Tuesday, November 30

Vacation in My Home State of Utah (& a CD Giveaway!)

When I am deciding where to go on a vacation, there are certain things I weigh. If it's some place I've never been, that is a bonus. Hot on my list are New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, and New England. (I've been to NY, but only once.) I also like to go to places I've been but want to go back because there are things I didn't get to do the last time I was there. This includes New York, Costa Rica, and Europe (I know, that last one is a doozie.) I also like to go on vacations that are very different from where I live. Beaches and tropical islands, for example. And last but not least, I like to go somewhere to visit a friend or family member. Any time I can combine several of these things, the better.

But many of the things people travel near and far to do and see are right in my backyard. For example, I've skied and snowboarded in many states and two countries, but I still think this area has some of the very best winter resorts. In 3 minutes I can be at a quaint family ski resort, Wolf Mountain. In 10 minutes, I can be at Powder Mountain, which until Blackcomb and Whistler (in British Columbia) combined, offered the most acreage of North American ski resorts. And in about 20 minutes, I'm knee-high in powder at the glamorous and extreme Snowbasin, home of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games downhill. And that's not counting all the Salt Lake City- and Park City-based resorts like Snowbird, Alta, and Deer Valley, which are about an hour away from where I live.

Of course, cross country skiing, snow-mobiling, snow shoeing, and sledding abound in snowy, mountainous country like this. And that's just the winter stuff! One day I'll tell you all about the amazing adventures you can have in the warmer months here in Utah. But for now, tell me what fun, exciting, and/or relaxing things people like to do this time of year where you live. I'm feeling particularly fond of my home state, and to celebrate, I'm giving away a signed copy of "I Believe You," a folk/jazz/inspirational CD by Utah native and fabulous skiier (and my dear friend and yoga teacher), Danielle Vaughn. Leave a comment to be entered. My middle son (pictured above) will choose a winner on Friday, December 3. Good luck!

Monday, November 29

Take Me Away: Vacations/Travel Week

It's Vacations/Travel Week here at TFC. There's just one problem: I don't have any travel plans for the near future, much as I wish I did, given that's it 25 degrees in Danbury this morning. I suppose, to alter my mental reality - i.e., raise the temperature - I could tell stories of past trips to warmer climes, but the space heater in my basement cave of an office is taking its sweet time powering up so let's make this quick.

Name one YA novel that you loved that managed to transport you somewhere exotic, preferably warm, or at the very least different than the town/state you currently reside in. I'll go first.

I absolutely love HOW TO RUIN A SUMMER VACATION by Simone Elkeles, about a 16-year-old girl who travels with her estranged Israeli father to...Israel. Israel! How exotic is that? Warm too. The novel itself is also smart, funny, romantic and entertaining as all get-out. And if you read the book, you get the added benefit of traveling somewhere without having to submit to a full-body scan or a pat-down. I've also read the sequel, HOW TO RUIN MY TEENAGE LIFE, also excellent, and am looking forward to reading the sequel to the sequel, HOW TO RUIN YOUR BOYFRIEND'S REPUTATION.

So how about you? What are some of your take-me-away-from-here - wherever "here" might be for you - favorite YA reads?

Be well. Don't forget to write.


Tuesday, November 23

school days...and parents

I had no idea what I was going to write about for this week's topic, which is school, and then I remembered one thing that always seems to fascinate people:

In high school, I had both my parents as teachers.

Sounds like ready-made trauma, right?

But, you see, when you grow up knowing that a. your parents are teachers and that b. if you take certain classes you'll have them as teachers (because they are the only people who teach that subject) then it really isn't much of a surprise. I mean, by the time I finally got to their classrooms, I'd known it was coming for over a decade.

So, you know, I did have a little time to prepare.

I didn't call them Mom or Dad in class (because, ewww!) and they treated me just like they would any other student (they'd had time to get ready for it too, after all) And that was that.

Now, if you want to talk about my mother telling me I didn't need to take typing because "it wouldn't be that useful," well--that's another post altogether :-)

Wednesday, November 17


Now here’s a topic I’m well qualified to talk about. If embarrassing tales were quills I’d look like a porcupine. As a teenager I just assumed that as I grew older I’d find myself in less and less embarrassing situations. Unfortunately I still manage to embarrass myself on a fairly regular basis. But since this is Teen Fiction Café I thought I’d focus on a couple of my more distressing teenage memories.

The first one is a private embarrassment. Nobody really knew the crushing disappointment and embarrassment I felt at that moment except me. Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? In my freshman year of high school I had a huge crush on this girl. She was the one that would turn my legs to rubber and my mind to mush every time she walked by. One day she sat next to me in a study hall and started talking about an upcoming dance. She kept asking me questions about what I was doing Friday night and I really thought she was hinting that I should ask her to the dance. I was just about to, building up my nerve, thinking about the best way to phrase my query, trying to remain cool. I was excited and tense, debating my options, almost dizzy with anticipation.

I decided to go for it.

But right before I was about to open my mouth, she said, “So, what I wanted to ask you is, you know Dean – do you think he’d want to go to the dance with me?”

The surprise and disappointment was explosive, so much so that I must have momentarily let down my guard because she gave me this long look of dawning understanding before finally saying, “Oh.”

Just “Oh,” not “Oh, I’m sorry you got the wrong idea blah, blah, blah.” It was just “Oh.” The word hung in the air like this huge mirror reflecting all of my insecurities and ineptitudes and the longer I let it hang there the greater my embarrassment grew. Finally I managed to laugh and say something, backpedaling with everything I had and saving some face. I managed to smooth over the situation but inside the embarrassment I felt was like this heavy stone that I was forced to swim with and it took every ounce of strength I possessed not to sink.

And then, of course there was my very embarrassing public experience. I was sitting in my Spanish class, doing what I normally did back then: feebly trying to pay attention and not really doing a good job. It was late autumn and the leaves outside were lush and vibrant; I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them. I just sat there, chewing on the end of my pen, staring off at the rolling hills peppered with orange, yellow and red leaves. It was the height of the season and the colors were spectacular.

The teacher interrupted my daydreams with a request to repeat some phrase in Spanish. I tried my best and thought I nailed it but she just smiled and asked me to repeat it. I did so and this time I did an even better job but she actually laughed at me. Then she asked me to stand up and try it again and when I did, not only did she laugh but the whole class also started to laugh. I couldn’t understand what was so funny and why everyone was being so cruel. I kept repeating that stupid phrase over and over again and each time I did the class would laugh even louder.

Finally the teacher told me to go down to the boys’ room and look in the mirror. When I got down there I could understand why everyone was laughing but it didn’t make me feel any better. The pen I had been chewing on had leaked and my teeth and lips were blue.

So, which of these things would you rather have happen to you? Bonus points if you explain your answer.

Tuesday, November 16

Just say no to...embarrassing moments

So here at Teen Fiction Cafe we're talking about embarrassing moments and a funny thing happened as I searched my mind - I couldn't remember any of them! Now, normally this could be explained away by the fact that I'm a BIG fan of denial (also my approach to housework but that's a blog post for another day).

However, this time, the reason I couldn't remember any of them was because about six months ago I made the conscious decision to stop beating myself up about my past mistakes.

There was a time when I could be quite happily walking down the street and I would suddenly be overwhelmed with negative feelings because of something that I had done twenty years ago. It was actually getting to the point of ridiculousness and I would find that a perfectly good mood would suddenly be gone and I'd be anxious and upset all over again.

Then, after it happening one too many times I finally decided that I'd had enough of reliving the past so I decided to forgive myself for the stupid/dumb/embarrassing things that I had done (and while I was at, I even included the stupid/dumb/embarrassing things that I will no doubt do in the future) and I can't begin to tell you how much better I feel for it. Of course some of them still sneak through but I know what they are now and I know what to do them with!

So my challenge to everyone is pause next time you have a flashback to an embarrassing moment and instead of letting it overwhelm and own you, just have a laugh, forgive yourself and let it go the way of all unwanted thoughts (you know, the place in our mind we leave the Brussel Sprout Souffle recipes that our mothers mistakenly think we might be interested in knowing).

Monday, November 15

Evolution of Embarrassment

My apologies to the guys in our number. I'm going to talk about girl stuff for a moment, but I hope you'll stick around, because I'd love your input at the end.

This week's topic is Most Embarrassing Moments. As I was contemplating what to write about, it struck me how many embarrassing moments - for girls, anyway - center around our bodies, how they are presented, and how others see us. It also interested me to note how some of those perceptions and embarrassments have changed over the years.

For example - my grandma was mortified by underclothing. She couldn't even bring herself to use the word underwear. To her, everything worn under street clothing fit under the category of "unmentionables". If her lingerie was not to be mentioned, it definitely was not to be seen. Girls when she was growing up used to wear bloomers, which were basically loose underwear with elastic casings around the waist and legs. She told me once that the elastic in the waist was prone to snapping, and gravity would have its way. The prospect of one's bloomers around one's ankles was so humiliating, she said, girls would feign fainting to save themselves the embarrassment. The goal was to hit the ground before your bloomers did.
My mom was a little less rigid, but even she used little code words for underclothing rather than just outright talking about it. For example, if your slip was showing (eek!) she couldn't bring herself to tell you in those words - she'd discreetly pull you aside and say, "It's snowing down south..." She must have had a thing with slips, because one of her most horrifying dreams was forgetting to put on her skirt before she left the house and walking down the street in just her slip.

By the time I was in high school, we hardly ever wore slips, let alone were embarrassed by them. Our greatest sources of embarrassment had shifted a bit. We weren't as concerned about what we were wearing as we were about our bodies themselves. We still might pin our bra straps to keep them from showing, but we were more focused on bodily function faux pas. Like "starting" at school and not being able to stand up for fear of what might show on our clothes - or be left on the seat. Or the classic urban legend about getting picked up for a date and having to fart so bad you let one rip when the boy is walking around to the driver's side door (hence outside the car and unable to hear), only to discover you're going on a double date and the other couple is already sitting in the back seat.

Girls don't seem to get hung up about underwear at all any more at all. Bra straps are meant to be seen. Thong underwear peeks up purposefully from the waistband of jeans. Some girls talk and joke about bodily functions just like guys.

So here's my question - what are some of the greatest sources of embarrassment for girls now? And... guys, what - if anything - embarrasses you?

Friday, November 12

Good News Friday!

So excited everyone! After six long months of work in the studio, I can finally announce the release of The Karma Club Book Soundtrack!

It will be coming to all digital download sites on December 14, 2010!

So what is a book soundtrack you might ask? Well, it's exactly what it sounds like! A soundtrack for a book! The album will include 10 songs inspired by my novel, The Karma Club. Each song is inspired by and meant to be listened to while reading a different section of the book. A reading/listening guide will be available on my website soon but in the meantime, please enjoy these fun promos that we've produced to help spread the word and give you a sneak peek (er...listen) to a few of the songs.

As you'll notice from the promos, the soundtrack features brand new exclusive songs by Madisen Hill and Radio Disney star Savannah Outen. Both talented rising teen stars in the world of music.

So that's my good news for the week! I hope you enjoy the promos!

Thursday, November 11

Bad Boy or Misunderstood?

Okay, so when I wrote the adult romantic comedy Freudian Slip, it had the requisite bad boy in Jules/Julian Shaw. Except he really WAS a bad boy, complete with drug and sex addiction, and a mean streak. The novel is as much about redemption as it is about heaven and hell. I didn't set out to make Jules a nice guy hidden underneath a bad guy. I set out to write a very bad boy who had to fundamentally change.

But in most of our romantic comedies and TV shows, our bad boys aren't really all that BAD, are they? I'm MAJORLY dating myself, but who remembers the guy here, Mallory's boyfriend on Family Ties?

Nick, play by Scott Valentine, wore an earring (OOOOH, so bad, right?). He wore a leather jacket. He may even have had a motorcycle. Well, heck, add a switchblade and replace with actor Andy Garcia, and he's a dead ringer for my ex-husband (I kid you not!). But really? Nick wasn't bad. He was MISUNDERSTOOD.

All he needed was the love of a good woman to bring out that heart of gold, right?

Somehow, that's the romantic comedy model, the YA model, it's the stuff of our romantic fantasies. Bad, but not TOO bad, right?

So tell me, who is your favorite pop culture "misunderstood" bad boy? Favorite book bad boy?

Wednesday, November 10

Love and Facebook

This week's TFC topic is friends and boyfriends, and I have a question for everyone: WHAT is it like to be dating/have a crush on someone in the age of Facebook? Seriously, I can't fathom it. I met my husband in 2002, so we never really had to deal with the "in a relationship" status change or a social networking public breakup.

The other aspect of this is: Uh, stalking. It's an extreme word, but you know what I mean: Watching some other girl write on the guy you like's wall, tracking photos of a party you weren't invited to, just generally seeing angst roll by in the form of public posts all day long... I think I would have gone crazy as a teenager.

I'll admit it: I still look up people I used to have crushes on, just to see their photos and updates and make sure they're happy and--okay, yes--to check out the girls they DID end up with. Anyone else?

Love and Facebook, man. It's complicated.

Sunday, November 7

Friends with the Opposite Sex: The Ultimate Debate

So this week at the Teen Fiction Cafe, we're blogging about friends and boyfriends and I'll tell ya, I had the hardest time coming up with a topic for this. I racked my brain for hours! (Okay, maybe it was only a few minutes, but any writer will tell you: a few minutes with no inspiration can definitely feel like hours).

And so in the end, I decided, instead of waxing poetic and/or inspiring with some clever anecdote about my most influential friendship or the worst boyfriend I ever had (and trust me, I could go on for a while about that one), I decided I would pose a question instead. Primarily because I'm interested in what others have to say about this and also, to be perfectly honest, because I'm feeling just a little bit uninspired about the blogging thing right now.

So here's the question:

When in a relationship, can you or can you not be friends with someone of the opposite sex?

And let's take that a step further...can you or can you not be good friends with someone of the opposite sex? How about besties?

I'm in a committed relationship and have a few good friends who are guys. I wouldn't call them best friends, but I'd definitely call them close friends. And my hubby has assured me that he's fine with it. And likewise, he has a few friends that are female, one of which, is the girl who introduced us. And they've known each other for much longer than I've known either of them so I've always looked at is as, "If something was going to happen between them, it would have already."

But then again, I've been in relationships before where I couldn't stand the fact that my boyfriend had female friends, so perhaps it just depends on the relationship.

My uncle is a relationship therapist and I once posed this very question to him and he said, (quite adamantly, I might add) "No. It shouldn't be done. Once you enter a committed relationship, you must sever ties with all friends of the opposite sex." He did go on to clarify that he meant friends who are not friends of the couple. Friends who are only friends of one of the members of the couple.

This always felt a little extreme to me. I think there are circumstances where you can have perfectly platonic, harmless opposite-sex friends outside of your relationship, but what are those circumstances? Or what are they for you? As I trust everyone is different.

So, in the end, my one question actually turned into several. But would still love to hear what everyone else thinks about this relationship hot topic.

And just for fun (and for those too lazy to comment), here's a poll on the issue:

customer surveys

Thursday, November 4

Bullying *in* politics

I have to say that I'm in keep my head down, try to write mode. (Not for NaNoWriMo. No, I swear I have not started a new project for NaNo. And I definitely didn't get another new idea right on its heels and now I can't decide.... Okay so I did, but I am going back to my work in progress soon, I swear!) Because of this I have only been paying attention to two things in the news lately: the elections here in the United States and the continuing coverage of bullying, specifically of gay teens.

And these two things started to almost meld together in my mind. Why? Because of those awful commercials that Lauren posted about. I fast forward through since I never seem to watch TV live, but I also suck at fast forwarding so I seem to catch a few and I'm thoroughly convinced that the senator that won in my home state of Illinois, won largely because he was the biggest bully and that's not to say that the guy who lost didn't do his fair share of negative campaigning. According to the local news:

"More than a third of Illinois voters saw neither of the candidates as honest and trustworthy, according to preliminary exit polls. Fully half of the voters said each candidate attacked the other unfairly. Voters, tired of the negative campaigning, were generally doubtful that either candidate could pull Illinois out of its devastating financial mess."

I definitely fell into this group of voters. And I was sickened when the winning candidate used his acceptance speech as just another opportunity to knock his opponents rather than finally speaking to what he would actually do with the power he'd been handed.

Personally the headline I would have liked to see this week, even more than any particular candidate winning or proposition passing is:


Seriously, don't tell us what a screw-up the other guy is, tell us what you are going to do for us. And then instead of name-calling and bullying up on Capitol Hill, trying getting some actual work done for the people.

Sorry to vent, but as a writer, I really hate words being used out of context and politicians seem to be experts at misusing a word just because they know it will get a reaction.

When we hear nothing but inflammatory hate speech from the people who are supposed to be our leaders, are we truly that surprised when kids use it to push other kids over the brink?

Now, if you know me, you know I'm no censor. Making a law about what any can or can't say is not my cup of tea, but I just wish that the politicians would use a little common decency, that they would see that their negative campaigning only harms them. It makes voters doubt what they can do, probably because they haven't taken the time to tell us!

However, I'm sad to say that I think we have a better chance of legalizing marijuana than toning down hate speech in politics. But I love to daydream about how we could make a statement about it. Maybe next election, everyone should write in Sesame Street characters to show these politicians that we want leaders who know how to be kind and cooperate!

Who else has ideas about how to make this world a friendlier place?

Wednesday, November 3

Insane people against insanity!

Time to talk about the news! And I know what you’re thinking. I’m going to write about this. And, OK, the thought crossed my mind because that story is awesome. It has everything! But instead, I’m going to write about the Stewart-Colbert “Rally for Sanity” even though I'm a few days late for breaking reportage. Also it's not like I went or anything. But I have thoughts. So I shall blog them.

First of all I am a big fan of the shows and of the spirit of the whole thing, but a few things bother me about it. Such as (1) I like insanity. I don’t think you should rally against it. (2) More seriously, I think that the Comedy Central shows actually feed the cultural insanity they’re purporting to be against. Because they give lots of screentime to the weirdest politicians and blabber-mouth-iest newspeople. If you really wanted to be against that specific type of insanity, you should just ignore it. A lot of nuttiness would best be treated by just letting it go away, not by publicly mocking it. The mocked doesn’t really get or care that they’re being mocked -- they just like being on TV. The regular media does this too, but so does Comedy Central.

I imagine that that Jon Stewart liked the idea of a “million moderate march” because it would be pretty great to see level-headed people getting together and being like “we’re not extreme in any way!” It’s a fun idea. But the problem is that I don’t think Stewart is a moderate. I think he has a particular very strong point of view, and is in fact a little insane. Which I very much like. So really it wasn’t a “march of moderates united for sanity” it was a wacky collection of slightly wacky people having a good time and making fun of stuff and making each other feel better that they’re not alone in the world. Which is a lovely thing. So that’s my take on it. But really my favorite thing about it is the signs.

So many of them are precisely my own (slightly insane) sense of humor! And some of them even make a good point, such as the one here, which pretty much sums up my ideas on things.

Here’s a good link to lots and lots of signs. I only wish someone had one of these:

Tuesday, November 2

Last Trip for America's Oldest Space Shuttle

This week at the Cafe, we're discussing what's In The News. Maybe it's because I'm the daughter of a NASA aerospace engineer (or rocket scientist, as we like to call him), but I like to know what's going on in outer space. I love watching shuttle launches from Kennedy Space Center, and I'm happy to say there's going to be another one tomorrow!

The Discovery is America's oldest space shuttle, beginning its career in 1984. Since then, it's made 38 trips and flown over 142 million miles. The first female shuttle pilot, Eileen Collins, flew the Discovery in 1995, and back in 1988, the oldest astronaut, John Glen, went up in the Discovery at 77 years old.

On Wednesday, November 3 at 3:52 PM (weather permitting), the Discovery will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, its final trip into space before going into retirement. Its mission is to transport 6 American astronauts to the International Space Station (a project my dad has worked on) so they can attach a pressurized logistics module (just a fancy way of saying "storage area") and drop off Robonaut 2, a human-like robot that will become a permanent resident of the space station. This mission will mark the fourth and final one of 2010.

Have you ever watched a space shuttle launch? Have you ever visited space museums? Would you ever like to go into space someday?

Monday, November 1

In the News: Please Vote

Apologies to my Kiwi readers, Aussi readers, and readers in other non-U.S. countries for the following U.S.-centric post but hopefully everyone will still find something of value here.

In 1972, I had a favorite T-shirt. It was white with the word "VOTE" on it, spelled out in the stars and stripes of the American flag. At age 10, I figured myself to be pretty cool, a regular hippie in my pro stance on the importance of registering political choice.

Flash forward to 28 years later when, my one and only child being less than one year old at the time, I brought her into the voting booth with me to help me pull the lever in the presidential election. I so want my daughter to undertstand the importance of voting that in the years since, whenever possible, I've brought her with me. This has occasionally led to moments of embarrassment, like the year one mayoral candidate had so many signs up in town that my daughter would have been justified in thinking he was the only candidate for the job. Since his was the only candidate's name she knew that year, when I pulled the lever for the other guy, she shouted, "Mom, why didn't you vote for Candidate X???" I doubt there was a person in the polling place who didn't know how I'd voted that year as we pulled back the curtain and exited the booth. So much for the privacy of a person's vote. Oh, well. As I explained to my daughter, I did not vote for Candidate X because he did not embody the ideals I believe in.

My daughter is 10 now, the same age I was when I so proudly sported my VOTE T-shirt, and she's pretty politically savvy. She can't stand the attack ads on TV, nor can I. Attack ads have become so much the norm that when I heard an ad for New York's Chuck Schumer last week, talking simply about all the positive things he's done while in office, I wasn't sure what to do with that information.

If attack ads are the norm, then robocalls are the norm nuisance. Where I live in CT, one candidate for U.S. Senator has been phoning my home with automated calls on a regular basis. This is extremely annoying because this candidate is not a member of my party and even if you hang up the phone during the call, if you pick up the phone again the voice is still droning on until the message has been completed. I picture myself having to call an ambulance or the fire department and not being able to do so until Candidate Y's message is complete. Late last week, a real live person called me on behalf of Candidate Y while I was working. I made the mistake of picking up the phone, thinking it might be one of my husband's customers, only to have this real live representative of Candidate Y drone on so long, he might as well have been a robocall. At last, he finished his spiel and the following exchange transpired.

Him: So, can we count on your support next Tuesday?

Me: No, you cannot count on my support. I wish you Candidate Y people would stop calling because I would never, not if I lived another million years, vote for Candidate Y. Not. In. A. Million. Years.

Him: Oh. Well, this message has been paid for by Candidate Y.

Me: Well, clearly, Candidate Y is not spending her money wisely.

The truth, though, is that tomorrow's election has nothing to do with attack ads or robocalls. It has everything to do with choice. Someday the U.S. may have a viable third-party choice or even more. But while some states this year have third-party candidates that stand a chance, for the most part and for the purposes of this discussion, your choice will come down to one of two candidates. In the words of Bill Clinton, regarding tomorrow's election: "Is is not a referendum. It. Is. A. Choice. A choice between two different sets of ideas."

That's what you've got, America, a choice. Figure out who best represents your idea, and then make your choice and your vote count.

So how about you? Got any voting/political anecdotes to share?

Be well. Don't forget to write.