Friday, October 31, 2008

I Got a Rock

I am so lame. I can't think of any halloween experience from high school at all. Not one. I remember dressing up for Senior Ball (we had a masquerade--I went barefoot and pregnant btw) but that wasn't halloween.

My earlier memories were dressing up like a witch for--like 4 years in a row. And we lived in Wisconsin and mine was the mother who made me wear my winter coat over my costume. Grr argh. That drove me crazy! Of course, if I still lived in Wisconsin, I'd probably have done the same to my kids. But still. It was awful. I didn't care how cold it was, I wanted everyone to see my costume!

I know I'll also never forget the smell of those plastic costumes. You know the ones. With the mask that had teeny tiny holes for seeing and breathing (ha-ha)and the strap that dug into the back of your head. Yeah, the smell of that plastic is forever a stain on my senses.

But my fondest childhood halloween moment is this:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Author Marley Gibson on TV!

YA author Marley Gibson will be promoting her upcoming Ghost Huntress series (Houghton Mifflin) on the premiere episode of MY GHOST STORY tonight on the Biography Channel!

My Ghost Story: Hauntings Revealed
Thursday, October 30 @ 10 pm ET
Upcoming Showings:
Saturday, November 01 @ 9 pm ET

Everybody has a ghost story. But how many people have filmed theirs? Hear true and unbelievable stories of the paranormal as told by the people who lived through them--and actually captured their hauntings on tape. These harrowing eye-witness accounts of the unexplainable are transformed into more than tales with terrifying visual evidence. You'll have no choice but to believe your eyes.

Marley and her husband Mike will be talking about their own experience. But what about you? Have you ever seen a ghost?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Funny Halloween Stories

I remember one Halloween probably 10 years ago, I'd decided it would be fun to scare the teens who came to my door asking for candy. So, when I heard the doorbell ring, I flung the door open and screamed as loud as I could...only to see they were, in fact, NOT teenagers.

It was a group of 3-4 year-olds.

And they all started bawling, freaked out by my screaming. I felt so bad, I gave them each a big handful of candy. Yeah, never tried that brilliant idea again.

Another Halloween, when I was in high school, a group of friends and I decided we were going on a ghost run. I lived in Louisville, KY during this time, and they have a ghost run every year (at least, I think they still do...?). Basically, everyone goes to a parking lot and are given clues on how to navigate your way, via car, to a haunted house. You go through the haunted house and are given your next set of clues to the next house, and so on.

I have no idea what awaited everyone at the end, because we never made it there. We made it to the first haunted house, got our set of clues to house #2, but got utterly, utterly lost, out in the middle of rural Kentucky in the pitch-black dark.

Oh, and the car I was driving had the driver's side window broken (it wouldn't roll down), so we were lost in the middle of rural Kentucky, in the freezing cold, WITH the window down. And two of my friends were dating, so they were making out in the backseat while my high-school bff and I were up front trying navigate our way out of there. FUN. haha

When I tried to turn around in someone's driveway, I ended up hitting their mailbox, and one of the hubcaps flew off the car. At that point, we decided to just go home. haha. I didn't tell my folks about the mailbox/hubcap incident until many years later.

So, what about you--got any funny Halloween stories?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm a man, baby!

Halloween [hal-uh-ween, -oh-een, hol-]– noun the evening of October 31; the eve of All Saints' Day; Allhallows Eve: observed esp. by children in costumes who solicit treats, often by threatening minor pranks

As a kid, I wasn't allowed to trick or treat, which wasn't that big a deal. I don't regret it. I think Halloween is much more an adult adventure anyway. Should kids really be given unlimited amounts of sugar? Or do adults send their kids out to collect the stash for their own personal enjoyment? Perhaps that's it. Anyway, I digress.

One of my favorite adult Halloween moments is from when I lived in NYC. The yearly parade in the Village is something to behold, I promise. Anyone in costume is welcome to march and the crowd easily swells to the 100,000 mark and beyond. There is nothing you won't see. Even amidst this amazing spectacular, my friend (dressed as a black leopard) and I (dressed as a spotted leopard in a vintage '50's leopard dress, thigh-high black suede boots, tail, ears and full makeup with my hair teased into a huge mane) managed to get noticed.

A group of Japanese businessmen (In suits - that part kills me. Why didn't they dress up?) stopped us, took our picture, took their pictures with us, then asked me if I had any pictures of what I looked like as a man. As a man? Yep. They thought I was a drag queen.

Now, really, how much more successful can a costume be? (And no, that pic isn't me, but it's pretty close. *sigh* I wish I still had those pics...)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Home is Where the Haunt Is...

I love Halloween. When I worked in the real world I would dress up and go to work. This is me from 2005:

I called myself Melvira...I think it worked.

Then in 2006, I was a Skeleton Monk:

Last year, I missed out on all the fun because I was sequestered away writing. But this year, I plan to dress up and thoroughly enjoy myself. I'm thinking Zombie...what do you think?

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Where's Your Mojo Maximized?

For the past two weeks I have been lucky enough to have two WONDERFUL writers covering for me... a huge gift, and one for which I am deeply thankful. I know everyone enjoyed their posts. I did, too. While I was taking a little break I got a lot of writing done. Started a new contemporary, did some more work on my young adult, and really enjoyed being a reader of this blog without worrying about posting. There is so much talent here it inspires me to do better.

I couldn't help but notice something I've talked about with other writers alot. I work better in certain places. One of them is Snow Pond in Maine, where I did a recent get-away with my man-unit.

We have a house in Oakland on the water and it never fails to inspire me, restore me, lift me up, and give me a refreshed attitude toward the world and my work. I love the quiet, the solitude, and the many memories. Plus watching Max and Jeeves chase ducks, chipmunks, and leaves is a hoot.

When I'm back in Green Harbor I cruise the cafes. I still Starbucks. I still love the cafes in Borders and Barnes and Noble. I still love places like Blue Dog and Wired for Life and the Chocolate Cafe. I love anyplace with good espresso, nice little nibbly bits, and a decent signal.

But the best place? The best place to write is the beach. In the winter, when it gets so bitter sitting outside is not possible, I park at the Harbor or head for one of the local places with a view. But for most of the three seasons I can manage the outdoors I grab my laptop and go right to the water. I may be cursed to set everything I ever write in a coastal town. Why?

Cuz that's where the mojo is. So... where's yours hiding?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Surgeon General warns this boyfriend may be bad for your heart.

Let's talk...Bad Boys today.

We all knew who we SHOULD end up with--the nice guy. The guy that knows what color your eyes are, opens doors for you, says nice things to your mom and shakes your dad's hand. So why is it that so many of us are attracted to the Bad Boy?

He's the guy that wears too much leather, doesn't call you or only calls you late at night(when he wants something), and he won't even meet your parents. He may or may not be a vampire, but even without the fangs, he still ends up sucking the life out of you making you swear off men all together.

Until you get smart and date the nice guy.

So who is your favorite bad boy character in TV, movies, or book? And what was it about him that made him more enticing than the good-guy hero?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writing for both adults and teens...some thoughts from Nick Hornby

When I was in Italy last month for the International Women's Fiction Festival, I had the opportunity to attend two excellent talks by worldwide bestselling author Nick Hornby (ABOUT A BOY, HIGH FIDELITY, FEVER PITCH...the list goes on and on).

He was there to promote his latest book, SLAM, which happens to be his first Young Adult novel. The first talk was open only to writers attending the conference. The other talk was open to the general public, and included some very interesting questions from the teenagers living in the town (who were practicing their English by asking him the questions in English).

(Oh, and it's neither here, nor there, but the kids had some really insightful questions about SLAM...for example, one girl asked what the skateboard was a metaphor, I read SLAM and I just thought it was, well, a skateboard.)

Anyway, during the closed session with the writers, I asked him what were the biggest differences for him in writing a YA book, since everything else he had written was for adults (even though they've been very popular with teens as well...probably because so many of his works have been made into movies). He said he saw 3 differences:

a) SLAM has less swearing than his previous books. And he said he actually found it difficult to write, because he actually had to be clever in coming up with ways to express his frustration or whatnot without relying on what has become a crutch.

b) He was appalled by the ghettoization of YA novels, even though he himself was guilty of it. Before deciding to write a YA, he'd never read a YA. So he decided he probably should, and picked up MT Anderson's FEED (which he said was "brilliant"). He wishes more adult readers would venture over into the YA section of the bookstore, because some of the most exciting fiction is coming out of that section. (But hey, we here at Fictionistas already knew that!)

His exact words were "Not reading young adult fiction because you're not a young adult is a bit like not reading crime fiction because you're neither a criminal nor policeman."

c) He felt free to include sci-fi/supernatural elements in SLAM, but he would never include those in a book written primarily for adults.

That got me to thinking. I'm kinda the same way. Both my last manuscript and my current work-in-progress (both of which are for teens) have had light paranormal elements, whereas I've only ever written straight-up contemporary stories for adults.

And my reading habits are the same way. I rarely, if ever, read adult paranormal (really only if it's something by one of my writer friends, and not always then), yet I'd venture to guess that roughly half of the YA books I read have paranormal elements in them. Maybe even more than half.

Why is that? Mr. Hornby said he feels that the willing suspension of disbelief is stronger for teenagers than it is for adults. He feels that adults are too jaded, and less likely to buy something like a character talking to his Tony Hawk poster for advice and Tony Hawk talking back to him and letting him see into the future. OK, maybe that's a bad example, since most adults wouldn't even know who Tony Hawk is, but he makes an interesting point.

I know that when I first came up with the idea of writing a time travel, I immediately knew it had to be a YA. Not because I'd decided I was going to be a YA writer or anything (although my critique partners would probably tell you that my voice is more suited for YA than it is for adult) but because something was telling me that it just had to be YA. Was my subconscious telling me that teens and preteens would probably be more willing to swallow the idea of time travel than adults would? Like I said, I rarely read any adult paranormal books, yet I read lots of teen paranormal books, so maybe there's something to that idea.

Of course, you're going to say, "Well, Amanda, maybe you don't read adult paranormal, but millions of other people do." Good point. It's definitely a popular genre. And my anecdotal evidence of myself and my friends here in DC probably aren't a good sample.

But what do you think? Are teens more likely to swallow the idea of paranormal elements in an otherwise non-paranormal story than adults are?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fortune cookies

I've eaten more than my fair share of chinese food in my life. I adore it, perhaps more than a person really should. LOL. And one of the best parts of chinese food is cracking open that fortune cookie and reading what the stars have in store for you.

My daughter told me this morning that three months ago exactly, I opened a fortune cookie that said something good was in store for me three months from now (she saved the fortune just so she could remind me--wasn't that sweet?).

That's today, October 22.

Talk about being excited! Who knows what it could be--I have a bid on a house...does that mean I'll hear something positive today? Will a million bucks land in my lap out of nowhere? Who knows--the world is totally my oyster today, I hope!

Of course, I've also had my fair share of dud fortune cookies. In fact, one time, I had a creepy one that said, "we are always watching you." DUDE, why?!?!

So what about you? Ever have a fortune that came true--whether from a cookie or otherwise? Or, have you ever have a fortune that blew it big-time and was totally wrong? Dish it up, yo!

ETA: WE GOT THE HOUSE!!! I am doing the happy girl dance right now. YAY!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Take the challenge!

Did you spend as much time watching tv in the 80's as I did? Do you remember any of it? Click on the banner above, take the quiz, then report back with your score. I got a 90%. I don't know whether to be proud or ashamed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

still on that island

So, we have our music, our movies and our books...

What 3 fictional characters would you take with you to the deserted island and why?

  1. MacGyver: He could build or fix anything. I'd have a sturdy house with a fully-functioning bathroom made out of cocnut shells and palm trees in 24 hours.
  2. Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother: Endless source of entertainment. Plus his actor once played a doctor on TV, so maybe some of that medical knowledge is still in there, just in case...
  3. Legolas from LOTR: I don't even think I have to explain why, but I will try. a: he could hunt. b: he's gorgeous
Who do you think you would pick?

BTW: I said MacGyver not MacGruber...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Writer? High School? Not So Different After All

Hi, I’m Bria from Luv YA and I can’t tell you how excited I am to visit at Fictionistas. They are the cool kids and all. Which got me to thinking…Writing. High School…Not so different.

Check it out.

1. The In-Crowd
A word about high school, writing and life in general: there’s always a cooler table, no matter who you are. From here, I can see the agented tables, the published tables and one day a table up on a stage as The Guest Author.

Of course, I’m a huge believer in just deciding my table IS the cool table. Yeah, that typically works for me. And, just like high school, I love my table but there’s always a bit of table envy going on. I mean, can’t I sit over there with Meg Cabot?

2. Homework
Every once in awhile a new book comes out and everyone – I mean EVERYONE – is saying you HAVE to read this book. And I think, “Oh, I have to read that book.” But here comes the kicker…Now that I’m writing, I can’t just read the book. I have to study it.

Sound familiar?

Doesn’t the idea of having to do something for your own good always snatch a bit of the joy. Of course, just like with those books in school, most of the time I end up doing that shout-at-myself-in-my-head thing, “Why didn’t I read this sooner???”

Confession time: This weekend I will finally begin ‘Wicked Lovely’ – mock me now.

3. Class pictures
You get all spiffed up. You have some stranger sit you in front of a pull down “nature” backdrop. He takes your picture. They put it in a book. People hand you the book and ask you to sign it.

You thought the dreaded yearbook picture experience was over. Not if you want to be a writer!

4. Boys.
While I haven’t met a lot of boys while writing, I do spend a lot of time THINKING about boys and scribbling little thoughts about them…um, hey. That seems to also be a lot like high school. More time THINKING about boys. Writing about boys. Looking up boys on the internet. Checking out boys…Of course, it’s all in the name of research. Yeah, um, research. Research on how to write those boy characters.

So…I’m going to go do some more research now. Thanks for letting me visit ladies!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Isle of Hades

So, getting back to that island....

What if you were stuck with songs, books, and movies that you HATED.

Wouldn't that be a little slice of hell?

Your iPod has survived your are alone on a deserted island with the clothes on your back and a very special solar-powered iPod. But, alas, somehow in the mayhem your iPod was switched and worse, it suffered enough trauma that it only has three songs, three ebooks, and three movies that survived the ocean tumble. And you hate all of them. What are they?


Sususudio by Phil Collins

Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Locomotion by Kylie Minogue


Batteries Not Included (dunno why I hate, but I do)

Speed II

Lost in Translation (I got, um, lost in translation too)


I know there are some I've thrown against a wall, but I'll be dipped if I can remember them. Hopefully someone will jog my memory with their choices.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Peer Pressure

So I had a post all planned out, that was inspired by Nick Hornby's Q&A session at the International Women's Fiction Festival (as well as when I went up and spoke to him afterwards). It would have been books-and-writing related, and would generate an interesting discussion about YA fiction.

Good stuff, right?

But no. The other Fictionistas had to go and start an impromptu Theme Week on things you'd bring to a desert island. So I felt compelled to continue the theme, 'cuz, well, peer pressure, you know? (Even though they swore up and down that this wasn't an official Theme Week and I could make whatever post I wanted.)

Boy, do I have issues, right?

Turns out I can't think of a fourth category of things to bring to a desert island. Guess I'm not imaginative enough. So I shall not be falling prey to peer pressure.

Even though I almost did.

When I mentioned to the other Fictionistas yesterday that I felt obligated to continue the theme, they told me it wasn't necessary. And while I truly do believe that they feel I should post whatever I want, a part of me honestly felt like I needed to go along with the pack. A post about Nick Hornby's impression of where YA fiction is going (which, by the way, I'm not giving up on...I'm definitely going to post it next week, and you can hold me to that) would somehow mess up our theme...even if we really didn't have an official theme this week. (I'm telling you...issues...)

So why did I feel like this? Why was I feeling pressure to conform, even when my friends were telling me not to?

Even though there was no pressure from the Fictionistas themselves, I still felt the need to keep up. And that's where peer pressure comes in.

So what exactly is peer pressure? "Peer pressure" is a sociological term used to describe pressure exerted by a peer group to encourage a person to change their behavior, attitude, or morals to conform to the group's actions, beliefs, morals, etc. Peer pressure can cause a person to join a group that they may or may not want to belong to, or can cause people to do things they wouldn't normally do.

Johannes Ott, author of the book Life Coaching and why it works for some and not for others, defines peer presure as "the necessity of the individual to create the appearance in his group(s) that all is well with him." Thus, it is a pressure that's created from within, and not externally, as we normally think of it.

When I hear the term "peer pressure," I generally think of those cheesy After School Specials we watched in the 70s and 80s (do they still have those?). You know the ones, where the girl is at a party drinking Diet Coke when her friends tell her that "all the cool kids" are drinking beer.

As much as we think we're immune to peer pressure, we've all given into it. Probably moreso as teens, but even as adults.

Can you think of any time when peer pressure was super strong and you resisted the temptation to give in? (You know, maybe you refused to post about bringing a collection of things to a desert island...just an example. Seriously...I really don't think I was being peer pressured into this but it did raise an interesting question in my mind...and remember that peer pressure is really more internal than external anyway.)

Alternatively, can you think of any time when you did give into peer pressure, whether it was external or internal? (You know, maybe you felt obligated to post on a certain theme in your blog simply because "everyone else was doing it" even though they told you in no uncertain terms that it wasn't required.)

Come on, dish!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My turn to drink the kool-aid

Okay, since we're on a "deserted island" kick here at Fictionistas, I'll play. If you could only bring 3 books with you onto this mythical island (which now also has your DVD player and iPod, LOL), what books would you take, and how would that differ from your high school list?

Here's the list from high school:

--Jane Eyre (I ADORE this story. Mr. Rochester--so mean! yet so dreamy!)
--Pride and Prejudice (I've been loving this for a long time)
--The Canterbury Tales (NERRRRRD! LOL)

And here's where it gets really hard, LOL. My present-day list (I'd be losing so much, though! *cries*):

--Jane Eyre (yeah, I'm still a big fan of this story, LOL)
--Collected Works of William Shakespeare (this will take care of many needs, including poetry)
--The Samurai's Garden (to get my Japanese fix--fantastic novel with beautiful prose)

Ask me this evening, though, and this list may be different. haha.

And now it's your turn to play!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I smell a theme...

I can't stop thinking about Mel's post yesterday, so I decided to keep it going - in my own way. So, let's say you're still headed to that deserted island and that it's fully equipped with a solar powered personal DVD player. What three movies do you take?

If you'd asked me in high school, I would have said:

1. The Breakfast Club
2. Better Off Dead
3.The Lost Boys

Now, although I still love all those movies (The Breakfast Club also provides a nice sampling of '80's music), there are others I might need to swap in. Plus, I like having a touch of something darker. I think my current list would look like this:

1. The Breakfast club
2. LA Story
3. Blade Runner

Of course, there are so many other great movies that list leaves out. That eternal classic, The Princess Bride, for example. My Blue Heaven or Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, two more of my favorite Steve Martin movies. The Underworld movies. Then there are the golden oldies: Mame, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Houseboat, or anything with Cary Grant.

How do you choose? What would you choose? Share your three!

Monday, October 13, 2008

that timeless question

If you were stranded on an island, what 3 albums would be essential to have on your iPod. (okay, we're going to just go with the idea that by the time you're stranded on an island, iPods will be solar powered)

My answers change every year. (Technically the question changes every year, too. In the 80s we said 'records' or 'cassettes' in the 90s we said CDs and now we say iPod/MP3. Who knows what's next?)

So way back when during the 80s I would've said:
  1. Van Halen 5150
  2. Led Zepplin Houses of the Holy
  3. Beastie Boys License to Ill
I would say all three of those albums would still be on my top 10 list.

Then came the 90s and my list changed slightly.
  1. Ozzy Osbourne No More Tears
  2. Dokken Back for the Attack
  3. Ocean Blue The Ocean Blue
And now, here we are in 08 and my list has changed...again. Probably several times. But as of today, these are the 3 albums I wouldn't want to be stranded on an island without:

  1. Staind Chapter V (plus a bonus song from another album because it's one of my faves ever and I can't imagine being stranded without being able to listen to It's Been Awhile
  2. The Catch and Release Soundtrack
  3. Buckcherry 15
Has your musical tastes changed over the years or are you just now figuring out what type of music you're most drawn to? I'm across the board and always have been. You're likely to find a combination of Beatles, Led Zepplin, various 90s Hair Metal Bands, Faith Hill, Avril Lavigne, plus all the above on my iPod. It's never boring when I hit 'shuffle.'

What three albums would you take to the island with you today? Were they different 10 years ago?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Top Ten Geek Joys of 2008 (so far...)

Hi! The Fictionistas invited me to guest-blog here goes!

First, to introduce myself: I'm Cara King, a mild-mannered Regency Romance author who's switched to writing young adult novels about, um...well, about teens who have various interests and...that is, who are intelligent and non-stereotypical

Oh, heck, why don't I just admit it? I write nerd-girl books. And my nerd-girl heroines aren't just nerds, they're geeks too. (As the saying goes, write what you know!)

Speaking of what I, for your immense delectation, are my ten most geektastic joys so far this year:



Is this the best superhero movie ever? Maybe. It was certainly the most fun I had at the movies this year! I saw it three times, and I'm still quoting from it.


Wow. And again -- wow.



This is only the best show that you're not watching...with the sweetest hunk on TV.

It's bizarre and funny and totally original, and you KNOW you should be watching it. (Well, maybe you didn't...but you do now.)


There's a lot of good science fiction and fantasy TV nowadays (Lost, Heroes, Chuck, Stargate, etc), but this year I think the show that's been consistently excellent, as well as consistently ignored, is probably Supernatural.

And hey -- this show has not one, but two cute guys. Extra nice.



She's my favorite author ever. I hit a low patch earlier this year and reread a whole bunch of her books...and I'm just floored by them every time. If you like fantasy, you need to read her! (Start with Charmed Life or Howl's Moving Castle.)


One of my favorite book discoveries of the year was Rosemary Clement-Moore's Prom Dates From Hell. It's smart and it's funny -- what more can one ask for?



Joss Whedon and John Cassaday finished up their run of "Astonishing X-Men," and went out with a bang. I wasn't always keen on all the other-planet weirdness that went on, but Whedon's character relationships and dialogue were just brilliant. (Another thing I'm still quoting!)



I am a total fangirl of Lois McMaster Bujold's science fiction books. So this summer, when I got to meet her at the World Science Fiction Convention, I was over the moon. I alternated between sitting there tongue-tied, and babbling inane things.


At the Risky Regencies blog, I semi-regularly do "Austen Trek: or, If Jane Austen Wrote Star Trek." (So far, no one's firebombed my computer, so I keep doing it.)

Then last month, I wrote "Jane Austen's Batman." And for some reason, this got noticed. It got talked about. A long-lost friend from high school saw it and contacted me. It got mentioned on John Scalzi's blog!!! (For those who don't know, Scalzi is one of the major new SF authors out there, and his hugely popular blog just won him a Hugo.)

The whole experience was thrilling and bizarre.


If you've ever seen a Jane Austen movie, you've probably seen English Country Dance -- the graceful, intricate style of dance in which lines of men and women move forward and back, weave in and out, and have just enough time to say witty, Austenian things.

This year I enjoyed English Country Dance at a Jane Austen Ball and a Playford Ball, complete with tea food and live music and the most amazing period clothes. Yep, I dressed up in a Regency gown (I made it myself!) and did Regency dances -- and I might just have murmured witty things, too. about you? Did you experience any of the above? What did you think?

And what your your most geektastic experiences this year?

Cara King, who thinks Tony Stark is kinda hot

Friday, October 10, 2008's sweetest reward.

As you read this, I am on vacation and have not had access to the internet for five days. (Unless I want to pay $1 a minute, which I don't). I am currently on a cruise in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, though I will be back sometime the day you read this.

So, here is a quiz to see how well you know me.

What happened on my vacation?

1. Did I get seasick enough to throw up? Y or N

2. How many pages did I write? (Bonus if you guess how many WIP's I spread those pages out over because I sorta get sidetracked easily)

3.Did I convince my husband to participate in one of those wacky "Newlywed" type games where we have to get on a stage? (He's very shy, but I'm very persuasive)

4. How many times did we get room service instead of going to the dining room?

5. How many books did I finish reading? (hint: I LOADED my ebook reader before we left)

6. Did I crack any stupid "Love Boat" jokes to the crew despite my better judgement?

7. How many outfits did I overpack by?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pictures from International Women's Fiction Festival

All photo cred goes to Aleka Nakis and Jenyfer Matthews, since, although Mr. Brice has downloaded pictures for me, I keep forgetting to upload them to Shutterfly or to at least save them onto a flash drive to bring to work. So no pictures actually from me...yet.

Anyway, as I posted last week, I recently got back from the International Women's Fiction Festival, in Matera, Italy. I'm sure you're all saying "where the heck is Matera? I've heard of Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Venice, but Matera?"

I thought the same thing last year, when my agent started encouraging me to attend. Matera is a town in Southern Italy, right at the instep of the boot, in the Basilicata region. The area been settled since the Paleolithic period. The city itself was allegedly founded by the Romans in the 3rd century BC.

Matera is known for its ancient village, the "Sassi di Matera" (meaning "stones of Matera"). The Sassi originate from a troglodyte settlement, and are houses dug into the limestone cliffs themselves. So while the front of a building may look like a house, the back portions of it are really a cave.

For millennia, people lived in these cave houses, entire families in a 200 sq. ft. space, including their livestock. In the 1930s, a Jewish-Italian dissident named Carlo Levi was thrown into internal exile by the Fascists, and forced down into the Basilicata (then call Lucania) region. He noticed, when he crossed the border from the Campania region (where Naples is located) into the Basilicata at a town called Eboli, that everything changed. Life was completeley different -- like time had never touched the region.

He was appalled by the poverty and primitive. unsanitary conditions the people were living in, and wrote a book about his experience, called "Christ Stopped at Eboli" (which signifies that civilization never went any further than Eboli). Although he lived in Alanio, he devoted several chapters to Matera and the Sassi. When the book was published in 1945, it caused a national scandal so large that newly elected prime minister De Gasperis (after the Fascists were kicked out of power, of course) visited Matera to see if Levi's charges were true.

They were. In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to a newly constructed modern city on the outskirts of town, but some Sassi residents returned to their homes after failing to be able to adjust to modern life. As a result, the ancient village fell into disrepair and decline, until the late 1980s, when local administration decided to clean up their heritage and engage in tourism. The Sassi were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, because, as the Fodor's Guide puts it, "Matera is the only place in the world where people can boast to be still living in the same houses of their ancestors of 9,000 years ago."

As a result of the UNESCO designation, the EU donated money for preservation, Hollywood started using the town as a backdrop for several movies (most notably Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ") and now the Sassi have become trendy. What was once the place where only the poorest of the poor lived has become a place where only the richest of the rich can afford to buy.

Anyway, enough about history. How was the conference?

Super cool, actually, glad you asked. :) This was my 7th writers' conference, and by far my favorite. In many ways, it didn't even feel like a writers' conference. RWA Nationals is so big, so stressful. WFF, on the other hand, is intimate and relaxing. If you ever get a chance to it!!!!

I was there to give a talk on copyright laws in the US and the EU, and how it affects writers. And I did...just not for as long as I'd hoped. Nothing starts on time in Italy (we called it "Italian time"), so the workshop before mine began half an hour late and, not surprisingly, ran over by half an hour. You'd think that would mean that everything would just be pushed back by half an hour. But no. My talk began more than half an hour late, but I was cut off at the designated time. So I only got to speak for about 25 minutes...I was scheduled for an hour. :(

That's far as I'm concerned, they can just bring me back next year, and I'll be happy to continue!

There were about 50-75 people total in attendance at the conference, including the translators. This meant that everyone had unprecedented access to agents, editors, big name authors, even a Hollywood director!

Next week I'll post a little bit about what the keynote speaker, Nick Hornby, said, since he was there to promote his young adult book, "Slam." But for now, some more pics!


Agent Scott Eagan, author Aleka Nakis, me, editor Chuck Sambuchino (Writer's Digest), editor Leah Hultenschmidt (Dorchester), agent Georgia Garrett, author Jenyfer Matthews


Author Elisabetta Bricca, editor Chuck Sambuchino, author Arianna Giorgi

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Remakes of movies--good or bad?

Hollywood's been on a kick for a long time remaking older movies. Some of them turned out to be really good, and I was happy to see them done. For example, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine) was a HILARIOUS remake of Bedtime Story. I also liked the remake of Ocean's Eleven (didn't care for the sequels, but that's a different blog post, LOL).

But then I hear that movies like Short Circuit, starring Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg (if you don't remember the original, go HERE to check out the IMDB info) are getting remade.

REALLY?! My jaw dropped clear to the floor when I found that out.

The original film was so, so, so cheesetacular, LOL...why waste time remaking this instead of coming up with a whole new movie? Who gave this idea the thumbs up?!

AND, to make me cry even harder, they're remaking Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to release in 2010. How can they possibly come close to the working chemistry between Martin and Caine? They were so, so funny together.

So, how do you feel about remakes--yay, keep 'em coming? Nay, it's time to move on to fresh material? Dish!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

School Lunch

I admit, when it came to eating lunch in high school, I was a bit odd. See, I transferred to public high school from private school late in the 9th grade year. The cafeteria scared the daylights out of me. I had no idea how it operated. I'd never been to one!

So, I opted to bring something from home and eat it in the library. No, we weren't allowed to eat in the library, but I wasn't exactly having a foot long from Subway, either. Usually snack crackers or granola bars or something easy to munch undercover. I spent a lot of time reading that way too.

Eventually, I had friends who took me under their wing and brought me into the cafeteria, but I don't remember much beyond the salad bar and a scoop of tuna on top of that salad. What did kids eat for lunch from the cafeteria besides that? I have no idea.

What did you eat for lunch in high school? Favorite? Least favorite?

Monday, October 06, 2008

what a concept

I tried something new this weekend. Something so outside the box for me, that it felt strange doing it.

I stayed off the internet. Completely. (okay, I checked email once on Saturday, but other than that, completely off)

If you follow me on Twitter, you know how absolutely tied to the internet I am. It's a sickness. But I decided on Friday night that this weekend was going to be I-Free because I needed to branch out. I needed to step outside my box. I needed a change up.

It's amazing the things I got done.

  1. I saw both of my kids' soccer games
  2. Went to a birthday party
  3. Had afternoon drinks with my girlfriends
  4. I watched part of the Razorback football game (couldn't stomach the whole thing)
  5. I cleaned the kitchen
  6. Did all the boys' laundry
  7. Plotted out a new scene in current WIP
  8. Got new tires and front end alignment on the Prelude
  9. Went to the grocery store
  10. Made chili
  11. Made spice cake
  12. Caught up on my Tivo'd shows
Okay, that's a lot of stuff. And not once did I miss the internet. Okay, that's a lie. I totally wanted to tweet but decided I needed to take a break from it all.

Do you ever find yourself in a weekend rut? Is there any way you could take a weekend off from status quo?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

REVIEW: Nation by Terry Pratchett

In the interest of full disclosure I should admit that Terry Pratchett is my hero. He has been my favorite author for as long as I've been reading him-- since my teens, anyway. For over 20 years I've worshipped the page he typed on. So I'm writing this review in first person and gushing unapologetically. To do otherwise would be a tad dishonest.

Nation, Pratchett's most recent young adult novel, is yet another reason I am a giddy fan-girl for this guy. Known best, perhaps, for his Discworld series for adults, Pratchett's Tiffany Aching/Wee Free Men series has recently gained in popularity. He has also writtenJohnny and the Bomb and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rats. Adults don't hesitate to cross over from his bitingly witty and deeply esoteric works to enjoy his YA fiction. He's that good.

In Nation Pratchett explores yet another universe, one in which England is struck by the Russian Plague in the mid-19th century. Darwin has everyone scratching their heads; the royal family is growing smaller by the coffin; and after the king and 138 royals in succession to the throne die, the last hope for the monarchy is Ermintrude, a very young woman who ends up shiprecked en route to Port Mercia, where her father is governor. Stuck on an island in the middle of the Pelagic Ocean with a strange lad named Mau, Ermintude decides to change her name to Daphne (and who could blame her?), break all the rules, and start over with a stiff upper lip.

Mau, too, has had his world turned upside-down by the very same tsunami that stranded Ermintude/Daphne. His entire tribe is gone, the mystical Grandfathers are shouting in his about rules and proper cultural procedures, and a blond, fair-skinned young woman who comes from the trouserpeople tribe is invading his space. He's not sure why he should follow rules at all, since everything seems quite over, but the rules are still in his head. What now?

Turns out neither Mau nor Daphne are as alone as they thought. Challenges naturally arise. Before their journey is done they will have learned to care for the elderly, the infirm, and the brand-spanking-new. How to procure milk for a newborn with no mother? I'm not going to tell you. Read Nation and I promise you... you'll NEVER FORGET that act of courage and ingenuity.

The novel takes a fresh approach to the notion of isolation and nature vs. nurture. Two young people with plenty of cultural and spiritual baggage are forced to find their own way in a new world, one devestated and stripped bare. They confront death, puberty, prejudice, and nature together and learn a great deal.

Lucky for us, Pratchett takes us along on the journey.

Don't miss Nation. Pratchett's novel is unique even as it parodies and deconstructs works with similar themes. This is no Animal Farm, nor is it Robinson Crusoe. It's pure, unadulturated Pratchett. Culturally sly, philosophically deep, and laugh-out-loud clever, Nation is the best thing I've read in young adult fiction this year.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sleep. Where for art thou?

I am in barely-function-mode today. And it's only been today for about an hour, so the outlook is kinda bleak.

I'd like to talk to you of sleep today. I adore sleep. I covet sleep. Sleep is my BFF.
Or it was until it betrayed me.

I have a really nice bed conducive to really good sleep. We started the process with aesthetics--wrought iron, four post, scrolly head and footboards. Moving on to quality, we spent a good chunk-o-change on a hypoallergenic mattress (in order for me to sleep better) with no springs. For luxury, we topped that sucker with memory foam and frosted the concoction will really expensive, but worth every penny, Egyptian cotton sheets. The rest of my house may look blue collar, but my bed is totally four-star gourmet.

So, tell me. Where has sleep gone? Cuz I can't find it in my bed lately. And I'm tired I tell you. T.I.R.E.D.

Insomnia is the devil. What are your favorite tricks for getting to sleep when you...can't?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

It's Going Around...

Yesterday, Rhonda posted about how she's sick.

Yup, you guessed it. I am, too. Of course, I am certain it's because I recently spent over 11 hours in airplanes (not counting the downtime in airports) on Monday, returning from Italy.

I'd planned to use today's post to give a recap of my time at the International Women's Fiction Festival, which took place in Matera, Italy last week. But since I've gotten home, I've basically done nothing but sleep and go to work, so I haven't even gotten a chance to download my pictures, or even really think carefully about my erperience.

So I'm putting that off until next week. What can I post about today?

I think I'll just give some yummy recipes for food I had during my trip to Italy. Enjoy!

Orrechiette con ricotta e canella (Pasta with ricotta and cinnamon)
Yes, this one sounds weird, but trust me, it's delicious!

Pinch salt
1 pound (450 g) fresh orrechiette pasta
12 ounces (335 g) fresh ricotta
Tomato sauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Set a large pot of cold water to boil. When it reaches a full boil, add a pinch of salt. When the water returns to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente. One minute before the orrechiette are supposed to be done, taste one and decide for yourself how much longer to cook it.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Traditionally, in Italy, they would make their own tomato sauce, but to be simple here, just use a ready-made, good quality tomato sauce. Or you can make your own sauce if you want. Your choice.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander but leave a little hot water clinging to the orrechiette. Transfer to the red sauce, toss well, and serve immediately in 6 to 8 bowls. Top each bowl with a generous dollop of ricotta, and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon. This serves 6-8 as a first course (or 3-4 as a main course).

Orrechiette e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)
This is very traditional to the Basilicata region, where the conferece was held in Matera. It's also served in Puglia and in Calabria. You can use penne if you can't find orrechiette. Of course, they make the pasta fresh there.

250 g chick peas
olive oil

Leave the chick peas in water to soften up to 12 hours. Then boil them in water along with a laurel leaf to add flavor. Lightly fry the garlic and tomatoes, which have previously been boiled in olive oil, then add the chick peas and salt, to taste. Boil the pasta, drain, and pour over the other ingredients. Serves 6-8 as a first course, or 3-4 as a main course.

Lagane (fresh pasta in long strips)

400 g wholemeal flour

Prepare a pasta by mixing flour, water, and salt. Fashion into a very thin crust. Cut the pasta into fettucine pieces around 2 centimeters long to form the "lagane". Boil these pieces to cook as you would any other pasta, just until al dente.

Salsiccia all'uva (Sausages with grapes)
Yes, this sounds strange, but our hosts in the Umbria region insisted that we try it. Wow, am I in love with this combo now!

1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh Italian sausage
4 cups seedless grapes
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, to taste

Place sausages in a 10- or 12-inch skiller, and turn heat to medium. Cook sausages, turning from time to time, about 15 minutes. When they are brown all over, prick each sausage and cook for 5 minutes more.

Remove sausages to a warm platter. If more than a tablespoon or two of fat remains in the plan, remove excess. Add grapes, and turn heat to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the grapes collapse. Add vinegar or lemon juice, stir, and turn off the heat. Serve sausages nestled in grapes along with a hunk of crusty bread. Serves 4 as a main course.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I'm sick...

...and my head is still totally floating from the cold meds I took last night. LOL. So if this post seems extra trippin', you'll know why.

Anyway, when I'm under the weather, there are a few things I like to do to help me feel better. First, I like to nestle in some cozy blankets and read a book.

Yesterday, I stayed home from work because of feeling so poopy, and I actually got some good reading time in. I read a new YA I just bought called REVEALERS by Amanda Marrone (her books are out with Simon Pulse--my future publisher).

In REVEALERS, there's a coven of teen witches whose night job is to "reveal" the hidden identity of paranormal predators and off them before they can hurt anyone else. As each teen witch turns 18 and joins the coven's "inner circle" (also populated by the teen witches' mothers), the girls are horrified to learn there's a LOT more to this job than meets the eye. Jules, the heroine, has to figure out the dark secret and how to fix it before it's too late.

It took me a couple of pages to figure out what was going on in the story, but once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. It's a quick, fun, engrossing read. And even better, there were a couple of points where I was genuinely surprised with the plot twists! I always love stuff like that.

Warning--it's definitely for older teens, due to language and thematic situations. (How do ya like that disclaimer? LOL)

Anyway, after I finished reading, I ate soup for dinner, graded some student papers (BEFORE I took meds, thank you very much, LOL), and I played my PSP. Man, I love that thing--thank you again, Manpanion, for the great b-day present!

So, what do you like to do when you're sick? Do you relish getting time to read a whole book in one sitting like I did? I never get to do that anymore, and it was SO nice.

Anything you do to help yourself feel better? I could sure use some advice. :D