Friday, October 28

Good News Friday!

I absolutely love the month of October. Mainly because it's so beautiful weather- and scenery-wise, and also because Halloween is my favorite holiday. This October in particular has been even more wonderful than ever, and here's a quick summary of what all has been going on.

First, YA and MG author Sydney Salter (who wrote My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters, Swoon at Your Own Risk, and Jungle Crossing) and I have been chosen by one of the most inspirational teachers I've ever met, Cassie Cox, to instruct a writing course at an alternative high school in Ogden, Utah. The class is made up of about 20 students who are serious about writing, many even want to be professional writers someday. So every Tuesday for 12 weeks, one or both of us show up bright and early and demonstrate what it takes to write a novel, short story, poem, etc. Here is a newspaper article about it if you want to know more: CLICK HERE. Anyway, if you can't tell, I'm over the moon about this opportunity and it's truly one of the best things to happen to me since having become a published author.

Second, I've been editing an anthology for a fascinating group of professionals, the majority of whom are Asian American and living in California. The book, Pho for Life: A Melting Pot of Thoughts, comes out in December and even though it's been a lot of hard work on many different levels, the final product is going to be simply amazing. People are always asking me how I became involved in this particular project and it all goes back to the MySpace days, when Mai Bui, who's heading up the project, asked me to do some light editing for Thirteen Minutes magazine. We've kept in touch all this time and I was deeply honored to be asked to edit their first book. (Yes, there will be more to come.) Here's the web-site if you want to take a peek and/or get involved: CLICK HERE.

Third, October has been a great month for hanging out with some of my favorite authors, including our very own Linda Gerber! (Alas, I forgot to take a photo.) Linda was kind enough to squeeze me into her busy schedule and we had a tasty lunch at Thaifoon in Salt Lake City where she told me all about her upcoming (March 2012) middle grade Celebrity series and its fantabulous heroine, Cassidy. I also got to see Brandon Mull, who was signing Beyonders at a library in Ogden, UT. I brought an entire mommy-mobile full of fan-boys and as always, Brandon was Mr. Rock Star. I also got to hang out with the beauteous and talented Becca Fitzpatrick, author of the Hush Hush saga, whose Silence tour brought her through Utah. Though I was unable to go to their book launches, I was there in spirit to welcome book-babies How to Save a Life by TFC friend Sara Zarr and The Death Cure (book 3 in the Maze Runner series) by James Dashner. And even though the Pen Fatale Tour, starring TFC darlings Alyson Noel and Jessica Brody didn't come to Utah, I was also there in spirit and my mom was able to catch them at the Tattered Cover (one of my fave indie book stores) in Highlands Ranch, CO.

Has your October been as exciting and memorable as mine? Do tell! :)

Thursday, October 27

Road Trip Music

I'm off on a road trip this week doing book research, so music week here on TFC comes at a great time for me. Why? Because I cannot travel without tunes.

Things have been so crazy at home over the last few weeks that I rarely have time to eat much less enjoy my favorite songs. But driving an entire day to my destination? Oh, baby. Crank up that volume.

In the spirit of playlist happiness, here are 10 songs currently on my travel soundtrack this time. Some of these are book-related (for writing inspiration) and others are just because I like 'em. I'm happily eclectic when it comes to music. :-)

Gravity by Sara Barielles
Back to December by Taylor Swift
One Last Breath by Creed
Better Life by Keith Urban
Across the Universe by Rufas Wainwright
World by Five for Fighting
This Could Be Heaven by Seal
Duck and Run by 3 Doors Down
Every Day by Rascal Flatts
Ordinary Miracle by Sarah McLachlan

What's on your personal soundtrack this week?

Sunday, October 23

Favorite Bands

This week we're talking about our favorite bands. My taste in music is varied. I love musicals with a passion, I also love Adele, Maroon 5, Barbara Streisand, Adam Lambert, Pink.....

But when it comes to my absolutely all time, no one can touch them, favorite band it has to be Queen. I was lucky enough to see them live at Wembley in London many years ago..... and wow!! Nothing can beat hearing We Are The Champions live... and as for Bohemian Rhapsody... it was amazing.

I can't believe that if Freddie had lived he would be be 65...yikes!!!

So who is your absolutely all time favorite?

Tuesday, October 18


Hello TFC, my name is Amanda Ashby and yes, I have been missing in action for many, many months but now I'm back and I promise that I won't go wandering off again for so long! Of course I do have lots of lovely excuses but listening to my woes of moving countries and crowd surfing through bureaucratic red tape probably isn't anyone's idea of a fun time so instead I'll just give you all some Cyber Skittles and promise to do better!

So now that I've dusted off my long forgotten rota, I can see that the topic is about Lists. Which is totally fine for you A-type folk out there but what about people like me who can't even decide what their favorite chocolate bar is (though I've narrowed it down to three, which I think is jolly good going). But, because I'm feeling remorseful I'm going to give it a go and come up with a list. Let's call it:

Amanda's List of Small Crimes That Shouldn't Annoy Her But They Do*

(*please try not to judge me too harshly for what you are about to read)

1) When the checkout person at the supermarket who is meant to be scanning my magazines stops to read them.

Nooooooooooooooooooo. This should be illegal. It's wrong on so many levels. Oh, and I'm not talking when they just glance at the headlines and comment on someone's haircut, this is more a stop work and flick through it and START READING IT. And honestly, if this had only happened once then perhaps I would be more forgiving, but no, it happens All The Time so my payback is putting at the top of this list (see how they are now all quivering in fear)

2)Husbands who refuse to learn where light bulbs are kept (also applies to cutlery, towels, scissors and sticky tape) (also only applies to one husband in particular)

Actually, I have no words for this one. If you live in a house and are over the age of five you can learn where things are kept. It's that simple.

3) Anyone who says 'can I ask you a question?'

Actually, if I wasn't feeling so grumpy about the magazine business, this one would be at the top of the list because it drives me nuts. Why waste a question with another question? It's wrong (plus stupid because I will naturally always answer 'no'). TV and movies use this lame piece of dialogue all the time and if anyone who is reading this has also used it, then 'I'm sorry, I love you, but please, for my sanity consider deleting it next time it appears on the screen!'

4) People who try and phone me when one of my favorite TV shows are on.

Anyone who knows me knows that I will not answer the phone when I'm watching a show so therefore it stands to reason that if you are ringing me, then you don't know me so I'm perfectly entitled to let the machine pick it up. The only exception to this rule is when Sara Hantz texts me so that we can pass judgement on Australian X-Factor. I'm down with that!

5) Bananas

Just because I really hate them and tend to blame them for pretty much everything that goes wrong in the world. Not only are they a displeasing color and shape but that squishy noise they make when people are eating them is just a world of no.

Of course being an indecisive person, this list will change by tomorrow (or even in ten minutes) but for now they are definitely the main offenders!

So what about everyone else, what is a small crime that annoys you, even though it shouldn't!!!!

Monday, October 17

A Japanese Ghost Story

The topic choices this week included something "seasonal", so in honor of Halloween, I'm going to share with you a ghost story I heard while living in Japan.

My family and I lived near the American School in a city called Tama. One of the things Tama was known for was its beautiful cemetery - the Tama Bochi, located just a few blocks from my house. (Bochi means cemetery.) It was such a prominent landmark that it became a point of reference for the HS kids. They called the train from Tokyo to Tama the Bochi Bullet, and the students who lived in the area called themselves the Bochi Crew. (My son and his friends made t-shirts with "Bochi Crew" written in kanji. One day an old lady saw my son wearing his t-shirt and gave him an earful because she felt he was up to something evil, referencing the resting place for the dead. His friends got a good laugh out of his dressing down.) But one strange event that happened at the bochi was no laughing matter.

Late one night, a taxi driver stopped just outside the Tama Bochi when a teenage girl flagged him down. He pressed the button to open the automatic door for her, watching in his rear view mirror as she climbed into the car. In a quiet voice, she gave him an address and then settled back against the seat.

He drove to the address - an apartment building on the other side of town - but when he stopped, she didn't move to get out of the cab. Instead, she simply asked him to wait. For ten minutes, she sat in silence, staring sadly at the window of one of the upper-floor apartments. Finally, she gave the driver another address and asked him to continue on.

The driver stole glances at his young passenger through the mirror as he drove, feeling the weight of her sorrow settling like a rock on his chest. When they reached the address she had given him, the driver stopped and turned to say something comforting to her, but when he looked to the back seat, it was empty. Suddenly, the back passenger-side door opened and then closed on its own. Terrified, the driver scrambled out of his taxi.

Just then, a man walked out of the house and calmly approached him. He handed the driver the exact fare that showed on the meter and turned back toward the house without a word.

The driver called after him and asked him how he knew how much to pay.

The man explained that the year before, his daughter been riding on the back of her boyfriend's scooter when they were hit by a car. His daughter had been killed and was buried in the Tama Bochi. Sometimes she would wake up confused and lonely, the man said. Each time, she would take a taxi to her boyfriend's apartment, but when he never came out to see her, she would ask the driver to take her home.

Do you have a favorite spooky story? Please share!

Wednesday, October 12

Memory Lane

Okay, for my trip down memory lane, I thought I would blog about HAIR.

Because there are few things more representative of the teen years that the battles you fight with you hair. And few things chronicle a woman's life better than her hair.

I happened to grow up in the era of BIG 80s hair. Snooki has NOTHING on me. NOTHING. You think I'm kidding? Check out the photographic evidence.

BIG. BIG. GIANT. HAIR. And the BATTLES to get it that way. Hot rollers. Curling irons. Perms.

Then . . . I turned 20 and my first white hair appeared. Premature gray runs in my family on my mom's side--but they're all blonde. In my (natural) hair color of dark brown/black (photo above was a dye job) . . . it showed up. So I had NEW battles to fight. Dying it every four weeks. For YEARS. As long as I was dying it, I tried red, black, striped, highlighted. It was only hair, right?

I also stopped trying for the big hair thing (thank God, right?). Only this weird thing happened and it got more unruly the older I got.

Eventually . . . I reached some sense of peace. With myself. And my hair. Then this summer I spent a long stretch in the hospital. And if ever there was a time to let the "real" me come out, it was then. I wasn't able to get to the salon anyway. So I decided to see what was under all that dye. And it turns out, it's ALL white. So this is the new me.

And this me is ME. My real color (who knew after all this time???).

Ahh, but my hair? Thanks for the memories.

So how about you? Is you hair some sort of timeline of your life?

Tuesday, October 11

Favorite Haunts in Austin

I just hit Texas for the Austin Teen Book Festival (which is AMAZING AND YOU MUST GO!), and though it was only my second time in that kickass town, I felt like I was seeing an old friend! Plus, I finally got to meet fellow TFC'ers Jessica Brody and Alyson Noel in person! YES.

My 2009 release, Lovestruck Summer, is set in Austin, and the characters hit a few of my favorite haunts, including...
Ironworks BBQ!
Shady Grove
Anywhere you can see the bats fly at night!

And my new favorite Austin haunt? The Friday Night Lights field! OMG, I adored that show so much. Here's me in between fellow fangirl Jenny Han and future fangirl Coe Booth. Future fanboy John Corey Whaley drove us out here. EPIC!

Don't you love it when a city has a lot of favorite haunts? 

Thursday, October 6

What I'm (still) listening to

Since everyone else has been talking about what they are reading this week, I thought I'd vary things up and talk about what I'm listening to. It's nothing new. In fact I've been listening to it for 20 years. Well, not like 20 years straight or anything, but it's definitely the music I go back to more than anything else. That would be this band:

I've been on an especially big Nirvana kick since mid-September when everyone was talking about the 20th anniversary of this album:

I totally got in on the act here if you want to read about how that album and Nirvana in general influenced my life.

I just got back from doing a Smart Chicks Kick It event in my favorite city on earth, Seattle, and since Nirvana is so heavily associated with Seattle (though none of them actually lived in Seattle until after Nevermind broke. They are originally from Aberdeen, Washington), my Nirvana streak continued, especially since I went to this super cool exhibit at the EMP (Experience Music Project) that is all about Nirvana's career.

(That's a giant blown up photo of Kurt crowd-surfing with a quote from Krist Novoselic that says "Music is an art form that thrives on reinvention." You can click to make it bigger.)

It was actually my second time to the exhibit because I'm that obsessed. (Also because I was traveling with Jeri Smith-Ready who is a fellow Nirvana geek and I had to make sure she saw the exhibit.) They have all these great video interviews with people in the Seattle music scene in the early 90s plus Nirvana memorabilia like this little display that includes the shirt Kurt wore and guitar he played in the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video as well as the MTV VMA award they won for the video:

As a result the Nirvana kick continues, but admittedly on this particular kick even though everyone else has been on about Nevermind a lot lately, I've been listening to their live albums. They put on a hell of a live performance, which sadly, I never got to see, but since I'm such a fangirl, I actually have just about every show of theirs that was ever bootlegged. My favorite right now is an official release though, their 1992 Reading Festival show. I'm also waiting to get my hands on the 1991 Halloween show at the Paramount in Seattle that was just released on DVD (but right now you can only get it at Best Buy and I'm an avid supporter of indies so I am waiting patiently til my local record store can sell it). They showed bits of it on VH1 a couple weeks ago and streamed the whole show on VEVO, but in case you missed it, here's a song that is still up on YouTube:

I also recommend checking out the Live, Tonight, Sold Out DVD which not only showcases some stellar live performances, but also the band's sense of humor, because yes, even though they are rarely portrayed that way, they definitely had one.

What about you? What band do you consistently return to? Or whose live performances do you love as much as their albums?

Wednesday, October 5

What I'm (Not) Reading

Pictured above: William Faulkner,
judging me harshly.
I've been on a really big reading kick lately! This might not sound like a surprise, because I'm an author and a librarian and a general book nerd. But sometimes I get in reading slumps. Not sure if it's just a mood or a series of less-than-inspiring books, but I do sometimes go through periods where I can't get into anything, book-wise. But lately I've been on a tear! In the past few weeks I read some actual grown-up novels (That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo & Jennifer Egan's 'A Visit From the Goon Squad') and some books for younger readers, including two great reads by friends of mine ('The Only Ones' by Aaron Starmer & Steve Brezenoff's 'Brooklyn, Burning'). These books were all great! All very different and all pretty amazing.

And now I'm on a reading roll. So I'm feeling inspired to tackle one of the American classics -- a great work of American literature I've always meant to read, and maybe started, but never actually finished (hence the title of this post). Soooo, even though it's kind of embarrassing to admit I've never read all these, please weigh in to comment and vote which classic I should tackle. Then I PROMISE to finish it. I'll blog about whether or not it stinks. If it does, I hold you highly accountable. Just kidding.

I decided to use this list -- and pick the ones that  (1) I have heard of/have always meant to read (2) haven't read and (3) are by American authors. I'm not sure why I limited it to American novels. OK I do know why and it's because I don't want to have to read a nine thousand page Russian novel or one of those fussy British books about dukes and ladies who wear hats or whatever. Those hat-ladies will kill my reading groove! Haha. Just kidding. Not really. Anyway please vote by commenting for your favorite/whichever you think is the greatest, and NOT which one you think I'll hate the most just because you want to see me suffer/ are a sadist ;)

    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

    The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

    As I lay Dying by William Faulkner (I don't think I've ever read any Faulkner except for maybe some short stories?)

    Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

    Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

I'm excited! Pick me a winner, friends!

Tuesday, October 4

What I'm Reading

I just barely finished reading Erin Vincent's memoir, Grief Girl. When Erin was fourteen, both of her parents were killed in a car crash. Her mom, instantly. Her father died a little later in the hospital, due to a blood clot. Now, left with her sister (17), brother (3), and a band of relatives with suspicious motives, Erin must figure out how to pick up the pieces and remember how to live her own life. So far, I'm really liking Erin's raw, emotional story. She somehow manages to mix a sense of humor in with moments of deep despair. A gripping, sincere read.

Since Halloween is around the corner, I'm also reading Tales from H.E.L. and Beyond, a collection of spooky short stories penned by a group of writers with ties to Huntsville, Eden, and Liberty, Utah (collectively known as Ogden Valley). I like to read it right before bed, to freak myself out.

Next up? The Limit by Kristen Landon, which comes highly recommended by my 11 year-old son. Kristen was kind enough to sign it for him so I had to promise not to get anything on it. Below is the trailer. Sounds awesome, doesn't it!?

Now, it your turn to share what you're reading!

Monday, October 3

What I'm Reading Lately

Last week I was in Vancouver, BC, doing events for the amazing Kidsbooks for the release of The Sisters 8 Book 8: Zinnia's Zaniness. We sold nearly 600 books which was pretty happy-making for me. In between events, I got to catch up on Canadian TV - does the U.S. have anything like "Canada's Worst Driver"??? - and I also got a chance to catch up on my reading. The following are three books that I particularly loved, all adult novels but I think each has something to offer lovers of YA too:

DAUGHTERS OF THE REVOLUTION by Carolyn Cooke. It’s 1968. The prestigious but cash-strapped Goode School in the town of Cape Wilde is run by its aging, philandering headmaster, Goddard Byrd, known to both his friends and his enemies as God. With Cape Wilde engulfed by the social and political storms of integration, coeducation and the sexual revolution, God has confidently promised coeducation “over my dead body.” And then, through a clerical error, the Goode School admits its first female student: Carole Faust, a brilliant, intractable fifteen-year-old black girl.

Jumping around in time, this is more a novel of interconnected stories than a conventional novel and it is very, very good. It's often moving but at least on one occasion it's laugh-out-loud funny. That's when a woman in her early 20s, after having had an alcohol-related fall that lands her in the ER, upon exiting the hospital, suggests to the male neighbor who took her there, "We could go somewhere and have a drink," to which he replies, "Are you out of your nmind?"

THE END OF EVERYTHING by Megan Abbott. Thirteen-year old Lizzie Hood and her next door neighbor Evie Verver are inseparable. They are best friends who swap bathing suits and field-hockey sticks, and share everything that's happened to them. Together they live in the shadow of Evie's glamorous older sister Dusty, who provides a window on the exotic, intoxicating possibilities of their own teenage horizons. To Lizzie, the Verver household, presided over by Evie's big-hearted father, is the world's most perfect place. And then, one afternoon, Evie disappears. The only clue: a maroon sedan Lizzie spotted driving past the two girls earlier in the day. As a rabid, giddy panic spreads through the Midwestern suburban community, everyone looks to Lizzie for answers. Was Evie unhappy, troubled, upset? Had she mentioned being followed? Would she have gotten into the car of a stranger?

Considering that this is a literary novel and not a mystery, it certainly reads with the page-turning quality of the latter.

WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT by Sarah Winman. This is a book about a brother and a sister. It's a book about secrets and starting over, friendship and family, triumph and tragedy, and everything in between. More than anything, it's a book about love in all its forms.
In a remarkably honest and confident voice, Sarah Winman has written the story of a memorable young heroine, Elly, and her loss of innocence-a magical portrait of growing up and the pull and power of family ties. From Essex and Cornwall to the streets of New York, from 1968 to the events of 9/11, When God Was a Rabbit follows the evolving bond of love and secrets between Elly and her brother Joe, and her increasing concern for an unusual best friend, Jenny Penny, who has secrets of her own. With its wit and humor, engaging characters whose eccentricities are adroitly and sometimes darkly drawn, and its themes of memory and identity, When God Was a Rabbit is a love letter to true friendship and fraternal love.

Highly unusual and emotionally satisfying plus the school Nativity play is hands down one of the best school Nativity play scenes in fiction.

And that's it!

So how about you? What truly great books have you read lately?

Oh, and don't forget to get the latest Sisters 8 book and all The Sisters 8 books. If you love my writing, give them to a young person you love. And if you hate my writing? Then give them to a young person you intensely dislike!

Be well. Don't forget to write.