Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kelly Couric interviews SUSAN VANHECKE

(boa waving madly) It's ME. Remember ME? KELLY Couric, the slightly chubby, super sassy and trailer-trashy twin sister of Katie Couric?!

I'm back and I'm so taking over the blog today while Barrie is hanging out over at Shari Green's blog. She doesn't even know I'm here.

And she definitely doesn't know I've arranged for an author interview with....the one...the only...


This is Susan. Doesn't she look creative and artsy? In fact, she's SO creative and artsy that she has TWO books out recently! TWO!

Susan co-wrote Rock 'n Roll Solder: A Memoir with Dean Ellis Kohl. This young-adult book is the true story of how Dean formed a rock 'n roll band in Vietnam during the war. We're talking having to find instruments, musicians, playing for the troops, worrying about staying alive. Yowzer! This book even has a forward by Graham Nash. Without going into too, too much details, let me just confess that once upon a time I was a huge CSN&Y groupie. I'm sure Graham still remembers me! (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

This is the cover for Susan's PICTURE BOOK (that's how versatile she is!): An Apple Pie for Dinner. It's the story of how Old Granny Smith (get it!!!?) trades a bunch of stuff to get apples so she can bake a pie. The very cool, 3D-ish illustrations are by Carol Baicker-McKee Here's a great book review by Sarahlynn of Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips.

Okay. Now that I've done my intro, I'll let Susan in. She's been waiting patiently for me to give her the "signal" for "the indepth interview is about to begin." (Kelly places the tips of her index finger and third finger against her lips and... whistles really really loudly. The door creaks open.)

(Susan enters slowly, blinking.) Was that the sign? Can I come in now? How long was I out there? More than a day?

Ha, ha, ha! Very funny. See, folks, she creative, artsy AND funny. (rubbing hands together). Let's dive into the interview. Susan, 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?

Well, I don't know if I'd call it chillin' on the couch, exactly. More like collapsing, then praying that the synapses will recharge. But there's definitely loads of chocolate involved, the darker the better. New stuff? Yeah, there's always a bunch of new stuff waiting for some writerly love.

Chocolate and chillin'? I like the sounds of your lifestyle! So, be honest. Do you pay for your ideas? If not, where do you get them?

I follow the rainbow to its end and steal 'em from that big iron pot while the leprechaun's sleeping it off. You know, the pot with all the gold in it too. Hey, wait, it probably would be smarter – and a whole lot less work – to just take the little man's gold. Gotta try that next time.

Oh wow! I didn't realize you could actually get gold from the end of a rainbow. I thought that was, like, a fairy tale. Thanks for the tip. Next writing question: Do you outline?

Outline, shmoutline. I don't know how all those super-efficient, hyper-organized author types do it with their whiteboards and post-it notes and computer spreadsheets. If I get too [anal]ytical, it sucks the life right out of my writing. I'm more of a jot-the-story-arc-on-the-back-of-a-grocery-receipt type of gal, myself.

I agree. I could never outline. Never. (Kelly leans forward conspiratorially)Tell us something weird about yourself. Preferably juicy and scandalous. We're all friends here. Seriously. What's said on this blog, stays on this blog.

Just between you and me, Kel, I'm a book-sniffer. Total addict. Monkey on my back since grade school. I get a new tome in my hands and lose all control. Hardback, paperback, textbook, cookbook, it doesn't matter. I've got to crack that baby open, plunge my face inside, and breathe deep and long. It's a sickness, Kel, I know. But I'm handling it. Really. Maybe when I hit rock bottom – crawling the shelves at Barnes & Noble, pupils dilated, froth at the mouth – I'll consider rehab. Or maybe there's a 12-step I can look into. You familiar with Book Sniffers Anonymous?

No, I'm not familiar with that. But I'll ask around. And guess what I sniff? (pause) New shoes! (Kelly's stomach grumbles.) Time to talk food. What is your favorite dessert?

Oh, come on now, this one's too easy! You've got to know I'd answer apple pie! I'm so crazed for it that I actually applied to be a judge at the 2010 National Pie Championships in Orlando next spring. Hundreds of contestants, thousands of pies, from fruit and nut to cream and custard. Pie heaven! Hope I make the cut (no pun intended, Kel); keep your fingers crossed for me! Oh, and the recipe included in my picture book An Apple Pie For Dinner is the most delish ever. You can find it at; click on "Bake Your Own Apple PIe." There's even a step-by-step video to show you how to make it.

Oh, duh! Apple pie, of course! You know what I've learned from this interview, Susan? I could totally be an author. Totally. I can chill and eat chocolate. I know what a rainbow looks like. I'll start sniffing books and baking pie. I am so going to be published!

Oh, ack! What's that sound? Is that Barrie back already? I thought she'd stay way longer at Shari Green's blog. She loves Shari and all her questions. Susan, quick! Go! (Kelly opens back door and pushes Susan through.)

Microphone in hand, Kelly turns to the audience. "And that folks was one of the most outside-the-box interviews with Susan Vanhecke than you'll find anywhere on the Internet. AUTHOR SUSAN VANHECKE--you met her here first!
Later gator!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

FIFTY-ONE eggs + links!

a clump of eggs (one of many clumps!)


Holy Fertile Myrtle Reptile!!

It's late. After 1:30 a.m. and Child #2 are headed to bed. He dug up all those eggs. What a trooper!

And totally changing gears:

A shout-out to Larramie of the Divining Wand who posted an interview with moi.

Another shout-out to Bookworm Readers who posted a review of i so don't do spooky and rated it an overall A!

Thank you, blogettes!!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Our veiled chameleon is laying eggs!!!

About 3:00 this afternoon, she began lumbering down the side of the cage. This time, she went straight for the "birthing chamber" (!!). We use the same 5-gallon flower pot each time. This is her third clutch.

Here she is digging away. About 3:20 pm.

Here's the progress she's made after about 40 minutes. I think she'll be done about 11:00 pm.

Below is a video of her digging. To set the scene: The room is warm with three heat lamps on three cages. Crickets are chirping merrily. There is a scritching sound as she digs a tunnel in the damp sand. It's very exotic and doesn't feel at all like a bedroom in suburban San Diego!

Sad News from the Chameleon Cage

It is with a heavy heart that I post today.

The first baby veiled chameleon died last night. :(

I could tell the end was coming. We just couldn't get him to eat. Instead of opening his little mouth and sticking out his tongue, he'd walk past the crickets. We tried everything we could think of. Pinhead crickets, small crickets, keeping the baby super hydrated and the cage warm.

Even sadder, the sibling is not far behind. He won't eat either.

I'd read of this online. Baby veileds who won't eat. If the temperature fluctuates or is too hot in the incubator. Our local reptile store thinks the first batch of eggs just wasn't a hardy batch. Of the original 23 eggs, only two hatched. There are still 3 eggs from this clutch in the incubator, but they've pretty much collapsed in on themselves, and I don't think we'll see any births. The other 42 eggs in the incubator are from the second clutch. And, as I've mentioned, the female is heavily pregnant again.

Sigh. This whole pet thing is not for sissies.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Town Monday: Dudley's Bakery, Santa Ysabel

I've written a couple of My Town Monday posts about Julian, CA. The posts have been about the Julian gold mine and the Observers Inn Planetarium.

If you're in the vicinity of Julian, you'll definitely want to hit Dudley's Bakery.

Dudley's Bakery was started in 1963 by a man named Mr. Dudley (big surprise there!) Pratt who'd owned a bakery in the town next door to me, El Cajon. Dudley's Bakery is located in Santa Ysabel, about 50 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.

Mr. Pratt used to close Dudley's Bakery for a couple of months each year so that he could take off for Europe in search of new bread recipes. He didn't wite these recipes down, but memorized them. Which seems a little dicey to me, but presumably Mr. Pratt's memory was better than mine. He was also on the lookout for new ovens and other baking paraphernalia.

This is one of my favorite breads from Dudley's. It's Baja Jalapeno. The top seller, though, is the date, nut and raisin bread. There are about 15 different varieties of bread. There was a time when the bakery offered over 40 varieties!

Yes, for you sweet-toothed people, there are fresh pastries.

Some trivia: About 5,000 loaves are baked a day. The bakers start at midnight and work all night long, filling the four large ovens (each oven holds as many as 120 loaves, if I've done my math right!). Dudley's bread is a common school fundraiser in these parts. There has been talk of Mr. Pratt as a friendly ghost who hung around the bakery. But he hasn't been "seen" in about 15 years.

Here's a link to Dudley's famous bread pudding.

And here's contact info for Dudley's Bakery:
30218 Highway 78 (Julian Road)
Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
Phone: (760) 765-0488
Dudley's Bakery website

Oh great. Now I'm hungry and have nothing decent to nibble on!

Click here for links to more My Town Monday posts. (Thanks Clair for hosting) Also, if you're even mariginally thinking about writing a My-Town-Monday post, please do! Fair warning, though, it's addictive! Write your post, then leave a comment here and we'll link to you.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

News from the incubator!!

Something incredible has happened in our incubator.

Two itsby bitsy teeny weeny baby veiled chameleons fought their way out of their respective egg.

I know you want pictures.

Here's a shot of the deli dish in the incubator. This is the second chameleon battling his way out of his egg. It took each baby over a day to get free of the egg. The first was completely out on Saturday; the second yesterday.

Here's a closer-up shot of the photo above. For the first day or so, the chameleon drags around, from it's tummy, a little ball of egg material. I think it serves as nutrition, but it sure trips up the baby a lot. The little ball shrivels up after a day or two. In this picture, you can see that the baby's has some vermiculite (dirt stuff we put in each deli dish) stuck to him.

Here are the two babies. It's a sibling photo. They're hanging from the top of their cage, bonding and perhaps wondering if any additional brothers or sisters will be showing up. This lighting is not showing up their colors. However, the baby born on Saturday is much greener than the more recent baby, who is a boring brown.


You can how they're very cute. Probably the cutest veileds ever laid! And, no, I"m not prejudiced.

Additional details:
-There are three more eggs from this clutch. Hopefully, they'll hatch too.
-These eggs incubated for a little less than six months.
-We still have 45 eggs to hatch. Three of the eggs should hatch any day now. If you do the math, you'll see that we have 42 more eggs that should hatch around the end of Feb.

In other chameleon cage news...the female is pregnant again!! Also, we've separated the male and female. According to the reptile pet store, he's stressed and getting too thin. So, we now have three veiled chameleon cages. Our house is noisy with singing crickets. Craziness!

Oh yeah and...., the female is pregnant again!! We've separated the male and female. According to the reptile pet store, he's stressed and getting too thin. So, we now have three veiled chameleon cages. And our house is noisy with singing crickets. Craziness!

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Town Monday: Ann Arbor, MI

I'm still in Ann Arbor. In fact, I won't be back home until late tomorrow night. DH (Darling Husband) somehow thinks I'm ready to come home. However, I'm definitely enjoying hotel and restaurant life!

The water polo is going really really well. Child #3 is playing superbly. I don't want to jinx us, so all I'll say is that our two last games are tomorrow.

I'm going to do wimp out and mostly do a pictorial visit to Ann Arbor. It's late here and I have to get up early to watch the first game and I'm on the east coast, but still on west coast time. Or some time zone in between...

From the book signing...

Robin Agnew, me, Jamie Agnew, lovely and gracious owners Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore

Clair of Bo Fexler, PI and our My Town Monday host. Clair has this terrific wry sense of humor. It was wonderful sitting and chatting with her.

Stacy of The Cat's Meow. Stacy is just as interesting and insightful as I'd imagined. I'm so happy we got to meet IRL.

From the streets...

a street near the University of Michigan

You have to really watch out for pedestrians in this town; they'll dart out into traffic anywhere, anytime.

an overly friendly squirrel

Squirrel is DH's favorite meat. And I'm not even kidding. This little guy is lucky he didn't go back to California as a souvenir.

a brick street.

Very cute and full of character, but the bricks are way uneven. You do not want to be dashing across this street.

a poster for the card game of Euchre, which I spent hours and hours playing as a tween/teen.

All in all, I'm having buckets of fun! There's something about a college town...

Click here for links to more My Town Monday posts. (Thanks Clair for hosting) Also, if you're even mariginally thinking about writing a My-Town-Monday post, please do! Fair warning, though, it's addictive! Write your post, then leave a comment here and we'll link to you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Book Signing and A Birthday

I will be at Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan on this coming Saturday, November 14 @ 1:30!!!

Ann Arbor, Michigan? Yes! Child #3's very talented water polo team will be competing in the Speedo Cup (top 12 8th grade and under boys' teams IN THE NATION. And the top 12 girls teams will be there as well). The games take place at the University of Michigan's pool. That would be Michael Phelps' home pool!

When I was in Ann Arbor for this competition last year (did I mention how talented Child #3's team is??!), I wandered into Aunt Agatha's, had a great chat with co-owner Jamie about mysteries and Nancy Drew and I forget what else.

And this year, I'm doing a signing there! The paperback of I So Don't Do Mysteries was released TWO DAYS AGO!

So, at the signing, I'm doing a short, fun presentation. There will also be free bookmarks, pencils and chocolate.

I'm really hoping to see Stacy of The Cat's Meow , Clair of Bo Fexler, PI and our My Town Monday host, and Patti of Pattinase. (Patti probably can't make it, but I can still hope.)

Thank you, Stacy for this My Town Monday post about Ann Arbor restaurants. I'll definitely be wanting to eat while there. Several times.

So....if you're anywhere near Ann Arbor, I'd love to see you! Aunt Agatha's is at 213 South Fourth Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104 (phone: 734.769.1114)

And birthday wishes to Neil Young, whom I have loved for many years. I have worn t-shirts and pajamas proclaiming this love. Neil, my birthday is in August. Any chance you could write a song for me? xo

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sorry. No My Town Monday post.

That's me. Only less frazzled looking!

Sorry. No My Town Monday post this week. :(

I have to read the galleys for I So Don't Do Makeup. This is my last chance to make changes. Gulp.

I'm still wrestling with the outline for I So Don't Do Famous. The resolution doesn't feel resolved enough.

We refinanced and have to sign docs this week.

I'm going to Ann Arbor, Michigan on Friday for water polo with Child #3.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Book Review Club (November 2009)

Welcome one and all to the TENTH get-together of The Book Review Club. The TENTH! I can't believe it! Although considering that last month, I posted it was the NINTH meeting, you'd think I would've realized where we were headed!

Anyway, please pull up a comfy chair. Inhale deeply; the room is filled with the friendly aroma of coffee and sugary donuts. Gaze around. Our shelves are stocked with books. Exceptional previous reviews are only a click away. Oh, but it's great to be here.

SEEING IS BELIEVING. It's the 6th book in this annual Ripley's Believe It or Not series.

How did this book go over in my house?

Well, here's child #4 reading it.

And here's Child #3 following suit.

And here's child #...oops...It's my DH (darling husband)!

The hardcover book is filled with colorful photos and odd and obscure facts. Way-out-there obscure facts. And yet I managed to relate a few of them to my own little life.

Did you know that... "the World Cube Association holds an annual contest for solving a Rubik's Cube--while blindfolded. In 2008, the winner solved the puzzle in just 48 seconds." To give you a little perspective, I once solved a Rubik's Cube by peeling off all the little colored squares and sticking them back on the right order. It took way longer than 48 seconds.

Did you know that... "at O. Noir restaurant in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, customers dine in total darkness. There are no lights, no candles, and all cell phones and glowing watches must be removed." I once went on a blind date that might've gone better in this restaurant.

Did you know that... "a dental technician from Utah is one of the world's best tooth artists, having illustrated teeth for more than 20 years...Customers can have anything they want to display on their teeth, including many famous faces from the worlds of sports, politics and entertainment." Oh, oh, oh! Are you thinking what I'm thinking?! Book covers! I could have my book covers tattooed on my teeth!

In my family of four children, three of whom are boys, Ripley's Believe It or Not! SEEING IS BELIEVING is....a coffee table book. And there really is nothing odd about that!

Onto to our brilliant reviewers and their brilliant reviews...


Sarahlynn of Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips: AN APPLE PIE FOR DINNER retold by Susan Vanhecke and illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee


Stacy Nyikos: BUTT WARS: THE FINAL CONFLICT by Andy Griffiths (middle grade)

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: FORTUNE'S FOLLY by Dave Fagan (middle grade)

Kaye of the Book Review Forum: THE BLUE STAR by Tommy Earley

Thao of serene hours: TEACH ME by R.A. Nelson

Linda McLaughlin: BABY BE-BOP by Francesca Lia Block

Keri Mikulski: THE NAUGHTY LIST by Suzanne Young

Patti Abbott: ROCK 'N ROLL SOLDIER by Dean Ellis Kohler and Susan Vanhecke

Jody Feldman: FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg (middle grade)


Sarah Laurence: THE CONFESSIONS OF EDWARD DAY by Valerie Martin (literary/thriller)

Sandy Levin of Peaceful Heart Stained Glass: STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova

Scott Parker: HEAT WAVE by Richard Castle (adult mystery)

Jenn Jilks of My Reflections: LOST IN THE BACKWOODS by Catherine Parr Traill (1802-1899) (biography)

Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: HOME TO BIG STONE GAP by Adriana Trigiani (women's fiction)

From the Desk of Bee Drunken: THE GREAT LOVER by Jill Dawson



Note to Reviewers: Our desktop computer was carted away, comatose and ill with a trojan, to the Geek Squad. So, if I missed anyone's review, it's due to technology! Well, maybe I can't blame it all on the sick computer! So, if I missed you, leave me a comment and I'll rectify the situation straight away. And award myself one less cookie today!

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Monday, November 2, 2009

My Town Monday: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

And here we are again--another My Town Monday post!

We're back in Hollywood. Fair warning--I crammed so much into my recent weekend away in LA/Hollywood/Beverly Hills that I could write SEVERAL My Town Monday posts on this area!

Today, we're at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (circa 1927) where I dragged Famous Author and Newbery Winner Susan Patron and Mary Hayward, Employee Extraordinaire of the Yellow Book Road (the children's indie bookstore near me in San Diego).

Susan and Mary were uber helpful and patient as we poked around the hotel, doing research for Sherry's fourth adventure, I So Don't Do Famous. I can be quite embarrassing and relentless with my camera (after all, I'll need all sorts of details for the book and have a memory like a sieve), but they were good-natured and helpful about it. We had A LOT of fun.

me, Mary Hayward, Susan Patron (The Higher Power of Lucky, Lucky Breaks and other wonderful books)

In this photo, we're lunching at 25 Degrees (a 24/7 restaurant at the Roosevelt). Here's the description from the hotel website: "....whose name refers to the temperature difference between a medium rare and well-done burger, has a playful 'Bordello meets Burger Bar attitude..."

Is the Roosevelt haunted?

Apparently so. Marilyn Monroe's spirit lives in a mirror there, and she occasionally dances in the ballroom. Montgomery Clift plays his bugle on the 8th floor. Also, there are a couple of room with ghosts.

Guess what the staff at the front desk did?


Will the Hollywood Roosevelt be featured in I So Don't Do Famous?

Oh, I think so.

Click here for links to more My Town Monday posts. (Thanks Clair for hosting) Also, if you're even mariginally thinking about writing a My-Town-Monday post, please do! Fair warning, though, it's addictive! Write your post, then leave a comment here and we'll link to you.

Please check back Wednesday when I'll be hosting The Book Review Club. We have some great reads lined up!


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