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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Feeling Lucky?

There are some people who always seem to get lucky -they get the best gift in the grab bag, they manage to get picked out in a crowd to compete for some fabulous prize, and they always find the last empty seat in a game of musical chairs. Well, I've never considered myself terribly lucky (but I continue to buy lottery tickets, none the less).

In fact, the one time I had my chance to win something I was in a totally different state with no way to claim my prize. I was driving up to Massachusetts from Connecticut to visit two colleges and while I was flying at 70 mph up Route 91, there was a radio station on Long Island announcing my name as the winner of a pair of INXS tickets - if I called in the next twenty minutes. Well, this was back before cell phones, so my friends heard my name called but they had no way to let me know - and, obviously, the station didn't get reception in Massachusetts. My dreams of claiming my prize died before I even knew I had a chance.

Well, I've decided to change that because now I'm the one in charge! I'm having my own contest! LOCAL GIRLS and RICH BOYS come out on June 24 and I decided to give stuff away - specifically some very cool t-shirts I designed myself. It's so easy to win. No talent required. No calling in twenty minutes to claim your prize. Just a push of few keys on your keyboard. Check out my blog for more details. The contest begins June 6.

So what about you? Are you one of those people who walk away from the carnival carrying the big stuffed dog nobody else could win? Or are you like me, driving along unaware that lady luck will be rocking out to INXS without you?

A quickie post!

Just wanted to post the link to an IM chat/interview I had with the amazing Sara Zarr. If you haven't read "Story of a Girl" or "Sweethearts," I highly recommend that you do. Sara was kind enough to give me a big fat blurb for the cover of "What Happens Here" and also to invite me to talk about the book on her blog. You can find out chat here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day, and Minding the Gap

Mostly Monday morning mutterings and ramblings today...

It's Memorial Day, and we're having a big ol' cookout. Screaming kids, burgers and dogs, beer and lemonade, music. It's the kickoff to summer, and it's going to be 80 degrees and pure blue sky up my way. But nobody says "Happy Memorial Day" because while what we're celebrating is saying goodbye to winter (in almost Druidic fashion, it's definitely about the change of seasons), the holiday is about remembering the men and women who have put their lives on the line (and often lost them) in service to America. Almost seems like a disconnect, but I'm thinking it isn't. We're celebrating the people who have protected the country by engaging in that most American of pastimes...the big ol' cookout. :)

Another way Americans celebrate Memorial Day? We go to the movies. Saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull the other day, and loved *every* silly minute of it.

Also...seeing that we're talking about music, and top albums, and that sort of thing, I figured I'd mention my two favorite musical acquisitions of 2008 so far: "Rockferry" by Duffy, and "The Cost" by The Frames (that one's really amazing). Also, at the Indiana Jones movie, I ran into my friend Tracy, who asked a "desert island" question. You know, "if you were stuck on a desert island and could only take....what would it be?" This one was ONE CD. If you could only take ONE CD, which one would it be? Hmm. One CD, possibly forever. I mean, sure, after a couple of months you'd hate the CD and smash it (never mind where you'd be playing it on a desert island, but that's not the point of these things). (Reminds me of a fantastic short story about hell called "The Jane Fonda Room," I think. Can't remember the author, either. But it's about a guy who loves Jane Fonda movies with a passion, dies, ends up in a pleasant afterlife where everyone gets stuck in a room to watch their favorite movies. He watches Jane Fonda films over and over. Eventually he realizes that he's not in heaven, but in hell.)

But I digress. ONE CD for a desert island. Easy. Bob Marley, LEGEND. There really is no other choice. (All right, Amy Winehouse, maybe, but thinking of her just makes me sad, and that CD hasn't lived in my brain long enough for me to decide if it's as perfect as I think it is.)

Last thing. Another cover, just for fun. I hope that Jen doesn't mind that it's not an MTV book, but...last week, another publisher released MIND THE GAP, the first colloboration I've done with my good friend Tim Lebbon. Though it's not a YA novel, it's certainly YA friendly, as it focuses on a teenage London girl named Jazz, whose mother is murdered. Her killers are looking for Jazz, and the girl needs a place to hide--she finds it amongst a band of homeless thieves in the London underground...and *then* things start to get weird. There's a supa-cool trailer for it at http://www.thehiddencities.com/, where you can also post YOUR OWN ghost encounters. Here's the crazy cover.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stephanie's Top 50 Albums

Two weeks ago, I made a new friend, Frank. A music and writing person. I absolutely love meeting people who are as passionate about both those things as I am. Oh and tattoos too. A group of us ended up staying out at the bar for much longer than intended and Frank told us how his music snob co-worker had challenged him to create a top 100 albums of all time list. I love music. I love lists. I was intrigued.

My boyfriend and I discussed this after we got home and I easily rattled off my top three:
1. In Utero- Nirvana
2. Live Through This- Hole
3. ...And Out Come The Wolves- Rancid

They are albums that never left my 5 disc CD changer from their release until I graduated high school and that stereo died. For numbers four and five, I knew the bands but had to seriously mull over which albums to choose. I ultimately chose the albums that had exposed me to the respective bands.

4. Social Distortion- Social Distortion
5. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me- The Cure

My boyfriend couldn’t even name his top five. Party pooper. (Though maybe he will give it some deep thought and leave it as a comment…)

Over the weekend, Frank emailed me his top 20. His choices were much cooler than mine. Though I was excited to see that we both have …And Out Come the Wolves in our top 5. And the fact that the Muffs s/t album is in his top 20, assures me that this will be a lasting friendship, not just someone who I thought was cool after I’d had a few.

Since I recently completed my 9 month task of listening to all the albums I hadn’t heard in awhile on my iPod in alphabetical order from Abbey Road to 40 oz of Freedom (the iPod lists numbers last), I needed to come up with some new creative way to use my iPod to entertain me. Yeah, I’m a freak, but if you had to put up with Chicago Public Transportation, you’d find bizarre ways to entertain yourself as well. So I decided to start on the top 100 albums list. At this point I am to 50 (actually to 53, but I figured I’d stop at a round number for our purposes).

I will list what I have below. Hopefully it will appeal to your inner music nerd and inspire you to check out new bands. It's probably the biggest window into my soul, I could provide you with. You may not think me very cool after reading the list. You may make fun of me on occasion (especially regarding number 50. I don’t care, I loved that band when I was eleven and it lingers). It would be a lot easier to make a list of current favorite albums, many of my current favorites had to be shoved out for albums like Abbey Road, which I don’t really listen to anymore, but that album bred my love for rock ‘n’ roll and therefore deserves a high place on the list. Also for example, there are many punk albums I love more than Nevermind the Bollocks, but it was my exposure to punk, so it is high up on the list. Both Calculated and Disintegration depress me too much to listen to anymore, but those albums saved my life at certain times, hence in the top 50. This was very difficult to me. You have to understand that I have 604 albums on my iPod and about 100 more that are not on the iPod. But anyway I’ll stop blathering and just give you the list.

Oh wait, one more sidenote, I decided that box sets weren’t allowed on the list, but my Johnny Cash box set deserves an honorable mention, as does Nirvana’s With the Lights Out. I listen to both of those very frequently.

Continuing the list:

6. Sweet Oblivion- Screaming Trees
7. Frenching the Bully- The Gits
8. Nevermind- Nirvana
9. Coral Fang- The Distillers
10. As the Eternal Cowboy- Against Me!
11. Abbey Road- The Beatles
12. Call the Doctor- Sleater-Kinney
13. Pretty on the Inside- Hole
14. MTV Unplugged in New York- Nirvana
15. Fontanelle- Babes in Toyland
16. Bleach- Nirvana
17. Nevermind the Bollocks- The Sex Pistols
18. Little Earthquakes- Tori Amos
19. Siamese Dream- Smashing Pumpkins
20. London Calling- The Clash
21. How to Clean Everything- Propagandhi
22. Dirt- Alice in Chains
23. The White Stripes- The White Stripes
24. Bloodletting- Concrete Blonde
25. Superfuzz Big Muff Plus Early Singles- Mudhoney
26. Dry- PJ Harvey
27. Tim- The Replacements
28. Substance- Joy Division
29. Let's Go- Rancid
30. Sparkle and Fade- Everclear
31. Sing Sing Death House- The Distillers
32. Pretty Hate Machine- Nine Inch Nails
33. Goddamnit- Alkaline Trio
34. Operation Ivy- Operation Ivy
35. Goo- Sonic Youth
36. Murder Ballads- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
37. Searching for a Former Clarity- Against Me!
38. Sex, Love, and Rock 'n' Roll- Social Distortion
39. The Sufferer and the Witness- Rise Against
40. Disintegration- The Cure
41. Calculated- Heaven's to Betsy
42. Metallica- Metallica
43. Automatic for the People- R.E.M.
44. Mania- The Ramones
45. Doolittle - Pixies
46. Incesticide- Nirvana
47. The Muffs- The Muffs
48. Viva Zapata- 7 Year Bitch
49. The Winding Sheet- Mark Lanegan
50. Caress of Steel- Rush

Yep, so that’s it. I won’t subject you to the other 50 when I finish it. This was probably overkill as it was. I thought really I should make a top ten for Emily, my main character in I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE. But the problem is that some of the bands would be fictional. Maybe I will add a top ten for her on my website after the book comes out though… For now, I will share that her number one would be Horses by Patti Smith.

Now I would like everyone to join in my music nerdiness and share your top five or your character’s top five!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Every Book is Special

I had an unbelievable ride with Adiós to My Old Life. Seriously, it was total dream come true territory, with the good reviews and the awards and the fantastic fan mail from not simply teen readers, but readers across the board. Which was why I worried, when It's Not About the Accent was released out into the world. Like a second child, it was very different from its elder sibling, although if you looked close, you could still see the family resemblances. But like a lot of younger siblings, it sort of coasted under the radar. It's also suffered the downside of having had such a distinctive older sister—the inevitable comparisons, whether they're fair or not.

At the same time though, it's also had the end result of making the recognition Accent's received seem all the more sweeter for it. I got my first Publisher's Weekly review and it was good. (Deep sigh of relief.) The reader letters I received for Accent seemed a little more thoughtful and in many cases, far more poignant, due no doubt, to the subject matter the story tackled. And it also made it really special when I came home a few weeks ago to a phone message informing me that Accent had finaled in the Young Adult Category of the Oklahoma RWA Chapter's National Reader's Choice Award. It's special because the finalists are chosen, as the contest's name says, by readers. No writers allowed here, which, when you think about it, is kind of cool. As much as peer recognition is special, so is the recognition that comes from the people you hope are out there buying your book or will recommend it to other readers.

So thank you, Oklahoma RWA, for recognizing my second child and seeing that she's in her own way, as special as the first. See y'all in San Francisco!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How’s the weather?

Nowadays when I read what people chat about online, it seems America is becoming more homogenized in its experience, largely because of the leveling effects of TV (we all watch the same shows) and shopping (we all have a McDonald’s, a Barnes & Noble, and an Anthropologie—I hope!). But one thing that will always differ vastly from region to region is the weather. My critique partner called me to say it’s snowing where she lives in Utah. Here in Alabama it’s sunny and 80 degrees, but it looks like we’re about to get more tornadoes.

You might not think of Alabama as being part of Tornado Alley, but it ranks fourth among the states for number of killer tornadoes, third for tornado deaths, and first for the percentage of tornadoes that are F2 or stronger, cause a death, or both (lots of interesting statistics here if you are really wonky like me). You may not remember the freaking F5 (ie, largest, most powerful, scariest possible) tornado in Oak Grove, Alabama in 1998 that leveled parts of the high school and killed 34 people. But you probably remember the tornado in Enterprise, Alabama in March 2007 that leveled parts of the high school and killed 8 students. We're constantly bombarded with news about disasters happening to strangers, but hearing that a school was destroyed in your home state makes you realize it could happen to you. The local school systems must feel the same way. They have let out school early five times this year because a storm was coming.

A storm was coming last week. All morning I expected to get an automated call from the school system saying school was being dismissed early. The call never came. In the afternoon I drove to the school and waited in the carpool line with the other parents, as usual. Then I got a call from my critique partner in Utah: “Are you watching The Weather Channel? You’re about to get hit by a tornado.” Just then the phone beeped with another call. The automated system was informing me that school was being held over rather than letting out early because the tornadoes were already too close and no one should be out driving.

I looked at the car behind me, blocking me in from the back. I looked at the car in front of me, blocking me in from the front. I looked toward the southeast, where the tornadoes come from. I switched the call back to my critique partner and asked her to have my posthumous book royalties donated to the local high school marching band.

But by this time, every parent in the line had gotten the automated call, and everyone was walking up the hill to the school to check out their children. When I got back to the car with my son, the line of cars was moving, and we made it home before it even started raining. We watched the local TV channels (all the local channels broadcast nothing but weather when there’s a tornado warning) and gauged the exact moment when we needed to run to the basement.

That was Thursday. Friday was beautiful and sunny. Saturday night the eerie wail of the tornado siren woke us at 1 a.m., but the most violent part of the storm was passing north of us. The nice thing about everyone here being completely freaked out by tornadoes is that we have a great warning system and lots of information. We know the line of storms will develop in the Midwest (thanks, Midwest!) and gather strength across Mississippi. It will tear up Tuscaloosa and poor Oak Grove before it hits here in Birmingham. If the “areas of circulation” (read: possible tornadoes) on the weather radar enter our county, the warning siren will sound. But if they’re already north of us, we can go back to bed. It’s important to check. A few months ago when the siren went off at 3 a.m., the area of circulation moved right over our house. We spent quality time in the basement.

And now, another line of thunderstorms has formed across the Midwest, headed our way. Thank goodness tornado season is almost over. You can never be too careful at any time of year. We’ve had some doozies in December. But for the most part we will be okay if we just duck our heads and wait for June. And I’d still rather have tornadoes than hurricanes or earthquakes or blizzards or floods or OMG volcanoes, because tornadoes are my natural disaster, the enemy I know.

What’s yours?

Friday, May 9, 2008

My book is out!

And so “What Happens Here” was released this week! YAY! It was a really fun week, actually, which isn’t always the case when a book is released—not for me, anyway. Sometimes it feels, well, sort of anticlimactic, because usually you’ve already heard that people have seen the book in stores and Amazon has usually been shipping it for a week or two.

But this week, I participated in a really great reading at a branch of the New York Public Library the day after my pub date. I read from “What Happens Here” for the first and hopefully not last time and got to hear some other great young adult writers—like Libba Bray and Nico Medina and David Levithan and more—read from new works of theirs.

After that, I went out for an amazing meal with a few friends. It was the perfect way to mark the occasion.

Some fun stuff. I’ve been doing a bit of guest blogging. You can read about my brushes, such as they are, with Hollywood fame on author Maggie Marr’s blog here.

And you can read about how it was that I came to write YA here.

There’s also a fun interview with Jocelyn of Teen Book Review here.

I’ve got some other neat stuff coming up, like a chat with the awesome Sara Zarr and a Book Notes essay (about the music I listened to while writing “What Happens Here”) over at Largehearted Boy’s blog. Stay tuned in the days and weeks to come!


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Coming soon!


by Stephanie Kuehnert

A raw, edgy, emotional novel about growing up punk and living to tell.

The Clash. Social Distortion. Dead Kennedys. Patti Smith. The Ramones. Punk rock is in Emily Black’s blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back.

Now Emily’s all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home. Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn’t it lead her right back to Emily?


by Jenny O'Connell

Kendra and Mona are best friends, local girls who spend their summers catering to rich tourists and the rest of the year chafing against small-town life. Then Mona's mom marries one of the island's rich summer visitors, and Mona joins the world of the Boston elite, leaving Kendra and Martha's Vineyard behind. When Mona returns the following summer, everything is different. Now Mona spends her days sunbathing with her private school friends, while Kendra works at The Willow Inn--a job she and Mona once hoped to do together.

Unlike his sister, Mona's twin brother Henry hasn't changed. He's spending his summer the way he always has: with long, quiet hours fishing. Early mornings before work become special for Kendra as she starts sharing them with Henry, hoping he can help her figure Mona out. Then Kendra hatches a plan to prove she's Mona's one true friend: uncover the identity of the twins' birth father, a question that has always obsessed Mona. And so she begins to unravel the seventeen-year-old mystery of the summer boy who charmed Mona's mother. But it may prove to be a puzzle better left unsolved--as what she is about to discover will change their lives forever...


by Jenny O'Connell

For seventeen-year-old Winnie, summer can't arrive fast enough--anything to get out of the house and escape the cold war brewing between her parents. With her older sister Shelby spending the summer in Boston, Winnie's left to deal with the situation all by herself. Which is why she's happy to spend all day away from home at a cushy job--camp counselor at the prestigious Oceanview Inn.

When the Barclays, a wealthy summer family, offer Winnie an additional babysitting job in the evenings after work, she jumps at the opportunity. Little Cassie Barclay is fun to take care of, and hanging out in the gorgeous Barclay mansion overlooking the harbor is far more pleasant than being on the front lines of the battle between her parents.

Then Cassie's older and devastatingly attractive stepbrother Jay arrives on the island after a disastrous first year at college, and he seems to want nothing more than to wreak havoc for his stepmother and the rest of his family. Winnie soon discovers that life in the Barclay home isn't so perfect after all, and what was supposed to be a carefree summer escapade is quickly becoming more complicated than she ever thought possible...


by Kelly Parra

Secrets. Everyone has them. Some are bigger than others, and sometimes the only way to keep them from consuming you is to whisper them on a weblog. Kara Martinez hides a surreal secret that she reveals only on an anonymous website--Kara sees signs of premonition. When one vision leads her to a dangerous boy from a rough side of town, she is thrust into a conflict between teen rivals. Despite her family’s concern, she can’t stop her growing feelings for him or the brutal images she sees on others around him. While those closest to her begin to look into the secrets, Kara must stop one fate from turning deadly and its fatal outcome from becoming her own.


by Christopher Golden

Times Square, New York City: The first ever mass séance is broadcasting live on the Sunrise morning show. If it works, all the spirits of the departed on the other side will have a brief window—just a few minutes—to send a final message to their grieving loved ones.

Clasping hands in an impenetrable grip, three mediums call to their spirit guides as the audience looks on in breathless anticipation. Then the mediums slump over, slack-jawed—catatonic. And in cemeteries surrounding Manhattan, fragments of old corpses dig themselves out of the ground. . . .

The spirits have returned. The dead are walking. They will seek out those who loved them in life, those they left behind . . . but they are savage and they are hungry. They are no longer your mother or father, your brother or sister, your best friend or lover.

They are soulless.

The horror spreads quickly, droves of the ravenous dead seeking out those they left behind—shredding flesh from bone, feeding. But a disparate group of unlikely heroes—two headstrong college rivals, a troubled gang member, a teenage pop star and her bodyguard—is making its way to the center of the nightmare, fighting to protect their loved ones, fighting for their lives, and fighting to end the madness.

Monday, May 5, 2008


I haven't shared the cover for INVISIBLE TOUCH (September 16th) on the MTV blog, so I'd thought I'd take the opportunity since I received some cool blurbage. :) :)

I really love the cover! I feel the cover is eye-catching and conveys a paranormal and urban feel that I believe INVISIBLE TOUCH has. I'm eager to get the slogan for the novel so I can start blabbing about it. haha.

Here are a few quotes from some awesome writers who took the time to read TOUCH.
“A magical blending of mystery, romance, and deep and dangerous secrets. Kelly Parra’s Invisible Touch is an action-packed coming-of-age novel, sure to keep readers turning pages and begging for a sequel.” – Laurie Faria Stolarz, Bestselling Author of Blue is for Nightmares, and Deadly Little Secret

"Invisible Touch is a fast-paced, gripping book full of teenage secrets, alienation and hidden pain. It’s also incredibly tender and full of hope and made me stay up all night to finish it." ~ Amanda Ashby, author of You Had Me at Halo and Zombie Queen of Newbury High

"Readers are going to delight in this fast-paced, gripping story, and be kept spellbound until its surprising finish." ~ Tina Ferraro, author of How To Hook A Hottie

Thanks for letting me share!

~kelly parra

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Working Until Dawn

Ah, I hear you Christopher! Workaholics Anonymous, I've been a member pretty much since age 14. And I am really rotten about keeping up my own blog (caralockwood.blogspot.com), especially these days, as I'm working on two adult novels at the same time. I don't recommend this kind of overbooking for anyone's sanity.

But, this month, I wanted to tell you about some work I've actually finished (ah, the lovely sound of that phrase), including a short story/essay you might like. I'm in a new anthology celebrating Stephenie Meyer that hits Borders bookshelves in a few weeks.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a HUGE fan of Stephenie Meyer. She’s the author of the Twilight series. Twilight, of course, is the improbable but touching love story between teen Bella and Edward, a vampire. It’s a book I wish I had written, mostly because it’s so darn riveting. I can’t put any of Meyer's books down! Who cares if they’re 600 pages? I’m going to sit there until I finish the darn thing.

For those of you die-hard Twilight fans like me who are impatiently waiting for the release of new book, Breaking Dawn (or the Twilight movie in December!), there’s hope for a Twilight fix before then. The new anthology (published by Ben Bella books) is called A New Dawn, and it’s all about Meyer and her series.

Several authors (including moi) write about the books. My essay is all about the REAL town of Forks (yes, it does exist, and, yes, it is very, very rainy). But there is also a budding Twilight tourism explosion there, as dozens of people flock to the place so they can see first hand where Bella and Edward first meet. The anthology is edited by New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins, and has a fresh take on Bella, Edward, Jacob and the rest of Forks, Wash.

The anthology is only available at Borders, and it should hit stores by June 1. For those of you interested in reading an excerpt, go to www.teenlibris.com/teenlibris3_NewDawn.html.
And to read more about Ben Bella books for teens, head to www.teenlibris.com.