Friday, June 25

Good News Friday: Librarians!

On Monday, I'm doing a signing at the American Library Association's national conference in Washington, D.C. Of course, part of the fun will be wandering the convention floor and getting some signed books myself once my signing is over. But part of the reason I am so excited to go is . . . librarians! They rock!

Though as I've gotten older, I don't visit the library as much as I used to (the wonders of the Kindle!), as a child, the library was magical to me. BOOKS. Row upon row upon row of books! And since books were my life . . . the library was just about my favorite place. And they were FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the library in my hometown, when I was kid, there was a limit to how many books you could sign out at one time if you were under twelve. I think the limit was six. Unfortunately, if I signed out six on Friday, by Sunday morning, I was done with all six of them, which meant a long Sunday and most of Monday without something new to read. So my mother spoke to the librarian (again, they ROCK!) and the librarian waived the limit. Problem solved . . . I had plenty to read.

Once I was all grown up and an author . . . I've was asked to speak at "Friends of the Library" event here in Richmond, Virginia. I also did a signing at the summer reading festival at the main branch downtown. I'll be honest . . . I don't "love" signings. But for the library? Sure, I'll love it.

So that's my Good News Friday . . . I'm spending time with librarians on Monday. Anyone else fond of those quiet places book lovers call home?

The Summertime TV Blues

I've successfully managed to convince myself that watching TV is "research." Yes, research! What you don't believe me? Fine, I'll give you the spiel I give myself before plunking down in front of the TV for two hours when I should be writing. It goes something like this. "I'm a writer. TV shows are written. Some are even written well. And all storytelling stems from the same place so I need to study and absorb and analyze all forms of storytelling and writing to improve my own skills."

Are you convinced yet?

Well, let it sink in for a while.

Anyway, you can imagine why a TV fanatic such as myself would have a little bit of summertime blues. I mean I plunk myself down just like any other day. I zap on the power. I click the adorable little Tivo caricature on the top of my remote to show me what fabulous offerings I have to choose from today and staring back at me is a depressing list of science and discovery shows that my husband watches. Granted, I'm sure Ice Truck Drivers are very fascinating and learning how to "Build it Bigger" is a trip, but I want my drama. I want my action and adventure and romance. I want my four-camera sit-coms, darn it!

So now I start my usual summer tradition of watching first-season DVDs of shows I never got around to when they first aired. Up next: True Blood! Disc one has just arrived from Netflix and you know where I'll be tonight! Alyson Noel can't stop raving about it on Twitter so I figure if it's worth tweeting about, I better get my butt in gear (meaning: on the couch) and start watching!

Any other recommendations? Or is it true what they say? There just "ain't no cure for the summertime blues?"

Thursday, June 24

Music + Books: The Songs That Saved Your Life

Robin Benway, the author of Audrey, Wait! and the upcoming The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June, has an amazing tumblr blog where she posts a song a day, and it's called: The Songs That Saved Your Life.

I guest posted today, so go here to see what my song is. And then flip through the archives and find a ton of great music you'll want to discover (or re-discover).

Authors often make soundtracks for their books. Every month at readergirlz, for example, the featured author creates a playlist for the featured book we're discussing. (This month, John Green gives you the music to Paper Towns. Yes, it's awesome.)

Today, my soundtrack would include a little Kinks. "Waterloo Sunset," perhaps. (Amazing song--see below.)

So what's on your playlist?

Tuesday, June 22

Music! Movies! Books! TV! Okay, mostly music.

...but this post covers all, because though it's about music, this is the stuff books, movies, and TV are made of.

Picture it:

Two sisters. Teenagers. Maybe a little wild (okay, I'm totally making that part up). Daughters of a musician, growing up in the deep south. All their lives they hear great music: George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Cash, Willie, Emmylou. They start singing early. Naturally talented as well as beautiful. Then, when one is 14 and one is 18, their father kills their mother and then himself.

(Pause to think how incredibly life shattering that is, how it could keep you from loving anything ever again...)

Fast forward to adulthood and they are both critically acclaimed and well-respected musicians with some commercial succes. One of them gets an Oscar nomination for a song featured in The Horse Whisperer, and goes on to marry THE godfather of alt country. (No, not Neil Young, I don't count him and anyway isn't he the godfather of grunge?)

I'm talking about Allison Moorer, and her sister, Shelby Lynne.

That kind of story just fascinates me. What demons did these sisters have to overcome to get where they got? Were they fiercely competitive with each other, or supportive? As they've taken turns rising to success, does one ever feel she's in the shadow of the other? So many what-ifs.

Anyway, let's get to the music. Here are Allison Moorer (Mrs. Steve Earle) with "I Ain't Giving Up On You" and her older sis, Shelby Lynne, singing "I Won't Die Alone" I think they are both amazing. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 19

Blogs & Websites: FLAMES!

My daily internet regimen is basically as follows: gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Fantasy Baseball, Google Reader. Repeat 95 million times per day! It's funny to call it a "regimen," because mainly it's farting around. Man I spend a lot of time online... I was really late to getting addicted to the internet. Until about a year ago I had a Windows 98 Compaq Presario with ye olde 56K modem! Then I got my Macbook & cable internet and wi-fi and suddenly I'm online 900 hours a day! I literally did not experience YouTube until 2008. So much catching up to do! So many cats doing funny things! And then there was Facebook! So fun to know what random dudes from school are now up to. (Lately though pretty much the only reason I go on Facebook is to see if it's my turn at Scrabble. I sure love Scrabble! And I'm kinda awesome at it. Just sayin'.) And let's not even get in to my unhealthy Twitter addiction (I'm @joshberkbooks -- come say hello!)

Anyway, it's basically those things a million and one times over and over again. But recently I got totally waylaid by this: FLAME!

Now I've always wanted to be a painter but I'm pretty terrible at it. OK, very terrible at it. This site is part of the creator's "I am artist" experiment, the point of which is that: "with tools which inspires you, everyone can be an artist." I love that! Isn't it wonderful? I think so. And I really recommend the site. It's something quite unlike anything I've wasted time with lately. You don't have to make your name in fireworks -- I'm just cocky that way.You could also make a dragon, or possibly a third thing. You get a pretty awesome hypnotic feeling swirling around those flames. It's thrilling like being a good painter must be and you could definitely do it all day. You know, between the other vigorous parts of your regimen. (The creator of Flame also made this one -- FLUID PAINTER -- which is equally fun! Ah! How will I get anything done?)

Oh, and how did I learn about the Flame site? From a librarian's blog! I totally read lots of library-related blogs. Biblioblogosphere FTW!

Friday, June 18

Good News Friday!!!

It's Friday, the day we like to share our good news here at The Cafe, and with DARK FLAME, book 4 in THE IMMORTALS series releasing on Tuesday, June 22, I'm thrilled to share a great new review from A Good Addiction that just came in!

"Dark Flame is the best installment in this series yet, ending in a very shocking way that leaves high promise for the next book. The readers’ appetite will be whetted for more, the constant addictive craving Noel seems to infuse in every book continuing to guarantee her strong readership. The characters are advanced and developed, the plot progressed and the continued possibilities opened. Numerous new questions and intrigues spark, and the overall feelings toward certain characters shift in a constant flow. Noel includes plenty of surprising twists, unexpected tie ins and histories, and never lets the reader know what else she has planned. The predictability present at the beginning of the series is gone, leaving only a burning need for more."--A Good Addiction

If you want to read more, the full review is HERE, and she was very careful not to give away any spoilers which I really appreciate!
Also, if you haven't dropped by my site lately, it's undergone a major makeover--with updated playlists, Q&As, & even a section on writing advice too--you can see it HERE!
And, I'm heading out on a book signing tour next week and would love to meet you! I'll be in MN on Tuesday, IL on Wednesday, TX on Thursday, FL on Friday, & CA on Monday! The full schedule can be found HERE!

That's it for me, but what about YOU--any good news to share??

Have a good day everyone!

Wednesday, June 16

Women Who Rock Wednesday

Since we are talking about blogs and websites this week, I thought I'd share a special feature I run on my blog on Wednesdays (usually every other Wednesday) called Women Who Rock Wednesday. In it I feature a female artist (music, photographer, writer, fashion designer--artist can mean many things, though generally I interview writers most since I know a lot of them) that I think rocks and usually we give away their newest release.

I thought it would be cool to bring Women Who ROck Wednesday to TFC today because my TFC sister, Wendy Toliver is my featured rockin' lady this week. Her new book LIFTED is up at the top of my to-read pile because it looks incredible and I definitely went through a shoplifting phase in my teens.

So let's check out the interview, shall we?

This is Wendy:

Today I am thrilled to feature my Teen Fiction Cafe sister, Wendy Toliver, a YA author who definitely rocks.

And this is LIFTED:

Q: Please tell us what your new book is about and what inspired you to write it.

Wendy: LIFTED is the story of Poppy Browne, the daughter of a single mom who takes a job as a professor in a tiny Texas town. On Poppy’s first day at her new school (a private Baptist one), she meets two very popular girls and one friendly choir girl, and all want Poppy to hang with them. When she gets to know the two popular girls, they quickly draw her into their surprising secret: they shoplift. A lot.

I was watching a show on TV about how shoplifting is a huge problem, especially with teens, and thought it would make an interesting topic for a book. Most people have either shoplifted themselves, have been tempted to try it, or know someone who has, so I think it’s something we can all relate to.

Q: If there was a soundtrack for your book what are five songs that would be on it and how do they relate the story?

Wendy: 1. “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga—captures the fun times Mary Jane, Whitney and Poppy have

2. Anything by Evanescense—Amy Lee’s pure, haunting voice is perfect for the part where Poppy realizes her life is spiraling out of control

3. “Gimme That Girl” by Joe Nichols—seems like a song David Hillcrest would sing for (or dedicate to) Poppy.

4. “The Fear” by Lily Allen—captures how confusing life becomes when you have all sorts of external influences trying to mold who you are.

5. And, just for fun, "Got Caught Stealin'" by Jane's Addiction. Because it’s about shoplifting.

Q: Who were some of your inspirations to become a writer or the inspirations that keep you writing? Feel free to include other authors, teachers, parents, or people in other creative fields, whoever is an inspiration to you!

Wendy: My mom has been a huge inspiration for as long as I can remember. I’ve also had some really great teachers who really believed in me and my talents. Now that I’m an author, I have author friends who give me frank critiques, shoulders to cry on (when need be), and champion me not only as a writer but as a person. I’m truly very blessed.

Q: Even though music plays in so heavily into my storytelling, I rarely can actually listen to it while I'm writing. Can you? How does music fit into your writing process?

Wendy: I can listen to it while I’m writing but I don’t usually. If I’m alone I like it quiet, or I sometimes write in bed with the TV on something like “America’s Top Model”—something I can glance up at every now and then but don’t feel tempted to stop writing just to watch. However, the minute I’m in my car, I’m blasting music, car-dancing, and singing my heart out. It cracks me up when my three little boys join in!

Q: What is next for you? What are you working on now?

Wendy: I think I’ll try my hand at paranormal YA. I’ve been working on an idea for a while now and am whipping it up into a proposal.

Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Wendy: My first album was the soundtrack to the movie “Grease.” I bought it for fifty cents from my neighbor’s garage sale. Still love those songs! My dad’s work was always giving us tickets to concerts like the Beach Boys, The Righteous Bros. and Gladys Knight so one of those might have been my first concert but the first one I remember going to with friends was LL Cool J. Followed closely by George Michael. Those were when I was in junior high.

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Wendy: My first “I’m not worthy” moment was a few years ago in L.A. when I was at a movie premier with Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. I can honestly say I’m usually just myself when in the company of famous people, but for some reason, Gwen really got to me (she’s one of my favorites and gorgeous in person) and I could only utter a measly, “Hi.” Oh! I just thought of another “rock star” moment, but I didn’t know it was happening until afterwards. I did karaoke one night (again in L.A.) and Hugh Hefner was in the audience. LOL!

Today's Contest:

Now that you have read about LIFTED (and how awesome Wendy is!), I am sure you want to read it as badly as I do. Well, you are in luck. Wendy is giving out a signed copy to one lucky winner.

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment. However you can gain additional entries:

+1 for tweeting or posting on facebook about this interview
+1 for tweeting or posting about LIFTED
+1 for sharing the book trailer
+5 for blogging about LIFTED

Note your additional entries in your comment as well as giving me an email address or some way to contact you if you win.

Please note that due to postage expenses, this contest is for US mailing addresses only.

I will announce the winner next Wednesday on my blog, when my guest will be debut YA author, Holly Cupala!

Tuesday, June 15

Blogs & Websites: Cheating on TFC

It's likely that all the contributing bloggers here at TFC have other individual blogs or group blogs where they post. My own moonlighting gig is at BiblioBuffet, an online magazine for booklovers. I write the "Writer-in-Residence" column there every two weeks; for example, All We Are Saying is Give Pink a Chance, which details my thoughts on hatred for the color pink in the world in general and in publishing in particular. Sometimes the focus of my pieces is adult fiction, or even nonfiction, but there are a few that might be of interest to lovers of YA, such as:

Ah, Dystopia!, which analyzes the current market craving for dystopian fiction.

I alternate my regular essays with something called "The Disrespectful Interviewer," wherein I ask rude and certifiably insane questions of authors. Here's the ones I've done so far with YA novelists:

Dissing A.S. King

Dissing Tish Cohen

Late on the first Sunday in July a new DI will go up in which I take on NYT bestselling YA author Lisa McMann.

I love writing for BiblioBuffet, just as I love writing for TFC, because the pieces I do for each stretch different writing muscles than my fiction does.

So how about you, TFCers? Please tell us where you cheat on TFC.

And for you non-TFCers, please share links to your own blogs and tell us what the focus of those blogs are.

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Saturday, June 12

UPDATED Good News Friday - the review and YALSA!

My good news today is the first online review of TRANCE (that I've seen, anyway)... She calls TRANCE a "heart-racing, breath-taking, unstoppable read" Yay!

Oh! Also - the bindup of the DEATH BY... books hit the shelves this month and I just saw it at my local Kroger grocery store - on the bestseller shelf, at #16!

(This is a bindup titled, THE DEATH BY BIKINI MYSTERIES and includes the books DEATH BY BIKINI, DEATH BY LATTE and DEATH BY DENIM.)

Edited to add: Wow. I am so out of it. This list was updated May 24th, but I just now realized I'm on it! YALSA announced the finalists for the 2011 Popular Paperback List and both DEATH BY BIKINI and DEATH BY LATTE were nominated in the Crime Scene category!

Happy dancing in Ohio...

Friday, June 11

Good News Friday: My New YA, Lifted, is out!

I'm having such an exciting week because my YA novel, Lifted, is finally out. Since I'm on my Two Weddings & a Book Tour road trip, I got to stop by bookstores in NM and CO and though I was too early for some, others had Lifted proudly displayed amongst a variety of wonderful YA selections. I took pictures, but of course I forgot to pack the right equipment so they're stuck on my camera for now.

Click here to read one of the first reviews. Isn't that awesome? And the creator of that blog, Jill, chose to launch her brand-spankin' new blog with this review!

Oh, and here's something especially awesome. Jessica Brody and I are both signing at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch, CO! She's there tonight (go get a copy of The Karma Club if you're in the Denver area, unlike me, who will be trying to coerce my 3 year-old son to be an obedient ring bearer at my dad's wedding in Texhoma) and I'm there Tuesday, June 15! I took a photo of the nice display of her books, but again, it's stuck in my camera.

So! A fun week to be sure, and now I'm off for Kansas! ;)

Thursday, June 10

Fashion is (not) my middle name

During a chat on the screened porch with a dear friend today, I was lamenting how I can barely remember the gal I used to be in my corporate days. The one who did her hair and makeup every weekday and even (gasp) wore nylons and heels. These days, I rarely wear makeup and consider being showered, hair styled with a blow dryer, and dressed in clothes that are not wrinkled a very impressive feat indeed.

The thing is, I'm all about easy. Life throws enough at you without having to worry about whether your nose needs a touch up of powder. But here's the thing...

I wrote a book in which the character undergoes a makeover.

And even though I live in shorts and tees in the summer (yoga pants or boot cut sweats in the winter), these are not always appropriate attire. Like, say, when you're signing your book that has a makeover in it. You don't want people thinking, "Wait, I'm going to read about a makeover from YOU?"

Now, The Cinderella Society is about more than just makeovers. It's about bullying and girl empowerment and getting comfortable in your own skin. But with Cinderella in the title, it's pretty obvious to anyone that makeovers are part and parcel of the game. So showing up to a signing looking like a frump? Not really the way to win over booksellers and readers.

Anyway, I was lamenting this to my friend and saying how back in my corporate days, it wouldn't even have occurred to me to leave the house without makeup on. Now it's a red letter date on the calendar if I have it on. And it got me thinking... when did this happen? Was it when I left the corporate world and started writing full time? I don't think so. I don't think it happened overnight. It was sort of a gradual process that evolved as I evolved into the new writerly version of myself who worked from home and, let's be honest, didn't really get out all that much.

I mention all of this because it turns out that fashion is not always like riding a bike. If you don't ride a bike for several years, you might wobble the first 100 feet but you get right back into the groove. With fashion, if you don't pay much attention for several years, EVERYTHING CHANGES.

Seriously. I find myself thinking all the time now, as I'm shopping for new author event clothes, "Can I wear these together? What are today's rules? And why does every blouse look like it was designed for a woman with Barbie's proportions?" I was never a fashion plate - that's just not how I roll - but I swear to you, I was competent at putting together outfits that did not offend anyone's sense of fashion. Now, I pretty much resort to checking out the mannequins and thinking, "Maybe I should just buy that in my size. At least I know it all goes together."

If I had Barbie's proportions, of course. ;-)

What about you? Does anyone else struggle with clothes shopping? Either with finding fashions that flatter or just figuring out what's supposed to be in style (without looking hopelessly yesterday by this time next year)?

Sunday, June 6

You're under arrest!!!

So, this week we're talking about fashion and style. That's cool. At least it would be if I was remotely interested in either. It's not that I dress like a total dork.... although if you ask my daughter she thinks I should be arrested by the fashion police each time I leave the house..... though to be fair, she does always seem to catch me when I go out for a walk in a dress, sneakers and socks.... what? stop snickering.... it's just that when I get the urge to go for a walk I want to go straight away and can't be bothered to go and put on my 'exercise gear'.

Anyway, as I was saying, I don't dress like a total dork, but my wardrobe is fairly sparse, to put it mildly, because I HATE... yes I shouted that.... I HATE going shopping. I start full of good intentions but after about half an hour I'm fed up of having to dress, undress, dress, undress, dress.... you get the picture. And why is it that everything I choose to try is either too long (not that I'm that height challenged, well I'm 5'2") or too tight.... how come a size 10 (UK not US sizing) suddenly doesn't fit.... and anyone who says Dark Chocolate Peanut Slab better watch it.

So what about you.... fashion and style guru (like my daughter, and who knows where she got that gene), or fashion and style faux pas like me????

Saturday, June 5

My life in Food

My daughter just graduated high school. In this community, the weeks before and after graduation are filled with open houses celebrating the graduates. My daughter's will be held this week.

Besides cleaning the house and making sure the yard is ready for a garden party, the most daunting task is figuring out what food to serve. My hours of contemplating this question got me thinking about what an important role food plays in the big moments of our lives.

Besides the obvious holiday fare, our family even has traditional foods for certain occasions. For my birthday, for instance, my husband and kids will always make something (anything) grilled, corn on the cob and watermelon. My daughter makes key lime pie every father's day. Thanksgiving means pumpkin cheesecake (I can't stand the texture of pumpkin pie.) Christmas eve we make a huge batch of clam chowder (don't ask me why.) When one of us older kids come home, my mom makes her famous apple pancakes.

Food is there for the down times, too. Funerals in my in-law's circle means a luncheon of ham and (I am not making this up) "funeral potatoes." Ice cream and best friends is the salve for a broken heart. Chocolate has always been there for other slumps and blues.

What about you? Does food play an important role in your life? Do you have any food traditions?

Wednesday, June 2

The evil that is Spam

Okay, I swear that today I had planned to talk about happy foods. You know, like Skittles and Cheetos (followed by a lovely little Diet Coke chaser and perhaps a few delicious M&Ms just for good cheer) but after Greg blogged about the grossness that is tripe, it brought up all the animosity that I have toward Spam.

Let's be clear, I hate Spam. Not only does it smell funny and taste weird, but for something that's meant to be cheap, it's not (because seriously, here in NZ a can of Spam cost the same as two pieces of steak). Unfortunately, my husband has a very unhealthy relationship with the bright pink meat that comes in a can and somehow he has managed to pass it onto my daughter. Yes, that's right. Miss 9 who virtually refuses to eat any meat whatsoever has also shown an alarming love for Spam. Thankfully my son is on the fence about it, but every time husband and daughter crack open a can, I worry that he will go down their forsaken route.

Plus, if Spam was so great then it wouldn't have found itself at the center of a Monty Python skit. So what about everyone else. Is there a particularly evil food that has you pulling a face every time you even have to think about it?

Tuesday, June 1


Food, now here’s a topic I can really sink my teeth into! Sorry, sometimes I just can’t help myself. But seriously, I really like food. I’m a Taurus after all and we’re well known for our love of food and drink. We’re also supposed to be great with finances and savings but alas, judging from the way my money disappears quicker than a tray of free Buffalo wings during happy hour, it’s safe to say that the stars do not align everything in my character. However, I’ve got the food and drink part covered.

So speaking as an expert – and clearly I am an expert, for what exactly is an expert other than someone who indulges him or herself in an activity that they love daily – I’d like to share with you a few of the things I’ve learned over the years about food. Consider it food for thought or maybe just thoughts about food.

First of all, food serves a purpose in our lives, for without it we all die. So right away it’s got my attention. Imagine if you will that I, like food, served the same purpose, that is, without me you would all die. I’m betting I would live a very pampered and charmed existence. Whatever Greg wants Greg gets. Unlike that annoying customer I had to deal with last week during my day job, I truly would be the center of the universe. (That’s right, Mrs. Stillman, I’m talking about you!)

Secondly, food for the most part tastes good! Some things taste even better than others. Some dishes are even worth spending a whole lot of money for. Then again there are things that people enjoy eating that I find truly revolting. I used to be adventurous, as far as food goes, and would try just about anything. But then, while traveling in Italy I was introduced to tripe (it’s actually made from stomach tissue) and – Oh My God! – I thought I was going to die! I mean everyone’s different but for me tripe tastes like the absolute nastiest case of morning breath magnified a thousand times! Worst of all, you just can’t get rid of the taste! I chugged down a beer and a glass of water and then had to excuse myself from the restaurant because I thought I was going to be sick. I must have brushed my teeth a hundred times that night. So remember: food good, tripe not so good. Trust me on the tripe part.

Thirdly, never assume that just because two different types of food taste good that they will necessarily taste good together. Ice cream, for example, should never be mixed together with any type of meat or fish product. Which reminds me, fish tastes good but frozen fish on a stick are not exactly the summer culinary treats I initially thought they would be. I only bring this up because I wouldn’t want others to lose any of their hard-earned cash on this potential business idea. (I must say in my own defense that the cute little fish-shaped carts I constructed really looked like attention grabbers. I guess it just goes to show that you can lead a crowd to frozen fish on a stick but you can’t make them eat it. Oh, the blisters I got from pushing that cart around all day!)

Well, I guess that’s it for now. I hope I’ve been able to convey a little bit of my food wisdom. Anyone else tried ripe before? And come on, wouldn’t a fresh piece of frozen trout on a stick taste good on a hot summer’s day?