Halloween in Brooklyn!

I am in some serious denial that it’s the end of October! And yet, there are Caramel Apple Milkyway bars on the shelves at CVS, and my neighbors have outdone themselves this year with spooktastic decorations… it’s definitely Halloween time!

I’ve been insanely busy since the summer finishing the Emma book, finishing the Allison book, and jetting off to LA for work-related stuff. I love Los Angeles, and it’s painful leaving every time I travel there, but lucky all of my time spent strolling around Beverly Hills is inspiring me to keep working on the sequel to The Rock Star’s Daughter. You haven’t heard the last of Taylor Beauforte just yet! I can’t announce release dates just yet, but the Emma book and Allison book will be available on Amazon and iTunes before Christmas.

Here’s a peek at the craziness going on in my neighborhood right now.

A fashionable jack o'lantern Fall flowers

I seriously love this!

I seriously love this!

overboard with spiders Clinton Street

Recipe for a perfect Brooklyn morning

I feel so, so lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time in Brooklyn this summer instead of in my office! Here are just a quick few things that I adore about my borough, and my neighborhood, in particular.

 

Manhattan skyline in the rain1) I live close enough to the Brooklyn Heights promenade that it’s within walking distance. Here’s a snapshot on kind of a gloomy morning, but the New York City skyline always makes me nostalgic and reminds me why I love living here.

Squirrels2. Squirrels are the real kings of Brooklyn. Their cousins, rats, rule the night. But these chubby acorn bandits are everywhere during daylight hours, and they aren’t afraid of anything!

 

Sunshine3. When the sun peeks through the clouds after a rainstorm in Brooklyn, it feels like you’re stepping back in time 100 years. The brownstones are so beautiful, and my neighbors put a lot of effort into decorating their stoops with plants and their window boxes with flowers. So charming!

 

 

 

Hurricane Emma… on its way

Hello, everyone! I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been so busy finishing The Tycoon’s Daughter and editing it for release that I

1) haven’t gone shopping in like… ages

2) haven’t gone to the beach in even longer

As I’ve been working on The Tycoon’s Daughter, I’ve been particularly sensitive to conversations going on around me about weight, food, and eating disorders, since that’s a huge part of Emma’s story. It’s always surprising to me, truly surprising, that so many women even my own age still struggle with all of these issues. So many girls define the quality of their lives on a daily basis by how they perceive their body to look, and ladies, we need to stop the madness.  I’m going to write a lot about this topic over the next few weeks, but in an effort to not be too preachy all at once, first I’m going to encourage everyone who has a computer to get their butt over to Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge.

Yes, it’s hippy new-agey stuff. Sort of. But it’s not just for old people, it’s for teenagers, too.

If you could feel better about yourself and see yourself as you really are instead of through the I-Hate-Myself lens by just spending a few minutes every morning clearing your mind and focusing on your own happiness, why would you avoid that?

Here’s a totally free way to have access to the world’s most famous physician and meditation guru: Deepak Chopra. He’s the guy celebrities turn to for help with establishing balance in their lives, and he’s made all of his best stuff FREE for all of us.

You may hate meditation. It may make you sleepy. That’s OK. The point is that too often we speed through our lives, letting negative thoughts build up. You are worth slowing down for a few minutes each day and focusing  on how YOU really feel.  Humor me. Just try it. And word: Jerry Seinfeld has been meditating for 40 years (since he was a teenager) and credits much of his success to it. So it’s not just for weird yoga people.

 

Reflections on the news this week

One of the most important things that I try to accomplish with the Treadwell Academy series is to emphasize the importance of acceptance among teenage girls, and fighting the idea of judging peers based on appearances.  From what I’ve observed and been told by my teen readers on Wattpad.com, today’s teens face a level of scrutiny from their peers that’s so much more intense than what I remember facing in middle school, junior high, and high school. It’s coming at them from all directions: their classmates, the media, even anonymous strangers on social media platforms. For so many girls, the message that they receive from every voice they hear is that their appearance (and every element of it) is the total sum of their worth, and all that matters about them.

What does this have to do with Trayvon Martin? Quite a lot. I’ve held back from posting my initial reaction to the verdict in the Zimmerman case because I do respect the due process in our country; being innocent until proven guilty is the cornerstone of our legal foundation and I have to trust that the jury did their job. However, I do feel that there were a great number of avoidable circumstances on the night that Trayvon was shot that could have—and should have – been avoided. The most significant of those circumstances is that Trayvon was judged from afar by his appearance: the color of his skin and his manner of dress.

It would be irresponsible for me to post this to my blog without being brutally honest: I’m a white lady and I live in a part of Brooklyn that was kind of rough until pretty recently. There are times, especially if I’m outside at night, when I feel a little glimmer of fear whenever I see a group of teenagers of *any* race out on the street. Teens do dumb things to impress their friends. They aren’t in complete control of their impulses yet, and can’t yet emotionally understand the full impact of actions. This is simple biology. When information surfaced about Trayvon posting about guns and weed on his social media profiles, I’ll admit it: I cringed. But what 17-year-old hasn’t been interested in really stupid things, and also done stupid things? 17 is the age when kids are only just starting to figure out what kind of people they want to become. Experimentation is part of that. What kids do at the age of 17 not a true indication of the direction their lives will take, only a reflection of the influences around them. The  part of Trayvon’s story that makes my heart hurt is that Trayvon’s chance to make decisions about what kind of man he would grow up to be was robbed from him because someone made an assumption about him based on the way he looked.

As an author, I see a glaring lack of reading material for girls with protagonists who any race other than white. I will fess up to being part of the problem – so far all of the books in the Treadwell series are about wealthy white girls. And what I’m getting at here isn’t that black girls should read books for black girls, and that Asian girls should read books for Asian girls; the point is that if a book is great, the race of its main character(s) shouldn’t dissuade readers. I have an outline written for a story about a character named Ameerah whose father is a famous music producer, but I am intimidated to write it because I am afraid I wouldn’t be able to do a story told by a young, female black protagonist justice. I don’t have an authentic understanding of what it’s like to be a young black girl in this country, and I’m terrified of getting it wrong and offending readers.  But I do understand what it’s like to be a young girl who wants things that her parents don’t want her to have, which is at the heart of the outline I wrote for Ameerah a long time ago. That story, I can write, and I have to ask myself just how important the color of Ameerah’s skin is to her character, and to the plot.

If you have thoughts about race in America, or race in YA fiction or fiction in general, I would really love to hear them. The last few weeks have revealed that there is still an enormous, gaping problem of racism in this country. We may have elected a black president, but as a country we are not doing enough to respect all cultures and view each other as equals. And this is painfully evident on the book shelves in the kids’ section of every book store I’ve ever visited in this country (not the book stores’ fault – where are the books, publishing industry?). We find our heroes in books, we understand our world through reading. 

Hello again, LA

I was just back in Los Angeles again last week (making me start to wonder if I should just move back!) for work, and fell just a little more in love with the city of smoggy sunsets.  June, although being the time of year when you can expect a gloomy, overcast start to every day, is really the time of year when the air smells like flowers everywhere, and afternoon sunshine can lift anyone’s spirits.

The trip began with kind of a funny misunderstanding: the car service my coworkers had called to book for our drive to Newark Airport had run out of SUV’s, so instead they sent a stretch party limo.  We were so in awe of this ridiculous vehicle that our driver had to fight off a cop (who you can’t see in this photo due to the fact that I was rushing to get into the limo) because we were obstructing traffic while we were all taking pictures. Riding in it was kind of like being in a bachelorette party, only no one was getting married, my coworkers are the least likely people to ever attend a bachelorette party, and it was the middle of the afternoon.

Our party limo driver, fighting a ticket.

Our party limo driver, fighting a ticket.

Our hotel in Beverly Hills was *quite nice.* The Thompson is on Wilshire Blvd, walking distance from one of my most beloved places in Los Angeles (the Starbucks on North Beverly Drive – what can I say? I’m easy to please).

The very sleek Thompson Hotel, where they leave chocolates and phenomenal lemon madeleine cookies in your room!

The very sleek Thompson Hotel, where they leave chocolates and phenomenal lemon madeleine cookies in your room!

While in Los Angeles, I finally had an opportunity to snap a picture of the house that I had in mind as the one where Taylor and Dawn reside in The Rock Star’s Daughter! Here it is…  imagine Chase driving up to this beautiful little house to fetch Taylor’s belongings.

The house that I imagined as Taylor's.

The house that I imagined as Taylor’s.

We also made a mandatory stop at the holy of holies, In-N-Out burger, for crispy fries with cheese and milkshakes.

Teenage boys worshipping at the burger altar.

Teenage boys worshipping at the burger altar.

And because it’s Los Angeles and in so many ways just an absurd, laughable city, here’s a picture of two Fiats parked in a row (something you would never, ever see in Brooklyn).

Fiat, Fiat!

Fiat, Fiat!

 

Now, back to writing the Taylor sequel!

Daze Off!

It is my pleasure to announce that I’ve contributed a story to Be Active Media‘s Beat Girl project on Wattpad! If you live in the UK, you’ve probably already heard about Beat Girl, because the movie opened in theaters in May.

Beat Girl is the story of a girl named Heather whose life falls apart after her mom passes away unexpectedly. She loses her scholarship to study piano at Juilliard in New York, and has to live with her estranged dad and trouble-making younger half-brother. But life takes a strange turn when Heather tries her hand at spinning dance music. She’s actually good–really good–and has to decide between pursuing her old dream and giving a new dream a shot.

My story, Daze Off, is about a girl named Daisy Chatterjee who’s about to turn eighteen and graduate from high school in London’s East End. If you know anything about London, then you know that the East End is the tough part of town. It’s the neighborhood where Jack the Ripper committed his bloody crimes, and where the very famous British soap opera East Enders is set (it was Princess Diana’s favorite show). It’s also known as “Spitalfields,” as in, All Saints Spitalfields, and was the site of one of the very first hospitals in England (dating back to the 13th Century)! Daisy’s been desperate her whole life to find a way to escape her neighborhood, and thinks she’s finally found a reasonable shot at fame and fortune when the band she started has a chance to join a huge summer rock tour across the U.K. However, Daisy’s absolutely floored when her band mates–all guys– tell her that they’re kicking her out of the band to go on tour with out her, billing themselves as a wild & crazy boy band.

Daze Off

 

 

Daisy’s so upset, she’s not sure what to do. Even her own boyfriend, Mike, didn’t have the heart to stick up for her and insist that she go on tour with the guys.  All she wants to do is play drums and get famous, and she knows she’s got the talent to make it happen. She has a decision to make: wait hopefully for another chance at success, or create one for herself.

Here’s the trailer for the Beat Girl movie:

Your BEA Action Plan

Hello, friends! If you’re going to be among the masses descending upon NYC this week for BEA, here are some of my own treasured tips to help you make the most of the Expo.

1) Eat a big breakfast. Really go for it at your hotel or wherever you’re staying, because food at the Javits Center is a) pretty gross and b) ridiculously overpriced. So unless you’re attending one of the breakfast buffets as part of the Expo, load up on fruit and protein before you head to the West Side.

2) If you, like me, are a Starbucksaholic, don’t even bother with the one inside the Javits Center. I once stood in line there for forty-five minutes only to be charged more than $7 for a grande soy latte. Rip off!! There’s a perfectly fine Starbucks on 39th Street and 8th Avenue with a fast-moving line, and it’s open from 5:30 AM until midnight. You can drink your iced coffee on your walk to the Javits Center.

3) Bring Power bars, dried fruit, pretzels, and a bottle of water. As mentioned in item #1, the lunch options in the convention center are weak and the considerable lines will keep you from seeing things that you came to the Expo to see. This is New York City! If you’re going to spend big money on food, spend it where the food is good! If you’ve never been to the Javits Center before, I’ll warn you that it’s kind of a long walk away from… everything. Once you’ve loaded up on free ARC’s and t-shirts, you may not feel too enthusiastic about carrying your new winnings on a very long,  hot, five-block walk to the nearest sit-down restaurant. Oh yeah, and comfortable walking shoes are a must (see below about difficulty in catching cabs near Javits).

4) You might want to consider bringing Handiwipes. I’m just sayin… I’ve been to a few Comic Cons when the TP in the not-so-sanitary ladies’ room ran out early in the day. Every day.

5) Be careful at night. If for any reason you end up near the Javits Center after dark, please know that the West Side is still a little desolate and dangerous after the midtown crowds go home from work. It’s hard to catch a cab over there after rush hour, too.

6) If you’re hoofing it, check out the Muji superstore on 40th and 8th Avenue inside the huge fancy New York Times building.  It’s a good place to get cheap Asian snacks (mochi? hell yes!) and really cool souvenirs to take home.

7) If you have time to check out the book scene in New York, please don’t forget to visit one of our excellent independent book stores. There’s Books of Wonder for kids down on 18th between 5th and 6th, Idlewild (travel book store) a block away on 19th, and the world-famous Strand on Broadway and 13th, all in the Village/Flatiron area.  There’s also the very cozy Housing Works Book Cafe, home of a number of literary events that take place in this city for writers (and readers). If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, hop on the train and check out Word in Greenpoint and my favorite, Bookcourt on Court Street in Cobble Hill.

8) Most importantly: bring your allergy meds! Our pollen count is insanely high right now, and you’re not safe from the sniffles anywhere, not even indoors! A lot of our neighborhood drug stores are sold out of Claritin D and other common over-the-counter (aka behind-the-counter) allergy medications, so prepare.

Jamaica, Jamaica

Yeah, mon! I was lucky enough to visit Jamaica last week for a long overdue vacation. The weather was absolutely beautiful, and I was constantly impressed by how welcoming and friendly everyone in Jamaica is.

Here are some pictures from the beach, including one I took of the crab that was circling my beach chairs and planning to attack me for hours.

If you’re my follower on Wattpad, stay tuned shortly for some exciting rock ‘n roll-related news!

Sunset in Mo'Bay near the pier Sunset Montego Bay My stalker, the crab

With love to Oklahoma

Like so many people reading the news today, I am humbled and sorrowed by the stories coming out of the Oklahoma City area this week. If you’ve ever experienced a powerful act of nature like a serious hurricane, tornado, or blizzard before, you have an idea of how utterly powerless you feel in the face of conditions you can’t escape or control. It seems like in the last year, there have been so many admirable actions taken by teachers in our country to protect children from oncoming danger, and this week we meet a new crop of heroes like Tammy Glasgow, Julie Simon, and Waynel Mayes. I’m so profoundly moved by the bravery of these men and women, who in spite of their own terror, put the safety of the children in their care first.