Friday, July 31, 2009

Lap-Band..not dance

I've been doing a little research on Lap-Band surgery this week, and am considering doing it. Having no health insurance, this is a huge financial commitment for my family--but then again so is being obese without having health insurance.(I'm not insulting myself--technically, I am medically obese. It's just a word.)

So, I'm putting out to our blog readers. What's the word on your street? Have you had it? Thought about it? Decided against it? If you exercised four times a week and were on Weight Watchers for three months but only lost nine pounds, would you do it? If twelve pounds was the most you EVER lost on ANY eating plan, would you consider it?

ETA: the BITE ME! winner from Monday's contest is Maria D! Congrats Maria! Mel has your email and will contact you today!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rediscovering Some Faves

The Fictionistas were commenting yesterday about how our blog tends to be a mixture of fluff and substance (which, in turn, prompted Chrissy to joke that we should introduce a 7th 'Nista named Fluffy Substance, but I digress).

Fluff and substance...personally, I think it's a good combo. You don't want too much substance or you run the risk of boring your readers. But you don't want too much fluff or you become completely irrelevant.

Anyway, it looks like we're well on our way to a week all about YA books, which surprisingly, might just be a first for us here. Kinda funny, when we're ostensibly a blog about YA boooks. :)

I could ruin the trend and blog about the crappy week I'm having, but I don't want to be a buzzkill. So since the three 'Nistas who've blogged this week have all started on a theme, I'm going to continue.

There's a book that was released last week from Avon A (not exactly a YA publisher, but still) called "Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading." The primary author is Lizzie Skurnick, who used to write the "Fine Lines" column for in which she reread and reviewed her fave books from her own girlhood. The book consists of Skurnick's Jezebel essays, along with a few reviews by such best-selling fiction giants as Meg Cabot, Laura Lippman, Cecily von Zeigesar, and Jennifer Wiener.

"Shelf Discovery" is based on a simple premise...revisiting your fave books from your childhood and teen years and then exploring what made it so. As one would assume in any list of '70/'80s vintage MG/YA, there's a ton of Judy Blume in here. But there are also some classics from the 19th and early 20th centuries as well.

Check out the list of books reviewed:
"A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle
"From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" by E.L. Konigsburg
"Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself" by Judy Blume
"Harriet the Spy" by Louise Fitzhugh
"Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder
"Danny, the Champion of the World" by Roald Dahl
"Ludell" by Brenda Scott Wilkinson
"The Great Brain" by John D. Fitzgerald and Mercer Mayer
"Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume
"Sister of the Bride" by Beverly Cleary
"Blubber" by Judy Blume
"The Cat Ate My Gymsuit" by Paula Danziger
"A Ring of Endless Light" by Madeleine L'Engle
"Tiger Eyes" by Judy Blume
"The Long Secret" by Louise Fitzhugh
"Then Again, Maybe I Won't" by Judy Blume
"And You Give Me a Pain, Elaine" by Stella Pevsner
"To Take a Dare" by Crescent Dragonwagon
"The Westing Game" by Ellen Raskins
"Daughters of Eve" by Lois Duncan
"The Grounding of Group 6" by Julian F. Thompson
"Summer of Fear" by Lois Duncan
"I am the Cheese" by Robert Cornier
"The Arm of the Starfish" by Madeleine L'Engle
"Secret Lives" by Berthe Amoss
"Jacob Have I Loved" by Katherine Paterson
"Summer of My German Soldier" by Bette Green
"The Pigman" by Paul Zindel
"Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson
"Tell Me if Lovers are Losers" by Cynthia Voigt
"A Day No Pigs Would Die" by Robert Newton Peck
"Beat the Turtle Drum" by Constance C. Greene
"The Gift of the Pirate Queen" by Patricia Reilly Giff
"Deenie" by Judy Blume
"Don't Hurt Laurie!" by Willo Davis Roberts and Ruth Sanderson
"Are You in the House Alone?" by Richard Peck
"Go Ask Alice" by Anonymous
"It's Not the End of the World" by Judy Blume
"Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell
"Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder
"The Witch of Blackbird Pond" by Elizabeth George Speare
"Homecoming" by Cynthia Voigt
"The Endless Steppe: A Girl in Exile" by Esther Hautzig
"Julie of the Wolves" by Jean Craighead Geroge
"Understood Betsy" by Doroth Canfield
"Ghosts I Have Been" by Richard Peck
"A Gift of Magic" by Lois Duncan
"The Girl with the Silver Eyes" by Willo Davis Roberts
"Stranger with My Face" by Lois Duncan
"Hangin' Out with Cici" by Francine Pascal
"Jane-Emily" by Patrica Clapp
"Down a Dark Hall" by Lois Duncan
"Forever" by Judy Blume
"Happy Endings Are All Alike" by Sandra Soppettone
"Fifteen" by Beverly Cleary
"My Darling, My Hamburger" by Paul Zindel
"In Summer Light" by Zibby O'Neal
"The Moon by Night" by Madeleine L'Engle
"To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie" by Ellen Conford
"An Old-Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott
"The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" by Joan Aiken
"The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"Cheaper by the Dozen" by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
"Belles on Their Toes" Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
"A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"All of a Kind Family" by Sydney Taylor
"My Sweet Audrina" by V. C. Andrews
"The Clan of the Cave Bear" by Jean M. Auel
"Wifey" by Judy Blume
"Flowers in the Attic" by V.C. Andrews
"Domestic Arrangements" by Norma Klein

Although I haven't read all of the books on this list (and don't even recognize some of them!), a few are my all-time faves.

If you were asked to contribute an essay, what book from your childhood or teen years would you write about? Alternatively, if a second edition is released thirty years from now, which of today's YA books would you include?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Breakin The Law in YA Novels

I just finished reading Sweethearts by Sara Zarr, a brilliant YA novel that has these wonderful, compelling characters and a dark, magnetic storyline. I was so hooked. Have you read this novel? If not, go run to the bookstore and get it right now. Then, come back here. I'll wait. haha

Anyway, in Sweethearts, there was an element of stealing, which played into the heroine's persona, her view on life, her struggles, etc.

Even though I've read a lot of YA, I haven't run across stealing, or other crimes being broken, in books a lot. The biggest one I see is drinking--in Amanda Marrone's Uninvited, alcoholism is a rampant problem. And in Jennifer Echols' Going Too Far, there's lots of lawbreaking, which is pretty much the purpose of the story. LOL. But then again, it's not like my friends and I got the old "five-finger discount" or went to wild drinking parties when we were in high school, so I wasn't exactly looking for it. I was very much a goody-two-shoes and would never have dreamed of shoplifting or getting drunk.

In fact, the only memory I have of stealing was when I was, like, 5 years old--I think I'd stolen a pencil, or a small piece of candy or something. My mom saw what I did and marched me back in the store to give it back and apologize to the clerk. I was mortified when I realized what I'd done was wrong and that I was in big trouble.

Have you read any YA books that have stealing (or some other crime) as part of the plot? Does it bother you to read about teens committing crimes, or do you consider that to be part of the realism of YA? When you were a teen, did you ever, um, "liberate" anything? haha.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pants On Fire

What's your first impression of this cover? Mine - the eyes draw you in, the title pretty blatantly tells you what the book is about to some degree and I feel like the heroine is well-represented. Were your impressions similar to that?

How would you feel if you found out the heroine of this book is actually a black girl with super short hair who is actually mistaken for a boy? (Hence the title.)

There's a small uproar on the net about this cover vs. the actual contents of the book and what it all means. Do black models make it harder to sell books? Would you buy a book that featured a model of a different race than you? Does the cover even matter?

What do you think?

Monday, July 27, 2009

who wants a copy of BITE ME! (and other stuff?)

First of all, I'd like to congratulate ALISON the winner from last week's contest! Please contact Rhonda: to claim your prize

So y'all know I've written a book, right? And y'all know that it is scheduled to hit the shelves tomorrow, right? So who wants to win a free autographed copy plus some BITE ME! swag, and a $25 Amazon gift certificate? Anyone?

Just in case you've been living under a rock, BITE ME! is the next big vampire novel. (or so I keep know, just putting it out there for the Universe to take and do something with)

AJ Ashe isn't your typical seventeen-year-old vampire—as if there is such a thing! She's stuck in the middle of a huge fight between her two BFFs. Her ex-boyfriend—whom she's still totally in love with, by the way—is now her stepbrother. A former classmate—who, um, she may or may not have turned into a vampire—is stalking her. And now, apparently, the fate of humankind lies in her little undead hands. What ever happened to the good old days, when all a vampire girl had to worry about was the occasional zit and hiding her taste for blood?
There are 4 different ways you can qualify to win:

1.If you're on Twitter tweet: BITE ME! By @MelissaFrancis hits the shelves this week. I can't wait

2 &3: If you're on Facebook, join my author fan page and my book group page. Click the banner and link below:
Melissa Francis

Have You Been Bitten?

4: Blog about BITE ME! on your own blog, myspace, or facebook page.

Once you've done your tasks, comment on this blog to let me know how hard you worked for your swag! Just leave me a comment like this:

I tweeted you under my name @awesomeblogreader
I joined your author page
I joined your book page
I blogged you at
You get one entry for each thing you do, but you only have to leave 1 comment. Now, let's get the word out and get this party started!

ETA: Winner will be announced Friday! Contest closes Thursday, July 30!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Child's Play??

Like so many writers and avid readers, my childhood was filled with books. This week I've been working on a children's book that I promised to my nephew, Liam, who will be in first grade this fall. He, like his aunt before him, was too impatient to wait for the school system to teach him what those mystical symbols on the page were all about. He taught himself to read, and now spends his summer reading absolutely everything with gusto. He's close to a second grade level already, and can sit with a beginning book in his lap without any assistance. He knocked me off my feet about two weeks ago when, while sounding out words on the sports page of the Herald, he struggled for a few moments and then blurted out the word "intercollegiate."

Folks, I know college graduates who can't spell it, much less sound it out from the page.

So I promised him his very own book as a reward, and I'm working on it now. Since I intend to break every rule in the book to create it-- and since I don't know what I'm doing anyhow-- I'll self publish it.

You'd think that writing for children would be simple, since they are, right? The arrogance of that statement is why, I think, so many people find themselves stunned when they answer those crappy ads in magazines shouting "YOU CAN WRITE CHILDREN'S BOOKS." It's actually quite likely you can't. I've always been marginally aware that writing for younger people bears a greater responsibility. But until I sat down to pen something for beginning readers I'd never considered how much it took.

Try it. Write a sentence describing your sneakers. Use only vocabulary, sentence structure, and imagery a child of five to seven years can understand. It's not that simple. Now try to create a story rich enough to make a child who is being reared in technicolor HD magical boob-box-hood within the same parameters.

It makes me genuinely appreciate the absolute genius of Doctor Seuss, Maurice Sendak, and god-love-them, the people involved in Sesame Street.

I clearly remember the very first books I devoured, including Where the Wild Things Are, The Monster at the End of this Book, and everything Seuss. But like my nephew, I was quickly bored with anything that seemed to be addressing me as a child. I quickly moved on to slender, first novels. My teachers were not so much pleased as mortified to find me hunched over The Hobbit and Watership Down by second grade. They were probably right, too. I was intellectually fascinated but the darkness did frighten me, and I was most likely nowhere near emotionally ready.

Anyway, wish me luck on Liam's book. It's harder than I thought it would be, but I suspect I will be prouder of myself than I thought, too. This ain't child's play.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bestest wedding ever

Because this video makes me absolutely giddy and reminds me why I write about love.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Borders Expands Teen Section

You can read the whole article here but I'm so excited that booksellers are figuring out that Young Adult is different from children's literature.

By expanding the space that means they'll hopefully be expanding the selections. And more is better for readers and writers. According to the article, they are noticing a lot more crossover of adults reading YA and YA readers reading from the adult side. I know that when I was a teenager, whenever we took our covered wagon to the library, I always chose adult books. There just wasn't the kind of quality for YA that we have now. You can only read so many Sweet Valley High books, yes?

What are your thoughts on the YA genre getting it's own niche?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Super Happy Funtime Birthday Contest!

It's my 33rd birthday today. YAY ME! I even sat up last night until 12:01, just because. haha

Unfortunately, I woke up this morning to a, um, present left by my dog. *sigh* What's weird is she NEVER does that, so I instantly thought it was a portent of doom. Here's hoping the rest of my day is better. haha

So, what's the worst birthday present YOU ever got?

Leave a comment in this post today (no later than 11:59 PM EST), telling me about the worst birthday present you ever got, for your chance to win a $15 gift card to an online bookstore of your choice (e.g., Amazon, B&N, Borders, etc.)! I'll randomly pick one commenter. Good luck!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bedtime Stories

My brother is currently visiting me, along with his two kids who are 2 1/2 and 5, so the subject of bedtime stories has come up. Especially when Aunt Kristen had no child appropriate books to offer.

Bad aunt.

We're going to the store today to rectify that, but it got me thinking about my favorite bedtime story of all time: Bears In The Night. My brother and I could recite that book by heart, backwards and forwards as kids. In fact, I don't think that book survived my brother's childhood because it basically fell apart. Just looking at the cover gives me warm fuzzies.

What was your favorite bedtime story?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bad Beauty Decisions

(FYI, I'm posting instead of Mel today because she doesn't have Internet access)

So, I colored my hair this weekend. The box said it was supposed to be a deep brown. But the hair on my head most certainly looks a lot closer to black. In fact, it's really REALLY reeeeeally dark. My daughter loves it. It's certainly...striking. LOL. Oh well, it'll fade, right? And it's certainly not the worst thing I've ever done in the name of beauty.

I've made several beauty boo-boos in my life, two of which revolve around my rather full eyebrows. Like the time I tried to shave my eyebrows because I couldn't find my tweezers. That was a really dumb idea--please don't try it at home. I had razorburn for a couple of days. Attractive!

Or the time I decided I was going to wax my own brows. I put the stuff on, tried to rip it off, and no hair came off. Instead, I lost several layers of skin, resulting in thick SCABS under my brows. Double attractive!

Dry-shaving my legs right before a date was another dumb thing I did once. YOWCH, the continuous stinging razor burn from this is totally unforgettable. I spent the whole date cringing at how awful my legs felt.

What's the worst beauty decision you've made? Hey, there's bonding in shared pain, right? LOL

Saturday, July 18, 2009

And That's The Way He Was

When I was growing up I heard a lot about how television was unhealthy, and how Americans were addicted to the "boob box." But to be fair, my parents came of age in the earliest days of television, and began their adulthood as it took hold of the nation. And with the passing, last night, of the giant Walter Cronkite, I have to say I am astonished less that people are reluctant to turn it off and more that they turn it off at all.

Because Walter Cronkite guided us through some absolutely astonishing moments. If we think about what has happened live, on television in the last 20, 30, 40 years... why would anyone turn the thing off? They shot two presidents before our eyes; shot the people who shot the first one; shot his brother, shot MLK. They landed on the moon; they lost a shuttle; they brought Apollo 13 home safe. War came to our living rooms. Roots came, too, and a generation (my own) of young people watched a mini-series that drove the horror of slavery home hard. Our elections happen live. Our nation grieves in unison. The New York skyline fell and was forever changed-- as were we-- before a nation's stunned gaze.

People in my own age group will remember Mister Cronkite. We were only children, true, but the evening news was always on in every house then. There was Harry Reasoner, David Brinkley, and Walter Cronkite, who was the first national anchorman. He broke the news of JFK's death to my parents. And when a 4 year old in Green Harbor was outraged that she wasn't going to get to see Bullwinkle, he changed her mind about what was important. Some guys named Buzz and Neal landed on the moon. No really... the moon. So Bullwinkle could wait. Even at 4 I got it.

Rest in the arms of the angels, Walter. And thank you for telling us how it was.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Our Golden Girl

Tomorrow night is a big night for our 'Nista, Amanda Brice. She's a finalist in the Golden Heart Award from Romance Writers of America for her unpublished book, CODENAME:DANCER. She'll find out tomorrow evening if she won the much coveted award.

We are so, so proud of Amanda and want to wish her the very best of luck. This is her second year in a row of being a finalist. Every year, there are more than 1000 entries in this contest. It's a huge honor to be a finalist, but I think she's got the stuff to take the whole thing.

So, Amanda, this post is for you. You are an inspiration to us all. Not just for your amazing writing skills, either. You are a great friend. You are a warm and giving woman and you never shy away from a challenge. I'm so glad to call you friend. Good luck tomorrow night--we'll all be sending you warm, fuzzy vibes. I only wish I could be there to watch you walk across that stage.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

RWA Nationals

RWA Nationals officially begins today, although there were some events last night, including the Literacy Autographing (picture 500 authors all signing books in a ballroom with thousands of fans) and the Diva Drinks.

Kristen, Mel, and I are all in attendance, wishing desperately that Chrissy, Rhonda, and Gwen could join us.

None of us are signing (not this year at least), but Mel and I are both presenting workshops tomorrow, so if you're attending the conference, please stop by and say hi!

Mel's workshop is entitled "I Sold to New York, Now What?" and she's on a panel with Crystal Jordan, Maria Geraci, Kate Pearce, Lilli Feisty, and Lynn Rae Harris. It's from 9:45-10:45 am on Friday, July 17.

My workshop is entitled "Intellectual Property: How to Protect Your Rights and Avoid Infringing Upon Others." I'm on a panel with fellow attorney Jennifer Williston, and New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts is our moderator! How cool is that?! It's from 11 am to noon on Friday, July 17.

So if you're around, please come say hi! We'd love to meet you!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How long will you give a book?

When I was younger, I would usually read a book completely through, whether I liked it or not. Of course, if I didn't like it, I'd gripe forever about wasting all that time on it. haha

However, I find that over the last few years, I have less patience for a book that doesn't draw me in within, say, the first 3 chapters or so. When that happens, I'll usually put it down and never read it again. I'm not sure if this is a result of being older, or because of being a writer. Or maybe a deadly combo of both. haha

What about you? Will you read a book from start to finish, even if you don't like it that much (or hate it completely)? If not, how far will you read before you close it?

(*Interesting side note: the same applies with my TV and movie-watching habits. If a show or movie doesn't have me hooked within approx. 15 minutes or has wretched pacing or dialogue or something, I find I'm too impatient to sit and watch it all and will usually stop.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Special Guest: Greg Logsted

Please help me welcome today's guest blogger, Greg Logsted! Greg currently lives in Danbury with his wife and fellow author, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and their daughter Jackie. He is the author of Something Happened, Alibi Junior High and coauthor of The Sisters Eight. Find him online at and

Thank you, Fictionistas, for having me on your site!

One of the things I really love in books and movies is time travel. I just can’t get enough of it! Last summer I read a really great time-travel novel called REPLAY by Ken Grimwood. It’s about a man who keeps dying when he’s 43 and waking up when he’s 18 to live his life over and over again. It made a fantastic summer vacation even better. Sun, sand and a good book – it’s the simple things in life that give me the most pleasure.

I suspect that my love of time travel is one of the main reasons I love to write YA and MG novels. I’ve had two published, SOMETHING HAPPENED and ALIBI JUNIOR HIGH, and I’ve got others in the pipeline. When I write a YA novel I’m able to shift my whole thought process back to my teenage mindset. It’s a fun semi-time-travel type of routine that’s also quite ironic since I spent the majority of my teenage school years staring out of various classroom windows daydreaming.

About now I bet you’re thinking, “Greg, do you want to write a time-travel novel? And if you could, would you also like to have a real life time-travel adventure of your own?”

These are both great questions. Thanks for asking.

Well, to answer the first question: yes, I would like to write a time-travel novel and I suspect one day I will. But the second question is a little more difficult. Would I like to really time travel? To go back to my teenage years and see all my old friends? To re-experience what I loved? To change all my mistakes? The answer to this question is…I’m not sure.

Think about it. Let’s say I’m suddenly zapped back into my teenage self. How can I possibly do ANYTHING without looking like a complete moron and head case? I mean I go to school and then what? I’m not going to remember half of my friends’ names, my locker combinations, or my class schedule. I’m not going to even remember the majority of my teachers’ names. (Sorry, guys, there’s only a handful of you that I actually remember. I know you all tried. Hey, if it’s any consolation the only thing I remember from a whole term of economics is three words: “supply and demand.”)

Anyway…there’s no way I could possibly fit in. I would stand so far out that there’d be an excellent chance I’d be locked up in a psych ward within twenty-four hours.

Unless…unless of course I had a plan, and guess what? I think I’ve got one.

So here’s my idea of what you should do if you ever find yourself transferred back through time. First of all DO NOT try to fake it. I repeat, DO NOT try to fake it. Like I said before, you’ll never blend in. Instead, here’s what I think you should do: find yourself a lonely road. Hit yourself on the head with a large rock (not too hard, just enough to leave a bump – AND it should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway, make sure no one actually sees you doing this) then lie on the side of the street all twisted and turned in an abnormally strange angle until someone finds you.

There’s possibilities there, isn’t there? You see what I’m getting at, don’t you? It’s so simple that it just might work.

Anyway…that’s my time-travel thoughts for the day…WHAT’S YOURS? IF YOU COULD TRAVEL BACK IN TIME, WOULD YOU? WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Monday, July 13, 2009

copping out

Sorry. I'm so busy today finishing edits and preparing for my conference, I'm totally copping out of a real post. BUT if you love Monty Python and Star Trek (or if you just love Monty Python) this will crack you up!

ps: I posted a different one on my personal blog today that's just as funny. Go forth and laugh! I promise to be back next week with real content.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Got Nothin'

Whenever I am stumped for something to write about I call one of my friends and say "I'm stumped for something to write about." The thing is... I've actually been at this for a while. I started out writing a regular column at a very young age. Recently I celebrated my 25th anniversary as a paid author. Which means, doing the math, I've been slogging away for 25 years.

Good lord, I'm old.

Anyway, one of the great benefits of being a townie-- which is really just code for "too stubborn to leave or too lazy to move--" is that you keep your friends from childhood. So I have the Fictionistas, Romance Divas, the Sceptics' Tank online and around the country. Great people who share a lot of things in common with me. And I have all the college, work, and social circle friends I've found in adulthood-- people I've gathered along the way who have made my life richer and better. But I also have Roxanne, Maria, Petie, Bill, and Timmy. Most of them I've known since junior high school. I've known Petie since pre-school. We've been friends for 40 years.

So I called the gang.

"I've got nothing."

"You always have something," Roxy said.

"I've got nothing."

"What's going on in your life right now," Petie asked me. "Like... right this second?"

I glared at him. "I'm sitting in a coffee shop with you guys cuz I've got nothing."

Petie leaned over and gave me a noisy, sloppy kiss on the cheek. Roxy leaned over from the other side and did the same.

"You've always got us," he said.

And I do. So thanks, guys. I've got a lot more than nothing. I've got a great man, Max blowing snot in my ear, and writer's block. But no matter what else I have or have not got... I got you, babes. Great friends. Always.

In retrospect... that's an awful lot.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.

Recently, a very good friend of mine told me a secret and it was MURDER to keep. I was so happy for her, it was great news--but I couldn't tell anyone. And we have so many friends in common that it was physically painful to not spill. But I did it. I zipped my lip and was a great friend.

Have you ever told a secret to someone who didn't keep it?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Where do you get your ideas?

I guess this question is more for the writers than the readers.

How do you get your ideas for your stories? Are you inspired by something you've recently read or seen on TV? Does something happen in real life that triggers something in your brain? Does it come to you in your dreams?


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

2009 Goals--How I'm Doing to Date

Since the year is half over, it's a good time to evaluate myself on the goals I set in THIS POST. Let's see how Rhonda's doing so far:

1--I'm going to find time EVERY DAY to spend by myself. Success!! I've achieved this one, for sure. Even if it's just a few minutes, I've been spending a little time to myself just reading, chillin' with a video game, or playing around on my lappy.

2--I'm going to re-study Japanese again. Um, partial success. The manpanion's taking Japanese, so I've helped him in his studies. I signed up for Rosetta Stone through work and played with a few lessons on there, as well as used our DS for the Japanese Coach program we bought. But I need to get on the ball and start doing this more for realz.

3--I'm going to read at least one new book a week (I may do a weekly post on my blog discussing the book I read--that could be fun!) Again, partial success. There are some weeks where I read a book a day, and others where I struggle to find time to finish a book in a week. I'm in a big of a reading lurch right now, but I predict it will pick up again.

4--I'm going to learn at least 1 new dinner recipe a month. OMG total, utter fail. I completely forgot about this goal. ROFL. I should get on this--it's still a really good idea, now that I actually REMEMBER it. haha

5--I'm going to plan and book my dream trip to Japan!! *sigh* fail. Too many expenses cropped up in the spring, and I couldn't do it this year without us suffering for it and having to charge most of the trip. Just can't do that right now. But I did get in contact with a travel agency and obtained a brochure, and will talk to them next year...when I hopefully have more cash. LOL

6--I'm going to come up with a sensible "diet" and exercise plan. Oy. Massive, MASSIVE fail. 'Nuff said. haha

7--I'm going to use my foot spa and massage chair thingie at least once a week. Another fail (I forgot about this one too), but I have gotten massages...and I totally got a pedi for the first time a couple of weeks ago! I am so hooked. Now that I remember this one too, I should totally do it. haha

8--I'm going to get a for-realz massage at least once a month. Mostly fail. I did get a massage in June, tho, and will plan one for this month.

9--I'm going to get a new tattoo. SUCCESS!! I rocked hard on this one...I have a new piece-in-progress on my back that I am so in love with. Each session makes it come more to life.

10--I'm going to make sure I drink at least one glass of tea per day. Mostly success. Probably 5 out of 7 days each week, I have at least one glass of tea. I've been drinking iced tea like a mutha lately. LOL

How about you--how are the yearly goals going so far, if you had any? Anything you're rocking hard with? Or, anything you have to hang your head in shame about, like moi? LOL. Share with us!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Good news Tuesday!

I've had a lot of good news lately - one of the main tidbits being that I sold my urban fantasy series to Orbit last week in a 3 book deal - and I thought it would be nice if everyone shared some of their good news!

It could be anything, so share away!

Monday, July 06, 2009

eeek! It's REAL

I have a book. A REAL FREAKING BOOK.

With my name on it and everything.
See, I have a blurry self photo of my book to prove that it exists. It's real. And it's mine. (and if you still don't believe that it's mine, you can open up the back cover to see my picture. so there. I win. :p)

What a thrill it was to get this in the mail the other day! What a lovely thing for my awesome editor to do. My entire weekend was made when I opened up my final revision package to find a pretty wrapped present inside.

And when I ripped off the tissue (which, coincidentally (or not) matched the blue on my cover) I nearly peed my pants when I saw the REAL THING staring back at me. (okay, maybe I did pee a little. But don't tell anyone, mkay?)

I'm a published author. I have an awesome book (duh) that YOU will be able to buy off the shelves at a bookstore in 22 days.

In 22 freaking days!

Holy smokes!!!!!

It's finally starting to sink in. It's real. And I have proof because I'm holding a real copy of my dream.

And I hope you will be holding a real copy of my dream as well. :D And for a good dose of Karma, I strongly suggest you buy two or more copies.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Makin' Up Stories

It may or may not be true, but my family swears that I wrote on everything from newspaper to the living room walls from the time I could hold a crayon in a chubby, sweaty fist. I've taken their word for it simply because it sounds right. I've always loved filling up empty space with whatever was lurking inside my head. I've always loved filling up silences with anecdotes. I was born under a chatty star, a story-teller's star.

The funny thing is, in spite of the fact that I've been writing all my life and have always identified myself as a writer, even other writers are often taken aback that I tell stories.

Yes, even a trip to the grocery store is a story. I've never responded to "how was your trip?" with anything as mundane or annoyingly inconsequential as "fine."


Surely we can do better than that.

For me, every interaction with the world around me is part of a never-ending journal entry. And if it happened, it can be re-told. And if you're re-telling it, you might as well sell it to the cheap seats.

The odd thing-- at least to me, coming from a family of very rich story-telling traditions and being slanted that way from birth-- is that people, in this day and age of television sound bites and thirty second meals from the microwave, are suspicious of good stories. I'm never quite sure if this is because we live in an era of "based upon a true story" fictions, or if we have so much overblown sensationalism flung at us, or if the craft of telling things richly and beautifully is dying. I pray it isn't the latter.

Because it really isn't that bizarre things are always happening to me. It's that I relish every little bubble in the glass, every bump in the road, every interesting new face as part of my story. And nobody ever opened a book to read "once upon a time everything was fine, really, nothing much was going on" and turned the page for more. Fine? Yes, well, thanks very much, if you could point me to the dark-stormy-night-and-then-a-scream section I'll be on my way.

I used to worry over this. I'd be huddled around an illegal bonfire on the beach and somebody would say something that led me into a tale. And half the people huddled there would be grinning and nodding. And one quarter of them would be quietly interested. But that last quarter would be blatantly disgusted. They were part of the Fullocrap tribe. They never believed a story, and weren't content to wonder. They're the people who always blurt out "I don't believe it."

These are the same people who, as adults, told their kids at a very young age that there was no Santa. They claimed it was because they didn't want to lie to their children, but it was really because they wanted credit for the presents. They raised weird, creepy kids, whom I tortured with the most outrageous stuff I could dream up, running home to count backwards from one hundred to see how long it would take for their parents to call mine. "Why," Mrs. Uptight would shout, "did your daughter tell Norman he was going to have a tick crawl into his ear and suck out his brains til he died in his sleep? He hasn't slept in a week!"

(Pssst. I never got in trouble. My parents thought your family was weird and laughed. Which is probably just as much a reason for me being kind of mean as your mom is for you being totally weird.)

I hated them in my youth, but became fascinated with them in adulthood. At some point, you see, I realized that lots of people question the story-teller, but only a few despise him or her for the story. You see bitter anger in those faces. I've never understood a hostile response to a story, so I was often drawn to members of the Fullocrap nation. It's another part of my nature-- I love to know what makes something work.

In recent years, though, through study and experience, I've come to the startling conclusion that most people enter the world differently. It might sound odd to someone else, but I really was surrounded by story-telling as a kid. We begged my father to tell us tales of growing up in a magical place called the Blue Ridge Mountains. We listened to yarns from across the sea and dreamed of Ireland's green valleys. My father and mother never came home from anything-- not even a trip to the mailbox-- without something interesting to report.

But I also recall the day my nephew, who takes after his mom's side of the family rather than mine, answered a question that turned on my lightbulb full-beam. I had seen reports on the television of a lock-down at his school because the bank next door had been robbed and the armed suspect had escaped. So I asked him "how was school?" in a leading tone.

He shrugged and said "fine."

Honestly? Right then I got it.

For me, any invitation to conversation has ribbons and bows on it. If I go to the post office and nothing particularly bizarre happened, something still happened. So when I get home, if I'm asked "anything new?" I will always have an answer. It's same-river-twice syndrome. Something's ALWAYS new. There's a movie night coming up; I saw Mr. Peters-- he looks great and sends his best; the entire breadth of Beach Street was wall-to-wall kids all the way to Bay Ave. My answer to that question would never, ever, under any circumstances, be "nope, not really."

Not unless I'm pretty mad at you, anyway.

Some people would say it. Some people always answer "fine," or "nothing much." I suspect these people can do things that would blow me away. Calculus or engineering wonders. They are, most likely, too busy thinking up things from scratch that involve silence and reflection. And because I am absolute crap at that kind of thing I admire it immensely. I suspect that's why these are also the same people who bait me to tell a story so often, and seem to be the closest listeners: they admire talents they lack, too.

The others-- the Fullocraps-- I haven't figured out. I have a theory, though. I think perhaps they just don't look at the world the way I do, but that they also wish they did. Or maybe that's too direct. Maybe it's more that a small voice inside them thinks "why doesn't anything like that ever happen to me?" Unlike the engineers and physicists of the world, they don't have anything particularly important filling up the silence created by "fine" and "nothing much," which are probably just genius-code for "I'm busy thinking up a cure for cancer, go away." I suspect that this tiny part of the population, the not-storytellers-but-not-geniuses-and-not-into-participating segment, is sad. It would, at least, explain the need to destroy a good story with a sneer. I think perhaps these are the same people who delight in destroying sandcastles and snowmen.

As for me, I am glad to be made as I am. I just don't have the build-a-suspension-bridge-from-toothpicks gene, though if I am ever stranded on an island I pray there are a few of those with me. I admire those minds so very deeply, plus when they get tired out they make great listeners. The Fullocraps never end up on islands unless they get there by cruise ship. And when they come home, if you ask "how was your trip?" the answer is-- "fine".


Friday, July 03, 2009

Set yourself free

Happy Independence Day!

I know, I know--it's tomorrow.

As a kid, I really LOVED this holiday. The parades, the picnics, and the fireworks.

Then I had a bad experience as a young adult. I got dumped in a surprising reversal of fortune, because only hours earlier, everything had been just fine. July 3rd, Mr. Dumper and his friends had been at Casa de Gwen with my friends. It got really late and I had to work at 6am--but only a quick four hour shift. Who needs sleep right? We all pulled an all nighter in my living room. Mr. Dumper and his friends watched movies on my couch until about 4am at which time I made a potato salad and got ready for work---this way I could go directly from work to Mr. Dumper's house for his Fourth of July BBQ. We were not "going steady" but we were totally moving that direction.

I thought.

Sometime between 4 am and 11 am, Mr. Dumper decided he'd changed his mind. Only instead of telling me, he just sort of ....avoided me. At first, I thought he was just busy being host. I mean--he kissed me goodbye at 4 am, what could have happened? As the day wore on, it became clear I'd been dumped without the benefit of being dumped. What is worse, he was spending A LOT of time with his ex-girlfriend. I had to pretend I was having a great time at this stupid BBQ after zero sleep the night before.

I wish I could say the experience emboldened me--and that from then on Independence Day really meant something to me about my own independence. Instead, the experience caused me to really think I needed a guy in my life to be worth anything. It took a long time for me to come around.

So, my hope for you, gentle reader, is that no matter what stage of life brought you to this blog, no matter what country you are from--July 4th is a day to take stock in YOUR freedom too. Your independence from "you should" or "if only". Happy Independence day to the person you are inside.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Have you bid on your full critique from Rhonda yet?

Because she'd never toot her own horn, I figured I would. Our very own Fictionista, Rhonda Stapleton, has generously offered to critique a FULL Young Adult manuscript of one lucky bidder!

Debut author Cynthea Liu has organized a charity auction to raise money for Tulakes Elementary School, a Title I school in Oklahoma City. Children residing in the surrounding community live in an environment of high povery, gang violence, and crime. Many of the children wear the same clothes to school several days in a row and some don't know where their next meal is coming from. :(

Cynthea's fundraiser will help jumpstart the 3rd grade level-reading program in the classroom. It costs approximately $700 for one leveled non-fiction lassroom set. A sturdy book box that can be used year in and year out costs $3.25 per student. The teachers' goal is to have libraries in every classroom.

You can help make a difference in these children's lives by bidding for an exciting array of prizes, including critiques from authors, editors, agents, and autographed prize packs of books.

The auction closes on July 8, 11:59 PM EST. Winners may pay by Paypal, major credit card, or money order/cashier's check.

Let the bidding begin!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Random Question Day!

I love having Random Question Day on Fictionistas--we get such fun answers from you guys! So I'm doing another one. For your answers, you can post as much or as little info as you want to share.

Okay, here we go!

1--Dogs or cats?

2--Which do you usually choose: truth, or dare?

3--What's your favorite day of the week?

4--What's your favorite beverage?

5--Ever mooned someone?

6--What color do you dislike most?

7--Have you ever fainted?

8--Who's the last person you hugged?

9--Ocean or lake?

10--What song is your current guilty/secret addiction?

I'll answer in the comments too. Looking forward to your responses!