Hi! If this isn’t your first time visiting my site, you might be noticing it’s got a new look! I decided to update things a little, and Janey, my longtime friend and site admin, plus her team, have done an AMAZING job.
(No, I didn’t do this all myself. I don’t even know how to do my own nails. I’d never try to design my own website!)
One of the reasons I wanted to give the site an update is because I’m going to be trying some new things creatively in the next few months/years. You already know I’ve got a book coming out on August 7–the fourth and final (so far) book in the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess series featuring Princess Olivia (and of course Princess Mia Thermopolis, Michael Moscovitz, Grandmere, and the rest of the gang in Genovia), Royal Crown:
But I’ve also got a new graphic novel from DC Comics, Black Canary: Ignite, featuring art by the amazing Cara McGee, coming in October 2019.
But I’ve ALSO got some new books for adult readers (adult in chronological years, but still young at heart) coming out soonish, though I’m not yet at liberty to discuss them.
And those books are so fresh and new, they really need a clean, modern palette on which to introduce them….something I’ll be doing soon!
So please take some time to look around. If you’re a longtime visitor, you’ll find that many things have stayed (relatively) the same, but we’re trying some new things as well. If you’re new, I hope you’ll quickly feel at home. Let us know how you think things are working, or if there’s anything you notice that we might have missed (and keep in mind…this is still a work in progress)!
In the meantime, I’ll be posting updated tour info for Royal Crown, as well as other tantalizing news (including possible new movie/TV news) soon! I don’t like to jinx things by saying stuff before it’s 100%. Uh, also, people yell at me.
Until then, hope your summer is going swimmingly….
Oh, but wait. What will I be promoting at #alaac18? Um, only my new graphic novel from DC Zoom, Black Canary: Ignite!
Black Canary: Ignite won’t be out until October 2019, but this week at #alaac18we’ll be handing out some cool free sample excerpts of the first chapter! I’ll also be on some panels with a few of the very fun authors for DC Zoom (middle grade) and DC Ink (young adult). Here’s where you can see me and/or maybe get a sampler (unfortunately these events are open only to registered attendees of #alaac18):
Penguin Random House Library Con panel – Nurturing Empowerment and Confidence! Time: 1:15pm-2:00pm Place: Room 348 and 349
Ernest M Morial Convention Center
Moderated by Robin Brenner
With Shea Fontana, Lauren Miracle, Karen Berger, Shelly Bond
Saturday, JUNE 23, 2018 – ALA NEW ORLEANS #alaac18
DC Zoom Signing Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm Place: DC Booth #2040
Ernest M Morial Convention Center
With Shea Fontana and Ridley Pearson
Graphic Novel Panel: DC Zoom and DC Ink authors discuss their upcoming original graphic novels for DC Comics: Time: 2:30pm-3:20pm Place: Graphic Novels stage–next to booth #436
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
Moderated by Michele Wells
With Shea Fontana, Ridley Pearson, Meg Cabot, Danielle Paige, Kami Garcia, Lauren Myracle, Mariko Tamaki
POP TOP EVENT: Cultural Icons in the Libary! DC Zoom and DC Ink authors discuss their upcoming original graphic novels for DC Comics Time: 4:00pm – 4:45pm Place: PopTop Stage–next to booth #432
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
Moderated by Michele Wells
With Shea Fontana, Ridley Pearson, Meg Cabot, Danielle Paige, Kami Garcia, Lauren Myracle, Mariko Tamaki
Wow, that is a crazy schedule! Especially since I’m used to doing nothing but sitting around writing all day (although this summer I signed up for Boot Camp at my gym so I’ve actually been working out a lot which has been good for stamina, but bad for my goal of avoiding sweating).
I know that some of you are bummed that none of the events above are open to the public. But never fear because in July, when I’m in Denver, CO for the Romance Writers of America convention, I’ll have TWO public signings in TWO days! I hope some of you can attend one or both!
This event is open to the public and is free of charge to attend.
You do not need to register in advance to attend this event as a fan.
Since this is a fundraiser event for literacy organizations, attendees will not be allowed to bring books from home into the event. Unlimited books may be purchased on site, however. Cash and major credit cards accepted.
I think I’ve also mentioned that in addition to Black Canary, I’ve been working on some contemporary women’s fiction/suspense/romance. I don’t really want to say anything more about that yet though because I always feel like if I talk too much about a project before I’m done working on it, I’ll put a curse on it, and it will never get done. THIS IS A REAL THING that I’m positive must happen to other creative people besides me!
Don’t forget that in August, the 4th book in the Princess Olivia, Notebooks of a Middle School Princess series will become available! Look for Royal Crown in stores (and online) everywhere on August 7. I’ll have more details on events for this book soon!
In the meantime, enjoy your summer, and I hope I see some of you in New Orleans and Denver!
So I wanted to take a break from our regularly scheduled programming of princesses and super heroines to talk about depression and suicide.
I know these aren’t the most pleasant topics to discuss, but I feel like there’s been a lot of judginess and disinformation floating around out there, and I want to see if I can to change that a little.
This is the only trigger warning you’re going to get on this post. Discussing suicide in a thoughtful way doesn’t trigger it, but if the subject is an especially sensitive one to you, or makes you uncomfortable, you might want to skip this blog entry. I promise you that I am NOT writing a book on this subject, only discussing it here.
I’m not a professional therapist, of course, but I’ve had experience with both depression and suicide, not only personally but also because I worked for ten years as an assistant director in a residence hall at New York University. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for young people aged 15-24 (CDC), so it isn’t unusual that in a college population I encountered it.
I’m actually deeply sympathetic to those in chronic pain—both physically and emotionally—and to those who wish to end their own suffering. I don’t consider suicide a “selfish” act. I understand that those who are considering killing themselves truly feel (in that moment) that the world will be better off without them, even if I don’t necessarily agree that this is the case.
But I’m also deeply sympathetic to the families and friends of those who take their own lives, as well as to First Responders and others who are called to the scenes of non-physician assisted suicides—especially since, when I worked in the dorm, I became one of those people.
I know that those who are choosing to end their lives aren’t thinking about what happens after they die, but what happens after they die is that someone is going to find them and call 911.
And I can tell you from experience that the people who arrive immediately after that are going to be very frustrated and upset (likely for days afterward) that they got to the scene too late to do what they get paid to do: SAVE A LIFE. It’s their job. They hate seeing a life wasted.
But like I said, I get it: I sympathize with both sides.
That’s because I know personally that someone who can seem to have a great life on the outside can be struggling on the inside with some heavy duty personal demons.
I know I’ve mentioned before on this blog (or interviews) that while I’ve never suffered from chronic depression, I’ve certainly experienced occasional situational depression.
Situational depression, more commonly known as adjustment disorder, can have a number of symptoms, but the primary one is that you find yourself engulfed in sadness and anxiety from which you feel you’ll never escape, because of one or more super sh*tty situations going on in your life.
I wrote about this kind of depression in the ninth book of The Princess Diaries, Princess Mia, which many readers have told me is their favorite book in the series. This book seems to have helped a number of readers through their own difficult periods, often with depression, anxiety, or other mental illness.
The reason it reads so realistically is because it was modeled on a bout of depression I went through my senior year in high school, a time when I did, in fact, feel so depressed I would not have minded dying (though I did not take active steps to hurry along my own death. The truth was, I was so depressed, that would have taken way too much effort).
I was very lucky back then that I eventually recognized what was happening, and asked my parents for help. I was also fortunate enough to receive it in a timely fashion (like Mia does in the book) in the form of a cognitive behavioral therapist. There were no anti-depressants in those days (or at least none any doctor in Indiana was going to prescribe to a seventeen year old girl). The only therapy available to me was talk therapy.
But by venting to the doctor and taking his advice, slowly (very slowly) my depression lifted, and things got better . . . and have (comparatively) stayed that way ever since!
I still see a therapist for talk therapy from time to time for “tune ups” when I feel myself slipping into the “dark place,” and always feel better for it.
But this is why I can place myself so perfectly in the shoes of both suicide victim (well, almost!) and first responder—because I’ve been both!
I know most people think that those who take their own lives must be suffering from long-term depression, but that isn’t always the case. Most people with depression never attempt suicide, and some people who attempt suicide aren’t depressed. They’re upset, certainly, but it can be because of a specific event or sudden crisis in their lives.
When I first began working at NYU, I was surprised by the number of students (primarily male, because while more females than males attempt suicide, more males than females succeed) who took their own lives after receiving what they considered to be a bad grade. These were students who (unlike me!) had never received any grade lower than an A before. The accumulated pressure of moving away from home, beginning a new life in a non-familiar environment, and then receiving a less than perfect grade simply became too much for them.
Because of course there is never any one reason someone takes their own life. According to the World Health Organization, suicide is always caused by a combination of factors.
But since the primary contributor to suicide is a feeling of overall hopelessness, victims may not be able to see that there are many other alternatives to their problems than ending their life (it certainly never occurred to me when I was at my most hopeless that I could simply drop the class that was causing me so much anxiety . . . my doctor had to suggest it, and even then in my depressed state I couldn’t get it through my head for the longest time that this was something that was perfectly acceptable to do).
According to the CDC, suicide is actually almost always an impulsive act. Yes, there are people who intricately plan out their own death, but for the most part, based on interviews with survivors, most suicides are impulsive acts based on a fleeting desire to escape pain felt in the moment, often precipitated by a crisis of some kind (and often done while intoxicated or on drugs, either prescribed or recreational).
47% of suicide survivors, when asked how much time passed between when they decided to take their own life and when they completed the act, say an hour or less. 27% say within 5 minutes.
Now about the stunned amazement I’ve been hearing over the method certain celebrities have used to end their lives:
According to the CDC, the methods people use to kill themselves tend to be whatever is most easily available. In the US, because guns are so prevalent, it is guns. But the means used to end one’s life vary widely from community to community. For many years in San Francisco, the favored way to kill oneself was a leap from the Golden Gate Bridge…until bridge barriers were constructed.
When I first began working at NYU, students chose defenestration (jumping from windows) until we installed blocks on all the windows to prevent them from being opened more than two inches. After that, not only did suicides decrease dramatically, complaints to my office that students were mischievously dropping things onto the heads of pedestrians on sidewalks below also ceased. I considered that a double win!
Death by hanging was a common method of suicide in the dorm—but it was often difficult for us as first responders to tell if the student meant to harm themselves or was participating in the popular “hanging game” (my brother, a police sergeant, tells me that he and his fellow officers have the same problem). Since only about 25-30% of suicides leave a note, in a suicide by hanging it is sometimes impossible to tell if the death is accidental or on purpose.
So why am I telling you all this, including stuff you probably don’t want to know?
Because despite what you might have heard, there absolutely are things that can be done to help prevent suicide (note our success at NYU with the window blocks, and the same success of communities who’ve employed stricter gun laws and bridge guards).
I know some people insist: “But those intent on killing themselves will just some find some other way!”
Studies have shown this not to be true, since suicide is an impulsive act. Making the means of death less convenient often stops the act entirely.
No one, of course, can keep anyone from destroying their own life, be it from drugs and alcohol, other reckless behavior, or suicide.
What we can do, however, is be there for anyone we suspect might be going through a bad time (at least to whatever degree we can be without causing emotional or physical harm to ourselves. Remember there’s a reason the airlines tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first! You can’t help others put on theirs if you’re dead).
Of course it’s tricky because most people suffering from depression are doing their very best NOT to let you know there’s anything wrong. I know that when I was suffering from it, I did everything I could to act as “normally” as possible.
So a good solution is just to treat EVERYONE kindly, and assume EVERYONE is going through something.
Keep this in mind for friends who constantly turn down your invitations to lunch or the movies (and DO be the kind of person who makes a lot of these sort of invitations, despite how busy I know you are).
DO send texts or cards or funny emails to those you think might need them (individually. DON’T mass cc. People tend to ignore those) . . .
But DON’T take it personally if your sad friend doesn’t write back right away, or at all. Even healthy people don’t write back right away!
DO know that even tiny gestures help. I have a friend who, when I’m on a deadline and she hasn’t seen me for a while, leaves me a treat (a piece of fruit or other healthy snack) in a brown paper bag on my doorstep with an encouraging message scrawled on it. This small gesture makes me feel great!
DO know how much something as simple as an offer of a movie or game night at your house (or theirs, but YOU bring the popcorn) or even a home-cooked favorite meal (or delivery from their favorite place) can mean. Even going with them to one of their favorite places (it doesn’t have to be a meal. Coffee or a walk) could make a huge difference.
But DO be prepared for the depressed person to turn your offer down, once or multiple times, or even to have some unkind words to say to you now and then. Depressed people can often be uncharacteristically mean. It’s up to you how long you’re willing put up with that kind of behavior. When I was depressed, I picked a fight with every single one of the few friends I had left (most had graduated or were spending the semester abroad). Good job, brain!
But studies show that socializing is an effective way of helping to alleviate depression–even though of course I can tell you from experience that depressed people hate socializing . . . and pretty much everything (except watching TV, or as I like to call it, Vitamin TV)!
That’s why I’m advising you:
DON’T try to “cheer them up” (that’s just awkward for everyone).
DON’T remind them of all the “great” things they have going for them (this one is worst of all. Depressed people already know they have great things going for them. Don’t rub it in).
DON’T offer them advice on how to alleviate or solve their problems. Leave this to the professionals.
DO tell them you think they’re doing great, even if you don’t think they are. The fact that they’re even getting up in the morning means they ARE doing great.
DO try to engage them about the things they ARE expressing enthusiasm for. If this means every episode ever made of Forensic Files, so be it. Forensic Files is a great show.
DO be there for them and lend a non-judgmental ear.
I swear to you, your offering just to hang out in a non-stressful way could mean the difference between life and death. (One of the reasons my depression got so bad my senior year in high school was that I had no friends–or I felt that I didn’t–with whom I could vent about my problems).
And most importantly of all: DO know that it’s completely okay to ask a depressed person if they’re considering suicide. Doing so WON’T “put the idea” in their head.
But DON’T freak out. Lot’s of people think about suicide but never take their own lives. Encourage your friend to take it one day at a time. Once they’ve made an appointment with a therapist, keep in mind that–depending on where you live–there might be a bit of wait, which can be frustrating.
But trust me, it’s worth it!
And if you’re reading this and have realized YOU are the depressed person, DON’T SAY NO WHEN PEOPLE ASK IF THEY CAN HELP YOU.
I know you don’t feel like talking, or like doing anything, really. I get it.
But you’ll never get better if you don’t make a TINY bit of effort.
I know it’s exhausting, and also that you hate everything.
But I swear to you–and though I lie for a living, I’m not even making this up when I say it–things are going to get better. You may not believe it, but I’m living proof of this. They really, really will.
We’re just a few days away from Meghan Markle’s wedding to Prince Harry, and if you’re anything like me, you’re looking forward to watching it. Don’t we deserve a little break from all the bad news we’ve gotten lately (erupting volcanoes, slow decline of democracy as we know it, etc)?
And although I’ve never actually been to a royal wedding, I’ve written about them numerous times:
I feel this qualifies me to post this quick little guide on Meghan and Harry’s wedding for those who feel they need more information:
Who is getting married?
Meghan Markle, a 36-year-old American actress best know for the show Suits, is marrying 33-year-old Prince Harry of England, the younger son of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Harry is currently sixth in the line of succession to the British throne.
Why should I care?
Because Meghan Markle is biracial (half African-American, half white), and will be the first person of color to marry into the Royal Family of England. This will be historic by any measure.
Also, by all reports, she seems to be a genuinely fun person.
Prince Harry, too, seems to be a genuinely fun person, except for a few mishaps in his youth that can hopefully be chalked up to losing his mother in a horrible way at a young age, and to hanging out with the wrong sort of people. Since then, he’s worked hard to change his image.
What makes this wedding more interesting than previous royal weddings?
If you’re American, the fact that an American is involved makes it super fun.
There are already American-style hijinx happening. As of this writing, Meghan’s father will not be attending, due to a dust-up over some photos he sold to the paparazzi (of himself) (Edited to add: Now he is claiming that he cannot attend due to having heart surgery). One of Meghan’s half-siblings sent a letter to Prince Harry, urging him not to marry Meghan (!). And another half-sibling is writing a tell-all book about Meghan.
Isn’t it mean of Meghan not to invite those two half-siblings to her wedding?
What kind of wedding presents are these two going to get?
None. In lieu of gifts, the bride and groom are asking for donations to numerous charities, all of which are interesting. One involves breaking taboos about menstrual hygiene, and another involves sewers.
What should I eat and drink while watching the Royal Wedding?
Personally, I suggest champagne and cake, or any cake substitute, but tea and cake will also do.
Where can I learn more about American biracial princesses?
I’m so happy you asked! One place to start would be my series, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, which is about Princess Mia Thermopolis’s little sister, Olivia. Book #4, featuring Mia’s coronation, will be out in August 2018.
Do you have questions about the wedding I failed to answer?
Go here. Be sure to stay on the site long enough to see the animated cat stroll by the bottom of the page.
Or you can ask me while I live tweet the wedding on Saturday morning!
I’ve been keeping a secret for months – which has been SO HARD! You know I love gossip and even more, I LOVE TALKING!
Well, now I can finally tell you all about it!
DC Comics, the home of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman, will be creating two imprints for Young Readers! DC Ink will be for YA readers and DC Zoom will target middle-grade readers from 7-15 years old. I’ve been invited to author a graphic novel featuring the character Black Canary for DC Zoom (when I say invited, I mean I campaigned for this project for months. I LOVE BLACK CANARY, and I wanted her to have her own book for younger readers).
You may be familiar with Black Canary from the CW show Arrow. In my book, Black Canary Ignite, you’ll get to meet teenage Dinah Lance as she first discovers her powers, and then her place in the world of Gotham City.
(ART TO BE REVEALED LATER!!!)
I can’t divulge any more details about Black Canary Ignite but I can tell you that the reason I love Dinah so much is because I’ve always felt she’s a bit like me – really loud, usually breaking stuff, but with a huge, huge heart.
Can you imagine poor Dinah in middle school, before she learned to control her powers? Trying out for the cheerleading team? Or CHOIR???? I was told by my middle school principal that I was the loudest student IN THE WHOLE SCHOOL.
If this happened to me, what do you think happens to poor Dinah???
Black Canary Ignite doesn’t have a publication date yet. While you wait, lovers of manga should check out the sequels I did to Avalon High which tell the story of King Arthur reincarnated as a high school student (as graphic novels). Middle Grade readers will enjoy From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, a Princess Diaries series which I wrote and illustrated! (I will NOT be illustrating Black Canary Ignite! Another artist will be doing this!)
Hooray! If you’re reading this it means you made it through 2017 to 2018! Pat yourself on the back.
I’m hoping 2018 is going to be the best year ever. I know it probably won’t be. But we can hope, right?
With that in mind, I’m posting my list of Top Five Favorite Things of 2017.
I know most people do “Best Of” lists, but I’m not saying the stuff on my list is “the best.”
“Best Of” implies you experienced EVERYTHING 2017 had to offer, and I most definitely did not, because I’m too lazy. I haven’t even seen The Handmaid’s Tale because it’s on Hulu and I can’t figure out how to get Hulu on my TV (though I’m told I have the capability. Like I said, I’m too lazy even to figure out. Don’t judge. I know my limitations. I said FAVORITE not BEST).
(And anyway I saw the original Handmaid’s Tale in the THEATER with poor Natasha Richardson. Shouldn’t that be enough for the love of God?)
So my list is just my Top Five Favorite things of the stuff I actually watched/read/saw etc. That seems fair.
I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings (hopefully more shows that don’t end on cliffhangers. I’m totally sick of that)!!!
But first some housekeeping:
If you sent me a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope requesting autographed bookplates for Christmas/New Years, it’s on its way!
Due to the unprecedented volume of requests this year, there was a slight delay in finishing all the mail. To be honest, I make this offer every year (you can request autographed bookplates from me on this website anytime, not just during the holidays), but very few actually do.
I don’t know what it was about Christmas 2017, but TONS OF YOU wrote in requesting bookplates. It’s like someone decided that bookplates from Meg Cabot would make a really excellent gift this year, so EVERYONE requested bookplates all at the same time. Like HUNDREDS.
This was a bit overwhelming for someone used to doing absolutely nothing during the holiday season, but anyway they’re all in the mail now, and you should receive them soon! Apologies for the tardiness. I will remind people about this offer in November next year instead of on December 9.
Anyway here goes:
Favorite Movies of 2017
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
This movie starring France McDormand as an angry mom who wants the local police to find her daughter’s murderer won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it. It has foul language and mature themes but so does life.
The Florida Project
This is another movie with a lot of swearing where not everything gets resolved in the way you might want, but I loved it as much as I loved the filmmaker’s previous film, Tangerine. You should see both if you get the chance, but probably not with a deeply conservative friend or relative.
The Women’s Balcony
This is a joyous comedy (with neither foul language nor mature themes) about women struggling for their right to worship alongside their male counterparts in modern day Israel. It’s available on Netflix now. Everyone should see it! EVERYONE!
The Big Sick
This was one of the funniest little love stories I have ever seen! And it’s based on a true story! I only know a few people who didn’t like it and I still don’t know why.
This is a sweet, moving little documentary about seven cats living on the streets of Istanbul that you can watch right now on YouTube . Go do it! Watch it right now (but then come back and read the rest of this blog).
Of course I liked some “big movies” too–Thor: Ragnorak, Wonder Woman, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But this year the smaller films seemed to move me more.
Full disclosure: I haven’t seen The Shape of Water yet, but Judy Blume has, and she assures me that it will be one of my favorites, too. So we all need to see it!
Fuller disclosure, we have this retro non-profit indie cinema in Key West called the Tropic that gets a lot of indie movies and my husband is now the chairman of it, so I see a lot of artsy movies.
Photo from Trip Advisor
Because the town’s for-profit theater got destroyed in Hurricane Irma, the Tropic is filling the void in the Key West community by showing non-indie movies. But once the for-profit cinema is repaired, the Tropic will go back to showing indie movies.
Top Five Favorite TV Shows
Of course I still love my old faves: Crazy Ex Girlfriend, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Blackish,Better Things, and the Holy Trinity: My 600 Lb Life/Intervention/Hoarders.
But this year I branched out a little and really got into some series on Netflix, like GLOW and Mindhunter and Godless (Merritt Wever Merritt Wever Merritt Wever).
I even liked that German time-travel series, Dark, except it ended on a cliffhanger and now I have to wait two years or whatever to find out what happens. I’m sure I’d like that Mrs. Maisel series if I could figure out how Hulu* works in my house (I bet you couldn’t figure it out either). *ETA: Apparently this show is on Amazon, which would explain why I can’t find it on Hulu.
In all, 2017 was an AMAZING year for TV and streaming services in general.
And in March we have this coming back so it looks like 2018 is already going to be outstanding.
Top Five Favorite Books
2017 was a great year for books but I hardly got to read any because I was too busy writing (I know you’re like “What? I hardly read any new books by Meg Cabot in 2017!” That’s because they haven’t come out yet. Just stand by. Announcements will be made soon).
I don’t like to read other people’s books while I’m writing. But here are a few of the books I did read:
Well That Was Awkward
by Rachel Vail
You heard me yapping about this all year but I will continue to since I super enjoyed it. I feared for the characters and was glad when they turned out OK. That’s what you want in a book.
I’ve loved comic books since I was a kid so when someone introduced me to these newly released issues of DC’s Supergirl (origin story – she’s in high school and just discovering her powers) I was easily hooked. The art is beautiful and the story is touching. I can’t believe these came out with so little fanfare and are so (to me) under the radar.
A Princess in Theory
by Alyssa Cole
Someone described this book to me as Coming to America meets The Princess Diaries but it’s actually funnier (and steamier) than that. The down-to-earth heroine wants nothing to do with the African prince hero (he initially contacts her via email–Hello, I am an African prince with a vast fortune who desperately needs your help–ha ha! and she deletes the email, as we all would). They later meet-cute and hilarity ensues. This is a 2018 release (out February 27, 2018) but I was lucky enough to read it in 2017. It’s a MUST READ for anyone who loves royal romances.
Naomi Novik’s Tremeraire series
How I lived so long in ignorance of the Tremeraire series, I do not know. The touching saga of a man and the dragon he “acquires” during the Napoleonic Wars, it’s both historical and fantastical and filled with humanitarianism, if that makes sense. I love these books.
A Death of No Importance
by Mariah Fredericks
I love mysteries. Mysteries and thrillers are my favorite comfort reads, what I reach for in times of crisis, because at the end of most mysteries, there is usually some kind of justice. I read a LOT of them in 2017: The Child by Fiona Barton, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, The Breakdown by B.A. Paris, All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King, Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly, I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh, The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne, among others that I grabbed in airports during the many flights I took.
And they were all great. But one of my favorites was Mariah Fredericks’ A Death of No Importance (it will be out in June 2018, but I read it in 2017), a historical mystery about a lady’s maid in turn-of-the-century Manhattan who is thrust into a murder mystery involving one of the wealthiest families in New York! Just when I thought I’d figured out who the killer was, Mariah surprised me again . . . and again. Plus the historic details–especially about what was happening in New York City at the time–was so well done, it completely sucked me in. Loved it. Pre-order it now!
Well, that’s it for my Top Five Favorites of 2017. I’ll be getting back to you soon with some announcements about books being released by me in the coming months (or years. Who knows with scheduling, considering I’m still writing them).
Until then, stay warm, stay safe, and hope to see you soon!
It’s that time of year again! I’ll be spending the holidays here in Key West with friends and family, experimenting with new recipes that I’ll try to share with you on Twitter/FB/ and Instagram (I can’t guarantee they’ll be any good, but they’ll be SUPEREASY)!
Speaking of supereasy, have you, like me, not even started your holiday shopping yet?
Then here’s a supereasy and practically FREE gift idea for the book lovers in your life:
Send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to my PO Box (address below), and I’ll return it to you filled with the autographed bookplates (indicate how many you’d like, and if you’d like them personalized), bookmarks and postcards pictured here (jewelry not included)!
Send the SASE to:
P.O. Box 4904
Key West, FL 33041-4904
Send your SASE now (RIGHT NOW) so it can be sent back to you in time for the holidays, and so that you can then give the enclosed items to your friends/loved ones!
For a guide on which of my books are appropriate for which age range, click here.
If you’re like me, you’re so late on your gift-giving that whatever you order now will have to be a New Year’s Gift: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS!
Since most of us can agree that 2017 has been kind of on the crappy side, honoring the birth of 2018 with gifts seems TOTALLY appropriate to me.
And I’ll have LOTS gifts for you in 2018: Look for an announcement in February 2018 about brand NEW books from me coming in 2018-2019!
(This is just a random “party” video from a movie I like. SisQo, Vitamin C and the cast of the movie Get Over It are in no way affiliated with my February announcement.)
But things have finally settled down enough for me to update this blog (plus, I actually have Internet access for the first time in a while).
Thanks to all of you who were posting thoughts and prayers for me during Irma! I didn’t see any of them until a few days ago, since I didn’t have Internet.
I have to admit I was surprised! I had no idea that the media was calling the hurricane in Key West a “non-survivable event.”
It’s weird to have survived something “non-survivable” (I’m going to guess we survived due to Florida’s very strict zoning and building codes, about which we used to complain every day. Not anymore!).
I will admit my backyard went overnight from looking like this….
But, like 98% of Key West, it will be fine after some clean up.
Most of the hurricane damage that occurred in Key West was tree-related.
(In case you can’t read the above, it’s the marquee on Key West’s famous indie cinema, The Tropic — already open for business — which says: Key West Lite – Same Great Place, Less Trees)
Homes and businesses in Key West have had power, water, cell phone service, and Internet restored, and the town is up and running.
But many places up the Keys – like Big Pine and Cudjoe – are still without electricity and running water, and many people there have lost their homes. So, while they survived a non-survivable event, they still need a lot of help.
A lot of people have asked why I stayed for the storm instead of evacuating. Honestly, it just felt right to me to stay . . . even though staying in a place you’ve been told to evacuate is a REALLY BAD IDEA. DO NOT DO IT. I was very, very lucky.
That being said, a large group of my friends/neighbors were also staying (mostly because they have family/pets in the area that couldn’t leave, or businesses to run, or whatever). Like me, they had been through hurricanes before, did not have kids, had generators, and felt confident they and their homes could survive “non-survivable” Irma (which we didn’t know was non-survivable).
And . . . we did!
But this was still a bad, bad idea.
Although . . . not to say anything mean about weather forecasters, since I know they do their best, the storm was supposed to come on Saturday, and on the Sunday before, this was my local weather report:
Scary right? I mean, I was totally going to leave.
Then, Monday, the very next day, this was the report:
Oh, okay. So Sunday, it is coming right at us, and Monday, we are halfway out of the cone?
Why go to all the trouble of evacuating, right?
To me, the best solution seemed to be: Board up the house, move in the deck furniture, buy supplies, and wait it out (also, despite what people might be picturing, I live nowhere near the beach. I am a pool girl. So storm surge was never a worry).
Then on Wednesday . . .
The airport closed, there was no more gas, and the hospital shut its doors!
So we began living what we call
The Cone Life
Photo taken Thursday at Higgs Beach, Key West, day before the Irma
A lot of the time when there’s a hurricane somewhere, you hear people safely outside The Cone watching those on TV struggling to survive inside it say scornfully: “Gosh, why didn’t those dumb people just evacuate?”
Obviously, they should have. But here are some reasons why:
Because they have elderly parents or special needs children or sick pets who can’t be moved.
Because they have a business that might need to open rapidly after the storm (such as: insurance) and needs looking after.
Because the storm intensified so rapidly, they didn’t have time to get out.
Because the airport is closed.
Because there is no gas.
Because the entire state is in the Cone of Uncertainty so there is nowhere safe to go unless they drive 500 miles and they can’t do that on one tank of gas so it is safer to stay where they are.
Because the last time they evacuated, they got trapped in their car and there was no one to help and they nearly drowned.
Because they have been through storms before and everything was more or less fine.
Because there is one last totally excellent party to go to (this is a terrible reason. Who wrote this? Oh, me, never mind.)
Because the last time they evacuated their home/business was looted*
*Sadly, I know people to whom this actually happened.
Honestly, we shouldn’t judge. People lead complicated lives about which we know nothing, and most of us are doing the best we can, and not trying to cause trouble for everyone else. NO ONE I knew who didn’t evacuate ended up needing to be rescued by first responders.
But I will say that on that list, number 3 — rapid intensification — has become a habit of hurricanes this year, and one reason these storms have caused so much damage compared to other years:
Harvey: Cat 1 to Cat 4 in 24 hours Irma: Cat 3 to Cat 5 in 24 hours Jose: Cat 1 to Cat 4 in 24 hours Maria: Cat 1 to Cat 4 in 12 hours, and Cat 1 to Cat 5 in 15 hours*
Of the people I know who evacuated from Key West, many of them were hit by Irma in the places they thought would be safe! Naples, Tampa, and Orlando were all places evacuees from the Keys were urged to go, and all got hit by Irma.
What made evacuating even worse than staying for these people was that then they couldn’t return to their own home after the storm was over: the roads in the Keys were impassable for days, and aside from that, there was still no gas!
Nor could these people call or text anyone in Key West to see if their home was okay, because there was no cell service, Internet, or electricity.*
*I actually had power–but no Internet–because we have a generator, and since 9/11 I have always kept a landline, because that is the only thing that worked during 9/11. It worked during Irma, too.
Praise be to the landline. Never bundle. Amen.
Many, many people used my landline to let people outside The Cone know that they were all right. It was also used by evacuees calling in to ask about the condition of their homes and, in some cases, people and pets they’d left behind.
(NO JUDGMENTS. THERE IS NO JUDGING IN THE CONE).
We went on many important recon missions, checking on people’s homes and loved ones.
I hope you never have to experience Cone Life, but since scientists assure us that both the temperatures of the earth and its waters are rising, there is a possibility you might.
Therefore I’m going to make a short list of everyday things you might want to keep handy in case The Day After Tomorrow comes, and you slip into The Cone.
Don’t bundle it to your other services, like cable or your Internet or cell, because if they go down, it will, too. Your landline is connected to the phone company, not the power company, by copper wires buried underground. It should work without electricity, unless your phone company also goes down, which is unlikely, as it usually has a generator.
Batteries and Simple tools
Obviously, you need batteries to power your radio and flashlights. Even if you have a generator (which I highly recommend, but you don’t NEED one), you need flashlights in case the generator doesn’t work.
Also, your generator need only power the areas of your house you use (lights, refrigerator, AC in one or two rooms), not your entire home. So you need flashlights to see in the un-powered areas.
You need a radio to listen to local news since there might be no Internet or cable.
Never use candles during a power outage. Many deaths during hurricanes are caused by fire. 911 will not respond to emergencies during the storm. That is why you were told to evacuate!
If you have a generator, do not use it INSIDE your house. 8 of the people who died during Irma died of carbon monoxide poisoning from using their generator inside their house.
You need a few simple tools to put shutters up over your windows, such as a hammer, a wrench, and pliers.
First aid kit
You need a first aid kit because you will probably injure yourself using the tools, since you are a crazy writer. 😉
Also, there will be sharp things on the ground after the storm. People will step on them and need first aid after coming to your house to use the landline, and the hospital won’t be open right away. Alcohol, band-aids, and some antibacterial spray/ointment will work. Remember, YOU are 911 now!
Buckets and towels
It doesn’t matter how new or old your house is, during a hurricane, some part of it will leak.
A towel at the bottom of the bucket will keep you from going insane at the sound of the “drip…drip…drip” during the storm.
It is important to have a large stash of bottled water in the house during a storm. We had even more than pictured above. Ignore the beer, that was not mine.
After the hurricane, your town’s water supply may be compromised (ours was) for a little while, so you will have to drink bottled water. And you will long for ice like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway. Ice becomes rarer than diamonds after a storm!
Fortunately, we got some ice from a local Key West restaurant, The Brewery. How I love you, The Brewery! Key West restaurants were fantastic about donating food and drink before and after the storm. Shout outs to The Brewery, Baby’s Coffee, Dantes, Azur, B.O.’s Fish Wagon, Kermit’s, Eaton Street Fish Market, and probably many more I’m forgetting, who really saved the day for many Keys residents by giving food away FOR FREE to those in need.
Which reminds me:
Don’t forget to stock up on non-perishable food items!!! Probably more high-protein food than this, but you may not feel like eating anything except stuff like this anyway.
I also recommend your neighbor’s cooking! Getting together with neighbors during storms to clean out your fridge and eat all their yummy perishables is the best part of storms. I’m fortunate that one of my neighbors is the Key West Spice man! Get some today, and support Key West! (I like the Southernmost Blend ground fine and sprinkled on popcorn.)
Don’t forget your pets! Make sure you stock up on plenty of food and water for them, too! Obviously, Allie is pictured here with my secret stash of food, not hers. She had plenty of her own, though, along with medication in case of emergencies.
Tornadoes are a real possibility during hurricanes, so it’s best to camp out during the worst of the storm in a ground level room of your house, the one that has the least windows (and in which I also happened to have moved all of my outdoor furniture).
Your pets will enjoy this fun adventure and so will you!
After the storm is over, the hardest part of Cone Life begins:
Is this my beautiful house? – The Talking Heads
After the storm, when everyone comes outside, blinking and shell-shocked, it’s easy to let depression and despair sink in, especially if your home/town has suffered significant damage, or even if you just listen to the news. Words like “devastation” and “disaster” get mentioned a lot by journalists and even our political leaders.
And as we now know, we weren’t even supposed to survive this event!
“It will take YEARS to get back to normal . . . if ever!” said someone official in Key West.
No one wants to hear things like that . . . especially since it isn’t true. Human beings are amazingly resourceful and resilient, especially when we work together.
What IS true, however, though most people don’t know it, is that the majority of injuries occur just after storms, during cleanup, from stepping on downed power lines, hidden nails, attempting to cross storm surge, being hit by fallen trees, getting infected bug bites, dehydration, and things like that.
So this is the time when Cone Life is riskiest, and also the most depressing.
But it doesn’t have to be!
We Can Do It!
Because if no one listens to the forecasts of doom and gloom, and everyone works together (while staying hydrated), it won’t be years before their town is cleaned up . . . .
To The Rescue!!!
. . . but weeks or in some cases even days!
By keeping a positive attitude (and employing a little hard labor), people can do anything. I’ve seen it time and time again.
Above is a photo of St. Mary in the Grotto at St. Mary Star of the Sea church in Key West, where many people go to pray before hurricanes. It’s said that as long as the grotto is standing, a hurricane will never destroy our little island . . . and so far, one never has.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, especially up the Keys, but Key West is open again for business. I’m off to New York for a signing at Comic Con next week, where I’ll also tell everyone I can to COME TO KEY WEST FOR THEIR NEXT VACATION. You’ll find me taking part in the
From a Certain Point of View NYCC Panel on Saturday, 10/7; 11:00am-12:30pm
Location: Hudson Mercantile Building
For tickets, click here PLEASE NOTE: A ticket to New York Comic Con is not required in order to attend this event
The book goes on sale everywhere October 3!
If you’re interested in helping victims of ALL the terrible hurricanes we’ve had lately, including Puerto Rico, donate to One American Appeal. This is the organization put together by our past presidents, or as I like to think of them, The X-Presidents, although this image below needs to be updated to reflect them all:
Remember, we’re all in this together . . . and together, we’ll get through it!
But if you can’t make it to these events, no worries—like I said, more will be added soon! And you can always read the book, which is tons of fun (or so I am told).
What happens in the book? Well, Princess Olivia is turning thirteen and adjusting to life in Genovia. . . but her cousin Luisa isn’t making it easy, always teasing Olivia about the crush she may or may not have on her friend and classmate Prince Khalil.
To make matters worse, Olivia’s sister Mia is due to give birth any minute . . .
. . . but Olivia’s school is competing in the Royal Winter Games–and Grandmere is chaperoning! Could things GET any worse?
The answer, of course, is YES! Yes, they could.
Now if I may digress for a moment, I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of you who offered condolences after my mom’s longtime boyfriend passed away last month.
It was very sad and will be a big adjustment for all of us, but so far my mom’s doing super, as always!
Aunt Beru was my first choice when I learned I was being offered a chance to participate in the book, and I was overjoyed when I found out I got her! In my opinion (and hers), Beru is the most important “less important” character in Star Wars: A New Hope. You’ll have to read her story on October 3 to find out why!
Finally, in cat news, Allie Finkle Cat is doing fine! She has adjusted well to her new home (mine) and spends her days beautifying herself, scratching her scratching post, sleeping, and…
…plotting ways to be as adorable as possible to distract me from working.
But I was asked to submit a short story to an anthology celebrating Star Wars A New Hope‘s 40th anniversary –
40 stories celebrating 40 years of Star Wars!
I was so honored! Of course I said yes.
Some of you have probably seen the hashtag #OperationBlueMilk. Well, this is what it’s about! Check out this little video for more information (and/or read on):
I know a lot of people think the story I submitted is from Princess Leia’s point of view, because I’ve always said how much the original Star Wars movie influenced me as both a writer (I wrote Star Wars fan fiction as a kid . . . although I didn’t share it with anyone) and a feminist. I loved being introduced to a princess with a laser blaster who was instrumental in saving the galaxy!
My most treasured possession
However, this anthology isn’t about the the major heroes (and heroines) in the movie. It’s a celebration of the LESSER characters, who maybe haven’t gotten the attention they deserved. That’s why it’s subtitled FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW. It’s time we found out more about what THEY were thinking as they performed the heroic acts that helped Luke, Leia, Han, and Obi Wan save the galaxy.
My second most treasured possessions
I can’t reveal yet which character I chose, but I will say that I got my first pick! In my opinion, without my character, there would not have been a story. The Empire would have won, and we wouldn’t be discussing any of this right now. MY CHARACTER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT (in my character’s humble opinion).
(No, my character is not C3PO.)
So look for FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW everywhere books are sold on October 3, 2017. All author proceeds from the book will go to First Book (I’m copying this straight from the Star Wars webpage announcement so you’ll know what First Book is):
“a leading nonprofit that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to educators and organizations serving children in need.”
Also, just to let you know:
“To further celebrate the launch of this book and both companies’ longstanding relationships with First Book, Penguin Random House has donated $100,000 to First Book, and Disney/Lucasfilm has donated 100,000 children’s books — valued at 1 million dollars — to support First Book and their mission of providing educational resources to children in need. Over the past 16 years, Disney has donated more than 57 million books to First Book.”
Well, it’s that time of year again: VALENTINE’S DAY!
Every year I try to ignore this holiday, and every year I can’t because commercials start appearing, urging me to go to Jared’s (an American jewelry store for those of you who don’t live in this country) or buy a gigantic teddy bear (like John McLean in Die Hard)!
I’ve written in the past about how I think this holiday has gotten away from its original message (which I forget right now but I think it’s that we shouldn’t kill Roman soldiers for getting married or something?) and how it now puts too much stress on the importance on “finding the one” or whatever, when the really important thing is to love yourself and be happy in your own company.
And you can bet that on February 15th I’ll be at the drugstore buying all the chocolate there that’s been marked down to half-price (don’t tell my trainer). (Oh, what am I saying, she’ll be there, too.)
So I guess deep down I have to admit, there’s a part of me that has an affection for Valentine’s Day, too.
Okay so now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get down to business:
Question: What book(s) have you got coming out in 2017, Meg?
Answer: This one!
Royal Crush, Book 3 in the From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess series, will be out in August 2017! You can probably guess what happens in it by looking at the cover . . .
An in-converstaion event with Rachel Vail and Meg Cabot! Set in the tumultuous tween world of eighth grade, Rachel Vail’s brand new book WELL, THAT WAS AWKWARD (which has received rave reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Meg herself), is a delightful 21st century take on Cyrano de Bergerac…but with texting! Join Meg (and Judy Blume!) in welcoming Rachel to Key West on the first night of her WELL, THAT WAS AWKWARD book tour!
You guys, I’ve read this book, and it is GREAT (for real, I could not put it down which adversely effected or affected my busy reality show watching I mean writing schedule).
Question: How was your 50th birthday?
Answer: IT WAS SO GREAT! Thank you all for your well wishes! I spent my birthday with He Who Shall Not Be Named In This Blog at this amazing tropical resort called Little Palm Island where there are no children or cell phones allowed. We had the nicest time, and the staff was so great, especially about my gluten-free diet. I think they even arranged for there to be a perfect sunset just for me.
He Who Shall Not Be Named enjoying some sun
Question: How is Allie Finkle Cat?
Answer: She is the sweetest, cuddliest, funniest cat in the history of the universe. Everyone should adopt a cat from the animal shelter.
No, Mom, don’t go to the gym!
Okay, I won’t go to the gym.
Question: What will you be doing for Valentine’s Day?
Answer: Reading novels and eating chocolate, as is proper.
Until the next time . . . have a happy Valentine’s Day, and thanks for reading!
Well, I’m back from my book tour in France, where I had a GREAT time.
I met readers old and new, visited places I’ve never been before, celebrated the publication of a new book, and ate some FANTASTIC food.
Bookstore in Toulon!
Allie in Paris, a novella in French!
Meg in Paris, a photo about cheesy mashed potatoes!
Meg on Rue Princesse, contemplating the vagaries of life
Now I’m back in Key West, far from the reach of the polar vortex, and everyone is celebrating the holiday season . . .
It’s a nice ending to a year that hasn’t been so great, what with losing various things, including our beloved cat Gem (I still can’t believe it. A brain tumor? Running off with her feline boyfriend, Edward Cullen Cat, I could believe. But a BRAIN TUMOR?).
But even though we had a GREAT time in France, and are so happy to be home, one thing was still bothering me. It took me a while to figure out what it was.
Remember that random cat I met before I left for France? I posted a photo of us on Twitter way back in November to say that if you feel depressed, hug a random cat.
Me with random cat
That cat had spent a YEAR living in an animal shelter. No one wanted to adopt her because
she was too old (9), and
she was mostly black, and people STILL have outdated superstitions about black cats,
even though she was the sweetest, friendliest cat.
Fortunately Scott, the owner of Dog 30, a Key West pet store, has an agreement with the Marathon animal shelter, and regularly brings hard-to-place cats into his shop, so they can get a little more attention from customers, and possibly find a forever home.
That’s how I met Random Cat…and why I couldn’t get her out of my head the whole time I was in France.
Fortunately, there’s a happy ending to this story: Random Cat ended up getting adopted last week.
Allow me to introduce Allie Finkle Cat:
(Yes, it’s Random Cat!
She is sitting right here as I type this,
waiting for me to put the computer away so she can crawl in my lap.)
After spending such a long time in the shelter, Allie Cat could not be happier to be living in a house! I knew, in fact, that she was the right cat for us when she sauntered into the house (no hiding, the way some cats do when they’re introduced to a new environment) like she’d always lived here, headed for our very best pillow, plopped down on it, and took a nap until dinner.
Is it soft and comfy? Then Allie Cat will sleep on it.
We named her Allie because it sounds enough like her shelter name (which is a name that a lot of our friends – and even a neighbor’s dog – have) while still being uniquely her own, much like her personality. Allie, for instance, likes to watch over the street to make sure everyone is obeying the rules (much like her namesake, Allie Finkle).
Hey! You over there! Clean up after your dog!
Oh, wait, did I hear my name? Here I come!
At nine (or older. Who knows? Not even the vet can really tell), Allie is not a silly frisky kitten, which, along with her black fur, is probably why so many people overlooked her.
But their loss is our gain, because she is the sweetest, most well behaved cat, who has yet to stop showing us how grateful she is to be here.
I’m Purring Here
So if you’re still looking for a happy ending to 2016, maybe it’s time to consider adopting an older pet. You’ll be doing something wonderful for an animal who will spend the rest of her days showing you how much she loves you. You won’t regret it.
As for us, we’re going to have the best holiday ever, hanging out with our new family member, and looking forward to 2017, which I hope will bring happiness and joy to all of you, too.