Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thank Heavens for My Portable Life

This week we've been talking about what we are thankful for. And just yesterday my bff Roxy said to me "what the heck is in that bag?" Know what? I'm not just thankful for big, roomy bags. I'm thankful for the massive, gigantic piles of crap I can cram into them. I LOVE my bag and all that it contains. And for this I give thanks. Here's why.

From my Rosetti of New York Hobo bag I can most likely launch a military invasion of Canada from Au Bon Pain or Starbucks. Now, I have nothing against Canada. I'm just saying they should be nice to me. Because I have a computer (upon which I am typing) with wifi.

I also have a small computer accessory bag in which I have included a usb connector, two jump drives, an SD card with 8mb of memory, a small wireless mouse, a spare phone charger for my cell phone, and the plug to the computer.

Should I be confused about directions, the future, the past, or anything else I can always pop out my mini tarot deck for a quick reading. This also doubles as a way to make a living if I end up trapped behind enemy lines or something. Hey, I've done it before.

I also have another matching bag in which I have tweezers, clippers, a nail file, band aids, antibiotic cream, baby aspirin, a safety pin, q-tips, lip balm, mineral powder makeup, and tums.

If you are wondering where the photos came from, I have a small digital camera and another flip camera for taking video shots. It connects directly to the computer, so I could be filming you or taking your still life right now. The video camera is very small and only take an hour of video without an SD card... oh yeah, I have one.

No, I'm not James Bond. I'm not QUITE that cool, but I am close. And if I have to prove my identity or simply share my awesomeness with the world I have two very nice business card holders. One has my personal business cards; the second has my pen name and writing info on it. For going incognito.

Bored? I have a Nintendo DS Light with both Solitaire Explosion and Assassin's Creed. You never know when you need to brush up your card skills OR practice killing people. The pink is just a smoke screen. I'm not licensed to kill but don't be fooled. I can be pretty dangerous.

I am, however, pretty blind. So I need my glasses. Also I have sunglasses. And a pad and pen in case a brilliant plot comes to me out of the clear blue sky. So I can jot down notes, then boot up my computer, and write the great American novel. Out of my purse. Just sayin'.

In case I need to fund my secret mission I keep my wallet, with credit cards and money and change, along with my lottery tickets handy. You never know when you may need a few million dollars. Secret missions get pricey.

And yeah, I have my own sound track. So my Mp3 player is fully charged and ready to go, tucked into one of my outside pockets. It's all crammed full of my action hero / novel writer tunes plus The Chipmunks and Television's Greatest themes, plus lots of other ultra cool sounds. It's an 8mb ZenV. LOVE IT.

Just in case things get tough I have oxygen. Canned. Shaken, not stirred. My man unit loves me so much he buys me the flavored kind. This is "polar rush," which tastes kind of like blue Gatorade. I prefer Mandarin Splash, but I'm out. Not crazy about Tropical Twist, which tastes like a musty pina colada. But the Fresh Mint is nice. Yeah... even when I wheeze and cough... I'm cool.

What else is in here? Gum, Juicy Couture Perfume travel size, matching lotion, extra pens, sweetnlow packets, notecards, a few paperclips, all manner of items that somebody like me, or-- say, McGeyver-- could find use for.

For all of this I am immeasurably thankful. My sack of tricks allows me to be a completely portable person, able to do pretty much anything from anywhere. So... I challenge you, readers. What'cha packin'?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gwen is thankful for...

I'm prewriting this because I just know that when you read this I will be in a turkey coma. Somebody better sit by my hospital bed and read books to me.

My thankful post? This year is my happy happy joy joy. The problem is that youtube is like a casino with no windows and all the doors are hide to find--once I get in there, I'm gone for a long time. I don't know where the time goes. I especially love to find old clips from soaps or movies I haven't seen in twenty years. Patch and Kayla 1986? You betcha.

I also love to find music videos, or homemade music videos that people make with their favorite couples on tv. Or the top 100 movie kisses--those rock!

My favorite though?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Thankful for...

As I'm sure you've figured out by now, we're having a Theme Week here at Fictionistas. Mel's thankful for tweezers, Kristen's thankful for butter, and Rhonda had a long list of things she's thankful for.

I, for one, am thankful for my new little doggy, Bailey!!!! We just adopted him on Saturday, he's awesome.

Awww, isn't he cute? :)

I'm also thankful for leftovers. Here's a yummy recipe to help you use up your extra turkey:

Thanksgiving Chili

1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp olive oil
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can solid-pack pumpkin
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp orange juice concentrate
3 cups cubed cooked turkey breast

Sautee onion, yellow pepper, garlic, oregano, and cumin in oil until veggies are tender. Stir in beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, broth, water, brown sugar, chili powder, pepper, and orange juice concentrate, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add turkey and heat through.

Makes 8 servings.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's the day before Thanksgiving...

...and I'm stuck at work. Anyone else working today? Our office is like The Dead Zone. LOL

Anyway, this week, the Fictionistas are discussing what things we're thankful for. I, too, am thankful for tweezers and butter, which Mel and Kristen posted about.

What else am I thankful for? Here's a running list (and believe me, this isn't the half of it! but we all know I can rattle on and on, so I'll keep it short):

--I'm thankful I still have a job
--I'm thankful I have love!!!
--I'm thankful for my family and friends
--I'm thankful for adorable shoes that go on sale at Target for 75% off
--I'm thankful for jeans that fit without being too tight or awkwardly cut
--I'm thankful for good chocolate
--I'm thankful for good chocolate (this one was worth saying again, LOL)
--I'm thankful I have writer friends like The Fictionistas!
--I'm thankful for my agent and RULE
--I'm thankful for my Samsung Blackjack cell phone...I looooove that thing, LOL
--I'm thankful that I'm already done with Christmas shopping (nyah nyah!!)
--I'm thankful for books...GOD, I LOVE BOOKS
--I'm thankful I'm a woman in the 21st century...thank you to those women who paved the way for me to vote, own property, etc.
--I'm thankful I can listen to all types of music
--I'm thankful for tolerance, understanding, and patience

What about you? Any random things you're thankful for?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ode To Butter

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for butter. I adore it. Unlike olive oil (which I also like) or animal fat (which I'm not such a fan of), butter is one of those things that I could eat on its own.

Yes, that's right, I just said I could eat butter and nothing else - which is not to say that's how I eat it. I much prefer a good slather of butter on a hot biscuit or a fresh ear of corn or a glistening lake of butter in my well of mashed potatoes.

Butter is sweet and creamy and delicious and natural. Not only that, it's good for other things. Here are 10 uses for butter you may not be aware of from First magazine:

1. Rehydrate dry, brittle nails

To give dull nails the glow they once had, apply a dab of butter to each cuticle. Rub in with your fingertip then slip on a cotton gloves and wear over night. The butter nourishes the Keratin by replenishing lost moisture. Come morning, wash off with soapy water to reveal party - pretty hands.

2. Cut Snow-Shoveling time in half

Snow has covered the drive way and quests are due to arrive any minute. To clear the area fast, use a paper towel to apply ¼ cup butter to your shovel. The fat molecules in the spread form a water resistant barrier that keeps flurries from building on the shovel and weighing you down. And since the snow slides right off each scoop, you can get the job done twice as fast.

3. Make old candle look new again

Have you ever pulled a box of holiday candles from a box from last year and the pillars look dingy due to a filmy white residue? The quick fix: Rub ½ tsp. butter onto your hands, the run your greasy palms over the candles. The friction created by your hands dislodges dust and dirt, while the milk fats in the butter infuse the wax with moisture. This freshens up the festive decorations and gives them a glossy sheen.

4. Sooth Fluffy's holiday anxiety

Altered environments (such as Christmas decorations filling up you house and unfamiliar guests) can stress out pets. To ease your kitten's angst, apply 1 tsp. butter to the top of one paw. The cat will then clean herself, which will distract her from the commotion that's making her anxious (just long enough to make her comfortable again). Plus, most animals love the rich, creamy taste of butter as much as humans do.

5. Erase watermarks from wood

When a misplaced glass of water leaves n ugly white ring on you nice wood table, reach for the butter dish. Just before you go to bed apply 1 Tbs. of the spread to the mark, rubbing it into the surface with a soft dry cloth. The next morning wipe away any excess with a soapy sponge. The butter's semi liquid components replace lost moisture, while the milk fats reseal the grain and restore the wood to its original luster.

6. Slice sticky foods with ease

Have you ever cut the large marshmallow in half but the residue left on the knife is so hard to get off and you hate having to scrub forever to get it off? Well next time before you start rub a dab of butter over the blade. The grease in the spread leaves a no-stick film that makes it easy to slice though gooey food. Even better, the cutting tool rinses clean with a little soapy water, no scrubbing needed!

7. Swallow big pill without worry

The more pills you seem to have to take the bigger each one gets. If you are having problems swallowing the big pills try this little trick. Roll the pill in a small dab of butter before swallowing. The greasy spread coasts the capsule, lubricating is and helping to effortlessly slide down your throat.

8. Prevent Cheese from molding

When putting the cheese away to prevent the mold from growing and having to waste chunks of cheese try his trick. When putting the cheese away apply a thin layer of butter over the cut edges just before you wrap up the wedge and return to the fridge. The milk fats in the butter form an airtight seal that prevents bacteria from attaching to the cheese and causing the mold to form.

9. Remove ink stains from plastic

Your son is playing with your daughter and happens to hit your daughters doll on the face with an ink pen and your daughter starts screaming. To get the ink stain off and stop the screaming just rub 1 tsp. of butter onto the spot and let it dry for 30 minutes then rinse with a wet, soapy sponge. The fat sweeps into the pores of the plastic, dissolving the ink's oils and breaking down the color residue so it washes away with ease.

10. Silence a squeaky door hinge

Your front door is causing a loud high pitched squeak every time it opens or closed. When you can't find the WD-40, rub a dime sizes dab of butter on the hinges. The slick stuff coats the dry metal and acts as a lubricant, smoothing the parts so they can move against each other without making a sound.

With all those uses, plus butter's deliciousness, how can you not be thankful for butter?

Monday, November 24, 2008

What Mel is thankful for...

Let's face it. We're all thankful for pretty much the same thing--in one aspect or another. Family, friends, and food just about sums up any typical Thanksgiving speech.

And yes, I'm thankful for all those things. But there's something missing from that list that we should all be more thankful for. Something that is constantly taken for granted. So today, I'm going to say it out loud so it can't be ignored any longer:

I'm thankful for the plucked/waxed eyebrow.

It's true. If it weren't for this amazing grooming technique, we'd all look like 2-legged woolly mammoths.

Have you ever seen a unibrow up close? Once you see one, you can't look away. It hypnotizes you in its hairy evilness. And before you know it, you've let your next appointment slide. Your beautician calls and says, "Yo, what's up?" and you answer, "Dude. Sorry. I'll check my schedule and call you back." But you don't. And you don't know why.

That's the hairy evilness working its hairy magic on you.

Fast forward one month. You had a dream about Sasquatch and it freaked you out. So you go to the bathroom and splash water on your face. You look in the mirror (cue creepy Alfred Hitchcock music) and your eyes widen in horror.


The unibrow is trying to take up residence on your face!

Quickly you begin to pluck. Your face stings and your eyes are watering but you don't care. You can't let the bushy brow take over. You can't be responsible for spreading the hairy evilness!

Yes, you can do your part to stop the bushy brows from propagating. All you have to do is pluck or wax. That's it. Keep the fur to a minimum and the hairy evilness will eventually die.

I'm thankful plucked eyebrows. What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Giving Thanks for Good Friends and Good LOSERS

Long ago, when the world made sense, Marshfield High would be beating the daylights out of Duxbury for a league championship this Thanksgiving. But in this time of madness the Rams play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where they have a record of 9 and 1. Duxbury's Dragons took the Patriot League, undefeated at 10 and 0.

So Turkey Day is no big deal, right?

Wash your mouth out with soap, blasphemer!

This is a yearly battle between not only two football teams, but two ways of life. There's Duxbury, home of rich people who think they are better than everyone else. And there's Marshfield, home of regular people who find being better than everyone else comes naturally. So we don't have to walk funny.

Yeah, I said it. You wanna make something of it??

All kidding aside, this rivalry is old and fierce. And since these days we are no longer competing for the same league championships, it's all about pride, bragging rights, and talent.

So there will be a few dragons with a lot less fire come Thursday. And I will have no voice from screaming "COME ON RAMS SLAY THEM DRAGONS!" And then we'll all end up in the same place having a drink and some turkey.

I dated the same guy throughout my high school years and he was from Duxbury, as were many of my closest friends. We straddled the borders of Green Harbor and Gurnet, beaches side by side. Many of those Duxbury kids are now Marshfield adults, with their own children wearing Rams green. So the Thanksgiving Day game is a big gathering of friendly rivals, families, and old friends.

But for the few hours on the field it's a blood bath. Don't get the idea it isn't.

This year my Ahmed is going to England for his dad's birthday. My bff Roxy, originally a Duxbury Dragon, now lives down the street and her kids are Rams. She got stuck with dinner and can't cook, so I'm going over to bake her turkey.

And my Rams will be baking some scaly turkeys on the field earlier that day.

Yeah, in the end it's all about the love and the cranberry sauce. But for a few hours it's about mud and colors, fans and feuds, blood and guts and glory.

Then we all get together for pie.

Go Rams!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This makes me sad

This a picture of actress Lara Flynn Boyle posted on TMZ on Thurdsay. She looks so unhealthy to me...and perhaps the picture is photoshopped--but it's as good as time as any to remind our readers that having a healthy relationship with food is best beauty secret there is. If you know someone you suspect has an eating disorder, please understand that telling them to eat something will not fix the problem. It's like telling an addict to just stop doing drugs or drinking--the problem goes much deeper than the way the sick person is manifesting it. Eating disorders are treatable diseases.

Here are some things you can do:
  • Talk to them. Let them know you care and that you are worried. Don't blame them or shame them--just let them know your concern.
  • Urge them to talk to doctor or get counseling.
  • She may not feel she needs help--but she does. Try to get a parent or teacher involved.
  • Don't let the discussion turn into a fight. You may need to back off and keep your involvement open-ended. It doesn't mean you give up--it means you don't let them push you away and keep the lines of communication open.
  • Eating disorders require specialized help--while you are equipped to love and support your friend or loved one--she'll need the kind of medical and psychological treatment from professionals.

To learn more about eating disorders, please visit

Tents of Hope...and a winner!

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jennifer was in DC to visit me and her cousin (who is doing her residency at DC Children's Hospital). Since I don't work on Fridays (it's normally my writing day), I played tourist with Jennifer.

We spent the morning and early afternoon at the Holocaust Museum, which is an amazingly powerful experience, although it's incredibly depressing. Trust me, every time I go, I swear I'm never going back. But Jennifer had never been, and it's a place everyone should go to at least once, so I went. But once I started crying, I realized I couldn't take it anymore, so we left and went out to lunch instead.

After lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian's cafeteria, we decided to walk along the Mall.

There were tons of people on the Mall, setting up what looked like tents. So we decided to investigate. As we got closer, we discovered that the majority of the tent-setter-uppers were teenagers, and that the tents were hand-painted. So we inquired as to what was going on.

Turns out they were setting up for the final event of the year-long Tents of Hope project. Tents of Hope is a "national community-based project that envisions a powerful union of artistic creativity and social concern in response to the crisis in Darfur." Kinda appropriate after we'd spent the morning at the Holocaust Museum.

Tents of Hope wants to draw attention to the millions of uprooted people in Sudan, many of whom are living in tents after being violently forced from their homes. The goal is to raise both awareness about Darfur as well as funds for humanitarian relief.

It was so heart-warming to see so many young people involved in a project like that. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I challenge our readers to give back -- to your community, to others in need, to people halfway around the world -- this holiday. Spread love, hope, peace, and humanity.


Now for the winner of yesterday's haiku contest. Rhonda read through all the posts here and on Myspace, and because they were all excellent, she had a very difficult decision. So congrats to Sela Carsen for making her giggle the most!

To recap, here is Sela's haiku:

Do these shoes go with?
Maybe a different skirt.
Oh. My. Gawd. My hair!

Congrats Sela!!!!!! Please email Rhonda at rhonda [at] rhondastapleton [dot] com to collect your gift card! Happy Amazon shopping!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Haiku contest--enter to win!!

I was thinking about what to post today and decided to have a contest. YAY! The winner will get a $10 Amazon gift card emailed to them.

Today's contest--write a haiku about high school life from the point of view of a teenager (it could be an imaginary one, or someone you know/knew in school, or even yourself). It can be funny, serious, or whatever floats your boat.

For those who may not be familiar with haiku form, it's 3 lines of unrhymed poetry with 5 syllables on the first line, 7 syllables on the second line, and 5 syllables on the third line.

Here's my laaaaame example:

I hate our school food--
Pizza doesn't go with corn!
Sandwiches for me.

Okay, give it your best shot and enter the haiku contest today no later than midnight, EST! The best haiku will win, and the winner will be announced on tomorrow's blog post.

Good luck!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Only Stuffing Should Be In The Bird

Thanksgiving starts the holiday season for a lot of us - the weight-gaining season. In an effort to combat that, I thought I'd share the recipe for the *good* version of pumpkin bread I'll be baking today! This recipe comes from Hungry Girl. If you don't subscribe, you really should. It's a great source of diet tips, food alternatives and revamped recipes. (The only thing I've changing in this recipe is adding a few tablespoons of golden flax meal for added fiber. And possibly some walnuts.) You can see this recipe on the site and its comparison to regular pumpkin bread here.

Right Said Bread

After getting a BAZILLION requests for pumpkin bread, we figured it was time to make some. And after EIGHT attempts, we got it just right. Try it and see!

One 15-oz. can pure pumpkin
1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Original Egg Beaters)
1/2 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)
1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/4 cup Ocean Spray Craisins Original Sweetened Dried Cranberries (or regular raisins), chopped
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine both types of flour, Splenda, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and pumpkin pie spice (in other words, all dry ingredients except for the Craisins or raisins).

In a medium bowl, mix together pumpkin, egg substitute, and vanilla extract (all the wet ingredients). Add this mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients, and stir until just blended.

Slowly sprinkle chopped Craisins or raisins into the batter, making sure they don't all stick together, and mix to distribute them.

Spoon batter into a large loaf pan (about 9" X 5") sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the top of the loaf is firm to the touch. (Bread may be moist inside. This doesn't mean it's undercooked.) Allow to cool, and then cut into 8 slices. Enjoy!

Serving Size: 1 (thick!) slice
Calories: 143
Fat: 0.5g
Sodium: 281mg
Carbs: 31g
Fiber: 4.5g
Sugars: 9g
Protein: 5g

POINTS® value 2*

HG Alternative! To make this bread into muffins, evenly distribute the batter among 8 cups of a muffin pan sprayed with nonstick spray. Cook for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, let cool, and enjoy!

If you make this, let me know! I'd love to know what you think. Do you have any tips or tricks for making Thanksgiving a little easier on the waistline? Share!

Monday, November 17, 2008

book to tv (or movie)

Every writer dreams of selling the tv or movie rights to their book. When I first started writing Bite Me! I imagined HBO picking it up as their first edgy teen vampire show. Too bad fellow Arkansan Charlaine Harris beat me to it.

I happen to be addicted to TRUE BLOOD, the HBO series based on Charlaine's Sookie Stackhouse books. I'm sad because next week is the last episode of the season. And now I'm fighting the urge to read the books.

But not for the reason you think.

I've heard from several people who've read the books, that they don't like the show. I adore the show and I don't want anything to change that. (I will say, I'm tired of Bill the Vampire though and ready for Sookie to hook up with that hot blond vamp, Eric. I've been told to read book 5 for I might just have to go there....)

As a writer, my desire not to read the books disappoints me. I would want people who watch and love Bite Me! to run out and buy my books. (I mean, DUH!) so why am I so resistant to purchase/read Harris's books?

I dunno. Because I love to be surprised, I guess. It's very rare that I love a movie/tv show more than the book. And if I read the books, I'll probably stop watching the show. And I don't want to do that.

What about you guys? Can y'all enjoy a movie/tv series after you've read and loved the book? Or are you so die hard about the books that you can't enjoy the show with all the 'creative licenses' the directors take?

And do you think I should suck it up and read the books? Or just sit back and enjoy the show?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Love's Many Facets

Yesterday I got a "save the date" card in the mail. An old friend from college is remarrying and planning a wedding in the spring, right around my birthday. I'm thrilled, because she is having a traditional Hindu wedding and I love participating in cultural events unfamiliar to me... though this will actually be my second Hindu wedding. Padma, the friend, was a Women's Studies student with me long ago in our undergraduate days. I very clearly remember the big, fat, hairy debate we had with some fellow students. It sparked the beginning of our deep friendship, one that had begun with casual friendliness in class. Then one day Padma mentioned that her marriage was arranged.

KA freakin BOOM.

The horror, the shock, the moans of distress! Only Padma was happily married. She was born and raised here in America by parents who had emigrated during the 70s. Padma was asked, when she turned 15, if she would like an arranged marriage. Since her sisters and brother had been successful in this undertaking she agreed, knowing that she could "cry off" and change her mind later if the courtship proved disastrous. This is a big decision to make at 15.

But as it turned out she began writing and speaking on the phone with the prospective bridegroom, who was 18 at the time. They became pen-and-phone-pals and he visited the US from India a few times. When she turned 21 he came to stay with an uncle for six months and they were married after that. And lived happily until, very sadly, he passed away a few years ago after battling cancer. They had two beautiful children together.

And Padma's family, loving her very much, wanted to see if they could find her another match. They did, a widow who had a story much like her own. This time around the two families met, arranged, and a quicker path to direct courtship took place. After a few months they discovered that both their families were compatible and that they were quite fond of one another. Padma told me on the phone this morning that she fell in love with him and both of their children are very happy with the match.

We recalled, giggling as old friends do, that day in our Women's Studies group meeting, the shock and dismay that met her pronouncement. And certainly there are arranged marriages that go terribly wrong. And certainly both she and all her classmates were aware of the plight of many women in Pakistan, India, throughout Asia who are victims of horrible civil rights policies. Honor killings, non-existent protections against rape, and worse.

But there are good families everywhere, too. And the true intent behind arranged marriages can be beautiful. Padma often expressed relief that she was not burdened with the "dating scene." She felt a tremendous lifting of pressure, allowing the people who knew and loved her best to make a choice for her. Of course Padma's wonderful family had only the best intentions and left the choice with her.

Still, so many of our feminist friends expressed disgust. But how many of us read and adore historical romances? Tales of true love found in arranged marriages, weddings of convenience, weddings of a shotgun variety. We read, gleefully and voraciously, these stories of society ladies who fall for men they marry in circumstances involving everything but love. And young adult literature certainly celebrates fairy-tale style love, more traditional love, unrequited love, even vampire love these days.

Love, I suppose, is not such a simple thing to define. And tolerance, openness, a willingness to explore can't hurt. So this May I'm off to celebrate a love affair different from my own, a wedding with sights and sounds, colors and ceremonies unlike those I have celebrated. But love is precious, and no matter how we get there, worth celebrating. So congrats Padma and Hithri! I can't wait to share your special day.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Something happens to me right about this time every year--I begin gearing up mentally and emotionally for the craziness that begins the week of Thanksgiving and ends January 2nd when reality pokes itself back into place.

I love the holidays/I hate the holidays. I hate the stress/I love the traditions.

This year will be the first in 8 years that I have not cooked dinner on Thanksgiving. We are going to my sister-in-laws and I'm happy/sad. I am excited to see my sister and the kids--and wow, not cook. But...I have a feeling I'll still cook a traditional meal because I NEED leftovers. So I'm thinking that there really won't be any less work involved this year. More if you factor a 3 hour drive with 4 teens and *gulp* two dogs.

What? You think I'd make the dogs stay home alone on a holiday? If the kids have to come, then you can be sure I'm bringing the only member of the family that listens to me.

And we are bringing one more thing. One tradition I won't give up. Every year, we watch "Christmas Vacation" on Thanksgiving to put us in the holiday mood. Usually, it happens after the kitchen is clean and we are all slumped over mid-way into our turkey coma. This year will be no different.

So, besides the traditional meal, what Thanksgiving traditions do you look forward to? Do you watch the Macy's parade? Have a family football game? Hide the good dessert from the kids?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Take Your Blog Reader To Work Day: Cara Cooper

It's been quite a while since we did one of these. I believe the last one was Gwen's interview with Todd from Fafarazzi.

Anyway, the point of Take Your Blog Reader To Work Day is to bring you interviews with interesting, innovative, provocative, and sometimes unruly people out in the world living their dreams and being successful at it.

Today, please welcome Broadway performer Cara Cooper, who is currently traveling the country in the National Tour of Spamalot. Previously shows include the original Broadway casts of Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer, All Shook Up, and Urban Cowboy. Oh, and she also played my daughter in the Sparta High School production of Fiddler on the Roof a long, long time ago. LOL!

Amanda: Cara, thanks for joining Fictionistas today. One of our favorite themes here is following your dreams. How did you get started in your career?

Cara: Well, I guess I officially got my start in the performing arts when I was about a year old and I was cast in a "Huggies" commercial. When it came time to shoot, however, I had learned how to walk and wouldn't crawl for the spot like the director I was fired, ha! I did bounce back and do several commercials after that, but as I got older, I got sick of going in and out of NY so I quit showbiz. Who knew that years later I would attend NYU's Tisch School of the Arts for musical theater and start all over again in the "biz" I was lucky enough to have an agent see me perform in a show in college and immediately start to freelance with me. I booked my first show before I graduated and actually left school a couple of weeks early (and finished my school work while I was rehearsing the show). So I didn't get to walk in my graduation, but that night I was performing in a production of "A Chorus Line" playing Val and living my dream.

Amanda: What has been your favorite role? Your favorite show?

Cara: Hmmmm...this is always a tough one. I have had the opportunity to play so many different parts and understudy even more, and each one means something different to me. I always learn something new about myself and my craft with every role I play. I don't know if I could choose. As far as favorite shows are concerned, it's the same story. That wasn't a very good answer was it? Sorry!

Amanda: What type of training is needed to make it on Broadway?

Cara: Everyone's road to Broadway is different so it is difficult to say. First and foremost though, you have to have a thick skin! You have to be willing to be rejected so many times before you get there. So perseverance is key. Of course, training is of the utmost importance as well. I spent so much of my youth dancing and that training has definitely been a huge factor in my Broadway career. Training in just dancing however, is not enough. You have to be a triple threat - a singer, a dancer, and most importantly an actor. You have to be able to tell stories through music, movement, and dialogue. And truly, the training never, ends. I am still taking classes, trying to better myself and my craft.

Amanda: What is a typical day like for you?

Cara: Well, right now, I am on the National Tour of Spamalot with my husband. My days are usually focused on working out, exploring whatever city it is that we are performing in and taking care of my dog, Lucy, taking her on walks and to the park. Around 5pm I try to sit for a bit and get a little rest before my "work day" begins. I get to the theater an hour before the show starts in order to get ready. In addition, I am an understudy in this show so once every two weeks I have a 4 hour rehearsal on a non matinee day, and when we are putting new people into the show, we will also have rehearsals then. After the show, my husband and I might watch a movie or get together with cast mates, but we try to go to bed at a decent hour which is hard to do because your adrenaline is running from performing. It sounds like a very leisurely life, but it takes alot of energy to do 8 shows a week so it is necessary to have the time to rest.

The difference when I am working on Broadway is that many of my days are also spent auditioning for new shows, so life gets alot more busy.

Amanda: Think back to good ol' Sparta High. Did you see yourself living a different life than you are now?

Cara: I definitely dreamt of being on Broadway, but I am not sure I fully understood what that meant. I am part of a truly tremendous community of artists and individuals and I feel so lucky for that. I also never dreamt that I would meet my future husband while doing a show, and that 6 years after we met we would be traveling the country together working in the same show and sharing a passion for what we do.

Amanda: If you could go back in time and tell TeenCara one really cool thing about her future, what would that be?

Cara: That she would perform on the Tony Awards! I always remember watching them with my family and just thinking that maybe someday I would get to do that, and I did!

Amanda: OK, fine. Now you're making me jealous. I always wanted to perform on the Tonys! Anyway, moving on. We talk about prom a lot on this blog, do you have a good prom story?

Cara: Hmmm...this is a tough one. I definitely loved the prom, getting dressed up and putting on makeup and everything. I am not sure that I have a good story about it....sorry.... again!

Amanda: Our signature interview question. You're stranded on a deserted island and your iPod only has 3 songs on it. What do you hope they are?

Cara: Oh geez! This is really tough. Well, they would have to be three really different would be "Electricity" from Billy Elliot the musical. I am obsessed with that show right now. The way Billy expresses what if feels like to dance really sums up the feelings that got me involved in the performing arts. Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides" would be a really great song to reflect on while stuck in the middle of the ocean. And the last spot would go to Jason Mraz's "The Remedy" to keep me from worrying about getting off the island!

Amanda: Do you have anything you want to plug?

Cara: I would just encourage everyone to support the arts!!!!! See a show at your community theater, a national tour, on Broadway, or put one on yourself!


Thanks for joining us, Cara! And since you refused to elaborate on prom, here's a picture of us from dance class 20 years ago...MWAHAHA!

(I'm second from the right on the front row, and Cara is two down from me -- the blonde in the middle.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things to do before I die

I love making lists. There's something unbelievably satisfying to me about making a list, then crossing off the items as I accomplish those deeds. I feel like I've set goals and did them.

So, in the interest of setting goals, I'm going to list out things I want to do/accomplish before I die:

--meet the president of the United States
--go to Japan
--travel around the world
--go skinny dipping (yes, that's right--I've never done this. LOL)
--lose *cough cough* pounds
--spend one entire day doing nothing but reading in bed
--buy a pair of ridiculously expensive shoes and wear them out on a date
--create a scholarship for single moms at my alma mater
--make a decadant 7-course dinner for my family
--see Sting in concert from the front row (what a big dream this one is! *cries*)
--go to the super bowl or the olympics
--go snorkeling
--sing in a professional concert
--visit every state in the US
--spend one entire day being pampered at a spa, head to toe
--make a hole in one in golf
--pick up Japanese again and continue studying it until I am fluent
--go ghosthunting in a haunted house overnight

I could go on and on. But right now, I'm more interested in knowing what would be on YOUR list. Please share!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day, so I thought a simple post would be best.

These are the veterans in my life:

*My great uncle, who gave his life on the beaches of Normandy.

*My grandmother, although not in any branch of the service, she worked as a riveter and so I count her anyway.

*My father, named after that late great uncle, who served in the Army and would have been sent to Vietnam had the war not ended when it did.

*My brother, whose service in the Coast Guard meant such things as boarding drug smuggling boats, rescuing sinking ships full of Haitian refugees and transporting other military special forces on ops.

* My twin cousins - both retired after 20+ years given to the Navy and Air Force.

*My husband - nearly 22 years of service to the Air Force creating and building technology that meant sending fewer soldiers into actual combat.

Who are the veterans in your life?

Monday, November 10, 2008

listen to your inner voice

When your gut is telling you to do something--you need to listen.

I'm the QUEEN of ignoring my inner voice. I've made friends with people who I know will not be good for me. My guts would say, "She's nice but something isn't right." and I would say, "That's not fair. We don't even know her yet, how can you make that judgment?" Then sometime in the future I would be saying to myself, "Damn. I knew she wasn't right, but did I listen? No."

I've circled 'C' on a multiple choice test even though my gut said, 'B!B!B!B!' and of course, when the test is graded, that was the one question that kept me from getting an A.

As an adult, you'd think I would've learned by now, right? Wrong. Just Saturday, I said to myself, 'Self. You need to back up this book.' and instead of backing it up right then and here I said, 'Self. I do need to back up this book. I'll do it tomorrow after I write a little more.'

What happened on the morrow?

My computer didn't start back up.

And where does that leave me?

Wishing I'd listened to my inner voice.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thank Them For Serving

This week, Tuesday to be exact, we will be celebrating Veteran's Day. I think a lot of people let the holiday pass without giving it a great deal of thought. It's an awkward day-- falling between Halloween and Thanksgiving at a busy time of year for students and parents. But it marks a quiet tip of the hat to those who have served all of us, with all they had to give. Our men and women in the armed services risk their lives every day. Even those not on the front lines know they can be called at any time. They leave children and wives and husbands behind, travel when and where we send them, and for little reward.

They keep us safe.

And the thing that blows me away is how infrequent they get any thanks for it. I ALWAYS stop to thank service people. It takes five seconds. Just say "thank you for serving." That's it.

What will amaze you is how often an elderly gentleman with liver-spots on his hands will fill up a little. Or a young man, handsome in his fatigues, will grin from ear to ear. You may just get a blush or a quiet thanks. You may get a first-hand account of the Battle of Midway at the Stop and Shop while you wait in line. We are losing our World War II vets to age, and their stories go with them. They saved the world. Surely they have earned a quiet thanks.

Whatever the response to your gratitude I can say from personal experience that you won't regret it. Thank them for serving. These brothers in arms have given you so very much.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Review of A Season of Eden by JM Warwick

A Season of Eden by JM Warwick
Grove Creek Publishing 2008
Available at Amazon

Eden is in the second semester of her senior year and enrolls in an "easy A" course--Concert Choir. When the new teacher, James Christian, enters the classroom, Eden is suddenly thrust into new depths by her forbidden attraction to him--and his attraction to her.

I was a little skeptical at first. I mean, teacher + student=squick in most situations right?
But Ms. Warwick won me over with her book trailer.

I just HAD to see. And I am so happy that I did.

This story is rich. It captures not only that incredible rush of falling in love but also the moment in our life when we realize we are loving with our woman's heart and not the girlhood heart that only sees rainbows and butterflies. Eden matures in a thoughtful, realistic manner. Always in the popular crowd, she begins to look at the relationships she maintains with her "friends" and realizes maybe she doesn't have it all--but then needs to figure out what having it all means to her.

The relationship with the teacher, rest assured, did not engage my squick factor at all. Eden is 18 already and her teacher is newly 22. Their attraction jumps off the page and you will feel like you are falling off a cliff in love--but the heat is only the backdrop to Eden's journey. It never crossed the line to inappropriate in my mind. James remained quite noble to me.

Eden coming to terms with growing up, her non-relationship with her father, and the loss of her mother that still haunts her makes the reader care what happens to her--even when she has her short lapses into selfish behavior. The lessons of her heart stayed with me even after I finished the book.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Interesting time to be living in DC

I'm going to try to keep this non-partisan and relatively apolitical, because while we here at Fictionistas believe that it's important for our readers to become active participants in democracy, above all, we're a site that focuses on young adult fiction. Sure, we talk about other stuff, but we're not a political website. If you want that, there are plenty of other options out there for you.

Anyway, as you probably already know, I live in DC. Well, not actually *in* DC, but about 5 miles outside. So pretty darn close. The town I actually live is in basically filled with lawyers, lobbyists, pollsters, pundits, federal workers, defense contractors, Hill staffers, etc. Politics and the federal government is our livelihood.

So I have an interesting perspective on this election. Now we can debate ad nauseum whether this is the "real America" (answer: nope...we live in our own little Beltway Bubble).

But it does make for some interesting experiences. For example, I spent Tuesday night at a party at a fancy hotel where we learned about the outcome of the election before the news outlets had called it. (The Associated Press had called our governor, and he came on stage along with our 2 US Senators to announce the results, to thunderous applause.)

Here's a pic of me and a friend with US Senator (and multi-published novelist) Jim Webb (see, it DOES relate to writing!).

Had I not been at that event, there's a good chance I might have joined the throngs who were celebrating outside the White House. And one of my good friends got to hang out with the international press corps on the roof of the Hay Adams Hotel, overlooking the White House.

Anyway, the other night, before the election had been called, one of my friends wondered what we were going to have left to talk about, now that this race we'd been watching for 2 years (!) was over. But you know what? There will still be plenty to talk about...this is DC. We're obsessed with politics even during periods when the rest of the country isn't. It's what we do.

I missed that when I moved away from here for a few years. I didn't grow up in DC, but I moved here after college. Then I moved across the country to Arizona to attend law school. Sure, I had some friends there who were interested in politics, but it wasn't the same. We didn't just have random political discussions in bars on a nightly basis.

Now I know most people consider that a good thing. After all, politics is supposedly one of the things you're never supposed to bring up. And I admit that I like to avoid bad feelings and shouting and namecalling. But discussing politics and policy is fundamental to a strong democracy. It's a good thing. It's important.

So that's why I'm so glad I'm back here. Nothing gets me more excited than a good policy debate...particularly with someone who disagrees with me. But only when it stays on a level of discourse that's calm and rational. Because dissenting viewpoints are what makes us stronger.

These are trying times, and historic times. No matter who had won, the new President would be inheriting perhaps one of the most difficult presidencies ever.

So no matter what your viewpoints are, no matter how you feel about Tuesday's outcome, please stay calm. But don't stop being engaged. This is what makes America great.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dream jobs

If you could do your absolute "fantasy" dream job, what would it be? I mean, something unrealistic that you'd be blissful to just do, much less get paid for (e.g., Mel may like giving tongue baths to Matt Damon, etc--LOL).

For me, writing is a dream job, but it's more "realistic" than "fantasy", because my dreams are coming true! I have a YA trilogy coming out end of next year. It's not an easy career path. I put a lot of effort into my stories, and I know my fellow Fictionistas bloggers do, too. Still, it's well worth the work.

If I were choosing a fantasy dream job, though, I'd love to be paid just to read. Not even necessarily to have to critique books, but just to have the utter bliss of settling in my favorite chair and getting caught up in books as much or as little as I wanted.

So, what about you--what's your fantasy job?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Listen up, Santa!

No matter how much we want to ignore it, Christmas is coming. It'll be here in exactly 50 days. It's high time I got my list underway. One of things that has recently caught my eye is this unassuming pen. But the Pulse Smartpen is more James Bond than conference giveaway. Check it out:

According to a Media Bistro ad "The Pulse smartpen is a computer in a pen that records what you hear and links it to what you write, so you never miss a word. Tap on your notes to hear what was recorded. Transfer your notes and recordings to your PC to search for words within your notes or share your notes online."

Hello, coolest thing ever! Can you imagine the possibilities? I know I can. Which is why I'm putting this bad boy at the top of my Christmas list. If you'd like to be my secret Santa (or my not so secret Santa) or get one for yourself, just go to and get 5% off with the promo code
SCRIBE5A50. I'm such a giver.

Go go gadget pen!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween: Postmortem

Just in case you didn't get the picture last week--I love dressing up for Halloween. It's one of my favorite things to do. Last year, I was on deadline with BITE ME! so I didn't get a chance to participate in Halloween because I was sequestered in Oxford, MS...writing.

I made sure I didn't miss out this year. (Even though I totally am on deadline with LOVE SUCKS! LOL)

So without further ado, let me introduce you to the Mel-O-Ween version of my family:
Mel as a Zombie. This gives a new definition to 'Yuck-Mouth.'
Fishdog and Rader as Thing 1 and Thing 2. Pretty cute, huh?

The 'happy' couple. Thing 1 was afraid his zombie wife was going to eat him for dinner.
Nemo went as an 80s' Rockstar. It worked for him.
At the very end of the night, Frankenstein's Monster showed up on stilts. He was awesome. So naturally, I had to have my picture taken with him.

All in all we had a great time. Halloween is my favorite holiday. We used to host a party every year...I think we need to pick that habit back up starting with Halloween 2009...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Legend of Shotgun Sally and One Dirty Rat

I hope everyone had a marvelous Halloween/Samhain. It was a gorgeous night in New England for tricks, treats, and wandering along the lines of the veil as it thinned beneath a bright autumn moon.

This week everyone here at Fictionistas shared stories of past All Hallows Eves. Mostly costumes, which leaves me in a bit of a spot, since I go as myself. I am known affectionately (I hope) as Green Harbor's very own Swamp Witch. So most Hallowed Eves I was wandering bogs and such, doing appropriately mysterious but really quite regular stuff. I have, however, a few good memories of childhood romps.

There was this house... yes, THAT house... there, all in black and white and lovely spookiness. I grew up loving that house. I wanted it. It was known to every kid in Green Harbor-- in fact, most of Marshfield-- as Shotgun Sally's. Legend went that Shotgun Sally's was owned by a horrible old woman who shot at anything that moved on her property. This included postmen, census takers, animals of all kinds, and kids. Virtually everyone in our town could tell you the tale, and one or two horror stories of a personal nature. And though Sally had been dead for many years, discovered in bed with her shotgun, the place was still haunted by her angry ghost.

My own impression was marinated in scepticism. I walked past Sally's regularly, right through the yard, and had never seen the spectral image of Sally in the broken out windows. It was a gorgeous piece of property, dotted with huge old nut and fruit trees. The house was a falling-down American Foursquare from the late 1800's. It had beautiful bones even as they broke down there among the towering maples, with a gigantic chestnut out front that shed white petals when it flowered, so heavy it was like snow. I used to gather them up to make stain. I used to gather walnuts and chestnuts and roast them. I used to sit and dream in the shadows of that old house. I never saw, felt, or worried about a ghost, though I am an absolute believer in them. My own house has always been haunted.

If Sally existed at one time she was gone. And being a bit of a wandery-wistful kid who cared little for much more than her notebooks, horse, dog, and whatever critter was following her at the time, the old house was one of my favorite places to sit, sulk, and write poetry about how nobody understood me. Yeah, I was that kind of kid. Weirdly, though, I did have friends. Most are still around or at least bump into me at the pharmacy every now and again. And I've been thinking about a few of them, and Halloween, and one night at Shotgun Sally's when a dare went pretty hysterically wrong.

It was known that I was witchy. I was reading decks of playing cards, and even an old tarot deck, before I was out of grade school. And lots of kids knew I dared the borders of Shotgun Sally's cursed property without fear. So one Hallow's Eve, when I was somewhere between 12 and 14, a few friends came up with the idea to take a side trip from trick-or-treating to Sally's for a card reading. It was my first "professional" reading; I was paid in candy. Four pieces from each bag, my choice. We're talking good stuff-- Reesee's and Milky Ways, not the cheap crap.

While I was aware that the house had become structurally unsound, I figured it was worth the risk. Plus I knew the other kids would be scared half to death, and that had "fun" written all over it. So after making the rounds about Atwell Circle and a few other prime candy circuits, we headed for Sally's. I had an old deck of cards, some candles, matches, and a cloth. Payments made, we crawled in through a broken window and sat in the middle of the floor. I began an evening of mystical endeavors.

Except that Katie, one of my friends, started asking questions in her reading involving Sally, her past, and why she hated kids. I indulged her. But the house was old and creaky and fate has a sense of humor. No sooner had Katie begun her questioning as I flipped the cards than a rat-- not a mouse-- fell from one of the ceiling beams and, so-help-me, landed on Katie's shoulder.

I swear I had nothing to do with that. The place was kind of crawling with every manner of nasty.

I recall screams, four early teen-aged bodies flying over my head, and peering through that broken window to see several pairs of Converse All-Star souls making haste toward the woods.

I snuffed the candles. You don't leave candles burning in a house that is pretty much a stack of kindling anyway. The rat vanished into one of the candy sacks and was welcome to it. Mine survived, and the others apparently fled with their owners.

The following morning broke with four stories (I never did give anyone an accounting) that included full-body specters with long white hair and claws, clear voices growling "get out or I'll shoot you," and a rabid rat attack that nearly claimed a life. Much like Sally, the legend was far greater than the truth. Though I must admit... a rat falling from the rafters mid-reading is pretty good. I don't even think my friends lied. I think they remembered it that way, in their fear. So I never lied, either. When asked I changed the subject if necessary. "It was really scary" seemed to imply my affirmation.

But I still loved the house, and my one glimpse of its interior broke my heart. Dark as it was the mantle was solid hardwood, carved with oak leaves and acorns. The staircase was elegant and beckoning, though I'm sure it would have swallowed me had I dared set foot on it. And about 20 years ago they tore the place down, cut some of the trees, and put a few family homes up where one stately foursquare once stood. I still dislike driving by that spot. Those houses, perfectly attractive and surely home to very nice families, feel wrong to me.

Petie, one of my oldest and closest friends, was there that night and just yesterday became outraged at the notion that nothing paranormal happened that evening. He may be right. Sally or whomever owned that old house may have tossed that rat with perfect precision. But I never saw anything but a rat who lost his footing and was rewarded with a diabetic feast. For me the chill-to-the-bone has a different tone.

I suppose one's definition of "haunted" can vary.