Monday, December 31, 2012

Memories of Chi (2000 to 2012)

My dog Chi has been featured in a lot of my posts so I thought it was fitting to celebrate her life here on my blog.

Here are some of my favorite pictures.












Everyone should have the opportunity to be loved by a dog.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

How the Christmas of Sandy Got Changed to Something More






My Christmas ornaments were destroyed in hurricane Sandy.  They were stored in the back shed in what I thought was watertight containers.  When the storm surge came everything was knocked around. Between the salt water and the mud, they didn’t stand a chance.
Where I live, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m still in my house, which is more than I can say for most of my neighbors. During the past two months, their moldy wet belongings were taken to the curb. Their houses are gutted and they are scattered who knows where.
Compared to that, what’s a few decorations?
Besides, I’m not one of those people who loves Christmas. Sometimes the holidays overwhelm me. And you can always buy new ornaments, right?
CVS had a giant tube of color balls for 15 bucks. For a moment I thought about buying it. I even thought about splurging and getting a few of those hand-blown glass balls.
But it wouldn’t be the same. A tree with all new decorations would be like the ones in the department stores – nice to look at but devoid of sentiment and meaning.
It’s the memories in each decoration that makes it special. This year, while I’m surrounded by the destruction of Sandy and mourning the death of my father, I’ve been holding tight to memories.
And much to my surprise, I’ve missed my ornaments.
Even the ugly ones.
The year I got married, my mom gave me this hideous fluffy pink thing that said “First Christmas” in magenta script. (We always hid that one in the back).
She redeemed herself the next year when she gave me a wooden sail boat with a white-haired captain that we all agreed looked a little like my dad.
I had some pretty ones too. And handmade ones. For a while my sister went through what we liked to call her “felt period.” Every year we got a new felt masterpiece.
My favorites were the ornaments with stories that continued from one year to the next. When I was seven I found a wooden elf with an orange hat in my brother’s stocking. (Please don’t judge. He used to go through my stocking too).  For years we negotiated and traded that elf back and forth, and we argued about who got to put it on the tree. For even more years, we fake-argued.
I told myself this shouldn’t matter. Compared to what so many others lost, this shouldn't be a big deal.
Still, I missed my ornaments. I miss my neighbors. I miss the way the streets looked before Sandy. I miss my dad.
All that missing made me weary. 
I decided to skip Christmas. Expect for the Christmas Eve trip to the in-laws, I could have pulled it off too.
Until I got a package in the mail from my writing friend, Tracy Holczer. (We met on the Blueboards. We have the same terrific agent and we started talking over the phone in the beginning of this year. We talk about writing and we talk about life too. By the way, Tracy’s debut middle grade book is due out in 2014)
It was a huge box and I didn't understand it when I first opened it up. The box was filled with ornaments –some were in gift bags—others were carefully wrapped in tissue paper.
This had to be a mistake. In the rush of those pre-Christmas preparations maybe Tracy had sent me a box that was meant for her tree. She was probably going crazy looking for it. I was going to send her an email to let her know.
Then I saw a note on one of the bags that said “Merry Christmas Nan”
And I cried.
It took a long time for my slow-processing brain to put all of it together.
These were ornaments from different people -people I know from Facebook, people whose books I admire, people I’ve shared my writing angst and happy moments with, people whose books are on my to-read list. 
There were notes. Each note told a story. Each decoration did too.
Some of the ornaments were from their own trees.
Others were new.
There were home made ones too, including some snowflakes made out of felt.
There was even one that was the exact same replica of one that I had lost.
I spent the day crying.
Then I pulled myself together and drove to the local CVS and bought a little tree and some lights.
When I went back to my house, I played Christmas carols and sang.
While I decorated, I marveled at my gift.
My writer friends turned this difficult time into to the “year of the unforgettable gift”
I wish I knew a way to say thank you to everyone who participated (I don’t want to list names because I’m worried that I’ll leave out someone). It has bought me more joy than I can say.
I have a tree again.
A tree that is filled with stories.
And it’s a gift from the best storytellers I know.
Thank you.

I wish you all the same type of joy that I found when I opened up this truly special gift.
Merry Christmas!

 (More pics below)

















Saturday, December 8, 2012

There's an Contest on Goodreads



There's a contest on Goodreads for the Advanced Readers Copy of Hiding Out at The Pancake Palace!
Click here to enter.  The contest ends on December 12th.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

After the Storm



“After every storm, there’s a rainbow.”  

I admit it. I was one of those people who totally bought into quotes like that one. Blame it on the rainbow. When I was in my teens I almost had a car accident pulling over on a busy street so I could stop and take a picture of one that was reaching across the highway. And I’ve spent many an afternoon singing over and over again that song The Rainbow Connection with Kermit the frog. (well… Kermit sings. My voice comes out more like a croak – and I can’t believe I’ve admitted this on my blog). And those books with rainbow-after-storm themes are among my all time favorites (Isn’t that what middle grade books are all about?) 

But a lot has happened since my last post. I’ve learned all about the nature of storms – both emotional ones and hurricanes. Within a 48-hour period, there was a death in my family and there was Sandy.  Where I live on the Jersey shore, Sandy hit hard. It hit hard on Long Island, where I grew up too. 

So now I know…the storm is only the beginning of the story. The rainbow would be the end. But there’s a whole lot that happens in the middle that I had no idea about. And that's the part that seems to go on forever. It’s the middle part that tests you, that makes you question everything.   

So far, here’s what I’ve learned about what happens after the storm: 

     There are tears.

     There is destruction.

     There is mud. It is not the gushy soft stuff that you wiggled your toes in when you were a child or the luxurious goo that spas use. It is a dirty mud, It is relentless, unforgiving and everywhere.

     There are hugs. Lots of hugs.

     There is awe...At the sheer power of nature...At the finality of death... Of the surreal quality of it all.
  
     There are new ways to say hello. Even strangers on line at the supermarket greet each other with a “how’d you do?” After Sandy, that means “do you have heat?” “Was your house flooded?” “Are you homeless?”

     There is confusion and frustration. And resolutions. 

     There is tedium. The cleaning up part is slow and hard, a Sisyphean task. Every day people gather up the insides of their houses (the walls, ruined moldy possessions, refrigerators, appliances etc) and place them in huge piles near the street. As soon as the piles are taken away, they take another wall down, gather up more moldy possessions and make more piles. Grief has a similar pattern. It nags at you while you drink your coffee, then goes away, only to come back in flashes and waves.

     There is a yearning for ordinary things now gone: A day my Dad and I spent sailing in the Great South Bay. That roller coaster in Seaside that I always meant to ride. That beach on Long Island where I spent my high school summers.

     There is bravery in unexpected places. There is resilience. And I could write an entire blog post about kindness – simple gestures and huge acts of generosity from both strangers and friends.

     But even speaking metaphorically, I wouldn’t quite call the bravery, the resilience or even the kindness a “rainbow”. As for real ones, I’ve stopped looking up in the sky for them. I am not in the mood. If one did appear, its carefree lightness would seem trite and not appropriate.

     There is time, though. Time to rebuild, time to gather those you love and to be thankful that you are together, time to share a meal and to celebrate thanksgiving.  This year, it will be a different type of holiday- maybe more meaningful than ones in the past.

     Did I mention there is mud?

(the picture is a pre-Sandy rainbow over Barnegat Bay)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Geeks, Girls and Secret Indentities...and Mike Jung



When my debut middle grade novel turned one year old, I held a blog contest. Because the main character likes to howl at the moon, I asked everyone entering to do the same thing. Many people entered, there was lots of playful banter in the comments and it was great to see such a nice response.
But one person went above and beyond. Risking life and limb, he stood in the middle of a city park at 2am and videoblogged himself howling at the moon. Here's the video.
Anyone who is part of the kidlit blogosphere, Twittersphere, Facebooksphere (I'm making up words here) will recognize the man in the park as the multi-talented Mike Jung.
I wish I could explain what it felt like to watch someone you've never met (in person) give up precious hours of sleep to howl at the moon (at 2am!) because the main character in your first book did.
I vowed then and there that when Mike's first book came out, I would do something really special...something...well...stupendous.
So now is the time for me to make good on my promise.
This month we get to celebrate the launch of Mike's debut middle grade novel
Geeks Girls and Secret Indentities
But how can I top the antics of Mike Jung? Not only is he a writer and an all-around good guy, he also sings, plays a mean ukulele, and writes his own songs. I think he draws too. 
Besides, I am extremely camera shy.
And so I turned to the most valuable member of my marketing team
my dog, Chi.

video
In this next video, Chi the marketing maven, gets a little more comfortable with her new cape.

video



Finally, Chi shows her superhero prowess by racing down the street in a full gallop but when it comes to the money shot, she fails to get the job done.
video

We are storming the streets of New Jersey to get the word out about your new book, Mike!
Congratulations!




Sunday, September 30, 2012

And the winner is...





Thanks so much for entering the contest and telling me your favorite moon songs.
Here's how I chose the winner....
I printed out the names of all the entries on equal-sized pieces of paper. I lined up all the papers on the floor in the living room, and then I let my dog, Chi, come into the room. Chi loves to chew paper. Bookmarks. Important documents. Twenty dollar bills. She loves them all. (That's what I get for letting her rip up all those rejection letters.) Chi sniffed a bunch but the first name that she put in her mouth was the winner. And the name that Chi chose was....





PETE

Congratulations, Pete! 

If you email me your address, I will send you the book.
By the way, Hiding Out At The Pancake Palace is coming out in April, which means I'll be having more contests as the time gets closer.

And please don't forget to celebrate Banned Book Week by reading your favorite banned book!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Neil Armstrong is My Uncle Paperback Book Giveaway Contest

To celebrate the paperback release of Neil Armstrong is My Uncle today, I'm having a contest to give away a signed copy. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me the title of your favorite "moon" song (the word "moon" should be in the title of the song).
My favorite moon song is Moon River. It makes me think of Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" but even before I saw that movie, I fell in love with those Johnny Mercer lyrics . .They had me at "huckleberry friend".
The winner will be randomly selected sometime at the end of next week.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Spaces


Reading books that your older brother and sister leave strewn around the house is the inalienable right of any younger sibling. On a summer day when I was in my teens and I found this book of poetry sitting on the wobbly hall bookshelf, I didn't think twice. I remember leaning up against the wall and flipping through the pages. When I got to page 96, I stopped.
In the top left hand corner were the words:

WE WERE ON THE TERRACE

DRINKING GIN AND TONICS

when the squall hit. 

There was nothing more. 
The rest of the page was white space.
I looked at the cover and for the first time noticed the author's name. I wondered who John Ashbery was and how he got to write a book where thirteen words were called a poem. This wasn't poetry. It was nothing like what I'd studied in school. Where was the rhyme? The meter? The rest of the words? Clearly this guy pulled one over on a bunch of people
I read the poem again and again.  Then I closed my eyes.
Soon I began to imagine myself, a little older, sitting on that terrace surrounded by fabulously witty people, all of them with drinks in their hands. I could smell the sharp scent of gin and the heaviness of chlorine from the nearby pool. Floating toys drift on the water.
There's a sound of ice clinking on glasses.
And laughter.
The storm moves in fast. Rain comes in from all sides.
My fabulously witty friends scatter.
Someone grabs the drinks,
another reaches for the tray of limes
and a third brave soul runs to get the towels hanging over a fence.
We head into the house but the mood is different. Not as carefree.
Everyone is wet.
Uncomfortable.
The drinks don't clink.
The chlorine smell is replaced by stuffy inside air.
We watch through the windows. The floating toys are still out there banging up against the sides of the pool. There is a conversation about who should go back out into the rain to get them.
Soon the people with drinks have personalities and problems. An entire story comes to light.
When I finally opened my eyes, I'd decided that maybe John Ashbery knew what he was doing after all. It wasn't only about the words. It was about the spaces between them. The spaces between those thirteen words were filled with images.
All that happened a long time ago. In the years that followed I'd lost track of the book. I'd assumed it was reclaimed by an older sibling. This summer, when I was cleaning out my parents' house, I found it again. For many reasons, emptying out your childhood home is an arduous task. Despite my mother's pleading, I didn't want any of the china or the crystal bowls or the fancy tea sets, but when I saw the book in my brother's old bedroom, I grabbed it.
It's sitting on my desk now and every so often, I turn to page 96. There's something magical about those thirteen words. They can scrape away the decades and make me feel seventeen again. I remember everything: That summer day. That hallway bookshelf. The feeling of confusion. That moment of understanding. It all feels so close.
When I read that poem for the first time, I learned something important about the spaces between words.
But this summer it taught me a different lesson
about the spaces between years.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong



When my book first came out, I was lucky enough to chat (through email) with the real nephew of Neil Armstrong. He told a story about his uncle helping a woman whose car broke down in a store parking lot in Wisconsin. At some point, the woman noticed that the man underneath the hood of her car looked familiar. When she mentioned to him that he resembled Neil Armstrong, he quipped, "Yeah. I get that a lot".

I suspect that the woman went home, put her food in the frig, and over dinner told her family about the nice man who helped her in the parking lot. She might have even mentioned that he looked like the first man to walk on the moon.

Neil Armstrong called himself a "nerdy engineer". He probably hated being called a "hero" and reminded people that thousands of people worked to make that great moment happen. But on July 20, 1969, it was Neil Armstrong who took the controls of the lunar lander, known as the Eagle. When it became apparent that the automatic pilot was going to set the Eagle down in an area filled with giant boulders and craters, Neil Armstrong flew it manually. With only a minute of fuel left, he searched for a safe place to land. Back on earth in Mission Control the atmosphere was so tense that famed Flight Director Gene Kranz told the Flight Communicator Charlie Duke  "You’d better remind them there ain’t no damn gas stations on the moon."  Even with all those years of planning and all that hard work from thousands of people in private companies and government agencies, there nothing Mission Control could do. It was all in the hands of one man.

Along with the rest of the world, Mission Control waited.
With only twenty seconds of fuel left, the lunar lander touched down. Neil Armstrong calmly announced "the Eagle has landed."

The world cheered.
A few hours later, that "nerdy engineer" took that first historic step.

Here's part of the statement from Neil Armstrong's family:

"...While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In this post, I ask debut author Nikki Loftin sinisterly hard questions


In her debut middle grade book The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy Nikki Lofin has managed to combine all of my favorite things: candy, some dark humor, a great story, lovely writing, a school with a rock climbing wall and did I mention candy?

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:
Lorelei is bowled over by Splendid Academy--Principal Trapp encourages the students to run in the hallways, the classrooms are stocked with candy dishes, and the cafeteria serves lavish meals featuring all Lorelei's favorite foods. But the more time she spends at school, the more suspicious she becomes. Why are her classmates growing so chubby? And why do the teachers seem so sinister?
It's up to Lorelei and her new friend Andrew to figure out what secret this supposedly splendid school is hiding. What they discover chills their bones--and might even pick them clean!

Mix one part magic, one part mystery, and just a dash of Grimm, and you've got the recipe for a cozy-creepy read that kids will gobble up like candy.

Nikki’s book has been called a “mesmerizing read” and an “irresistible contemporary fairy tale.” Sure, it’s been likened to Grimm, and I’ve even heard some comparisons to the great Roald Dahl but this story is pure Nikki. Smart. Witty. And fun.
On her launch day, Nikki is here at Ramble Street so I got to ask her a few questions about her writing process.


Welcome Nikki. Let the questions begin.  
So how'd you find your way into Middle Grade books? 

I took a left at Self-Help and wandered through Romance? Okay, kidding. Although not about the romance part! A few years back, I realized that I’d been deferring my dream of Being a Writer until suddenly, there I was, gray hair and all, with the same unfulfilled dream I’d had when I was young and perky. So I started writing… a romance. A very bad paranormal romance in which the characters were never quite able to, um, take that final step (if you know what I mean) because I couldn’t write that squicky sex stuff! Once I put all 60,000 words of that aside, I found the plots pouring into my head were all middle grade – the kinds of stories I made up for my kids at night. The kinds of stories I’d devoured as a kid. And so far, the middle grade trend has continued! 
Thanks goodness. I wasn’t sure I could write one more heaving bosom or chiseled chest if my life depended on it.

Well, I’m glad you left Romance. Let’s talk about writing. What's your favorite part of the process? You plot, right? I don't. My outline is generally my first draft (which is extremely time-consuming). Do you have any suggestions to help us non-plotters? How do you approach plotting? Do you know the ending of the story right away? Do you start with a what-if scenario? A theme?

Oh, pantsers. We all think the rest of the world plots, don’t we? It’s our deepest insecurity.
No, Nan, I don’t plot, not if I can help it. Plotting is for old fogies, soulless robotic word count monkeys who shun the Muse, etc. (Just kidding! Some of my very best friends are word count monkeys. They can’t help it that they have no souls.)
I love that feeling of a new story, unfolding like a mystery as I work. I usually start with a what if scenario, and build it mentally until the first lines start to come. Then I race to the keyboard!
Of course, I don’t wing it entirely – about 10,000 words into a new novel, I’ll sort of chart out what I think will happen, just to make sure I have enough story there to keep it going for an entire book! But I make sure I don’t plot out what the ending will be, as I firmly believe that if I already know that, then: a. the writing won’t be any fun, and b. the story will be predictable and boring.
My best advice would be to read the screenwriting book SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder, and adapt it to work for your novel. It’s been transformative for many writers lost in their plotlines…including me! As long as I use any structure loosely, I’m good. Gotta leave room for the magic to happen, right? :)

Wait. You don’t plot either? I’ve read your book and a few pages of a first draft of another story you wrote. I was sure you plotted. Are we non-plotters insecure? My stories start with “what if” scenarios and, like you, I wander through my first drafts.

Okay, next question: I'm sure you've had many wonderful things happen since you've gotten "the call". Holding your first book in your hand is a dream come true. But I found that lots of unexpected wonderful things happen along the way too. What has your experience been?

Oh my gosh. I think the Big Day that’s coming next weekend – my book launch party at the local indie, Bookpeople, in Austin -- may be the cherry on top of this whole three years of work. I mean, it’s not every day your Life’s Dream comes true, right? And so my family and friends are all coming – some of them flying into the state just for the occasion. It’s humbling and joyful and terrifying… like a wedding and a debutante ball and an inauguration all mixed together. And the friends who can’t be there are celebrating with me like you are, on blogs and Twitter and Facebook! Sharing my joy with all my favorite people? So much to be happy about. (And on a related note, so many cupcakes to bake! Must get started on that…)

Nikki, I’m jumping up and down for you. Having that dream come true is amazing. There are so many great parts, like getting "the call" and working with an editor (which is my favorite part of the process). And speaking of editors, have you noticed that there are tons of writing books on how to get your first book published and just as many about how to market your first book. But when it comes to books about writing, there seems to be a big black hole when it comes to talking about the editorial process. What was that part like?

Strangely smooth! (For the first book, anyway. And I’d love to talk about the subsequent books, but I’m going to need more time to recover. As in, a few years. Someday, they tell me, that second book pain will all be valuable to me. Anyway…)
For some reason, my editor liked my first book pretty much in the form I turned it in, which was a great blessing, as I hate revising like unmedicated dental surgery. The most annoying thing was trying to find better names for the book and my main characters. But I thought all of her revision suggestions made perfect sense, and I was happy to tweak away! Also, I’m a fairly “clean” writer, so there wasn’t a hugely humiliating copyedit phase.
Of course, I’m going to plead the fifth on this question if you ever ask about Book #2.
I don’t think anyone has the same experience twice, so maybe that’s why there’s no book about the editorial process! Or maybe they’re all keeping secrets from us…

I do like the idea that someone is keeping secrets, but I think you’re right about the differences in the editorial process. I've gone through the process twice, and it does seem like each book goes its own way. So are you done with book two? I’ve heard that one is the hardest. As far as writing goes, I’m the opposite. Revision is my favorite thing. That first draft. That blank computer screen.  That’s the scary part for me.

One last question from the candy addict in New Jersey. What’s your favorite candy?

I think my most addictive candy would be peanut M&Ms. But my favorite is Dark Chocolate with Orange Lindt bars. Mmmmm. I ate SO MANY of these in the past year. 

My current favorite candies are those peppermint patties. I promise to eat a bunch of them today in honor of your book launch.

Thanks for stopping by, Nikki. Enjoy your day! Hope you'll come back to Ramble Street soon.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

So how's your writing going?

Never ask. And never make eye contact.

It's a question writers get asked all the time. It's kind of like the "how are you?" of the writing world.
My problem is when my friends ask, I answer.
It doesn't matter if I'm deep into a novel or if I have a few wisps of an idea, I like to talk. I tell them about the funny quirks of some minor character or ramble on about a major discovery I've made about the protagonist. I wonder out loud about what my main character really wants and I try to figure out if I'm taking them down the right path.
But not everyone wants the gritty details.
Even with family members and great friends, there are times when they've heard enough. And as difficult as this concept is for me, it seems that they occasionally like to talk about other things.
No matter how casually they say it, if they ask about my story, I will tell them.
Not too long ago at the day job I met an unsuspecting coworker at the copy machine. When she said, "hey, how's the writing going?" it was meant as a polite greeting. And I knew it too. But that didn't stop me. While the photocopy machine chugged along, I shared with her tons of fascinating fun facts that I had learned about the place where my characters lived.
At first, she was polite and nodded. Then after a while, she stared at the copy machine like she was begging it to print faster. Unfortunately for her, it was a huge print job, a slow machine, and I had tons more things to tell her. Even when she shifted back and forth, giving wistful glances at the automatic sprinkler system, I rambled on and on and on.
There are writers who keep their thoughts to themselves. They let their ideas perk and simmer. They write it all down (which really is the point of the whole thing). And when they're ready, they share.
They are wise writers.
I am not wise.
When I'm working on a story, I feel like I'm discovering a whole new world, meeting new people, and encountering new experiences.  I want to introduce all the people I care about in my real life to the people I care about in my imaginary one.
Sometimes, when no one is around, I'll even talk to the dog. And sometimes she gives me a please-can-we-talk-about-something-else glance too.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

When Your Work-In-Progress Stops Talking

Sometimes you don't see eye to eye


I'm having problems with my work-in-progress.  We've stopped talking. 
But before I tell you about all the bad things in the relationship, let me tell you about the beginning. 
Back then, everything was good.
We met in the most unexpected way. I was driving home from a weekend visit with my Mom and Dad when I hit traffic. Lots of traffic.
There I was, sitting in the car, not moving at all, somewhere around exit 105 on the Garden State Parkway, when "blammo!" I heard a voice. I heard a first sentence. I saw a character. She told me her name. There was another character. He told me his. And a place! They showed me where they lived. It was somewhere I'd never been. Then more people came into the story. They talked and talked. 
Fortunately traffic was horrendous. The normal three hour drive took over eight hours so we had lots of time to get to know each other. By the time I got home, I was breathless. After saying a quick hello to my husband and the dog, I raced the to computer.
Over the next few weeks, it was magic.
My w.i.p. told me secrets. There were some turns and twists. There was an ending. It was exactly the type of ending that this story should have.
A few days ago, I went to my computer expecting words to flow, but instead of talking, there was silence.
Not a peep. 
At first I thought it was a blip. I was patient. But the next day, it happened again. And then again.
"What did I do?" I asked. "Did I take you in the wrong direction? Do you want to go someplace else?" 
But there is no answer.  I've tried nice music (We're working on a play list). And chocolate (many many kinds of chocolate). I've talked very sweetly to all the characters.
No matter what I do, I get nothing.
Our time together is stressful. The joy is gone.
Another story whispers. It's just a chapter. But it wants me to write it. I feel like I'm cheating. Yet how long do you stay with your uncommunicative w.i.p.? How do you know when it's time to give up?
For me it comes down to belief. I still have faith in this story. And I think there's something there that wants to be told. 
Now if only I can convince those characters . . .

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shhh. Here's the Secret About Why I Haven't Blogged



I haven't blogged in a long long time. I've been busy writing. Here's the cover for my next book. The amazing art was done by John Hendrix. I truly love this cover. That's the Jersey Devil on the sign up there pouring pancake syrup. Check out all those lovely details.

If you look, you'll see that the boy in the cover is holding a microphone. He's a famous musical prodigy, who froze on stage during a televised talent contest and he's hiding out from the paparazzi in the Pinelands of New Jersey. But it's a small town. And so it's very possible that people will find out.

So here's my question:
If you knew that a famous superstar entertainer was hiding out in your town, would you tell?
Would you whisper it to your best friend?
Shout it out to the cool kids?
Tell your boyfriend?
Your teacher?
Your sister?
Your neighbor?
Or would you help the famous boy hide out?


Statistically, most people would tell someone. While I was writing, I did some research on secrets and here's what I learned. Most of us are not good are keeping them.
One study reported that its participants kept a secret for an average of 72 hours before they spilled the beans.  That's a mere three days. Heck, I can keep a chocolate bar for longer than that.
Another study found that having a secret takes a toll on us physically. Researchers divided the participants into two groups. They asked the first group to recall a big secret. Then they pointed the participants to a hill and asked them how steep they thought it was. They did the same thing to the next group, except they asked that group to remember a smaller secret. The group with the big secrets had big problems. They thought the hill was steeper and harder to climb. That same group also had a harder time judging distance. The researchers concluded that the group with the big secrets were "physically encumbered."
It seems that old adage about feeling burdened with a secret is true.


By the way, thanks to my writing buddy C Lee McKenzie and her RAOK blitz for getting me back into blogging. Sometimes you need a push from your friends.