Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A truly big birthday surprise!

Yesterday was my birthday and my sweetie, Patrick Burns, not only threw me an amazing birthday party, complete with champagne toast and an awesome cake, he popped the BIG question! And, of course, I said "yes!"

I had no idea it was coming...especially when he handed me a glass of champagne and there was something shiny and pretty in the bottom of the bubbles.

And take a look at my gorgeous ring. I seriously cried when I saw it. It's so delicate and special. It's a filigree white gold ring with a diamond...vintage 1928-ish. Sooooo pretty.

My mother asked me if I was on Cloud 9...I think it's more like Cloud 99!

I think 2011 is definitely going to be the best year ever!

Marley = )

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ringing in the New Year

New Year's Eve is one of the most promise-filled days of the year. It's the ringing out of the old year, taking stock of everything that happened (the good and the bad), and welcoming in the new. It's a clean slate, a fresh start, and a we all (at least temporarily) believe that we can make the coming year as perfect and productive as we always hope.

2010 New Year Dawn

This New Year's Eve I will be ringing in 2011 with my parents at the Pollard Theatre's annual New Year's Eve gala in Guthrie, Oklahoma. The gala is held in the old train depot and there are plenty of sweet treats, a cash bar, and a fabulous live band. There is dancing and singing and the artistic director announces the new theatre season.

All in all it's a pretty fun event, but since I don't know anyone very well except my parents, it can drag a little. Last year, to pass the time until midnight, I downloaded a screenwriting app and got in trouble (with the aforementioned artistic director) for trying to write a script instead of dancing. Maybe this year I can sneak in a little writing.

How will you be ringing in the New Year? Partying with friends, cuddled up on the couch with family, or some other fun tradition? And if that's not your dream New Year's Eve plan, then tell me what is. Or tell me about your favorite New Year's Eve ever.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A California Christmas

My sweetie and I are on the road this Christmas, calling Southern California "home" for the holidays. It's hard to be traveling over the holidays, which includes Christmas, my birthday, and New Year's Eve, but so many people have opened their homes and hearts to us that it's overwhelming.

Our friends Kathy and Malcolm let us stay with them for a couple of weeks while our RV was getting regular maintenance. They made us feel right at home, letting us take over their dining room table with our computers and cameras. Their pets, Speedy (the dog), Precious and Scooter Boy (the two cats) treated us like we were part of the family. And, the UPS guy was even starting to recognize me from all the packages he delivered for us!

My sweetie's kidlets are with us for Christmas. They're 11 and 9 (almost 12 and 10) and they are thrilled to be in California. On the agenda is a touristy bus tour of Hollywood and the stars' homes, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, La Brea tar pits, and maybe a drive up to Big Bear, weather permitting.

Speaking of...I have NEVER seen this much rain in my life. And I've been in several tornados, two hurricanes, and a flood. I'm told this is the "Pineapple Express" weather system from Hawaii that brings such dumps of rain. Let's just say that the RV is squeaky clean from all of nature's washing.

People wonder what we'll do Christmas day...well, no worries...we have a small tree that we're going to decorate with the kidlets, stockings for them, and we'll await Santa's visit Friday night just like everyone else. Our friend Kathy has invited us to her parents' house in Escondido for Christmas dinner, which we're really looking forward to.

All in all, not you're usual Christmas. No snow or cold weather clothes. But we're together and we're blessed with wonderful friends and family.

What are you doing this holiday season?

Marley = )

P.S. Prayer request goes out for my missing fur-niece, Leeny, who escaped from my sister's house in Florida yesterday. Please pray that she returns home safely in time for Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Treasured Christmas Present

As I am busy wrapping presents for friends and family, my mind has drifted back to the Christmas of my 16th year, and the shocking gift that lay inside a seemingly hollow box sitting under the tree with a tag that simply said, "For Tina."

Like many kids, my brother and I had been present-detectives, spending hours in the days before Christmas around the tree, examining the wrapped packages for clues. Lifting, weighing, shaking, name it. But this one present was completely baffling since it appeared to have no weight...not to mention, no "From."

Now...time-out for some backstory. In the months that led up to that Christmas, I had had my driver's permit. The lessons with my parents had not gone well--to the point I dented a bumper--so I'd finally been enrolled in a driving school. Even that did not go well. I flunked my road test. My parents had resumed the lessons, and a week or so befor Christmas, my mother had taken me for another road test. I figured odds were good I'd flunked again, but as was the standard then, it would be several weeks until I got my results by mail.

So, back to Christmas and present-opening. I grabbed the baffling present first. And indeed, there was nothing inside. But a piece of paper. And written, in my mother's handwriting was, "You passed your road test." My gaze flew to hers, and she was smiling and nodding. Apparently, after the test, the DMV examiner had whispered to my mother, "Tell her on Christmas that she passed."

Do you love this guy or what??? Letting the news that I'd finally earned my license become a treasured Christmas AND family memory. He certainly knew how to spread the holiday spirit!

And so here I am, all these years later, still behind the wheel, and with a pretty squeaky clean driving record to boot. (Okay, there was that ticket for making a left where it was prohibited once, but the sign was brand new!)

Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this story...or any treasured Christmas presents for your life!


Tina Ferraro
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress
How to Hook a Hottie
The ABC's of Kissing Boys

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Busy Busy Busy!

Have you ever noticed that "Busy" is defined differently by different folks? What makes my day "busy" isn't exactly the same type of day that makes, let's say, my grandma, busy. "Busy" can mean you're simply not bored, that you have something to do. Busy might mean you have so many things clogging your "to do" list, there aren't enough hours in the day to finish them all (and do a decent job at it).

I have a neighbor (a mom with a part-time sales job) and the way she tells it, she's the busiest person in the known universe. Then there's the 20 year-old medical student who spends her entire day going to classes, waiting tables to pay the rent, and studying. Which equals about 4 hours of sleep when she's not too stressed about an upcoming exam. And then of course there are all the bigwig career types who are contantly on their Blackberries.

I think the busiest I've ever been in my life was when my revision on "Lifted" was due. I sold that book on a proposal and my editor didn't like what I'd turned in. More to the point, the marketing dept. wanted something more issue driven (rather than character driven). I had to write (not revise, but actually come up with new material) 20 hours solid for 4 days in a row. Thank goodness, my mother was able to fly in and take care of my family (and me) so I could do this. My brain has never hurt so badly. My body, either. I barely took bathroom breaks, let alone showers. I lived on Diet Coke and whatever food my mom slipped into my office when I wasn't paying attention. I might have doubted my ability to be an author. I might have doubted the possibility of what I had to do. I might've broken down in fitful tears. However, I didn't have time!

But guess what? I made my deadline. And what's more, I loved how my book turned out. Though it was one of the biggest challenges of my life, this is what I remember most: my family and how they helped me through it.

During this season, which many people say is their busiest of the year, we oftentimes get so wrapped up in doling out gifts; we forget the best gifts of all. A kind word, lending an ear, a hug, an unexpected favor. These things don't cost a dime, yet can mean the world to someone you care about. It's taking time out of your busy (however you define "busy") day to make someone feel special. Priceless!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Hours

As the holidays approach, it seems like the To Do lists keep getting longer and longer. There are gifts to buy, treats to make, presents to wrap and ship, trees to decorate, dinners to plan, travel to arrange, guests to welcome... Well, it goes on and on.

Just Chillin' by prenetic

In deference to the busy holiday season, the Buzz Blog will be switching over to a more relaxed schedule. There will still be posts (um, occasionally) whenever the mood strikes one of us, but not the regular weekly schedule we've been on. So kick back with us for a couple weeks and check back in January when we return to full force.

Hugs and happy holidays,

Monday, December 13, 2010

How Many Books Have You Read This Year?

I can actually answer the title question with certainty. As of today, I have read 32 books cover-to-cover in 2010.

Which is not as high as in past years--especially the years immediately prior to selling my first novel, where I averaged 52. And not even as high as 2009 (44 books) or 2008 (36).

I know all this because for most of my adult life, I have kept a reading log, divided by month and year, listing title and author, as well as occasional notes about the genre or my thoughts.

While it started as a fun little hobby, this list has gone on to mean many things to me. First off, it encourages me to read when “real life” gets in the way. I not only try to make time for more books, but the idea of “adding another tally” to that month’s total has encouraged me to finish books that I’d been otherwise tempted to put down.

This log has made my vacation reading even more fun as I try to break personal bests of how many books I can read in, say, a two-week period.

And it serves to keep my reading memory intact. Like say I am vaguely reminded of a young adult novel I read about working on the railroad and want to recommend it...and I’m thinking, yeah, and I met the author at the SCBWI book signing, but what’s the title and her name again? I go to my list, and there it is: When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton.

Or say I’m wondering if I’d read the latest Stephanie Plum novel, or if I’ve devoured everything by Carolyn Mackler...I have a ready list in which to compare.

So before I close to go finish the book I am currently reading (as I say, my list is pitifully low this year!), I’m going to ask our Buzz Girl readers. Anyone else keep a reading log? And if so, how’s it working for you?


Tina Ferraro
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress
How to Hook a Hottie
The ABC’s of Kissing Boys

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Holiday Season Tips

I consider myself a good tipper. I've worked as a waitress and a bartender and I know how physically demanding those jobs can be. And let's face it, the general public is about as well-behaved as a toddler on a sugar binge a good portion of the time. So if I get good service, I always leave at least 20%.

I am always perplexed with holiday tipping though. I never quite know what is enough and I panic that I'm leaving someone out. Last year, I tipped the garbage guy only to realize that there were actually two people collecting our trash each week. I never seem to remember my newspaper lady even though I always think how bad it must suck to be out at five in the morning in the freezing cold. Then you've got the mail people and all the teachers at the school. And the hairdressers. It's enough to drive a girl straight to a dish of chocolate Santas.

But I want each and every one of these people to know that I appreciate them and everything they do to make my life run smoother. I started with the newspaper lady who never leaves a tip envelope. I enclosed the tip with my bill so she would be sure to get it this year. I'll be leaving two envelopes for the garbage guys this year. The mail ladies are getting Starbucks gift cards and glowing letters to their supervisors for jobs well done throughout the year. That just leaves the teachers who all love any kind of homemade craft/gift card combo. Oh wait, I almost forgot the hairdresser. :)

Whew, now that wasn't so bad. Who do you leave holiday tips/gifts for and what do you usually give them?



Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Holiday Movies I Can't Miss

I love Christmas movies, cartoons, specials. Can't get enough of them. And every year, even though I've seen the same things over and over again, I still crave the seasonal viewing of my beloved holiday favorites.

Here are my faves...

Of course, I adore "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," who doesn't? But one of my favorite, less shown, Rankin-Bass production is called "Nestor the Long-Earred Christmas Donkey." Nestor was born with abnormally long ears and was taunted by the other animals in the stable until he was banished. Through hardship and loss, Nestor triumphs and grows and is in the right place at the right time when a poor carpenter, Joseph, and his pregnant wife, Mary, need a donkey for her to ride to Bethlehem.

Most people will cite "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Miracle on 34th Street" as their favorite movies, but my two favorites are a little more obscure.

First, there's "Christmas in Connecticut." Barbara Stanwyck stars as a Martha Stewart-ish magazine feature writer who talks about her farm in Connecticut and cooking. However, her being the perfect housewife is all a lie. Now, she must try to cover her deception when her boss and a returning WWII hero invite themselves to her home for a traditional family Christmas. I can't say enough how much I adore this movie.

And my other movie that I have to watch not just on Christmas, but seriously...any holiday. It's called "Holiday Inn" and it stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and it's just a barrel of fun from beginning to end. Crosby and Astaire are performance partners who have always fallen for the same girl. Crosby's character decides to hang up his crooning and buy a farm in Connecticut. When it turns out to be boring, he decides to open it up every holiday for dinner, dancing, and music. Once again, they compete for the love of the same lady. You'll recognize the origin of such traditional Irving Berlin hits as "White Christmas," and "Easter Parade." If you've never seen this movie, it's a must.

So...what are you favorite holiday picks? What movie, special, or cartoon can you not go through the holidays not seeing?

Marley = )

CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, available this holiday as an ebook download!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Secret to Writing Success

Last month, along with thousands and thousands of other writers of all levels, I competed in the National Novel Writing Month challenge. And let me tell you, it was a challenge. Despite having three published books, two more written and ready to go, and four other as-yet-unpublished manuscripts under my belt, getting through that 50,000 word first draft was a serious feat of willpower.

Writing hurtz my brains.

As I was busy pounding out words (most of them in the last four days of the month) I was reminded of just how much persistence it takes to make it in the writing world. There are so many ways and reasons to give up along the way. It takes too much time. It's such a longshot. It's changing to ebooks so I might as well self-publish. It's too hard.

Writing Be Hard

You know what, it doesn't get better once you're published. Instead of worrying about getting an agent and a contract, you're worried about keeping them. You're worried about your sales numbers and whether your editor will want another book in the series, another book from you period. You're worried that, even if your editor buys more books, that the sales numbers aren't high enough. You're not getting enough promotion/high enough print run/good distribution. And these are just the ones I've reached at my level. There will be more, different ones as I (hopefully) move up the publishing food chain.

The list of worries goes on and on. And the sad thing is that there is virtually nothing you can do about most of them. That's a hard pill to swallow, especially for someone with the drive, determination and persistence to actually become a published author. You want to believe that if you push the right buttons, buy the right advertising, give away the right goodies, that things will get better or easier. News flash: they won't.

There are doubts and worries and fears at every single level of publishing. From the unpublished (will I ever get a contract?) to the debut (will anybody like my book?) to the veteran (will my next book do better than my last?) to the bestseller (will I make the list again?). Those authors who make it to the top level, who stick it out for long-term careers in publishing, have two major traits in common that help them achieve that success.


One, persistence. The drive to keep going and going despite whatever obstacles (rejections, life crises, bad reviews, lost contracts) fly into the way. Success in any field, whether it's acting or engineering or writing, is probably 90% persistence. So just keep going.

Protect the Work

Two, in the immortal words of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, protect the work. When it comes down to it, the one and only aspect of this crazy career that the author can ever hope to control (unless, I suppose, you're Nora Roberts or Stephen King) is the writing. All of the press and promotion in the world won't do squat if the book is a piece of garbage. Hone your craft, put your soul on the pages, and, as Ally Carter says, leave nothing for the swim back.

That's the formula for writing success. To survive this career you have to put your head down, push through every obstacle in your path, and write the best book you can. Everything else is distraction.


Monday, December 06, 2010

Cartoon Profile Pictures

Those of our readers on Facebook may have noticed many of their friends changing their profile pictures to cartoon characters this past week. I will admit I did not understand why for a few days, until I saw this status heading:

Change your FB profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The goal? To not see a human face on FB until Monday, December 6th. Join the fight against child abuse!

Well, how could I not participate in that? So I reached back to my early days and thought of a short-lived cartoon (that might have already have been old, I really don't know) called Top Cat.

Which had featured a cat (of course) with humor and attitude. And a ridiculously catchy theme song, to boot.

So tell us. Did you change your profile picture to a cartoon? And if so, what cartoon character did you choose?


Tina Ferraro

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Guys' and Girls' Nights Out

Guys' Night Out: Last night my husband, two oldest boys, and a bunch of dudes went to a Wild Sheep banquet. It happens once a year and they really look forward to it. Before they left, I asked my husband who he'd call first if he were to win a sheep hunt (an expensive and rare prize he said he'd rather win than a new car, to put it in perspective) and of course since I was the one asking, he said me. I can't really explain it, but I had this feeling that he would win. Around 11 last night, the phone rang and sure enough, he won the hunt! (And yes, he called me, his lucky charm, first!) I stayed up till well past midnight because I knew there'd be hooting and hollering as soon as they got home, and sure enough, there was. Even though I'm not a hunter and I think hunters are, well, weird, I can appreciate how excited he is and I am so happy for him.

Girls' Night Out: I don't know about you, but I LOVE Girls' Night Out (GNO)! Some I've been a part of include: Going to see a chick flick and dinner, dinner at a Wings place on Karaoke night, going to a local film festival in a park, having wine and snacks at a local gift shop after hours, and this week we're going to dinner and then a little shopping in a nearby city. I love hanging out and reconnecting with my girlfriends, and for GNO we always encourage people to invite their friends so we can meet new people.
Do you ever have Girls' or Guys' Nights Out? If so, what do you like to do?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Hollywood Premiere!

So, I'm in SoCal and tonight, I'm going to my first Hollywood premiere party! it's not for the GHOST HUNTRESS...yet...but it's for my friend's show that she's on called STORAGE WARS on A&E...check it out...

Hope you'll tune in. My friend, Kathy, is on the 10th episode.

I have a storage unit and I've seen people at the lot gathering around for the auctions. It's really a free-for-all. I had no idea that there were professionals who went to scope things out and turn a profit. Totally fascinating. I bet this new show will have people paying the tab on their storage locker! (I think mine's up for renewal in March. LOL!!)

Do you have a storage unit? Would you ever go storage diving to find a wealthy jewel?

Marley = )

Ghosts don't hang up their sheets after Halloween!
GHOST HUNTRESS series - The Awakening, The Guidance,
The Reason, The Counseling - available now

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Week of Thankfulness and Giveaways: The Winners!

All last week we talked about what we were thankful for, and offered up daily giveaways to commenters.

Here are the names of the winners, with the contact address for those winners in quotes:

The $15.00 Amazon Gift card winner is Rosie20022002! (Please contact Tina at

The signed copy of Forgive My Fins winner is Danya. (Please contact Tera at

The signed copy of Christmas Miracles winner is BWyatt! (Please contact Marley at

The signed copies of The Clearing and Never Cry Werewolf winner is Jessica! (Please contact Heather at

The signed copy of The Alpha Bet winner is Steph! (Please contact Steph at

The signed copy of Shrink to Fit winner is Llehn! (Please contact Dona at

The signed copy of “I Believe You” by Danielle Vaughn winner is sunnynikki! (Please contact Wendy at

We Buzz Girls are thankful for many things, and most importantly, our readers! Thanks to everyone who entered and visits us here at our blog!


Tina Ferraro
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress
How to Hook a Hottie
The ABC’s of Kissing Boys

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankful for Music

If you're like my family, we get into music (even more than usual) this time of year. In the last few weeks, my oldest son has taken up guitar (electric, of course) and my middle son spent a few days on our keyboard with my step-mom (who's a music teacher and came to spend Thanksgiving with us), quickly bringing his repertoire up to three merry tunes. We've all been singing in the car more than usual, too. My sons are into singing "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells." Let me just say they've added a BUNCH of verses since I was a kid. A favorite holiday tune that gets my whole family shakin' their stuff is Ricky Martin's "Ay ay ay It's Christmas." Click HERE to watch a video of some folks sorta doing what we do. (Making our own video is now on my To Do list.)
Whether listening to the radio, shopping, or going to the dentist, festive music is in full gear. And because the Buzz Girls have been discussing what we're thankful for this whole last week (and giving away cool prizes!), I would like to declare that this holiday season, I'm thankful for music.

Do you find yourself immersed in music this time of year? What are some of your most special holiday songs? Tell us and you'll be entered to win a signed copy of "I Believe You," an acoustic folk/jazz/inspirational CD by the lovely and talented Danielle Vaughn. (Note: She also has a magical holiday collection, Noel.) Tina will announce all the winners tomorrow (Monday, November 29). Good luck!!!

And, if you haven't already, click HERE to read some great writing advice the Buzz Girls recently shared with RT Book Reviews.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Giving my "Framily"

Thankful week continues on Books, Boys, Buzz this week and I will dedicate my entry to my "framily"...aka my friends who are more like family to me and my husband!

My actual family is pretty small, two parents, a sister and a few cousins. We're definitely very close, but we live so far away from each other that we hardly ever get to see each other (once a year or so).
My "framily" however is always there for me...these are people I know I can count on for whatever life throws my way.

There's our friend Erik and his parents and siblings...they've adopted us as their own. We've celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with them two years in a row now, and we can't imagine more wonderful people to spend holidays with.

The wonderful family of Erik's

There's all my work friends...I've been with these folks for over 5 years now and I don't know what I would do without their daily humor and just having an ear to listen to my rants. Actually, I do know. During this great Snopocalypse 2010 in Seattle, I was without my work "framily" and I nearly went insane from cabin fever!
My team celebrating a birthday in our favorite style of eating lots!

There's my entire writing circle: Heather Davis, Pat White, Christina Arbini, Kelli Estes....and the Buzz Girls! I know that no matter what is going on in my life...writing or otherwise, I can count on these wonderful ladies to pick me up, pull me out of my funk and set me right again!
Aren't they just the most *beautiful* ladies ever? I love them all so very much. win a copy of my second novel about eating disorders and overcoming them SHRINK TO FIT, please put in the comments who your "framily" is!

Have a wonderful holiday season,

Dona Sarkar and her "framily"

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Week Continues.....

I hope that everyone had a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving. The Buzz Girls are each taking turns this week telling what we are thankful for. I had to give this a lot of thought. I'm really thankful for a lot of things but I tried to figure out what I was MOST thankful for this year. I finally decided on humor.

It may seem like a strange thing to be thankful for, but humor really helped me out of some tough times this year. I have realized in the last few years that I really love making people laugh. I don't remember always being like this. I think as I have gotten older and had more life experience, I've realized how important humor is in overcoming tough situations and in just adding joy to life.
(I never get tired of this guy!)
One of the easiest ways to get a quick boost of humor is to watch some of the commercials out there today. As much as I love my Tivo, I do still stop to watch commercials sometimes just because they are so funny. And the holidays are ripe with hilarious commercials. This lady they use for the Black Friday commercials kills me every time.
Please check out the great posts here, where the BBG's were invited to contribute to the RT BookReview Blog. And tell me what commercial makes you laugh to be entered for a chance to win a copy of The Alpha Bet.


A Thanksgiving Challenge

This morning, I’m waking up to another snowy day in Seattle. It’s beautiful outside, but the white flakes don’t obscure my literal view of a homeless man sleeping in the doorway across from my building.

In the midst of our thankfulness, people are hurting. And the hurt is palpable on a day like today.

The snow continues to drift down, reminding me that while it’s important to be thankful for the goodness in our lives, counting our blessings is also a call to action. A call to reach out to those in need in physical and emotional ways. We shouldn’t be blind to the world around us. To that man sleeping in the snowy doorway. But I don't know what I should do for him.

Later in the morning, I look out the window, toward where I had first noticed the sleeping man. Someone kinder and braver than me has left a fast-food bag near him. I hope it has something hot inside, something to get him started on this hard, hard day in the snow.

This simple gesture gets me thinking again about all the things I could have and should have done to help. But in a bigger sense, I’m thinking about what, besides my stories, I can give to the world to ease suffering. It’s a challenge all of us should consider.

It’s almost time to leave to see my family now and my apartment smells like my grandparents’ house, the corn pudding casserole getting all golden in the oven, overtaking the last remnants of morning coffee's perfume.

I’m ready to bundle up and venture into the snowy streets, counting my blessings with each step. I have much to be thankful for and a new challenge on my heart.


Giveaway: In comments, please list a way you could help homeless or hurting people in your community this winter. One lucky commenter will win signed copies of *both* The Clearing and Never Cry Werewolf. Good luck! Winners announced on Sunday.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone...

The Clearing - PNBA short-list 2011 - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Never Cry Werewolf - Harperteen 2009
Wherever You Go - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Fall 2011

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

There is Thankfulness...and a Contest!

As I write this from the passenger seat of my RV, we are about two hours east of Santa Monica which will conclude our coast-to-coast trip that began in Baltimore on November 5th. We're pulling into SoCal just in time to be included in a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and celebration with our friends The Wilsons.

Having just come cross-country, over 3,000 miles, there is much thankfulness. I'm thankful for the love and support of my sweetheart, Patrick, who not only did his share of driving us out here, he also took care of pumping the gas, dumping the water tanks (don't make me go into too much detail! LOL!), and taking care of any needed repairs here and there.

I'm also very thankful to the many friends and family we stayed with (called "boondocking" in RV vernacular) along the way from Baltimore to Chicago to St. Louis to Joplin, across Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico, to Arizona and finally to California.

And I'm thankful for this beautiful country that we live in. I am truly in awe of her beauty...literally, from the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans. We watched the leaves turn colors on the east coast and then saw the flat plains of the midwest change into the deserts of the southwest and into the mountains. I'm a writer, yet I have no words to describe the things we've seen

The beautiful mountains of western Arizona along Old Route 66

The Petrified Forest in eastern Arizona

The Painted Desert in eastern Arizona

The world's largest rocking chair in Cuba, MO

I will be most thankful on Thursday when I sit down to a wonderful dinner with friends who were kind enough to bring us into their fold for the holiday. And, I will be most thankful on Saturday if my beloved Crimson Tide and completely mess up the Auburn Tigers' "perfect" record with a win in the Iron Bowl. LOL! What...I can't be grateful for my football team?

Shout out and thanks to the wonderful people at for their amazing support of the Buzz Blog Girls and featuring us to give advice to aspiring writers of young adult fiction. If you haven't already done it, check out the article here.

And in celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday and the upcoming Christmas holiday season, I am giving away a copy of my book, CHRISTMAS MIRACLES. To be eligible to win, please post in the comment trail what you're most grateful and thankful for...from the most sincere and the most quirky. One (1) winner* will receive an autographed copy fo CHRISTMAS MIRACLES.

Happy Thanksgiving and Roll Tide!

Marley = )

Ghosts don't hang up their sheets after Halloween!
GHOST HUNTRESS series - The Awakening, The Guidance,
The Reason, The Counseling - available now!

*Contest is open to US and Canadian residents.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What I'm Thankful For (and a Contest)

My family has never been one of those that goes around the Thanksgiving table and has everyone say what they're thankful for. It always seemed a little cheesy to me. But since I'm now a cheese-free vegan I think I can go for it with feeling dorky.

Tasty ginger cookies.

Besides, it's always a good idea to keep perspective on the good things that are happening, because sometimes it's too easy to dwell on the bad. Here goes. My list of things that I'm thankful for in 2010.
  • my parents (for being here and healthy and always supportive)
  • my friends (for same and for letting me whine and keeping me going)
  • my agent (for always being ready with a hooray)
  • my editor (for helping make those hoorays possible)
  • my dog (for always wiggling when I get home)
  • the opportunities life has given me
  • the opportunities I've made in life
  • the infinite resource the internet
  • warm blankets on a cold night
  • the beautiful blue sky outside my window
Wow, pretty amazing list when I look at it all lined up.

As a bonus item for today, I'm thankful for the fabulous RT Book Reviews because they asked us Buzz girls for some advice on how to write YA books and they're posting it on their blog today. (FYI, they have a really great collection of YA news, interviews, and guest posts.)

Now, for the contest. I'm giving away a signed copy of Forgive My Fins.* To enter, comment with your favorite meat-free Thanksgiving dish. (Double points if you include a recipe or a link to one.) I'm going to give this one a try.


* US/Canada only, winners to be announced Monday

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Week of Thankfulness and Giveaways!

I have the pleasure of announcing a theme week here at the Buzz Girls Blog, in which we’ll talk about the things we are thankful for, and will offer up daily giveaways! So be sure to check in all week, and return next Monday when I will announce all the winners.

And in particular, Tera has a fun Buzz Girls’ announcement tomorrow that you won’t want to miss!

So...a friend of mine calls me Susie Sunshine because she says I always look at the bright sides of things. But if she drops by here today, she’ll be pretty surprised to see I am going with a negative slant, that I am thankful for the things that DID NOT happen this year, such as...

No flood or mud damage on my house:

I live on a run-off street in a “burn area” (a neighborhood once ravaged by fire), and while we’ve had torrential rains that could have caused chaotic mudslides and flash floods--but so far, so good!

My agent didn’t hate the partial of my book:

A little while back, I sent my agent the first 50 pages of the book I am now writing, and she didn’t, as I neurotically worried, hate it! (Anything but...)

I didn’t get airport stranded:

When my night flight got so delayed that I missed my connection, I did not have to find a hotel and call home to say I was stuck in that city. Instead, I discovered that the airline had gone and rebooked me on the last flight home, and what do you know, I ended up seated next to a TV comedy writer whose wife was trying to write YA novels, so we had a lively and memorable conversation, to boot!

My cat didn’t become a coyote’s dinner:

One evening our two cats were relaxing on the front porch. Suddenly the little one scampered inside for her “safe place.” We looked out to see a retreating coyote. But no big cat. I looked and paced and panicked, absolutely heartbroken. Only to have him casually reappear two hours later, as if nothing was wrong!

Okay, okay, so by focusing on the bad things that didn’t happen, I still qualify as a Susie Sunshine. And I guess I’m proud of that!

So tell us, did you have a noted near-miss, too, one you are thankful for? A test you didn’t fail, a car that puttered into a gas station on fumes, a problem that seemed to “resolve itself?” Share it with us in the comments and you’ll be entered to win a $15 gift certificate to

Check back here to see the list of all the winners next Monday!


Tina Ferraro
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress
How to Hook a Hottie
The ABC’s of Kissing Boys

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Traditional Thanksgiving

I like to hear about all the different Thanksgiving Day traditions out there. And if you get married it's interesting to see how the traditions from two different families merge.

There's the food--cornbread or white bread dressing? Whole wheat or white butter rolls? Pumpkin, pecan, or buttermilk pie (or all 3)? Deep fried or roasted turkey? We have a neighbor from Pennsylvania who enjoys pickled eggs with his Thanksgiving meal, and some friends who have Italian or Chinese for theirs. Some people eat out, some invite everyone they know over to their house. Some put all the cooking on one person's shoulders, while others treat Thanksgiving as a huge potluck.

Here are some of my personal traditions:

As a family, we go on a community charity run/walk to get food for the poor and then I go home and strap on my famous turkey apron. Why? Because it's ridiculous. Then I go about making finishing touches to the house (everybody -- about 14 this year--comes to our house) and make the food I'm responsible for, including potatoes, pies, turkey (Matt does the birds), gravy, cranberry salad, etc. Then we watch football or play it outside if the weather is decent. I'm afraid there's not quite enough snow to hit the slopes after our big meal this time.
This year I'm so excited because my dad and his new wife (they got hitched in June) are coming to our house! It will be interesting to see how her traditions differ from the ones I've adopted since having become married myself. Maybe she will bring something new and exciting into the mix.

No matter what the traditions, the main thing is to be together with people you love and take time to be truly thankful for your blessings. Happy Turkey Day, Everybody!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting Cheezy...

My favorite way to warm up is to dig in a huge bowl of cheese soup. I've tried many different kinds of the years and my favorites usually have beer in them. I'm not a drinker (just ask the Bee's who the only one was drinking a Coke at our fancy dinner at Nationals!), but something about the beer added gives the soup a kick.

But since we are a teen-friendly site and I don't want anyone getting hooked on the soup, so I chose a more under 21 friendly recipe. It's still delicious.

1qt. water

4 chicken bouillon cubes

1lb. Velveeta processed cheese

1c. chopped celery

2 1/2 c. diced potatoes

1 small box or bag of cauliflower, carrots, AND broccoli

2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans of cream of chicken soup

1 c milk

Mix water, bouillon cubes and vegetables together. Cook until cubes are dissolved and vegetables are tender. Add Velveeta and soup. Simmer until cheese is melted then stir in milk. Use low to medium heat to avoid scorching. Stir continuously. ENJOY!!!

Enjoy this with some freshly baked French bread and butter.



Chowder, please!

For those of you who just tuned in for the week, the Buzz Girls are talking about their favorite soups to make as the weather turns colder and the skies get a little gray.

So you may be asking yourself, what does soup have to do with writing and reading YA fiction?

1) A girl's gotta eat.
2) Soup is easy to make and so much better homemade!
3) It's fun to let a pot of soup simmer while you're finishing a chapter or two, and then your dinner's ready when you are.

So, my family loves chowder. Out here in the Northwest, we make all sorts - from the traditional clam to salmon or halibut. Here's a really basic recipe inspired by my dad's famous clam chowder recipe. You can add shrimp, crab, halibut, lobster, mussels, or anything else to make it a fantastic Christmas Eve dinner, like my family does each year.

Dad’s Clam Chowder

2 slices bacon or turkey bacon diced (optional)
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
½ medium yellow or white onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. flour
1 can clams + their juice
About 2 c. stock or water
3 large potatoes, diced (you can leave peels on if you like it more rustic.)
½ t. dried thyme
½ C. half & half or milk
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ C. parsley, chopped
1 T. butter (optional)

Optional - brown bacon (or turkey bacon + a little olive oil) over medium heat until all fat is rendered. Remove the bacon bits from the pan and set aside. Add olive oil and butter to pan, sauté the onions until translucent, then add the celery and garlic to cook until almost done. Add flour to pan and cook until flour is absorbed and a little golden.

Drain clam juice and add to pan, setting aside clams. Add potatoes and thyme to the pot, along with enough stock or water to nearly cover. Lower heat and cook until the potatoes are almost done. Add the half & half and the clams to the pot and cook until everything is heated through and potatoes are tender*. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley and the pat of butter.

*Note that this makes a thinner style soup, so if you’d like to thicken, you can make a “slurry” by mixing in a cup 2 T. milk to 1 T. cornstarch or flour, add it to the soup, and cook the soup until thickened. You can also thicken it by adding a few tablespoons of mashed potato flakes, like my dad does sometimes.

**Also, you can easily forget the seafood and/or bacon altogether and make it a veggie-potato soup. You can even probably make it vegan - Tera knows about that kind of stuff...

Enjoy and stay warm ~

The Clearing - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Never Cry Werewolf - HarperTeen
Wherever You go - Harcourt Fall 2011

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Soup...the mighty Butternut!

Sorry I have been so absent! I'm on a cross-country journey from the east to west coasts in my RV and it is an adventure!

Before I share my soup recipe with you, I want to give a huge birthday shout-out to Buzz Girl, Heather! Happy birthday, g'friend...hope you have an awesome day. Why not make some butternut squash and leek soup? LOL!!

I love this soup. It's so yummy and delicious and it's very healthy for you too in its simple form -- i.e., no bacon and sour cream.

4 1/2 pounds butternut squash, halved lengthwise
5 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine (I prefer Brummel and Brown)
4 large leeks, white and tender green parts, coarsely chopped
7 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
About 3 tablespoons chopped chives
8 slices of bacon, fried crisp, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool slightly. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Scrape the squash from the skin.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy saucepan or flameproof casserole, melt the butter over low heat. Add the leeks and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and browned, about 40 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs.

Stir in the stock and the squash. Simmer over moderate heat for 20 minutes. In a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Pour the soup back into the pan and season with the salt and pepper.

TO SERVE: Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 teaspoon chives and a sprinkling of the bacon.

And you have an amazing meal. I like to serve this as a Thanksgiving lunch as the turkey is still cooking. It's filling, but gets you right into the autumn mood for the main meal.

Hope you enjoy!
Marley = )

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Soup Week Continues: Vegetarian Chili

Okay, so this recipe is not mine, but I cook it enough that I feel like it is! (I found the recipe on and full credit goes to calead910 for the yummy goodness.) You can totally play around with the ingredients (different beans and veggies) or spice level (leave out or add more jalapeños and green chiles), but any which way you make it this is delish.

heating the veggies


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (4 ounce) cans chopped green chile peppers, drained
2 (12 ounce) packages vegetarian burger crumbles
3 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn

adding in the veggie crumbles

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, and season with bay leaves, cumin, oregano, and salt. Cook and stir until onion is tender, then mix in the celery, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and green chile peppers. When vegetables are heated through, mix in the vegetarian burger crumbles. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Mix the tomatoes into the pot. Season chili with chili powder and pepper. Stir in the kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and black beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in the corn, and continue cooking 5 minutes before serving.

the almost finished product

I swear even your meat-eatiest tasters will think this is the best chili they've ever eaten. As far as veggie burger crumbles go, the Morningstar Farms ones aren't strictly vegan (there's a trace of egg and milk) but they perform a lot better in the chili than the vegan Boca ones. Your call.

Note: If you visit the original recipe on you can get detailed nutritional information and can print it out in a variety of formats. You can even scale the recipe up or down to however many servings you need. I recommend doing half this recipe. It still produces tons of chili, but it's more manageable. I did this last time and froze the other half of the ingredients to make another batch later.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Zucchini Soup!

It's a beautiful fall day here in southern California, and while my senses are enjoying the changing leaves and the crisp air, my taste buds are calling out for one of my favorite soups, the Ferraro Family Northern Italian Zucchini Soup.

It's low-calorie, low-fat and if you use vegetable broth, it's vegetarian, too. But the way it's ultimately presented makes it into a hearty meal--a favorite in Northern Italy and at our California table.

The picture I added is similar to its presentation--except that the "green" on top is replaced with a heavy sprinkling of Parmesan cheese!

Below is the recipe, for anyone who'd like to try it!


Tina Ferraro
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress
How to Hook a Hottie
The ABC's of Kissing Boys

Ferraro Family Northern Italian Zucchini Soup

3 medium zucchini
l medium onion
butter and olive oil, about 4 tablespoons total
6 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
1 egg yolk
3 drops lemon juice
grated Parmesan cheese
Italian/French bread

Wash zucchini, but do not peel. Chop into 1/4" chunks. Chop onion. Saute in oil in and butter in a heavy pot. Add broth. Cook until zucchini and onions are tender.

Remove veggies from broth with slotted spoon. Mash in blender or food processor. Return mixture to broth, simmer for about 5 minutes.

Beat egg yolk, and temper by adding a small amount of soup and lemon juice. Return to pot.

Meanwhile, toast 1" thick slices of bread. Put one or more into a soup bowl, cover with soup and top with grated cheese.

(We usually toast extra bread slices, which we serve with cold cuts and sliced cheese.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's the holiday season already, seriously?

I don't know about you but I am not ready to eat Thanksgiving dinner in less than two weeks. Here in the Midwest, it's been seventy-five and sunny, not exactly turkey weather.

(Okay, maybe I will be able to convince myself to have a little bit!)

And while it's good weather to think about breaking out the holiday decorations, I'm just not in the mood when it's this warm.
I haven't even broke out my Christmas CD's yet. This year absolutely flew by and I'm just not ready. I want to slow it down so I can enjoy every single song, cookie, and gift.

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? What is your favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving Day?



Reflecting on Veterans Day

It's Veterans Day - a day to reflect on and celebrate the men and women in uniform serving our country. Usually, on this day, I call my grandfather and thank him for serving in WWII, where he was a nurse on a hospital ship in the South Pacific, but he passed away this spring.

He was a big inspiration to me in writing my YA novel, The Clearing, since Henry's family was living through wartime in the 1940's. I used aspects of his personality in crafting Henry - his honesty, sense of duty to protect his family, amazing work ethic.

So, I'll think of him today, and find another way to celebrate the service of our military and the sacrifices of our veterans. If there's someone in your family who deserves a call and a thank you, I hope you'll reach out to them today.

How will you mark Veterans Day this year? Is there any special celebration in your town?


The Clearing - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Never Cry Werewolf - HarperTeen
Wherever You Go - Harcourt, Fall 2011

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Lawyers and Zombies and Hellcats, Oh My!

Yesterday, Tina started a discussion about upcoming movies, and today I'm going to take it to the small screen. Fall is in the air, and lucky for the TV-obsessed masses (myself included) this means more than pumpkins and chilly weather. It means the Fall TV lineup.

There are some new shows I'm already loving.

The Walking Dead -- There's nothing super original about this zombie apocalypse series so far (there are shades of 28 Days Later and just about every other great zombie flick) but it more than makes up for it in character, story, and production values.

Hellcats -- This show had me at Hellcats. It's got lots of great elements: cheerleaders, pre-law, drunk mom, cute boys, and The Tiz with brown hair. Also, Aly Michalka is pretty awesome. Win-win-win. Check out this preview.

The Defenders -- I don't generally watch tons of comedy, but with Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell starring is slick Las Vegas lawyers, I'll make an exception.

There are a few shows that are right up my alley, but I haven't watched yet.
  • Nikita
  • Undercovers
  • The Event
Are you watching any of those? Should I start?

As a die-hard fan of the series, I can't believe I missed the first few episodes of Law & Order: Los Angeles! I'll remedy that tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it fares better than Law & Order: Trial by Jury

I had really high hopes for Hawaii Five-0 (Alex O'Loughlin, Scott Caan, and Daniel Dae Kim, what?) but the first couple episodes were so disappointing that I took it off my DVR list. Can a network please give Alex O the starring role in a series that will stick around for more than a season, please?

But never fear, there are new episodes of some old favorites starting up soon.
Tell me, what on your Fall TV "Must See" list? Anything I've missed?


Monday, November 08, 2010


Okay, first of all, I am totally proud of myself for figuring out how to embed this trailer in my blog! Until now, the best I could do was a link to another site.

Anyway, that said...

I don't often "fall" for trailers and start telling people that I "have" to see a movie, but this one definitely grabbed me. I am a long-time Denzel Washington fan, loved Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, and Rosario Dawson in Sidewalks of New York. The action looks intensely exciting, and my whole family is crazy about anything that has to do with trains. (And I am assuming the heroes will prevent anything truly bad from happening, that the bus full of kids is just the screenwriter's device to ratchet up the tension.)

So I have announced to my husband and young adult kids that we're getting a group together over Thanksgiving and seeing this movie!

How about you? Anything grabbing you for holiday viewing?


Tina Ferraro
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress
How to Hook a Hottie
The ABC's of Kissing Boys

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Feeling Thankful

Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away but this morning I am feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Here are some things and people I'm thankful for when it comes to being an author.

1. I'm thankful to be in a line of work where colleagues are supportive of each other, rather than dog-eat-dog.

2. I'm thankful for all the amazing emails I get from young people, whether to say they liked my book(s) or ask questions about how they might someday become an author.

3. I'm thankful for teachers like Cassie Cox of Two Rivers High School. She had an idea to get her students and their favorite authors together for dinner and it happened!

4. Along those same lines, I'm thankful for Courtney Lowe and the others at Provo City Library who are always finding new and exciting ways to reach out to teens.

5. I'm thankful for my mom and dad, who read to me and let me see them reading as I grew up.

6. I'm thankful to Dr. Ann Gill of Colorado State University who once told me I'd be doing the world a great disservice if I didn't write.
7. I'm grateful for my critique partners and groups, my blogging family (including the Buzz Girls!), my writing organizations, my agents, and all of the editors I've had the pleasure of working with.

8. And last but never least, I'm thankful for my family, who knows how important writing is to me and sometimes even allows me to write, LOL.

Friday, November 05, 2010

My favorite day of the year

My favorite day of the year is coming up this Saturday. No, it's not Christmas, or Thanksgiving. It's the day that we "fall" back and turn the clocks back an hour at 2am.

I don't know why but that one tiny hour makes a huge difference. I love the fact that it gets darker later. I just feel more rested. I'm already behind on my Nano goal, so I'm hoping to use that extra sixty minutes to work on my novel.

Do you have Daylight Savings Time where you are? What are you going to use your extra hour for?