Sunday, November 30, 2008

Free Books!

What's better than a free book?

TWO free books!

Looking for a gift for a friend? Or a treat for yourself? Then get on over to Free Book Friday Teens! For the next week, I will be the *featured author* on the site and then on Friday (hence the title of the site!) December 5th, Jessica will give away 2 books: one copy of LOVE, MEG and one copy of ALL ABOUT VEE - both signed by moi!

Gifts for you just in time for the holidays...friends and readers, I'm trying to do my part to save you money. That's just the kind of caring author that I am. No, no, don't bow down to me. Seriously. Well, maybe a little, just your head, that's're welcome.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving = Pie Time

A holiday of giving, yes? So my gift to you all is a brand new pie crust recipe. Please, please, your thanks is enough, no need to send me money...

I really only cook one thing well. Fortunately, it's an apple pie and who in their right mind doesn't love apple pie? Even I love it and I am not a sweets person (some would even say I'm not a sweet person either but that's kind of a mean thing to say, don't you think?).

I have used the same pie crust for years...years, I tell you! My mother gave me the recipe and it involves white vinegar and eggs and refrigerating for hours and although it does come out deliciously well, it's also time-consuming and fraught with danger.

So imagine my huge, happy surprise when I found a very, very simple pie crust recipe in my old Betty Crocker cookbook, one my late grandmother gave me when I got married. I didn't have nearly the right ingredients for my mother's recipe so this one seemed a decent attempt. I had a couple of people taste test it for me (thanks to HH and Yooli who volunteered their taste buds) and it was declared a winner!

Here I am making the pie:

And what it looks like before it goes in:

And what it looks like when it's finished:

Flaky and light and so very yummy. I was so impressed with this recipe and I'll use it again today to make a second one for my Thanksgiving guests (since my testers polished off half of it last night! Guess that means it was pretty good!).

So here it is. Use it for a 2 crust pie and fill with apples or other fruit or maybe banana cream or chocolate pudding. The possibilities are endless!

2/3 cup plus 2T shortening (like Crisco but I used an organic kind)
1t salt
2C flour
5T cold water

Cut shortening into flour and salt until coarse and crumbly. Add water by T until dough pulls from sides and can be formed into a ball. Then evenly split into 2 balls, roll out, and voila, you have 2 crusts for a pie.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thinking Thanksgiving

I was recently asked by Carrie at - a gorgeous site dedicated to all things beautiful - to recount my favorite part of Thanksgiving. Take a look at what I wrote and tell me what yours is. Believe me, I had a difficult time trying to pick just one! Thank you, Carrie, for letting me share.

In this post, I love how Joanna Goddard writes about enjoying a roaring fire in her friend's fireplace in Brooklyn. She is absolutely right about the "tease" of some New York fireplaces. They're usually all blocked up and if you could even free one up, you'd probably fill the house with smoke.

I do miss the fireplaces in my home state of Connecticut, which is kind of the ideal place to have Thanksgiving. Aside from all of the history of the state, the Pilgrims and the Puritans and the colonies and such, there's the weather which is far more conducive to roasting a giant turkey and attending football games than most places in the country. It just feels more like Thanksgiving in Connecticut than in LA, where some years I have actually served dinner in flip-flops!

But no matter where I am, the best part of the holiday is enjoying time with friends. I really do love cooking for and feeding other people. And this year I'm trying a brand new pie recipe! Yum!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Bits of Goodness

1. Celebrity Goodness - check out my latest celeb sighting here in LA.

2. Television Goodness - HH and I have been watching "Fringe," which was okay for a while but has suddenly gotten downright terrific. Before I put up with it because I was so missing "The X-Files," which used to be a big-time favorite show of mine, but I didn't feel "Fringe" was X-worthy. This week's episode proved it just may be its successor.

2A. Commercial Goodness - I hope all Trek geeks like myself and HH (and Paula Yoo!) saw the fantastic trailer for the JJ Abrams-directed "Star Trek" which won't hit theaters until May 09 (argh!) but will have me on pins and needles until then. Complete awesomeness!

3. Authorly Goodness - there are a lot of things I don't care for about LA but one of them is most certainly not the presence of some amazing authors. I have had the privilege of meeting up close and personal many of my very favorite authors right here in this city. Among them: Paula Yoo, CG Watson, Liane Bonin, Claire LaZebnik, Jordanna Fraiberg, Sasha Watson, Amy Koss, Kerry Madden, Sally Nemeth, Michael Reisman, Phyllis Gebauer, Janet Tashjian, Lisa Yee, Joyce Lee Wong and I'm sure I'm leaving someone out! How lucky am I???

4. Goodness Goodness - all you knitters out there, pick up your needles and get knitting some preemie caps for the Save The Children fund's "Knit One, Save One" campaign this year. They're so very easy to do! And they're so important. And don't forget to send along a message to our President-elect, Barack Obama, urging him to consider aid to needy children around the globe.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Honors and Privileges

As an author who sits in her bra and eats Puffins all day, occasionally leaving her writing desk to take or teach a ballet class, I take every excuse I can to get out and see people. I have to. Otherwise, all of my characters would sound like me. Or HH. Or Oprah and Ellen and the ladies on The View. So I consider it research.

This past weekend, I was invited to speak to a group of fantastic and fun writers at their monthly meeting of the National Writers Association Los Angeles Chapter at Mo's in Toluca Lake. It happened to be a day when the fires were raging in Montecito and freeways were closed and Ahnuld declared a state of emergency so I was doubly pleased at the turnout. I had a fab time, loved meeting everyone, and hope I get to see them all again, either in person or virtually. They even wrote about me in their newsletter (thanks, LaVonne!) and presented me with a framed certificate of appreciation (thanks Tom!). How awesome is that?

It's also pretty fantastic when you find out you've been honored in other ways, like when the State ofKansas puts you on their recommended reading list for High Schools and when California Readers puts you in their 2009 California Collection for California High Schools. I loved hearing these bits of news! I was - and am - so excited to know that an entire state (or 2) will get a chance to read LOVE, MEG.

But the one that made me laugh out loud was learning that a copy of LOVE, MEG is in the Rare Books Collection at the Central Branch of the Boston Public Library! Apparently, it was a gift from the Boston Authors Club and is included in the library as part of its Boston Authors Club Collection. I think that's pretty cool, actually, and I had to share with my immediate family who still haven't read the book.

LOL - or am I secretly crying? Hmmm...a fine line. I must get out more.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Stupid Writer Tricks

The thing about writing for me is that I have to sort of rev my engine a bit when I'm beginning a new project. I spend a lot of time working on the outline so I know exactly where I'm going when I start. I know lots of writers work "organically," starting with a character or two and maybe a general idea of the plot and then they let it happen from there.

That scares the hell out of me!

If I did it that way, I would write and write and get off track and maybe get back on track and editing and rewriting would be a major hassle. Instead, I spend as much time as I can developing the outline, knowing what some candy bar scenes will be, and listening to the voice of my narrator. Only when it's bursting out of my head do I begin.

Believe me, I have started too soon and although I have finished those books, they are pure crap.

So now I have my outline and I'm raring to go...but it takes me a little while to build up to my 2K per day output. I have to gradually leave the real world behind and enter the one I have created and it's hard to let go sometimes. Especially now, while I'm constantly checking things on the internet and I'm worried about the books I have out there and if people like them and asking myself what I can possibly do to earn more money...augh!!!!!!!

I won't be comfortable that I know where I'm going and what I'm doing until I hit the 150 page mark - that's about halfway through the story for me. I'm struggling a bit now, and it's taking me far longer to get my word count this week. To help me along, I'm trying something I've never done before: I am posting pictures in front of my work area of what I think my characters look like.

It just came to me last night...I was flipping through some holiday catalogs and I realized many of the models sort of resembled characters from my new book. It takes place in a tiny New England town and these models were all wearing LL Bean type clothes and were posed in fake snow. Perfect! I cut out a few pictures and now I'm going to place them on my corkboard so I can see them as I work. Maybe it will inspire me!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Cool Things and 1 Sad Thing

1. Talk Thing - Tomorrow I'll be giving a presentation to the National Writers Association Los Angeles Chapter in Burbank. I call it "Just Finish It!" because that's the number one piece of advice I have for writers. It's at Mo's Restaurant on Riverside Drive at 9:30A, if anyone is interested.

2. Read Thing - On Sunday, I heard Sasha Watson read from her brand new book, Vidalia in Paris (how awesome are books with V-named main characters???). I'm so psyched to read it! Here is a photo of me with Sasha and YA authors Paula Yoo and Michael Reisman, taken by HH with Paula's way cool camera.

3. Watch Thing - HH and I have been enamored of Chef Ramsay since we first saw the British version of his "Kitchen Nightmares" show. Now in its second vitriolic yet altruistic season, we still love it. And him.
4. See Thing - San Francisco Ballet is performing in LA this weekend. They are gorgeous! I saw them do "Don Q" years ago and it was unforgettable. I love that they are a very diverse company (i.e. not everyone is skinny and pale).

And now...

1. Sad Thing - Michael Crichton passed away at the age of 66 on November 9. Prolific author of so many amazing books, creator of one of the longest-running dramas on television, a screenwriter and director, software company owner, and oh yeah, a doctor, Crichton packed SO MUCH into his life. I can only hope to achieve a tiny amount of his success and I will consider myself successful.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


This is my new favorite movie. I definitely want to own a copy. Amazing cast (Robert DeNiro, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer), great effects, and the story is just wonderful. Based on a Neil Gaiman graphic novel, it's a fairy tale for adults (as Gaiman described it in an interview). A young man, Tristan, is in love with Victoria, a selfish young woman who asks him to retrieve a fallen star for her as proof of his love for her. To get the star, he must go to a foreign, enchanted land.

Claire Danes is the luminous star. And not just Tristan is after her. She also has a ruby necklace the king's son wants and a heart that can provide eternal life for a witch (Pfeiffer) and her sisters.

It's romantic and funny with action but it's not a romantic comedy. The director, Matthew Vaughn who was also a co-writer of the script with Jane Goldman, knows exactly what he's doing. He lets the actors do what they need to but reigns them in before they go over the top. This is a "Princess Bride" for a new generation. It's what Terry Gilliam should have directed instead of "The Brothers Grimm."

I think the marketing team at Paramount didn't know what to do with this one. Many graphic novels reach a lot of demographics at once - they don't have the sorts of constraints lots of novels and movies do - because so many different kinds of people can read and appreciate them for very different reasons. So where do you position this film? Not a true romance or comedy or action or fantasy. Even the star power is playing against type: DeNiro as a fey pirate and Pfeiffer as an old evil crone.

I hope it gets a new life on DVD and becomes as popular as "Princess Bride" (I actually prefer "Stardust" but then I am biased toward anything that stars Michelle Pfeiffer).

Monday, November 10, 2008

New show: Ruby

A new show to check out: Ruby

As many people who have read my novel, ALL ABOUT VEE, know, people with weight issues are very close to my heart. I've had my own battles - and continue to wage them even as I get older and presumably wiser - so I can empathize with both the overweight and underweight who suffer.

The story of Ruby, which is chronicled in a mini-reality series on Style channel beginning last night, is a touching one. Many people might look at Ruby and think she's lazy or weak-willed, that if only she really wanted to lose weight, she could do it.

It's never that easy. Please.

But one of the most unusual things about Ruby is that she's basically a very happy individual. Certainly, she is on this program to document her weight loss, but that's because her doctor has told her in no uncertain terms that she will die much too early if she doesn't take off some weight. She's happy. She has great friends. She loves life. I hope she's able to maintain her happiness even as she goes through what will be a very difficult - and public - time.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Can you feel it?

The winds of change are blowing through and although I wish they were a bit more balmy than they are, at least they will bring a much-needed dramatic shift in the currents.

For so long I have personally felt at odds with the cultural climate. I didn't understand the raging interest in reality television that encouraged bad behavior among its contestants. I didn't understand how people could be so cruel to one another under the guise of anonymity on the internet. I didn't understand how people in cars could have no respect for the people around them. If anyone was naming this past decade the "end of days," I believe they could point their collective finger at how we have treated each other as evidence.

I have repeatedly called this decade "thin and cheesy." As in, we are living in thin and cheesy times. The books and movies and television and art we are leaving for the next generation are insubstantial and cheaply made. It's like the "me decade" and the "greed is good" attitude tossed together with the obligatory 15 minutes of YouTube fame. People expect to have things handed to them because they taped their cat playing the piano. And why not? Someone else got a million-plus hits for their baby laughing.

It comes from the top down, this lack of work ethic, which is shocking because we are descended from the Puritans whose work ethic and inner strength are legendary. What happened to us?

We need to change the way we talk about ourselves. It can't be "I" and "me" all the time.

We need "we." We need "us." We need "our."

We need to banish the "I" for a little while, unless it's, "I can help you."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I woke up SO excited this morning. Part of me is thrilled the long campaign season will finally be over but another part is simply awed that this is such an historic one. To think that we have the option of voting for an African-American Presidential candidate!

I have to admit I was a Hillary supporter until the bitter end of the primaries. I always admired her in the White House, how she stood strong when people were throwing things at her, always wanting to tear her down and poke holes in her cool facade. Perhaps she came off as TOO cool and people interpreted that as icy and detached but if anyone were to be in her shoes, how else could they react when constantly being attacked? Do you fall apart at the seams all the time? No, you have to be strong. And then when she won the Senate seat in her own right, I was so proud of her - and I continued to be supportive until things started to get a little ugly and negative at the end of the primary campaign.

I still think she would have made an amazing President - and a fantastic VP to Barack Obama - and I hope she has a place in the Obama cabinet, should (when) he win.

I am so excited to be voting for an African-American candidate. It truly is an historic day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Home Ec Flashbacks

At the first junior high I attended back in the Stone Age, both girls and boys were required to take home ec and shop classes. At the second one I attended, I was in the gifted program and we didn't have anything like that. And at the third, only girls took home ec while only boys enrolled in shop.

What strikes me odd about this is that the first school was in a very rural area of Pennsylvania, the second a suburban town near Philadelphia and the third was in a fairly progressive and liberal-minded town in Connecticut.

So I did learn a bit of wood and metal shop techniques but I spent most of my time in home ec, learning how to measure things in cups and ounces while the the rest of the world was using liters. I also learned to use a sewing machine and follow a pattern in that third school, which was fine and fun until I chose the same material for my final project that the most popular girl in my class did and everyone thought I had copied her.

(Ah but where is Popular Girl now? Last time I saw her she was drunk and flirting with my husband at our high school reunion...wear that dress well, sweetheart.)

The best part of home ec was the cooking. Remember, this was education for the public school students; nothing fancy, nothing complex, no super-costly items in the recipes. Everyone had to be able to cook something. I was reminded of them recently at a writers' group I attended when a woman showed up with a batch of cookies that caused me to go into flashback mode. So I thought I'd dig up some old recipes.

Forgotten Cookies
2 egg whites, room temp.
1 (6 oz.) bag mini-chocolate chips
2/3 c. sugar
1 c. chopped pecans (can add more if desired)

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly add sugar and beat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is stiff. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans. Drop by teaspoonfuls on aluminum foil lined cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put cookies in oven, close door and turn off oven. Leave cookies in oven overnight and do not open oven door.

And in the morning, you have cookies!

Marshmallow Crescent Puffs
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
16 marshmallows
1/4 cup margarine
2 cans crescent dinner rolls
powdered sugar icing
1/4 cup chopped nuts

Combine sugar and cinnamon. Dip marshmallows in melted margarine, roll in sugar and cinnamon mixture. Wrap a crescent roll triangle around each completely covered marshmallow and squeezing edges of dough tightly to seal. Dip in margarine; place in muffin pan. Put on foil and bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove. Drizzle with icing. Sprinkle with nuts.

Perfect for Thanksgiving!