Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Catch you all on the flip side!


Hey hey, loyal Novel Girl Readers!
Everyone here at TNG is up to their stylish hip-waders in writing projects (that's a GOOD thing!) and so we've decided to take a collective hiatus for the summer!
But don't worry - we'll be back in the fall! With bells on and a bucket of large mouth bass! :-)
Or maybe just more fun posts about life, writing, and the writing life. And maybe some fabulous swag and giveaways... but only if you promise to behave and not torment your little brother in the backseat of the car on the way back from the lake. Deal?
xox,
Tracy, Maureen, Lisa, Jillian and Lesley

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Crazy Few Weeks

We don't have an official topic for this week (unless I missed something), but I've skipped blogging the past two weeks due to being ridiculously busy and overwhelmed, so I definitely wanted to pop in today with some type of a post.

I hate when I miss posting, and I hate even more that I haven't stayed up to date with all of the other Novel Girls, but time has been scarce as of late. My eldest son graduated from high school, I had book signings and other promo-related time-consuming details to deal with, and a book (By Magic Alone) that needed my attention.

I turned in By Magic Alone last Monday, so things are sort of beginning to ease timewise. Thank goodness! But I'm also behind on a bunch of other stuff, and once I get caught up on all of that, I have other books to write. That's right...more books! I can't announce anything officially just yet, but I should be able to by next week or the following. When I can, I'll share all of the details!

But here it is mid-June and my brain is back a few months, somewhere in April, I think. It will probably take me a few more weeks to actually be ready for summer. How's your summer going so far? I'd love to hear!

Monday, June 7, 2010

I'm totally cheating...

That's right. I'm cheating. But it's an open mic this week, so I'm allowed! Ha!

I'm totally cross-posting from my own sadly-neglected-over-the-past-few-weeks blog because I'm just too burnt out to write a whole new post for TNG - and I did want to let you guys know a little of why I've been so scarce and scattered of late (note that it is again Sunday night when I'm posting but that's because I was in Edmonton to receive the CLA YA Book of the Year Award for WONDROUS STRANGE!! Whee!). More on that at another time.

For now, this blog entry will hopefully give you a fun little taste of what's been going down in LesleyLand of late. I hope you enjoy!

................................................................................................

Well... the last few weeks have been all sorts of cool.

All sorts of exhausting cool.

And, yes, I know... I haven't blogged a stitch about it. Because the coolness was all-encompassing and ate up all my time and most of my higher brain functions! So to make up for that, I promise a series of posts wherein I get you all caught up. With pictures!

First of all, there was the the White Pine Festival down at Harbourfront. I know I mentioned awhile ago that I was shortlisted for this award and, let me tell you, the students and teachers in schools across Ontario take this thing pretty darn seriously! It's amazing. The award is student-voted on and at the two-day Festival of Trees celebration, the authors get treated like rock stars. The festivities are held outside and there's always a huge turn-out of students and teachers and librarians! And much insane cheering and hooting during the ceremony...

A view of the crowd and the author nominees on the stage.
(I'm at the very far left)

I had the opportunity to hang out with some really fabulous authors - Tim Wynne Jones was particularly entertaining to sit next to on the stage - but the best thing, as always, was meeting the fans and readers. These kids were outstanding. They are passionate readers and not shy about letting you know it.

That's me signing autographs in a very chilly tent for some very awesome students!


One of whom could totally be a leprechaun in my universe - check the awesome green 'hawk!


The award ceremony itself, with all the authors lined up on the stage.
WONDROUS STRANGE won "Honour Book"!

Aside from the awards themselves, there were weeks of school-visit shenanigans leading up to that. I went to Peterborough, North York, Etobicoke, Oshawa, Scarborough, Bayfield, and Belleville, among others.

Here are some shots from one of my school visits - in Scarborough, at L'Amoreaux Collegiate:

They put my name on the sign!


And created a cool display with a beaded horse-tail and a horn to call the Wild Hunt!


My hosts, Dianne and Officer Reeve and another WONDROUS STRANGE
display, complete with a 4-leaf clover pendant!

This particular visit was a lot of fun (who am I kidding - they're ALL fun!) because Officer Reeve is the School Resource Officer - a real live policeman who is stationed at the school as a community liason and he runs a reading club for the boys at L'amoreaux. Which is very cool, because there often isn't enough encouragement these days for boys to read. He was my escort for the day and picked me up from the subway to drive me to the school... in the cruiser! :-D

Okay, sure. Maybe I did wind up in handcuffs.

But I didn't actually try to steal his cruiser...

I only thought about it!

Anyway, he had to let me go - otherwise I never would have made it to the festival!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Question of Fame

Since we're just having a free for all this week, I thought I'd write about something I was just thinking about this morning and that's famous people and why we're so fascinated with their lives, or more aptly, their deaths. Yesterday, I heard lots of talk about Al and Tipper Gore's divorce and I thought it was interesting that so many people found it shocking. Admittedly, I too was shocked. And then today, I watched Rue McClanahan's death ripple through Twitter, and I also had that sad moment where I remembered how much I used to love to watch the Golden Girls. And this is just the last two days -- last week I read with morbid curiosity and sadness about the death of Brittany Murphy's husband and also of Gary Coleman. But that brings me to my question: People get divorced all the time, and sadly, strangers (which is really what famous people are to most of us) die all the time. So why are we so saddened/shocked/impressioned by it when it concerns famous people?

Is it because we feel we know them, that through movies and TV shows, People magazine and Us Weekly, we feel like they're somehow distantly connected to us? Maybe. I think for me, whenever something bad happens to a famous person, it serves as a reminder that bad things can happen to *anyone* no matter how rich, privelaged, or famous they are. And things like death, illness, divorce, are scary to think about. These are the kinds of things we always want to think won't happen to us or our families, and so when they happen to famous people, who look and seem vastly shinier, wealthier, and more privelaged than the rest of us, maybe we suddenly realize we're a little less immune?

This morning, I found myself in a cemetary visiting someone's grave with my husband. As we walked around looking for the right place, I pointed out the very, very obvious to my husband that cemetaries are vastly depressing. They're huge, there are dead people everywhere, dead people you don't know, and names you don't recognize. And yet somehow, almost shockingly, that didn't feel as sad to me as reading about Rue McClanahan's death when I got home. Like all those graves I saw, she was just a stranger to me, so I have to wonder, what makes us feel more for celebrities?

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Ryman, Neil Young, Will and Me

Today I'll chat about my son, Neil Young and the infamous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. The three converged last night as I escorted my youngest boy, Will, to the first of two concerts in Nashville for Mr. Young on his "Twisted Road" tour.

Here's the best. Will and I were lying on the couch at 6:30 p.m. when we looked at each other and wondered, "Exactly why aren't we going to see the show?" A ticket price of $127.50, maybe? Hmmm. Could that be the reason? I told Will that if he could get two for the price of one, I'd take him. "I'll find them, Mom. I swear," he says. So we jumped in the car, flew down to the Ryman, and ended up on the main floor - great seats - for half price!! It's amazing how well the scalpers will deal a few minutes after the opening act starts!

For those of you who don't know, I'm a rock and roll lover. Well, freak may be more like it. And naturally, so is my son. The beautiful part about last night is that Will loves Neil Young because of me!! I used to dream about the day I could take my kids to concerts. Now, he even knows more about the legendary rock star than I do.

The concert was, well there isn't really a good enough word that hasn't already been used to describe Neil's shows. But for clarification sake I'll just say the concert was everything we hoped it would be. Neil carried the show solo but had all of his different instruments set around the stage. Both his acoustic and electric guitars were in the middle, his grand piano on stage right. His pump organ was in the rear of the stage and his upright piano was off to stage left. And of course, his harmonica was usually in the holder around his neck. He spent the evening rotating around each instrument sharing the depth of his talent with the audience. Mr. Young didn't say much, but if you've been following his career at all you know that's his way - quintessentially Neil.

Each time he sang an old song my son jabbed me in the arm and I got to watch a huge smile spread across his face.

That was heaven for me. So was getting to spend an entire evening sitting next to my twenty-year-old son.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pardon Our Dust!

We're doing a bit of housekeeping around here on the blog, so excuse our dust! This week, we're doing a Free-For-All topic, so we can talk about whatever we choose. I spent last night with one of my college roommates, so I'm feeling nostalgic. Thus, I'm going to talk about my favorite movies when I was a kid.

1. The Goonies
I honestly didn't think there was a man or woman my age who didn't like this movie. Until my friend's husband ratted her out last night that she didn't share our love for this movie. I shrunk back in horror, hand clenched to my chest. My eyes slowly narrowed as I pressed myself against the couch. Who was this person? How did she deceive me for four year in college? Today, I'm still baffled.

2. Stand By Me
My parents' wouldn't let me watch this movie, thanks to the R-rating, but thankfully I had babysitters who cared more about teasing their bangs than censoring my television. After a couple of viewings, it was my favorite movie, not only because it was forbidden. I recently re-watched it, and it definitely holds up--especially the soundtrack.

3. The Neverending Story
I would follow along with Atreyu as he tried to battle and find the Princess. My couch became the giant mud hill where the enormous turtle-man lived (Forgive me if I can't remember Giant Turtle Man Who Lived in A Dirt Mountain's name...) and my poor aging beagle was the killer wolf I had to fight at the end. Let's just say that I'm very glad my parents didn't really use their video camera much during this time period.

4. Halloween
I really don't think I've seen a scary movie--to this day--that I've loved as much as Halloween. With none of the gore and torture found in many modern-day horror films, Halloween is simple and brilliant in its chills. I force my husband to watch all of the Halloween movies each year in October. Even the really crappy ones that are supposed to be set in Illinois, but have very clear mountain peaks in the horizon of each scene.

So that's it! Did I forget any of your favorites?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

HAIR!

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to Maureen on the launch of NOT READY FOR MOM JEANS! I seriously cannot wait to read this. I love her voice and I'm really looking forward to seeing what kinds of knots Clare can tie herself into this time! Sartorially or otherwise.

As for me? My fashion faux pas usually happen above my neck.

Here's the thing about being shortsighted. When I go to the salon, and take off my glasses for the duration of the procedure, I have absolutely NO idea what's going on with my head until the thing's done and there's no turning back. This has led to some... interesting coifs.

Some years ago I let an obviously deranged stylist have a go at the ol' locks. He cut my bangs asymmetrically, in two layers, dyed the underside black and the rest of my hair bright red. The end result looked as if I was a French femme fatale spy in disguise whose wig had slipped.

My mother said I looked like Biff Naked. I don't even want to know how she knew who that was.

Then there was the spiral perm. The end result of which was that, in high school, one of my numerous nicknames was Fluffy the Wonder Poodle. That's the kind of a name that sticks with a girl.

Once I came away from the rinse station with the hair at the back of my head showing a muddy shade of green. I was in the salon until ten that night as my stylist had to perform a rather extensive color correction due to something the previous stylist had used. I think it might have been toxic.

I stick with straight now. And blonde. And a hairdresser who seems as though they haven't been in the back room sipping cough syrup all afternoon. And I have a team on standby to do an intervention the next time I say: "I'm thinking of having something different done with my hair this time..."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fashion + Pre-teen Years = Disaster

Before I delve into my fashion mistakes, I just want to take a moment to say that I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of NOT READY FOR MOM JEANS, and I’m so excited that it’s finally out so that every one else can enjoy it!! It is a must read this summer – funny and overwhelmingly relatable for new moms and non-new moms alike. In the book, Clare tackles the dilemma that all new moms are faced with – can a woman still work and be a mom, and how can she be good at both? Add to that a cast of hysterical yet exceedingly real friends and family, and I found myself instantly absorbed in Clare’s life. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down and read the whole thing in almost one sitting!

So now to my fashion mistakes. Oh, there were too many to recount here. Remember my post a few weeks ago about my fabulous mom – well one of the fabulous things about her was that she always told me to make my own decisions. From a very early age, she wanted me to take responsibility for my actions. Apparently, this included my clothing choices. I’ve looked at many a picture from my childhood days and asked my mom what she was thinking to dress me that way. Her response is always the same, that it was my decision what I wanted to wear. Ahem.

Of course, I think my worst fashion mistakes were in my middle school years. I remember a fascination with tie-dye in sixth grade – I had this matching tie-dye pants/shirt set, and then a bright pink tie-dye shirt that I used to wear tucked into my tight rolled jeans (Okay, this last mistake was not entirely my fault, as tight rolling jeans used to be the only cool way to wear them, and sadly, in sixth grade, I was a fashion follower.)

However, if we’re talking about my worst fashion mistake ever, I’d have to say it was this. In seventh grade my best friend and I decided we should wear matching outfits to our school dance. Stop right there, you say? No, it gets better. The outfits we chose were these black and hot pink shirt dresses with big obnoxious silver zippers up the front, and we wore these over black leggings, of course. And yet, we got the reaction we hoped for when our collective crush took a double take when he saw us at the dance and called us “twins.” At the time we thought this was The. Best. Outfit. Ever.

Looking back I can laugh, because who hasn’t had a fashion mistake in their early pre-teen years? Isn’t that a rite of passage? So what was your worst pre-teen fashion faux pax?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Fashion Faux Pas

Dear Maureen (a.k.a. former debut author),

Can you believe you have another book under your belt? You're only twenty-something and have two books published already. I'm so thrilled and happy for you (please overlook my bad case of the green-eyed monster) and I'm hoping you are taking this week to relish in all of your glory!

NOT READY FOR MOM JEANS is a fab title! And the cover - that's mighty wonderful, too! In case some of our NG Followers don't know, I thought it would be great to mention again that we share the same wonderful agent AND the same wonderful editor at Thomas Dunne Books. Does that makes us cousins? Three times removed maybe?

I would never call myself a "fashionista" but if truth be told, upon first glance at my closet, one might think that I consider myself one. It's stuffed, packed and overflowing with more clothes than I know what to do with. My biggest fashion mistake is that I buy erroneous pieces for my wardrobe instead of thinking "entire outfit." I've got more clothes that have only been worn once and the reason is: I have nothing to go with them. EBAY needs to become my best friend.

On to my worst fashion faux pas. . . If I think back to the most hideous thing I've ever worn I suppose it would have to be back in college when jumpsuits were all the rage. I sported a navy blue number with a wide white metal zipper that adorned the front and had a big white ring at the top - just under my chin. Hot Sexy Mama is all I'll say. And the worst part of the faux pas . . . I wore it to a Fraternity Pledge Swap. If that doesn't make you cringe, I don't know what will.

CONGRATULATIONS to you, dear Maureen! Picture me right now sending you a cyber champagne toast. Wish I could be in Chicago to help you celebrate in person!

XOXOXOXO

LISA

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Release Day to Me!

It feels very surreal to be celebrating the publication of Not Ready for Mom Jeans. I keep thinking the release is next month, or next year, or somewhere far, far away. As of today, I'm no longer a "debut" author, which is both thrilling and unbelievable. My dream was always to have a book out--just one--and now I officially have two. Pardon me while I say Whoa. (Bonus points if you were just reminded of Joey Lawrence on Blossom.)

In honor of the release of Mom Jeans, I chose the topic of fashion mistakes. My main character, Clare, is determined to stay somewhat hip and with-it, despite now having a baby. She has a serious case of minivanitis and refuses to trade in her j

For all those wondering, let me define what "Mom Jeans" actually are for you. Tyra banks actually had a very helpful diagram on her show recently. Mom Jeans generally have a very long zipper, well above the belly button, are pleated in the front and taper down toward the ankles, giving the wearer an ice-cream cone look. Very often, they are also really, really light colored, further adding to the unattractiveness.

Saturday Night Live did a hilarious spoof of Mom Jeans here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/10333/saturday-night-live-mom-jeans

While I can't admit to actually wearing Mom Jeans, there have been plenty of cringe-worth fashion mistakes in my time. I grew up in the late eighties/early nineties, and thus was best friends with my crimping iron. I even had the one that would crimp (read: burn) designs into your hair like a heart or a star. My mother never let me leave the house like that, but Still.

My favorite outfit when I was about twelve was an orange and black splatter paint shirt coupled with a poufy nylon bright orange skirt with black bike shorts underneath. I mean, Seriously. I also had acid-washed jeans with fluorescent puffy splatter paint all over it--that glowed in the dark. Again, I say: Seriously?!

And let's not forget the fashion trends of the mid-nineties--namely, a dark green crushed velvet babydoll dress paired with a black velvet choker and chunky black shoes. In 1995, I was extremely fashionable. Yet I still want to hide the pictures.

So let's hear it folks! What fashion mistakes will you admit to?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Congratulations, Maureen!

I am so excited to celebrate the release of Maureen's second book, NOT READY FOR MOM JEANS! I haven't received my copy yet, but it will go to the top of my TBR pile the second it arrives. From the little I know about this story, I'm pretty sure it will also go to the top of my favorite reads. See, the heroine in the book (Clare) is a new mom, her mom is battling breast cancer, and she has a real life that needs some attention.

A lot like my life. No, I'm not a new mom NOW. And, thankfully, my mother has won her battle with breast cancer, but the specifics aren't what I'm talking about. It's the overall journey I'm referring to. One filled with joy and sadness and fear. Moments of life that we can all relate to. And, I'm sure, there will be plenty of Maureen's wonderful humor wrapped into the story. I'm expecting I'll laugh out loud more than once.

So yep, can't wait to get it, and I'm bursting with excitement for Maureen. Huge, huge congrats, Maureen!

Now, from what I can tell, I'm supposed to write a post about fashion mistakes. But I'm not really sure I can do that. Mostly because I don't pay a lot of attention to fashion. Heck, I'm a stay-at-home writer. My fashion choices tend to be what's comfortable. Pajama bottoms and a T-shirt? Yep! Baggy sweatshirts and shorts? Yep! If it's clean and comfortable, I'm going to wear it while I write.

Even when I actually don real clothes to go out in the real world, I find I'm not that picky. As long as what I'm wearing is free of stains and not missing any buttons, I'm pretty happy. I'm also one of those women who can have her hair and makeup done in less time than it takes my husband to prepare himself to walk out the door.

Sad, huh?

Yeah, I know. But it's the way it is. So I don't really have a specific story about a fashion mistake. I'm sure I've made them. I just don't know enough to know when I made them or the particulars. It's probably best that I don't know, to be honest.

I find fashion interesting. I love watching the red carpet shows and checking out what all the celebrities are wearing. But that's about as far as it goes with me.

Do you have any fashion mistakes you'd like to share? And please, join me in congratulating Maureen for her release!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"You were banished because you were clumsy?"

Me and Jar Jar Binks. We have that in common. (That is all we have in common. I did not ruin a movie franchise with my ridiculous antics, thank you very much!)

And maybe I wasn't exactly banished, but I was definitely clumsy.

It's probably the thing about me growing up that drove my mom nuts the most. I mean aside from my lack of punctuality (er... see last week's post and, er... the timing of this week's post!)

You see... as a small child, I was fond of running into things with my face. It's like I'd get up to speed and then couldn't figure out how to stop, so I'd just point my mug in the direction of the nearest hard/pointy/sharp/injurious surface and cease forward momentum thusly.

For example, I distinctly remember the day my mother was baking snickerdoodles (I also didn't give silly names to cookies - that's just what they're called, all right?) and I'd endured an afternoon of delicious chocolatey smells wafting down from the kitchen. When, finally, she called down that they were ready, I went tearing upstairs, misjudged the door frame and door opening by several significant inches and split my forehead open on the corner of the wall. This was in the days before cell phones: my dad came home from work to an empty house, mouthwatering aromas, and random blood-spatters as my mom had taken my brother to the neighbors and driven me to emergency to get my face sewn shut.

Then there was the time I split my eyebrow open bouncing on my bed - having flown off wildly after a rogue bounce and finding it necessary to impede my flight by way of the dresser.

Oh yeah... and then there was the time I split my lip open on the fireplace hearth. I don't even remember what my reasoning was that time. Probably just kids havin' fun...

All of these incidences required various degrees of needle-work to make right. So by the time I slipped on a patch of ice in the school playground and broke my arm in the second grade, my adorable visage was a road map of scars both fresh and fading. Not surprising then that the doc who was plastering my skinny limb into a cast didn't believe me when I said I'd "fallen down". Sure you did, kid. Ma'am, we'd like to talk to Lesley alone, for a moment, please...

Honestly, I think the poor woman thought they were going to call a social worker on her! But then I probably did something like fall off the examining table, lending credence to the "No really - she's just unnaturally clumsy!" theory.

They let me go home and I'm sure my mother was relieved at that. But yeah - I'm pretty sure that it also drove her fairly nuts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Like My Karma the Way I Like It

According to my parents, I was a pretty easy baby and toddler. I napped when I was supposed to. I didn’t cry a lot. I listened. Even as I got older I was always the good/well-behaved child in the family, the one my mom didn’t have to worry about having tantrums in the mall or misbehaving at school. But, as I’ve been told, even as a young child I was a little bit OCD. (And okay, admittedly, I still am). Remember Sally in When Harry Met Sally – when she orders her salad in her own particular way, dressing on that side? That’s me. I also like what she says in the movie, that she just likes things the way she likes them. There’s nothing wrong with being particular, right?

But anyway, when I was around two or three apparently I had this thing, where I would only use a Kleenex if it came from this one particular box in our living room. If anyone tried to give me one from somewhere else, I cried and screamed and insisted the Kleenex must be from the living room. I’m sure this drove my mother crazy (and I’m sure it wasn’t just the Kleenex, although this is the story I’ve heard over and over and over again my whole life.) I’m not sure how long this went on, maybe months or years, but I do remember what cured me of it. Once I was at my no-nonsense next door neighbor’s house and I needed a tissue. I insisted my mom run back to our house and get me one from the living room, until my neighbor yelled at me and insisted I take the tissue from her house. I’m not sure why, or exactly what she said to me (but vaguely remember she said something to the effect that I should stop being such a whiny brat), but whatever it was, I never complained about the tissues again.

And like Maureen said, there’s nothing like karma. Because my youngest son is exactly this way. He will only drink his juice box if it’s facing a certain way and placed in the Sponge Bob cup-holder in one direction; he will only walk on one side of the garage, which is, of course the longer route to the door, and he has a fit if you try to make him go the other way. He instructs me specifically on where each part of his dinner should go on his plate. And I could probably go on and spout off a million little things he wants a particular way, things that drive me crazy on a daily basis.

Of course, when I complain to my mom about it, she just laughs and asks if I took a Kleenex from the living room today. Okay, point taken.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

High Maintenance

I really, really hope that my mother doesn't read this week's post, as I know whatever I end up confessing, she would remind me of about 500 additional incidents that caused her to pull out her hair.

My mother always referred to me as her "high-maintenance child" because I was colicky as n infant and strong-willed as a toddler and beyond. She has since eaten these words, after raising my siblings who have totaled three cars, gotten brought home by the police, had our house t.p.-ed, and so on. "High-maintenance" sounds pretty good right about now, huh?

Of course, I had my fair share of difficult moments as a child. If my mom said up, I said down. She suggested I wear pants to school, and I'd only want to wear a dress. Sometimes I think I argued with her just for the sake of challenging her and to see if her head would pop off due to frustration. Like the time when I was in kindergarten and she brought me to a fancy department store and told me not to touch anything. I responded by knocking over a mannequin and shattering it into a million pieces. That one wasn't on purpose. I think.

And as a teenager, I had my fair share of "I'll just say I'm sleeping over at a friend's house" and missed curfews. Then, when I entered college, I decided to get a tattoo. Her reaction of, "That's nice" was somewhat anti-climactic.

But as I've said before, everything I did that my parents thought was terrible has been either matched or completely overshadowed by my two brothers and sister. Yet my mother still calls me her difficult child, despite never having crashed their car into the side of the garage and then pretended that the huge dent just "appeared overnight." Ahem.

A few years ago, I had my own high-maintenance child. My mother smiled and sat back, happy with the knowledge that karma is truly a great thing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Oh, Let Me Count the Ways...

I giggled when I saw what this week's topic is. Truly, I did. There were so many ways I drove my mother crazy that choosing just a few to highlight caused me a fair amount of stress. Something my mother would appreciate hugely. Finally, after all of these years, I am going to admit to the world how many gray hairs I actually gave my mom.

Sigh.

So, where to be begin?

I could talk about the time I raised our phone bill (remember, this was long before all-in-one long distance plans) to a horrifying (really horrifying) amount for three months in a row calling a college guy I fancied myself in love with. What makes this story worse is I (okay, yes, I am sooo embarrassed to admit this) HID the phone bills when they came the first two months. The third month, I sort of had to give in and show it to her, because otherwise, we'd have lost phone service.

She was not happy. And, as a mom who has faced her own battles with phone bills caused by her teenage daughter over the years, I totally get this. Now. Not so much then.

I could talk about the time I, living in another state at the old age of eighteen, decided to marry a man I barely knew and gave her the news over the phone. When I shared that I met him at a "church" that was actually not a church, but some made-up religion centered out of another guy's house (um...cult? Maybe. I've never decided this for sure), and that this guy stated it was God's will for us to marry, I'm sure she hung up the phone and cried. (For the record, I did not marry this guy. I just thought I was going to, but luckily, sanity won out in the end).

Or I could talk about the time I, as a senior in high school, took off with a girlfriend for the evening (um, the entire evening), with her parents believing she was at my place and my parents believing I was at hers. When her parents called my house to check in, the entire story unraveled, and my parents phoned the police with my license plate number. Yeah. That was a fun night for all of us.

Or another night that I (also a senior in high school) took off with another friend for a party. And then, when it was obvious that no one should be driving, called home and left a rambling message that I was staying the night at my friend's house. The next day, when I got home in the early afternoon, my parents were just about to call the police again. Because, apparently, I hadn't left the message on our phone. They, for most of the morning, thought I was sleeping in, but when Mom finally checked my room and found I wasn't there...Well, let's just say it's a good thing I got home when I did.

Okay, you know what? Those four are enough. Let's leave it at that before I turn any of my own hairs gray! But Mom? For the record, I apologize for stressing you out and driving you crazy. I'm lucky I had you to always, always steer me the right way.

Now, just for fun, tell me some of the ways you drove your mom crazy. Please? Misery loves company and all that...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A thing my mom didn't teach me. And a thing she did.

Punctuality.

Obviously. Exhibit A - this post. Yup - late again.

When I was a kid, we moved across town when I was between elementary school and junior high. This meant that I would have to go to a different school than all my other little buddies come the fall. To say I raised a stink at this prospect would be a vast understatement. After all, these were my bosom, lifelong friends and they would remain so should we continue on in our studies together. (I can remember the names of maybe three of those bosom chums today, their faces not at all, and am facebook friends with one of them. Yes, my logic was flawed. Oh hindsight...)

My parents, to their credit, acquiesced and enrolled me at the school I pined to attend... and then my lovely, wonderful, long-suffering mother drove me to and from school every day for three interminable years. I have yet to adequately apologize to her for putting her through that.

I suppose that it wouldn't have been quite so bad for Mom except that, every single day, she would pull up in front of the school and watch as all the other kids came out the doors, got into cars, or walked to the bus stop, or wandered home in twos and threes... and I would not appear. The last of the stragglers would leave and the teacher parking lot would empty and still my mom sat there in the car, wondering where the heck I was.

Eventually--and it was always a long eventually--I would emerge, knapsack full of books (almost none of them homework-related) and clamber into the front seat, where Mom sat, frowning faintly as she tried to parse my unfocused gaze and unexplained tardiness.

"Where were you?" she would ask (meaning perhaps physically and/or mentally).

"Hmm?"

"What took you so long?"

"Uh... I dunno... I was just thinking."

"You can't think and get your coat on at the same time?"

Well - apparently not. Because my busy little brain wasn't really up to multi-tasking at such a young and tender age but it was certainly occupied. I was an inveterate daydreamer and, as such, was easily distracted to the point where I would just stand there in front of my open locker, staring into its depths, miles and worlds and adventures away. And, as often as it drove my mother positively bonkers to have to wait and wait and wait for me (ie: daily) she never completely blew a gasket. Popped a couple of seams, maybe, but that was only fair. I wasn't a particularly comprehensible or accommodating child. I didn't mean to be an unmitigated pain in the ass, I just wasn't that self-aware, you see. As frustrating as it must have been, my mom put up with me.

But she never taught me punctuality.

Because that would have meant teaching me to put my daydreams away before I was done with them. I wasted a good deal of her time back then... and she let me. Because I think, somehow, she knew deep down that those daydreams might lead me somewhere. And by letting me follow them, even at the expense of her own patience and sanity on occasion, she taught me that it was okay to do that.

She taught me that my inconvenient daydreams were important.

It was the absolute best thing she could have taught me. And she had to sit there listening to an awful lot of talk radio for me to learn it. Sorry, Mom. And Thanks.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Life Lessons

To say I’ve learned a lot from my mom is a massive understatement. When I was growing up my mom was (and still is) a very big part of my life. She stopped working after I was born to be a stay at home mom, but she wasn’t one of those stay at home moms who are obsessed with cleaning their houses or carting their children around to activities – no soccer mom status for her. For one thing, I never played soccer (which was probably a good thing for all involved). But also, my mom was very hands on in teaching me about life and, I think, shaping who I am as a person and a writer.

From a very early age she read me books and then, when I was old enough to read, she carted me on an insane number of trips to the library. She helped me with my homework every night when I was younger (reminding me to always double check my work and have the patience to sit there until I know what I’ve done is right and to the best of my ability.) As a result I became a voracious reader and always did really well in school.

But I think it was life lessons about believing in myself and persevering that were the best lessons she taught me. From a young age, my mom always told me I could be and do anything I wanted when I grew up. She never discouraged me when I told her I wanted to be a writer, or that I was going to major in English, or get a (pretty useless) master’s degree in creative writing. She never told me to be practical, get a “real” degree/job, or that a career in writing would be too hard. She always repeated what she told me when I was little girl – that I could do whatever I wanted to, whatever was going to make me happy. And on top of that, she added her encouragement. It was my mom who constantly reminded me not to give up after a lot of rejection, and that she was sure I was going to be published some day. She still keeps at this, in fact, as she often drops things into our conversations like “when you’re a NY Times bestselling author. . .” (and she says "when," of course, not if!)

If it weren’t for my mom being so involved, so encouraging, and so positive that I could do whatever I wanted with life I’m sure that I would be a different person today. I don’t think I could’ve persevered as a writer, and I’m not sure I would’ve felt so strongly about making sure I had a career where I could also stay at home and be very hands on in raising my own kids.

So for all that, and so much more: thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Living Legacy

My mother has been gone for nearly three years now and I miss her more today than I did the day she passed away. It wasn't hard at all to come up with the best thing she ever taught me. It's one of the most important virtues anyone could ever have. My mother taught me to be color blind. I can honestly say that I never once heard my mother utter a single prejudice remark in all the years I had her.

To fully appreciate my mother, you have to consider this: I was a little girl growing up in the 60s in the Deep South. And not just in any city in the Deep South. Memphis, Tennessee is my home. Home also to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, two sanitation worker strikes and whisperings of local officials with possible loyalties to the KKK. I was surrounded by prejudice. The blacks had to use different water fountains, pulic pools, toilets and churches. Even the famed Orpheum Theatre had a seperate entrance and box office for the African Americans, after requiring them to walk five flights up to the Gallery to see the show.

To avoid his daughters attending school half way across town, my father enrolled my sisters and me in a private all-girls school which, at the time, accepted only white girls. He would not stand for any of his girls to have to be victims of busing - the transporting of public-school students to schools outside their neighborhoods, as a means of achieving racial balance.

Despite my father's and community efforts to teach me otherwise, my lovely mother made sure that I knew that people of color were no different than me. Be they black, Indian, Asian or Hispanic, we were all human beings. I can remember her stopping to pick up black ladies who were walking to the bus stop and offering them rides home. If my father knew that Mama was anywhere close to their neighborhoods, and especially with us in the car, he would have been furious. Sadly, my father was very much a racist. Thankfully, my mother was anything but.

Mama taught my sisters and me by example. Her best friend was a lovely black woman by the name of Julia. The best gift of all is to see Mama's legacy alive in the eyes of my own two sons. They are completely color blind and I can think of few other virtues I'd rather them have.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sunday Night Dinners

It's hard to pinpoint one specific "best" of everything that my mother has taught me. If forced to choose, I suppose I would select the strong importance of family that she instilled in each one of her children.

I'm the oldest of four siblings, ranging from me down to my seventeen year old brother. We're each at unique stages in our lives--my brother is building his law career, my sister just graduated college and is trying to find her place in the world and my youngest brother is preparing to move away from home and start college. The past several years, my parents' house has been a revolving door of children moving in, out, and back again. My mom jokes that she'll never get empty nest syndrome since one of her kids will always be living under her roof.

Despite all of my siblings being scattered among different milestones in their lives, my mother always makes a point to cook Sunday night dinners for all of us. My brother takes the train to the suburbs from the city, my husband, son and I drive over from our house, my sister delays her night's plans and my youngest brother stumbles out of bed so we can all spend time together and cook dinner.

Sometimes, I forget how special those Sunday night dinners are, especially when I talk to other people who look at me strangely when I mention that I get together with my family once a week. People ask me if it's a burden, or even an obligation. It's not. After a long, tough week, it's great to be able to curl up on my parents' couches in my sweatpants and tease my brother or read magazines with my sister.

My mom has made such an effort to enforce an "open door" policy at their house, it really brings all of us much closer to each other. And that is something that will be both her best accomplishment and her legacy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Positive Attitude

My mother has always looked at any situation in a "the glass is half-full" rather than "the glass is half-empty" sort of way. She's all about the positive attitude, always has been, and likely always will be. Which is great. A positive attitude brings about positive thinking and positive energy. But...Well, I am not as positive a person as she.

I'm not a negative gal, either. I'm solidly in the middle. Some things will wear me down to the point that I can't find a positive anything to pick myself up. For example, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Okay, all cancer is bad, but some cancers are worse than others. Hers was bad. While I spiraled in an emotional downturn made up of fear, sadness, and anger, she...Well, she did what she always does. She kept a positive outlook. She did everything her doctors said to do, she looked into holistic possibilities (and did some of those, as well), and she always said, "I will beat this. I will be at my grandchildren's wedding."

And I, outwardly, said the same thing. Of course I did! She didn't need to hear my fears, sadness, or anger. She needed me to be as positive as she was. And so, to her, I was. But in my head, I was anything but positive. I was petrified.

But she did just as she said she was going to: she beat the cancer.

There have been other crises in our lives, both before this horrible timeframe and after, that I've seen her positive attitude at work. From the little to the large, my mother always portrays a positive outlook. That isn't to say she walks around wearing rose-colored glasses, because she doesn't. She'll readily admit when something is tough and/or when something scares her. She leans on others when she needs to. She views each problem for what it is without trying to paint a pretty but false picture.

What she does, though, is formulate a positive belief, which she then latches onto with everything she has. She thinks, memorizes, repeats, and lives this belief. And you know what? Being positive helps. It truly does make a difference. What felt horribly scary becomes a little less so. The suffocating pressure of worry lightens...maybe only slightly, maybe a lot, but it lightens.

I'm not saying that having a positive attitude can cure everything that goes wrong in our lives. But I do believe that being positive can make the really hard moments of our lives a little more bearable, can give us something to focus on, and in a lot of scenarios, can give us whatever it is we need to push through to the other side.

So, while I'm still a student, the best thing I've learned from my mom is to stay positive. No matter what. Thanks, Mom!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mama Bear

There are so many fictional moms that I love that it was hard for me to come up with one to write about for this post. But being that the majority of the books I read these days are to my kids, I decided I’d write about the first fictional mom that came to mind, and -- don’t laugh -- but it’s Mama Bear from the Berenstain Bears.

I was a big Berenstain Bears fan as a kid – maybe because I grew up in the same county where Stan and Jan Berenstain lived and wrote their books – but also because I loved Sister and Brother Bears’ adventures. I think I owned every single one of the books, and now my kids do, too. Also, they request that I read them. Repeatedly. Oh, and we watch the show, too!

But back to Mama Bear – I have to say there is no one more level-headed than she. She’s a great mom and she lets her kids and her husband learn their own lessons, while being kind, even-tempered, and an excellent sewer and honey-maker. In one of my favorite books – The Berenstain Bears and Mama’s New Job -- Mama starts her own quilting business and when her children get a little worried that she won’t have time for them, she teaches them that women can work, go after their passions, be entrepreneurs and still be a great mom.

Oh, and in the book where Sister Bear is born – The Berenstain Bears and the New Baby – which I read to my oldest son countless times when I was pregnant with my youngest – Mama Bear manages to pop out the new baby, regain her girlish figure, and get her new baby to sleep in the crib – all in the time it takes Papa and Brother Bear to go out in the woods and gather some timber for Brother’s new bed.

Seriously though, there is not a wiser mom I can think of in fiction. Or a mom with more passion, guts, love, life lessons, and kindness. And a cute little blue dress and matching hat to boot.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Love Lucy . . . and LeeLee

I suppose "Favorite Fictional Moms" week here at the Novel Girls is a great time to tell the world what a Lucy Lover/Freak/Groupie I really am. I (absolutely) Love Lucy! I've seen all the episodes so many times that I know almost every single line of dialogue by heart. Lucille McGillicuddy-Ricardo makes me laugh harder than any other TV character ever has, or probably ever will.

Number one, Lucy's a comedienne in a class all her own, but for purposes of staying in line with this weeks' topic, let's acknowledge that she's also mother to Little Ricky. I'm not so sure that I'd say she's the best, most perfect TV mom but I know this about her - she always, always has crazy fun. Like the time she and Ethel climbed over Richard Widmark's wall to pick one of his grapefruits to take home as a souvenir.

I can't believe I'm going to admit this to the world but one of my best friends (the one I named my protagonist for in WHISTLIN' DIXIE), LeeLee, and I were inspired by Lucy and Ethel's escapades to Hollywood one spring break during college. We had signed up for the Grayline Hollywood tour of celebrity homes when we learned Lucy's house in Beverly Hills was on the tour. As we approached Lucy's home our faces were pressed against one of the glass panes of the bus. Our guide tells us that Lucy and Ethel had actually hopped Lucy's wall at her own home and pointed out the grapefruit tree in her side yard that the two crazy star-struck women had climbed.

You'd have to know LeeLee and me but that's the last thing we ever heard that guide say. We looked at each other right then and there and let our facial expressions do the talking. Both of us knew what the other was thinking. We'd be back to that part of Roxbury Drive right before midnight. We saw no reason why we shouldn't climb that same wall and grapefruit tree in hopes of taking home our own juicy souvenir!

I don't think it's in the best interest of this writer's reputation to tell you the rest of the story but I will tell you that we indeed did climb the wall and that we indeed were successful. That's all I'll say.

Tonight I'm simply thanking God for TV LAND, and the fact that we did NOT try and remove John Wayne's footprint slab at Grauman's Chinese Theatre! Mostly I'm hoping the real LeeLee is reading this and remembering back to one of the most memorable nights of our lives! Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mr. Mom

Hey all! So this month, we're posting about mom-related topics leading up to the week of Not Ready for Mom Jeans release on May 25th. It's amazing to me that I will soon have a second book out, as it seems like just last month that A Bump in the Road hit bookstore shelves. Even those close to me seem shocked that it's time to release another book baby into the world! But enough about that--I have all month to get used to the idea!

This week we're talking about our favorite fictional moms. I'll admit, I was thrilled to choose the topic, but now that it's actually time to decide, I'm a bit stumped. So I'm going to cheat a bit and choose one of my favorite mom-related movies: Mr. Mom.

For all who haven't seen Mr. Mom, it stars Teri Garr and Michael Keaton and is about a stay-at-home mom who re-enters the corporate world while her former working husband stays home as...Mr. Mom. Throughout the movie, he deals with a wayward vacuum cleaner, a baby that somehow manages to open a can of chili, organizes a poker game for grocery story coupons and battles the temptation to wear the same outfit every day. Now that I write full-time at home, I can certainly identify with some of those! Speaking of which, I should probably find some new jeans...

But what I love best about this movie is that it portrays a real family. In reality, not every situation is Donna Reed or June Cleaver-esque. Sometimes, the mom works and the dad stays home. Or both parents work and a babysitter comes to the house. Or one parent works during the week and the other on the weekends or at night. It's never as clean and neat as Hollywood sometimes portrays. Families are messy and flexible and ever-changing--and THAT is something to celebrate!

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Favorite Fictional Moms

Before I get to today's post, I need to congratulate the winner of last week's Release Celebration for A Breath of Magic! I used random.org to select the winner, and that person is...

Em-Musing!

Congratulations, Em-Musing!!! You get a signed copy of A Breath of Magic! I have your e-mail, so I'll be contacting you.

Okay, on to the post!

To celebrate Mother's Day, The Novel Girls are talking about moms all month long (leading perfectly into Maureen's release week at the end of the month!). This week, our topic is our favorite fictional moms.

I have to say choosing my favorite fictional mom proved more difficult than I thought it would be. Mostly because I just can't think of a lot of fictional moms right now. Seriously. I'm sure as I read through the other TNG posts this week, I'll smack my head and go "Oh, yeah! Me too!!!" but for now, I'm going to go with the first two fictional moms that popped into my head:

Marion Cunningham from Happy Days, as played by Marion Ross. I watched endless reruns of this show when I was growing up, and yeah, I was a Fonzie girl. But I always loved how Marion was the perfect mother. I mean, come on, she so totally was!

Home-cooked meals on the table every night, perfectly clean house, great with her kids, and she even put up with Howard. I don't even come close to her level of excellence (nowadays, I'm more likely to order food than I am to cook, and you don't want to see the pile of laundry that needs my attention!). And yes, I am aware that this show is set in the fifities, but that doesn't take away her excellence at being a mom.

Now, on a funny note, has anyone here watched Gilmore Girls? Marion Ross also played a mom and a grandmother on Gilmore Girls, and oh, wow, she was kind of scary. I wouldn't have wanted to be her daughter-in-law, I can tell you that much.

Madeline Westen from Burn Notice as played by Sharon Gless. I love, love, love this show for one thing. For another, Sharon Gless is an amazing actress, and her portrayal of Madeline Westen is awesome. In the show, Madeline's oldest son is a burned spy, and he has a rocky relationship with his mom. But he loves her. And she loves him. But she keeps him on his toes, which I love and appreciate. I totally think part of my job as "Mom" is to keep my kids on their toes. If you haven't checked this show out, you totally should.

So, those are my two choices for favorite fictional moms. Who are your favorites?

And don't forget, there are still contests at my blog all month long to celebrate the release of A Breath of Magic!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Beltane Eve!


The Hawthorn trees are in bloom and the Fair Folk ride at midnight! For it is Beltane Eve and, on this night, the walls between the worlds thin and, in places, vanish...
In Faerie mythology, Beltane is known as one of the "Days of the Open Doors" -- one of the four points on the Celtic calendar when the realm of Faerie comes closest to our own. This is a time for celebration -- for lighting bonfires and drinking to the health of your friends and the Good Neighbors. It is a time of high magick!
So, naturally, it is entirely appropriate that this week is the launch of Tracy's A BREATH OF MAGIC. And, as the resident Faerie writer among the Girls, it seems only right and proper that this, the Eve of Beltane, is my day to post! (And -- look everybody! -- I'm actually posting on my day! What sorcery is this??)
I want to wish all good luck and great fortune to Tracy and my fellow Girls and all you marvelous TNG Readers! I think you're all pretty magickal! But be careful!... Sparkly things like you lot tend to attract the eye of the Fair Folk. So don't be at all surprised if you feel the brush of wings on your cheek after sundown tonight, or hear the far-off baying of spectral hunting hounds and laughter on the wind.
Just be careful on the way home. Stick to the paths and don't get caught out in the open near the Faerie Mounds or they may decide that, in honor of the holiday, you should come in under the Hill for a drink and a dance... and that's probably the last we'll see of you for the next few decades...

And then you'd miss out on all the contesty goodness happening over at Tracy's blog to celebrate A BREATH OF MAGIC! You don't want that to happen!! OR, for that matter, you don't want to miss the contesty goodness happening right here! Just leave a comment and you'll be entered to WIN A COPY OF A BREATH OF MAGIC!! Now that's something to celebrate!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tarot Cards

Congrats to Tracy on the release of her third book, A BREATH OF MAGIC, this week! I’m so excited to get a moment to curl up and read it!! If you comment on this post or any of the others this week you can be entered to win your own signed copy of the book (and there are even more exciting contest goodies at Tracy’s personal blog!).

So now onto my take on paranormal week! As soon as Tracy told us the topic I knew exactly what I wanted to write about: tarot card readings. I’ll admit that I’m somewhat of a believer in things like that, tarot cards, psychics, etc. Okay, I’m not a total believer – but I think it’s kind of fun to give them a little bit of weight. I do think there are a lot of things we can’t explain in the universe, so there’s the possibility that there’s some truth there, at least on some small level.

Back in February, on the release day for THE LIFE OF GLASS, I went to lunch with two author friends to celebrate. One of my fabulous author friends also reads tarot cards, and she brought her cards along to lunch. For fun, she did a tarot reading of our publishing careers’ past, present, and futures. Her reading of both my past and present were dead on, so when she pulled a card that she said meant spiritual and personal wealth and success for the future, I was completely ready to believe!

A week later, I was at Barnes and Noble doing a signing, and the signing table they had set up for me was none other than in front of the tarot card reading books. I noticed them and had a little chuckle, especially when a few minutes later, an elderly gentleman walked by, and stopped to talk to me. He’d noticed the sign that said “book signing” and the section of books about tarot card readings and he thought those were the books I’d written. He actually started yelling at me about writing books that were “the work of the devil,” and became quite confused when I tried to explain that I was not the author of the tarot card books!

I had the urge to tell him about my fabulous tarot card reading the week before, and how, according to the cards my writing career was going to attain me great personal and spiritual wealth, but I didn’t quite think he’d appreciate it the way I did.

I choose to believe in my reading, because why not? Publishing is such a crazy and bumpy ride that sometimes you need every little thing you can to hold on tight and keep forging ahead.

What about you, how do you feel about tarot card readings?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dear Tracy,

I can't believe it's Wednesday already. But what I really can't believe is that in a little over a year, you're releasing your THIRD BOOK! Congratulations to you, congratulations to you, congratulations you book-machine you, congrats to you!!! I wish you all the rich blessings and happiness with this book that you so richly deserve. (TNG Readers - Tracy is lovely and kind and above all a dedicated mother and wife.) It's obvious you work your tush off!! I am looking so forward to curling up on the couch with A BREATH OF MAGIC!

Did you know that I work at an old historic museum which is said to be alive with ghosts? My home town of Franklin, Tennessee is the sight of a historic Civil War battle where nearly four thousand men lost their lives. Four of the six Confederate generals who were killed in the Battle of Franklin were laid out in state on the back porch of Carnton Plantation. No wonder it's said to be full of ghosts. And let me assure you, there are plenty of folks hanging around Carnton who communicate with those ghosts! I know one person who claims to be having "a relationship" with one of the generals. Maybe Franklin should be scheduled for a research stop for your next book. You can stay with me. How bout it, huh??

I am genuinely thrilled and happy to know you and celebrate with you. I'll direct folks to your personal website so they can get a better glimpse of how wonderful and prolific you are!! I'm hoping our NG Followers will comment every day this week to be entered to win their very own signed copy of A BREATH OF MAGIC!

Oh and by the way, July is coming up! I wonder how many of our NG followers will be in Nashville for the Romance Writers of America conference?? I know you'll be here and I'm hoping we can all get together. Until then, we'll all keep hanging out in cyberspace!

Looking forward to seeing you in July! And hopefully Maureen, Jill and Lesley, too!

Love, Lisa

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spooked

Happy Tuesday everyone! Thankfully, this morning is going a bit smoother than the past few weeks, thanks in large part to a healthy dose of Elmo blaring on the television. And good thing, since I'm so excited to talk about Tracy's latest book: A BREATH OF MAGIC!

I absolutely loved the fun combination of romance, magic and plot twists in her first two books, so I'm betting that I'll eat up her latest. It's hard to believe that in the short time we've all been blogging together, some of us have two books out already, and now...a third! It seems that publishing truly is a roller coaster--it might take a long time to get up the hill, but once the ride starts, it just keeps going!

For her release week, Tracy has chosen the topic of all things paranormal/mystical/spiritual. This is perfect since I'm in the middle of writing a proposal for a spooky ghost story set on my college alma mater's campus. I've always loved scary movies, and routinely creep myself out by watching all the ghost documentaries and shows on television like A Haunting, Paranormal State, Haunted History and Ghost Hunters. Of course, I usually end up screwing my eyes shut at night and trying not to think about any suspicious noises! In fact, when I told my husband about this book, he gave me a quick side-eye and asked if I'd have to start sleeping with the lights on after all my research!

And Chicago is the perfect place to enjoy ghost stories. There is so much haunted lore and reported paranormal sightings each year, this writer has inspiration all around her! In fact, last year, some friends and I went on a ghost tour of the city. We rode around in a school bus and stopped at a few locations while actual paranormal investigators talked about the history of each locale. At one spot--Jane Addams Hull House--the stories were so creepy, my friend refused to get off the bus. I, of course, loved it!

My enjoyment of all things spooky was present even as a child. My birthday is the week before Halloween, and every year I'd have a slumber party with my friends. We'd go to a Haunted House and then watch scary movies until dawn, creeping each other out when we heard tree branches scraping against the window panes or a floorboard creak in my parents' 100 year old house.

So, fellow readers, what creeps you out?

Make sure you comment this week, to be entered to win a signed copy of A BREATH OF MAGIC! Also make sure you pop over to Tracy's website for more contest goodness, including Borders gift cards and a reading with a Clairvoyant! Pretty cool, huh? And for more fun, be sure to check out Tracy's interview with the Examiner here!

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Third Release!

The third book in my Magic series from Dorchester Publishing releases tomorrow--April 27--and I am giddy with excitement! A Breath of Magic is an extraordinarily special book to me. Oh, don't get me wrong, I love every book within this series, but Chloe's journey and her story dug in a little deeper than the others. I hope, hope, hope that readers will find the same magic in reading A Breath of Magic that I found in writing it.

As the devoted readers of this blog know, we celebrate each and every TNG release with something a little special. For this release, I've asked the other Novel Girls to dip into the world of the paranormal/mystical/spiritual in any way they'd like. See, Chloe, the heroine in A Breath of Magic, owns a New Age store called the Mystic Corner. She is a huge believer in anything and everything mystical, so I figured this topic was the perfect topic for my release week.

I'm going to use this topic to talk about Chloe and the struggles she's facing as the story opens. Chloe, as we discovered in A Stroke of Magic, has Gypsy magic running in her bloodline--something she didn't know for most of her life. So now, a year or so has passed, and she's been waiting...waiting...breathlessly waiting for her magic to come alive. Only it hasn't.

Because Chloe's parents died when Chloe was young, she's never truly experienced what it's like to be a part of a family. Sure, she has her sister, but Sheridan lives across the country in Seattle and they barely talk. So discovering that Alice, Elizabeth, and Grandma Verda are really Chloe's family, and not just a substitute family, should be terrific news. And it was. But with the no-show of her magic, and Alice's busy life as a new wife and mother, Chloe is feeling left out and like she doesn't belong.

In fact, the only person who has really been there for her is her boyfriend Kyle. Maybe they don't set off fireworks for each other, but who cares about that? Chloe is happy enough planning a safe, comfortable future with Kyle, only he shies away whenever she broaches a happily-ever-after, something she desperately wants. What's a girl to do?

Use magic, of course. Chloe convinces Elizabeth to use her magic to bake a very special cake that will push Kyle toward saying "Yes" to the marriage proposal she plans on delivering. Elizabeth relunctantly agrees, and everything is set to go. Except...maybe not.

Chloe is beyond shocked to learn that Alice has a magical drawing of Chloe's future wedding day, and that the groom is definitely not Kyle. This scares her, though, so she goes ahead with her plans and Kyle says yes. Finally, her happily-ever-after is just around the corner.

But then, a man named Ben Malone walks into her store and the world changes in a blink. She has to discover if this is the man in her wedding drawing.

Here's an excerpt of what happens when she finally takes a peek:

-----

One fold to go. I sucked in another mouthful of air, let it back out and opened the page fully. My eyes were scratchy, almost irritated, so I couldn’t see anything of merit immediately. Just a bunch of lines blurring together. Tears fell, but I couldn’t stop them. I didn’t even want to. But they blurred my vision, so I wiped them away.

The trembles grew stronger and I shivered. I blinked rapidly, and for a brief, glowing second, the drawing came into perfect focus. My eyes rested on the image of me, and then, out of nowhere, a burst of bright light turned the room upside down and sent it spinning in dizzying circles. As cold as I’d been earlier, my body now surged with heat.

The fire continued to climb upward and then outward. My throat grew parched. I reached out, hoping to find the table, grasping for some type of stability. Nothing met my fingertips. The weight of my legs, arms, my entire body disappeared. Fear pummeled through me fast and furious.

Had I lost my mind, my grip on reality? Or was I in the process of dying from some freak accident? A heart attack, maybe, or a plane crashing into Alice’s house. Or hell, maybe an earthquake. All of these seemed like reasonable and perfectly possible, if ridiculously unusual, explanations.

Again I tried to find stability, something to center me, by clutching blindly for the table. The heat suddenly vanished, the swirling ceased, and limb by limb, the weight of my body returned to me. I blinked again, opened my mouth to ask Alice what the heck had just happened, except she wasn’t there. Neither was her kitchen.

I now stood outside, and an arm rested on my waist while the sun warmed my shoulders. Some type of soft fabric—silk?—cascaded along my skin. Instead of the drawing in my left hand, I held a bouquet of flowers: vanda orchids, a glorious combination of purple and white, surrounded by a sea of lush greenery I couldn’t identify.

“Chloe! Smile for goodness sake. This is your wedding day,” an unknown male voice called out from in front of me. “Stand a little closer to your handsome groom.”

As if on autopilot, my body obeyed the commands. I tightened the gap between me and the unknown masculine form next to me. My lips stretched into a smile. I heard the whir of a camera.


“Good! Perfect!” the same man shouted.

What the stranger initially said finally penetrated through the thick smog that coated my brain. My groom? My wedding day? Had I somehow become a part of the drawing? I’d seen enough strange occurrences in my life to accept that as a reasonable explanation.

But wow. A rush of lightheadedness hit. My legs grew weak. I leaned further to the right, using the solid, firm form of the man standing beside me to stay upright. His arm tightened around my waist, adding support, shoring me up. The camera made more whirring noises, and while I tried to tilt my head to look at my groom, I couldn’t. An unexplainable force held me still, and I could do nothing but stare straight ahead. Not a pleasurable feeling.

“We’re set for now. We’ll get some more shots at the reception,” the photographer said. “I think you’ll both be really pleased!”

Whatever vise had seized me suddenly evaporated, so I slowly tipped my head, intent on learning who stood beside me. Excitement, anticipation, fear, worry and a host of other emotions I didn’t bother trying to name swarmed my senses. I saw a black tux, a white shirt, a strong physique. Slanting my vision up another degree, a chiseled chin came into view, and then… Oh, God.

Ben Malone.

All the blood-pumping desire I’d experienced earlier came back in a flash. No surprise there. But when he angled his body toward me, dipped his chin so our eyes could meet… Well, that was when the real bombshell hit. This Chloe, the one in the drawing, loved this man with an intensity I’d never before felt. Bright. Strong. Everlasting. And that same love reflected back to me in the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. This Chloe—the girl who wasn’t yet me, but whom, if I played my cards right, I could potentially become—was loved. Truly, to the depths of her soul, loved.

“Kiss me,” I whispered.

He smiled, bent over and pulled me against him. I closed my eyes, ready to finally experience the kiss I’d waited my entire life for. Would his lips be hard or soft? Would his mouth ravage mine, or would his kiss be slow and intoxicating? I wanted to know, and I wanted to know right that instant.

“Kiss me,” I said again.

“Chloe. Wake up, honey.” Alice’s voice seeped into my awareness first. Her hand, lightly slapping my cheek, came next. “Snap out of it.”

---

Whoa, right? Poor Chloe! Engaged to one man when the man who might be her soul mate enters her life. Of course, everything goes crazy from here. Chloe's magic begins, the family ghost is less-than-helpful, and a strange, sad girl keeps showing up, asking for Chloe's assistance.

As I said, this story holds a very special place in my heart. I hope you'll give it a read and love it as much as I do!

To celebrate this release, I am giving away one signed copy of A Breath of Magic! Entering to win is easy! Simply comment throughout the week here at TNG (though, only one comment per person per post/day will be counted), and I'll use random.org to announce the winner next Monday!

I also want to mention the month of mega contests I'm having at my blog beginning today. Between now and May 31, you can win a ton of great prizes, including a 30-minute free reading with a Clairvoyant, signed books, Borders gift cards, and much, much more. Get all the details at my web site: HERE, and remember to visit my blog for weekly details, including a calendar of events, specific prizes, and more.



Friday, April 23, 2010

The One Unforgiveable Thing.

Don't bore me.

Recently, I read a book that was the literary equivalent of dragging sandpaper over my eyes. I finished it... because I had to--don't ask... but I actually skimmed over the book's climax. Yup. The biggie moment. The dramatic reveal. The scene of *yawn* jeopardy. The... perilous... whatever... *zzzzz...*

Couldn't. Care. Less.

By that point in the book, I was so numbed by pedestrian imagery, lack-luster plot and pacing, paper-thin characterizations, and a parade of utter predictability only interrupted by a completely nonsensical "twist", that I didn't give a rat's butt about what was happening. I still scowl at that book everytime I glance at it on the shelf. "You BORED me! Stupid book!"

I can read less-than-perfect writing. I can read about characters I may not necessarily like. I can read about subjects that aren't my cuppa. I can--generally speaking, although this one's tough--read a book in a voice that might grate.

I can't read boring. This is not to say that I require a car chase and incendiaries on every third page. I've read books that were nothing but pages and pages of conversation. But it has to be dang good conversation. I've read books that have entire chapters consisting of almost nothing but lush scenic description. But it's interesting description.

I've read books stuffed with action scenes that lulled me into a coma.

I can't define it. I can't tell you exactly why the one will bore me and the other won't. And of course it's subjective. It's a case of "I know it when I read it!" --an unexpected turn of phrase, a plot twist I didn't see coming for eighty pages, a place or person that piques my curiousity. Something.

If I don't finish a book... I'll know that something was missing. I'll know that I was bored.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My "someday" pile

I don’t think I have much to add to this conversation that hasn’t already been said! I stop reading books for all the reasons the other girls mentioned. I actually have a pretty bad habit of abandoning books. In fact, I’ve noticed recently that when I have a discussion with a friend about books we’ve read or want to read, I usually chime in with “I read the first chapter (or the first 30 pages) of tha one, but I haven’t finished it yet. . .” Currently, there are about 30 different books on my nightstand in some phase of completion.

It’s not that any of these books are bad or even that I don’t personally like them. It’s more that reading a book is a big time commitment for me, and I have what feels like a million other things demanding my attention all the time. There are so many books I want to read (and I plan on finishing, some day), but there is also life, kids, my own books to write. My reading time is precious these days, so I only stick with a book that really hooks me from page one. Usually, it’s the voice or the main character or the story hook that keeps me reading. It’s hard to pin down exactly what it is, but I can usually tell in the first page or two of the book whether I’ll finish it or banish it to the “someday” pile on my night table. And some day, when I take a vacation, or my kids go to school all day, or I win the lottery and suddenly get lots of leisure time, I will finish those books!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When Am I D.O.N.E.?

Is it really 6:16? In the evening? ON WEDNESDAY? MY POST DAY? I have no idea where my week has gone except that I had the great pleasure of having lunch today with my lovely editor's parents. They are in Nashville for a business meeting and I got to meet them for lunch and drown them in superlatives about their daughter, Katie Gilligan. My editor at Thomas Dunne Books. Love my editor at TD Books.

And what does this have to do with the topic at hand? Nothing. But I'm using it as an excuse and a diversion because I'm not really sure what my answer would be as to why I don't finish a book. My other Novel Girlies have (as usual) such well-crafted, well-told answers about the subject.

As a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-bootie kind of person, I'll just say, well, I'm not saying, I'm just saying - it's as simple as this. If I find myself thinking off to other things while I'm reading then it's just not my kind of book. If I've had to struggle to get through the first five pages then I'm D.O.N.E. If I'm bored, or if I'm put off by the hero or heroine and could care less what happens to either of them I know it's time to stop. And I just don't have much of that these days anyway. Why? Because my novel is due into that wonderful aforementioned editor VERY SOON! And I must get back to writing my own book in hopes that my own readers won't stop reading it!

Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Good Grief! It's Tuesday Again?

I sat all day and ruminated on this topic. I contemplated all of the various reasons why I stop reading a book: plot, characters, pacing, sett--forget it, nevermind.

I can't lie. I didn't even realize it was Tuesday until about five minutes ago. My brain doth be fried. It's after five pm, and my house is a disaster thanks to a toddler with Godzilla-like destruction powers, dinner is still in the freezer, my dog is whining to go out, my son is bouncing a basketball against our glass patio door, and I still have about 1500 words to type today to reach my word count goal. (Which is, in case you're wondering, um, 1500 words a day.) The past few weeks have been the I-can-barely-keep-my-head-above-water variety. So, I guess I'll have to invoke a good ole cliche here: better late than never, right?

Anyway, time to address the topic at hand! There's really no one reason I stop reading a book, other than a missing connection with the main character. As a reader, I can forgive a lot. Bad decisions, whiny behavior, clearly putting one's self in danger a la a horror movie. But that's only if I truly, genuinely like the main character. If she or he is someone relatable, who makes me laugh, and who I emotionally connect with. Of course, there's no one way to achieve that connection, but as a writer, I just want something, anything that I can grasp.

Otherwise, I'll be shouting at the pages when she breaks up with her boyfriend, or have the sudden urge to slap her when she whines about her job. Truth is, we all do those things. But there has to be enough there for me to forgive those flaws...which brings me to another point. The main character has to understand that she/he has flaws. There's nothing worse than reading a book wherein the main character is so, so shocked when he/she discovers that there is still Work To Do, emotionally. Especially when we as readers are screaming, "DUH!"

So, for me, as a writer, the way this all translates into my books is that I must, must, must intimately know my characters. And often, my books begin with just a character. The rest all happens later.

Speaking of happening later, if I don't get this dinner started, we will all be eating around 10pm. Until next week!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why I Stop Reading A Book

Long ago, I always (and I mean always) finished reading a book if I started it. Not only that, but I wouldn't let myself move on to another book until I'd finished the one that was--for whatever reason--giving me problems. I sort of felt that if I'd paid/borrowed a book, then I was going to be sure I read the entire book, otherwise I'd wasted money and/or time. I think I also felt that if I didn't finish it, I might miss something that I'd love later on. I hate to miss things.

However, some time ago, and I don't know how long ago now, I finally decided that I was being...well, let's just say it...dumb. Because the truth is if I have to fight to read a book to the end, then I'm only wasting more of my time AND I'm really just frustrating myself. And both of those things are silly. I dislike wasting time more than I dislike missing things.

Trying to define why I don't finish a book is difficult, though. I'm a very forgiving reader. I can overlook almost anything if the story intrigues me and the author's voice appeals to me. I've been known to laugh at a series of coincidences that are not, in a way, believable--but that won't stop me from reading to the last page if I've become invested in the story. I've been known to re-read passages over and over because the writing in those specific passages was so awkward that I had to do so in order to determine what the author was trying to say. However, that also won't have me tossing a book aside. At least, not on its own.

Typos and misspellings and words used incorrectly drive me a little (okay, a lot) nuts, but as long as there aren't so many of them that they interrupt my flow, I forgive those, too. So what does make me put a book down never to be picked up again?

Several things, actually.

Probably the most important for me is the author's voice. I have to enjoy the voice that is telling the story. I have to believe in the voice that is telling the story. The author needs to be able to make me laugh, cry, fall in love, or shiver in fear. The voice needs to be reliable and trustworthy, and if these things aren't there, then I'm not going to read the book. I always read the first few pages of any book I'm contemplating buying to see if the author's voice hooks me.

After voice comes the characters. I need to be able to see, hear, and believe in the characters, otherwise, I don't care about what happens to them. They need to become important to me. People that I either am rooting for or (in the case of the bad guys) that I want to see get their just desserts. If the heroine is falling in love for the first time in her life, then I want to know why she hasn't fallen in love before, and why it's this guy who has stolen her heart. Characters, to me, are the entire reason to read any book--far more important than the plotline, though I love it when terrific character and terrific plot combine in the same book.

After character is story. There are some types of stories that I will never like, no matter how amazing the authorial voice or the characters are. That's just the way it is. I don't tend to buy books that tell these types of stories though, so I'm not likely to accidentally find myself reading one.

What about you? Without naming titles or authors (let's keep this friendly) what are some of the reasons that you will stop reading a book?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shipwrecked on a paper shore...

I am on an island. Have been all weekend.

It's called my dining room table. The storm that brought me here, one of words and em-dashes and ellipses...

I've been copy editing. So this entry's gonna be a short one. The deadline sharks are circling (or possibly that's just the cats wanting to be fed...)

My essentials on this lonely sojourn have consisted of a stack of marked-up manuscript pages, a pack of multi-colored sticky-note flags, a pad of paper, two pens (one pink, one peacock blue), copies of WONDROUS STRANGE and DARKLIGHT, my battered Complete Works of Shakespeare, my laptop, a (now-sadly-empty) coffee cup, and a half-eaten bag of cheezies.

No palm trees, gentle breezes, or shirtless Josh Holloway. Which is probably just as well, because that would just be a distraction. And I really have to finish these so I can courier them back to NYC tomorrow.

It feels a little weird. After this... I'm done. Done with the Wondrous Strange trilogy. Wow.

I might be a little sad at that... except I'm too tired at the moment. And it was also announced a few days ago that WONDROUS STRANGE won an award!! The CLA (Canadian Library Association) 2010 YA Best Book Award! You can read about it here on my personal blog! This helps alleviate any tendencies toward melancholy immensely, I can tell you!

So will a good night's sleep, I think. And maybe a Survivor-type Immunity Idol. Delivered to my copy-island by a shirtless Josh Holloway. Or one of the cats.

Where's my pink pen?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Getting "Lost"

I have to say that being an avid fan of Lost has pretty much ruined any fun or romantic deserted island fantasy I’ve ever had. If I ever did get stuck on a deserted island, I’d probably be freaking out about the possible smoke monster or Dharma project hatches or, say, nuclear bombs that might be hidden somewhere. Which got me to thinking, if I were stuck on a deserted island, I’d probably want to have one of the Lost characters with me, just because, you know, they’re used to this sort of thing by now. So that begs the question: which one?

I guess the obvious answers would be Sawyer or Jack, because, well, they’re Sawyer. And Jack. If you watch the show, you know what I mean. But, all male gorgeousness aside, Sawyer’s a bit too angry and hotheaded to rely on, and Jack is a bit too damaged and controlling. It would be cool to pick Hurly’s brain about all the dead people he’s talking to (aka great book material), but with our combined survival skills I don’t think we’d make it long enough to ever get off the island. So instead, I would pick Kate.

I know she’s kind of a murderer, but I’ll admit, I may have a bit of a girl crush on her. She’s SO tough, which I love! She can get out of any situation and handle her own as well or, probably, better than any of the guys on the island. She knows how to navigate, hike, shoot, hunt, hide, survive and somehow, her hair always looks good (and she has curly hair like me. Honestly, I wonder every week how she keeps it from getting frizzy!). If I were stranded on a deserted island, I would not know how to do any of the above and thus Kate would be my best chance of survival and/or rescue.

So what about you – which Lost character would you want to be on a deserted island with?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Island's Got No Power

My Desert Island necessities, huh? Let's see. I'm assuming I can't pack much and that there is no power on the island, therefore I've got major limitations as to what I can bring.

The first thing that comes to my mind is my mascara. CAN. NOT. LIVE. WITHOUT. MY. MASCARA. And while I'm at it, I'll give a shout out to my peeps over at Loreal. Love it. Love it. Double Extend in dark brown. Fabulous.

Secondly, a razor. I'm hoping that I'm island-stranded with a dreamy, prince-charming and the thought of me with hairy legs and pits just doesn't cut it for me with the romance of it all. So a razor it is. And hopefully it's not a throw-away Bic. I'll take the Gillette Venus 5-blade, thank you very much.

Next up is my Bible. There's no way I could be stranded for an indefinite amount of time without it.

And a pen and paper is absolutely crucial. I have a hunch I'd be able to write a heck-of-a memoir after finally learning how to be a minimalist.

There's no power on my desert island, so I can't watch movies or TV. That means my dreamboat and I will have to create our own fun. I'd like a case of Ferrari-Carano chardonnay. No glass necessary. I'd even drink it out of the bottle after chilling it in my personal island stream and have it every night with my halibut (that my man had caught with his homemade fishing spear) and a big fat juicy mango.

Finally, I think I'd like to bring a guitar. A piano or a harp (my first choices) might be a bit large, but with all that spare time, I'd like to learn to play the guitar. Since I can't have an iPod, I'd HAVE to be able to hear music. And if the case of wine has taken up all my extra space, surely I could at least slip a harmonica in my pocket.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Glorious Silence.

After spending the morning dealing with more than a few two-year-old tantrums, being stranded on a desert island sounds wonderful right now! I imagine there would be lovely water, a beautiful beach and glorious, wonderful silence, with nary a scream or a shriek around. Hopefully, I'd have enough notice so I could pack a few things.

Besides all of the essentials like toothpaste, toothbrush and contact solution, I'd say an absolute necessity would be my laptop. I envision having my trust Sony Vaio, along with a wireless internet card. That way, I could still go on Facebook, Twitter and keep up on my favorite blogs. Of course, it would also help if I chose to be rescued. I'd spend the days lounging on the sand, typing away at my latest book. I wouldn't have to fetch a sippy cup, or take the dog outside, or yell at the cat for jumping up on the kitchen countertops. I'd just spend my days writing and laying on the sand. I bet I could write an entire book in about two weeks if I had free time and silence.

Of course, after some time, I'd miss my husband and my son. So maybe I'd have to send a boat to pick them up and bring them to the island with me. Under strict rules against any loud noises or screeching, of course.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go fetch Elmo from under the couch. This, apparently, is a tragedy.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What would I bring?

Okay, I'll admit it. The topic this week was my idea. Now that I have to write it, though, I find myself thinking: Um...Why did I think this was a good idea? I don't know. I blame the cold I've had for the past several weeks.

But here we go. If I were stranded on a desert island, and somehow knew it was going to happen, so packed appropriately for the...er...stranding, what would be in my suitcase?

If I were smart, I'd say a bag filled with bottled water, but this is fantasy and in my fantasy, there's a lovely little spring of fresh water on the island and plenty of various tropical fruits to eat, so I'm going to focus on the other items I consider necessary to survival:

  1. The "doh" items: Extra Clothes, Soap, Hairbrush, Toothpaste, and a Toothbrush
  2. Essential items: Bug repellant, two flashlights with extra batteries (I'd lose one, so need two), matches (hopefully they didn't get wet and are now useless!)
  3. Photographs of my family and friends (because I'd miss them)
  4. A Survival book on island-living :)
  5. Coffee (Hey, I can use a palm frond as a filter, right?)
  6. Blank Notebooks and a Pen so I can write/journal/send "save me" letters out in bottles.
  7. Bottles!
  8. Do I have room for a travel blanket and a pillow? I'm going to say yes.
  9. A pin-up calendar of hot, sexy men I can pretend are my friends when I lose my mind.
  10. And, finally, books. However many will fit in whatever space is left over. I'm not sure if I'd choose my favorite reads or go for books I'd never read. Hm, maybe a mix of both. But I KNOW I'd stick to light, fun, romantic books...after all, if I'm stranded on a desert island, I really don't need to bring Stephen King along with me. Too scary!

And, uh, that's about it. Now, let's say out of the above list I had to cut my choices in half. What would go? What would I keep?

  1. Um...Coffee is coming with me. That's just the way it is.
  2. Blank Notebooks and a Pen
  3. Soap, Toothbrush, and Toothpaste (I'll leave the hairbrush at home. Hey, who's gonna see my wild hair, anyway?)
  4. Photographs of my family
  5. And...um...I *should* say a flashlight, right? Or the blanket and pillow. Or the island survival guide. But nope, I'd bring the books.

Okay, so in furthering this game I'm playing with myself, if I could only bring THREE of the above, what would it be?

That's easy: Coffee, photographs of my family, and books.

I can't reduce the list any further. Really. Nope, huh-uh, not happening.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Monday!