Monday, December 28

How Embarrassing!

This week's topic is Embarrassing Moments. Or at least I think it is. My husband tossed out my December calendar where I'd written the topic and so I guess if I'm wrong, I can just add this to my long list of embarrassments.

My mom is here visiting and she suggested I write about what she considers my most embarrassing moment so here goes ...

When I was in Jr. High, I had a major crush on a guy who lived at the bottom of our cul-de-sac. His name was Keith and we're guessing he was a good 8 years my senior. He had dark skin, hair about the same deep-tan color, light eyes, and a great body. One day, which happened to be the day before we were heading to Rocky Mountain National Park for a family reunion, I noticed that he was washing his red Jeep Wrangler with his shirt off. (Think Jacob in New Moon, haha!) Word was, he was heading off to college. Now, I've always been the show-off type around boys, trying to get their attention by being athletic and daring and crazy. So I hopped on my dad's VERY old bike, my sister sat on the back, and I whizzed up and down the street as fast as I could. We were having a great time. Until the bike started shaking and my sister flew off the back. I was trying to stop but the brakes wouldn't work and I turned around to see if she was okay and crashed RIGHT IN FRONT OF KEITH. This wasn't just any ol' bike crash. I think I left a good 1/3 of my skin on the road. My sister had escaped all injury, thankfully, but I was a bloody mess. I tried not to cry as Keith asked me over and over if I was okay. I brushed myself off, leaving the bike in the street, and hobbled up to my house. I didn't realize how badly I was bleeding until I walked into my house, where all my family (including aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins) came rushing over to me, talking about whether or not I needed to go to the E.R. (I did.) After holding it in for so long, I just started bawling. "Oh my God, I'm so embarrassed!" I wailed. "I just fell off Dad's bike in front of KEITH!"

I have major scars all over my body from that fall. And as for Keith, though I'm sure he did notice me that day, I'm afraid he didn't fall in love with me or anything romantic like that. In fact, while he was away at college his family moved away and I never saw him again.

Did you ever do anything crazy or dangerous to get the attention of a certain person? I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, December 26


This week is all about friends, and how fitting as it's a holiday week and a lot of us get together with friends and family. We live in New Zealand and most of our family is still in the UK. But lucky for us we have some good friends over here who we can have fun with and today was no exception.

As has become our annual ritual, on December 26th we have a BBQ with my very good friend, and amazing author, Amanda Ashby and her family (and one of my brothers who also lives in NZ). I haven't laughed so much in ages, especially as the men decided to drink as many beers from different places around the world as they could (my husband manages to 'collect' them). This was made even funnier when we had the annual mince pie tasting by Amanda's husband - who is a mince pie guru, and knowing how every year something goes wrong with mine, it's usually a scary moment. Today was no exception, especially when he turned it over and could see how the underneath wasn't cooked properly and all the mincemeat was oozing out..... their saving grace was the amount of whiskey I'd added to the mincemeat!!!

But I was redeemed by the chocolate biscuit cake..... phew!!!

So did you celebrate with friends? And how was it?

Saturday, December 19

Top Books of the Decade

This week at TFC, we're talking about what's in the news. There's the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, the ongoing Olympic torch relay toward the Vancouver Olympic stadium, and for those of us in the US, the winter storm on the east coast and the weekend Senate vote on the health care bill.

And there are lists. Lots of lists.

Since we're reaching the end of the decade, all sorts of lists have popped up in the news. The best of this, the worst of that. Top news stories, most watched you-tube videos, worst celebrity moments. My personal favorites are the book lists. Here's a list from Good Reads of readers' favorites. I pulled the top picks from this decade (including more than the top ten because Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling take up half that list!) Here we go...

The Best YA Books of the Decade

Twilight - Stephanie Meyer (2005)
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (2008)
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling (2006)
Holes - Louis Sachar (2000)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003)
Eclipse - Stephanie Meyer (2007)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling (2000)
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (2005)
Uglies - Scott Westerfield (2005)
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (2008)
Eragon - Christopher Paolini (2005)
City of Ember - Jeanne DuPrau (2004)
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Ann Brashares (2001)
Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray (2003)
Looking for Alaska - John Green (2005)

How many of these books have you read? Which ones did you love? What would you add to the list?

Saturday, December 12

Haiku Tributes to the Best Movies of 2009

My three favorite films that I saw in the theater this year were This is It, Inglorious Basterds and Up! Here, a tribute to each in haiku form:

1. MJ, gone too soon.
A talent like no other.
Make me wanna dance.

2. Brad Pitt hunts Nazis.
History Revised for film.
Best since Pulp Fiction.

3. A sad beginning
gives way to an uplifting
adventure of color.

Anyone want to add some favorite-film haikus? Go for it!

Friday, December 11

Fame! I'm gonna watch it forever.

Being of the generation I am of, I have seen the Alan Parker movie Fame many times, watched the TV series as it originally aired (yes, all seasons), and saw the new feature film on opening day. The original movie is the best, hands down, but for me the TV show that ran all through the eighties has the most sentimental value. So when I was at the library a couple of weeks ago and saw that they had the complete first season on DVD, I grabbed it! I've been watching it and let me tell you. Like most TV shows from my childhood and adolescence, the memory of watching it doesn't quiiiiite match up with what I see when re-watching it.

For one, okay, the TV Coco can't sing. I mean it's not like listening to American Idol auditions or anything, and I like her acting, but she is no Irene Cara when it comes to the pipes. Also, TV Doris looks about nine years past high school, but maybe she's there so that TV Bruno (who is also Original Bruno) doesn't look old all by himself. But, it's all about Original/TV Leroy aka Gene Anthony Ray (may he rest in peace), always my favorite. And Debbie Allen is still fabulous, both dancing and acting. Child, you do not want Ms. Grant mad at you! Some of the musical numbers aren't half bad, like when the kids put on Othello despite the teacher strike, and even Danny dances.

All things considered, it's still awesome. Watching it again reminds me what I loved about it: The school and the sets and the clothes the students wear all look really real. They always seemed to me like normal kids (other than the fact that they were so old) in a grubby school like mine, hanging in the band room like I did, surrounded by water-stained soundproofing tiles, and of course wearing leg warmers. I loved Leroy and his relationships with Ms. Grant and Sherwood. I loved the music, even when it was bad, because I loved the idea of performing, and busting out into song at any moment to express the angst of growing up. In fact, in junior high I was known to jump up on the cafeteria table and start belting "Hard Knock Life" from Annie. That may be a post for another day.

I have tried to get into Glee. I have. But I'll take Fame any day of the week. I now have all the seasons in my Netflix queue, and can't wait for Janet Jackson and Nia Peeples to make their appearances in later seasons.

Jammin' in the lunch room!

Thursday, December 10

The DJ in Me

True story . . . in college I was a radio DJ. And I took gigs on the side spinning records (yes, those were the days of RECORDS) in very dirty, very rough clubs downtown. I loved it. My play list THEN would likely include . . . The Ramones, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, and some unheard of acts like EBN OZN. As well as the Smiths . . . the Clash. Oh, those were the DAYS.

So flash foward to three Christmases ago. Significant Other purchases me the (at the time) Rolls Royce of iPods--video, 160 GB of storage. I looked at said gift and did not speak the thought I had aloud. "What the HECK am I going to do with this thing?"

You see, I had an extensive CD collection. Do you mean to tell me I had to download ALL that music onto some little portable device? The idea was madness. Until . . . I started.

I now have the equivalent of enough music on my iPod to survive a nculear fallout without having to repeat songs. When my iPod is not up-to-date, I feel panic.

Sunday night, I did a major update. I erased all my old playlists and created new ones. I bought music (the Across the Universe Jim Sturgess Beatle remakes; songs from GLEE; old Rolling Stones plus a Fatboy Slim remix). I channeled my inner DJ.

What's on my iPod? Oh, all the names I listed from when I was a DJ. But lots and LOTS of new names: Ray LeMontagne, Jeff Buckley, Fatboy Slim, Modest Mouse, Bell 1X, Glenn Hansard, Kings of Leon . . .

So . . . anyone else channel their inner DJ? And what's on your iPod right this SECOND? Hit shuffle and tell me.

All right . . . shuffle . . . .

SHIP OF FOOLS by World Party!

Thursday, December 3

My Favorite Websites

This week the topic at TFC is blogs and websites. There are more blogs that I check out from time to time than I can count, but I don't dare try to make a list of those I like best, because no sooner would I press Publish Post than I'd see someone post a blog link on Twitter and then I'd think, "D'oh! How could I have forgotten X? I hope X doesn't see this post and then get hurt/annoyed at not being included!" Of course I could always edit the post, adding another link, but that would just start a chain of such editing/linking and I do have a few other things to do today - "General Hospital" is on in less than four hours!!! - so...

I'm just going to link my three favorite websites for writers and readers, two of which are forums, one of which is a weekly reader devoted to the love of books. These are the places that, in addition to checking in at Twitter and Facebook, are absolute musts for me.

Backspace is a discussion forum for writers at all stages of their careers, from those still trying to figure out what to write to NYT bestselling authors. With 1192 current members - and counting! - it's the best place I know for those dreaming of getting published to learn every aspect of the craft of writing and the business of publishing and for published authors to network and get support from others. I wish BKSP had been in existence when I first started out and am very glad to have it as part of my life now.

BookBalloon is my favorite forum for book lovers to discuss every sort of book imaginable. There are some threads for writers, but this is really a reader-centric site where in addition to talk about books and publishing news, there are monthly book discussions focusing on individual titles.

BiblioBuffet, subtitled "Writing Worth Reading, Reading Worth Writing About," posts several new literary-related essays every Sunday night. I have an every-other-week column there called "Writer-in-Residence," in which I write essays and reviews. I also recently launched a new semi-regularly feature there that I'm insanely happy about called "The Disrespectful Interviewer," in which I ask incredibly rude questions of prominent authors. The first one ran a week ago Sunday, Dissing Jon Clinch. I hope people will give it a look.

So how about you? What are your favorite websites? Or, if you're braver than I am, what are your favorite blogs?

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Tuesday, December 1

My favorite foodie website

Since we are talking about websites and blogs this week on TFC, I thought I'd share my favorite recipe website. It's that time of year where people are doing a lot of cooking and baking after all. So my go-to site when I'm looking for something fun to make is As the name suggests, it is a vegan website and I'm sure not all of you are vegan, but don't let that scare you. Instead, I dare you to use it to try something new! Vegan food is very delicious and often very healthy. You'll probably find a lot of twists on old favorites.

I went vegetarian when I was 13 years old and vegan when I was 17 (though I did have a lapse in my early 20s where I started eating dairy again, but it really upsets my stomach so I went back). I was not a cook by any means when I started. The reason I didn't go vegan until 17 is because I was moving in with a vegan friend who knew how to cook, so she could teach me. My mom was kinda at a loss about vegan cooking. Pretty much pasta and salad was all she could figure out to make for me.

So I started cooking when I moved in with my friend Tai and I bought a couple vegan cookbooks over the years. But while I was in college, I really fell into the stirfry tofu with some vegetable and rice or eat a vegan frozen meal trap. I was busy and I was living with a guy who didn't cook with much flair or flavor (everything was too spicy for him). But after I kicked him out, Tai moved back in and I was inspired to have my old cooking buddy back. I've been a serious cook for about four years now. My prize wedding gifts were new cookware. No joke, I'm a total vegan cooking nerd!

I discovered when I was doing revisions on my first book I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE. I was working a 9 to 5 job and had to come home and get write to work on revisions, but I didn't want to sacrifice and go back to frozen meals. Conveniently Vegweb has a "Quick & Easy" category, so I printed out a ton of recipes from there. And then I was hooked. I have a writer's group that I cook for every other week so when I get bored with my cookbooks, I find a recipe on there and it has yet to fail me. The other girl who hosts our group consults Vegweb regularly too. Last week, it was her birthday and I decided I wanted to bake something for her. While I am a cook, I am not much of a baker, but it's something new I want to get into more. I decided I wanted to find some sort of red velvet cake recipe to try. Lo & behold, here is one on Vegweb! It was totally delicious, though I followed the frosting recipe from the person who included their frosting recipe in the comments instead because it looked better to me (and it was amazing!). That is what is super cool about Vegweb is that usually people leave comments about modifications they make to recipes and it helps you play around to get the perfect dish.

So yeah, check it out and let me know what you think. Are you much of a cook? Do you have any favorite foodie websites (of course I'm extra excited about vegetarian ones, but whatever floats your boat)?