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Friday, February 26, 2010

What jobs did you have as a teen?

This question separates the country mouse from the city mice. I grew up outside a small Iowa town where jobs for teens were scarce. The farm kids had a skill set that was in high demand; the town kids cornered the soda fountain, grocery store, paper route circuit. As a country kid without a farm, I scrambled for the leftovers.

The summer after freshman year, I detasseled corn, which is possibly the simplest job ever. First, the crew bosses determine which week in July will be the hottest and most humid. Then they load a bunch of unsuspecting girls into a cattle truck and dump them by a cornfield at 5 o’clock in the morning. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, we trudged between the rows of dew-drenched corn and tugged the tassels off the tops of the plants. The rules were strict: no music or talking. Yeah, right. In a couple hours we were soaked with dew and sweat, thirsty, and seriously in need of a bathroom. Bathroom? That consisted of getting a friend to act as lookout and squat in what you hoped was a vacant row. Two weeks of that were enough for me.

Sophomore summer my mother bravely offered to let me work for her. She was County Auditor with a very cool office on the second floor of the courthouse. By cool I mean it was air-conditioned with indoor plumbing, which put it several levels above being cut by corn leaves and peeing on the ground. Mom was proud of the position she’d earned in county government, and her nerves were shot by the end of August. I wasn’t an awful employee, but my typing and calculating skills were so-so, and I usually skidded through the door every morning just after 8 o’clock. Mom didn’t invite me for a return engagement.

The next two summers and school breaks I worked full-time at the local chicken farm. It was indoors, air-conditioned, and there was a bathroom, but the smell would bring tears to a maggot’s eyes. Except for the owner and his two (gorgeous) sons, the employees were women. Susan, a girl my age from a nearby small town, worked summers and breaks, too, which kept me from being totally stranded with women my mother’s age. Our job was to collect the eggs, dry them, and put them on flats as they came out of the washer on a conveyor belt. On down the line we removed them from the flats and put them in cartons, weeding out the cracked eggs or “checks.” Another part of the job was breaking the cracked eggs into large barrels that were shipped to local bakeries.

The biggest problem was that the eggs marched out of the washer six at a time and they just kept coming. My first week was filled with “Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory” moments as the eggs piled up and I freaked out. We were only supposed to stop the conveyor belt if we had an emergency like a broken egg spreading yolk on the other clean eggs. Until I got the hang of it, I waited until nobody was looking and smashed eggs on the belt just to give myself a break. By the second week I’d become an expert egg-handler, and by the end of the summer Susan and I had the run of the place. Phil, the owner, invited us over to swim in his indoor pool. And I had a brief summer fling with his older son Dirk who was 22 and (Gasp!) divorced. I was 17. Best summer job ever!

I could move on to my shoe store job the next summer with the sexual-harassing, deposit-stealing manager. But as the other bloggers have said, “That’s a story for another time!”

Monday, February 22, 2010

What jobs did you have as a teen?

I'm going to feel like the lamest of the lame, but I really didn't have any jobs as a teenager. Not for lack of wanting, but because as a musician, dedication to my craft was supposed to be my sole job. See, I wasn't just in band or corps as an extracurricular, I was also a classically trained pianist who'd been playing since age four and had every intention of going to college as a music major (which I did and which I wound up transferring out of, two semesters shy of graduating, but that's a whole 'nother story).

So I literally had no time to hold down a job, other than band fundraisers. I'd wake up early, practice piano for an hour, go to school, do the school thing all day, come home, do homework as quickly as humanly possible, try to squeeze in another hour or two of piano practice before either band or corps rehearsals, which generally took up to four evenings a week, somewhere in there, I'd have a two one-hour piano lessons per week. Friday nights in the fall were football games, Saturdays were competitive band contests. In the spring, the weekends became a little freer-- only one weekend a month was devoted to overnight camps for drum corps (where we had our freebie rehearsal space at a minimum security, state-run mental health hospital-- yet another good story for another time...). But with three weekends free, that meant I could practice piano up to five or six hours in a day (Oh, Czerny & Hanon exercises, how I loathed thee...) Then, come summer, I actually was able to relax on the piano practice... but that's because I was on a bus doing the cross-country tour that came from being in a competitive drum and bugle corps, which entailed fourteen hour rehearsals, outdoors, in some of the vilest summer weather, followed by contests pretty much every night, followed by more bus travel, fourteen-hour rehearsals, lather, rinse, repeat.

Good thing I actually loved all of this (with the exception of the Czerny and Hanon exercises *pauses to spit three times and throw holy water*).

And while I didn't have the experiences that a lot of teenagers had, either working retail or babysitting or lifeguarding or anything else that many of my peers did, I did receive remarkable lessons in discipline and really understood at a very early age what it meant to do something through the tears and frustration and sweat and disappointment because you absolutely loved it and just couldn't imagine your life without it. I get that some people may think it must have amounted to a gigantic waste of time because it's not my profession, the way I imagined for so long it would be, but it's proven valuable in so many other ways, indefinable and concrete. Being so dedicated to music opened up huge worlds for me. I learned history and culture and even math through music. It taught me a lot about perseverance and only shored up my own stubborn nature, both of which have come in really, really handy in this crazy business called publishing.

Maybe most importantly, it allowed me a creative and emotional outlet at a time that so many kids are flailing about, trying to find something with which to connect. And though I didn't know it at the time, it was sowing the seeds for what was to become my other great passion and ultimately, my career, because if there was anything a beautiful piece of music did, it was to inspire a story to take root in my mind; stories that I would weave as the buses rolled across miles of landscape and that I'd ultimately write down.

To this day music remains my greatest inspiration, so maybe my "job" as an aspiring musician really did pay off.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What Jobs Did I Have as a Teen?

This should actually read, what jobs didn’t I have as a teen?! I could not wait to get my first job! I began babysitting at 12 and got my first job in a store right after basketball season when I turned 14. My first job lasted two days. I gave my notice and worked two more days. The job was washing dishes at a gourmet deli. Let’s just say I don’t love washing dishes, but my friend worked there and got me the job.

Next I went to work at a greeting card/music store. I worked in the card department which was pretty fun, especially since my friend soon joined me. I lasted there about eight months and then joined another friend at a video/photo store. I guess combo stores were pretty popular in the late eighties/early nineties!

The only rule at the video store was that you couldn’t wear a tutu. Apparently my friend had worn one to work one day and the boss was not impressed! I worked at this store for four years and boy could I tell you stories about some of those customers. We also had a small adult film section that sent us into a fit of giggles every time those “special” customers came in and asked for specific titles. Let me also add that I grew up in a small town, so we got to know a lot of the customers.

I continued to also babysit throughout high school. I worked for many different families and enjoyed hanging out with the kids. Working at the video store really helped me save for some college expenses and provided a lot of entertainment!

I went on to have many more jobs in college—my favorite being the movie theater, especially since I met my husband there. But we’ll save that story for another time!

What Jobs Did I Have as a Teen?

I couldn't wait to get a job. I babysat from fourth grade on. I was a babysitting machine. During the summer I even had multiple families ask me to babysit all their kids at once, a "mini-camp" of sorts that really improved my cash flow. So when I turned 16 and could actually get "a real job," I was thrilled. But the summer I was 16 I didn't get a job, I went to a summer program at the Rhode Island School of Design instead.

When I got home from Providence in August I was SO ready to earn a paycheck! I went through the paper and found a job at a restaurant near my house.

First "real" job: Bun girl/hostess. You all know what a hostess does, but what's a bun girl go? I walked around from table to table with a basket of bread and buns and served people. The thing was, once school started I didn't want to quit. My parents weren't too psyched by the idea of me working during the school week, but they let me as long as it didn't affect my grades. And it didn't. I worked Tuesday and Friday nights and Sunday brunch.

Second job: I've always loved the idea of going to work in an office (you writers out there probably think I'm crazy). So the next summer I got a job working for a company that took newspaper articles and converted them to microfiche for libraries and schools (totally dating myself here, remember microfiche?). A bunch of women would sit in a large room clipping articles from papers all over the country and I'd.... paste them onto a piece of paper and code them so they could be photographed. Not exactly thrilling but I got to read every single article that passed by my desk. Very interesting. I even offered to work overtime and brought home boxes of microfiche at the end of the day and organized them by date and code. Cha-ching!

Third job: The next summer I worked in a jewelry store (Cindy Lauper's husband bought her engagement ring there... god, I'm old). I love jewelry. A lot. So working there was a blast. The store did a lot of custom designs so it was fun to see a piece go from a drawing to an actual piece of jewelry. We had a whole workshop in back where really talented jewelers repaired and created pieces. I'll always remember one customer who had a 14 carat gold, diamond encrusted barrette made for his wife. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, it was also too heavy to stay in her hair and kept falling out. Lesson: an elastic band is cheaper and way more functional than a $5,000 custom made barette.

Fourth job: Then I entered my "yogurt years." The next summer I worked at the Fountain of Yogurt in Arizona. I lived there for the summer by myself in an apartment and every weekend my boyfriend, who was in CA, would visit. I scooped ice cream and pumped Fro Yo (I also took classes at ASU so my summer wasn't a complete wasteland of dumb work). I love ice cream. About as much as I love jewelry. So this was a great job (if not exactly a high paying one). I loved making milkshakes and ice cream sodas and I loved serving kids. And my on-the-job experience would come in handy years later when I found myself behind the counter once again.

Other jobs throughout college: Public Policy intern at Planned Parenthood; Marketing intern at Springfield Chamber of Commerce; Summer assistant at a large Boston law firm; marketing intern at a hospital. And I also babysat all throughout college. So, yes, I like a paycheck. And I like to work. Although sitting on a beach doing nothing is awfully nice, too.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Olympics!

I love the Olympics, I really do, though I don't watch nearly as much of them as I mean to. When I was a kid, I watched them religiously. That was back when they held Winter and Summer Olympics in the same year every four years. An Olympic year felt like a huge deal, something really special and rare. I also had a lot more time on my hands to watch TV.

Now I generally catch the events at work. My other job besides author is bartender and at my bar, sports are always on. Or if sports aren't on, the sports news is on perpetual repeat. And since the only two team sports I really enjoy watching are baseball and hockey (well, I like soccer too, but it doesn't get much coverage in America), I'm bored 50% of the time. Lately it's been especially terrible because while I just don't really care about basketball (like many Chicagoans, I stopped following after the Michael Jordan era), I hate football with every ounce of my being. So for the last few months, my Sunday night shifts have been pure torture. Then, this week, figure skating was on. I was instantly and joyously transported back to my childhood.... well except in my childhood I wasn't watching figure skating with a couple of football-loving men in their fifties who had to give a running commentary about the outfits. ("Men shouldn't wear that. Is that chiffon?" "Isn't chiffon a color?" "Either way, men shouldn't wear that." If I hadn't been so tired, I might have thought to interject that if men shouldn't wear that, should they really be running around a football field in shiny spandex tights?) Of course, lots of mockery was going on about my favorite figure skating outfit of the evening, the German pairs skaters' harlequin look. I'm sorry but this was just too adorable. The only thing that would have made it better is if they did their routine to something like "Coin-Operated Boy" by the Dresden Dolls. They might have gotten the gold then:

Now when I watch the Summer Olympics, I mainly focus on the sports I loved as a kid, but never was very good at, ie. gymnastics, swimming, and diving and there are some sports that I'm not interested in watching at all (volleyball gives me bad gym class flashbacks, wrestling and weight lifting do not interest me & I hear they are adding golf which sounds brain-numbing). There aren't any Winter Olympic sports that I was ever even remotely good at. Though I did love to roller skate as a kid, so I think that's why skating is my fave. I remember the thrill of seriously cruising at the roller rink, or, more often just flying around the park on my roller blades, so I definitely dig speed skating because of that. I love the figure skating costumes and am amazed by the way these athletes dance and leap on ice! On ice! With really sharp blades on their feet! Kind of terrifying if you think about it. In fact, I think I might like the Winter Olympics even more than Summer (despite how much I love watching gymnastics, swimming and diving) because so many of the sports are total daredevil activities often involving high speeds and tricky leaps. I just can't imagine the rush of racing down a mountain on a luge or a snowboard. Though I also definitely wouldn't be able to endure that cold....

Honestly the only sport I have no interest in watching during the winter games is that one where they ski and then shoot stuff. I just don't get it. And I didn't get curling for many years but last Winter Olympics it was explained and demonstrated to me in the bar. The joys of bartending is watching the Olympics with an audience.... even if the audiences does make fun of your favorite figure skating outfits sometimes.

Ooooh and want to win some books while you are enjoying the Olympics? Who doesn't! Author Tera Lynn Childs is running a Contest of Olympic Proportion through out the Winter 2010 Olympics in which she reflects on a sport, pairs a book with it and then you can enter to win said book. Ballads of Suburbia got paired with snowboarding (the edgy daredevil thing), so right now you can enter to win it here.

What are you waiting for? Go enter! Oh wait, but tell me your thoughts about the Olympics first. Do you like 'em? What are your favorite events?

Friday, February 12, 2010

New cover!

Here's the gorgeous cover for Forget You, coming out on July 20.

And you know what that means. Together with Going Too Far, now I have an "author brand"!

I am fascinated by this idea. When an author writes several books for the same publisher, often her books are given a similar look to signal to readers that the novels are the same but different--if you liked the first one, you'll probably like the second, and vice versa. My favorite example of this is, of course, Stephanie Kuehnert's brand, which you can see in the right column. And the most interesting thing is that Stephanie herself seems to be part of this brand, if you know anything about her. She is cool and punk and urban decay.

(Maybe "urban decay" is not the right term. Perhaps Stephanie does not want to be associated with decay. I just have this term on the brain. I consulted my friends from high school recently on what foundation they wear to hide their wrinkles. Armed with this information, I went to Sephora and asked the consultant, and I came away with the ironically named Urban Decay mineral makeup. The Urban Decay people need to listen up to this discussion of branding.)

So. We know Stephanie is cool and punk and...let's leave off the last part. Whereas I am...what am I?

I am an author with chocolate on her teeth at a book signing. In contrast, take a gander at my books. On both covers we have a soft-focus super-close-up of a couple, so we know I write dreamy romance. My (*ahem* still VERY VERY SMALL) author name is printed in a mod font, so we know the books are current and edgy. Going Too Far has a tagline that makes you itch to turn the book over and read the description. But NOW that I am all established and fancy, I have even better things to make you turn over Forget You: a fabulous quotation from Romantic Times magazine, and the fact that I am an Award-Winning Author.

[Son: "But Mom, are they talking about your National Readers' Choice Award for Major Crush? Wasn't that, like, a really really long time ago?" Me: "Cool it, kid."]

And last but not least, we have Pirate Map Font.

And that's my brand.

What are some of your favorite author brands? And have you ever been dazzled by an author brand, only to meet the author later and think, "I can't believe SHE wrote those books!"?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

5 Thing You Might Not Know About Me

I was supposed to blog yesterday and I had every intention to do just that. It was my birthday and I figured what better day to share a few thoughts. Well, my day sucked!! And I'm generally an optimistic and positive person, but from start (Internet was down all day, spent 30 minutes trying to fix the printer - and it wasn't even 8:00 yet) to end (my son went to his fourth grade dance and was stood up by his date) it just seemed like everything was either difficult or just went terribly wrong. So my 42nd birthday didn't herald in the next year of my life in the way I anticipated but today is another day and I thought I'd piggyback on Danielle's blog and share five things you might not know about me.

1. I truly believe I am going to win the lottery. Really. Every time I play.

2. I believe that I could eat five Burger King cheeseburgers in less than 3 minutes (a bet I have with my kids that I swear we will actually test one day soon).

3. I named my son after a volleyball player - Troy Tanner. I don't even like volleyball (it hurts my wrists) but we saw Troy Tanner play in a tournament on Chicago's North Beach and I thought it was a cool name (his name is Tanner, not Troy).

4. I do not wear the color black - I know it's classic and supposedly looks good on everyone but black is not my color. I love navy blue. Or brown. But black, not so much.

5. I am deathly afraid of snakes (so much so that when my son thought it would be funny to drape a snake over my shoulders at a neighborhood party I went freaking nuts, screamed, ripped the thing off my neck and slammed it on the ground - only to have him look at me horrified and say, "Mom, it's fake." I'm sure my neighbors still think I'm a headcase). And I am grossed out by pretty much all animals that don't have fur (including worms, frogs, fish... well, you get the picture)

A room of one's own

I have an office.

With a door.

Now, for some people this might not be such a big deal. But for me, this is huge. When I first started writing with the idea that I might make it my career, my "office" was a large pine computer armoire situated along a large wall in the breakfast room portion of my house. This was when we lived in Ohio and our house was a modern take on a colonial, with the entire back of the first floor making up one large living area comprised of kitchen, family room, and yes, breakfast room. It's okay-- my kids were toddlers at the time and it made it easy for me to be able to keep an eye on them. I learned a few valuable lessons, such as being able to work with distractions and what working pattern was best for me. In those days, it was research during the day, in other words, something that could be set aside quickly and picked up just as quickly, then write at night. And oh boy, did I have some late nights back then.

When we moved to Florida, my armoire and I did get a room of our own—sort of. The guest bedroom area in the house was enormous-- big enough to house the guest room furniture, including the queen-sized bed, and my armoire. So there was a door that closed, but with a caveat. I had to desert it whenever my mother came to visit. (Side note: this was when I first started using a laptop as my primary computer-- at least I could pick up and move without much interruption.) This bedroom also had the misfortune of being right next to the pantry. And my husband had this horrible habit of going in the pantry, standing there, and nibbling on food. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to have someone hovering mere feet away while rooting around in the Tostitos bag and nibbling? It was like having an army of crazed squirrels camped outside. More than once I'd stalk out there, grab something, shove it into his hands and yell, "Take it and get out!"

Distractions are one thing, but this was genuinely crazy-making.

(Poor man... what he puts up with, in terms of my quirks...)

Anyhow, once I sold, I announced that there was no reason that I should have this huge room of which I was using maybe one-fifth. So I decided to get rid of the bedroom furniture, install a daybed to serve guests, and buy proper office furniture and bookcases and a comfy chair. And I did. And it was glorious. I was still sharing with the guest room, but now the guest part of the room was relegated to the background.

Of course, no sooner than I had put the finishing touches on the room than we decided we needed to move houses so we could be in a better school district for our kids. So we moved. And in our new house, I really, really wanted a proper office. And the house we moved to had a great space-- upstairs. Which wouldn't have been a problem except 1) my dog, not having grown up in a house with stairs, refused to go up them and if he wasn't glued to my side, he was whining; 2) my kids and husband. Who love playing console games and are kind of, frankly, slobs, leaving stuff all over the floor and tables and any available surface. No way was I leaving them out in the open where everyone could see their mess. The guest room double up wasn't going to work in this house was because it was way, way too small (it barely fit the daybed and a storage armoire), so I was left with using what had once been the formal living room. Completely open to the rest of the first floor and adjacent to the kitchen.

Really, I'm good at working with distractions. Managed to write two more manuscripts, including WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE (the next release), in that space, but it was less than ideal and I definitely felt rootless and sort of shunted aside.

Which brings us to our new house in Seattle. You can bet your sweet bippy I put my foot down this time. I commandeered a room on the main floor so Cranky Dog would be happy. It has four walls. A beautiful window. A huge walk-in closet that I've appropriated for even more storage/working space. I'm surrounded by my pictures and books and artwork and things that amuse me and make me happy. And there's a door.

The irony, of course, is that I rarely close the thing. I like being connected to the rest of the house and knowing what's going on, even if it means a little bit of distraction, but it's the psychological comfort of knowing I can close the door if I want.

It's mine. I don't have to share. But generally, anyone's welcome. Here, have a look. And even though it's not completely finished (because terrifyingly enough, I have more books to unpack) why don't you join me for a tour:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Five things you might not know about me...

Since Danielle got us started on such a fun topic, why not keep it going? Here are five things you might not know about me:

1. The house where I grew up was originally the general store in a little railroad community called Kennedy Station. We lived about 100 feet from the railroad tracks, and in the summers my brother Dan and I waited for the train to come by because our favorite engineer sometimes tossed us candy. Dan and I also entertained ourselves by running along the tops of the freight cars parked on the siding by the grain elevator. I’m still amazed that we jumped the gaps between all those cars without falling and breaking our necks!

2. I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like, and as a kid I tried to make pets of all of them. A partial list of my non-human friends includes garter snakes, mice, turtles, guinea pigs, hamsters, a flying squirrel, parakeets, chameleons, lizards, goldfish, guinea fowl, and, of course, cats and dogs. One family pet was a baby rabbit Dad rescued from Rex the dog. We raised Petey until he was full-grown and let him go in the yard. He never let us touch him after that, but he hung around for years.

3. By now you probably know I’m a runner, but you might not know I’ve run approximately 50,000 miles since I got hooked three decades ago. I ran four marathons--all under four hours--and I qualified for the Boston Marathon twice. My slowest, and first, marathon time was 3:43.19 and my fastest time was 3:17.49. I no longer run marathons, but I still run 35 miles a week. Very slowly.

4. I’m ambidextrous. I write and eat with my left hand and do almost everything else with my right one. I bat, brush my hair, and use scissors with my right hand, but if I’m cutting with a knife I use my left hand. So if you see me with a knife in my right hand, you’re safe—and so is that chocolate cake sitting on the counter. But the cake won’t be safe for long!

5. In junior high my best friend Susie and I discovered an island in the river on the east side of my hometown. An equally wonderful discovery was a rickety wooden ladder leading from the side of the bridge to the wilds below. We found lots of weeds and thorns and mosquitoes on the island, but we also stumbled on a deserted house just ripe for exploration. Susie and I made the death-defying climb to the island many times—and it was worth it!

Those are my secrets. Who’s next?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Five things you might not know about me...

At our recent SCBWI conference in Miami we were asked to write down five things about ourselves that people might not know and then introduce ourselves to someone new.
So here are five things about me that you can not read on the back of my books or on my web site.

1. I used to be a skateboarder in high school. I will admit I was pretty bad, but I had so much fun skating around town with my friends.

2. I was an extra in a Disney movie called Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss when I was fourteen. However, my scene was cut but I got to miss a day of school and earned $25!

3. In fifth grade my friend Fawn and I wrote a letter to Michael Jackson on my Snoopy paper letting him know why we should be cast in a P.Y.T video. Surprise, he never wrote back!

4. I have never watched a soap opera. Ever.

5. In high school a couple of fiends and I dressed really weird and went to an upper class mall to see if people would treat us differently. It was a fun experience and we were stared at.

Would love to hear what you guys have to say!

Monday, February 1, 2010

What Will You Be Writing in 2010?

The short answer to this question is that I hope to write two books. I'm a little bit frustrated with myself that I'm not going to have a new book out in 2010. That of course is perfectionist, straight-A student Stephanie talking (a side of my personality that people who don't know me that well or who just judge me by the way I dress or maybe the kind of characters I write probably are surprised to find I have, but I was totally the stoner kid who secretly cared about school.). The reality is this. I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE took three and a half years to write. I first had the idea in summer of 2002, worked on it through grad school, finished my first draft of it in September of 2005, did some revisions for my agent and then she started shopping it in January of 2006. It didn't sell until April 2007 and of course didn't come out until July 2008. Oh and there were 6 weeks of revisions in there too.

I started writing BALLADS OF SUBURBIA in February of 2006, and it took about a year to write. I did probably did about 3 months of revisions before my agent shopped it and then 6 weeks of revisions after it sold. That one sounds like it went faster, but really I spent a year way back in 2000 when I wrote an early version of the story and then I brainstormed on it while I wrote IWBYJR so I went into it with a really solid idea of the plot and characters.

So basically since February of 2007 when I finished the first major draft of BALLADS, I've just been revising and toying with new ideas and promoting... which took up way more time than I would have liked and that is why I don't have a new book coming out this year. But beating myself up over that doesn't do anything for me and probably the more important thing to acknowledge is that my story ideas take a lot of stewing. If I dive right into them like IWBYJR, they take longer to writer. Or if I let them stew for longer, they go faster like BALLADS. Now I want to make up for lost time and fortunately I've been messing around with 5 different story ideas since I wrote BALLADS. I lost interest in one, but maybe I'll figure it out eventually. I have two newer ideas that need to stew a bit longer, but the two that have been stewing the longest are ready to be written.

Of course right now I am in scary No Contract land. Idea #1 is in my editor's hands though and I'm hoping to have news about it soon. It is another realistic contemporary book like IWBYJR and BALLADS. You've probably heard me talk about it before if you follow my blog or twitter. It's about a seventeen year old vegan, anarchist girl named Zoe (I finally get to draw on my politically active teen days), who is constantly being moved from city to city whenever her mom, Ivy, breaks up with a man. Ivy is a bartender (so I get to use some of my bartending stories, which I'm excited about) and though she won't admit it, she is also an alcoholic. She acts much more like a teenager than Zoe does actually. As Hurricane Katrina is happening down in New Orleans, Hurricane Ivy strikes again, deciding to uproot Zoe from Seattle, the place where they've lived the past two years (and also my favorite city so I get to do research trips out there, yay!). At first Zoe goes along with this because two weeks ago, she ruined her life. Her best friend, an adorable street punk named Bender, kissed her and even though she may have feelings for him, she turned him down because she's still pining for her first boyfriend Gabe, a hot anarchist boy who has broken Zoe's heart repeatedly because he has no sense of monogamy whatsoever. However, after seeing the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina on TV and realizing what truly ruined lives look like, Zoe forces her mom to stay in Seattle so they can face their problems--which only get more complicated of course when Zoe's childhood friend Jake comes to live with them and Zoe's dad the Soap Star (yes, I get to incorporate soap operas, my big guilty pleasure!) reappears too and points out that Jake seems to be struggling with serious mental illness.

Oh god, I am terrible at those descriptions. Can you tell my editor writes the ones on the back of my books? Yeah... But basically it's about Zoe, her emotionally immature parents and her friends all having to finally grow up together.

Yeah, so hopefully that one will sell soon. I wrote a 50 page proposal for it, so then I would have to finish it.

And then there is the top secret project... the series of three books that I think I became a writer to write. I've talked before about how much I adore the Persephone myth and have wanted to do my own version of it. I attempted something last year, just using the skeleton of the myth with a contemporary realistic fiction story (ie what I know best). My agent recognized right away that it wasn't working and urged me to think about going paranormal/urban fantasy about it. I wasn't sure at first. Even though I read and love those kinds of books, could I write one? So back to the stewing.... Elements started to come together.... I remembered watching The Crow as a teen and thinking it was bad ass that Eric Draven was get vengeance on the goons who raped and killed his girlfriend and murdered him too, but part of me thought, shouldn't *she* be able to get back at the guys who raped her? And I always loved and identified with female archetypes like Ophelia and Persephone, but I wanted them not to drown or to fight back when they got carried off. I was a victim too in my teenage years, a victim of abuse... but actually I hate that word victim. I was a survivor. And I wanted to write something where the girls who are victimized fight back... I wanted a girl Crow.

So I took the bones of my contemporary story, which is about a girl whose sister has just died and she is dealing with terrible grief, something that I can relate to having lost three friends to sudden, shocking deaths in six short months, and I gave this girl a very interesting and powerful destiny, which she is about to uncover alongside her sister's best friend Persephone, the daughter of a model and one of the most famous dead rock stars in the world....

My agent has the first 80 pages of this one now and I'm waiting for her notes. But I'm hoping I'll be able to write and sell this one this year as well. I'm more excited about it than any other project I've done. It has all my favorite elements-- the rock'n' roll of IWBYJR, the hardhitting emotional issues of BALLADS, and now my beloved Greek Mythology added to the mix.

Yeah, I'm definitely making up for lost time.