Monday, August 31, 2009

Interview: Marley Gibson

Today I'm very pleased to interview friend and fabulous author Marley Gibson. The 2nd book in her Ghost Huntress series hits the shelves this week. And one lucky commenter will have a chance to win a copy of Ghost Huntress: The Guidance this week. You have until Midnight (CST) Thursday to leave a comment and qualify as a winner. The lucky recipient will be announced on Friday's blog!

Now, everyone give a warm welcome to Marley!

MF: Tell us something surprising about yourself.

MG: Surprising? Well...I've turned into quite the adventurer lately. Life begins at 42! I just got certified to SCUBA dive (recently saw about 60 dogfish shark a few feet from me), I went parasailing, and waverunning with a school of dolphins leading the way.

MF: How did you get the inspiration for your Ghost Huntress Series?

MG: I was looking for a new high concept idea to try and sell when I was at the New England Romance Writers Conference in March 2007. I sat in on the presentation of the New England Ghost Project talking about ghost hunting and using psychic abilities to connect with spirits. As I sat there in their session, the whole first GHOST HUNTRESS book came to me like a movie and I knew I had to write about teenage ghost hunters!

MF: What authors do you read?

MG: I read as much as I can get my hands on. I loved Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT series and I adore the Simon Pulse romantic comedies by Jenn Echols, Wendy Toliver, Niki Burnham and others. I love reading my friends books and have many of them in my to be read pile - Linda Gerber, the fabulous Melissa Francis, Tina Ferraro, Stephanie Hale, Simone Elkeles, Tera Lynn Childs, Dona Sarkar-Mishra. Really looking forward to Heather Davis' NEVER CRY WEREWOLF. As for adult books, I love anything penned by Roxanne St. Claire, Jessica Andersen, Gena Showalter, Sandra Brown, Barbara Delinsky, and I love rereading classics like GONE WITH THE WIND and BRIDGET JONES, which I can never get enough of!

MF: Who is your favorite character (of your own or another book)?

MG: I have to say that Bridget Jones is an all-time favorite characters. She's an adult, but there are so many naive, childish elements to her that make her so endearing. She's got a heart of gold, would be fun to hang out with, and she's a complete and total mess...which makes her remarkable REAL.

MF: What five things are always in your purse?

MG: 1. My BlackBerry; 2. Black eyeliner; 3. A bottle of "emergency" Zantac; 4. Rose quartz dowsing pendulum; 5. Benedryl in case of a tree nut attack!

MF: What music are you currently listening to?

MG: I love anything House/Dance/Trance -- anything with a bass line beat that gets my heart going. I love writing to Dance music and I love driving to it, as well. The louder the better. I adore Kaskade, DJ Tiesto, anything by Ultra or Ministry of Sound.

MF: Tell us about your pets.

MG: Sadly...I am pet-less at the moment. My kitty fur babies, Stanley and Natasha, stayed with my husband when we divorced. However, the shelters are full of wonderful kitties who need loving, caring homes. I've been on the road a lot lately promoting my books, but come the first of the year, I plan on adopting two fur babies and spoiling them rotten. I love animals...their hearts are pure and their love is real.

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

MG: Black mascara. It's my lifeline. Thanks to America's Next Top Model, I wear Lash Blast by Cover Girl and I just luuuurve it!

MF: First thing you drink in the morning.

MG: Water, usually, but I know know to take my caffeine cold in the form of Diet Coke. I just love the bubbles in the morning.

MF: Worst high school memory.

MG: I'm a cancer survivor...age 15...sophomore year in high school. It wasn't so much the cancer that was the worst memory, but the fact that I lost my waist-length hair AND I was a varsity cheerleader. However, our football team shaved their heads that year to "look tough" and everyone just thought that I had that much school spirit, as well. My hair grew back quickly -- maybe in 6 months -- and it led to a whole short-punky look for me that I kept until college.

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

MG: I would tell her to have more self-confidence. While I wasn't exactly shy as a teenager, I didn't have much self-confidence. I think it was because I was born in the north and grew up in the south and was always considered as "different." Today, I would tell that girl to embrace that difference and not apologize for who she is and where she came from. All teens go through self-confidence do most adults...but we all just have to find our place in the world and be happy with who we are.

MF: What are you working on next?

MG: I'm very excited that my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, wants to buy more books in the GHOST HUNTRESS series! Books 4 and 5 are in the works in my head...I'm writing out the synopsis for each so I can work on the story arcs that will continue throughout the series. I'll let the Fictionistas be the first to hear the (working) titles are GHOST HUNTRESS: THE COUNSELING and GHOST HUNTRESS: THE JOURNEY.

Thank you for joining us today, Marley! Good luck to you! Everyone don't forget to run out and buy yourself a copy of Ghost Huntress: The Guidance this week!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

...And the Rains Came...

The rains came last night. Heavy, relentless, sheets of rain are falling on the South Shore and Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Most people in my neck of the sand like this weather-- at least a little. If you live directly on the water you may get nervous. But most old salt dogs are too smart to build something on stilts or on an open bluff without a seawall. The others... well, if you're going to move here you should probably ignore the snooty architect and the builders and listen to the locals. There's a reason our antique Victorians and weathered old Capes are still standing.

It's funny, though, how a nor'easter simply doesn't faze locals. I got up this morning to find weather-persons around the country wigging out a weenie bit. I went out with Max, got my two papers, a dozen donuts, and coffee. When I drove over the Green Harbor Bridge on Beach Street the tide was out. When I came back, via Ocean's Bluff, it was heading back in. There were rows of people wearing rain slickers taking photographs of the surf, which was not dangerous... but it was pretty. At Walgreen's it was pretty simple to spot the transplants... they were buying candles, matches, and milk.

You should already have the candles and matches. The milk's gonna spoil if you loose the power. We only stock up on perishables in the winter. We are more likely to loose the power then, but we just stick a cooler out on the porch and let mother nature be our frig.

Silly newbies.

Anyway, nobody around here was worried. We know when to worry. This is just a storm, not a nor'easter or a hurricane or a blizzard. This is one of those beautiful rages that follows the river to the harbor, hangs out off the coast when the tide is out, and later blows back in just to be belligerent. We like those storms. They make life interesting. I imagine people in the mid-west know when to get worried about tornado warnings. People in California know when to duct-tape the stuff down when a tremor feels a specific way. It's different when you've lived with it all your life. (I would probably wig out and run screaming like a baby if I encountered an earth quake. We live on a fault line, but it's the kind that causes mild tremors every 10 years or so, and it's not the kind that makes big holes.)

How's the weather where you are?

Friday, August 28, 2009

The One Where Gwen Invites Bria Over

We have a houseguest at Casa de Gwen this month. (The fabulous author Bria Quinlan who has also guest posted for us at Fictionistas. I guess that makes her a professional guest. Kinda like Kato Kaelin.)


So, when you bring someone into your home you realize things about your life that you never paid attention to before. Like, your entire household is crazy. That one of your dogs thinks he's a cat. That the cat sounds like Darth Vadar. That the puppy is actually bi-polar. That the other dog is likely pretending she's really old and tired and achy (she's only 8) to get out of dealing with the rest of us.

And I haven't even gotten to my kids yet.

Bria knows now that I have far too many jammies and that I put them on at 6:00 in the evening. She knows that it takes me about three hours to drink a glass of wine. She knows that I pretend to write more than I actually do. That I tease my kids more than a good mommy should--or at least I enjoy it more than a good mommy should. That I totally used her arrival as an excuse to buy cheesecake and hummus. That my husband's life dream is to be Red Foreman from That 70's Show, and yet he buys a watermelon because he heard her say she likes it. (also, he's making us brownies RIGHT NOW)

She also knows that my town is REALLY boring--but on the flip side, she's been able to nap and restore in the world's most comfortable chair. And I think when she hits the road again, she'll take with her that that while my life is far different from hers living in Boston, I've got it pretty good.

So, if I came visit you for a vacation, what crazy things would I learn about you?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Am I having a girl or a boy?

So...I'm five months pregnant. I have the ultrasound scheduled for Monday when you can find out the gender, but I think we're going to be surprised.

Originally, I'd always said I would find out, because I'm way too uptight for that kind of surprise. I need to know, and I need to know now.

But when I found out I was pregnant, I asked Mr. Brice what he thought...should we find out or be surprised and he said he thought it would be fun to be surprised. The more I thought about it, the more I decided I liked that idea.

I mean, there are so few surprises left in life. Why take away this one? Besides, if we don't know what it is ahead of time, we'll go neutral on the room decor and will probably end up saving a lot of money. (I just know that if I was having a girl and I knew that, I'd spend a fortune on all kinds of cute little frilly girly things EVERY SINGLE TIME I WENT TO A STORE. Trust me, I know myself.) This way, I won't be tempted to spend tons of money until I know for sure, and by then, I won't have time to waste on random splurge shopping.


Anyway, now that I've gotten myself all psyched up for the big surprise of hearing "It's a _______!" in the delivery room, and for it to actually mean something, Mr. Brice is starting to change his mind. Now he's saying he wants to know.


I told him no, we're going to be surprised. So he said he's going to ask the ultrasound tech to tell him but not tell me. I think it's just because he thinks it would be funny to lord it over me for the next four months... "I know something you don't know!"

He can be a real brat.

Anyway, I've taken all the online gender predictors, and going by those and all the other old wives' tales I know, apparently I'm having a girl.

I guess that makes sense, honestly. It seems like everyone else I know has had a boy, so statistically, SOMEONE has to have a girl, right? Otherwise, there's no hope for the species if all the babies born in 2009 and 2010 are boys.

OK, OK, I know. Online gender predictors and old wives' tales aren't accurate. But neither is an ultrasound. I knew someone who was told she was having twin girls, but surprise! It turned out they were actually twin boys. And they only learned the actual gender AFTER they'd bought two of everything in pink and with frills.

So yeah, I'm going by the only fool-proof method. Waiting until the kidlet is born. But that doesn't mean I don't like to have fun speculating.

So what do you think? Girl or boy?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Texting While Driving PSA--watch this video!

Have you seen this public service announcement video about texting while driving? Take a few minutes and watch it:

I just saw it, and I'm still feeling a little shaky from it. It's WAY intense and made my gut twist. It's not "real," fortunately, but it definitely makes its point.

The state I live in, Ohio, has made texting while driving illegal (and in one city, you're not even allowed to be talking on your cell while driving).

Texting is a dangerous distraction, one that this video totally reinforced for me. I hope this video gets around and more people watch it.

So, after seeing it, how did it make you feel? Would you show this video to your kids? Do you think this should be shown in high schools, like how they do the drunk driving video presentations? I plan on showing this video to my kids, especially my 13-year-old daughter. God forbid something like this happens to her.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If today were a school day, I'd be home sick

We went to the shuttle launch last night. Official launch time, 1:36 AM. We had a special pass that got us into the turn basin, which as close as you can get without actually being part of the launch crew. It was pretty cool. Unfortunately due to weather, they scrubbed the launch at about 1:34 AM.

I didn't get to bed until about 3AM.

As a result, I am now Zombie Kristen. And yes, I am cranky enough to eat brains. At some point, I will have to nap because, you guessed it, the launch is rescheduled for 1:10 AM tonight and we're going back.

What things have you upset your normal routine for? Would you go to a night launch if presented with the opportunity?

Monday, August 24, 2009

the all important first kiss

My first kiss ever was the summer between 6th and 7th grade. I was at the lake with a friend of mine, and this boy (I can't remember if he was her cousin or family friend) had been flirting with me all day. I remember being nervous for several reasons. I looked cute, but was the only girl not in a bikini (I could've totally worn a bikini, but my mother had issues with them) I also hadn't really dealt with boys in a boy/girl way. My experience with boys was on the football field, basketball court, and baseball field. Yes, I was that girl.

Boys didn't really see me as a girl for a very long time (even though I probably had one of the best racks in high school...) It's always fun to see these guys from high school now because even though I'm not a girly-girl--there is no denying I am a woman.

Anyway, this boy and I were holding on to either side of a raft and endlessly flirting as we drifted further away from the crowd. Our legs and feet kept touching, our hands kept touching, and before I knew what as going on, our lips were touching as well. And then our tongues.

I knew about French kissing but honestly, up until that moment, I didn't get why someone would do that.

And then BAM! I totally got it.

I'm lucky my first kiss ever was so good because believe me, I've had some bad 'first kisses' since. I'm going to be blogging about the good, the bad, and the ugly kisser over at my personal blog today, I think. Pop over if you wanna continue the discussion.

So how was your first kiss ever? Do you remember the person fondly or do you still want a do over?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Interview with Beth Fantaskey

Today I am pleased to introduce author Beth Fantaskey to Fictionistas and our readers. I fell in love with Beth's novel, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Darkside. Beth is a 43 year old married, mother of two, who lives in the small town of Lewisburg, PA. She says she "must be the longest-running Ph.D. candidate in Penn State University history." She uses her real maiden name-- Fantaskey-- to write.

This month she has featured an absolutely delightful "wedding party" on her website. Writers take note-- this may be the cutest promotional thanks to readers EVER. You can get to know Beth at her home page, and follow her on twitter, too!

Jessica's Guide is a wonderful concept. Where did the idea come from?

Thank you!
My children are both adopted, and we often wonder what their birth parents were like. What if they were different somehow? I took that to the extreme by imagining Jess's parents not only as vampires, but vampire royalty. The rest flowed from there...

You recently included a free, fun, interactive reward for fans on your website ( What prompted that decision?

So many readers have asked for a sequel, but for the past year I've been absorbed in writing my second book, Jekel Loves Hyde. I've only started to seriously consider a sequel now. So in the meantime, I wanted to thank everybody who's asked to read more about Jess and Lucius by writing some original, free chapters that would help satisfy their curiosity about what happens next. (Hint: Romance!)
When I had the idea to make the event interactive, I was so excited that I could hardly wait to announce it. All summer long, I've been planning and trying to keep it a secret. And the response has been amazing!

Basically, I am a very, very grateful author. I never anticipated how many people would be nice enough to contact me with their thoughts on the book. Some of the readers have become genuine friends. It's important to me to let everybody know how much I appreciate all the support. Without readers - what's a writer, really?

What are some of your biggest influences?

Some of my major influences are right there in my own books. Jessica's Guide has a little nod to Melville and Bronte, for example, and Jekel Loves Hyde draws from the old Stevenson novel. I am also a big fan of Dickens, Austen and Dumas... all the classic writers. (Not that I think I'm anywhere in their league!! I don't mean to suggest that!)

What have you been reading recently?

This will sound strange, but I rarely read fiction. I am trying to finish my doctoral dissertation in mass communication history, so when I read, it's usually old books about female reporters. And I'm about to sit down with "The Art of Public Speaking" to prepare for a class I'm teaching this fall. Not exactly stuff most people are going to rush out and buy for fun, but I have no choice!

You say you love to travel but hate to fly. How do your reconcile your passion and fear?

I remind myself that I only get to live once, and that I'd rather die in a plane crash than miss the opportunity to see the world. Especially since my logical self knows how seldom planes really crash. Still, I'm a nightmare to fly with. I went to Italy with a friend a few years ago, and I clutched her leg so hard that she got bruises that lasted for days. Needless to say, she's never traveled with me again.

You're a mom of two and a writer, too. How do you find time to write while juggling life as a mother?

My children will both be in school this fall, so I am going to have a big window to work soon. However, in the past, it's been a juggling act. I definitely get lots of support from my husband, who is a college professor with a flexible schedule. We basically take turns working and watching the kids.

What's next for you? More vampires or something completely new?

Hmmm... that's still under wraps. Maybe a little of both!

Fictionistas have a few standard, nosy-questions we always like to ask for fun.

What five items are ALWAYS in your purse?

Wallet, make-up, inevitably-dried-up "wet wipe," crumpled tissue of mysterious origin, and this weird "aromatherapy inhaler" that emits a great smell when you open the cap. (Came in handy when one of the kids threw up in the car.)

What music have you been listening to lately?

I usually listen to our local college radio station or Pandora while I work, so I've been hearing everything from Sugarcult to Johnathan Coulton. It's always something new.

Worst High School memory?

The classic Prom Nightmare. Never go with a guy you used to date, just to go. It's a recipe for an awkward, awful time. My hand-me-down dress was ugly, too. I would have had more fun at home watching TV - or going alone... in a nicer dress!

If you could go back in time and say ANYTHING to the high-school-you, what would it be?

I would tell me, "You will be shocked by how cool all these people turn out to be. Someday, they will track you down on Facebook, and it will be like the cliques never existed, because you'll all grow up to be decent people just trying to raise your own kids to be the same."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Veggie tales

As a child, I remember watching an episode of Electric Company in which the children were singing about not liking broccoli. So I told my mother that I did not like it either. She was surprised, as I had never actually had broccoli, and suggested that I try things before deciding and maybe not be so inclined to just agree with other people.

Good advice. Turns out I do, in fact, like broccoli And there have been times in my life when I have had to break from other people's opinion and follow my own path.

My daughter does not love broccoli. But she'll eat it. She's picky about a lot of things (must be careful here, sometimes she reads the blog) but food is not usually one of them.

My son, on the other had, who is far easier to please about everything else--can not eat vegetable without gagging.

I thought it was a fluke incident when I fed him green beans as a baby and he threw up all over me. Now that he's almost fourteen and still gags at the table, I decided to finally look into it.

Yes, I'm a great mom.

According to, we have about 10,000 taste buds. Until we are older and end up with about 5000--which would explain why things taste so much stronger when we are young and less so as we age. So strong tastes--like bitter veggies, are more powerful to children.

Then there is the psychological factor, poor kid. It's difficult, I imagine, to keep on trying something when your brain remembers throwing up the last time you ate it. Case in point, none of you will ever see me drinking Tequila. Ever. Again.

So--where does that leave my son? I'm still mean enough to put those foul veggies on his plate. And I still expect him to keep trying new things. But I also feel less bad about making him only have one bite of the ones he hates the most, and will continue to allow him to substitute an apple or applesauce at the dinner table without feeling like I am a pushover.

So, what foods did you hate as a child, but enjoy now?

*source used:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Apparently I like vampire books...who knew?

Like everyone else on the planet, I read "Twilight."

Not because I wanted to. Mostly because I felt like I should. Stephanie Meyer had found such a cultural touchstone for teens, and since I write YA, I figured I should check it out and see what the big deal was.


It was interesting, I guess, but it wasn't exactly my cup of tea. I found Bella to be way too whiny and annoying, and frankly, not really a good role model for girls. And I wasn't a big fan of Edward.

This was probably because I've never really liked vampire books. Sure, I watched "Interview with a Vampire" back in the mid-90s when it was all the rage, and I even read it in French for the heck of it. And it was mildly entertaining. Mildly. I never could understand the huge appeal it held for so many in my high school (much like I can't understand the huge appeal the Twilight series holds for today's teens).

I've read a few vampire romances through the years, but mostly when there wasn't anything else to read, or it was written by a friend of mine. I've just never understood the appeal.

Until now.

After having read our very own Melissa Francis's BITE ME! and mother-daughter team P.C. and Kristin Cast's MARKED within a span of a couple of weeks, I can now officially say that I really like YA vampire books.

Well, at least those. LOL.

But seriously, check out BITE ME and the House of Night series. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

High school activities

What kinds of activities did you participate in when you were in high school? Or, if you're still in high school, what do you currently do for extracurricular activities?

As for me, I was a huge, huge, HUGE band geek in school. I was in the marching band and pep band (I played trumpet)--I was even drum major my senior year, which was totally fun and surprisingly hard. Gee, I wonder why people my age didn't want to listen to me boss them around. haha

I was also in the French club--we didn't really do a whole lot, except make crepes. Mmmmm, crepes...

Other than that, I didn't much after-school stuff, except for participate in the school musicals/plays (either by acting, or by playing trumpet in the pit orchestra). I'm soooo not athletic, so I didn't do sports. Trust me, it was safer for everyone that way.

What about you? Did/do you participate in extracurricular activities?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How hooked up are you?

Technology today seems all about social media. Yesterday someone somewhere mentioned that the average age of those who use Twitter was around 46. I have to say that really surprised me. And got me thinking.

Am I hipper than I thought?

I used to be on Myspace and while my page is still there, I haven't logged in in ages. Myspace seems like the horror movie trailer park of social media now. It's gaudy, run down and you just never know who's parked next door.

Now I focus on Twitter and Facebook, although to be honest, I mostly use Facebook for games and sending messages to far-away friends.

What social media do you use and what's your favorite?

Monday, August 17, 2009

the thrill of Walmart

After living in Oxford, MS for 7 years and having very little choice about where to shop, I began to loathe Walmart. I didn't care if the prices were 'always the lowest', I cared that it was always busy, always on the other side of town, and always Walmart.

Then my book got published and I started getting little notes about Walmart sightings across the nation.

The first came from my friend Karla in Arizona.

Then a few came from Florida. A few from Arkansas (I still haven't seen my own book at Walmart yet, but I keep looking)

Then Gena Showalter told me she nearly broke all the glass in the building with her squeal when she saw me in Oklahoma.

And yesterday, my friend Lucy sent me a picture of my own book at a Walmart in Texas.

Yes, I think I've officially arrived...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Judging Books by Covers

Sometimes, let's face it, we judge a book by it's cover. You may not do it intentionally, but it's human nature to be drawn to something visually powerful. And if we're fair about it, the marketing departments are trying to package the book in a way that makes us want to buy it. But as we discovered in Kristen Painter's recent (and quite excellent) discussion of the cover for Liar, sometimes they fail.

The reality is that author's have very little-- if any-- say in covers. I once turned down a rather nice, unsolicited offer from an epublisher based upon this. I won't say who it was. They certainly make a great deal of money and have a good reputation. I just hate, hate, HATE their covers.

But I'm also guilty of the "pre-disappointment dream" of a magical, wonderful, glorious cover in my future. I love Mel's cover for Bite Me, and Rhonda's are so eye-catchingly bright, too!

Here are some books I loved for both what was on the outside, and on the inside. I've bought books with glorious covers that disappointed. These are a few favorites that didn't.

Terry Pratchett is my all-time favorite author. I love his young adult, his adult, everything he does. And his cover artist is Josh Kirby. You have to hunt around for some of the Kirby covers in the US, which pushes the generic, plain ones. I'll never understand that. The UK just has a superior sense of book aesthetics, I guess. This is the cover for Guards! Gaurds!, one of my favorites. There is so much going on in the illustration you could spend as much time looking at it as reading the text inside!

Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince series is one of my favorite fantasy series. The Star Scroll, cover pictured here, was an absolute masterpiece by Michael Whalen, a legend in fantasy artwork. He captures a softness, fierceness, and strength all at the same time in his paintings. The colors are gorgeous, but the detail is even moreso.

Anne Bishop, another fave, has darker, more thoughtful covers. She's always been an auto-buy for me. I have every book she has ever written in both hardcover and paperback. But I stumbled upon her because I walked by the New Releases in the Sci Fi/Fantasy section and was arrested by... drumroll... one of the covers for her Black Jewel series. After grabbing it on impulse, I did what I usually do: I read the first few pages... only I had reached page 10 before realizing how long I'd been reading.

Yasmin Galenorn was another author I picked up strictly in response to her covers. I loved the dark, edgy look of them, and particularly liked her tough-looking, lovely ladies. I wanted to know these women, and reading their stories was the natural way to go about it. Picked her up, read two pages, picked up everything on the shelf that day. I've been a loyal fan of this series.

And of course, this is a YA blog. My absolute-favorite-cover-in-ages is Robin McKinley's Chalice cover. It uses the Pre-Raphaelite painting Miranda, by John William Waterhouse. Google him some time when you need to be inspired. I have prints of his work all over the place. Chalice features Miranda from the Tempest as its central image but only die-hard dorks like myself make the immediate connection. She is featured in a gorgeous circle of knotwork with bees at the four compass points. I think I bought this book just as much because of the cover as McKinley's name on it. It's a dream-cover for an author.

What are some of your favorite covers of all time?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blaming the victim

Usually I go for the fluff when given the choice between posting about fluff or substance. I'm just so disgusted right now that I can really only vent.

In a nutshell, the article refers to a woman who was raped at gunpoint in the parking garage at the Stamford Marriott. In response to a lawsuit, the hotel not only argued that she failed to use good sense to protect herself and her children, but they also subpoenaed people like her babysitter and Pilates instructor who had not knowledge of her rape to testify.

Here's my thing. I can understand the Marriott feeling like they had no responsibility in the matter. They didn't rape the poor woman. They didn't know the rapist was hanging around waiting to rape anyone. Crimes happen everywhere and everyday and the people to blame are the criminals, not the people who own the plot of land where the crime happened. I get that. But I have stayed in a Marriott before. I complained about my wireless internet not working and they gave me a free breakfast and moved me to a different room. If someone gets violated on their property, I would expect that there be some compensation. Though I expect a free breakfast would have been the wrong thing to do, it was better than what they did instead.

Blame. Humiliation. "It's your own fault."

Marriott--you are disgusting.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Importance of Setting

What comes first, the characters or the plot?

That seems to be the age old question for fiction writers, and there really doesn't seem to be any right or wrong answer. Some characters pop fully formed into an author's mind...they just need to figure out what these characters are doing. Other authors get a fantastic idea for a plot, but need to figure out who's doing those things.

Plot and character are definitely very important. Without them, you'd be missing the two most crucial elements of commercial fiction.

But what about setting? Can you just plop your characters down in any old place and end up with the same story? Or does setting become another "character"? Can it change your plot?

I just finished reading a fabulous historical called "And Then He Kissed Her" by Laura Lee Guhrke. I picked it up at the Avon signing at RWA, and I'm definitely planning to go buy more of Ms. Guhrke's books now. I'm hooked!

This one was so cute. The hero is a viscount who owns a newspaper and publishing house. The heroine is his secretary, who dreams of being an author. After he rejects her fourth manuscript and she learns he actually never bothered to read any of them, she quits in a bout of frustration, and begins working for his rival as an etiquette columnist.

Had this been a contemporary, I probably never would have picked it up. Not that I don't love contemporaries -- I do. But it's a fairly straight forward premise. Cute, but nothing really that stands out.

So what made this one stand out? Easy. It was set in Victorian England. Bingo. Instant conflict and it immediately intrigues me. So few ladies worked during that era, and the idea of a "girl-bachelor" was so interesting that I had to pick it up.

What other examples can you think of where simply changing the setting can totally change the tone of a book?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How Does Fear Hold You Back?

Yanno, I like to consider myself a brave person. I've overcome a lot of issues in my life by trusting myself and doing what I felt was right for me and my family. But there are still things I feel an unusually intense fear about:

1--trusting others. I find myself creating a "contingency" plan that usually relies upon me being 100% self-reliant, just in case anything awful ever happens. Is it smart to be prepared? Absolutely. But there are good people in the world whom we can depend upon. I just have a hard time letting go of my fear of overdependence, so I swing to the other side of the pendulum and end up being overly independent. This is something I struggle to get over, but I still try, every day.

2--writing. I have a book contract, and I am SOOO thankful about it. But I still fear that I'm not good enough, that it was a fluke, that my editors will not like anything else I send them. It's irrational, I know. With every new story I write, I'm growing as a writer. I work hard at my craft. I'm not afraid to revise as needed. That voice in my head is awfully loud, and I can sometimes silence it by taking stock of how much I've accomplished. Even if I never sell another book again, I've still achieved my goal. Plus, writing has given me a sense of depth and resonance in my life that I never would have imagined--that can never be taken away.

3--death. I can't escape it. It's 100% guaranteed to happen to me, my family, my friends, and everyone I know. But that doesn't mean I feel comfort in that fact. I am petrified to die, especially in a way that's not just me passing quietly in my sleep when I'm super old. If I think about it for too long, I start freaking myself out. This is going to sound super goofy, but in my head, I believe I will live to be 100, so I still have another 67 years to go--and I find a little bit of comfort in that. haha

4--my perception. I have certain views and thoughts about myself, the world, the people around me, and I like to feel that my viewpoint is fairly accurate. But what if I'm wrong? What if my head's all messed up and I'm one of those super-crazy people who doesn't know she's a whacko nutbar? haha. Logically, I know that's probably not the case, and I'd like to think if something were really that messed up in my head, that someone would have intervened by now.

What are your most intense fears? Do you feel they are justified? What steps do you take to overcome those fears so it doesn't hold you back in your life?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things

For the first 13 years of my life, I lived in rural Pennsylvania. We literally lived on the side of a mountain. I think there was one other kid about my brother's age who lived close enough to play with, but he was a little strange so we didn't play with him that much.

As a result, my brother and I had to entertain each other. Not such a hard thing, really. After all, we had acres of forest to roam around in, a dilapidated farm house further up the mountain to explore, a nearby creek (that my brother almost drowned in once), a monstrous tree house my dad built us and about 30 cats and one toy poodle (who was perpetually annoyed that the cats out-sized him) to play with.

My mom was big on trips to the library, but those books only lasted so long. We played a little Atari, but for the most part our indoor fun revolved around Legos. It became a kind of challenge for us and my dad to build whatever was on the outside of the box before we just did our own thing. Without fail, we perfectly replicated everything Lego put on the boxes.

I have to say, looking back, it's no surprise what a good job my dad and brother did building those massive constructions considering that they're both custom home builders now.

What toys bring back childhood memories for you?

Monday, August 10, 2009

signs, signs, everywhere are signs...

Sing it Tesla.

I went back to Oxford, Mississippi Saturday with fellow Arkansas author (and friend) Stacey Jay for a book signing. We had a great time...signed lots of books, met lots of great people, and I got to see a bunch of old friends who I have missed dearly.

Jill and Square Books Jr. treated us right and the most awesome book club in the world hung out the entire time.

I miss Oxford. I never thought I'd say it, but I really do. I miss the people, I miss my house, I miss the slower way of life, and I miss hanging out on the square.

I also miss a few little quirky things. Like the way they pronounce certain words. You know, every state, city, town, region has their own individual eccentricities, and Northern Mississippi is definitely no different.

Like the time a few years back we went to a cookout and the street name was pronounced "Lauder." The directions weren't that clear, so we stopped and asked for help. The attendant said it was "just up the road a spill to the right." But that couldn't be correct because we'd been up the road a spill and didn't see it anywhere. Then we decided maybe the street sign had been stolen. So we go back up the road a spill, don't see it, turn around...and just as we're driving back by, I start laughing. (<---laffing)

"Lauder" was right in front of us...only it was spelled "Laughter."(<---lafter) Now I don't know about you, but I pronounce that word a little differently from the way the locals do.

Bastardizing a pronunciation weeds out the outtatowners, you know...

I lived in Lafeyette county. Pronounced here: Lu FAY' ette NOT lä-fE-'et as it is in the rest of the world.

We had a Marquis Cheveron. Pronounced Markus not mar 'kee

We had a China Royal. Achem. Pronounced, China RoyAL.

Need I go on? These things used to drive me nuts, and now after a little distance, I find them very charming.

Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, I finally got a picture of my favorite street name ever on the way home. (the sign is almost always stolen...) Seriously, this is real. I totally want to know the story behind it. C' know you do, too:

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Read All About It

I've been an avid fan of newspapers for many, many years. My mom and dad love to tell the tale of me, pre-school aged, sitting with a copy of The Boston Globe, upside-down. When asked what I was doing, I replied "I'm ponderin' the world sichapashun." I have no memory of this, but it sounds like me imitating my father's southern drawl, so it's probably true.

I still read at least one newspaper a day, quite often more. I think non-newspaper people find this startling, because they have images of their friends reading every single word in The Boston Herald, passing out in their cornflakes, and getting nothing else done all day. What we actually do is skim, scan, and read the juicy bits. I, personally, read the first few leads. Then I scan. I read the gossip page. Scan some more. Read the editorial page, picking anything that matters to me and ditching the rest. I never read letters. A quick perusal of the Sports page, then I leave it for anyone else who cares. My Sunday and Weekend Editions are a more leisurely, luxurious process. I milk those all weekend.

Newspapers can be an amazing bonding experience, too. My father is another newspaper person. He often drops his Herald on the chair next to me in the morning to save me the buck. And we're both bad about reading articles out loud, as if the entire world MUST be fascinated by what fascinates US. Ahmed, too, is a newspaper guy. One of my absolute, all-time favorite things in the world is to lay in bed on a crisp fall morning, snuggled under warm quilts, sharing a pile of weekend newspapers in silence. We'll go an hour without a word, two nerds with glasses on the ends of our noses, to grunt a brief "did you see this?" and receive a muffled "hmph" of response.

You know it's real when you can tell the difference between a "yep" hmph, a "no" hmph, and a "not interested" hmph. And you know it's forever when you don't really care which hmph is which, because you're exactly where you want to be... you just like the sound of that hmph.

I hate to see the gradual decline of print news. I know everyone blames the internet, but to be honest we stopped having ours delivered because we went through dozens of incompetent delivery persons. In the end, it probably costs me no more to buy one paper daily at the stand, pick up the odd edition of another when I see something interesting now and then, and avoid the soggy, sloppy, and unreliable slings and arrows of delivery. Plus it's part of my routine in the morning... and I actually love it when my dad beats me to it and hands off his ratty, pre-read copy to me. It's something we share, still, after all this time. I only share my newspapers with the very best people.

Now, if you'll excuse me... it's Saturday morning. I'm off to grab the weekend Ledger and spend some quality time, ponderin' the world sichapashun. Hmph.

Friday, August 07, 2009

RIP John Hughes

I have known for about an hour now that John Hughes passed away from a heart attack at the age of 59. What I didn't know was how freaked out it would make me.

I was already tender from losing such icons from my childhood as Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon, and Farrah Fawcett.

But John Hughes?

My childhood has been decimated. I am sure in the coming days, people will expound upon what he contributed to our culture. How he captured the essence of being a teenager in the 80s as well as trying to keep it together in the suburbs in the 80s as a child, teen, and parent. To me, he encapsulated how hard it is to balance the parts of us that never want to grow up (Ferris Bueller) against the adults we must become (Clark W. Griswold). He managed to mix enough raunchy fun with equal shares of big heart to endear my generation as teens so much that when we became the grown ups, we shared his movies with our own kids.

And I don't think a day goes by when I don't quote one of his scripts.

So, Mr. Hughes, thank you. Thank you for the fun and the tears. Thank you for contributing to my family's holiday tradition (Christmas Vacation on Thanksgiving every year). Thank you for inspiring me to write real YA characters with faults and heart. Thanks for that God awful dress Andie wore to Prom.

And, thanks for understanding that as a teen, I wanted her to end up with Blane, but now that I'm grown up, I know it should have been Duckie.

I hope in your next life, you get to be a fry cook on Venus.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Free at last! But there's still work to be done

If you haven't seen the reports of the release of US journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee from prison in North Korea, you've probably been living under a rock.

Thanks to former President Bill Clinton, these two courageous young women have returned home to their families. The press conference was incredibly touching and emotional.

I couldn't imagine being in their shoes. The mere fact of their arrest is proof positive of how hostile the North Korean regime is to freedom of the press, a principal held dear by so much of the democratic world.

Another case that has made the press lately is that of Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American journalist who was arrested in Iran, charged with espionage and sentenced to a eight-year prison term. An appeals court later reduced the charge to possessing classified information, a charge she denied, and reduced her eight-year prison sentence to a two-year suspended sentence and she was released in May 2009.

As horrifying as it must have been for these journalists, these stories had happy endings. Too often, however, that is not the case.

Since the very first World Press Freedom Day was celebrated in 1991, 692 journalists worldwide have been killed. Not to mention the hundreds more each year who face intimidation, censorship, and arbitrary arrest. Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press co-founders California Congressman Adam Schiff (Dem.) and Indiana Congressman Mike Pence (Rep.) consider these journalists "guilty of nothing more than a passion for truth and a tenacious belief that a free society depends on an informed citizenry."

How true those words are. As writers, we at Fictionistas are passionate believers in the freedom of the press. And though I can't express how happy I am that these oppressive regimes have released these journalists, I won't be satisfied until such oppression is eradicated from this earth.

So welcome home, Laura and Euna and keep up your good work. But my thoughts and prayers are with your colleagues worldwide who continue to be intimidated. Ensuring the vitality of a free and independent press is more important than ever.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What's your guilty pleasure?

First off, we have a winner for yesterday's contest! tetewa -- please email Kristen with your name and address HERE to claim your prize! CONGRATS!

Okay, so we all have things that we love. And sometimes, we have an unusual love for something beyond what's normal. haha. But they're our guilty pleasures, the things we turn to when we need them for whatever reason. Here are a few of my guilty pleasures:

1--Air Supply. Yes, I said it, out loud. Don't judge me! LOL. Sometimes I get a hankering for a cathartic moody session, and Air Supply is my go-to music for that. Something about their soft, depressing lyrics just works to help evoke that emotion from me when I need it. Of course, I have to limit my listening time, to keep from jumping off a bridge or something. haha

2--Peanut butter and chocolate. This deadly combination, often found in chocolate bars, ice cream, etc, makes me go BATTY wild with glee. I love when you're eating chocolate ice cream, and you hit a thick ribbon of peanut butter in it. Sometimes I even add extra PB on top, if I'm feeling extra sassy. *drool*

3--Pedicures. This is a new guilty pleasure for me, and maybe I shouldn't feel super guilty about it, but it's not like I'm rollin' in the dough or anything. haha. But something about having someone else rub your feet and pamper you just makes me sigh in happiness.

4--Soda. I can't help it. I know it's not the best for you, but I adore Dr. Pepper so much. I also have a lot of love for Coke with lime. mmmmmmm...

5--Romance movies/books with chase scenes. You know, where the hero and heroine have a huge fight, and the heroine is about to leave on the plane to fly to Barbados or somewhere exotic, where her boyfriend/fiance who's a big jerk is waiting for her (but he's actually cheating on her or doing something equally sinister and she doesn't know it yet), and the hero realizes he messed up big-time about something-or-another and he's about to lose her, so he hops on a tractor or in a cab or rides a galloping horse or something and runs after her, and he arrives at the airport and thinks he's too late and then turns around feeling depressed and sorrowful and there she is, waiting for him with that look in her eye that says, "OMG I can't believe you came here...for ME." THAT kind of scene.

Okay, time for you to share...what's your guilty pleasure?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Interview with Gena Showalter

Please help me welcome the always fun and fabulous, Gena Showalter, to the Fictionistas today! Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Paranormal Romance, Contemporary Romance, and Young Adult novels from a multitude of publishers. She has appeared in Cosmo and Seventeen magazines, on MTV, and has also been featured on many regional and national news programs.

And get this, one lucky commenter is going to win a signed copy of Intertwined, her amazing new YA novel!

Tell us something surprising about yourself. I recently polled my friends (Jill Monroe, PC Cast and Kresley Cole) on this very subject. They said they were surprised to know how shy I really am, that I was once a cheerleader, I’m deathly afraid of fish, I firmly believe snipes sneak out of my closet in the middle of the night to nibble on my toes, and I like to wear boy underwear.
How did you get the inspiration for Intertwined? One day I saw a (sexy) teen boy in my mind. (Yes, I’m a cougar) He was talking to himself and everyone assumed he was mental. Only he and I knew he was actually talking to the souls trapped inside him. Intertwined was born from there.

What authors do you read?
Jill Monroe, Kresley Cole, PC and Kristin Cast, Meljean Brook, Nalini Singh, Karen Moning, Stephenie Meyer, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Jeaniene Frost, Deidre Knight, Candace Heavens, JR Ward, Jessica Anderson, and so many more! I love me some authors.

Who is your favorite character (of your own or another book)?
I have two. Edward from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. And Lachlan from Kresley Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other.
Both men are SEXY. Maybe because they are beyond powerful and willing to sacrifice themselves for the women they love. Lachlan even chews and claws off his own leg to escape his chains and reach his woman. I’m still waiting for my husband to do something similar for me.

What five things are always in your purse?
A Wisp (it’s a small, packaged toothbrush that has a drop of toothpaste in the center), blotting paper, a tiny notebook, a pen, and my Blackberry.

What music are you currently listening to?
The Veronicas

Tell us about your pets.
I have three slobbery English bulldogs, and they like to sleep under my desk while I’m working. Two words: toxic gas. You might understand why my muse fled for her life a long time ago.

One item of makeup you can't live without.
Chapstick. Is that makeup, though? I only wear the other stuff when I’m at a writer related function. But chapstick. . . it’s my one true love. (Baby, if you’re reading this, you’ll be my own true love just as soon as you claw that leg off!)

First thing you drink in the morning.
Coffee. Always. Characters tend to die when I write without coffee.

Worst high school memory. So many choices, so many bad decisions . . . Let’s see, let’s see. Okay, I know. I’ll go with something cosmetic. First, some backstory. (Hey, I’m a writer. It’s necessary.) See, I have naturally curly hair. Or rather, naturally wavy hair. But back then, tight curls were in, and so, hoping for a little extra poof, I got a perm -- and I walked out of the salon looking like a poodle. Though it’s been fifteen years, I’m still battling those stupid curls.

If you could go back in time and talk to the teenage you, what would you tell her?
First, I’d dropkick her for getting the perm. (Not that I’ve repeatedly dreamed of doing that or anything) Then I’d tell her to follow her heart and start writing now rather than waiting until years later.
What are you working on next?
Unraveled, the sequel to Intertwined.
The stakes are higher and the romances between my leads are heating up. Aden still has the souls trapped inside him, knows his own death is closer than ever, and has all manner of creatures hunting for him.

Thanks for the great interview, Gena! And y'all don't forget to comment so you're in the running to win a signed copy of Intertwined! (You might want to follow us too, just so you don't miss the announcement of who wins.)

Monday, August 03, 2009

launching a star...or a book...whatever

So my book launch party was yesterday. It was amazing, exhausting, overwhelming and one of the best days of my life!

Here's some pics:
Pam, Liz, Mel, & Alan
Books-A-Million in NLR handled the sales of my book beautifully! What a great group!
Kristal, Me, Anna and Annetta
These are my peeps from High School and Annetta's daughter!
My daddy. He's very proud. Though he did spend most of the day going around to everybody and asking them to tell me that my tattoo was a bad idea. Sorry, pop. Bad idea or not, it's permanent!

Me and Stacey
Another one of my good friends from high school. I'm feel very very blessed.
Community Bakery did a great job with my cake. it was very, very tasty.

Me signing Wendi's book.
Another friend of mine from high school!
Me signing Danny's book! Haven't seen Danny since I was 18.

It was a fab day! Thanks to my friend Robyn and her family for hosting the party. It was very special and it means a lot to me!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Marshfield Vampire

Almost thirty years ago a guy in a small New England town killed his grandmother, burned her house down, and tried to drink her blood. He claimed he was a 700 year old vampire and that he needed to drink her blood, but that she was a dried up old woman and couldn't give him enough to survive. His name was Jim Riva and I knew him a little. He was the crazy guy who used to collect road kill.

Today he's eligible for parole.

Jim is a prime example of somebody who is, at least in my opinion, completely nuts. I also think he's a prime example of a nut who should stay in the nuthouse. But that doesn't mean I don't feel sympathy, only that I feel concern for public safety. His website once featured bizarre and disturbing artwork. It now contains a rambling and barely coherent personal statement: (

Jim spent some of his youth in mental institutions and told his mother for some time that he was a vampire, and that his grandmother was one as well, often feeding from him at night. I know some of Jim Riva's family, and they did try for years to get him help.

I bring it up not just because he is now eligible for parole, but because vampires are such a hot topic now. They weren't when this incident took place, in April of 1980. I had just started high school. Vampires suddenly became very hot in Marshfield. We've always been a little ahead of the curve.

This town is a little bit notorious for ghosts. Penelope Winslow, the daughter-in-law of the first Governor of Massachusetts, has been seen by at least one third of the people I know. (More about Penelope here.) Daniel Webster, who owned all of Green Harbor, was heard riding his horse Traveler all over this area at night until, some years back, the body of that horse was found on the hill above my property. He'd been buried standing up with his saddle on, just as legend said. When the folks who were digging a hole for their pool had Traveler re-interned the sound of hoofbeats stopped. His battle with the Devil was alleged to take place elsewhere. He loved Green Harbor, wrote about her often, and likely faced very few demons here. Though my home sits on his apple orchard and he caught fish in the river behind us. You never know.

Then again I had a horse at the time named Becky who was something of an escape artist, so it may not have been Traveler at all.

Green Harbor, a village of Marshfield, has its share of spooks, haunts, and even vampires. What are the infamous legends of your home town?

For more on Jim Riva: