pick up the flippin bananas

Do you know anyone like this?

Mutts by Patrick McDonnell

Well this week is the opposite of greedy, so get your altruism on. Yay for Random Acts of Kindness Week, February 12-18! I am a huge Random Acts of Kindness Foundation fangirl and look forward to this week all year. The RAK Foundation has given you some kindness ideas for inspo. They would love for you to share any acts of kindness on your socials with #RAKWeek2017.

If you’re reading my City Love trilogy, you know that Sadie is all about the random acts of kindness and warm fuzzies and making the world a better place. I have so much love for her. As someone who was bullied and abused in my teens, kindness is close to my heart. That’s why I am a RAKtivist with the RAK Foundation. As a RAKtivist, I practice daily kindness, help when I see someone in need, share knowledge, and lead by example. You can become a RAKtivist too!

Sometimes it surprises me when I meet people who have not seen many acts of kindness in action. Like the other day at Trader Joe’s. I usually start my TJ’s shopping by getting a few bananas because they’re right near the door. If you don’t have a plan of attack for those TJ’s aisles, you risk drowning in a flood of aimless wanderers. Even on a Wednesday afternoon. So I was getting some bananas from the big bin when a lady next to me dropped the bunch of bananas she was inspecting. I reached down to the floor to pick them up for her.

“Those are MINE!” she yelled at me.

“I know,” I said, handing them back to her. “I saw you drop them.”

“You picked them up for me?”

“Of course.”

She couldn’t believe it. Like, she straight-up could not believe a total stranger would pick something up for her that she dropped. But then I couldn’t believe that she couldn’t believe it. She was so unaccustomed to people helping her or seeing people help other people that she seriously thought I was stealing her bananas. Off the floor. When I was standing in front of a huge bin with hundreds of bananas.

That was not okay.

For Random Acts of Kindness Week (and, um, every day), let’s commit to helping those around us. Hold the door open for the person behind you. Let someone go ahead of you in line if they look desperate. Give careful directions when someone asks. And pick up the flippin bananas. Because if more people had done acts of kindness for that lady in TJ’s, she wouldn’t have been surprised by mine at all.

And that’s exactly how it should be.

typo annihilator

You know how some things just annoy you so much you can’t even with them? But other people might not be bothered at all, or even notice?

Typos are like that for me.

Now and Forever typo sign 1

I mean, I cannot with this. “Your being video taped.” Seriously? And on printed signage?

Every time I see a glaring typo on a sign, I document the offense for my personal photo collection. Why? Because I’m a weirdo like that. But also because these are too good not to share. And rage/laugh/shake our heads over. Thus this overdue blog post!

Let’s revisit the time my favorite vegetarian restaurant had a new awning made, shall we?

Vegetarians Vegetarian's Paradise

So like…not only does this brand spanking new awning have a huge typo, but given its two different connotations of “vegetarians” you could say it has two. How can Vegetarians Paradise not know it is a paradise for more than one vegetarian? Hello, no wonder the singular possessive side got graffitied.

Creating a character who rages against typos was inevitable. That’s why in Now and Forever, Sterling is a typo annihilator. She whips out her black Sharpie and corrects typos on signs like an intellectual ninja. Fun fact: Sterling is Marisa’s best friend in Waiting for You. And Marisa has a cameo in Now and Forever. I’ve been bringing back previous characters from my backlist in my recent books, and will continue to have fun with this moving forward. My ultimate goal is to have all of my characters linked to one another by one degree as a statement on how we are all connected. Let’s see how it goes…

But yeah. I just can’t with this random capitalization.

Now and Forever typo sign 2

Or this.

Now and Forever typo sign 3

Because if you are on line at CVS browsing the magazines on the rack at checkout, you are only required to put one of the magazines back? You’re allowed to keep the others? I am also fascinated by the new vocabulary word “Thankyou.” I can understand its origin. The space between those words was such a hassle.

Down the block at another drug store chain, I spotted this beauty.

Now and Forever typo sign 4

So. Many. Things.

I will leave you with this gem…and best wishes for happy typo hunting!

keys

java stop

One of the most frequent questions authors get is this: Do you ever put real experiences in your books?

Heck yeah we do.

For example. There is a scene in Lost in Love where Sadie has a meltdown/rant/enraged fit over a new store on Bleecker Street. She grew up in that neighborhood. The West Village is the only home she’s ever known. One of the things she loved about the West Village is how it was a community of artists and musicians, filled with mom-and-pop stores that had been there forever. But the West Village, like a lot of New York City neighborhoods, has changed. It’s no longer the boho creative enclave of the 60s and 70s it once was. Sadie observes that Bleecker Street is kind of looking like an upscale strip mall these days. Case in point: this one artisan soap boutique that has, um, leaves inside.

Bleecker Street leaves

Sadie’s meltdown/rant/enraged fit is sparked by a certain Coffee Shop That Shall Not Be Named. The new coffee shop muscled in after a mom-and-pop record store that had been there for 17 years got pushed out by an outrageous rent increase. Which is why a lot of older stores are closing all over Manhattan. The rents are crazy. Sadie sees the shiny new coffee shop and has what I hope is both a passionate and hilarious fit in front of the store. She even makes a protest sign out of some recycled cardboard and a borrowed marker from Rocco’s. Darcy records Sadie’s rant and they post it online. You’ll see what happens in the final book of the City Love trilogy, Forever in Love, coming out next May.

What does Sadie’s fit have to do with experiences IRL? I had the same exact fit.

I was walking down this block of Bleecker Street I hadn’t seen in a while. When I lived in the West Village for nine years, I walked down that block all the time. But it had been a while since I was right there. And when I saw that our beloved record store had been replaced by the Coffee Shop That Shall Not Be Named, I lost it. I freaked the eff out. Just like Sadie did. Minus the protest sign.

Of course my meltdown/rant/enraged fit had to find its way into a book. The City Love trilogy was the perfect place for it.

At first the Coffee Shop That Shall Not Be Named was named. But my editor made the wise decision to change the name. You know. Good vibes only. So I came up with Java Stop, which I’d never heard of before. Or so I thought. Almost a year later, I was watching Singles, a dope film I hadn’t seen in many years. And what was the name of the local coffee shop?

Java Stop.

Was this another fun non-coincidence? Maybe. Had I ever even noticed the name of that coffee shop before? I don’t think so. But maybe I did and I forgot about it on an obvious level. The brain is a fascinating thing. Our memories are there, just not always accessible. Whatever the reason for coming up with Java Stop, it makes me smile to know that Sadie’s fury over its rampage of bullying smaller shops like a big bad boogeyman is making readers smile too.

Keep smiling. And remember to look up. 🙂

the even advisory system

One reason I love interacting with you guys on social is that some of you know the kind of quirky stuff I adore. To the point that you will send me things that are so me I can’t believe I didn’t think of them first.

A perfect example is this Even Advisory System, shared by friendly neighbor Greg H. on Twitter:

The Even Advisory System

I wrote a decent amount of “I can’t with that”, “I can’t even”, and “I can’t” into Take Me There. That was back in 2007. At the time, this slang was on the newer side. My editor and copyeditor didn’t quite know how to handle it. They were like, “Can’t with what?” and “Is there a word missing at the end?” But I stuck with this supreme slang because it was just too good not to.

It’s been eight years since I left teaching to write full-time, but I still miss geeking out over shiny new school supplies. I also miss that sense of a fresh start filled with infinite potential. It’s a transient sensation that can only be captured in September. By October, the freshness has gone stale, and the motivation you had when school started has succumbed to boredom (for students) and exhaustion (for teachers).

Even if you did not go back to school this month, you can still harness the power of that fresh start with the Even Advisory System. How? By completing each prompt to create five statements expressing how much you can’t, then identifying five solutions to mitigate their severity.

I’ll start.

  • I can’t with summer ending. Fact: There are seven days left of summer until the autumnal equinox on September 23. Solution: Enjoy the eff out of them.
  • I can’t even with the upcoming lack of summer fruit. Fact: You might find berries and melons in the winter, but they will not taste good. Solution: Inhale as many pints of berries and entire melons as I can while they are still edible.
  • I just can’t even with people who cross the street when an ambulance or fire truck is coming right at them. Fact: Sirens exist for a reason, but not everyone’s reasoning skills are sharp. Solution: Point out that an emergency vehicle is coming to people who are about to demonstrate a sad lack of awareness.
  • I cannot with people who litter. Fact: The earth is not a garbage can. Solution: Run after people who toss garbage on the sidewalk, pick up their straw wrapper / gum wrapper / napkin, hand it back to them and be like, “I think you dropped something.”
  • I literally can’t even with negative energy. Fact: Haters gonna hate, but I have no time for anyone throwing shade. Solution: Minimize exposure to negative energy just as I would with any other toxic health risk.

Feeling much better already!

Have fun working your own system, friendly neighbors 🙂

look up – free public baths

There are so many spectacular look up moments to have in New York City I can’t even remember all the ones I’ve had in my nearly 19 years here. Or even most of them. Research shows that we tend to remember the experiences we have alone more vividly than experiences we have with other people. A lot of my look up moments have happened alone. They are burned into my brain like a kind of creative fuel I run on. But I had a recent look up moment with someone that I want to share with you.

We were walking around the East Village on a spontaneous cookie crawl. We hit up DeRobertis (good thing since it tragically closed a few weeks later after 110 years) (and don’t even get me started on Bruno closing after 40 years) (and Gobo closing! How can my favorite vegetarian restaurant be closed?!), Veniero’s, and Insomnia Cookies. Skittering around on a sugar high, I looked up and saw this:

Free Public Baths of the City of New York

The old-school etching above the doorways said Free Public Baths of the City of New York. The building was massive. What was it now? Upon further inspection at the open gated entrance, we discovered the building is now an upscale photography studio. But what did it used to be? We researched and found out something really cool. There was a whole public bath movement in New York City back in the 1840s. People who lived in the old East Village tenements didn’t have access to bathtubs or showers in their apartments. They came to the Free Public Baths, which had seven bathtubs and 94 showers. After bathrooms became standard in apartment buildings, the Free Public Baths closed in 1958. Then it was used as a garage/warehouse until 1995, when it became the photography studio it is today.

How fascinating is that? I never even knew about the public bath movement. And I probably never would have discovered this important part of New York’s history if I hadn’t looked up as we walked by.

In a city where old-school institutions are closing due to skyrocketing outrageous rents, it’s reassuring to look up and see that the historical flavor of New York City is still all around. I will continue to look up…and learn way more about my city love.

moment of zen

Pink cloud views from my home office always bring a Moment of Zen.

Pink clouds, New York City

I enjoy experiencing a good Moment of Zen while I’m working. Especially this month. This is the first year I’m participating in NaNoWriMo and I’m loving it. Have there been some setbacks? You know it. But I like the feeling of community, that we’re all in this together. That I can be writing in the middle of the night and know that some of you out there are doing the exact same thing. Friendly neighbors on Twitter have reassured me that it still counts if I’m only using NaNo to finish a first draft. So yay. It’s a writing party up in here!

One of the best parts about writing? Is turning an actual negative experience into something positive on the page. Yeah, that was me having a full-on rant/meltdown/enraged fit in front of the new Starbucks in the most historic part of the West Village. I moved from that neighborhood over two years ago, so I didn’t know how many mom-and-pop stores on historic Bleecker Street had been shut down and turned into obnoxious strip-mall conglomerates like Starbucks. And don’t even get me started on the 16 Handles.

I might picket outside their windows.

My beloved West Village street was unrecognizable. I was scandalized by the bright new windows where shops that had been there for decades no longer existed. The store that had been at the Starbucks location before was a Village institution. It had been there for 17 years. Thankfully it only moved around the corner – when I saw it I stood in the middle of West 4th Street with my arms in the air for victory.

The day after you might have seen me yelling how the Starbucks was wrong and it didn’t belong there and how could something like that have been allowed, I wrote a fun scene. All that negative energy got turned into a positive part of this first draft I’m working on. Maybe you’ll read it in book two of my City Love trilogy. And if it doesn’t make the cut? Both the experience and the writing were part of the journey. A Moment of Zen realization, NaNo style.

Have a wonderful weekend, friendly neighbors 🙂

crumbs bake shop forever

I really, really don’t want to write any of this down.

Because if I write it down, then I’ll have to admit this is actually happening.

Crumbs Bake Shop has just closed all of its stores.

Sprinkle Crumbs

Heartbroken. I am just…heartbroken.

Was there advance warning? No, there was not. Which is weird. If Crumbs had announced it was closing its stores even a week ago, sales would have spiked with superfans like me scrambling to get their last Crumbs fix on. We would have snatched up all the Girl Scout Cookie cupcakes and Rainbow Cookie cupcakes and the best freaking danish in the world.

Don’t even get me started on the danish. Don’t even.

But they didn’t give us any advance warning. According to these articles in The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Daily News, and The Wall Street Journal, Crumbs announced they were shutting down all of their stores yesterday. Then every location closed last night. I can’t even rush in to my nearest Crumbs now for a last hurrah. Unless my last hurrah includes staring in the window mournfully with big, wet eyes.

This cannot be happening.

How can there never again be a new Cupcake of the Week to obsess over?

Berry Berry Crumbs Cupcake of the Week

Or special edition cupcakes like the Big Apple, circa 2010?

Big Apple Crumbs cupcake

And how are we supposed to celebrate summer without a Pina Colada cupcake? With a tropical drink umbrella and a cherry on top?

Pina Colada Crumbs cupcakes

Even in a horrible situation like this, I always try to look on the bright side. More than try. I find a bright side and try to stay focused on that. Because even in a negative situation, there is always something positive. The good news here is that we still have Sprinkles. But man…I was so proud of Crumbs branching out from their one little Upper West Side store in 2003. I remember the day I discovered Crumbs. I had a Snickers cupcake and it was the best cupcake I’d ever had in my life. More stores started appearing a few years later. A bunch of new stores came on the scene in the past few years. And now…

Maybe they shouldn’t have expanded so widely? Maybe they should have just had a few locations in New York? But no. I love that they took a chance and expanded. Crumbs became the nation’s largest cupcake chain. That is a monumental achievement. Snaps to Crumbs for being brave. Snaps to Crumbs for dreaming big and turning that big dream of national cupcake domination into reality.

Some tool quoted in this article was saying that the cupcake trend is over. He said that people can just bake cupcakes at home. How dare you, sir. There is no way the magic of a Crumbs cupcake can be replicated at home. Take the Rainbow Cookie cupcake, for example.

Rainbow Cookie Crumbs cupcake

The cake is an almost exact replica of the rainbow cookie in both taste and appearance. The cupcake has raspberry filling, just like the raspberry filling between colors of the rainbow cookie. And an actual rainbow cookie sits cheerfully on top of the chocolate-sprinkled chocolate ganache.

Let’s see Mr. Cupcake Apocalypse bake that at home.

Or wait, not even. Why don’t you bake these Crumbs Halloween cupcakes from 2008 at home?

Halloween Crumbs cupcakes

Each one is unique and beautifully decorated. But yeah, I’m sure you can dash right home and whip up a batch.

My rant seems to have disintegrated down a negative spiral again. Must identify more bright side. Here’s something positive: Crumbs will always live on in my books. Crumbs has been featured in Take Me There and So Much Closer and will continue to be featured in future books. That will be my way of preserving its memory.

Goodbye, Crumbs. You may be gone, but you will never be forgotten. I will remember your goodness fondly…and smile.

Smiley Face Crumbs cupcake

summer breeze

TGIM! The first thing I decided on this gorgeous summer morning was to have weekly book giveaways for the rest of August. All I Need is a sparkly summer romance. What better time to give away copies to you guys?

Entering this week’s giveaway is easy. The first 100 people to sign up for my newsletter starting today will be automatically entered to win a signed copy of All I Need. US mailing addresses only. You can sign up for my newsletter/enter the giveaway here.

Hostess cupcakes are back. Sort of. I was beyond psyched to hear that Hostess snack cakes would be back in stores this summer. Those cupcakes with the icing squiggles make me happy. Even the tag line for their ad campaign was awesome: Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever. So when I saw them at 7-Eleven the other day, I got a little thrill. Until I looked at them more closely. Upon further inspection, I was devastated to discover that the icing squiggles were much thinner. These impostors are not the classic Hostess cupcakes we knew and loved. Less icing = less excited Susane. Will I still try them? Probably. But don’t expect a rave review. RIP, Hostess CupCakes. You were the bomb.

I love when readers are inspired to create art. Whether it’s making wish boxes and treasure maps like Sara in When It Happens, warm fuzzies like Sadie in So Much Closer, or collages like Seth in All I Need, seeing photos of your work makes me happier than an old-school Hostess cupcake. I find this nail art inspired by my book spine stripes to be awesome:

So Much Closer nail art

In other book news, Miss Print interviewed me about All I Need. Some fresh reviews are up on It’s a Book Thing and Winter Haven BooksThe Reading Girl posted a beautiful review of Keep Holding On with visual aids you’ll want to snag. And Pretty Little Memoirs posted a cute review of Something Like Fate. Thanks to these friendly neighbor bloggers for spreading the love!

Speaking of friendly neighbors, I’m off to Crumbs for a friendly neighbor reunion with some old students (aka vintage noodles). Although I absolutely love my job, I miss chilling with my people. Teens are and will always be my people. That’s why I write for teens. That’s why my purpose in life is to reach out to teens and help them feel less alone. I remember that sinking feeling at the end of summer when there were only a few days of summer vacay left. Like I couldn’t hold on to them, no matter how hard I tried to freeze time. Later in life, I discovered that being in the Now helps to create inner peace. Taking even one minute to be still and connect with your environment can improve your attitude so much.

It doesn’t matter where you are. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Take one minute to tune out any negative thoughts or feelings. Really see your world. Connect with the things around you. Appreciate everything you have. Just one minute can turn your day around. Anytime you want it to.

Enjoy the summer breeze, friendly neighbors!

board game nirvana

My fellow board gaming nerds will love this big news. There’s a new Monopoly token. One of the less popular tokens was replaced with a shiny new design. The iron is out. I never really liked the iron anyway. Or the shoe. Maybe if it were a cute shoe. But the shoe was what you had to be if all the other tokens were already taken. Oh, and the thimble. Who wants to be the thimble? Get ready for this fresh choice. The shiny new token is a cat.

Monopoly cat token

That cat looks awesome. He’ll be appearing in the new edition later this year. I am going to be on that cat so fast it will make the wheelbarrow spin.

Why do I love old-school board games so much? Not just because I have serious affection for everything old-school. Board gaming has always been one of my fave activities. I grew up playing Monopoly, Sorry!, Parcheesi, Clue, and the rest of the classics with my friends. That was back in the day before we had screens to stare at other than the TV. There’s something so nostalgic and happy about playing board games. Every time I play one, that warm fuzzy feeling comes rushing back.

That’s why I’m a grownup who belongs to a board gaming group. Not just any board gaming group. My group is hardcore. These guys play games I’d never even heard of. My fave is probably Asara. You get to build castles. As a Sometimes Princess, I appreciate the castle theme. I also love Puerto Rico and Settlers of Catan. Here’s Settlers in action:

Settlers of Catan

These games take about three hours to play. Which is nothing compared to what a lot of the hardcore gamers play. They’ll spread out these elaborate boards that take up five tables with a dazzling array of pieces, cards, figures, puzzles, shards with magic powers…and one game will take like seven hours to play. These games require serious commitment. They require snack breaks. Lighting effects have even been known to occur.

So you can understand that most of these guys scoff when my friend Stephen busts out The Climbers:

The Climbers

Climbers is such a cute game. It’s not a board game, but we sneak it in before we get a group together for the main action. You have to use full blocks, half blocks, and ladders to be the highest guy standing at the end. The game ends when it’s impossible for anyone to get any higher. Of course I had to document the first time I played Climbers and won. My guy is the light blue one on the right. He is only a half block above the next highest guy. That was a tight game.

Sometimes in the park or wherever I’ll see little kids glued to their electronic devices who can’t even look up for three seconds to take in the world around them. It makes me sad. Sad that they’re not connecting with the Now. Sad that they’re missing all the real world action happening around them. It makes me sad to think that, by the time they’re teens, playing an old-school board game may be reduced to some archaic ritual their parents remember from back in the day.

I’ve made a pact with myself to do everything I can to encourage old-school activities. A winter night in playing Monopoly, drinking hot chocolate with extra marshmallows, and talking to friends in real life instead of through a screen might seem boring. But being fully present in the Now and connecting to people in an authentic way are two things we should do every day.

And if kids are reluctant to turn away from the screen? There’s always a shiny new cat token to shake things up.

dude, where’s my stove?

The good thing about buying an apartment and doing an almost complete gut renovation is that you get to select all of the shiny new things that will make your home beautiful. Everything from the floors to appliances to fixtures is your choice. The less than good thing is that renovations come with many opportunities for schedules to be delayed and communication chains to break down.

And stoves to get lost.

I ordered this gorgeous stove on July 11:

Fisher & Paykel stove

The sales guy told me it would be delivered on July 20. That’s what my invoice says, too. That’s the date I scheduled with the building and submitted a certificate of insurance for and arranged for a contractor to be here to hook it up. But guess what? The stove didn’t arrive on Friday. Even more hilarious is that no one knows where it is. I spoke to a manager at the store twice on Friday. He said he called the buyer and was waiting for a call back. When I spoke to the sales guy Friday evening, he told me the manager never called about the stove. And that he would call them on Saturday. But guess what? They were closed Saturday. Oh, and the sales guy sounded totally drunk on the phone and could barely string a sentence together. Here’s a transcript of the voice message he left me:

“Hey, how you doin’, Susane? This is [name of drunk sales guy] calling from [name of store that is supposed to be reliable but is showing its bootleg colors]. Um…okay [muffled nonsense]…well…right now? [prolonged sigh] The stove…the stove situation…um…right now? We’re not able to figure out when…approximately when the stove is going to be here because we have to call the [manufacturer] and [manufacturer] they’re closed today? I do apologize for the wait. You know. Um. They told me that I have to wait until Monday because it was a whole…pretty much process for them to get to [manufacturer] just to find out they’re closed today…”

Now it’s Monday. Everyone is open. But guess what? Still no answer. Apparently, no one can help me. And we still don’t know where the stove is. TGIM!

I could get really upset about my MIA stove. I could storm into the store and proceed to bust out a loud, cranky rant at customer service. But after living out of boxes for a week, after having boys with tools taking over my place pretty much every day, after having zero privacy and no bathroom door, after being on deadline with no chance to work, and after so many other things did not work out as promised…you have to laugh.

You just have to laugh. And smile out of windows that the sun shines in all day long. And thank the Universe that this big dream of owning a home has finally become reality.

Because the stove will be located. I will get to cook the large quantities of Quorn in my freezer (went a little crazy at Whole Foods after not having a freezer for nine years!). And eventually, one day in the very near future, my apartment will be done. A gorgeous new home that will be both a tranquil oasis for writing books and a bright, welcoming place for friends to chill. Thus, I am tagging this post as both a rant and positive energy.

Thanks for letting me vent, friendly neighbors!