Friday, December 25, 2009

December 22 - 25th ...

I'm back!! I was in the clutches of a nasty influenza this past week which did little to improve my holiday mood.
But it's Christmas morning. Everybody's napping (except for me). And I'm feeling like I've accomplished something amazing. I survived December.
I survived December. (Okay. Technically I have one more week, but really, I'm just starting my "January" activities now because I can't go on!)
Okay. Yes a touch melodramatic. But just for kicks, I've decided to do a little calendar of events from the past month -- all done with a 21 month old child. Amelia is amazing!!
She survived this:

November 26: Thanksgiving with family and friends
November 27: Thanksgiving at the bi-national Center where I work
November 28: Turkey sandwich party
November 30 - December 3: Lag time ... Christmas shopping ... gearing up for...
December 3: Block party -- art and lanterns and Christmas music
December 5: Christmas carols and the Pereira symphonic orchestra
December 6: Friend arrives from Spain -- decorating the farm for Festival of Lights Party
December 7: Touring around the city with friend
December 8: (Another three friends arrive from Spain) Festival of Lights Party
December 9: Going out with friends from Spain
December 10: Cesar's 40th birthday party with live music and lots of friends
December 11: Hanukkah dinner
December 12: Another birthday party for Cesar
December 14: Friends arrive from Argentina
December 15: Touring with friends from Argentina
December 16: Big day with friends from Argentina, Spain, Mexico ... picnic and fun at the farm
December 17: What? No plans? Well ... I actually skipped out on a Novena (the nine days before Christmas people get together at each others' homes and sing carols and say the "novena" prayers here in Colombia)
December 18: I honestly don't remember. It's all blurring together now.
December 19: Big wedding that started at 1:00 pm and lasted until 3:00 am ... Amelia fell in love with the mariachi band. I finally got her to sleep at 9:00 pm and we danced and danced.
December 20: Back home.
December 20 - 23: the flu -- missing out on numerous Christmas activities
December 24: Christmas Eve at the family's until midnight!
December 25: Christmas Day -- lunch with family and dinner with friends

I'm tired.
I LOVED seeing friends we haven't seen for years! Friends from Spain, Mexico and Argentina. And I loved dancing and celebrating.
But no more.
Next year I think we'll go into hermit mode and keep things SIMPLE. It's all about survival!!

And, as promised, my last book recommendation for December. And it's a "parenting book." Granted all parenting books, after Amelia's birth, were burned in a massive bonfire. (Especially the ones that talked about simple 'routines'.) BLAST routines! All books except for this one.
Anyway, this book is one I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE recommended by my husband's student exchange mom who's a dietician/nutritionist. There's nothing that brings you back to the basics as much as parenting. What's important in life? Sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom, and laughter. But you can't have the last if the first three aren't in order. And this book is an amazing way to approaching eating and eating habits with kids. How to Get Your Kid to Eat ... But not Too Much has kept me sane and kept things in perspective at the dinner table.

Happy Holidays! I wish everyone peace and wonder in 2010. (Wonder is my favorite thing because so many forget about the magic of the world in which we live!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 19 - 21st and feeling surly ...

  • Feeling overwhelmed. (Okay. Grinchy!)
  • Have that itchy-need-to-write-but-the-screen-just-blinks-at-me feeling.
  • Have a bit of a pit in my gut because of the blinking white screen/ blank-slate brain right now.
  • Feeling like I've gotten wrapped up in everything and have lost a bit of the Christmas magic.
  • Have a cough, fever, and am afraid that I'm getting a Christmas bug. (Yes, I'm whining here!)
So today's recommendations bring me back to what I love about Christmas because I watched them last night trying to capture a moment of peace in what has become a month of madness. Here are my recommendations for best videos on the planet. (They always make me cry.) Hell, a chunk of good, Manchego cheese makes me cry these days. Sheesh. Getting all sentimental and stuff. Anyway, get in the holiday spirit with The Grinch and Charlie Brown Christmas. And for good measure, maybe you can find a 24 hour marathon of A Christmas Story, too.

Friday, December 18, 2009

December 18 and The Book Thief

"It's just a small story really, about, among other things:
  • A girl
  • Some words
  • An accordionist
  • Some fanatical Germans
  • A Jewish fist fighter
  • And quite a lot of thievery "

I really don't think you can get better than this (though you can bet I'll spend the rest of my life trying.) Narrated by death, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is the story of Liesl Meminger living in foster care outside of Munich, Germany. Her best friend is Rudy -- the boy who dreams of being Jesse Owens -- and she becomes the world for a Jewish refugee, Max, describing the outside to him since he hides, huddled in a cold basement.

Exquisite. Exquisite. Exquisite. Exquisite. Amazing imagery and the best narrator of a novel I've ever read.

Like I said, I really don't think you can get better than this!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Colombia From the Hip + December 10 - 15 Book Recommendations

Well, I was caught up in the mad Colombian party vortex last week and was conspicuously absent from my keyboard.
But for good reason. Really. It was worth every sleepless minute. :-)
On December 7th and 8th, Colombia celebrates the "Alumbrado" -- the Day of the Virgin. And we have a huge party at Cesar's farm the 8th with a group that sings Colombian Christmas carols, the weirdest bunuelo contest (bunuelos are Colombian cheese donuts), and lots of lights!! All the kids light lanterns and stick candles in the grass to burn. (Note: We're NOT in Nevada here where the whole state would go up in a ball of flames.)

Friends came in from Spain and Argentina! (Yay!) And after the big Alumbrado, Cesar celebrated his 40th. (Yikes!) So we had to have another party to commemorate four decades and danced under the stars until our feet hurt.

Then we were invited to a Hanukkah celebration, which was a treat!! And then, of course, another party to celebrate Cesar's four decades just to make sure our bones ached. Nope. Not twenty anymore.

And I think Amelia has officially gone on strike. She's done with all this activity. (Though she's quite the good dancer now!! :-) )

So I'm back. Limping just a tad. (I think I pulled a hamstring or something.) And now we're getting geared up for a big wedding this week, Christmas next week, then New Years with twenty + family from all over the country. Then January. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

So here are my latest book recommendations. Yep. I've been slack. On the computer side of things. I think it's understandable, though. Really. Don't you??

I *heart* Skippyjon Jones. This Siamese cat, wannabe Mexican Chihuaha superhero is the best children's book series I've read in a long time. Skippyjon, much to his mother's chagrin, sleeps in bird nests, writes on walls, and gets into loads of trouble. And the best part? He's the leader of the Chimichangos, a group of vigilante Chihuahuas, that save the world from horrible things like bobbleheads, pinatas and more (most found in Skippyjon's closet). Holy Jalapeno Hilarious!!

Jeanette Winterson's novels blew me away when I was in college. And the other day when I was at the Dollar Store I found one I haven't read yet. That brought me back to my days of quoting Oranges Aren't the Only Fruit, The Passion, Written on the Body -- novels that deal with love, sexuality, past and present, magic and more. Oranges is a semi-autobiographical novel about Jess, a "typical" teen dealing with the things all teens deal with. Add to the pot an evangelical mother that spews bible quotes and expects Jess to do the same and the fact she's fallen in love with another woman. It's a GREAT great novel about identity and reconciling religion, faith, love, parenting, and who we really are.

The other day I was recommending this novel. Actually, I pretty much recommend this novel to every single person I meet. Feed, by MT Anderson changed the way I viewed YA novels before I began writing YA. After I read Feed, I thought, "This is serious. I had better give every word I write in every book 150% effort, or not write."
This. Is. Amazing. In the future world where people are given "feed" implants in their brains -- hard-wired to advertisement-information that constantly 'feeds' into their brains, Titus and his friends meet Violet -- a strange girl who does things nobody else does. Like talk. Everybody in FEED just chats. Brilliant. Thought-provoking. A novel in which even the Sky, Clouds, and Stars are "trademarked", this is a phenomenal criticism of our rampant consumerism, technology, and the inhumanness of it all. Read. This. Novel.

Okay. Hope to not be absent so so long next time. Because that means I've been sleeping and working -- both of which I am behind on!! Ugh.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December 8 and December 9th with Poetry ...

Well, I have one book for two days, but it's a book for two voices!! Does that count?

Flickering fireflies, honey bees who want to unionize, a moth's love affair with the porch light and more, Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman (illustrated by Eric Beddows) is a phenomenal collection of bug poetry. Vivid images, palpable textures, Fleischman's poems are funny, witty, and full of wonder.
It's the perfect book to read with kids (poems for TWO voices), and it's a great gift for those who simply love words.

Monday, December 7, 2009

On the Seventh Day ...

Okay ...
Too biblical, and a somewhat irreverent reference; however, my pick for day seven is Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre.

Set in small town, trailer-park central, Texas, USA, this is a story about how Vernon Gregory Little's life has been turned upside-down after his friend, Jesus Navarro, commits a Columbine-style massacre at his school.
This no-name town becomes the center of a media frenzy and a hungry-for-fame hack reporter, Eulalio Ledesma (yes, they all have weird names in the book!), manipulates events to look like Vernon was the perpetrator of the school killing.
Vernon heads to Mexico, Against All Odds-style to escape trial and possible death row with Taylor Figueros. As you can imagine, he doesn't escape and is represented by a Johnny Cochran-style big-shot lawyer
This is a slicing satire about American media, reality TV, fifteen-minute-famers, death row, and tragedy becoming a media orgy. And it's one of the funniest novels I've ever read in the midst of it all. I laughed out loud from beginning to end, and I sure wish this would be required reading when it comes to media ethics.
Writing a novel is hard work.
Writing comedy, real comedy, is an art.
Plus, Vernon is the best anti-hero I've ever read. And he's always nice to his mom (who's worth about as much as her latest perm).


On the Seventh Day ...

Okay ...
Too biblical, and a somewhat irreverent reference; however, my pick for day seven is Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre.

Set in small town, trailer-park central, Texas, USA, this is a story about how Vernon Gregory Little's life has been turned upside-down after his friend, Jesus Navarro, commits a Columbine-style massacre at his school.
This no-name town becomes the center of a media frenzy and a hungry-for-fame hack reporter, Eulalio Ledesma (yes, they all have weird names in the book!), manipulates events to look like Vernon was the perpetrator of the school killing.
Vernon heads to Mexico, Against All Odds-style to escape trial and possible death row with Taylor Figueros. As you can imagine, he doesn't escape and is represented by a Johnny Cochran-style big-shot lawyer
This is a slicing satire about American media, reality TV, fifteen-minute-famers, death row, and tragedy becoming a media orgy. And it's one of the funniest novels I've ever read in the midst of it all. I laughed out loud from beginning to end, and I sure wish this would be required reading when it comes to media ethics.
Writing a novel is hard work.
Writing comedy, real comedy, is an art.
Plus, Vernon is the best anti-hero I've ever read. And he's always nice to his mom (who's worth about as much as her latest perm).


Sunday, December 6, 2009

On the Sixth Day of Book Recommendations ...

This was a hard list to narrow down. Ellen Hopkins has six verse novels on the shelves, and I'm not sure how to choose. But I had to pick one, and I pick Burned.

Pattyn is caught in a world where abuse, subservience to men, and a rigid church hierarchy reign. Moreover, she'll do anything to prove herself to the person she most cares for -- the person who most abuses her -- her father. When she's suspended from school, her parents send her to live with an aunt in rural Nevada. There, she finds what she's never had her whole life: acceptance, love, her youth. And, through her aunt's kindness and love, Pattyn learns to understand more about her dysfunctional family and acceptance of her father and mother.
Nevertheless, a summer of youth isn't enough, and in the end, after the fairy tale is over, Pattyn is left with a choice that will inevitably make the difference between life and death.
This is an incredibly challenging novel because it doesn't take an easy route, happy-ending trail. Pattyn is tragic and leaves the reader wishing so many things could've been different in Pattyn's life. And Hopkins is a poet; her words are sparing, each one loaded with meaning.
A NYT best seller, Ellen's words have reached youth and adults alike across the states.

(From Burned)

When you were almost grown, did you ever sit in a bubble bath, perspiration pooling, notice a blow dryer plugged in within easy reach, and think about dropping it into the water?

Did you wonder if the expected rush might somehow fail you?

And now, do you ever dangle your toes over the precipice, dare the cliff to crumble, defy the frozen deity to suffer the sun, thaw feather and bone, take wing to fly you home?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Three recommendations for December 3rd!!

I know. It's supposed to be one per day. I'm not REALLY cheating. But I'm taking artistic license to share three of my favorite children's books of the moment.

This is one of the most beautiful, poetic books I've read, written by Mexican author Jorje Lujan and illustrated by Piet Grobler. (It has both the Spanish and English text).
Sky Blue Accident is a poetic account of a little boy who crashes into the sky and breaks it, saving some pieces in his pocket. It's simply magical. I've read it to adult and children and all of them fall in love with the funky drawings and beautiful text.
Sure, it's for kids. But if you have somebody on your wish list who loves poetry and magic, I'd definitely buy this for my closest friends!

Now here's a princess I can relate to!! Written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko (the same author of the famous book Love You Forever). I LOVE this story about a princess who's castle has been destroyed and her "true love" stolen away by a terrible dragon. She's left with a paper bag for a dress and does what Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and all the others should've done. She goes for her man, tromping across burned forests to rescue him.
And the ending? PRICELESS!! Now I only hope that Amelia one day will say, "I want to be the Paper Bag Princess for Halloween." :-)

Written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Leslie Staub, this should be required reading for all heads of state, religious leaders, teachers, parents, children ... human beings. And then read again. And again. And again. If we take a look at our world, it seems we've kind of lost our way. Whoever You Are is an exquisite story about the fact that no matter how different we look, how different our beliefs, homes, lands and religions are, we're still one of the same. Beautiful beautiful illustrations and a story that melts my heart!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On the First Day of December ...(And Second)

It's December!!
And to celebrate I'm going to post a book a day and why I loved it!!
So celebrate the holidays and give people a book. Keep writers writing, publishers publishing, kids, children, teens and adults reading, and imaginations blooming.

And because I'm late. I'm doing December 1st and 2nd today!!

First up: Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams. This is a beautiful vignette into the life of a rural American family dealing with war and how it effects us all. When Cam's big brother Ben returns from Iraq severely injured, Cam, a huge skateboarding fan who has never had the slightest inkling to follow in his big brother's bull riding boots makes a pact with Ben: he'll ride bulls, and the never-ridden UGLY, for a fifteen thousand dollar prize if Ben works as hard as he can to get better. It's a beautiful book about healing, courage, and dealing with tragedy. And the relationship between the brothers was incredibly real, not sickly sweet. Morgan Williams did a superb job of creating characters we not only love but also relate to!

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted was my decadent read while waiting for a twenty-four pound turkey to cook on Thanksgiving Day. (I don't remember the last time I got to read during the day!) This is a beautiful story about Lucius and Aurora -- young teens new to the same school. Aurora is immediately popular while Lucius becomes the school pariah because of a mysterious explosion that blew his hands off. (He now wears prosthetic arms and uses hooks for hands.) Baratz-Logsted does a beautiful job of giving bits and pieces of information about Lucius's past while developing the relationship between him and Aurora. One of my all-time favorite relationships in the book is between Lucius and the school security guard, unlikely allies in a hostile environment: high school.

So every day I will send a book recommendation your way hoping you have a wonderful holiday filled with beautiful words, images, and endless-reading days. Ahhh ... Maybe that's what I'll ask for Christmas. A day to read. :-)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Another Blog about Twilight??

Well, at least I got you to come to the blog.
It seems to me the only blogs being read these days are rants, few raves, and mostly incensed insults about the famous Twilight series.

Several years ago when Twilight first hit the shelves, I read no fewer than seven vampire novels including the classic Dracula and Rice's Interview With a Vampire. And I liked them all. Really. (My personal favorite being MT Anderson's Thirsty). And, yes, I liked Twilight. Not big into Vampire lore myself, I have no idea if any of the other books I read commit egregious errors like Twilight does (according to the majority of articles and blogs).

But I took Twilight for what I think it is: a pretty good read. (Other books in that category for me are: The Davinci Code, The Firm, Practical Magic and more. And I mean this as a compliment because being a good story teller is a great skill!). As for Twilight, I think Edward's sexy (At least in Twilight. Admittedly, I haven't read the other books in the series. But a sixteen year old here in Colombia gave me the synopsis one day while waiting in line for a Juanes concert. Good enough.) And the thing I most remember about Bella is she makes dinner for her dad. (I, for one, can't boil water so I think making dinner for two people at seventeen years is an awesome feat.)

But it kind of amazes me the sheer number of people who are so vehement, and even a touch malicious, about the dreaded, damaging Twilight series. To be fair, every single article, blog etc. I've read about the series is much wittier, well-written, well-versed, and well-researched than this blog. I can't be bothered to look for examples of bad prose etc. (Links to all these blogs, articles below). But that said, what's the deal? A Facebook friend wrote, "TWILIGHT HAS DIVIDED THE COUNTRY." And it seems that it's definitely divided the writing community.

But why? Why is everybody so upset about a, um, sterilized vampire-world?

I'll use me as an example. I was pretty shy in school. I've never been a giddy "ooh-ooh" kind of girl. And my novels, to date, are pretty sex-less. My characters spend much of their sexual energy with hot magazines in bathrooms. Moreover, I'm definitely not a Christian and though I believe in something, I'm not sure what that something is. My novels and characters are a reflection of my belief system.

Meyer is a young Mormon woman. (Yes. Faith, background, everything we ARE influences our novels). She herself has said she relates most with Edward (who, admittedly, has that creepy stalking thing going on. We'd have to ask her hubby about that one.) Moreover, though, he's incredibly nineteenth-century when it comes to his sexuality, a touch obsessive, and, well, saving himself. Hey. It works for Meyer and obviously her audience. It's where she's coming from.

It seems, though, there's a slew of critics (including the great Stephen King himself) who find this series an abomination to the canon of literature we offer for young adults out there. (Remember last year the big "to-do" about King dishing Meyer's writing saying, in so many words, she probably couldn't write her way out of a paper bag. Link below.)

But this is the thing. All those people who rant, stump, fume and rage about Twilight have read it (and finished it). See. I don't finish books I don't like. Period. Life is short and there are too many awesome books out there.So this brings me to believe they feel jipped about spending money on such a horrific book and finished it because they just had to. But think about it. Every time we mention the dreaded Twilight, though, I can guarantee you Meyer is getting another sale. Hell, I kind of wish my book would be on all those blogs. FREE PUBLICITY. And by doing this blog, to ride the Twilight-read-my-blog-wagon, I am doing the same: selling her books.

And I've read the criticisms about how Twilight promotes unhealthy relationships, stalking, horrific prose, and hack research. Okay. Perhaps. But I know a few classics that pretty much do the same (except for the horrific prose part. Maybe. Okay. What the hell, I'll go there. Ever try to read Snow by Pamuk? Good God. 600 pages of snow descriptions. Yep. Just put me on that uncultured-rather-read-Twilight-than-Nobel-prize-winners train!)

I can hear the screaming: But all the teens will become love-sick, obsessed, and jealous and throw themselves into abusive relationships and whatnot.

Nah. Let's give our reading audience more credit than that. They're savvy. They're smart. They call it when they see it. Oh. Yeah. And they're teens who have love-sick, obsessive, jealous tendencies because their hormones are raging, brains aren't fully developed, and are willing to wear neon colors. Good God. Haven't they seen a decade of bad 80's style? MUST they repeat it? If that doesn't PROVE they're a market that can be influenced by evil, I don't know what. But the fashion will pass as well as the Edward obsessions. Really.

And that said, they're buying my books. (Okay. Some of them are.) And they're buying my friends' books. And I'm happy they are. And I'm happy their buying Meyer's books, too.

I guess this is just me thinking there's Much Ado about Nothing. It's a vampire book series. (A million-dollar empire now). I live in a country where the people read an average of 1.7 books per year (nationwide) and fewer than one book per year in my city. Yep. PER YEAR. So guess what? I bought the Twilight series for a library I work at down here along with Harry Potter (I DO love all the HP's and Rowling's magical world), and anything that's coming out on film this year because I need kids to read here.

So in my opinion any book, any book, that gets people reading is a good book.

Links to other articles/blogs about Twilight (if you don't do the direct link, just cut and paste):

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving: Let the Chaos Begin

I never fully appreciated my mom until I had to put on my own Thanksgiving dinner. And I think the people who ate my first five or six Thanksgiving dinners would REALLY appreciate mom. (But, luckily, these feasts are held in other countries where the people have NO idea that what I cook is pretty abominable compared to Mom -- the magician of Thanksgiving with innumerable side dishes.)

That said, I'm waxing nostalgic about all the years of botched Thanksgivings, burned and lost turkeys (yes lost, under a spare tire, in fact) and more. This is my mishmash list of Thanksgiving Memories I prepared (since I have time today before my house looks like it exploded). (Yes. It takes me about four days of organization and pre-cooking to get a meal on the table. I think Amelia's fondest childhood memories of my cooking will be "take out.")

  • Buying live turkeys in "la Galeria" -- open market -- in Pereira. Holding them up by their feet and thinking they were pretty heavy. Do you realize how much feathers make a bird look plump? Very non-runway attire.
  • Realizing that you can't cook a turkey in a pizza oven -- no matter how hard you try to smoosh it down.
  • Looking for a lost turkey, only to find that it slipped under a spare tire and had a nice black tire-mark across the top. (Gravy does not cover up tire marks)
  • Smoking ovens when I realized that 350 degrees celcius is WAY too hot. (Damn conversions)
  • Spending seventy dollars for three anorexic turkeys. (Yep. Turkey is really expensive abroad).
  • Searching for ingredients in every language possible only to find the ones I need don't exist in some places. So I do "creative replacements".
  • Watching Cesar take a bite of turkey after seven botched Thanksgivings and saying, "Wow. this is good. Like. I really want to eat it this year." Me: "Really??"
    (That was an exciting day! I think our guests, though, felt a little bit like guinea pigs after they realized that my usual Thanksgiving feast was pretty crappy.)
  • Years of laughter and forgiveness (you have to be forgiving to survive one of my dinners and remain my friend).
  • Lots of leftovers. (Proud to say not many leftovers anymore. I've improved. Really.)
  • Cesar's family always looking forward to our annual Thanksgiving and his aunt thinking my pumpkin pie is great. (It's not bad. It's just not ... pumpkin pie. Just a little weird-tasting is all).
  • Learning that family isn't only "family" but those you love. My parents taught me that Thanksgiving is a time to share happiness, love, life, tears ... family. And living abroad, friends become family.
So now that I see it's getting to be too much of a "Chicken Soup" kind of post (with all do respect Mr. Canfield), I'll leave you with wishes for a wonderful salmonella-free Thanksgiving. (That's what I always cross my fingers for.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Best Author Visit questions EVER ...

This year my author visits were with Kindergarteners, second and third graders, who, in my opinion, had some of the best questions and comments ever!

1. Did you write your book in pencil or are you allowed to use a pen?
2. Do you have lots of pictures in the book?

I asked how long they thought it took me to write the book:
Student A: Ummm, like ten hours.
Student B: No way. At least two weeks.
Me: About three and a half years. So I started when you were still wearing diapers and finished when you were in first grade.
Students. Whoaaaaaaaa ... (whispers -- she's really slow.)

3. Do you read your book after you're done?

I talked about revision and making corrections and how my editor had pages and pages of notes on how I needed to make my book better.
Student A: Oh. Did you forget your capitals and periods?
Student B: I bet you missed a lot of spelling words.

4. How did you draw the picture on the front?
5. Do you really like your job?

And my favorite ...

6. How did you get the pages in the book? (Comments afterward included: Geez. If she had to put her book together in the garage she'd never get done.)

Thank you Fritsch School for welcoming me and making me smile. Thank you for your amazing attention to detail.
PLUS, I loved the hugs. (High Schoolers and Middle Schoolers usually don't hug me.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Price Wars

So, the Book Wars that began late last week are continuing . . . with Wal-mart and Amazon slashing prices on their best-sellers to crazy levels, what will happen to independent bookstores and new-to-the-scene authors? For those of you who aren’t as into book-business geekery as I am, there’s a great article at ( ) about the whole situation. In a nutshell, though, Wal-mart and are each trying to out-low-price the other, selling their most popular titles *at a loss!* 

At this point, it’s not just independent bookstores that will suffer. Even the larger bookstore chains – like Barnes & Noble – that don’t have a plethora of other products with which to turn a profit are being placed in a difficult situation by the Wal-mart/Amazon duopoly. And once something like this is hurting *Barnes and Noble,* you can believe that your corner bookseller, who has no choice but to sell books for the actual price that is actually printed on the actual cover, is already neck-deep in the fast-rising waters of business failure.

Beyond the people who are selling the books, this sort of crazy pricing is hard on authors who don’t have the selling power or name recognition of, say, a Stephenie Meyer or a Dan Brown. In these tough economic times, all writers appreciate consumers opening their ever-thinner wallets to buy the stories we’ve worked so hard on – the books that, for us, represent rent paid, food bought, and the boon of continued electrical service. But when faced with the choice of Dan Brown’s novel for $8.99 (in hardcover! Good God!) or taking a chance on a new author whose book costs several dollars more, my fear is that too many of these customers will reach for the cut-rate book. Maybe that sounds like paranoia, but I’ve heard enough rumbling and grumbling from my cohorts in the publishing industry to know that I’m far from the only one who feels that way.

Are there any upsides to the new low, low, LOW prices? Sure. Someone who is on a tight budget may buy a nine-dollar novel. If the only books on offer are fifteen dollars – or more – that may pass the threshold of affordability for a segment of the population, resulting in a missed sale for everyone. And while I have no love for Wal-mart, I’ll admit to liking (and using) Amazon. I can shop there in the middle of the night, when the brick-and-mortars are closed. I can find any book I might need. The prices are attractive, even to me.

Still, I think everyone who loves to read should be concerned about what these latest pricing maneuvers are doing to the publishing industry as a whole. If prices fall dramatically, it will result in lower earnings for the publishers. Which could quickly translate into less pay for the authors who provide those publishers with material. And that only makes it harder for us to do our jobs, what with the whole worrying-about-paying-for-heat thing. Writing in a drafty garret may seem romantic, but I don’t think numb fingers are anyone’s idea of success. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Thank you, Mischa Rosenberg, "Design Assistant Extraordinaire" at HarperCollins! Wow. Speechless here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

RANT: Don't touch my child ...

Okay. It was time. I have to rant, rave, stump, scream, and unload here. I haven't "raised" a child in the States, but I can pretty much guarantee that people are more respectful about a child's space there than here. (But I'd love everybody's thoughts, similar rants, raves etc.)

I'll paint the scenario: Imagine walking up to an adult you don't know, one with pretty curly hair and big blue eyes. Now grab that adult's cheeks and stroke her hair saying, "Ooooh ... Ooooh. Everybody look at the pretty lady." [Horrible person and her seventeen family members circle lady and loom over her.] "Can we hold you?"

Wouldn't happen.
Unless, of course, you're robbing said lady or want somebody to call security on you for being a total creep.

So why ... WHY ... do people feel entitled to touch children they don't know as if they were store merchandise?
This. Pisses. Me. Off.
It's a violation of a little person's space (Yes, children ARE little people) and a total violation of their human rights because they are small and defenseless.
That, though, is what parents are for -- to fight those battles.

I said to the lady, "Don't touch my daughter."
She was shocked. Appalled. Everybody in the area looked at me as if I were a possessed demon (my face probably had that blotchy purple thing going on that happens when I am infuriated.)
"We're just looking," evil lady said.
"She is not merchandise in a store. Don't touch her."
Crowd disperses and people look at me like the nasty, mean foreigner I probably am.

I'm pretty laid back about cultural differences. But this to me isn't a cultural difference. This goes much deeper than being an overprotective mother.
It's disrespectful. It's dangerous. It teaches kids that their own space doesn't belong to them and from early on ANY adult has a right to enter that space. It's not a big jump to make, especially considering I live in a country in which child abuse "is probably the biggest public health issue" on the table with child-sex tourism in Cartagena (according to a UN study), an ongoing war in which children are recruited to fight, kill, rape and be raped and more.
Moreover, the World Health Organization estimates that 40 million children are abused around the world (one million alone in the USA) before they turn 14 (the majority by a trusted adult).

So my question is this. If a child isn't taught from early on that her space belongs to her and her alone and perfect strangers are allowed to enter that space, how will she know when her space is being violated by somebody she "should" trust?

Yep. I'm raging. And the more I think about this, the more I seethe.
Just. Don't. Touch. My. Child.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Introducing Lindsay Eland

Okay, so I'm a little biased. Linds, as I call her, and I have followed each other across the internet for about five years now. Back in the day when we were both newbie writers, we joined our first critique group which later broke up. But I dragged Lindsay with me on my online quest for editorial feedback. For the past three years, Linds and I have been members of a killer critique group (killer for our editorial savagery) that I moderate. We fondly call it The Cudas (for barracudas). Linds is undeniably the "nice Cuda." But don't let that perky smile fool you. Behind that smile is a mind that churns out original and comic works of middle grade fiction faster than you can say cutie-pie.

Lindsay's middle-grade humorous novel, SCONES AND SENSIBILITY, comes out this December from Egmont. I can tell you, having witnessed it's nearly fully-formed birth—it is a hoot! So I'm going to turn the mike over to Linds and let her speak for herself.

Tell us about yourself.

Let’s see. I’m a thirty-year-old mother of four. I love to laugh, drink iced mochas, and sing really loud in my car. I don’t like brownies with nuts and I’m extremely sentimental and will probably keep this interview just because it’s been given to me by a dear writing friend!

You have a book coming out this December, the middle-grade novel 
Scones and Sensibility. Can you tell us about it?

Sure! Scones and Sensibility is about an overdramatic and overromantic twelve-year-old girl who, using her heroines Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Shirley as her guides, sets to match-making in her small beach town with disastrous and hilarious results.

You have a great sense of humor and a brand of wit all your own. 
What is your inspiration ?

Life! I grew up with laughter all around me. Listening at my Grandparents table to the roaring laughter and the pee-in-your-pants stories my parents, my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles told. And really, life is full of funny mishaps, hilarious witticisms, and knee-slapping adventures.

What advice can you give aspiring authors?

Write and read. And then read and write. A writer is first and foremost a reader…so read! And don’t ever, ever, ever give up! No writer would have gotten to where he or she was if they had given up after the first or even the twentieth rejection.

What books inspired you growing up?

Matilda by Roald Dahl
Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Patterson
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

These were the books that first gave me the deep yearning to want to create stories that were filled with magic.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

Let’s see…I hate the sound of someone eating a banana or stirring a bowl of macaroni and cheese…it’s extremely gross to me. I’m also probably one of the only women on earth that wishes her hair wouldn’t grow….yes, I like it short and I wish it would just stay like that.

Visit Lindsay at

Happy Dreaded Chore Day!

 Monday! Hurray! I am so in love with Mondays. No, seriously! On Monday mornings, my dear husband goes to work, my sweet son goes off to preschool, and I’m left with a couple of hours to myself to work. It’s heaven – the best way to start the week. By the time I have to go retrieve the toddler, I usually feel like I have at least a vague idea of how much needs to be accomplished during the rest of the week. 

Monday morning is also my time to do The Dreaded Chore. I’m not much of a procrastinator, but every week, there’s something. It varies, but The Dreaded Chore is usually something that got put off from, say, the previous Thursday. A phone call I didn’t want to make. An email that I was “too busy” to return. A bit of tedious research that I’d been successfully avoiding. Monday morning, I just hold my nose and tackle whatever it is I most don’t want to do. And man, is that a great way to start the week – with the whew-that’s-done relief of having The Dreaded Chore behind me.

 This week, it’s double-checking the timelines from my copy edits. I’ve heard friends of mine – already published authors – complaining about doing their copy edits. I never really understood. I mean, copy editing is just to correct that last, nit-picky stuff, right? Except that’s the problem. For most writers I know – and I can now include myself in this group – copy editing makes us want to throw up our hands and declare it too hard. Missing weeks, inaccurate sunrise times . . . this stuff can make a person crazy! Which is not to say that I am in any way frustrated with my copy editor. On the contrary – I’m deeply grateful that there’s someone out there dedicated and detailed enough to catch those sorts of mistakes before some eagle-eyed reader goes; “Hey! It couldn’t have happened that way! What sort of hack is this woman?” 

 The problem is fixing all of those mistakes. It’s a Dreaded Chore. And since it’s Monday morning, it’s time for me to quit procrastinating and finish correcting my slip-ups. Happy Dreaded Chore day, everyone!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Some cool news!

Okay. It takes me a while to assimilate these things but seeing it in print helps me a lot.
This was on Publisher's Weekly a bit ago and I just wanted to share:

2009 IRA Young Adult fiction award winner for FREEZE FRAME, Heidi Ayarbe's THE DOUBTING, the story of a teen whose attempts to play off his Obsessive Compulsive behavior as the quirks of a superstitious athlete come crashing down over the course of one momentous weekend, to Donna Bray and Ruta Rimas at Balzer & Bray, in a two-book deal, by Stephen Barbara at Foundry Literary + Media.

(Yep! That's me! Work for two more years!)

Thank you, Libba Bray

I think it's high time I created a blog, something I have studiously avoided for quite some time. Everyone says aspiring authors should have one. I am part of Sharing the Brain, the blog my critique group, the Wordslingers share, but I have been pretty lame of late.

I've been toying with the idea of what I'd like to speak about in my blog. I can't imagine dispensing daily, or even weekly words of wisdom that anyone would want to read. I totally admire the noble efforts of my friends Mary Lindsey and Elana Johnson who spout consistently great bits of blog advice that I gobble up religiously. And then there is the amazing Heidi Ayarbe (Freeze Frame, 2008) who bubbles with humorous tidbits and has me laughing constantly.

And another thing I don't want to do is whine. Lords knows I could whine from sun-up till sundown. It's my birthright. But no. I don't want to do that(well, maybe just a little). So, I was left thinking I have nothing I want to say to the world until I can say...hey, I have an agent and my book is coming out...not. Not yet, anyway.

Another thing I refuse to do is post negative reviews of books I have read. I respect the work ALL authors put into their writing and who am I to dash their hopes when I am struggling myself?

So, this morning, while tearing through the pages of Going Bovine (while I should really be putting the final touches on a massive project for work with an ominously looming deadline) I had a revelation. I want to tell everyone how this book has me absolutely floored. How lately I've bought one YA book after another (no names, please) only to slam them shut after 50 pages, with the notable exception of all things Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire). Of course, Libba's previous series, The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, are my absolute favorites. How I've been on a quest for something to read that will remind me why I WRITE.

So THANK YOU, LIBBA BRAY, you funny, brilliant, poignant and wonderful woman for sharing your genius with me. For giving me something to blog about. For reviving my excitement for writing. I'm not nearly half way through and my only fear is that I will read it too fast.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Waxing Philosophical: What I didn't know about Coca Cola ...

Today I'm feeling a little bit grateful for the fizzy brown fluid (that was originally green ... really), so I'm going to go off on a tangent (something writers have a tendency to do) and write a list of things I didn't know, some things I did, and other random, crazy, and some disturbing facts about the bubbly beverage. (And maybe you didn't know them either.)

Now, so you know, none of these ideas have been endorsed by the Coca Cola Company. And some of these things seem pretty cock-eyed to me and I wouldn't try them. That said, if anybody, namely the big big multi-billion dollar Coca Cola company, feels like suing me, they're not gonna get a whole lot out of it. (Is that a good enough disclaimer?)

  • Coca Cola was invited by John Pemberton in 1886 and was marketed as the "cure all" for a whole slew of ailments including: morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headaches, and impotence (this, remember is PRE Viagra)
  • Santa Claus used to have a blue outfit until Coca Cola, more specifically Haddon Sundblom (a Michigan artist), dressed him in red in 1931. Three decades of Coca Cola ads with a fat Santa have molded how we "perceive" Santa to be.
  • When things are a bit too "runny", Coke seems to take care of it. (This I tried. And it could be timing, synchronicity, whatever. But as soon as I started drinking it, ahhhhh.)
  • Pour Coca Cola on a jellyfish sting. (Less gross than peeing on it.)
  • The Navy uses Coca Cola to preserve submarines. (Yes. Remember you're ingesting this liquid)
  • Coca Cola is great for cleaning tile grout. (Yes, I've done this. It works.) Oooh, my intestines are all-aflame!
  • It's sold in over 200 countries.
  • A can of Coca-Cola (330 millilitres (12 imp fl oz; 11 US fl oz)) contains 35 grams (1.2 oz), or 7-8 teaspoons, of sugar.
  • Soft drinks lower calcium levels and higher phosphate levels in the bloodstream which, in turn, strip bones of calcium ... you do the math. You drink lots. Your bones will suffer. Ick.
  • It can remove oil, carpet, and any number of other kinds of stains that industrial-strength detergents cannot.
And these masterminds of marketing have a pretty great stack of slogans under their sleeves: (How's that for unnecessary alliteration?)

  • (1891) The Ideal Brain Tonic./The Delightful Summer-Winter beverage.
  • (1927) Around the corner from anywhere.
  • (1945) Passport to refreshment.
  • (1948) When there's Coke, there's hospitality. (You think Kim Jong-Il knows this? Somebody send him a case of Coke, for God's sake!)
  • (1971) I'd like to buy the world a Coke. (Remember this one? With everybody singing and holding candles??)
  • (2007) Live on the Coke Side of Life.

Okay. Enough said. It's random. It's pretty useless however interesting. And my stomach is ever-so-grateful for it today. That said, I probably won't be buying a bunch tomorrow.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In the Stacks with Barbara Moon

To kick off BANNED BOOKS WEEK, I'm starting my latest and greatest Blog Section: IN THE STACKS (name stolen from Barbara Moon, and since I'm stealing the cool name, I'm going to start off with her.)

I have never met Barbara but I feel so grateful to her because she was the VERY FIRST NON-RELATED PERSON to write to me about FREEZE FRAME, even reviewing it after just reading the ARC (advanced reader's copy) Since then, we have been in contact (thank you Twitter) and she has become a great "virtual" friend. I hope we can meet someday!!

(AND, if you're a librarian and want your library IN THE STACKS, you can become absolutely famous with my five or six blog readers. Let me know if you want to be here, and I'll send my super questionnaire your way!) :-) Who can resist that kind of an instant-fame deal?

What's your library's name and where is it located?

[Barbara Moon] Suffolk Cooperative Library System (a consortium of 56 independent libraries and their branches located on Long Island )

Why are you a librarian?

[Barbara Moon]
I love books. I love people. I love connecting books & people. I love finding creative solutions to interesting problems. I like marketing new books and services.

Have you ever "shushed"

[Barbara Moon]
I have never “shushed” but I have gone up to a couple of teens and mentioned that someone near them was trying to study. If no one is around, I don’t care if there is some noise.

Most people generally think of librarians as schoolmarms. What are three unexpected "non-librarian"
things about you (short of being a hired assassin if, in case, you are)?

[Barbara Moon]
I’ve hiked in “the bush” in
New Zealand ( similar to a rainforest), visited a castle in Spain named for me (Santa Barbara. well, at least it has my first name. The named for me part is doubtful.) I ADORE Tex-Mex food – like it spicy!!!

Freeze Frame, Mr. Cordoba spends an inordinate amount of time reading the newspaper. I have been told (ahem, oops) that this is pretty unrealistic, however nice it might be. So can you name four things you do in the library that most people wouldn't know about?

[Barbara Moon] hand out candy, play music, use strings of lights to highlight book displays, and an impromptu juggling contest (this is when I was a school librarian)

As for Mr. Cordoba, I know plenty of librarians who spend an extraordinary amount of time with crossword puzzles, facebook, etc. I’m pleased that Mr. Cordoba read the paper. I thought that was great! The one misconception that most people have about librarians is that you spend a great deal of “work” time reading. Not so, all my reading is done in my off hours.

What is your most-requested book? (Or one of the top requested)

[Barbara Moon]
Twilight &
Fruits Basket

What is your favorite book, one you read over and over again?

[Barbara Moon] This is impossible now. As a child I reread a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales until I wore out the binding. I literally loved it to death.

If you could have any author visit your library, who would it be? Why?

[Barbara Moon] Too many to count. I have listened to and met some very interesting authors. Recently I heard
Tracy Kidder – what a truly human human being. I like his books. I also think that M. T. Anderson and John Green gave some of the most thoughtful speeches at last year’s ALAN workshop. Very thought-provoking. Joan Bauer and Libba Bray are so warm and personable and approachable. The list goes on and on….

The Proust Questionnaire for Librarians:
1. What is your favorite word? yes
2. What is your least favorite word? no
3. What turns you on? trying something new and exciting
4. What turns you off? people who say “we’ve never done it that way”
5. What sound or noise you love? laughter
6. What sound or noise you hate? fingernails on the chalkboard? I don’t know. I have never thought about this.
7. What is your favorite curse word? (Yes, I know librarians curse!! You have whole dictionaries and thesauruses of curse words, I imagine!) I really don’t curse. But I can give you a look that will cause you to stop dead in your tracks.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? something creative with color, paint, or fiber
9. What profession would you not like to do?anything with numbers, illness, or operating a motor vehicle is out.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “welcome home”

a. The Pet Club at Riverhead Library (They collect pet food, blankets and towels for the animal shelter as well as make their own homemade pet biscuits etc.)
b. The wall at Babylon (designed by a local artist)
c. The Port Jefferson craft club (girls knitting)