Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friends in Low Places

Ever feel like the world around you has gotten too big, too scary, and too much to handle? Yeah, me too. I've been feeling a little low.

The reality is, life is not our enemy, and the world will usually be on our side if we are responsible occupants of it. But let's get real... how many days do we feel that way?

Lately I'll admit... I've been kinda freaked out. May is always a busy month. And pollen, along with the air pressure, and sudden muggy atmosphere, well... they kick my butt. I can't breath, I'm overworked, and even though things are going well for me lately, I've been a little too stressed out to enjoy it.

So, what with my guy being AWOL, I had lunch with some friends. And last week I got this really great package from my Diva-Sister Dana. And my bff Maria came by with strawberry cream coffee cake. And my friend Petie called me on my birfday and we had coffee, too. And...

Know what? The world isn't so scary after all.

Yeahhh... on second thought, it's cool. I have great friends. Family-- you love those people, often in spite of who they are. Associates and co-workers-- you care about them and deal with them daily. But that's not what a friend is.

I've been really lucky to keep most of my friends over the years. Petie-- met him on the first day of nursery school. Humpty Dumpty nursery school, in fact, which my mom yanked me out of when the teacher forced my head down on the desk during "nap time" because she saw my eyes were open and I was listening intently to her gossip session. (The length of certain mommy's skirts was being discussed.) Maria was the PA of one of my oldest friends and has become a sister. Dana is a Diva-- if you don't know about them... well, those are several thousand of my closest friends. We don't live close to one another, but distance somehow hasn't had any dominion over the affection.

So when it all gets too much, how do you cope? Who can you count on? Who makes the world less scary for you?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Interview With Imogen Howson!

With ebooks becoming more and more popular, I thought it would be fun to chat with my friend and fellow author, Imogen Howson, author of one of my favorite YA stories, Falling.

Immi, thanks for visiting The Fictionistas! Give us your standard bio—and then add some little nugget that you don't usually tell people:

Standard Bio:
As a child, I loved reading so much that I not only read in bed, at the table and in the bath, but in the shower and - not so successfully - on my bicycle.
I enjoyed books in a slightly unorthodox way, too - many of my childhood books have ragged edges where I tore paper from the margins in order to eat it.
I wrote my first book at eight. It was entitled The Dragon in the Teapot and would probably have been a huge hit if I hadn't lost the only copy on a family day out.
Some years later, I'm pursuing a career as a writer with more success. I write stories for young adults and adults - in the genres of fantasy, science fiction and romance, for preference. And I always make copies of my work.
I live with my partner and our two children, near Sherwood Forest in England. I still read in most places, but I no longer eat paper.

Some little nugget…hm. Well, generally people don’t know how cross I am! It’s not their fault they don’t know this, because I’m hampered by such extreme politeness it’s pretty much a social disability. But underneath the non-committal smile and the slightly detached stare-into-the-middle-distance expression, I’m often seething with rage and offendedness—about injustice and racism and classism and sexism and rudeness and people who don’t try to put themselves in other people’s shoes and people who repeat every little incorrect stereotypical soundbite as if it’s a proven fact they’ve personally researched themselves…
Um, yeah. Deep breaths. Let’s talk about something fun now!

Ha-ha....look, I got her all worked up. Now tell us about your Young Adult novella, Falling, and how people can buy it.

Falling is a futuristic version of Rapunzel. In it, my heroine, Linnet, is trapped, not by the wicked witch of the fairy tale, but by the social expectations of the world she lives in. I had a good time writing this, translating the fairy tale elements into science fiction ones. I’m particularly fond of my twist on Rapunzel’s hair! The book is available for download at Drollerie Press – – for $1.99, as well as my short fantasy story, Frayed Tapestry, and my upcoming dark fantasy romance, Fire and Shadow.

I read Falling and fell so in love with the richness of your worldbuilding and the fact that this isn't your Grandma's Rapunzel. What draws you to rethinking fairy tales? I was fascinated by the social commentary, also. Do you layer that in after, or was that the goal from the beginning?

Well, first, thank you for the compliments!
I love rethinking fairy tales partly because some of them are just so weird. They leave all kinds of unanswered questions. What was wrong with Rapunzel’s father, that he could so easily give her away? Why did the witch want her to stay in the tower her whole life? It’s a fun challenge to think of convincing reasons for some of the things that, in the fairy tale, ‘just are’. I had to do that in my most recent story, The Path, a version of Red Riding Hood, because it suddenly crossed my mind that it makes no sense for the wolf not to attack Red Riding Hood when she’s on her way to her grandmother’s—why does he have to wait until she gets there? And why would a normal mother send her daughter into such danger just to visit her grandmother?
The social commentary just kind of creeps in while I’m writing—probably from all that repressed anger I mentioned earlier! It’s certainly never a goal from the beginning—I don’t think I’m skilled enough to do that without it being clunky or tedious. And, you know, fiction’s primary purpose is to entertain—there’s something a little icky about deliberately setting out to convey a ‘message’ instead.
But once the social commentary makes its way in, I’m very happy to let it stay. I like layers.

What draws you to Epublishing? Are you content to stay there, or are you still looking to go to print?

Epublishing is great for my shorter works—the print market for short stories and novellas is pretty limited. Also, it’s fabulous to write a short story and have it released as an individual book, with its own cover art and everything.
I also like that my stories are instantly available to anyone, anywhere in the world.
And I love my publisher, Drollerie Press. They specialise in what is one of my favourite niches—fairy tales and myths, woven into shiny new stories.
However, while epublishing continues to be my chosen medium for my short stories, I’m aiming at the bigger print houses for my longer works. Too many people simply won’t read ebooks—I want to reach those readers, too!
Also, the ebook format means that the books generally aren’t available in libraries, and never in second-hand bookshops. So I have some ethical issues with my books only being available to the relatively well-off (those with computers and internet access).

What advice do you have for young writers?

Oh, I’m going to be boring here. Read. Read lots. And don’t worry if your writing temporarily takes on the style of whoever you’re reading—that’s part of learning. Your brain soaks up techniques and styles, just as it soaked up words when you were learning to talk, and they’ll end up combining into something that’s uniquely yours.
Also, take all advice with a large pinch of salt. I don’t mean ignore it—writers always have to be able to hear ‘this doesn’t work’. But there’s lots of advice floating around, and not all of it is going to apply to you and your work. Get second opinions, work things out for yourself, and remember that the best writing lessons for you are in your favourite books.

And finally, if you were stranded on a deserted island and your ipod had only three songs on it...which three do you hope were on there?

Well, seeing as I’m on an island and no one is going to be aurally distressed by my singing along to songs I can’t really quite manage, I’d go for West Side Story’s ‘Tonight’, Eminem’s "Lose Yourself’, and Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody". And by the time I came off the island I would know absolutely all the lyrics.

Immi is also giving away a copy of Falling or Fire and Shadow (reader's choice) to one lucky commentor before Saturday at 11:59. Winner announced Sunday!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer Vacation!

For lots of teens, it's already summer vacation, or it will be any day now. If I was still in high school, it wouldn't be summer vacation for me just yet...we always went until mid-to-late June. But I know my cousins in South Carolina are on break now.

Anyway, that's what sucks about growing up. No more endless weeks of summer. I only realize it's almost summer now because it's warmer in the morning while I walk to work, and the neighborhood pools have opened. But do I get a summer vacation?

No, not really. :(

OK, I really shouldn't complain. Last year at this time, I was hiking in the rainforest near Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, and two years ago today, I was taking a tour of a native village that had a lot of totem poles in Ketchikan, Alaska. And I also went to England and France last August.

So yeah, I do get vacations. Usually. Not this year, though. My big vacation of the summer will be the RWA National Conference in San Francisco. Which will be awesome. Don't get me wrong.

But it's not Costa Rica.

Anyway, what are your summer vacation plans?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Things that annoy me

I thought it would be fun (haha) to post a list of things that annoy the crap out of me, and then you guys could add your own annoyances so we can have one ginormo list. Why not? It's Wednesday, and I'm avoiding work. LOL

--False fire alarms at work (we just had this happen, and it's screechingly annoying--thanks for the headache, maintenance guy!).

--People who do things in the office that are better left in private (e.g., clipping nails, farting, talking on the phone about their persistent body plagues, and so on).

--Jeans that are tight and cut uber low, so your body fat is smooshed out the sides (muffin top).

--People who wear NO underwear beneath said tight and uber low jeans, so I end up seeing a massive slice of crack EVERY TIME YOU BEND OVER. Trust me--your buttcrack is not hot. No, really--TRUST ME on this.

--Sun glare while you're driving (especially if the stupid visor doesn't help).

--Perpetual roadwork.

--People who have mullets but don't know they have a mullet. Dude, everyone in the free world should know what a mullet is by now.

--Flip flops that chafe between your toes.

--Ear buds that fall out of your ears every .2 seconds when you're trying to listen to music.

--People who hate using turn signals while driving. Dude, what did the turn signal ever do to you to deserve such negligence? LOL

--Companies that use misspelled names just to be Kitchy Kute.

There are about a million other things I could add to the list, but I'd rather hear what annoys everyone else. So come dish it up--let's be crabby together! haha.

(Okay, I'm not really crabby, I swear. But sometimes, whining can be therapeutic. Don't judge me! haha)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Confessions of a TV Junkie

I'm a TV junkie. There, I said it. I love reality shows like a fat kid loves cake. (And I also love cake.) I like "interesting" shows, too - anything a little different and I'll at least watch it once. Which means my DVR gets more action than the restroom at an all you can eat Mexican buffet. So imagine my utter disappointment and saddness to learn that some of my favorites have been axed!

Moonlight - Hot vampire detective - what's not to love?

Back To You - Great writing, funny lines. Not to mention Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton.

Bionic Woman - Um, hello, she's bionic!!!

Journeyman - The guy randomly time travels to help others but he can't get one more season?

There are more, but I don't want to bore you. Basically, if I like it, it will probably get canceled. And as you can see, I have a special place in my heart for the paranormal or unusual. Why don't those shows do better? Have any of your favs gotten cut?

Monday, May 26, 2008

growing pains

One of my favorite things to see as an adult and a parent, is the awkward-in-between stages teens go through while growing.

Ironically, that was one of the most painful things to deal with while a teen. Or in my case, a preteen.

In 5th grade, I was 5'4. I was by far, the tallest person in my class. I played basketball (of course) and since the coaches all thought I was going to be huge, I was trained as a center.

Which was a shame, because at 39 years old, I am now 5'6. That's right, I've only grown 2 more inches since I was 11 years old. Sigh.

It was hard being 11 years old and being so tall. Gawky. Awkward.

But it's been a hoot watching all the kids go through that with different eyes.

Long legs. Gawky walk. Girls with no hips yet. Girls who hunch over trying to hide their height. Boys who haven't quite figured out how to manage their big ol' feet yet.

I know, it's a terrible thing to experience, but I promise, if you survive your own growth spurt--you'll live to really enjoy watching others suffer through theirs.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Death by Gravy Fries

When I die I don't want to go by injection, natural causes, or some blaze of glory that will, no doubt, seem like a great idea seconds before my final words, which would probably be unprintable anyway. Nope. I want a very specific end. No rockets red glare, no poignant bedside confessions, no tragic self sacrifice. I want death by gravy fries.

Dude... have you ever had them?

My dad is a southern gentleman. I was really lucky to come from a diverse family. Even though I grew up lace curtain Irish way up nawth in Bawstin (actually 36 miles south, but everything in New England is considered greater-Bawstin), my father's family was always dear to me. We didn't see them often, but when we did it was a long weekend or 5 days of glorious southern hospitality and great southern cooking. My aunts and Granny had just as much to do with my cooking skills and tastes as my Irish mother, aunts, and grandmother. So I make great scones, soda bread, and boiled dinners. But my chicken and dumplings kick butt, too. And when I have a craving, it's just as likely to be a slab of country ham on a buttermilk biscuit as it is to be colcannon with extra butter.

Gravy fries are a decadent desire instilled in me by southern diners. They come in varieties: you can get them with white sawmill gravy, dark left-over-pot-roast gravy (more often in Maine or rural Massachusetts, I think), or with red-eye gravy. You can get them slightly soft or crispy. But once you get them, you're hooked.

Your arteries will not be thanking you. But your taste-buds will throw a party in your honor. There's something absolutely glorious here... salty, rich gravy combined with crispy (or even slightly soggy) potato slices. My favorite? The Halfway Cafe in Marshfield. They just moved to town, but I had already acquired my addiction in their Dedham and Canton stores thanks to my friend Maria, and her husband, Mac, who is another southern gentleman. They serve them crispy, still in skin, with dark pot-roast style gravy. I can eat them by the bucket.

In fact, this week I was a little under the weather and the one thing I managed to eat was a big order of gravy fries. Probably should have made me sick, but it put me to sleep with a gentle smile on my face. Probably a little gravy smudge, too, but I don't even care... so help me.

So what's your favorite indulgence? What can stop you dead in your tracks with one wiff of savory essence from the kitchen? Do tell!

Friday, May 23, 2008

He's a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock-n-roll

It's Friday I'm in Love....with the fact that my favorite hair band from the 80's has a new album. And a new song on the radio. Featuring one of my husband's favorite country singers. My daughter thought it was way cool that now we could both be happy with a song...cuz he's a little bit country and I'm a little bit rock-n-roll.

For those of you who can't or don't want to remember...Donny and Marie Osmond had a show in the 70's in which there was a lot of this:

In particular they had a segment, a very popular segment, in which Marie would sing, "I'm a little bit country" and Donny would sing, "I'm a little bit rock-n-roll". And words....even for a writer, can't come close to this:

And if you skipped any of Donny and his number, you will never forgive yourself and neither will I.

And if you made it this far. I guess I should get to the point. Def Leppard and Tim McGraw have a great new song out. Here is the video and have a nice Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Crystal Skulls and The End of the World

May 22, 2008...the date is finally here. After a 19-year hiatus, the man who singlehandedly made history sexy is back!

I've had the majestic John Williams theme music playing in my head all week, ever since OD'ing on Indy movies this past weekend, as well as watching multiple History Channel and SciFi Channel documentaries on the historical accuracy of the films.

This latest installment in the saga is set in 1957 (only fair, since when we left off, it was 1938, so they wanted to show actual passage of time). It pits an older and wiser Dr. Jones against Soviet agents on a quest from Area 51 to Peru to find a crystal skull.

A what?

Fortunately I watched the SciFi Channel's "Mystery of the Crystal Skulls" the other night. "Crystal skulls" are human skull models carved from blocks of clear or milky quartz crystal, claimed to be pre-Columbian Mesoamerican artifacts by their alleged finders, although mainstream scientific opinion is that they are instead of 19th century European origin. None of the specimens made available for scientific study have been authenticated as pre-Columbian.

The skulls are claimed to exhibit paranormal phenomena, and many believe that the crystal skulls were sent by an ancient alien culture and contain great knowledge locked within. Some believe that the Mayan people prophecied that the world would come to an end on December 21, 2012, and that only bringing together the 13 original ancient crystal skulls will save us. (Of course, others believe that bringing the skulls together will actually bring about the end of the world. So who really knows?)

The SciFi Channel special mostly focused on perhaps the most famous of the crystal skulls, the "Mitchell-Hedges Skull", which was supposedly discovered by 17-year-old Anna Mitchell-Hedges in 1924 while she was hiking through the ruins of a Mayan temple in British Honduras (today Belize). Until her death at the age of 101 last year, Mitchell-Hedges herself was a proponent of the theory that the skulls are artifacts of the lost city of Atlantis, and that it was incumbent upon explorers to find the rest of the skulls so that we could avoid the end of the world.

Which got me thinking about prophecies of the end of the world. Throughout history, various figures have made predictions, perhaps the most well-known being Nostrodamus. I remember a time back in high school (I think it must have been Fall 1992 because of the girls who were on the squad with me, so I Googled it and I think the date had to be October 28, 1992), when all anyone could talk about was how the world was supposed to end that day. Of course, none of us really believed it, but it made for some interesting conversation and something else to do rather than conjugate French irregular verbs or find the hypoteneuse of a triangle.

Anyway, my friends and I on the cheerleading squad decided that if the world was really supposed to end at eight minutes past 3 that afternoon, why should we bother practicing, if we were all going to die anyway? So instead, we brought a boom box outside (no iPods back in the day!), spread out a picnic blanket, and decided to ogle football players. We decided that when the sun really did explode like predicted, the guys would probably last longer than the rest of us, because of all the padding and gear.

OK, I honestly don't remember how we knew all these details, but apparently the sun was supposed to explode at 3:00, but it would take about 8 minutes for the effects to reach us. So even though none of us really believed that crap, I have to admit, we all got a little antsy. OK, fine, VERY antsy, especially when REM's "The End of the World" came on the radio at exactly 3:08 (yeah, those DJs had a sick sense of humor) and we heard a weird unexplained BOOM! off in the distance.

When 3:15 finally came around and we were still there, we finally let out sighs of gratitude. But since practice was half over anyway, we decided to call it a day. We were pretty tired out by trying to stay alive.

So yeah, the world didn't end on October 28, 1992. But what about the Mayan prophecy? Do we really need to find the crystal skulls to let them unleash their power? It's a good thing Indiana Jones is on the case.

And really, who doesn't love Harrison Ford?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Review of Stephenie Meyer's THE HOST

Hello, peeps! Today, I'm blogging a review of an ARC I received -- Stephenie Meyer's THE HOST (Little, Brown, May 2008).

THE HOST is Stephenie Meyer's first foray into the adult world, a futuristic novel set on Earth after a massive alien invasion. These aliens take over the bodies of humans (called "hosts"), but leave their minds intact.

Wanderer is the alien who has been implanted in Melanie Stryder's body. And while this alien is thrilled to experience earth for the first time (she's been to several other planets, such as the See Weeds), it's with great dismay and shock that she realizes Melanie hasn't evacuated the body--she's still in there, and she's not willing to leave.

Overwhelmed by Melanie's memories and her desperation to find her still-human family, who are hidden somewhere out in the desert, Wanderer finds herself also longing for these people--especially Jared, the love of Melanie's life. Together, they form an uneasy alliance and flee threatening outside forces, heading into the deadly desert to find these people.

The back cover of the ARC describes this story as "what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies." Both Melanie and Wanderer (nicknamed Wanda) are in love with the same man, causing tension and conflict between them as they war for control over both Melanie's body and Jared's love and attention.

I found the first part of this very large book slow to start (the novel weighs in at almost 650 pages). Ms. Meyer takes her time setting up the characters' feelings, histories, and stories. She lets the tale unfold at a leisurely pace, showing Wanderer's acclimation to Melanie's body, her realization that Melanie is still in there and is unwilling to let go, and Wanderer's eventual decision to pursue Melanie's family.

Eventually, though, THE HOST picks up and captures your attention--there aren't a lot of plot elements in here, and there are relatively few scenes/locales, but the characters' emotions are gripping and compelling to read as they interact with each other. Ms. Meyer has a talent for writing strong, gritty, fascinating characters who etch themselves into your mind, and I found myself turning page after page, unable to put the book down.

Because Ms. Meyer laid the groundwork so thoroughly by digging deeply into her characters, showing their pasts and how they evolve over the course of the story, you feel every emotion across the spectrum--severe hatred, selfless love, intense fear. Both Wanda's and Melanie's enraptured love of Jared illuminates their struggles and conflicts as they learn to care about each other, and I couldn't flip the pages fast enough to find out what would happen. The climax was unbelievably gut-wrenching for me to read (yes, I actually cried while reading it, it had sucked me in that deeply).

Even though the last part of the novel felt a little anti-climactic in comparison to such a climax, I'd still highly recommend THE HOST. A warning, though, to those expecting another story like the TWILIGHT series: this is a very different kind of tale. But if you accept it at face value for what it is instead of trying to compare it to her young adult material, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. For me, it was definitely worth the time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Do You Have A Need For Speed?

I'm off to the Universal Studio theme parks today as part of my birthday celebration. Fun will be had. Fattening, delicious food will be eaten. But most importantly, roller coasters will be riden. Repeatedly.

I am a thrill junkie when it comes to coasters. I have no desire to jump off a bridge attached to a giant rubber band or pitch myself out of a perfectly good airplane based on the assumption that a large sheet of nylon will keep me afloat, but lead me to a coaster and I will ride.

According to some research I did online, people who enjoy roller coasters are thrill seekers - people whose lives are structured, stressed or somehow controlled. The coaster experience allows them to "scream it all out." There may even be a gene that contributes to the thrill seeking drive in some of us. In my case, it came from dad. I can remember being the only one who would ride coasters with him when I was younger. He'd hold my glasses firmly in one hand and the safety bar with the other. Ah...those were the days.

So. Are you a thrill seeker or do you prefer to play it safe? (And is there any correlation between being a thrill seeker and the kind of books we like to read? I'd love to know.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

judging a book by its cover.

I hate to admit this, but I totally judge a book by its cover.

It's wrong and I'm ashamed. But I have high hopes that admitting the problem will be the first step toward recovery.

We're told over and over that the inside is not always reflected by the outside and yet we have to form our first impressions on something. And what is that something? More often than not, it's the first thing we see.

We judge people based on their appearance. I know, we shouldn't judge at all, but whatever. We do. We judge food based on what it looks like. I'm sure liver and onions is a fine meal, I won't touch it. Same with haggis (much to my Scottish friend's chagrin). So it stands to reason that we form a cursory opinion on books when we first see the cover.

Here's the thing that gets me the most. As an author, I am totally incensed by the idea that someone wouldn't give my book a chance based on a cover that I had nothing to do with. But as a consumer, I want to ring the necks of some marketing dudes who create covers worthy of a trial by fire.

How do I reconcile the two sides of my brain?

I've started forcing myself to pick up a book I wouldn't normally consider and read the back cover blurb. IF that blurb is intriguing, I'll get the book.

Tell me, do you judge a book by its cover and does it bother you?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

To the Class of 2008

A while back Australian film magnet Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet) did a great graduation commencement address that became a musical montage known as "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen." It can be enjoyed on YouTube HERE. Commencement addresses are among my favorite things. They are delivered around my birthday each year, and are often inspirational, funny, or otherwise memorable. This year one of my almae matres, Harvard University, will be hosting one of my heroes, Jo Rowling.

I loved Baz' sunscreen themed commencement. I love those speakers who talk about hope, possibilities, potential, and even responsibility without being preachy. Bill Cosby has given some doozies.

As for me, I have been quoted by a valedictorian and once wrote a tribute to my professors that I still, occasionally, get a stray email about. "I remember that," my long lost mentor will say. Which is nice. More often than not, ten or twenty years go by and we can no longer recall who said what. We're more likely to recall what we wore or a feeling of pride. Maybe the lilacs were blooming. It's all a blur.

Unless, of course, you are as clever and inspirational as Baz Luhrmann, who is immortalized on YouTube and in the brain of pop-culture trivia addicts like yours-truly.

Here, in any event, are my own hopes for the class of 2008.

    Take risks before you have children. After you've had them you have no business taking anything but a multi-vitamin. But risk taking in your youth builds character and teaches fearlessness.

    Travel. Do it now, while your body can handle it and you don't have a mortgage.

    Wait to marry or have children. You'll be better at both jobs if you give yourself time to grow.

    I don't know a single person who regrets actually keeping those promises to keep in touch. Try. These people on either side of you may know all your ugly secrets, but they know your strengths better than you do, and they are better empowered to give you advice than even your closest family members.

    Vote, but do it after educating yourself. We have dumb politicians because dumb people voted for them in ignorance. Be educated, and make our country better with your informed decisions.

    Thank people who are helpful to you. In the coming years you will be astonished at how often this pays off.

    Never waste time on guilt or worry. Neither has any practical use. Make mistakes, but always think about whether your actions will cause you guilt or worry. If they will, don't act. It's possible to do something you know is technically wrong for the right reason. It's possible to make a calculated error hoping to create a better situation. When you are deliberate about your actions, having thought them through, you are released from the wasted pit of guilt and worry. They're bad for you. I'd rather you be an arrogant jerk who is completely confident in your decisions than a neurotic pain in the backside... and you'll live longer.

    When in doubt, be generous. You'll probably blow the ten bucks on something you'll forget the next day if you don't drop it into the can that kid is holding. You may never forget the smile you get... and even if you do you'll feel great for a few hours, minimum.

    Don't give anyone permission to think for you. Don't enable any person to make you feel bad about yourself. The guilt and worry thing will actually help here.

    Oh, and I think Baz is right about the sunscreen. SPF 30.

Now go be amazing.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Frenemy Mine

Some people really know how to be a good friend. Some people know how to be a really good enemy. And some people know how to be both at the same time. Those people are called frenemies. And Paris Hilton is their patron saint.

Paris and Nicole. Paris and Britney. Paris and Lindsay. Paris and Kim. If you can count on one thing, it's that you can't count on her to be a good friend.

It isn't just a socialite conundrum either. And frenemies know no age or gender bias. So, where do frenemies come from?

There are two kinds of frenemy relationships: real friends who pretend to be fighting, and real enemies who pretend to be friends. Relationships are complex. Sometimes it's a simple matter of two people who don't really care for each other but have other friends in common. Sometimes it's more complex--you need to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Other times, it's a competetive situation where you are forced to co-exist (say in the workplace) but know that person is really after your promotion. Whatever the reason, the water is awfully hard to navigate.

When I was in high school, my best friend had two best friends--and I found her other friend very intimidating. We were opposite in a lot of ways and never really spent much time together, which made it difficult for my friend (she always felt she had to choose between us) and hard for me because I was jealous. A year after we graduated, the "other" and I ended up working in the same place and our mutual friend had moved away--and wouldn't you know it--we actually got quite close. To this day, she is one of my favorite people. (By the way, my best friend is still best friends with both of us, and is quite bitter that we put her through all those years of angst when we ended up friends anyway.)

So I had a happy ending, but the middle sure sucked. What about you? Do you (or did you) have a frenemy? And how do you or did you handle it?


And thanks to everyone for entering our book giveaway yesterday. Amanda wrote out all the names of the commenters and drew brittany ridges!!! Congratulations brittany, and please email with your full name and mailing address so we can mail you your copy of IT'S ALL ABOUT US.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Review of Shelley Adina's THE FRUIT OF MY LIPSTICK and a book giveaway!!!!

Thanks to everyone for entering the drawing for Nico Medina's Fat Hoochie Prom Queen! Rhonda wrote all the entries down and drew this name: cheryl!! Congrats, cheryl -- please email the Fictionistas at with your full name and mailing address so we can get your book sent out. We hope you enjoy!

Today I'm blogging a review of an ARC I recently read, Shelley Adina's THE FRUIT OF MY LIPSTICK (FaithWords, August 2008).

This is the second book in Shelley Adina's fun new YA inspirational chick lit series, the "All About Us" books. The series is billed as an alternative for girls who want hip books relevant to their faith. Think "Gossip Girl Finds Religion."

It's the second semester at exclusive Spencer Academy boarding school in San Francisco, and overachiever Gillian Chang is ready to kick some academic butt. With a difficult schedule, she certainly doesn't need any distractions.

Enter Lucas Hayes, the class brainiac and future physicist. She's thrilled when he asks her to help him prepare for a major science competition. As time goes on, she falls hard for him, and what's great is that he likes her too! But for some reason, she's never able to be the perfect girlfriend he wants.

Gillain starts spending more and more time with him, keeping more and more secrets from her friends. When she's accused of hacking into the exam database, even her friends wonder whether it's true. Can Gillian get out of this downward spiral?

I have to admit that I'm not a regular inspy reader. Some inspirational books are, shall we say, a little too preachy for me. But Shelley Adina hit a perfect balance. Her characters are strong Christians, and their faith is a big part of the story (and certainly helps her in her story journey), but she never really hits you over the head with it. It's just a part of their lives, just like shopping and cute boys are a part of their lives.

Shelley's conversational style draws the reader in. She does a fantastic job of drawing her characters, and it feels just like you're dishing with an old friend away at school.

I laughed out loud during many of Gillian's descriptions of her family, actually hearing my Asian husband's aunties' voices in my head. Shelley provides a fantastic glimpse into Chinese-American culture and the struggle of trying to fit into two different worlds.

One thing that I thought was really funny was the cross-promotion between Shelley and her friend, Camy Tang. Gillian and her suitemates are passing around the latest Camy Tang novel. (A shout-out to Camy...her books rock! Her recommendation of this series was the reason why I wanted to review this book, actually.)

Anyway, if you like inspy fiction or are looking for some good clean fun, check out THE FRUIT OF MY LIPSTICK. It's guaranteed to put a smile on your face. I look forward to reading suitemate Carly's story, BE STRONG AND CURVACEOUS (January 2009)

To celebrate the release of the "All About Us" books, today we're giving away a copy of the first book in the series, IT'S ALL ABOUT US, to one lucky commenter. (Gillian's roommate Lissa's story.)

Just post, and we'll pick someone at random!

And be sure to preorder your copy of THE FRUIT OF MY LIPSTICK:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interview with Nico Medina--comment to win!

Today, we have a fantastic interview with YA author Nico Medina! And best of all, one lucky commenter is going to win a copy of Fat Hoochie Prom Queen, Nico's newest release that came out May 6! It looks absolutely HILARIOUS, and I already bought my own copy. I recommend you do the same!

First off, I adored The Straight Road to Kylie (where a gay teen goes back INTO the closet for killer tickets to see Kylie Minogue—hilarious premise!). You've got a wicked sense of humor and characterization, and it shows in your writing. Can you tell us a little about your newest release, Fat Hoochie Prom Queen (love that title, by the way!) and what inspired you to write it?

Okay, well, first off: Thank you! I really appreciate it. As for my dear second child, Hoochie, I can tell you that it’s about a fat, foxy, and fabulous girl named Margarita “Madge” Diaz. Madge has friends all over the school and completely loves herself and her body, but there’s just one girl who really ruffles her feather boas: top-’o’-the-cheerleading-pyramid–type Bridget Benson. I won’t give anything much away except that these two girls have one UGLY history, and during a heated argument at a house party, they decide there’s only one way to end their rivalry: be named prom queen, and other backs off for good. Throw in Madge’s adorable sidekick and right-hand homo Lucas; a cute love interest who looks really good in big polo shirts and Bass Pro Shop hats; and crazy misadventures involving seven-foot drag queens, pickup-truck water-skiing, nerve-wracking stakeout missions, and a lot of fast food, and you have Fat Hoochie Prom Queen!

That sounds like a fascinating combination of elements. haha. So, what's your writing process like? Show us a day in the life of Nico Medina.

Well, lately a day in the life of Nico Medina involves little or no writing whatsoever! Just commuting from Brooklyn into the city for my day job (I copyedit children’s books for Penguin), maybe a little dinner or happy hour after, then hanging out in our yard and playing with the pug and/or some cable.… It’s been a busy couple of years with these two books, so I’m taking a breather. (A breather that is actually ending soon….)

But as for my process…hrm… It’s sort of all over the place. First, I brainstorm. Either solo or with my boyfriend—he’s always full of good ideas and really helps get my creative juices flowing. Then I scrawl out a very loose outline in my journal, using indicators and weird little hints that I feel like only I can decipher. (Sometimes, later, even I can’t decipher them!) At first, I only outline the first few chapters, and see where the writing (or typing, rather) takes me. As I get more of the story down, that’s usually when I outline all the way to the end, to keep myself on task. But then comes the writing group and revision, and then all that crap changes!

You know, lots of people who write about high school have really crazy stories they remember (e.g., I once ate 6 hot dogs at a band camp gathering—yeah, don't ask). Can you tell us an amusing anecdote from when you were in school?

Don’t ask? How can I not ask?! Did you have to soak them in water first, to get them down the ol’ gullet? Hopefully there was no vomit involved….

Anyway, high-school anecdotes? Well, since the craziest stories I remember off the top of my head mostly took place in college, I’ll tell you about something that happened the summer between graduation HS and starting college and just count it as a high-school experience. Um, okay, so this was in my semi-goth days. (Well, to be fair, I always enjoyed my black clothing and spike necklaces, but I also had a weird assortment of Hawaiian, vintage, and ringer shirts, and all sorts of weird-material wide-leg pants…so my fashion “sense” was sorta all over the place.) Anyway, so two of my friends and I were bored one day and decided to make a music video to Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams.” Our shooting locations included a cemetery, my friend’s apartment-complex parking lot, and an abandoned house in the woods about forty minutes outside Orlando. Looking back on it, it was totally stupid, trekking through the woods and going into an abandoned house full of broken windows, spiders, and BATS (!!!)—but I’ll give us credit for coming to our senses and getting the hell out of there when we were on our way up to the third floor and saw someone’s jacket on the staircase! Um, can anyone say “ax-wielding psycho transient”?!?!? God, that was stupid. Don’t try this at home…. It was totally creepy, though, especially considering on our drive out there, we saw a car on FIRE off the side of the highway. Ugh. So take bats flying through a house, embarrassing fishnets and other Hot Topic atrocities, and a burning car, and you have a pretty decent amateur music video. I still have it. I’m gonna destroy it now, so no one ever sees it.

Hah, you wish--I must see that video! So, what "group" did you hang with in school? Do you think hanging with that group influenced your writing?

I’m not sure we were a defined group. I think it was just that group of fifteen or so girls who accepted me as one of their own! Haha! I mean, I wasn’t out (or completely aware that I was gay) till freshman year of college. But all my closest friends were girls (I had a few guy friends but not many) and we were pretty run-of-the-mill—not top-tier popular or bottom-rung losers. We weren’t cheerleaders, jocks, computer nerds, or anything like that. I mean, we all did various sports or clubs, but we were pretty much just a group of kids who liked to hang out—day trips to the beach, excursions to the theme parks, hotel-room parties on spring break, dinners, movies, slumber parties, Taboo!, making funny videos…y’know. Normal-kid stuff. Is that normal-kid stuff? J

I think normal's overrated, anyway. haha. What was your favorite cafeteria meal—did you dig the unnaturally square pizza as much as I did?

Anytime I got lunch money from my parents, I’d make it through the school day with a bag of chips (usually Cheetos) and a can of soda, then I’d get home and have ramen and a salad and watch Rosie O’Donnell and get really excited about the two or three bucks I’d just “made.” Cafeteria food at my school scared me, but when I actually did get cafeteria food, it was a Subway sandwich, which I don’t think really counts.

Yeah, I agree with you. So, are you working on any projects right now? When can we expect another book? (Read: Rhonda is greedy for more tales. Haha)

Funny you should ask—there’s a new project I’m supposed to be working on right now! Hahaha. Procrastination is my best friend lately. Anyway, I can’t divulge much info at this point, but my boyfriend (writer-poet Billy Merrell) and I are collaborating on something. It’s gonna be pretty different from my first two books, but in a good way. The plot, the setting, and the process are all gonna be major challenges, but we’re up for them. Stay tuned…

I sure will! Okay, time to dish--what's something you can share with the Fictionista readers that no one else knows about you?

That I probably gained ten pounds during the writing of Fat Hoochie Prom Queen. I was on a post-advance-money high, and it was a period of particular excess. It was also winter, so there was the winter-fat factor. And there was also the fact that the book’s protagonist was all about treating herself to what she wanted—so that leaves the question: Was this art imitating life, or vice versa? Haha!

And last but not least, where can we find you online?

At I’m also at, but I try to only accept friend-requests if I get a message first. Just something that tells me that a) that you’re not trying to sell me ringtones or nudie pictures, and b) that you’re not just out to beef up your friend count. (If you can’t tell from this, I’m kinda sick of MySpace—so I also have Facebook...but don’t bother “poking” or “super-poking” me. I think that’s kind of crass.)

Thank you so much for stopping by, Nico! We appreciate your time!

Readers, don't forget to comment today to get your name in the drawing for a chance to win a copy of Fat Hoochie Prom Queen!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Kingdom For A Nap

Ah, the power of sleep. I love sleeping. I love lazing around in bed with a good book especially. But the days I get to do that are few and far between. I almost always take a nap on Sunday afternoons. My body has come to expect it. And since my cats often prevent me from getting a good, solid, uninterrupted 8 hours these days, naps are a great way to recharge.

But when I was in college, five hours of sleep and I was golden. I did, unfortunately, have to say ciao to my 8 AM Italian class since it conflicted with my *ahem* clubbing schedule. See, we were just getting in around then and 8 AM was my bed time.

Now I find myself thinking of a nap when I should be working. Or starting to drift when I'm laying by the pool or watching TV. Not that those are bad times to fall asleep, unless you've forgotten to put sunscreen on.

Are you a napper? How many hours of sleep do you need?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

i don't get it.

Okay, I totally changed my blog topic for this week. I was going to blog about "judging a book by its cover" but that will have to wait because I need someone to explain to me what the big damn dealio is over Miley Cyrus's Vanity Fair picture.

Can you tell me, because I really don't get it.

How is this picture any different from say, this?

or this?

or this?

Um. Or this?
Can anyone tell me how the first photo is really any different than any of the following? They show the same amount of skin (actually, the Vanity Fair picture shows less skin.) Is it her wet hair? No, that can't be it, because she has wet hair in the bikini picture. (which really shows far more skin than the VF photo) And really, who cares if she has on a bikini, right? if I had her body, your damn-tootin' I'd be sportin' a bikini. Year around.

Some mothers are outraged by the example the VF picture presents to their daughters. I don't understand this line of thinking at all. Have a little faith in the way you're raising your children. Haven't you taught them the difference between real world and TV world? Don't they understand that 'Hannah Montana' is a character and not a real person is there to entertain NOT set an example? Don't the parents understand that Miley Cyrus is a teenage girl who isn't perfect? Who isn't going to be perfect? And in the grand scheme of things, that beautiful photo taken by Annie Leibowitz is really not a big damn deal? Especially since her parents were there the entire time and approved of the photo?

Am I wrong in this line of thinking? So what if the pictures were provocative? They aren't any more provocative than the other pictures where she's vamping it up in high heels, plunging necklines and backless dresses. As a parent, I am offended by these uber-nazi-moms who say that these teen celebrities need to be 'appropriate role models' for their audience. Whatever. The celebrity's job is to entertain. My job as a parent is to make sure my kids know the difference between reality and TV-land. Celebrities should not be shouldering my job. They should just entertain and then be able to live their life, however they choose. And if that means posing for Annie Leibowitz, then so be it.

What do you think? Am I out of my mind?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Gift of Books -- Thanks, Mom!

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. All of us have something-- some gift, memory, or grace-- given to us by our moms. Maybe we aren't even aware of it: eyes that are an unusual shade of grey, a tilt of the head that echoes a young woman from long ago, a habit of twirling hair, a laugh. I have my mother's eyes-- one of my only truly pretty features. I didn't get her curls, but I got the dark color of her hair. I have her hands. I have her voice, husky and low.

But the greatest gift my mother gave me was a passion for books. I remember a time, preparing high school students for the MCAS (standardized test) exams. My department chair shared a study that showed that the most reliable and consistent factor among students who did well on these exams, and in school overall, was the amount of reading material in the home. Kids from low income, middle income, and high income homes performed better across the board if they had parents who kept books, magazines, and other reading materials around the house. Even the education level of the parents had less of an impact on the statistics. A kid with two parents who had graduate degrees or higher would score predictably lower than a kid with parents who had nothing more than a high school education, but lived in a home with a wide variety of reading material.

I was not so much shocked as pleasantly surprised. Reading makes you smarter. It exposes you to ideas and experiences. It opens your mind.

My mom gave me books. I grew up without many luxuries; we never went to Disney Land. But there was a great used book store in the next town called The Book Stall. They had a musty basement (every time I read about Harry Potter sneaking through the tunnel to Honeydukes I think of it). You could buy used paperbacks there, and they had a terrific "swap" program where you could bring in a grocery back full of novels, swap it for a couple of bucks and another full bag. There were always a few around the house, and my mom traded off with all the neighborhood mothers, too.

I read my first romance-- Jude Deveraux's The Black Lion-- way before I was old enough for the content. But I figured it all out eventually-- and thank goodness the age of the bodice ripper has gone. Those types of romances are rare these days. But I also read Tolkien, CS Lewis, devoured the Ingalls Wilder books, and moved on to adult stuff before leaving grade school. The most exciting part of moving from the lower grades to junior high, for me, was getting my greedy hands on the stacks at the library.

I still love books. I will always love books. I love the smell, and the feel of the pages, and the tiny scribbles in pencil some stranger has left in the margin. I love yard sales on a warm June afternoon with tables piled with yellowing paperbacks-- old school romances from Johanna Lindsay and Kathleen Woodiwiss, original copies of Lad, A Dog. I love the gold on the edges of a leather-bound classic. I love the shift as the first words take me someplace new, and the bittersweet feeling of both loss and completion when I turn the last page to say goodbye to new friends and far off places.

So Happy Mother's Day, Lanie. And thank you for the many, many worlds you gave me.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Soundtrack of ....your life.

I was listening to my ipod while writing the other day. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes I have to turn it off. Mostly, I like to listen to certain songs that remind me of my characters right before I help me focus.

But it got me thinking about soundtracks and moods, so I thought it would be fun to come up with a soundtrack for my life right now, based on certain moods set to music. I'm pretty sure this changes as I go through phases. I know, for instance, before my divorce, I listened to a lot of Alanis Morrisette. But that was eight years ago. I'm in a different space now.

So, here is mine. What's yours?

  1. Pissed off: Who Made Who by ACDC. I think most of their songs are interchangable when it comes to being frustrated, angry, or po'd. They do a fine job of thumbing their nose, yes?

  2. Driving to work (or school) but not wanting to go: Supermassive Black Hole by Muse. I just dig on this song. It's got a good beat and you can dance to it...but it has a little swing in it that gives me a little attitude. Plus the title fits. Anyway...put it on, turn it waaaay up, and see if you don't do that little head wobble thing in the car.

  3. Hanging with my girl: Low by Flo Rida. I don't really like this song, but when my daughter and I sing it in the car, its pretty funny and it reminds me of our shopping trip.

  4. Best song for kissing: Breathe by Faith Hill. That one stays static--it's the song we fell in love too, the song I walked down the aisle's just the forever song.

  5. Happy or need to be happy: Beautiful Day by U2. This song just always picks me up--it's all about how you look at life. Kind of like, "Well I'm stuck in traffic, but check out how blue the sky is today" kind of a thing

  6. Moody : I've been digging on the Ghosts cd by NIN lately. All instrumental

  7. Emotional: The Sun Will Set for You by Linkin Park and Hate Me Today by Blue October. These two help me get that gut-wrenching thing down for hard to write emotional scenes

  8. Getting ready to go out at night--party or dance or whatever: Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Great White. (okay, actually anything from the 80's but that's another blog post)

  9. Bored? The whole dang Black Holes and Revelations CD by Muse. Every song is so different. It's very cool.

  10. My Anthem: Learn to Fly by Foo Fighters. I hear different things in the lyrics depending on what I need at that time in my life. Right now, it's speaking to me about living life on my own terms. Everyone needs an anthem. What is yours?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

And Tango makes three...

When you think of "objectionable books", does a children's story about penguins immediately pop into mind?

Well, apparently "And Tango Makes Three", about a family of penguins with two fathers, is once again at the top of the list of library books that the public objects to the most, according to the American Library Association.

Evidently, the people complaining worry that young children "will believe that homosexuality is a lifestyle that is acceptable," says Judith King, director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom.


Under the ALA definition, a "challenge" is a formal written complain filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of the content or appropriateness.

What other books are on this year's Top 10 List? Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", and Philip Pullman's "The Golden Compass", among others.

Although the number of library challenges has dropped from 546 in 2006 to 420 last year, at least 65 challenges last year led to a book being pulled from the shelves.

What are your thoughts on library challenges?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Adults reading YA--a big fuss?

There's been a flurry on the Interweb lately about adults reading YA books and shopping for them in the YA section of bookstores. All the cool authors are buzzing about it!

Okay, some cool authors are, and I wanted to jump on the bandwagon. haha

Anyway, from what I can glean of the situation, some adults have no problem heading right over to the YA section of a bookstore and browsing/buying a YA book. However, some feel differently--they worry they look creepy/perverted shopping in the YA section, or they're turned off by the YA covers and thus don't care to read the book.

Me? I always, always, always hit the YA section of a bookstore (and the manga/graphic novel section, too). It's like a unholy beacon, if you will, that beckons me to spend money. Haha. And personally, I love YA covers and am not turned off by them at all. I think they're innovative and eye-catching.

For some reason, though, I do feel weird browsing the YA and manga/graphic novel sections of my library. I still do it (duh), but I'm more painfully aware of my adult age in the library than I am in the bookstore...maybe being able to purchase a book makes me more self-confident and less self-conscious.

What about you--if you're an adult, do you feel awkward/weird/turned off in the YA section of your local bookstore or library? Or are you all over it like white on rice?

Or, if you're a teen, does it make you feel weird to see an adult buying YA or manga, or browsing those sections in the library? Or is it no big thing for you?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty...

If you look at the pics Mel posted yesterday, you might be able to tell that I'm wearing false eyelashes in my "dressed up" pics. Yes, they're a little over the top, but so am I. I'm also wearing body glitter. And platform shoes. Again, over the top - just like me.

See, I LOVE being a girl. Dressing up, wearing makeup, pretty clothes, killer shoes, perfume, jewelry...bring it on! However, in high school, I was clueless about all that stuff. My mom, while a very feminine woman, was a farm girl and didn't have much idea about what to do with a lot of that stuff either. (I eventually taught her about makeup.)

Fortunately, I ended up at a fashion and design college in NYC. I learned a lot - I learned to experiment, to take chances and not care what other people thought, to go out on a limb fashionably speaking. Those years taught me what worked and what didn't. When to push the envelope and when to seal it up neatly.

So yes, I tend to be a little adventurous when it comes to the girly side of life, but false eyelashes never got anyone killed. (That I know of.) Do you take chances when it comes the way you look or do you play it safe? What's the craziest thing you've ever done fashion-wise?

Monday, May 05, 2008


Today's blog is gonna be short and sweet.

I just returned from an awesome launch party in Boston. Debut YA Author, Marley Gibson (aka Kate Harmon) launched her career in style, so of course, I had to be there. Go, buy her books now: Zeta or Omega and The New Sisters

Here I am getting my books signed:
Isn't she lovely?

While in Boston, I did a little sight seeing and I also got a chance to hang with several of my writing friends and blog buddies.
Crit Partners and TKA Sistahs: Maria, Louisa, and Kristen

Me, Kwana, and KristenKwana and Maureen

I hung out with my lovely agent, Deidre Knight and fellow partner in crime Elaine Spencer and I met several other writers than I've "known" in the blogosphere. It was fab.

But best of all, Kristen and I met another fellow Fictionista: Chrissy. How awesome is that?
All in all, I had a superb weekend. Did y'all do anything awesome this weekend?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Ahh, Prom!

Ahhh prom... the dress, the corsage, the giddy feeling as your date comes to pick you up in a big limo. Or so I hear. I've witnessed a prom or two, but never attended one. I, you see, was an uber nerd.

No... no, not sorta-kinda. I was a massive, black-wearing, pre-goth, post-beatnik, way out of time and space nerd. I used to skip school for two things: Red Sox games and to take the MBTA into Boston and lurk among the stacks of the Boston Public Library. I also skipped to go see a few touring shows at the Museum of Fine Arts of Museum of Science.

Yes. THAT much of a geek.

I was also on a different schedule. When other kids were just discovering the giddiness of first love, I was buried up to my neck in college. I wanted a copy of the Riverside Shakespeare for my 15th birthday.

But missing out on a lot of the social stuff made me love watching as a teacher. When I taught one spring in Abington, MA they not only had a prom, they had a big promenade-- every parent in town came out with cameras and all the kids "promenaded" around the gym. It was... well, dorky and sweet and saturated in saccharine cuteness. I ate it up with a spoon. A few of those kids were on dates I even set up.

"I'm not going, it's lame," they'd say, and you'd hear "plus who would go with me?" They didn't say it, but you could hear it. So I'd con two old friends into going. I'll have you know one of those couples hooked up, went steady til graduation, and married a few years later.

I was the COOL English teacher.

Which is funny when you think that in high school, which was so short for me, I felt like the world's biggest dork. People loved my brothers. Star athletes. Most of them, though, looked askance at me like I was from another planet. I felt it, then, as judgment and rejection of myself and my small group of nerdy-artsy beach rat friends. We didn't go to football games, but we sang a capella in the tide-pools on Green Harbor beach. We had sketchbooks and journals filled with dark, scary poetry. We brooded.

But you know... years later, after Harvard and Oxford convinced me that weird has its uses, I have benefited from staying in my small town. Kids I once thought of as rejecting me live down the street. The girl I thought looked down her nose at me sees me at the deli all the time. And I am friendly by nature. So it came as a mild but pleasant surprise when I discovered that's not how they saw me at all.

"She was sooo smart," Colleen recently said to one of her boys as we stood in line at CVS. "She had a horse. She could sing and was in a band. And she always knew the answer when the teacher called on her. I always felt stupid in class with her."

She was smiling when she said it, but I nearly fell over. It was Easter time. Colleen was the girl the other girls wanted to hang out with. I was stunned to think she even gave me a glance, much less had such a fixed opinion of me.

I guess the gift of being the geek who came home to roost is finding out many-- perhaps even MOST-- of those kids in the seats next to you aren't any more what you thought THEY were than you are what they thought YOU were.

So maybe I wasn't as dorky as I thought. Or maybe I WAS, but dorky was ok. And I never got to go to prom. But I'm glad girls like Colleen did, and that the truth is she was just having a good time, not thinking about the people who stayed home.

Being a nerd still, you might think I would snort at things like prom. Academics, please! Serious study! But fun is good for your soul, too. And frankly every experience we can cram into our youth is worth having. So I always smile when I see girls in sweatsuits leaving the hairdresser's with baby's breath in a updo. Or a frazzled mom at the florist growling into her cell phone "what kind of blue?" Ahh... prom!

Friday, May 02, 2008

What about prom, Blane?

Prom is one of those things they build up soooo much--for such a harsh let down. I remember the guys were more "whatever" and waiting for the afterparty, the girls were spending a lot of time taking mental notes for the post-afterparty snarkfest, and ohmygod the line for pictures was insane. You spent half the night waiting to get your picture taken.

However let down I was, at least I didn't

Wear this:

Cuz I love me some Molly Ringwald, and I love that she went to the dance to show them that they couldn't break her, but I really hated that freaking dress.

And while my school had its share of wackiness, prom never ended like this:


And, thankfully, nobody placed cruel bets on me (shame on you Freddie Prinze Jr.):

I didn't pee my pant after being completely mortified:

And I didn't show up in my mathletes uniform:

Know what else, though? I think the reason I kept going, and the reason we keep watching these movies is because we hope to have this moment:

Cuz isn't this really what it's all about?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tra-la! It's May! The lusty month of May!

Recognize that line? It's from the musical "Camelot". That was our school musical my freshman year of high school. I played a nymph. Of course, 14-year-old I was, I thought it would be funny to say "nympho."

But I digress.

Queen Guenevere was actually singing about the May Day celebrations, but if she were around today, I'm sure you could apply it to prom rituals, too. ("It's May! It's May! The month of 'Yes you may.' When every maiden prays that her lad, will be a cad!")

As I'm sure you've figured out by now, it's Prom Week here at Fictionistas. I'd planned to play along and scan in a prom pic or two, so you could see me in my long slinky black lace number (junior year) or short tight midnight blue strapless sequin sheath (senior year). I was a dancer back then, so it was a good 30+ pounds ago...I looked pretty darn hot.

But when I called my mom a couple of weeks ago to ask her to send me my prom pics, I discovered that, alas, they are no more. My parents threw them away in a fit of cleaning, convinced that if I'd really wanted them, I would have taken them years ago. Oh, and that Mr. Brice wouldn't want to see pictures of me with some other random guys.


So since I have no pictures to share, I guess I'll just relate a funny prom story. And yes, this is true.

I'm a nailbiter. I always have been, ever since I was a little girl. It's stress-related (yes, my nails are a complete disaster at the moment), so occasionally I will actually have nice nails, but that never lasts long.

Anyway, my junior year of high school, I decided I wanted long, pretty nails for the prom. But my mom wouldn't let me get acrylics, because she was afraid I might forget and try to bite them off, breaking my teeth in the process. So I had to settle for DIY fake nails and a tube of nail glue.

I have to admit, they actually looked pretty good. Unless you stared really closely, you couldn't tell that they were press-ons.

So I get to the dance, and I'm having a great time, even though I took a random friend as my date. (He's a nice guy though.) Anyway, this was the era of grunge music, so some of the guys in my class decided it would be fun to have a mosh pit as a somewhat memorial to their idol Kurt Cobain, who'd committed suicide about a month earlier.

So I'm trying to get out of the way of the mosh pit (which was broken up almost as quickly as it started, btw), when all of a sudden I realize I've lost a nail. I get down on my knees to search for it, like some people search for a missing contact lens.

I found it right away, but there was no way I was going to go through the rest of the prom missing one hooker-red nail. Absolutely not. Fortunately, I'd thought to bring my little tube of nail glue along in my evening bag.

So I trot off to the table we'd sat at during dinner, whip out my nail glue, and super classy girl I am, decide to do surgery on my nail right there inside the dance.

Just a drop of glue, position the fake nail on top of the real nail, press real tight...Voila!

Wrong. Somehow I managed to glue my fingers together! Yes, this stuff only happens to me, I know.

I scooped up my evening bag with my elbows (well, my hands were stuck together, so I had no choice), marched onto the dance floor, found one of my girlfriends, and convinced her to come with me to the bathroom. (It took her about five minutes to stop laughing before she would come along.)

We tried running my hands under hot water. I guess we hoped that the heat would break the bonds of the glue or something. (Did I mention chemistry was never my strongest subject?) Nothing.

Eventually she had to find a chaperone, who fortunately was able to help. I don't even remember how she got my fingers unstuck, but as far as I was concerned, she was my new favorite teacher.

So, anyone else ever have something stupid like that happen at a prom?