Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Silly Pictures

How Child #3 beats me at Guitar Hero.

How I got to school during the Canadian winter.

Why am I posting a slacker post?

Muchos writing to do today. Brake job scheduled for van. First-pass galley pages for I So Don't Do Spooky to arrive later today. Family wants food and clean clothes.

So, enjoy the sparse, but hopefully humorous, post. :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Town Monday: Rubio's

Sometime in the latter half of the 70s, Ralph Rubio and his buddies did what a lot of San Diego college students do at Spring Break. They took off for San Felipe, Baja, Mexico.

And while in San Felipe, Ralph and his friends did what a lot of San Diego college students do. They noshed on fish tacos from local stands.

Then Ralph came home and did what a lot of San Diego college students don't do. He borrowed $16,000 from his dad (well, actually, a lot of college students probably do do this! Ha!) and, in 1983, he opened a Mexican restaurant in a former Orange Julius location on Mission Bay Drive in the Pacific Beach area. The restaurant offered such fare as fries, calamari and, what has become Rubio's signature dish, fish tacos.

What's in a Rubio's fish taco? "Crispy beer-battered fish, shredded cabbage, mild salsa and...tangy white sauce" in a soft corn tortilla. Yes, you can have a flour tortilla if you ask. The fish is usually Alaskan pollock. Quite, quite delicious.  Fish tacos (not Rubios, per se, but fish tacos we prepare on site) are a huge money-making item at our high school swim meet snack bar. Just to give you an idea of how popular an item these are in my neck of the woods.

At Rubio's, I'm also partial to the lobster burrito which was renamed the Langostino Lobster Burrito, following a lawsuit over the contents (langostino vs lobster) in 2005. However, I eat it sparingly because it has over SEVEN HUNDRED CALORIES AND 34 GRAMS OF FAT! Yowzer!

There are now about 180 Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill restaurants (called "Rubio's" by the locals) mostly in California, but with some locations in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and Utah.

Not bad for guy who enjoyed a fish taco at the side of an avenida in Baja Mexico.

And a current goal of Ralph's? To open a Rubio's in Manhattan!

Can I just say that I've enjoyed lots of dishes while traveling, but it NEVER EVER occurred to me to come home and open a restaurant. Where do these courageous, creative thinkers come from? Ya gotta love 'em!

                           Ralph Rubio

Please trundle over to Travis Erwin's blog. He's our Fearless Leader for My Town Mondays. Along with his own MTM, he'll have a list of participants.


Baja Fish Tacos on Foodista

Friday, February 20, 2009

Trashy Kelly Couric interviews PJ Hoover!


Hi bloggy peeps! I'm baaack!. It's ME, the slightly chubby, super sassy and trailer-trashy KELLY Couric! I'm taking over the blog today while Barrie is helping out in Child #4's classroom. I get to interview Author PJ HOOVER who has a fantastic middle-grade fantasy out now, THE EMERALD TABLET. Middle-grade! I love it! It's exactly my reading level! Best of all, THE EMERALD TABLET is the first in a trilogy.

(knocks on door, then strides in, carefully balancing a tray of cookies) Hello! Barrie! I'm here! And I brought you some white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.

(rushes over to PJ and grabs the cookies) Thank you, thank you. I'm always looking for extra fat grams.

(opening eyes wide) Are it really....Am I going to be interviewed by THE trashy Kelly Couric?!

(puffing out chest and smiling proudly) You are, dahling, you are. And let's get started. (crosses ample thighs) So, PJ, pretend I'm a really rich and famous literary agent. And you're lucky enough to get to pitch to me. What's your book about?

THE EMERALD TABLET is the adventure every kid dreams of going on! It's about five kids who have to go to summer school. Which would normally result in a total yuck factor, right? Except in this case summer school is on a hidden continent under the Pacific Ocean (Lemuria). And to top it off, the kids find out they aren't even human, but an awesome species called telegens.

Here's the cover copy:
Benjamin and his best friend Andy are different from normal. They love being able to read each other's minds and use telekinesis to play tricks on other kids. In fact, they are getting all set to spend their entire summer doing just that when Benjamin's mirror starts talking. Suddenly, Benjamin's looking at eight weeks of summer school someplace which can only be reached by a teleporter inside the ugly picture in his hallway.
And that's the most normal thing he does all summer.

So are you ready to join them, Kelly???

Yeah, right. My idea of summer fun is Camp Marriott and a spa! And a masseuse. (rolls heavily-outlined eyes) PJ, now that you've achieved your publishing goal, are you actually working on anything new? Or do writers publish, then chill on the couch, guzzling cocktails and bonbons?

Cocktails wait until the kids get home :) Ditto bonbons, but I need to hide those from the kids unless I want to share (which NO, I do not).

I'm not much of a chiller. I started book 2 in the series (THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, Fall 2009) as soon as I'd finished THE EMERALD TABLET. And then came book 3 (THE NECROPOLIS, Fall 2010). So basically I had all three books written (in one form or another) before I signed the contract. Of course they've all been through various stages of revision, but at least the guts are there, which is nice. Because guts are the solid base we're all built around. Or maybe it's the skeleton.

I've also started a couple new projects: a MG urban fantasy with an Egyptian theme, and a YA urban fantasy based heavily in Greek mythology.

My head is filled with ideas, and my kids keep giving me new ones. I'm sure I'll never catch up—which in the writing world I think is a good thing!

You're quite the busy bee! Now, PJ, we want you to open up to us on this blog. Tell us something weird about yourself. Preferably juicy and scandalous. We're all friends here. Seriously. And if it's something like a unibrow you've never had taken care of professionally, feel free to include a pic.

Wait! Maybe I need my cocktail first!
Okay, juicy and scandalous. I once met the famous Barrie Summy. Okay, it was twice; I admit it.
No really—it's true!
And wait until I tell you what she told me...

Fine, I'll dig deep and see what I can think of.
How about this? My mom let me go to school dressed like this in seventh grade (I'm the blond one). And yes, I did used to fit those pants. And no, I wouldn't have a prayer of fitting them now. And yes, it was the 80s. And no, I would never let my daughter dress like that.

A scandalous photo of PJ Hoover (she's the blond in the shocking blue pants)

(frowning) Don't even try to fake us out that Barrie told you something scandalous. But that outfit? It is scandalous! And, now back to ME. Last time I read a whole book was in high school. Could you recommend a book for me?

The book I would recommend for you, Kelly, is THE EMERALD TABLET. In fact, I would recommend this book for every person on Earth. And could you do me a favor and recommend it to everyone you meet also? It doesn't matter if you've read it or not. Just please tell everyone it's the best book in the world. And make sure to give them the amazon link in case they don't like to leave the house.
If you aren't sure what the book is about, please go back and read this interview.

And now for the most scrumptious question of all... What is your favorite cookie? (We'd love the recipe. We're planning a side bar link with all the cookie recipes.)

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies!

I have two recipes I LOVE!

Recipe 1:
Go to freezer section of your favorite grocery store. Here in Texas, I'm way partial to the H-E-B. And yes, the B in H-E-B does stand for Butt.
Find a frozen dough package of whatever White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies are on sale.
Pick it up.
Buy it.
Cook per directions. Remember to save part of the uncooked dough to eat raw.

Recipe 2:
Walk into your favorite deli or other establishment which sells cookies.
Get money out of wallet.
Request one White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookie.
Pay for it.
Eat cookie.

(munching on a cookie) Okay, that's it, bloggy friends. The interview is officially over. I have some serious snacking to do. Have a great weekend! And thank you for stopping by, PJ Hoover, author of THE EMERALD TABLET.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shopping for the Father-Daughter Dance

How fun to be eight.

When you buy shoes based on their clicking sound...

(Yay for Child #4 and her personal fashion taste!)

And now for some linky love...

If you are in the mood for fun and laughs, hop over to Ello's blog where her ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS AND BRILLIANT daughter, Summer, who is almost ten years old, interviewed me. She did a great job! My children all read the interview!

And a huge shout-out and thank-you to Mary at Overnight at Thistletonthwaite Castle who posted a lovely lovely review of I So Don't Do Mysteries. She said it even cured her cold!

And another huge shout-out and thank-you to Charles Gramlich at Razored Zen who took a giant step outside his normal reading zone to read and review I So Don't Do Mysteries. Charles, it is much, much appreciated!

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Town Monday: COURT!!!

This is the first San Diego Courthouse. Well, actually it's a replica. The original was built in 1847, but burned in the Old Town fire of 1872. You can visit this replica courthouse for free at Old Town Historic Park. It's open daily, 10-5. Seriously, if you are EVER in San Diego, you want to visit Old Town for shopping, eating, gazing. You'll get a sense of what the town square was like back in the 1800s.

In more RECENT news, this is the courthouse DH and I went to for our Small Claims case against the Twenty-Two-Year-Old-Who-Totaled-DH's-Car-And-Lied-About-Running-The-Red-Light.

It was our first time in Small Claims court. I basically went in the role of supportive wife. And mystery writer. And nosey citizen. And annoyed citizen that a liar could perjure herself and might actually get away with it. And, still, I was a bundle of nerves.

Here are my thoughts about the experience. There is A LOT of tension in Small Claims Court. A lot. It's like the entire courtroom is saran-wrapped in it. There is A LOT of lying going on Small Claims court. Enough to give you a stomach ache. Your best bet to prepare your statement ahead of time. Be succinct and articulate. The lawyer-Acting-As-Judge hears a TON of cases in a day, so make your case easy on the ears. Take the time to prepare some evidence, too.

Also, if you ever need story ideas, go hang out in Small Claims Court. The place is rife with them.

DH put together a binder with his statement, her statement, photos I took of the intersection and more. Yes, yes, he included those photos I took of the damage to her car when I played Sherlock Holmes and snuck over to her apartment building. Those photos may even have clinched the case because DH used them to show how her running a red light was the only way to explain the damage to both cars.

This is where the winners go to celebrate with a coffee and a hot dog. Yes! We won! JUSTICE PREVAILED!

Now that you've heard my good news, please trundle over to Travis Erwin's blog. He's our Fearless Leader for My Town Mondays. Along with his own MTM, he'll have a list of participants.

EDITED TO ADD ANSWER TO BINA OF JUST ANOTHER DAY'S QUESTION: How did the Twenty-Two-Year-Old-Who-Totaled-DH's-Car-And-Lied-About-Running-The-Red-Light react to the verdict?

short answer: I don't know.

long answer: The lawyer-judge (because in Small Claims Court your "judge" is a lawyer with 10+ years experience) listened to DH's side, listened to the other side, asked a bunch of questions, then said she needed to think about it some more and we'd get the verdict IN THE MAIL! Seriously! We sat through FIVE cases before ours. And no one breathed anything about verdicts coming via the postman. Anyway, the Twenty-Two-Year-Old questioned the mail thing. The lawyer-judge said again (somewhat snappishly) that she needed more time to render a decision.

And, honestly? I think it was at THAT second the Twenty-Two-Year-Old suddenly realized that repeating "It's just his word against mine" and looking smary might not cut it.

In terms of payment: She did have liability. So, Geico will send us a check for the value of DH's car, the towing charges, the cost of a rental car and the court costs. In fact, they cut the check yesterday. So, perhaps we'll receive it today. When the postman knocks....for the second time. :) Ha!

my life

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Guess who this is? My FAVORITE picture book author, EVE BUNTING. Oh, yes, and me with a dorky smile. This picture has convinced me that it's time to get new glasses!

Random House sent me to the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association's Children's Book & Literacy Dinner. Wow, that is a mouthful. The dinner (delish, especially the tiramisu) was last Saturday evening and in Pasadena. Miracle #1: I actually found Pasadena! Despite my scary and dangerous lack of sense of direction, I bravely hopped behind the wheel with my nav, a google map and a AAA map and set off all by myself to find Pasadena and, even trickier still, the Westin Hotel's underground parking. I will not tell you how many concerned calls I got on my cell, while I motored up the highway in the rain. Obviously, people do not have much faith! HOWEVER, I made it in plenty of time and even managed to stop in Chino (the city that smells like manure) at the hugest WalMart for a licorice treat.

This is just a general shot of the reception before the dinner. There was a tall yummy MOUNTAIN of cheese. I met some very cool authors including fellow Delacorte Press Author Naomi Hirahara. Naomi didn't realize that I'd been somewhat stalking her for a while via Mystery Writers of America. We'll just keep it a secret on this blog. Anyway, besides her adult mysteries plus other stuff, she's written a terrific middle-grade novel, 1001 Cranes.

Other authors I met and chatted with: the hilarious and insightful Lisa Yee (this is a link to her blog), the incredibly energetic Michael Reisman, Newbery winner Susan Patron (altho I didn't realize who I was talking to at the time! Yikes!) and the calming, Zen-like Hope April Smith (sorry, I couldn't find a link) and the best emcee in the world Pam Munoz Ryan. She also has great hair.

There were lots of other authors (one per dinner table, miracle #2: I did not spill anything), but those were the ones I managed to talk with. I can say that I was definitely the giddy, wide-eyed new kid on block. I had a A LOT of fun chatting with booksellers, librarians, and teachers. I hope they had fun too.

Thank you Random House for this great opportunity. Thank you Mary from The Yellow Book Road who helped set this up and who brought me a brand-new hardback copy of The Wednesday Surprise. Thank you Jennifer Bigelow, SCIBA organizer who made me feel so welcome and told me how much she liked me. Thank you to all the super friendly booksellers, librarians and teachers. Somehow, I don't think this post has managed to capture the fun and excitement of the evening. But, truly, I would participate again in a heartbeat. And I might try the vegetarian meal next time.

Miracle #3: On Sunday, I made it all the way to Irvine for water polo (Child #2 and Child #3).

The Wednesday Surprise
is my favorite picture book and my favorite Eve Bunting picture book in the entire world. I cannot read it without tearing up. It is that good. You will love it. If you don't already.

Last, but certainly not least, here's a super delightful book review of I So Don't Do Mysteries on A Maze and a Maraca BY NINE YEAR OLD WINNIE! She must be a child genius!

Monday, February 9, 2009

My Town Monday: the National Date Festival in Indio, CA

Feb 13-22, 2009 is the NATIONAL DATE FESTIVAL in Indio, CA (25 miles east of Palm Springs and 130 miles northeast of San Diego). Here's the exact address: Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82-503 Hwy 111, Indio, CA 92201.

There will be carnival rides and games, bands, over 1,000 exhibits, OSTRICH AND CAMEL RACES, a different Arabian Nights themed play every evening and dates galore! It costs $8 for adults, $6 for youths, free for kids under 5 years, $7 for parking. The date festival has been around since 1921.

If I haven't yet convinced you to attend, consider this: the average February temperature is SEVENTY-EIGHT DEGREES FAHRENHEIT

Here's a teeny tiny bit of date trivia: Feel free to disseminate this info at any and all cocktail parties, thus making yourself look wise and brilliant. Date trees are dioecious. This means there are female dates trees (who produce the fruit) and male date trees (who provide the pollen). In your typical date garden, you have one male tree for every FIFTY female trees. Dates take six to seven months to ripen. A date palm tree can live more than 200 years.

I love, love, love dates (but not in milk) and might be able to convince dh to make the date festival a date. Oh, come on, surely you could see this very bad pun coming from a mile away. Anyway, let me know if you're going. We don't want to miss the Blessing of the Dates Ceremony at 9:30 am on the 13th.

And I pinky-promise, no food for next week's My Town Monday post!

Coming up later this week on the blog: my fantabulous evening in Pasadena at the Southern California Independent Booksellers dinner. There will be a photo with me and a famous author. And....we get our date (ha! ha!) in Small Claims Court with The Lying 22 Year Old Female Who Ran A Red Light And Totalled DH's Car

Please trundle over to Travis Erwin's blog. He's our Fearless Leader for My Town Mondays. Along with his own MTM, he'll have a list of participants.


Friday, February 6, 2009

What passes for humor at my house...

A perfect cup of tea.

Made with a precious Salada tea bag sent from Toronto by my sister.

When I turn my back to get a Hershey's Almond Kiss,

Child #3 plops a handful of miniature marshmallows into my mug.

A ruined cup of tea.

Ahhh...13-year-old-boy humor at its best.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Book Review Club (Feb Meeting)

We're here! We're here! It's the very first meeting of The Book Review Club!

We've brewed you a pot of robust Kona coffee and baked up a bunch of chewy chocolate chip cookies (no calories!). So, grab a cup and a treat, drag over a comfy chair and join us for some excellent book talk.

We have a smorgasbord of reviews from a picture book to nonfiction to self-help, from middle grade to young adult to adult. We hail from all over the map, including Canada, Britain, and several US states. Our goal? To topple your To-Be-Read pile!

Getting a little business out of the way first: If you posted a review and I didn't link to you, sorry, sorry, sorry. Just let me know in the comments. I'll get right on it.

Without further ado, I'll start off with my review. I'll TRY (although you know how I love to roam and ramble!) to keep it short and sweet and give you lots of time to click through to everyone else's posts.

Here's cover copy for WE ALL FALL DOWN, a contemporary YA by Eric Walters. Today is September 10, 2001, and tomorrow Will, a grade nine student, will be spending the day at his father’s office. As a school assignment, all the students in his class will be going to their parents’ workplaces, but Will isn’t looking forward to it – he’d rather sleep in and hang around with his friends. His father doesn’t even have an exciting job like his best friend James’s dad, who is a New York City fireman. Will’s dad works for an international trading company and has to wake up early every morning to commute to his office on the eighty-fifth floor of the south building of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. The situation that evolves changes Will, his relationship with his dad, and the entire world.

You've got to admit that the premise is brilliant. Brilliant. Nine-one-one from the perspective of a teen. The story is fast-paced with oodles of tension. Emotional tension: especially between Will and his dad. Physical tension: these people are trapped in one of the towers. This is a great read for either gender. It was first recommended to me by one of my nieces.

If you haven't yet had the pleasure of reading a book by Eric Walters, let me fill you in on three things. He's massively popular in Canada. He's massively prolific. He's massively great.

Perhaps he'll read that last paragraph and send me a Tim Horton's gift card! Totally kidding, Eric!

And you know how I live for those weird links in life? One of Eric Walters' kids goes to school with my best friend from high school's kid!

Please please visit our intrepid reviewers. They've gone to loads of trouble for your reading enjoyment. You'll learn about some terrific books. And you know how you love to support fellow bloggers. :)

Oh yeah, and I couldn't figure out a way to organize everything. So, it's a hodge podge of brilliance.

Bee Drunken: SOMEWHERE TOWARDS THE END by Diana Athill (biography)

David Cranmer of The Education of a Pulp Writer: HIGH PROFILE by Robert B. Parker (Mystery/adult)

blueviolet: THE WEDNESDAY LETTERS by Jason Wright (Contemporary Fiction/adult)

Dan Riser of the Writing Greek: PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS by Rick Riordan (YA Fantasy)

PJ Hoover: BLISS by Lauren Myracle (YA paranormal)

Sarah Lynn of Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips: ONCE UPON A POTTY by Alona Frankel (picture book)

Stacy Nyikos: THE WHITE GIRAFFE by Lauren St. John (Middle Grade)

Maureen McGowan: I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES by Barrie Summy (Middle Grade) The check is in the mail, Maureen! (wink, wink)

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: MRS. WOOLF AND THE SERVANTS by Alison Light (nonfiction)

Zu Vincent: JUMPED by Rita Williams-Garcia (Young Adult)

Scott Parker: HYPERION by Dan Simmons (Science Ficion/adult)

Alyssa Goodnight: UNPREDICTABLE by Eileen Cook (Romantic Comedy/adult)

Kathy Holmes: THE BREAKUP BIBLE by Melissa Kantor (Young Adult)

Shana O'Brien: THE VIGOROUS MIND by Ingrid Cummings (Self-Help)

Mitch of The Sphagnum Patch: THE LAST LECTURE by Randy Pausch (with Jeffrey Zaslow)

Thao of serene hours: THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher (Young Adult)

Beth Yarnall: PUTTING ON THE DOG by Cynthia Baxter (Mystery/Series/adult)

Sandy Levin: THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho (Literary Fiction/adult)

WunderWoman: JOHNNY ANGEL by Danielle Steel (Contemporary Fiction/adult)

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin of The Tainted Archive: I'm not sure what Gary's got up. You'll have to pop over to see. :)

Jenn Jilks: ANGELS CREST by Leslie Schwartz (Contemporary Fiction/adult)

Sarah Laurence: WATER DOGS by Lewis Robinson (Mystery/adult)

We'll be back for the second meeting of The Book Review Club on WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4. Huge incredible shout-out thank-yous to the participants linked above. You did an OUTSTANDING job! You really should be paid. But, alas... ;)

Okay, people. Go forth and read! xo

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Town Monday: the Boysenberry

Here in California, we go out of our way to make life easier for the rest of the world. How do we do this? With our cool creative inventions.* Oh, you ask, just what sorts of things have come out of California?

How do these sound?

"Barbie Dolls, blue jeans, the boysenberry, the pill, white zinfandel wine, the square tomato, natural soda, the computer 'mouse', the wetsuit, and theme parks." (from

This is a photo of Charles Rudolph Boysen (1895-1950). In the 1920s, Mr. Boysen had a farm. Ee-i-ee-i-o. (Sorry. I couldn't resist). Anyway, Mr. Boysen experimented with crossing various types of berries. His hybrid of a blackberry + raspberry + loganberry grew and bore some fruit. Then, Mr. Boysen sold his farm and became Anaheim's park superintendent and chief horticulturist.

Enter George M. Darrow of the USDA and Southern California farmer Walter Knott who were hot on the trail to find the mysterious hybrid berry. They go to Mr. Boysen's abandoned farm and find a few sickly vines. Farmer Knott nurses them back to health and starts selling the berries in 1935 at his roadside fruit stand. They sold like hot cakes (Once again, I couldn't resist) as fresh berries and in preserves and pies. When asked what the popular large berries were, Farmer Knott replied, "Boysenberries. After their originator." Then his wife, Cordelia, took to frying up chicken and sold that at the stand. The Knott's roadside stand became massively popular. To keep everyone happy while they waited in line, Farmer Knott built a ghost town. And this how the theme park, Knotts Berry Farm began.

And guess what berry is featured on the gates to the Knotts Berry Farm theme park?

See the delicious boysenberry. This aggregate fruit is made up of a bunch of drupes, with each drupe composed of many drupelets. (You never know when info like this can come in handy.)

So, if, one day, you happen to find yourself on the Pill and kicking it in a pair of jeans at a Knotts Berry Farm restaurant, noshing on a salad with slices of a square tomato followed by a generous helping of boysenberry pie while sitting across from your daughter who's playing with a Barbie while sipping a natural soda and chatting about computer research with a mouse that convinced her to wear a wetsuit to SeaWorld, you can raise your glass of Zinfandel and shout, "Thank you, California!"

Please pop over to Travis Erwin's blog. He's our Fearless Leader for My Town Mondays. Along with his own MTM, he'll have a list of participants. And while you're on Travis' blog, you might want to scroll down to Friday, January 30's delightful book review. (Oh fine, yes, it's on I So Don't Do Mysteries.)

*Disclaimer: This, of course, refers to the royal "we." I, personally have never come close to inventing anything cool, creative or otherwise.


Boysen Blackberries on Foodista