Thursday, May 28, 2009

Need Wedding Hair Advice

I have a hair appt on Wednesday and I promised my stylist I'd decide by then what I want to do with my hair for my wedding. I think I'm probably just going to pull some of it up (leaving my bangs down cause I need hair in my face to feel secure and happy) in an antique barrette (I need a something old) and straighten the rest like I usually do. Because I want somewhat simple and I want to still look like me. But I foresee two problems with this. The hair that I'd pull back is kinda short because the hair around the top of my head is shorter and piecey. Though I guess I could just grow it (ugh, I'd rather cut than grow. I'm in a wanting to cut my hair off place right now.) a bit and it would probably be fine. And I need to know where to find a cute barrette!

But I figured other people might have hair ideas so I'd post pics of what my hair looks like now and you can give suggestions. Just bear in mind, I want simple and I want to still look like me, I'm not gonna do elaborate curls or anything like that. Also like I said, I'd rather cut than grow. So if you've seen a shorter cut that you think would be adorable do let me know. Or if you think I'm totally right about my pull back just a bit of hair in a barrette at the crown of my head  thing let me know. Oooh or maybe I should get a tiara and just straighten my hair like I usually do?

Yes, input please. I am overwhelmed and easily distracted.

This is the state of my hair currently:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Linda Gerber!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! Before we meet today's guest, last week's winner of Bad to the Bone by Jeri Smith-Ready is...WriterWannaB_NY from blogger. Please send your address to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com to claim your prize!

This week we have the fabulous Linda Gerber here and she will talk about her new book, Death By Denim. Without further adieu, let's meet Linda!

Tell us all about the Death By series. How did you come up with the idea for it? Did you read a lot of mysteries/thrillers when you were growing up?

Linda: The series actually started out as something completely different that what it evolved into. The idea originally came from a short story I had written for a writing exercise and grew from there. I didn't start out thinking, this will be a mystery, but yes, I did (do) read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, so I think I just naturally threw those elements in there because that's what I like.

Death By Denim is the latest installment, what's Aphra up to this time?

Linda: When the book starts, Aphra and her mom have been hiding out in France, where Aphra's been attending an international school under an assumed name and getting just a little too complacent... until the bad guys catch up to them.

What are five songs you would put on the soundtrack to Death By Denim and how do they relate to the story or characters?

Come to Life by Alter Bridge
Not an Angel by City Sleeps
The Pretender by Foo Fighters
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing by This Providence
Hero/Heroine by Boys Like Girls

The songs on this list deal with hiding, deception, betrayal, or escaping from the enemy - all things that Aphra and Seth have lived for three books now.

Since it's Women Who Rock Wednesday, we love to hear about the women who inspire you, particularly the ones who inspire your writing. Please tell us about them.

Linda: My grandma rocked. She also made me crazy sometimes, but she was stubborn and did what she wanted and was kind of a rebel for her time. My crit partners rock. We have been together for over seven years and they are always there with a word of wisdom or encouragement. Sarah Dessen rocks. Meg Cabot rocks. Stephanie Kuehnert definitely rocks.

Like your character Aphra, who is always visiting fun locations, you've traveled a lot. Can you tell us about your favorite place to visit and/or your biggest travel adventure?

Linda: How about my biggest travel mis-adventure? I have lots of those - like going to France with no luggage. (My husband forgot to load it into the car and we didn't realize it until we were at the airport. The upside is that I had to shop in Paris.) Or the time I left my passport in the Shunjuku train station and had to stay overnight in Narita because by the time I got it back, I had missed my flight. Or another missed flight when I got stuck on a train in London and got to the airport an hour late. Or...

Now for my standard WWRW questions. The first is a two-parter. What is the first album you bought and the first concert you attended?

Linda: My sister and I were a couple of the suckers who joined that Columbia Record Club years and years ago. Since our purchases came in groups, I don't actually remember which one came first, but I do remember lying on the old braided rug in our basement bedroom and listening to the Kansas Leftoverture album over and over again. The lyrics seemed to speak to whatever middle school drama I was going through at the moment. I still love the songs from that album.

The first concert I wanted to attend was KISS. My friends were all going, but my parents didn't approve, so I couldn't go. I didn't know who I was more angry with that night as I sat home alone - my mom and dad for saying no or my friends for going without me!

Please dish about your biggest rock star moment. It could be a big moment of success in your career, a time where you met someone famous and had the Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" experience, or where you got the total rock star treatment?

Linda: My rock star moments usually come in the form of, 'That was who?' I grew up near Robert Redford's Sundance resort, and from time to time 'Uncle Bob' would put in an appearance. The first time I saw him (and realized who he was) I was kind of bummed to see that he was much shorter in person than on the screen. When I lived in LA, I worked as a receptionist for a patent and trademark law firm. One day Olivia Newton John came in to meet with one of our attorneys about her Koala Blue venture and I had no clue who she was. I actually commented on her 'lovely accent' and asked her where she was from. Doh! Once I flew a couple rows back from Richard Kiel (Jaws in the old James Bond movies). That time I knew who he was, but the lady behind me told her husband, "Look! It's Andre the Giant!" But the most celebrity sightings I ever had was when I worked for the senate in Washington, D.C. All the political insiders, yes, but also the parade of Hollywood lobbyists. And you know what? They are all regular people, just like the rest of us!

Thanks for sharing all the fun stories, Linda, and for saying I rock! And thanks for agreeing to give away a copy of Death By Denim to one lucky winner chosen from random commentors. So comment away and I'll draw a winner in 2 weeks on June 10th. Next week WWRW will be on hiatus, but it will be back June 10th with a very, very cool guest... my lovely editor, Jennifer Heddle from Pocket Books. She's the woman who rocks behind a lot of women who rock that I've featured lately (Jeri Smith-Ready and Danielle Joseph) and those of you who love books are no doubt fascinated by what she does as an editor so be sure to check it out!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Contest Winners, Pilcrow, and Catharsis

I just want to say a huge huge thank you to everyone who entered my latest contest. I wish I had Ballads of Suburbia ARCs to give everyone who entered, but my top three winners who will receive ARCs are: Thao, Amber, and Brittany. My winners of other swag are: Heather, Diana, Bean/Marina, Shelly, and Harmony. Congrats to all of those guys and I promise as soon as I have finished copies of Ballads, I will run more contests. I may even have an extra ARC, I'll figure that out in the next couple weeks and then run something so keep your eye out here.

For those of you in Chicago, the Pilcrow Lit Festival has been going on this week and I am going to be on a YA Panel tomorrow (Sat, May 23) with Linda Jones, Gwendolyn Glover, Jane Hertenstein, Jessica Hopper, James Kennedy, and Daniel Kraus at 2 PM at Trader Todd's, 3216 N Sheffield Ave. I just wasted a bunch of time figuring out how to get there since the CTA was so brilliant as to shut down a section of the blue line between me and downtown on freakin' Memorial Day Weekend. Have I mentioned how much I fucking hate the CTA sometimes? But anyway, the panel is going to be awesome and there are a bunch of other good panels that day so I hope you'll go if you are in the area.

So, what have I been up the past couple weeks that has been keeping me away from the blog? Working on the proposal of my next novel, which as of right now I am calling Red Eyes On Orange Horizons. Yes, I took that from an Alkaline Trio lyric: "While you're taking your time with apologies/I'm making my plans for revenge/red eyes on orange horizons/if Columbus was wrong I'd drive straight off the edge/I'd drive straight off the edge." It's an angry grieving vengeance novel and it's also my first novel that is not set in the Midwest so I needed some sort of Chicago reference.

If you've been following my tweets (and my random blog entry earlier this week), you know I'm playing off of the Persephone myth with this one. It's been fun playing around with my favorite myth and adding a new twist to it. In the myth Persephone is abducted by Hades to be his queen. She's rescued by her mother eventually, but goes back to the underworld every fall/winter because (depending on which version you read) she either was tricked into or willingly ate the food of the dead, pomegranate seeds. It's the ultimate story of innocence lost, but in the myth Persephone isn't really pissed about. I think she should be.

In my story, Persephone is a the daughter of a model and a rock god (hello, pretentious Hollywood baby name trend). She lives in modern day Los Angeles. When she was five years old she and her best friend Cori (drawn from Kore, another name for Persephone) were kidnapped. There is no winter in California, so instead they go through a hell-on-earth type of experience every three years in the fall/winter. The latest bad experience: Cori is killed in a car accident. Seph along with Cori's twin sister, Cate (the storyteller of this novel, named for Hecate who is considered to be the third aspect of femininity in greek mythology- Persephone being the maiden, Demeter, the mother, and Hecate, the crone. Hecate has long been portrayed as sort of evil and a witch, thanks mostly to Christian interpretation, but in some versions of the myth she helps rescue Persephone and she is known as a healer of psychological pain so I like her and she is my story's heroine) try to figure out what led to the accident and seek revenge on all the people that have hurt them over the years. So it's like the Persephone story meets the Erinyes (the furies), hence I named the character Persephone Erihn.

So yeah, that's the basics. And it's fun because I get to play with the mythology and also get work in some social commentary/satire on fame in this day and age, which is something I'm both extremely fascinated with and also seriously disgusted with.

But to some degree, it's not fun at all. It's catharsis. This is how it seems to work with every book. There is some aspect of play for me and some aspect of therapy. Like with IWBYJR, I got to live out my rock star fantasies through the character of Emily, but I confronted some of my own inner darkness and pain through the character of Louisa. With Ballads... man, I must admit that Ballads was mostly painful catharsis stuff. I grew up in suburbia, I saw a lot of things that were fucked up. Ballads is not my life but it touches on a lot of stuff that hits close to home. 

In the original draft of the Red Eyes proposal that I sent to my agent, Cori kills herself. My agent said, this is good, but why does Cori kill herself. It didn't really make sense. I was completely stuck; Cori needed to die, but she didn't have a reason to kill herself. I was ready to scrap the book. I felt completely scattered. I had no idea what to write and hadn't felt a real sense of purpose toward anything since I'd finished the draft of Ballads that was submitted to my editor in February 2008. Maybe I'd used up all the stuff that drives me to write. I was emotionally drained from revising Ballads and promoting IWBYJR and coping with the deaths of three friends within a six month span.

One friend died in a motorcycle accident and I'd become completely fixated on the song "The '59 Sound" by the Gaslight Anthem. "Were you scared when the metal hit the glass...." I would seriously listen to that song over and over and cry. I'd watch car accidents on TV and ball my eyes out. It's been almost a year now and I am still so far from healed.

Then the day before I had a phone call scheduled with my agent to talk about Red Eyes, wherein I was going to suggest that I just write my bartender book instead, I was in the car and the song "Gone Away" by The Offspring came on. I'm not a huge Offspring fan, but I bop along to their songs on the radio. Their song "The Kids Aren't Alright" was one I listened to a lot while writing Ballads once I really listened to the lyrics and realized we were kind of talking about the same things. I listened a little closer than usual to "Gone Away" and caught the lyrics "Maybe in another life I will find you there/Pulled away before your time/I can't deal/It's so unfair." It was raining out and I pulled over and completely lost it again over my friend. I thought to myself, Christ, this is bad. I really need therapy and I can't afford it. But then I kept listening to the song and this interview that I read with the fabulous author Alyson Noel came to mind. She also lost a few loved ones in quick succession and she talked about how she channeled that energy into writing books. 

That's my therapy, I realized. And when I called my agent the next day, I told her Cori doesn't kill herself, she dies in a car accident. I'm still coping with my friend's accident. I need to write this book to heal. Agent said it sounded good, so off I went to restructure the synopsis and the first fifty pages. The plot, which I'd been struggling with for months, came together in days. I gave my main character Cate experiences that I've had, such as having the realization that my friend was killed in the accident, that it wasn't just a blameless thing, and visiting the grave for the first time. I've never felt so in the zone than I have when writing those. I cried reading over them, but it was release. It's release now when I sit and listen to that Offspring or Gaslight Anthem song. I may sob my heart out, but then I pour into the page. 

Maybe that sounds twisted, but it's just an extreme version of what writing has always been to me, therapy, catharsis. So I hope that my agent and, in turn, my editor, likes the project. Because I've gone from it being this fun Hollywood version of a Greek myth I adore to it being something I need to write in order to heal.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Ciara Griffin from Jeri Smith Ready's WVMP Radio Series!

Whew, that's a long-ass title for today's Women Who Rock Wednesday! I'll explain that in a minute, but first thing's first. Last week's winner and recipient of Danielle Joseph's Shrinking Violet is Angel from MySpace! Angel please send your address to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com and I'll pass it along to Danielle and get you your book!

Now to explain this week's Women Who Rock Wednesday. Jeri Smith-Ready is one of my all-time favorite authors. I met her (in the online sense, though we are meeting at ALA this year and I'm sooooooo pumped!) last year. She emailed me and was like hey, we have the same editor and your book sounds cool and her book sounded cool too so we traded ARCs and that's when I read Wicked Game, the beginning of the best vampire series EVER. Seriously, I'm a former goth girl who has read a hell of a lot of vampire stories, so I think that qualifies me as an expert. For me this is up there with Dracula (can't beat a classic) and Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite (that book was like my security blanket when I was a goth girl. I vandalized my dorm room with quotes from it. "3 am knows all my secrets." *wrist to forehead*). The WVMP Radio series has vampires plus rock 'n' roll, so I don't know how you could get any better. Oh wait, yes, I do, add a truly, truly kick-ass heroine.

That heroine is Ciara Griffin and to celebrate the release of Bad to the Bone, the second installment in the WVMP Radio series, and one of my most highly anticipated books this year (It's soooooooo good. Add a vampire dog and more feminism to the mix of WG. So good.), I thought I'd ask Jeri if I could interview Ciara. She and Ciara were game, so I present one of the most unique and fun Women Who Rock Wednesday interviews so far. Enjoy and be sure to comment to be entered to win Bad to the Bone! Here's Ciara (and her dog, Dexter):

Q: Hi Ciara, let's start with the most important thing. People mispronounce my name all the time and I hate it, so tell the lovely people how you pronounce yours?

Ciara: Thanks so much for asking, and thanks for having me! I love your Wednesday feature, and I’m incredibly honored to be included among those who rock.

The name is pronounced KEER-ah. Lots of people pronounce it see-AIR-ah, like the mountains (or the pop star), which I totally understand. Gaelic is a really hard language to just guess at.

Q: As marketing manager for WVMP, I'm sure you know that it's important to get to the promotion first and foremost. There are two books so far about your adventures with the vampires at WVMP. The first book, Wicked Game, has recently been released in mass market paperback and the second book, Bad to the Bone, just came out. Can you tell us a little bit about these books?

Ciara: Sure! The WVMP Radio series is about moi, a former con artist, and a radio station that just happens to have vampire DJs. In the first book, I get the brilliant idea to bring them out into the light, so to speak, as a marketing gimmick. So they’re real vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires. As you might imagine, things get complicated with so many levels of truth and lies.

But I’m used to that, and I’m basically okay with deception if it’s for a good cause. In Wicked Game, I have to raise the ratings or a giant communications conglomerate will buy the station and fire the DJs. Since they need that tie to their original Life Times to retain their humanity, losing their jobs would drive them over the edge. Trust me, you don’t want to be around for that.

In the second book, Bad to the Bone, the station comes under attack by what appears to be a group of radio evangelists. They pirate WVMP’s signal, but only when women are on the air. This makes our punk/Goth DJ Regina, very, um, frustrated.

Q: I'm a music lovin' gal and so are you. Usually when I'm doing interviews about books, I ask for a list of songs that would be on the soundtrack, but Bad to the Bone already has a soundtrack, which I am pasting below, I want to play a different game with you. Your vampire boyfriend Shane plays the last song on his show each night for you and usually there is a message in that song. Please choose from your favorite songs and tell us what song you would use to send a message to the following people and what that message would be (if it's not totally obvious): Shane, your dad, the Family Action Network who are disrupting WVMP's signal, your best friend Lori, and then go ahead and pick another person from the other folks mentioned in BTTB.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Ciara: Ooh, good question, and a toughie.

For Shane: “Valentine’s Day” by Steve Earle. The song is about someone who isn’t very sentimental and sometimes forgets things like holidays and, um, birthdays (sorry!) and really sucks at talking about feelings, but…well, here are the lines:

I know that I swore that I wouldn't forget
I wrote it all down: I lost it I guess
There's so much I want to say
But all the words just slip away

The way you love me every day
Is Valentine's Day


For Dad: “Comfortable Liar” by Chevelle. The title says it all.

For FAN: “The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne and the Chieftains. It’s a Christmas song about hypocrisy, how sometimes the people who wear the biggest Jesus badges often forget what he really stood for.

For Lori: Liz Phair’s “Extraordinary,” because she is your “average every day sane psycho Supergoddess.” From the outside Lori can seem all meek and sweet, but she’s got a spine of steel, and she can be so much badder (in a good way) than she lets on. And I’m “extraordinarily” lucky she’s my friend.

For Franklin, because he doesn’t get enough attention and he’s secretly one of my favorite people but don’t tell him and anyway it’s okay because he won’t bother reading this: Beck’s “Modern Guilt.” The picture that song creates, of a man in a state of quiet desperation, fits Franklin in my mind. Even though his boyfriend is totally hot and way nice. Some people could have the world and still be cranky.

Q: I have to admit, you are one of my heroes, Ciara. I know your crazy upbringing as a child of con-artists shaped who you are in a lot of ways, but I bet there were some super cool women out there who inspired you. Can you tell us a bit about them?

Ciara: I’m one of your heroes?? *blinks back tears* Really? Wow. I’m speechless.

Let’s see, women who inspired me…probably my biggest influence at a crucial time was my foster mom. I was sixteen when my parents went, um, away (I believe the old-timey term is “up the river”). I was put into foster care with a wonderful couple. It was the only time in my life (until very recently) that I had any stability. I didn’t take to it at all, and was quite the wild child.

But my foster mom managed to show me by example that it was possible to live the straight life and still have a good time. She was strong and caring and didn’t take any crap. The best thing she ever did for me was put me in charge of our new puppy, who had contracted parvovirus (which of course we didn’t know when we got him). She taught me what to do, then let me take over. It was the first time I’d ever been responsible for another living creature, and it made me feel like I was worth something.

Oh, and Alanis Morrissette. I was a major fan when I was a teenager. She taught me it was okay for a woman to be angry.

Q: Rumor has it there are more installments of your adventures coming out soon. When's the next book and can you tell us even a tiny bit about the sorts of adventures you'll have?

Ciara: The next book comes out in 2010 and apparently takes place then as well. Which means I have no freaking clue what will happen in it, since it’s in the future. All I know is that the working title is BRING ON THE NIGHT, after the Police song. Jeri is being extremely tight-lipped about it, so that probably means very bad situations for me. But we’ve had a nice calm break since the end of BAD TO THE BONE. Shane and I are just living our lives, chatting on Twitter ( and, taking care of Dexter, and having a swell old time. I guess we have a year to enjoy it.

Q: Now for my standard questions for my women who rock. The first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought (or maybe stole...) and what was the first concert you attended?

Ciara: I first heard Red Hot Chili Peppers’ "Give It Away" on the radio when I was 8 years old, and the sound totally changed my life. See, I wasn't allowed to listen to any kind of non-religious music growing up, but after I heard the Chilis, I realized there was another world out there waiting to be tasted. Started stealing tapes and listening to them late at night under the covers with my Walkman. Made friends who fed my habit & even took me to my first concert (Violent Femmes & Luka Bloom). I think music more than anything helped me break free of the brainwashing. And it all started with RHCP's Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

Now Ciara wasn't able to come up with her biggest rock star moment and that's not a surprise, she has lots of big rock star moments at WVMP parties, Rolling Stone interviews, and not to mention she has lots of superhero/bad guy fighting moments too in Wicked Game and Bad to the Bone so you should just get the books to find out about those! You have a chance to win Bad to the Bone if you leave a comment here. Either be sure to leave your email address or (preferably) check back next week to see if you won when I have Linda Gerber as a guest to talk about her latest book in the Death By series, Death By Denim!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Naming a fictional emo band-- vote!

So it's no secret that the book I am working on toys with the myth of Persephone. I've been trying to use all Greek and Roman references. In an early draft the Persephone character has an emo/goth boyfriend who calls himself Wraith because his band is called Ghost of Christmas Past. I've decided I need to change the Dickens' reference into something that fits with Greek and Roman mythology to go with the rest of the book.

So far via Twitter and Facebook suggestions I've come up with:

"The World on His Shoulders" with the lead singer named Atlas.

"The Burden of Sisyphus" with the singer named Stone.

Then since I wanted to stick with the underworld theme of the rest of the book, I came up with:

"Saving Eurydice" with the lead singer named Orpheus.

I kinda like the last one best because it fits the underworld theme. But is Orpheus way too pretentious of a nickname even for a bratty emo/goth singer who is pretty full of himself? Would his girlfriend call him Orpheus? Is there a nickname that could work for Orpheus? 

My second favorite is The World on His Shoulders/Atlas.

Opinions? More suggestions?

So it's no secret that the book I am working on toys with the myth of Persephone. I've been trying to use all Greek and Roman references. In an early draft the Persephone character has an emo/goth boyfriend who calls himself Wraith because his band is called Ghost of Christmas Past. I've decided I need to change the Dickens' reference into something that fits with Greek and Roman mythology to go with the rest of the book.

So far via Twitter and Facebook suggestions I've come up with:

"The World on His Shoulders" with the lead singer named Atlas.

"The Burden of Sisyphus" with the singer named Stone.

Then since I wanted to stick with the underworld theme of the rest of the book, I came up with:

"Saving Eurydice" with the lead singer named Orpheus.

I kinda like the last one best because it fits the underworld theme. But is Orpheus way too pretentious of a nickname even for a bratty emo/goth singer who is pretty full of himself? Would his girlfriend call him Orpheus? Is there a nickname that could work for Orpheus? 

My second favorite is The World on His Shoulders/Atlas.

Opinions? More suggestions?

ETA: Maybe the guy could call himself "Lyre" since Orpheus is known for his Lyre?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Last Chance to Enter for a Ballads of Suburbia ARC

I know I haven't been blogging much lately and I apologize. The good thing is this means I am writing. A lot. And really focused. I will get back to the regular blogging later this week. Promise.

Right now I just wanted to remind you that my latest contest to win ARCs of Ballads of Suburbia ends Thursday, May 21 at 11:59 PM CST. I will announce the winners right here on Friday. The top three people who enter will get BALLADS ARCs and some other great prizes. Right now top three numbers of entries are 15, 12, and 11. It's still anybody's game so get entering! All the details are here.

I do ask that if you enter, you please send me your list of entries via email to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com because tallying them up from the various other sites (myspace, etc) gets really tedious for me.

Okay, enter away! There are plenty of ways to win! 

(I feel kind of like an Illinois Lottery Commercial right now. Isn't plenty of ways to win their slogan?)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Danielle Joseph!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! Thank you to everyone who left comments last week on my interview with my mom, which was one of the most fun interviews I've ever done. I hope all you moms out there had a great Mother's Day and you kids were all good to your moms. The winner of a copy of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone signed by me and my mom is... Michelle Kuo from blogger! Michelle conveniently left her email address so I'll be in touch for your address Michelle unless you contact me first at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com.

Now on to today's Woman Who Rocks, Danielle Joseph!!! Danielle is a fellow MTV Books author and when I read about her book, Shrinking Violet, I went straight to my editor begging for an ARC. Shrinking Violet hit stores last week and I highly, highly, highly recommend that you buy it! Of course, you will also have the opportunity to win it right here by commenting at the end of this interview and either leaving an email address or (preferably cause there will be another great interview) checking back next week to see if you've won.

Anyway, let's meet Danielle!

Q: As you know, I adore Shrinking Violet and I'm summing it up as "A Cinderella story for anyone who felt shy or like they didn't fit in at high school," but I'm sure you can give us a better description. Tell us about the book and what inspired you to write it. 

Danielle: Well, I really like your description but I will add to it by saying the book is also about reaching for your dreams and not letting any obstacles stand in your way. It’s about finding your voice and using it. I was inspired to write this book because I love music and think it is such a powerful tool in helping people not matter what stage in life they are. I wanted to write about a girl who blossoms through music and does not let her own short comings stand in her way.

Q: One of the things I love most about Shrinking Violet is all the fake bands and musical artists you create. Somehow you manage to describe them in a way that makes them feel accessible to fans of any kind of music. I didn't necessarily think, oh this is this real life band.... But now I'm going to make you talk about some real bands. What are five real songs that you would put on a Shrinking Violet soundtrack and how do they relate to the book? 

Danielle: I do have a Shrinking Violet play list on my website and here are five of my song choices:

Stupid Girls by Pink because Tere is not going to be consumed by the media and how they portray girls.

Pictures of You by The Cure. I listened to The Cure a lot in high school and they remind me of my group of friends. I think they are a band that Tere could really relate too.

Dani California by The Red Hot Chili Peppers because their music is great and they are definitely a band that Tere would appreciate for their amazing talent. Also, this song helped me develop her voice as I was writing.

Kiss Off by the Violent Femmes. I imagine Tere listening to this song on a particularly bad day with her mom. I see Tere storming up to her room and blasting Kiss Off on her iPOD.

Love Like This by Natasha Bedingfield. Tere would listen to this when she is crushing on Gavin.

Q: I think Tere from Shrinking Violet can be a real role model for girls. She's someone they can relate to and she manages to find her own way despite her shyness. Helen Keller is one of her inspirations. Is Helen one of yours or did you just research her for the book? And who are some of the other women who have inspired you over the years? 

Danielle: I have always had a fondness for Helen Keller but I was even more amazed with her accomplishments when I researched her more in depth for this book. Some of my other inspirations are Amelia Earhart, Anne Frank, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and so many other strong women.

Q: I'm a sucker for how did you become a writer stories. What's yours? We you always an aspiring novelist or how did your path toward writing unfold?

Danielle: I have wanted to be a writer since I wrote my first book in first grade. My teacher had us illustrate it. Then she typed up our words and laminated it. From there I was hooked, realizing I could write whatever I wanted! I wrote in some form or another over the years from angst poetry to humorous observations to books of notes back and forth with my close friends. I also studied creative writing in college but didn’t become really serious about getting published until after I had my first son seven years ago.

Q: I know SV just came out, but what is next for you? What are you working on now? 

Danielle: My next novel, Indigo Blues, will be released from Flux in Fall 2010. It is another music-centered novel but this one is told in two points of view. It’s about a song writer who breaks up with his girlfriend and writes a hit song about their breakup. It chronicles what happens when they are both instantly thrust into the limelight. I am also working on something new now that involves love, humor and spirits—something totally different for me!

Q: Now for my two standard questions for my rockin' ladies. The first is a two-parter: What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? 

Danielle: I believe the first album I bought was a Duran Duran cassette tape and my first concert was Paul Young in the eighth grade. My friend’s older brother asked if we wanted to go and I was so excited even though I had never heard of Paul Young before. The girls in the row behind us were screaming their heads off when he stepped on stage in super tight corduroys.

Q: Please dish about your biggest rock star moment. It could be a big moment of success in your career, a time where you met someone famous and had the Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" experience, or where you got the total rock star treatment? 

Danielle: My biggest rock star moment was this past weekend at my book launch. I got a new outfit (and two back-ups), then got my hair and nails done. The weather was perfect, the house was packed and we were at one of my favorite bookstores. When I looked up from my signing table and saw all those people in line waiting for me to sign my book for them, I felt like a superstar!

Well, hopefully that pumps you up to read Shrinking Violet because I really do love it and think Danielle is an amazing and very cool writer! Comment away on her interview or maybe tell us if you were shy in high school (I totally was though I tried to cover it up!) and you will be entered to win Shrinking Violet. The winner will be drawn next week when I interview Ciara Griffin, the kick ass heroine from Jeri Smith Ready's books Wicked Game and Bad to the Bone! That should be an interesting one....

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Celebration of Spring

Fall has always been my favorite season. The smells, the crunchy sounds and texture of the leaves. Halloween. It has always appealed to the part of me that wears a lot of black... But as I have gotten older I've come to be more optimistic. I like the sun and the outside more than I used to. Maybe it's a falling-in-love-with-the-right-person-finally thing (though I'm still getting married in my beloved Fall) and because I just feel better about life. Maybe it's because I've gotten more into gardening and I'm really into watching things grow. Maybe it's because I hate winter so fucking much. But anyway, Spring is now a close second to Fall, and I've been really, really enjoying it this year.

I write a newspaper column for my local paper, the Forest Park Review, which I will link to on the blog when I think it is of interest to a wider audience and this week I think it is because I'm talking about the coming of spring. So I hope you will check it out here. Please note that if I could have titled I probably would have called it "Fuck Winter, Bring on the Sunshine!" But um... it is a newspaper column.... Not swearing in my newspaper column and my school presentations are the hardest parts of my writing career sometimes....

Anyway, I also sadly couldn't provide photos to illustrate the newspaper column, but on my blog I can. So here is the photo companion to my article! You can click on the photos to make them bigger.

My sons enjoy the sun (L to R: Kaspar, Lars, and Sid at the bottom):  

Sid and Lars pose for their close up:

My goth tulips out front (note trash that has blown into them. Argh. My perpetual battle.):

My side garden, the big bushy plant in the top right corner is the mysterious thing that turned out to be celery:
Other side garden:
Close up on the goth tulip:
Baby geese in the North Riverside Mall Parking Lot:
So that's what spring looks like in my neighborhood. What about yours?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: My Mom!!!!

I have two prize winners to announce for Women Who Rock Wednesday today because the person who won Sarah Quigley's TMI never claimed their prize and my rule is if you don't claim your prize in two weeks, I draw a new winner. So please, please please, people, try to remember to check back every Wednesday after you enter to see if you won! I leave it up to you to contact me cause I just don't have time to be tracking people down.

Without further adieu, the winner of Melissa Walker's Lovestruck Summer (which came out yesterday, squee! Totally going out to buy that this weekend or maybe tomorrow!) is Steph Su from blogger! Steph, I know I have your addy somewhere but if you can send it to me again at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com, I'd really appreciate it.

The new winner of Sarah Quigley's TMI is Erika Lynn from blogger. Erika, please email me at the addy above to claim your prize!

So today, since this Sunday is Mother's Day, I wanted to honor the woman who rocks my world more than any other.... MY MOM! 

Seriously, this is the woman who has influenced me more than any writer, musician, artist.... more than anyone. If I can just be half the woman she is, I know I'll have lived a pretty damn good life.

Like all mother/daughter pairs, we've had our ups and downs. In fifth grade, my mom felt like my worst enemy. It seemed like she was always holding me back. I was trying so hard to be "cool" and fit in with the popular crowd that year and my mom would not buy me the clothes I wanted or let me run as free as those kids did or let me get a perm or a thousand other things. I distinctly remember an argument in the stairwell of our house where I got so pissed at her that I threw my hairbrush at her and when she threw it back, not even hitting me, mind you, I screamed something along the lines of "I hate you and I'm calling child services on you because I don't want you to be my mother!" Of course, I didn't, but now I want to say, "Mom, I'm sooooooooo sorry and THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!" Because of her rules and her unwillingness to buy me overpriced outfits at the Gap, I stayed true to myself, the dork, the weirdo, and I became who I am today.

I'm sure that moment was tough and there were plenty more tough times. When I was dating the boy that was no good for me sophomore year of high school and she KNEW he was no good, and he got kicked out of his house, she convinced my dad to let him stay with us because as she told me later, "If you were in my house, I could protect you. I was scared to death you would run away with him."

Then there was the unhappy first year of college. Me drunkdialing my mom, crying about how unhappy I was, sharing my latest plan of action: "I'm gonna drop out and move to New Orleans and be a stripper." Yeah, I definitely put her through all seven levels of hell. But she stood by me patiently. When I determined that dropping out of college really was what was best for me at that moment (though no, I did not move to New Orleans and become a stripper), she went along with it and promised me that if I went back by the time I turned 21 that she would absolutely help me pay for it.

Another good mom trick, setting that deadline totally worked. By 21, I was sick of drinking and partying and did want to be serious about life. And she was there. Even though "serious" meant getting a creative writing degree, which might never amount to anything, she stood by me. She let me live in her house while I went to school. She told me over and over again not to give up on my dream of writing because she knew it was the one thing that had gotten me through all the rough patches over the year. She believed in me, was my number one cheerleader and I'm so happy I didn't let her down.  

That's us a the book release party for my first novel, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, the book I dedicated to her.

And since it is the book I dedicate to her, it is the book my mom requested that I give away this week if you leave a comment after reading my interview with her. Mom and I will both sign it :)

I think another reason why it's fitting that I interviewed her this week is because she is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse (talk about a rock star job, saving babies!) and it is National Nurses' Week. So Happy Nurses' Week, Happy Mother's Day and without further adieu, meet my mom, Nancy Napp, total f'ing rock star!

Q: Tell us about why you became a nurse. Obviously there are a lot of hard parts about your job, but what do you enjoy most and what keeps you motivated after all these years to keep nursing?

Mom (Nancy): I became a nurse because I always wanted to be a nurse! I don't know why I wanted to be-- I just did! I have been a nurse for 35 years. I love the babies. I think being a parent is the most important job in life, and I love helping the parents. And I have great friends at work!

Q: Who where the women who inspired you in your youth and who inspires you today?

Mom (Nancy):  When I was growing up, there were fewer women who were "career" or professional women. In real life, I admired the women who were my teachers, and also mother's, too. In the books I read, I wanted to be Cherry Ames. She was a nurse who could do anything and could go anywhere. That's where boundaries for women lifted for me.

Now I admire my sisters and friends who are good moms and good wives and good at their jobs, too. And I admire Dr. Heidelise Als who taught us a better way to care for NICU babies.

Q: As a NICU nurse and a mom, you probably have a wealth of knowledge about being a good mom. What's your best piece of advice for parents?

Mom (Nancy): My best advice is make time to enjoy your kids. They are the most interesting and exciting people that you know!

Q: I'm sure there are some slackers out there who haven't planned Mother's Day for their moms yet so what is the best way to honor your mom on Mother's Day?

Mom (Nancy): Call your mom! Visit her. Do something for her or with her that she would like. Don't forget Mother's Day!

Q: What's the first album you bought and concert you attended?

Mom (Nancy): My first album was either Beatles or Beach Boys. I loved seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and would have loved to see them at Comiskey Park. However, I didn't attend a concert until I could drive. The first one I remember is taking my sister to Cat Stevens at the Auditorium Theater, which is acoustically perfect. He sounded great!

Q: Please dish about your biggest rock star moment. It could be a highlight in your careeer, when you met someone famous, or just when you got the rock star treatment.

Mom (Nancy): In the 70s, there were many bars and small clubs on Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park. They were nice intimate settings. My friends and I saw Tom Scott and the LA Express at one of those bars. It was right after they played back up for Joni Mitchell on her album. To me, they were gods! And it was a small setting and we were up close! I loved it!

I totally did not know that was going to be my mom's rock star moment. I expected other stories that I'd heard before-- I wasn't familar with this story. But she told me she wanted to tell me something new and she wanted to show me who her rock gods were, not guys with guitars like mine, but guys with saxophones :)

I thought it was awesome of her to share and like I said, she is the biggest rock star in the world to me.

So together, we are giving out a signed copy of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment, maybe about how awesome your mom is or what you are doing for Mother's Day and remember to check back next week to see if you've won. My featured woman will be Danielle Joseph, author of Shrinking Violet!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

GCC Presents: Lucienne Diver

Today Lucienne Diver is here on her Girlfriends Cyber Circuit tour to tell us a little bit about herself and her new book VAMPED.

About Lucienne:
Lucienne Diver is a long-time book addict who went to work for NYC’s Spectrum Literary Agency fifteen years ago to feed her habit. Recently, she traded in her high-rise for a lake view. She now lives in Florida and works for The Knight Agency. Through various play-dates and in various coffee bars, on the backs of envelopes, carry-out bags and anything else within reach, including, sometimes, her checkbook, she's penned the serio-comic tale of what happens when a young fashionista goes from chic to eek.


From “Valley Vamp Rules for Surviving Your Senior Prom” by VAMPED heroine Gina Covello:

Rule #1: Do not get so loaded at the after prom party that you accidentally-on- purpose end up in the broom closet with the surprise hottie of the evening, say the class chess champ who’s somewhere lost his bottle-cap lenses and undergone an extreme makeover, especially if that makeover has anything to do with becoming one of the undead.

Gina Covello has a problem. Waking up a dead is just the beginning. There's very little she can't put up with for the sake of eternal youth and beauty. Blood-sucking and pointy stick phobias seem a small price to pay. But she draws the line when local vampire vixen Mellisande gets designs on her hot new boyfriend with his prophecied powers and hatches a plot to turn all of Gina’s fellow students into an undead army to be used to overthrow the vampire council.

Hey, if anyone's going to create an undead entourage, it should be Gina! Now she must unselfishly save her classmates from fashion disaster and her own fanged fate.

What people are saying:

"VAMPED is a total delight! Diver delivers a delightful cast of undead characters and a fresh, fast take on the vampire mythos. Next installment, please!" — Rachel Caine, New York Times bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series

"I really sunk my teeth into Lucienne Diver's VAMPED. A fun, frothy, teenage romp with lots of action, a little shopping, and a cute vampire guy. Who could ask for more?" — Marley Gibson, author of GHOST HUNTRESS: The Awakening

“This book rollicked along, full of humor, romance, and action. Gina is a smart-aleck heroine worth reading about, a sort of teenage Besty Taylor (Undead and Unwed) with a lot of Cher Horowitz (Clueless) thrown in. Fans of Katie Maxwell will devour "Vamped." — Rosemary Clement-Moore, author of the Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil series

"Move over Buffy! Lucienne Diver transfuses some fresh blood into the vampire genre. Feisty, fashionable and fun--Vamped is a story readers will sink their teeth into and finish thirsty for more." —Mari Mancusi, author of The Blood Coven Vampires series

The Interview:

Q: Please list five songs that would be on the soundtrack to your book and explain how they relate to your story or characters.

Lucienne: Music is really important to me too. It’s funny - I don’t feel as though I know a character until I know what they listen to. That’s why VAMPED was so weird for me. I actually made up singers/groups that my main character, Gina, listened to. I think that because she was so unique to me, her music had to be as well. Her favorite singer is Su Surrus, who I think of as something like Pink, but maybe a little more punk. But Gina is so over the Baden Boys. She swears …she just keeps their poster on the wall because it picks up the purple in her comforter.

Q: Name some of your main character's favorite musicians or bands.

Lucienne: I'’ve just named two, but if I had to think of real-world bands or performers: Pink, Nickelback, Eve 6, Third Eye Blind, Green Day.

Q: Who are some of your favorite musicians or bands?

Lucienne: I like all of the above, but my favorites are probably The Indigo Girls, Joni Mitchell, U2, Matchbox Twenty, and Jason Mraz.

Q: Even though music plays in so heavily into my storytelling, I rarely can actually listen to it while I'm writing. Can you? How does music fit into your writing process?

Lucienne: Nope, I need complete quiet when I write. I free hand everything and would love to be able to listen to music when I type in what I’ve written, but I don’t because I edit in the process of committing work to computer so that it becomes almost a second draft by the time I hit “Save.”

Q: While music is my muse, I know other writers find their muse in theater, sports, art, the great outdoors, etc. What is your main muse?

Lucienne: I did theatre for years, actually met my husband when we worked as actors at a haunted house, so that’s where I developed the skill of getting into someone else’s head. It'’s probably why my work always starts off with voice and characters. Plotting is the hard part for me. I generally know all about my characters, but not exactly how the storyline will develop, not the least of which because those characters have minds of their own and often send things spinning in unforeseen directions!

I definitely have that same issue, Lucienne. Plotting is the hardest part for me, too. VAMPED sounds like a really fun book and I love that the character was so unique she needed her own made up music. Comment away about VAMPED and the interview guys!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Musical Memories

Memories of the musical sort seem to be the theme of the morning (I know it's kind of afternoon already but I worked last night, it's my morning). I opened my email to find a message from my friend Polly with a link to this video of a punk show at the Fireside Bowl where you can see some of the backs of our friends' heads.

I totally remember seeing Zoinks at the Fireside. Do I remember this particular show? Um not really, all the shows blur together, but I know they were one of the many, many bands I saw there, along with Apocalypse Hoboken, Sleater Kinney, Bratmobile, The Third Sex, Sidekick Kato, Oblivion, Slapstick, Blue Meanies, Mr. T Experience. I could go on and on. Those are just my favorites off the top of my head. I went to the Fireside at least once a week for a year or so there. It was like home away from home. There were no ticket stubs though, so no physical memories for me to touch in a scrapbook like all my other concerts everywhere else. But that's okay. That's the way the Fireside experience should be. Volatile and everchanging the way punk rock is. Every show you went to there would be rumors that it was going to be the last because the city was shutting the place down.

I like the way my musical memories from end of sophomore year through end of senior year (note my senior year ended in January) feel like the music I listened to. I like that I stumble upon them in random ways. A YouTube video, a used vinyl at a record store in another city, a cassette tape with Mike's handwriting on it. NOFX on side A, Face to Face on side B. Made for the endless hours of driving in my car going everywhere, going nowhere.

I got pissed when I couldn't find my Tilt vinyls or my Screeching Weasel CDs because I wanted to listen to them and I bought those at Earwax Records, the punk rock record store that opened in Oak Park for all of about six months before they realized that the only people interested in a punk rock store in Oak Park was my group of about ten friends. We tried to keep them alive. We really did. I spent every dime I earned at Dominicks that I wasn't spending at Denny's or saving to get the hell out of Oak Park at Earwax.... But I'm getting off subject here. Musical memories tend to do that.

Anyway, I'm pissed when I can't find Tilt or Screeching Weasel or the Queers or Operation Ivy. Or worst of all that original pressing Minor Threat record which I'm sure was worth something. But I know those CDs and records are missing because I lent them to someone and didn't get them back or I got drunk at a party at Antioch and we put them on and they disappeared. And that's okay somehow, for punk cds and records to disappear in this way. What's not okay is the music I willing gave up.

Whenever I am asked the question, "Do you have any regrets?" I always say no because even the bad, horrible, ugly things that happened in my life had their purpose and led me to the place I am now. But I realized today, as the result of a silly Facebook quiz, that I do have one regret: my tendency to destroy/giveaway/get rid of my possessions when they become associated with bad things/people. I purge. And it's one thing to purge old letters and tacky gifts and clothes that are worn out or you will never wear again, but it's another thing to purge music and I am guilty of purging music.

This all started when I took the "What Goth Band Are You?" quiz. I ended up with Specimen, who I did not immediately recognize. Then Tai commented, "You've heard them. They were on the comps we listened to." Oh yes, the comps! I start to get up and then I realize, I gave my ex all the goth CDs when he moved out because I associated goth with him and I wanted to be rid of him and those memories. But there was goth in my life before him. There was me and Tai in black lipstick. There was that hole in the wall goth record store on Belmont just east of Halsted. Armageddon or something totally gloom and doom sounding where we hunted for those CDs, those comps. And the hunt, the sense of discovery was so much fun.... And I just handed it off because in that moment all I saw was a tall boy with Robert Smith hair and too much makeup who I'd fought with too many times and didn't want to remember. I took solace in my punk, my grunge, all the things I was before I knew him (even though I was goth too before I knew him) and I let him leave with my discoveries. And now here I am wanting those damn comps and they are gone.

And I'm cursing myself, regretting things for the first time ever because this happened to me just a few weeks ago. I wanted to listen to Pavement. I was never a big Pavement fan. All my friends were and I felt kind of left out, like Pavement was a joke I didn't get. I took solace in the fact that my best friend didn't really get it either and I clung to the other indie bands that I had in common with the other friends like Slint and Sonic Youth. But I did have a Pavement CD. Asshole gave it me. (Asshole being my sophomore year boyfriend; his name has slowly been abbrieviated over the years from "my psychotic abusive asshole ex boyfriend" to simply Asshole. Just like my aforementioned ex had a lot of adjectives before ex as well, but now he is just Ex. Anyway the explanation of the Asshole relationship is here.)

Everything that Asshole gave to me has been destroyed. Even my journal from the time I dated Asshole was thrown away (another regret). Even the Nirvana bootleg he gave me was given away even though Nirvana is my favorite band on earth. I stopped listening to them for about a year post-Asshole because he was a wannabe Kurt Cobain when we dated so even my favorite band totally associated with him. Such was the trauma of Asshole. The Pavement CD particularly upset me though because it reminded me of the people he was friends with before we started dating; people I wanted to be friends with. My relationship with those people was fucked for years because they associated me with him. We were all victims of his assholishness (did I just invent a new word?), but weren't really able to see that/mend things. Any way, the point is Pavement is gone. CDs that are gone because of Asshole are a particularly sore spot with me because I used to buy CDs and he would take them from me to listen to first and then he would decide they were not good enough and he would sell MY CDs. He sold my Jawbreaker CDs for example and I was pissed for days, but he thought Jawbreaker was lame and boring. Of course now he has a Jawbreaker tattoo so I hear....

Again, getting off topic. I sold the CD I lost my virginity to. It was Saturation by Urge Overkill. That's probably the one CD I really don't want back. The memory is still too ugly. Though sometimes I want to listen to "Erica Kane"; I suppose I could download that.

I'm sure a lot of people are thinking, just download the songs, who cares, but it's not the same. There is something about the particular CD or vinyl. Memories of the discovery and the hunt. Memories of the good and the bad moments associated. My life could be told in music and I suspect one day I will attempt to do so. I have a working title for a personal essay collection: "Geek. Goth. Grunge. Grrrl." which I think about covers it. I started out pretty eclectic. If you asked me who my favorite bands were when I was 10, I would have named The Beatles, Faith No More, Depeche Mode, REM, and Madonna. Somewhere in junior high, I started trying to put myself in a musical box. Like it wasn't okay to like Nirvana and Madonna, or later in the pretentious punk period when I was disavowing bands on major labels, I couldn't like both Smashing Pumpkins and Propagandhi. Then during the goth years, the punk went into a box and a lot of it went missing.

So my words of advice is don't sell (or I guess nowadays, delete) that song you associate with an ex or you think is dorky now. You'll miss it later. And besides it's still part of you. I still know all the words to Ice, Ice Baby...

What are your musical memories?