Fashion Week at TFC and I need something to write about.

So, question of the day:


Be well. Don't forget to write.

Thursday, May 14

Yum, yum, yummiest!

First of all, thank you to all the fabulous TFC bloggers for inviting me aboard! I’m totally delighted to be the newbie here. :-)

Sara’s post on Monday gave me such a hankering for sweet treats that I had to do my very first TFC post on my top five favorite treats. I’ll admit it, I have a huge sweet tooth. My tastes have grown up a bit over the years, but I still love some of the same treats I did when I was little. So here, in no particular order, are my top five faves:

1. Golden Oreos - There is almost always a package of these (or two or three if they’re on sale) in our pantry. Why? Vanilla sandwich cookies are the absolute best for dunking in milk. (I’m a dunker from way back.)

2. Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies - L-O-V-E. But I’ll easily eat half a sleeve at a sitting if I’m not paying attention (and have a full glass of milk - again with the dunking). I've learned that I have to take out however many cookies I’m planning to eat and put the bag back in the pantry. I don’t know why it’s so easy to eat them out of the sleeve. Maybe because you can’t really see how many you’ve eaten? I’m not sure. (And holy moley... this picture makes my stomach jealous. Chips Ahoy S'mores!!!)

3. Krispy Kreme glazed yeast donuts - Especially if they’re still warm from the oven. Heaven. Donuts just don’t get any better than this, in my opinion.

4. Rice Krispies treats - I hadn’t had these in years until I tried one of the prepackaged kind they sell now. They were okay, but it made me want to go home and make my own batch from scratch. And oh boy, were they ever good! Except they got rock hard almost immediately. (Does anyone have a tip for how to keep this from happening to my marshmallowy goodness?)

5. Cherry chip cake with cherry frosting - I know, I hear some of you gagging out there. ;-) But I had this for my birthday every year growing up, so it’s as much a sentimental favorite as a sweet favorite. I tend to scrape off more of the icing nowadays, but it’s still the best birthday cake this girl could ask for.

What about you? When you're in the mood for a treat, what do you reach for first?

Tuesday, May 12

This Post is Cheesy!

I'm departing from the topic of School Days to talk about cheese. Yeah, you got it, cheese.

I did a post on my blog yesterday about toast, one of the most versatile foods there is, but I think cheese may be even more versatile.

(Mice around the world are nodding their heads in agreement.)

Not only is there a gazillion different kinds of cheese, but it goes with everything, and I do mean everything—meat, fruit, bread, wine, veggies, and beans.

Even sugar, (Cheesecake anyone?)

It can be simple, like a grilled cheese sandwich:

Or complicated like a souffle:

Think about it. Can you imagine Mexican food without cheese? Or Italian?

Cheese is a part of our culture. Try to match the slogans to the brand--

Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California.

It's the cheesiest!

Persnickity People, Exceptional Cheese

The Cheese that Goes Crunch!

Okay, that one is dated, but I'd never heard the new slogan, so I'm going with it.

I'll be drawing a winner from all the correct comments and sending them a copy of my book, Read My Lips. Contest is on till the blog changes:)

And remember, the moon is made of cheese!

Monday, May 11


Growing up in Colorado, we loved when the Renaissance Faire came to town. I loved how it brought a piece of history to life right before my eyes--in a way that classroom lectures, textbooks and films (not even the beloved "A Knight's Tale") could not. Donning my flower and ribbon-adorned crown, I became a princess, exchanging salutations with the knights, maypole dancers, pirates, kings, gypsies, and peasants around me.

I was thrilled to see that a Renaissance Faire would be held close to my current home, in Utah, this past weekend. And what's more, we'd get to see a jousting tournament. Not a choreographed one like the "Knights of the Round Table" dinner theaters -- but a real-life sporting event steeped in tradition. So my husband and I packed his pickup with our three young squires and headed out to the middle-of-nowhere and back in time for an afternoon of entertainment, education, and whimsy.

Click here to read a local article about the jousting.

I never went to a Renaissance Faire for a field trip when I was in school, probably because the faire was held in the summer months. But I've always thought it would make an excellent field trip. Since this week's theme at the Teen Fiction Cafe is "School Days," I'm curious: What was your more memorable field trip?

Amusement Parks - Vacation?

Sorry~I'm late posting this! I actually spent Saturday "vacationing" at King's Island, an amusement park near Cincinnati, and we didn't get home until midnight-ish. (My daughter's select choir was participating in a competition in the area and the awards ceremony was held right there at the park. Her choir won first place in their division and were named as grand champions overall! Yay!)

Notice the quotes around the word vacationing. Seriously. I love the rides as much as anyone, but I think I'm becoming an amusement park Grinch. After passing over some of the best attractions because the wait times were flirting with two hours, failing to find any non-junk food for lunch and paying over four dollars for a bottle of water, I reached a startling conclusion. I am sooo over amusement parks.

I will admit that I've done more than my share over the years. Parks I can remember going to (and some of them more than once) include Knotsberry Farm, Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Six Flags in five different states, Kings Island, Cedar Point, Universal Studios, Stone Mountain, Busch Gardens, Saratoga, Lagoon, Hersheypark, Idlewild, Tokyodome, Yomiyuriland, Disneyworld (including Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and MGM Studios), Tokyo Disney, DisneySea, EuroDisney and Seaworld in California, Florida and Japan. Yeah. Too many. So I think I've done my time. It was probably more fun when the kids were younger and they got excited about all the simple stuff, but now... I'd rather spend my vacation time lying on a beach somewhere with a good book or exploring an exotic new locale.*

What about you and amusement parks? Love 'em or leave 'em?

* Speaking of new locales... (WARNING: BSP!) Aphra races through exotic locales in Italy and France to thwart the bad guys in DEATH BY DENIM, coming your way this week!

Sweets to die for!!!!!

This week we're talking about food. For the past 15 years (yikes... I didn't realise it was that long) I've been dairy free because I'm lactose intolerant. It's not too bad, and I'm an avid label watcher in the supermarket, looking for all the hidden milk products that are in food. I trained my children to do it too.

On the plus side, there's no dairy in chips (fries) my favorite food and I have the hugest sweet tooth ever and there are lots of sweets (candy) I can eat. The only negative is chocolate. Some dark chocolate is dairy free, but I always preferred milk chocolate.

Anyway, just in case you feel sorry for me..... which you don't have to because believe me I can always find things to eat (as my friends will attest), here are some of my favorite sweets...... enjoy because being cyber these sweets are calorie free.

Dark chocolate ginger, jelly babies; jelly beans; dolly mixtures; marshmallows, peppermint creams, chocolate biscuit cake (not strictly speaking a sweet but I love it so much I had to include it).

Saturday, May 9


So, this week at the café we’re talking about vacations, which, as luck would have it, is really timely since I just spent two heavenly and much needed weeks in Maui.

It was awesome!


Everything I wanted my vacation to be and more!

And we enjoyed it so much, we decided to extend it just a few days further and move on to Lanai, which is really, really quiet compared to Maui but also incredibly beautiful.

And some time between lounging by the pool and lounging on the beach I realized just what it is that I love about vacation: It’s not just the break from the stresses of everyday life—nope, that’s only part of it. The main thing I like is that the vacation Me is the Me I can only dream of being in my normal life. The blissed out, uber relaxed, well-rested, well-excercised, well-meditated, well-fed, well-dressed, version of Me.

The Me that tends to vanish sometime between the drive home from the airport and the third load of vacation laundry.

Still, it’s nice to know she’s in there somewhere!

What about you? What’s your favorite part of vacation??

Friday, May 8

An Unusual Honor

Me? Me??? I'm one of the 100+ Best Authors on Twitter??? Maybe now Neil Gaiman will ack my tweets!

Congratulations to all my sister TFCers on their good news today!

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Good News Friday!!!

I love Good News Friday here at the cafe!!  We're inundated with so much bad stuff all the time, I'll take any shot I can at doing the happy dance!

So huge congrats to Erica and Melissa for their awesome new releases!!

And while I don't have a new release too share (though BLUE MOON will be out on July 7th!), I am thrilled to announce that EVERMORE remains at #1 again on the New York Times Best Sellers List for Children's Paperbacks for the 10th week running (13 on the list)!!!!--- and the UK rights were just sold to Pan Macmillian, bringing the foreign territories to 13!!

That's all for now--have a great day everyone!

Good News Friday: Lovestruck Summer Release!

My new book is out this week! Yay! It's just $5.99 so, hello, go snag it! Summer beach reading = super fun.

Oh, and come join the Cover Stories party at my blog, with contests and stories from Sarah Dessen, Siobhan Vivian, Beth Kephart, Jenny Han and TFC's own Sara Zarr.

Happy Good News Friday!

Good News Friday: Magickeepers

Another day . . . another pen name. :-)
My new release is dropping in stores as we speak . . . um . . . blog.
Magickeepers is actually a middle-grade hardcover fantasy about a rogue clan of Russian magicians (REAL magicians, not illusionists) hiding their identities by having a magic act and casino in Vegas . . . and about a teenage boys who discovers he is actually one of them.
The book is hardcover . . . and I gotta tell you, as an author, holding a book with raised lettering and gold and silver foil stamping . . . um, it's this weird thing about being an author and a booklover, but it's better than chocolate is all I can say.
So that's my good news . . . the first in the trilogy is out. And I've got a signing in Richmond, Virginia tomorrow. You can visit www.magickeepers.com.

Tuesday, May 5

Most embarrassing travel story (ever)

This week at TFC it's all about vacations and for some crazy reason all I can think of is the most stupid thing I've ever done while travelling. It was back in the early nineties while I was living and working in a pub in London and my friend and I were due to fly out for a week's vacation in a snow resort in Austria (Hopfgarten for anyone who might know it).

So anyway our flight went on Sunday from Heathrow but this didn't stop us going out on the Saturday night, which meant that by the time it came for us to get to the airport we weren't exactly as bright and shiny as we might've hoped.

Our first problem was that we were running late and it certainly didn't help matters when we accidentally managed to get on the wrong tube and then not notice until we halfway around the circle line. Add to the fact that we were starving because we'd both slept in and missed breakfast. However, we eventually got to the airport and up to the counter (though please note at this stage we still hadn't eaten but didn't have time to get anything so all we could think of was the food on the plane. Which I think just proves how hungry we were). Anyway, it was at this point that we discovered that a certain someone (which is code for me, btw) didn't have her passport.

Yes, my thoughts exactly.

So, perhaps because it was a charter flight (or divine intervention, I don't know which), the airline staff actually delayed the flight while I rang up the pub where I lived and worked and had to get one of my friends to stop her shift in order to go upstairs and search my very messy bedroom.

Fifteen minutes later there was still no sign of it and it was starting to look like our vacation was most definitely not going to happen. Anyway, the nice people at the desk who were obviously used to hysterical, hungover, starving Australian girls suggested that I check my handbag one last time. Yeah, right, as if that was going to... oh, you mean this passport...

Yup, it had been in my bag all along I had just been too panicked to see it. The good news is that we had an amazing vacation in the end, though I do feel sorry for the poor man who had to sit next to my friend Tess on the way over because she was so hungry that after she demolished her own meal she started on his while he was asleep!!!!

So anyway, I think we can all agree that mistakes were made here so stop you all from suffering the same humiliating fate that I did, here is a helpful checklist of things to watch out for.

1) don't go out the night before you're due to fly.

2) always carry snacks with you

3) don't buy black handbags that have black lining because you will never find anything in them. Not ever.

4) if anyone called Amanda Ashby ever asks you to go travelling with her, just keep walking (and most definitely don't make eye contact because she is trouble!)

So now I want to know what everyone else's most embarrassing travel moment is. Come on, 'fess up and extra points if it is all self-inflicted like my one was!