Thursday, July 31, 2008

Interview with RITA Finalist Rosemary Clement-Moore

Rosemary Clement-Moore's PROM DATES FROM HELL is nominated for the "Best First Book" Rita. But because it's a YA book, we are including her in our interview series. :)

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I guess the most interesting thing about me is that I come from a theatre background, which influences the way I write. My method, as it were. I'm a total girly girl, but you wouldn't know it because I live in jeans and tees and flip-flops. It's sort of an effort over inclination thing. I love books (duh), Guitar Hero (and Rock Band, because I like to play the drums), embroidery and crossword puzzles, Sci-Fi movies and the History Channel, embroidery, sailing, horses and whatever shiny thing has lately caught my eye.

AB: How did you get the inspiration for your Rita-nominated book?

RCM: I'd been reading this book called "No Plot, No Problem" by the guy who started the NaNoWriMo phenomenon. There are a lot of tricks in there for turning off your inner editor and just writing a book. One is to make a list of your favorite things in books, whether they're favorite themes or elements or tropes. No matter how silly or clichéd they might seem, write them down. (For example, I adore stories about a girl who has to disguise herself as a boy and go to war or avenge her father, or whatever, a la Zane Grey novels, or the movie Mulan.)

Anyway, besides the Mulan thing, my favorite things in books are smart, sassy heroines, the "girl detective" motif (a la Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars), and stories where supernatural things hide just under the surface of seeming very mundane events. (Like the evil law firm in "Angel" is really run by demons.)

Ta da! Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil was born. Sassy girl detective investigates supernatural mysteries. (She doesn't have to disguise herself as a boy, though. At least, not yet.)

AB: What authors do you read?

RCM: I'll read just about anyone, and as a new author myself, I try and grab up other new authors in my favorite genres, which are primarily fantasy and romance of the suspense, paranormal and comedic varieties. My long time love affair authors (i.e., the ones that I can see on my bookshelf without getting up) are: Madeleine L'Engle, Robin McKinley, Jane Austen, Anne McCaffrey, C.S. Forester, Meg Cabot, Jim Butcher, Jasper Fforde? and then the couch is in the way.

AB: Who is your favorite character?

RCM: Maggie Quinn, psychic girl detective, narrator of Prom Dates From Hell. But also Hermione Granger, Nancy Drew, Aerin (from Hero and the Crown), F'lar from Dragonriders of Pern (first literary crush), Harry Dresden (recent literary crush), Meg Murray, Jo March and Elizabeth Bennett (who is on everyone's list, I think).

AB: What five things are always in your purse?

RCM: Pen and notebook, lip gloss, cell phone, Advil, driver?s license.

AB: What music are you currently listening to?

RCM: A random and unedited peek at my iPod reveals: Sara Bareilles, Sarah MacLachlan, Death Cab for Cutie, The Veronicas, David Cook, Lyle Lovett, Great Big Sea and? um? Miley Cyrus.

AB: Tell us about your pets.

RCM: I've had an attrition of pets over the last few years. There's my mother's infamous sausage dog (Mom lives with me, which means that the fat little wiener is part of my pack, but not to the extent I can put her on a diet. The dog, not my mother.) And my dog, Princess Lizzibelle Ittybittydog. Arguably the cutest dog ever. Lizzie is my constant companion and frequently features in my blog. (

AB: One item of makeup you can't live without.

RCM: Lip gloss. And zit cream.

AB: First thing you dirnk in the morning.

RCM: Coffee. And then some coffee. And finally some coffee.

AB: Best/worst prom/high school memory.

RCM: Oh my god. I had such a crush on this guy who was one of my circle of friends. When I found out he'd invited this total witch (she (probably) wasn't, but perspective is everything) to the prom, I was right in the middle of class and I could NOT stop crying! It was humiliating. Not the prom thing, but the fact that my tear ducts had just opened up and no reasoning with them would make them stop leaking! I was much more upset about crying than I was by the precipitating event. I think I said I was sick and ran to the bathroom, but my crush was a secret to no one (except the guy in question? I hope), so everyone knew why I was being such a weenie!

AB: If you could go back in time and talk to the teenage you, what would you tell her?

RCM: Don't be afraid to do what you want to do. Also, falling on your face isn't nearly as awful as you think it's going to be, so just take the risk.

AB: What are you working on next?

RCM: I've got two sequels to Prom Dates From Hell coming out soon. Hell Week (August 26th!), where in Maggie goes undercover at Sorority Rush, and runs into a sorority that's in league with the devil, and Highway to Hell (Maggie and D&D Lisa face the chupacabra) in the spring. I'm currently working on a gothic romance -- something completely different!

Thanks for coming to chat with us, Rosemary!
Readers...remember to post a comment to be entered to win a bag of books. The more comments you post this week, the more chances to win!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Interview with RITA finalist Kelly Parra

Bio: Kelly Parra is the author of the novel Graffiti Girl, Rita-nominated for "Best First Book" and "Young Adult Romance". She lives in a diverse agricultural town in Central California with her husband and two beautiful children. Visit her website:, and follow the Secret Fates blog at

Graffiti Girl:

Graffiti art. It's bold. It's thrilling. And it can get a girl into serious trouble... Raised by her single mom (who's always dating the wrong kind of man) in a struggling California neighborhood, Angel Rodriguez is a headstrong, independent young woman who channels her hopes and dreams for the future into her painting. But when her entry for a community mural doesn't rate, she's heartbroken. Even with winning artist Nathan Ramos--a senior track star and Angel's secret crush--taking a sudden interest in Angel and her art, she's angry and hurt. She's determined to find her own place in the art world, her own way.

That's when Miguel Badalin--from the notorious graffiti crew Reyes Del Norte--opens her eyes to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. She's blown away by this bad boy's fantastic work and finds herself drawn to his dangerous charm. Soon she's running with Miguel's crew, pushing her skills to the limit and beginning to emerge as the artist she always dreamed she could be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies with a shared past, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to life and art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.

RS: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

KP: Hi Fictionistas, thanks so much for letting me hang out on your cool blog! Well, I’m short. A little over 5’2. Brown hair, brown eyes, I write books, and I have like ten blogs. Haha. I write young adult fiction with Latina heroines. My first novel, Graffiti Girl, debuted in May 2007, and my second release, Invisible Touch, will be hitting shelves in September through MTV Books. I do have a lot of blogs…

RS: How did you get the inspiration for your Rita-nominated book?

KP: I used to be a teen artist in high school. In fact, art was pretty much my life. I dreamed of being a famed artist, and then after graduation, I tried to be more sensible and studied to be a graphic artist. Didn’t work out. Luckily I found my niche as a writer, and was able to write Graffiti Girl about a teen artist who had all my confused feelings and artistic insecurities growing up. The theme of the book is about following your dreams, and believing in yourself when it seems like no one else will. That’s the inspiration that drove me to write Graffiti Girl—following your dreams.

RS: What authors do you read?

KP: So many! I try debut authors all the time, the ones who get a lot of buzz, the authors with really pretty covers. Haha. But my absolute fave YA authors are Sarah Dessen, Tina Ferraro, Allison van Diepen, Laurie Faria Stolarz, Jenny O’Connell. Oh man, the list goes on, but we don’t got all day, right?

RS: Who is your favorite character?

KP: You’d think it would be a young adult character, but I’m avid fan of J.D. Robb’s Death series, and Eve Dallas has been my favorite character for a long time now.

RS: What five things are always in your purse?

KP: My wallet, my cell phone, keys, dried up pens, and receipts. Tons and tons of old receipts. What is up with me? I have a recycling center in my purse.

RS: What music are you currently listening to?

KP: Nelly Furtado’s Say It Right. That song is so grooving. I know it’s not a new release, but whenever I discover a song I like it’s an instant iTunes download for me.

RS: Tell us about your pets.

KP: Well, there’s Fred, our turtle. Total low maintenance kind of a guy. Throw him some lettuce and he’s good to go. Then our recent addition to the family is Cinnamon, our poodle. Too adorable for her own good, but we lover her anyway.

RS: One item of makeup you can't live without.

KP: Lipstick. I have full lips, and I learned long ago they can’t be hidden. So why not show ‘em off.

RS: First thing you drink in the morning.

KP: French Vanilla Café, baby! Yum.

RS: Worst high school memory.

KP: Really, there is too many to count. Let’s step back to my freshman year. I’m at a football game with my then BFF. We’re standing on the lower bleachers with some friends. My BFF grabbed me to keep from falling, I nudged her away. She nudged back. Next thing you know, we’re rolling on the ground in a brawl. I don’t even remember it happening, but was told later our guy friend tried to break us up and the guy on the loud speaker told us to knock it off to the entire football stadium. Embarrassing and one of those memories I’ll never forget! Cripes.

RS: If you could go back in time and talk to the teenage you, what would you tell her?

KP: Everything will be okay. Life gets better and the high school drama dies down through the years. That first guy you’re going to date for a year? Totally bad news. :)

RS: What are you working on next?

KP: My next release will be out September 16th through MTV Books called INVISIBLE TOUCH. I’m really excited about this book because I’m mixing a contemporary setting with the paranormal. Kara Martinez has a secret. She signs on people and has to piece the clues together like a puzzle in order to save someone from an unfortunate fate. I’ve received a few cool reviews from YA bloggers so far and I hope other readers will feel the same. :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Interview With RITA finalist Melissa Marr

BIO: Prior to writing, Melissa taught college lit. After a decade of teaching, she applied her fascination with folklore to writing. Wicked Lovely, the first novel, was simultaneously released in the US and UK by HarperCollins in 2007 (with translation rights also sold in seven countries). It debuted as a NY Times Bestseller. Critical responses both here and abroad have been positive. Ink Exchange, the second novel, released in Summer 2008 to similar responses. Currently, Melissa lives in the DC area with her family and writes full time.

KP: How did you get the inspiration for your Rita-nominated book?
MM: I keep thinking I'll get better at this question, but I still don't quite know how to answer. I knew there was this girl who had to deal with the King of Summer & the Queen of Winter. I knew her name (Aislinn). In the original version (a short story), he loved her, and she was having to choose between love and duty. She could be with him as one of his summer girls, or she could be the next Queen of Winter and only have two days a year with him. It evolved over time, but those ideas were the core ideas that led to the novel.

KP: What authors do you read?
MM: In which genre? :) I read everything but inspirational fiction, erotica, or self-help texts. In romance, I like Lynn Kurland, Eloisa James, Sherilyn Kenyon, Nora Roberts (and JD Robb) . . . I don't do genre divisions or sub-genre divisions. I like historical, paranormal, contemporary, sexy, sweet in my romance. I like classic lit (that's what I taught before I wrote). I like Young Adult, Middle-Grade, picturebooks . . . fantasy, mystery, women's studies, folklore, military history, literary theory, philosophy, poetry. I like books.

KP: Favorite character:

MM: Chaucer's Wife of Bath, Milton's Satan, Faulkner's Temple Drake. . . There are too many.

KP: 5 things always in your purse:

MM: ID, money, cell phone, pen, lip gloss

One item of makeup you can't live without:

MM: Nail polish
KP: Music currently listening to:

MM: Right this minute, I'm listening to a mix of Damien Rice, Paolo Nutini, and Poe.

KP: Tell us about your pets:

MM: Junior (lab/rott) is my oldest; he's 12 now. Jezebel (tabby) is 5. Bronwyn (turtle) is 3. Drusilla (rottweiler) turns one in August. Junior moved from the bed a couple years ago, so Jez sleeps with us now. Jez & Junior stay in the office while I work. Dru assures that I take plenty of breaks to play.
KP: First thing you drink in the morning:

MM: Water. Then tea, typically Irish Breakfast Tea, Assam, or Ceylon.

KP: Best/worst prom/high school memory:

MM: I'm lousy at worst/best/favourite questions. One of my top picks would be art class when we sat outside to sketch trees. . . or maybe being picked up by friends and tearing out of the lot too fast with the music too loud. The worst actually AT school was being told I wasn't entered into consideration for a scholarship (despite having straight As) because "girls like [me] don't amount to anything" and that it was better for the scholarship to go to someone who'd do something with their life. It was pretty heart-breaking.

KP: If you could go back in time and talk to the teenage you, what would you tell her?

MM: Not a single thing. Even with the unpleasant parts I experiences, I think who I am now results from the journey it took to get here. I don't regret a moment, wouldn't tamper with anything. We are who we are bc of where we were and the choices we made. I like who
I am today.

KP: What are you working on next?

MM: I'm contracted for 3 more YA novels and an adult anthology (with Kim Harrison, Jeaniene Frost, Vicki Pettersson, & Jocelyn Drake) so depending on the day and the way the words are flowing I'm working on one of those. I don't usually work on just one project at a time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Welcome YA RITA Finalists!

The Fictionistas’ Fabulous Fiction Giveaway has arrived!

In honor of the upcoming Romance Writers of America® national conference, the Fictionistas have interviewed all five RITA® finalists with Young Adult novels. For those not familiar, the 2008 RITA honors the top romance fiction published in 2007, and over 1000 novels and novellas were judged in 12 categories.

Winners of the awards will be announced August 2 at the RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony to be held at RWA’s 28th Annual Conference in San Francisco, California.

Why should you read these interviews? Other than the fact that you’ll learn some fun new facts about your favorite YA authors, the Fictionistas are giving away a bag of YA books from the RWA conference to one lucky commenter. To enter, just comment on any of the interviews this week. The more times you comment, the more chances you have to win!

We’ll begin the interviews tomorrow, Tuesday, July 29, but for now, meet our finalists!

Melissa Marr
Prior to writing, Melissa taught college lit. After a decade of teaching, she applied her fascination with folklore to writing. Wicked Lovely, the first novel, was simultaneously released in the US and the UK by HarperCollins in 2007 (with translation rights also sold in seven countries). It debuted as a NY Times Bestseller. Critical responses both here and abroad have been positive. Ink Exchange, the second novel, released in Summer 2008 to similar responses. Currently, Melissa lives in the DC area with her family and writes full time.

Kelly Parra
Kelly is the author of the novel Graffiti Girl. She lives in a diverse agricultural town in Central California with her husband and two beautiful children. Visit her website:, and follow the Secret Fates blog at

Rosemary Clement-Moore
Author of Prom Dates From Hell, Rosemary has been writing stories all her life, even when she should have been doing other things, like studying Algebra. Her first paying job was as Chuck E. Cheese. She worked in theatre for years, and now she writes full time, which is her dream job, because she gets to work in her pajamas and take a break every afternoon to play Guitar Hero.

Maureen Johnson

Maureen is the author of six novels, including Girl at Sea. She’s a graduate of the University of Delaware, home of the Fighting Blue Hens, where she was a writing major, but spent most of her time working on shows. After college, she became the literary manager of a wonderful (but now defunct) Philadelphia theater company. Soon after that, she moved to New York to study theatrical dramaturgy and writing at Columbia University School of the Arts. Her first novel was released in 2004.

Simone Elkeles
Simone was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. Her funny way of looking at life and the world around her has an affect on the people she hangs out with. If you hear people laughing, you’ll probably fine Simone not far away. She writes about teens because she was a teen in the 80s (when spiked hair and blue eye shadow were “rad”) and she loves writing about those exciting teen relationships and romances. She’s the author of three books, including Leaving Paradise.

Okay, you know the rules…leave a comment during this week and you’re entered the win the bag o’ books! Enter as many times as you like. Check us out all week!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Celly Come Home

He drifted away into the night without so much as a beep. There were no warning signs. And while, yes, it is true that Celly and I had only been together since May, we grew close quickly. Our dedication, reliance on one another, the depth of what we shared came in a lightening flash and blossomed.

And now he's gone.

If I knew where he'd gone. If I knew he was with someone else... some stranger, perhaps with a flashier car, a designer purse with a little pocket just for him... well, perhaps it would be easier. But Celly and I were together one moment, and the next he was simply not there. I spent the morning retracing my steps. CVS. Roche Brothers Market. The Office (Starbucks). I've called out, checked beneath gum-wadded tables. I've wept.

It's as if he never existed. It's as if Celly had not hugged my hip, tucked inside my jeans, with loyalty and a solid determination to serve all these months. As though what we shared daily were a trick of the mind, a tangled memory that was only a dream. And yet I feel that loss, the emptiness of glossy black weight where he nestled in our time together.

Yes, Celly is gone and I don't know where, or why, or even if it was something I did. I've lost more weight recently. My jeans are loose and I've had some cash slip out of my pockets. Was he displeased with the loss of that extra padding? Did I callously fail to hear the dreaded thud of his impact with a cruel floor? Is Celly somewhere, tucked into a lost and found bin, missing me?

I may never know, but I hold out hope. I search for it. I burn to know he is safe, somewhere close, waiting for me to find him.

Celly... if you're out there... come home to me. I don't need to know where you've been... who you've been with. I'll erase the call list and never even look at it. Just come home, baby... come home.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Do these pants make my butt look like somebody's mom?

A friend of mine is going through a phase in her life that requires a new wardrobe. I totally get that, don't you?

When you are in school, you generally get to go shopping every August for school clothes. What that meant was you got to totally replace everything in your closet--generally because you outgrew them, but not always. Because fashion is fluid.

Sometime after that--you are expected to add to your closet piece by piece, but rarely get to go for full replacement. And that is a shame because life remains fluid.

We still outgrow our clothes, even if they still fit our bodies.

I understand what she is going through. I have looked into my closet many times and said, "Whose life is this? Why do I own mom jeans?" I bought some new clothes for a trip and decided to make room and pitch a few things to the Goodwill. I bagged up some perfectly good clothes only because they made me feel ...not me.

I had memories of where I was in my life when I bought them and it reminded me of how I got where I am now. It amazed me how many things I'd purchased over the years that didn't have a thing to do with making me feel good about myself when I wore them.

I am through with that bad behavior.

I'm at a crossroads in my life too--though not a new baby like my friend. My babies are growing up. In six years, they'll all be doing their own thing and I feel like I'm getting my second young adulthood.

I want a killer wardrobe for that.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rap Videos and Female Image

As you probably know, CNN is doing a special documentary series called "Black in America". I watched a little bit last night and plan to watch some more tonight.

I was watching CNN this morning while getting ready for work (pretty typical morning routine...either CNN or MSNBC) and they interviewed a former rap video dancer. I don't remember her name, but they said she was sort of the Rap Video Queen. She believes that the overly sexed vampy image she protrayed in many of the most popular videos hurts women, black women in particular. Nevertheless, she says she made them because she wanted to dance on Broadway, and other than rap videos, there aren't many opportunities for black dancers to make a living.

That seriously pissed me off when I heard that. In a country that seems to be falling all over itself to show how post-racial they are, black women still can't find success in the dance world.

My first response was "oh, that's crazy!" But then I thought about it. I grew up i the dance world, and while I didn't pursue a career, several of my friends have. And I've followed their careers. Some are on Broadway, some are in the competitive ballroom circuit, some are in ballet companies. And one thing that's a constant is that these companies or troupes feature predominently white women. A few Latinas and Asians here or there, and the occasional African-American. But an overabundance of Caucasians.

Oh, there's the occasional black in the dance corps on Broadway, but almost never in the leading roles, unless it's specifically a "black role." And that pissed me off.

Even on shows like "Dancing with the Stars." There are way more black men than black women who make it into the finals of that show. Granted, that's because there are probably more young black men street hip hoppers out there than women, but it often even seems that they choose more black male classically trained dancers than women, too. And I know that there are many, many more trained females out there than it would appear. So what's the deal?

Anyway, that's my rant for today.

So, bringing this back to the original topic. Rap videos and female image...what do you think? Do you think that rap videos are harmful to the way that young women view themselves, not to mention the way that young men treat them? Do you think there's a lingering racism in the way things are casted?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Birthday memories, plus WINNERS of books!

Yesterday was my birthday, as Kristen mentioned. I'm now 32. The big 3-2. Yeah, I know it's not technically one of the "hallmark" birthdays, but whatev. LOL.

It's weird to think that one-half of my lifetime ago, I was a mere 16, having no idea where the twists and turns of life would take me. At that point, I still had NO idea what I wanted to do for a career. I was utterly, devastatingly in love with a fellow band member (obviously, that didn't pan out, haha). I also ate and ate and ate and had no clue my metabolism would ever slow down, LOL. *sigh*

When I was a teen, I liked high school, and I think it was a good time for me. I learned about myself during those years (something I neglected for a long time until just a few years ago, when I started to rediscover myself).

I learned about what kind of person I hoped to become (and how to improve the person I already was).

I learned about dealing with my peers, who were also on the brink of becoming adults (different people require different communication methods).

I also learned that adults weren't perfect (and thus, I should learn to accept people for who they are), and that life didn't always go as we wanted...or planned (so I'd better be flexible!).

Honestly, I'm grateful to be 32, carrying a lifetime of memories with me. I'm grateful that I went through so many weird experiences in school, that I REMEMBER what it felt like to be a teenager...because I think it helps me convey those emotions in my writing. And when I forget, I'm sure my 12-year-old daughter's experiences in middle school and high school will remind me. LOL!

So, what about you--do you still use some of the lessons from high school at your current age? What are the most important things you learned that you still carry with you?

Okay, let's also announce the winners from Monday's contest--each winner will receive his/her choice of a Colleen Gleason novel! And the winners are:



Congrats to you both!! Please email Mel ASAP at with your real names and mailing addresses, plus your choice of one of Colleen's books.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Love/Hate Relationships

First of all, let me start this post with a shout-out to one of my fellow Fictionistas: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RHONDA!!!

Okay, confession time. Unlike most people, I was never on the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer bandwagon. I tend to resist popular things. Don't know why, I just do. However, after falling in love with Firefly and the recent Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, my taste for more Joss Whedon enterprises (and the ever-delicious David Boreanaz) led me to Hulu, a site that lets you watch some TV and movie for free. In the course of a few days, I devoured the first two seasons of Buffy.

I watched the last episode of season two last night. And wept like a little girl. My heart was broken. Why? I'm spoiler protecting this next part in case you haven't seen the show yet either: Because Buffy had to kill Angel, the only man she'd ever loved, to save the world.

At once, I both loved and hated Joss for what he'd made me feel. The way he'd twisted my emotions and drawn me in and made me care. And hurt. At that point, Romeo and Juliet made perfect sense. I wanted a do-over, a differnt ending, an HEA for everyone. I was mad. But I wanted more. (And can I say, I can completely understand the reason for fanfic now? I mean, I'm already rewriting that ending in my head.)

It's a rare show/book/movie that does that to me. Joss seems to do it over and over - I should know to expect it, and I kind of do, but I still hope things will go differently. Has anything ever had that effect on you? What's your reaction to that kind of thing?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Interview with Colleen Gleason

I'd like to thank Colleen Gleason for taking the time to answer my questions. We're going to give away 2 of Colleen's books to 2 lucky commenters. Colleen has also agreed to stop by today to answer any questions you guys may have, so feel free to ask! If you haven't had a chance to check out Colleen's Gardella Vampire Chronicles , pop over to Amazon right now and order them all. I'm on book #3 and I'm totally hooked. (I mean, what's not to love, a Regency-set Vampire Hunter???)

Why Vampire Hunter? Was this your not so subtle way of dusting off all vampires because you're sick of seeing them?

Heh heh. You've found me out!

Actually, I must confess. I'm one of those seemingly rare people who don't find vampires attractive or sexy. (I know, I KNOW!) And I was such a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and also of the Regency England time period, that, in combination with my dislike of vampire, it just made sense to meld those three elements together.

It was also a fresh idea that sparked the attention of an editor.

How long did you write before you sold?

For years. Off and on through college and beyond. I wrote eight books before selling my ninth novel.

I love your covers, have you been happy with them? Were you terrified you'd get something campy or cheesy or completely different from the stories?

Thank you so much. I love my covers too. I absolutely adore them. My favorites are the first, third, and fifth (ie, the ones with the female on the front).

Was I afraid I'd get something campy...not really. Partly because from discussions with my editor, I knew she "got" the books, so I trusted that she'd push for something different.

Plus, every single cover I've seen from New American Library has been fabulous. Honestly, before I sold to them--and even right after--I started looking at covers in bookstores. It seemed like every cover that attracted me, that I thought was wonderful, was a Signet Eclipse book.

So I wasn't worried at all. The actual cover of THE REST FALLS AWAY was very different from anything I'd pictured, but the minute I saw it, I knew it was the right one. It's just brilliant.

Do you do a lot of research? And, be honest, you chose Paris as a setting so you could write off your vacation, didn't you?

Yes, I do a lot of research. I love doing it, though.

It started with being research mostly about Regency Era England, and vampire lore and mythology, when I wrote the first book. But as the series developed and I became more comfortable with the time period, my research became much more specific.

For example, in RISES THE NIGHT, the second book in the series, I researched Lord Byron and his time living in Venice, because my heroine meets him in Venice. I also was intrigued by the fact that Dr. John Polidori, who wrote THE VAMPYRE (which was the predecessor to today's vampire fiction with the first sort of gentleman vampire), died a mysterious death. So I wove that into the story.

For the third book, THE BLEEDING DUSK, I spent time researching Rome in the 19th century. I learned about a mysterious Door of Alchemy, a real door that still exists today, and used its legend as the basis for Victoria's adventures in Rome.

In WHEN TWILIGHT BURNS, Victoria heads back to England, and I found myself fascinated by the underground (literal and figurative) waste recycling industry in 19th century London--so of course I had to send Victoria into the infamous London sewers. And there was also the fact that the Prince Regent, who was crowned during this book, refused to allow his wife to attend the coronation--and that she was literally refused admittance to Westminster Abbey. That event figured in my book as well, with a paranormal twist.

Finally, for the last Victoria Gardella book, AS SHADOWS FADE, I sent my characters to Prague and I had a wonderful time researching that city.

There aren't any Gardella books set in Paris, but I have been to Paris in order to research another project that I worked on. :-)

Interviewer's note: Yeah. I knew there weren't any Gardella books set in Paris. I have no idea why I asked Paris. I know that I meant Rome. When I reread the question after Colleen had answered, I winced and thought, Dude. What the deuce were you smoking?

Your stories seem to appeal to a wide audience. I know you have some teen fans. What age did you jump from reading YA to reading "adult" novels?

I remember reading THE BASTARD by John Jakes (of the Kent Family Chronicles)--which is most definitely an adult book--in my 8th grade class in a Catholic school. I think I must have been reading other adult novels before then, but I specifically remember reading that one and needing to hide the title/cover from the nuns. :-)

I do have a lot of teens who read my books; they're a large fan base for me, and I love that! My daughter is 11, and I haven't allowed her to read them yet, but I think I will in the next few years.

Speaking of teen...let's talk about High School a little bit.

You and I are close to the same age, so I have a feeling we have similar memories from high school.

Name your 3 favorite movies from high school.

OH! Great question. Let's about four?

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (I think that came out then)

Interviwer's note: Add DIRTY DANCING, SIXTEEN CANDLES, and BETTER OFF DEAD to that list and we could be BFFs. :)

Were you in a group? You know, popular, geek, band, athlete, etc?

I was in the "geeky" group, and also the thespian group.

Worst date you ever had?

Hmm. With a guy who I didn't remember what he looked like till he showed up to pick me up...and the passenger door of his car was wired shut, so I had to climb over from the drivers seat. We went to see STRANGE BREW, the movie with Bob & Doug McKenzie. It wasn't a horrible date, just the worst one I can think of. I was pretty lucky!

Tell me about your prom...

I went to an all-girls Catholic high school. We had one prom each year for the juniors and seniors. When I was a junior, I was dating a guy who went to a nearby all boys school, and their prom was the night before ours. So I had two proms in two nights (a Thursday and a Friday). His prom was fine, but my prom was sort of a disaster. His ex-girlfriend, who was a senior at my school, attended the prom with her 40-year-old boyfriend.

No joke. And he looked forty years old! It was awkward to say the least.

The theme for that prom was the love theme from FOOTLOOSE, which I can never remember. ALMOST PARADISE, that's it.

When I was a senior, I went with the same guy, and it was fairly uneventful. My grandmother made my dress, and it was gorgeous. I can't remember that prom's theme song!

What is the one style from the 80s that you think should NEVER return?

The Flock of Seagulls flip hairdo--on men or women. And the overload of jewelry and hair scarves, a la Madonna.

and the burning question on everyone's mind:
Are you a Sebastian girl....or a Max girl?

Heh heh. I could tell you but then I'd have to stake you.

Actually, I love them both. Honestly. Partly because there's a bit of my husband in each one of them! And partly because they're both hawt.

I'm glad I'm not Victoria and have to make a choice....and yes, she does. My editor said so.

Interviewer's note: I'd like to put my vote in for Sebastian. Kthxbye.

To find out more about Colleen, please check out her website at

Thanks again for stopping by!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


It's the bane of a writer's existence, and it comes when we least excpect it. WRITER'S BLOCK. For a long time I insisted that it was a myth. I think that's because I had this notion in my head that writer's block is the same for everyone: an absolute refusal for the brain to create. Since I had never experienced that, I assumed people who got "blocked" were really just experiencing a lazy, or a dry, or a melancholy patch. Boy, was I wrong.

It's out there. Oh, it's out there, people. Lurking. Waiting. In many, many guises.

I never have the "nothing is coming to me" variety. I am plagued by some of the following strains of the virus:

*too many ideas at once
*indecision on which idea(s) to use
*fourteen different directions, none superior to the others
*characters who won't do what I tell them
*muses with big, fat, hairy mouths who won't shut up
*too much caffeine
*not enough sleep
*phone calls

I don't know any writer alive (and if you're out there, we soooo want to interview you!!) who doesn't occasionally find him or herself staring at a blank page. In a way it's easier if you have an assignment. Then you can tackle it logically.

Creativity? Creating something out of nothing? Jesus got HUGE publicity for the loaves and fishes thing for a reason, people. It's hard. Cuz, like, there's nothing there, and you have to do the whole "let there be stuff" thing, and even God needed a few days off after his first wack at it.

So step off, k? I'm just ME.

Anyway, when all else fails, I've always favored brain drain... a free writing exercise where you take a blank sheet of paper, set a timer for one minute, and start writing absolutely anythying that comes into your head til the timer goes off. Like this:

ohmygod what the heck am I going to write on fictionistas today I can't think of anytyhing that wouldn't involve some serious googling and research and I totally want to do those things but I've got a bajillion things to do so what can I bang out kind of quickly this week why is it we have all had writer's block lately man that haiku thing gwen did was adorable hey I know I'll writer about writer's block that would work you know I really do type fast because frankly one minute could fill a very significant paragraph for somebody like me and my hands are not even propped correctly on this keyboard I hate it when other people take all the cushy chairs at starbucks when its quite obvious that this is my OFFICE, hello??? but noooo, go ahead and take the cushy chairs you philistines does philistines have one or two Ls I can't remember wow that was a fast minute

How bout you? What shakes the creative juices out of your blender?

Friday, July 18, 2008


I am the walrus

is a very weird song, right?

What is an eggman?

And why do I care?

Because it's stuck in my head

And I can' t escape.

What is the reason

that I'm writing in haiku

on this random day?

No reason really

other than something to do

that costs no money.

So, riddle me this,

using your mad haiku skills,

...weekend plans or not?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Things That Drive Me Nutso

I just spent an hour on the phone with a friend, trying to coordinate flights. We're going to Italy together, but she lives in a different state, so we're trying to find a way that she and I can both be on the same overseas portion, and still not pay an arm and a leg.

The best I was able to find for me is an American Airlines flight from National Airport in DC (yay for finding a cheap flight from the airport 10 minutes from my house!) to JFK in NY, then a direct flight to Rome. She's coming from West Virginia, however, so either she will drive to one of the DC airports to meet me, or find a way to get herself to NY to meet me, or whatever (she does a lot of business in NY, so that could actually work the best).

So it would stand to reason that her flight out of JFK would likely be less than mine, since I have a hop from DC to JFK first, right?

Wrong. Her direct non-stop flight from JFK to Rome is $100 more than my two part flight (DC to JFK, then JFK to Rome on the same flight as her).

In other words, it's cheaper for me to take an extra flight first.

That seems screwed up. When you factor in the cost of gas, why would they be giving me that DC-to-JFK (and vice versa on the way home) flight for free? Actually, they're giving it to me for negative money, really. They're paying me.

I hate airlines. The pricing makes no sense.

So what about you? What totally screwed up things drive you crazy?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Neurotic much?

I think a lot of people have obsessive compulsive disorder to some degree. We all have certain things we do compulsively that the average person may think is a haha. Here are some things I'm totally OCD about:

--I clean my ears several times a day. Yes, I know this is bad for you, but I swear, my ears actually start itching if I don't use a Q-tip. I get twitchy when we run out of Q-tips and have to go to the store to restock.

--I check my alarm clock well over a dozen times before going to bed every night. After all, what if this was the ONE night I only checked it 5-6 times, and I set it wrong?

--After I lock the car door or the house door, I check the doorknob/door handle a couple of times to make sure it's actually locked. I'll literally check, then pull my hand away, then check again to make sure I wasn't wrong the first time.

--When venturing out in the evening (and sometimes, even in the AM), I've actually gone back in the house to make sure the stove is shut off. Doesn't matter if I didn't cook anything, because what if the house burned down due to my forgetfulness?

So, what about you? Anything you're crazy-OCD about? Share with the class...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Phrased Out

Words are fun. Mostly. Some annoy. Keep reading and see if you agree.

Phrases/words that should be revived:
Dig it - Because that's just cool
Groovy - It's fun to say. Try it.
Righteous - Makes cool kinda holy, you dig?

Phrases/words that should be abolished:
My bad - Really? Your bad what? Bad leg? Bad hair? Bad vocabulary skills?
Moist - personal preference
Ax, as in "Ax your mother." (unless you really mean to imply someone's mother should be killed) - Come on, people. It's ASK, not ax. An ax is a tool, not a verb. Learn it.

Phrases/words that are all right as they are:
Cool - Timeless
Word - As in you agree that what someone just said was righteous.
Props - Giving credit where credit is due.

Phrases/words we need to start using:
Kitteh - A chicks version of dawg. Ex: "Yo, what up, kitteh?" (Props to Mel on this one.)
Kerfluffle - An altercation of some sort. Ex: "That last brownie caused quite a kerfluffle between Gwen and Amanda."

Have anything you'd like to add to a list?

Monday, July 14, 2008

dirty little secret time

From time to time, on my personal blog, I'll admit to a dirty little secret. Like the the time I admitted to lusting after Steve from Blue's Clues. Or when I confessed that I pretended Flo Rida's song LOW was written about me.

But now it's time for me to admit a dirty little secret here at Fictionistas. I have to warn you, it isn't pretty. I'm not proud of it, but after this weekend, I have to get it off my chest. Some of you will be shocked beyond belief. I hope your opinion of me doesn't change after this confession, but trust me when I say, I'll understand if you don't invite me to your house.

You ready?

You sure?

If I visit your house, and you have your toilet paper rolling 'over', I change it to under.

It's true.. I change the direction of the toilet paper. Everywhere I go. (Birdrunner...this means you, too. I'm so sorry!)

I can not stand it when the tp rolls over. It's just NOT RIGHT. I am aware that I'm in the minority here. But I don't care. TP should roll against the wall. Period. The End.

So everywhere I go, if the TP is facing outward, I switch it around. And now I'm admitting it for all the world to see.

Do you have a dirty little secret you'd like to confess? Please share! I promise to keep it just between us and the internetz.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Oh Baby, That's Funny!

Have you seen those commercials for insurance (or something) with the laughing babies? I love those commercials. And seeing one the other night got me thinking, that almost everyone says a laughing baby is one of their favorite sounds. James Lipton gets that answer a lot on Inside the Actor's Studio. It's pure; it's elemental; it's the sound of undiluted joy.

What gives me pause and delights me about it is the eagerness in the participation. Babies don't laugh at complicated jokes involving a priest, a rabbi, and a talking dog. No, a baby thinks that you crinkling a paper bag and saying "woobie woobie" is the funniest bloody thing he has ever heard and the coolest bloody thing he has ever seen and pleasepleaseplease do it again, because it never gets old. Like never. OMG you did it again.

That requires something rather miraculous. Think about it. How does a five month old baby know what's funny? He or she probably doesn't. Or, and I like this answer better, he or she knows something we don't: that it's not about what is or isn't funny, but about the joy of just letting things be wonderful and going with it. Crinkly the bag again! Lower the face-cloth and say "boo" again! Make that face again!

Babies don't laugh for just anyone, either. My impression, when I watch those darling commercials with the hysterical little tykes, is that mom or dad is the bag-crinkler-boo-maker. And when you are lucky enough to witness a tipping-over-in-your-huggies laugh, the kind that comes from the toes and bubbles all through the house in rolling waves of silliness, it's not a stranger initiating the launch sequence. Baby is in hysterics because somebody he or she LOVES is involved. Which is yet another facet of the awesome factor, isn't it?

That small person is looking into the face of love and participating in an exchange: I'll trade you my laughter for the joy it brings you. I promise it will be a riot no matter how many times you do it. Keep looking at me like that and I can find a bottomless well of these incredible, soul-elevating, miraculous giggles. They're for me, yes, but they are also for you. This is about us loving one another and becoming giddy with the magic of that love.

It really does make you stop and think that life gives you what you look for in many cases. And that joy, happiness, contentment are choices. It's funny because we want it to be, feel like a good laugh, need a little silly. It certainly can be.

Miracles are so often very, very simple. Isn't that wonderful? I could laugh out loud just for the fun of it.

So what's your favorite sound? If James Lipton were sitting with you and asked that question, what answer would pop into your head immediately? I gotta go with the babies, baby.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Send in the Coulrophobia

Two of my greatest fears are not having something to blog about on Fridays and clowns. Since I didn't have anything to blog about...I decided to combine the two. You're welcome.

I don't think I was always afraid of clowns. I can't say that I ever really understood them. As a child, I'd been to parades and the circus but I never thought they were funny. Their mirth seemed forced to me--I guess I was hard to impress.

Clowns made me uneasy--but they didn't fill me with dread.

It was Stephen King that ruined me.

I wasn't even a child when the book, It, came out-- and twenty when they made it into a mini-series. But I've never recovered. Even Ronald McDonald is suspect now. do you weigh in on clowns? Do you like them? Do you...gulp....collect them? Do you have that oil painting of that sad clown with the droopy flower in your home? Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?

Or are you like me? A victim of Coulrophobia...the fear of clowns?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer Reading

I like books. Duh, that's pretty obvious. I read a lot...generally at least 2 books a week.

Often I stick to my favorite authors, but I also like to experiment. This summer I've been experimenting a lot. And I've discovered a lot of GREAT new authors...not necessarily "new" authors, but new to me, at least.

Some of my new faves that I've discovered so far this year, by genre:

Laurie Halse Anderson...yeah, I know. It took me long enough. But I heard her speak (OK, that wasn't supposed to be a pun) at a conference in April, and she totally rocked, so I ran out and bought SPEAK. Wow. Just, wow. All I can say. If you haven't read this book, you need to. Now. Since then I've also read TWISTED and PROM. She doesn't disappoint.

Mitali Perkins...I've been on an India kick lately, and I'm so glad. Her MONSOON SUMMER is amazing, and had me smiling for hours after I finished.

Liz Rettig...Her MY DESPERATE LOVE DIARY is best described as "teenage Bridget Jones." Hilarious!

Chick Lit:
Jenny Gardiner...There's a reason she won American Title III. SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER is laugh out loud funny.

Regency Romance:
Sophia Nash...I've been remiss in putting off reading her for so long. She's a local chapter member of mine, and I won a signed copy of A DANGEROUS BEAUTY at a meeting last year, and somehow it got buried in my to-be-read pile for over a year. I'm so glad I pulled it out last month. I simply devoured it, and immediately ran out to buy THE KISS. I can't wait until her next one comes out next year.

So, have you tried any new authors lately? Add anyone to your auto-buy list from now on? Whatcha reading this summer?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rating your own books 5 stars--yay, or nay?

There's been a bit of a buzz lately on one of the writing loops I belong to about this very topic.

Some people say they've given their own novels 5 stars on various places, because they love their work and feel they have a right to cast their vote like anyone else.

Me? I won't be doing this when my books come out. Here's why:

1--I wrote the book. I'm naturally biased, because I think I'm brilliant. LOL. So where's my fairness in rating my own stuff? Sorry, but of course I want my book to have the highest ratings possible. (Hey, at least I freely admit it. Don't judge me!)

2--It smacks of desperation (and tackiness, if I can be honest), even if that's not your intent. If you need to rate your own material to help boost your ratings, perhaps send it out to more reviewers instead of "skewing" the results to your favor.

I'd love to hear arguments for both sides, so what do you guys think? Rating your own books--good or bad idea? Dish it, yo!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

You ate what?

Click to see full-sized image.

For the first year of my college experience, I was on the meal plan - which meant I ate at the cafeteria. (When I wasn't going out to eat anyway.) This was a hit or miss type of experience. A hit when I made it during operational hours and the food was edible. A miss when I overslept or they were serving things like peppers stuffed with rice and raisins. Um...okay.

My second semester, I moved into a quad in the newest dorm on campus and since that included a kitchen, the meal plan was dropped. Everyone else had to cook for themselves in that building too, which resulted in some interesting meals as not everyone was as naturally gifted in the kitchen as I was *ahem* and of course, most of us were pretty stinking poor. Although I never ate ramen or pot noodles in college, I knew a lot of kids who lived on it.

Some of the more interesting concoctions:

Mac-n-cheese with canned tuna
Spanish rice with ground beef
Cheezwhiz and tomato sandwiches
Cinnamon chicken
Broccoli and ketchup
Chicken noodle soup w/ instant mashed potatoes mixed in
Grilled cheese and spaghetti sandwiches

What weird things did you or your friends eat in college?

Monday, July 07, 2008

I'm a survivor!

I survived a holiday weekend.

You might be thinking this is a snarky comment geared toward my b-i-l and family; but I assure you, it is not.

They were fantastic. It was great to see my niece again. It's been two years. She's 13 now and looks 16. They need to keep her locked in a room with blacked out windows. Our families get along well, even though we're vastly different. We had a great time.

Until Saturday afternoon.

No. I didn't survive my family. My family and I survived Mother Nature.

We got up early and drove the hour and a half to Lake Ouachita where my parents have a lakehouse and a party barge at our disposal. It was a beautiful day. Sun was shining and a breeze was blowing. Perfect for working on my tan.

About 1:00 we see some clouds building to the west of us. (Okay, I was told they were to our west. Frankly, they looked like they were directly in front of us to me...)
My dad calls and tells us not to worry, the storms were going North of us...we would be fine. We get the kids out of the water as the lightning show begins about ten miles away. The breeze turns to gusting winds, and we have to hustle to tie the boats up better.

But we decide to wait it out because they were clearly going North. (or, if you're me, they were going to the right of us.)

Until a Low Pressure system moved in.

It was bizarre. I practically grew up on the lake and I'm a pretty good judge of when to pack it up and get moving. I did suggest we might want to think about leaving, but when Daddy called and said "Don't worry." we carried on.

Bad idea.

The waves on the lake shifted and we realized that big, ugly storm system was being pushed right back toward us. Lightning was streaking to the ground and icy rain pelted us like darts. At this point, we had to try to wait out the storm, there was no way the party barge could withstand the winds and rains.

After about 45 minutes of terrifying weather, it calmed. Of course, the storm was headed directly toward our harbor, but since we were traveling via pontoon (aka the snail boat) we would just follow the storm in. Right?


The storm stalled over the lake so we had to drive directly through the belly of the beast. My husband, Captain Fishdog, managed beautifully.

It was pretty exciting. And scary. At one point I thought it was sleeting, the rain was so cold and hard. It actually felt good when we'd hit a big wave in the lake and we'd get sprayed with the ultra warm lake water.

We ended up beating the storm to the harbor. It was bizarre. I guess it just hung out over the lake about 2 miles from the marina. We pulled into the dock and warned several families who were loading up their boats not to go out there, but they didn't listen. Methinks they regretted that choice about twenty minutes later.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hot Walkin' Momma, That's Me

I love animals. I know a lot of people say that, but if you doubt it for even a moment, let me tell you about my most disgusting summer job-- one I did for 3 years in middle school and my freshman year of high school.

Marshfield Fair-- a yearly wonder that is one of the oldest town fairs in the country (there are debates about which one wins that honor). It's hundreds of years old, in any event, and at one time featured horse racing. I got a job one summer, being horse crazy and obsessed, as a hot-walker and scraper.

How gross is it? Hot-walking is just walking the horses in slow, calming circles while they cool off. Scraping... well, when the horses come off the track, covered in lather and sweat, a scraper uses a long plastic square to actually scrape the sweat and scuz from the animal's body. The foam and sweat get all over you.

Yep. THAT is how much I love animals. And I went back two more summers to do it, even though I'd been bitten, stomped, shoved, and bruised up day after day. A lot of the horses running Marshfield Fair were either making a little money before they died, or being worked to death after an injury. Most were in rough shape. Some-- a lucky few-- were recovering from injury or learning the ropes before going on to decent lives. But those horses were rare.

So I let them stomp on me, bite me, slam me up against stalls that left splinters all over me. And I whispered or sang to them when I could. Poor babies needed somebody to care at least once.

Most other kids got jobs selling concession stand stuff, running rides, or parking cars. Most other girls were smart enough to be showing off their tans and being all cute for the guys. I was in the barns getting covered in filth and stinking pretty bad.

Real heart-breaker, me.

In the end, though, I came to meet some incredible old horse-people. I hung out with jockeys and trainers, learned some neat tricks I took home to my own horse, was taught to spot bad feet, lots of ailments, and how to fix something fast. I had a boyfriend in that last year who was nice enough not to complain about the smell.
I still love horses. The smell of manure and hay, liniment and tack oil still makes me feel more welcome than grossed out. I can, I will admit, do without the sweat and scum all over me and my button-fly Levis. But then, I've grown quite a bit... I hope.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Take Your Blogger to Work Day: Todd Galloway from Fafarazzi

Happy Independence Day!

Today we are chatting with one of my heroes, Todd Galloway from my favorite guilty pleasure,

(Here Todd is pictured with pop culture icon Perez Hilton.)

Thanks for dropping by, Toddles. I mean, Todd. Please tell our readers, what the heck is Fafarazzi and how did you come up with the name? is the original Fantasy Celebrity Leagues site, it works like fantasy football, but you pick a team of celebs instead of athletes and they score based on the amount of publicity they get each day. We also do games based around reality TV shows like Big Brother,Rock of Love, Project Runway, and all the other big ones.
We came up with name by kinda tossing around some celeb related words- and then putting F's on them, for "fantasy" When we said Fafarazzi it sorta struck us as a good one. We figured people would shorten it up to Fafa which is kinda nice, short, and quirky -- which they did! We kinda put "Fafa" in front of everything now.

We've talked about your decision to get "unstuck" from a job
that wasn't making you happy to starting this online mecca for people like me who love pop culture. How did you go about making the move from whatever you did before to whatever it is you do now. And what exactly do you do now? Sample day?

Making the move....I had always been tinkering w/ the internet, starting up little sites,learning more and more. Additionally, I'd helped start a small business with my friends that we all ran on the side. I always kinda knew I'd like to get outta the corporate world and do my own thing --but making that jump, of course, was pretty tough. I'd toiled with it for months before getting serious about making a decision.

The thing that really got me over the edge was a blog post by Bob Parsons, the founder of GoDaddy. It's a simple thought exercise -- What's theworst that could happen? If I quit my job, what is the absolute worst thing that could happen to me? I wasn't gonna starve to death and I wasn't gonna be left in the cold homeless -- I knew those for sure.So the absolute worst case scenario was that my ventures failed and I'd have to get a new office job. Totally not the end of the world. Not jumping would have left me always wondering 'what if?'

Another factor was that I was single and had no kids, so a jump then was infinitely less risky than a jump w/ a mortgage and family to support.

What do I do now, Sample day....I work from a home office alongside 2 other Fafa employees/owners. There really isn't a typical day (which in itself is cliched!) -- butI just kinda run stuff. Sometimes its talking among ourselves aboutwhat new games and features we want to create, and then starting in on the design and development of them. Sometimes its marketing projects or contests we want to run. A few meetings here and there w/ people outside the company we're working with. Aside from that I love talking to everyone on the site in the Forums and in the leagues I play in w/ my Fafa friends. Reading gossip and watching reality TV is part of the 'work day', too, which I can't complain about. When you deal w/ celeb gossip there's no such thing as NSFW!

What kind of background do you have that helps this business (schooling, job experience, etc) and is there something you wished you had more background in that would help you now?

I majored in MIS in college, Management Information Systems -- which is a blend of computer science and business, basically. It's basically how to apply technology to business. Besides that I had been teaching myself "internet stuff" since I was 16. Early webpage coding, design/photoshop stuff, and databases. Really -- the self taught part turned out to be more valuable than the curriculum. Not just from a knowledge standpoint - but moreover in learning how everything worked and having to do problem solving on your own.

When you were in high school, did you see yourself living a different life than you are now? How so?

A little bit - I don't think I realized I'd have such a strong desire to work on my own. I think it took being in that office environment everyday to realize that. I did have some thoughts about doing freelance web development or running a small web design/development shop a few times. Which woulda been cool, too, but more client-focused.

If you got to go back in time and tell TeenTodd one really cool thing about his future, what would it be?

College is gonna be frickin awesome. You're gonna wanna stay 5 years,and you will, and it will be worth it.

We yammer about prom all the time on this you have agood prom story?

Haha,, yes! I kinda forgot about this til you asked. Apparently some people at prom didn't think the DJ was very good - they kept requesting songs, and he wouldn't play them. The DJ got pissed about all the requests and, without notice, played "Come On Ride The Train"as our last-song for prom. Everyone just figured there was another slow song coming afterwards, but nope. I think he had to write our class an official apology the next week.

I know the readers who aren't still in high school are gonna ask me, so you may as well spill now--Happily Single, Single but looking,or In a relationship? Don't blame me for the question, it's not my fault you're cute.

Haha,, thanks, i'm flattered and single.

What surprises you the most about Fafarazzi now that it's coming up on it's second anniversary? (and yes, I've been there since I think the second week of the public launch. I'm very loyal. And gossip is usually the only news I know.)

I think the thing that surprises me the most is all the different ways we've been able to expand Fafarazzi. Our first focus was only on the Fantasy Celebrity Leagues, and we've expanded into social networking stuff, tv games, and other pop culture related games. Another cool thing is seeing the different ways everyone play on Fafa. Some people have been really creative with creating leagues with themes, special rules, trivia, prizes, etc.

Do you have anything you want to plug?

TV Fantasy Games for Project Runway, Big Brother and VH1's I LoveMoney are all starting in the first weeks of July!

My signature interview quesion. You are stranded on a deserted island and your iPod has only three songs on it. What do you hope they are?

Well, if I'm stranded I better have something upbeat on there.
- Happy Frappy by Guster. It's overly cheery, great song.
- Happy Kid by Nada Surf. I'm obsessed w/ Nada Surf right now, and its a great upbeat one.
- Over The Hills And Far Away by Led Zeppelin

Thanks for the great interview Todd!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Coolest. Job. Ever.

To date, my best summer job ever happened the summer in between my freshman and sophomore years of college, back in 1996. That was the year that Atlanta hosted the Olympic Games.

I should probably back up a bit. During my freshman year (well, actually all throughout college), I worked part-time in the box office on campus, selling tickets for all types of theatrical and musical events. We were using a brand-new computer ticket sales program, which certainly wasn't complicated, but not many people in the country had been trained on it.

Turns out that the Olympic ticket sales used that very same computer program, so they sent press releases to every box office across the country using that program, encouraging us to apply to work for the Games.

Well, duh. Of course I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn't?

But the temp agency doing the hiring kept losing my application. Seriously. I had to send it in 4 times, and eventually I made friends with the lady doing the hiring. She made certain to specifically look for my application that 4th time.

Which was a Very Good Thing. Because a slightly different position opened right about then...the Olympic Family Hotel (actually, it was the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, but during the summer of the Olympic Games they always call the hotel hosting all the foreign dignitaries, IOC members, and VIPs the "Olympic Family Hotel") needed another employee in the IOC Ticketing Office, and the hiring lady noticed on my resume that I spoke French and some Spanish, and that I was majoring in International Relations. So she called me and asked if I'd be interested in working there instead of at one of the venues.

OK, let's think about this. Air conditioning, as close to business attire as you can get in regulation Olympc Games clothing, and access to heads of state and royalty? Hells yeah!

Turns out that the position was in Protocol, which meant that I worked in the unit who made the decisions as to who was higher than someone else, and thus got priority for complimentary access to the most popular sports. For example, President and Mrs. Clinton could walk into any event that they wanted and just show their security badge, and they'd get escorted to the VIP section, no questions asked. But Chelsea had to request her tickets in advance for the most popular events, such as Gold Medal Gymnastics, Basketball, and Swimming. And my office made the determination as to whether she would get them (hint: she always did).

Sometimes they needed additional hostesses at the VIP entrances of events, in which case, I got to work sporting events, not selling tickets, but merely smiling and welcoming the guests. I stood in the VIP section (thus, getting an amazing view of the sports) and showed Jimmy & Mrs. Carter, the King and Queen of Sweden, Prince Albert, or the Gore daughters to their seats.

A really cool perk of my job was that because I was just 19 at the time, most people assumed that I was a volunteer (I wasn't...I actually got paid pretty decent money at the time), so I got every available handout -- free tickets, passes to club openings, food, collectible lapel pins (don't's an Olympic thing...but I once had my Olympic pin collection appraised and it was worth over $600...and I didn't buy a single one), random free stuff from the various bid cities (cities trying to get the 2004 Olympics...I'm one of the few people in the world with a San Juan 2004 t-shirt). You name it.

So yeah. The highlight of my working career came at the age of 19. Really cool at the time, but it just serves to make me feel worse about myself every other summer since, when I'm stuck in a crappy job with little summer vacay. LOL!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Review of MADAPPLE by Christina Meldrum

This week, I'm reviewing a novel called MADAPPLE by Christina Meldrum.

(Disclosure--Ms. Meldrum is a fellow author at Andrea Brown Literary Agency; however, I never met or talked to her before she requested a review from the Fictionistas. Okay, now that that's out of the way, on to the review!)

Aslaug is a teenager raised in near isolation with her eccentric mother. The windows of their home are covered with thick curtains to keep neighbors out--or perhaps to keep Aslaug and her mother trapped within. Their only forays out into the world are to forage for plants, during which time Aslaug's mother instructs her on science, botany, and language. But Aslaug has never seen her face in a mirror, has never been taught how to relate to other people, so she's uncomfortable within her skin as she blossoms into a young woman.

Then Aslaug's mother dies suddenly, and Aslaug's life is turned upside down. She's forced to think for herself--and to face the knowledge that her mother may have been mentally unstable. Eager to find her mother's family, to perhaps get answers about her unknown father, Aslaug flees her home. She finds her aunt and cousins in a nearby town, but all is not as she expected. Her relatives, who maintain a small charismatic church, hold the key to Aslaug understanding her mother and her own self. But the deeper Aslaug digs into the past, the more questions she reveals, and the more precarious her own situation gets.

For she must discover whether religious miracles have actually happened or not--both to her mother and to herself. And when Aslaug is arrested and accused of double murder, only uncovering the truth about her past, and present, can shed light on this case and determine Aslaug's fate.

It was difficult to write the above summary without giving away spoilers. I have to say, I can't possibly do this novel justice in just a few paragraphs. Ms. Meldrum's story is dense, packed with vivid emotion, characterization, and shocking plot elements. I was hooked.

A quick note: this book is definitely for older teens and adults--the thematic subject matter and language (though infrequent) may not be suitable for anyone younger.

Ms. Meldrum's writing is dense, but as the story goes along, you come to see that the prose effectively reflects Aslaug's mind, a brilliant girl raised by a brilliant, unstable mother. A girl who doesn't know how to connect with people, only with science, with ideas. For Aslaug views life through the lens of botany, language, science--the influence of her mother.

Though I went into this story not knowing anything about botany, Ms. Meldrum's reliance upon plants was vital to the storyline; fortunately, she was careful to make sure the reader understood what the plants were used for and how they played into the plot.

The narrative structure itself is clever, as well. The chapters alternate between illuminating the past in Aslaug's perspective, and the court proceedings of the double murder trial in the present time. It was very effective--as the trial progressed, Aslaug's backstory revealed pieces of the puzzle, answering questions for the readers even as it raised more.

After I finished the book, it haunted me, lingered with me for days. To me, that's the sign of a definite keeper. I highly recommend MADAPPLE.

Well done, Ms. Meldrum. I'm eagerly looking forward to your next novel.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

She works hard for the money

If you're anything like me, summers off...weren't. They were spent working, or as my dad liked to say, learning the value of a dollar. Considering that for the most part, I worked for my parents in their clothing store in Ocean City, MD, this shouldn't come as a shock.

Most of my memories of those working days are pretty good. Certain songs make me feel like I'm right back there, hanging bathing suits, straightening racks and watching for shoplifters. Ah, the good ole days.

One thing I really remember was how dumb the tourists were. Some of the most memorable questions were:

Where's the beach? Considering you could walk from the bay side of this barrier island to the ocean side in less than 10 minutes in most spots, this one could really be answered by walking outside and looking east.

How do you get to the 94th Mall? Hmm. I guess getting in your car and driving to 94th street would be too easy.

Do you live here? No, I'm the only 15-year-old legally allowed to vacation alone. But that got boring, so I decided to get a job.

Where's the boardwalk? You know that 2.5 mile strip of wood and concrete that runs from the inlet to 27th street, features two amusement parks, a pier, the life-saving museum and has all those kites flying over it? You haven't seen that? Then it's in Delaware.

Are these shorts on sale? No, we just fill the racks with display only clothes. In fact, this whole store is actually storage space for the summer clothes I'm not wearing. Thanks for stopping in, though.

I could go on, but you get the drift. Did you get asked dumb questions at your summer job?