Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Beginning of the Journey...a True Confession

I thought long and hard about which teen crush I should confess to, since I had quite a few growing up. Yes, I was one of those teen girls who had posters of celebrities covering my walls with not an inch of bare space. In the end though, I decided to share the teen crush I was most obsessed with for the longest time. I’m dating myself and you’re probably going to laugh out loud, but the teen crush I was most ga-ga for back then was none other than Steve Perry of Journey.

It all began one fateful summer day when MTV debuted on our cable TV in New Jersey. Many people don’t realize this, but NJ was ground zero for the launch of MTV on August 1, 1981. The first music video they played was Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles. I remember being glued to the TV with my friends and we were in awe. We were at that perfectly ripe age when our interest in music was just beginning.  A dozen or so music videos in, and we were hooked.
And one of those videos was a live concert recording of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing with front man Steve Perry belting out the vocals. Now, he’s not ugly or anything, but no one’s going to claim he was ever drop-dead-gorgeous. But there was just something about his spectacular voice that simply spoke to my soul. Yes, I did. I said that. And I meant it. Obviously, since the song has made an incredible revival in recent years, I’m not the only one who feels that way.
From the moment I heard Don’t Stop Believing, my teen life was forever changed. I immediately recorded every one of Journey’s songs off of MTV or the radio. This was the time of the great ‘mixed tape’ and Journey got top billing on all of mine. When I saved up enough money, I finally went out and bought a few of their albums. Suddenly, my walls were covered in Journey posters, with Steve Perry’s face chief among them. Every morning, I woke up and blasted Don’t Stop Believing on my boom box. And every morning my father would yell upstairs, “Turn that shit down!” When I finally got to see Journey in concert, I lost my voice and gave myself the headache of the century screaming my lungs out. Their music got me through many rough patches in my teen years.

In fact, Don't Stop Believing and Steve Perry even landed me one of my first boyfriends in high school. How, you might ask? Well, I’ll give you the short version. One day while rushing to class, I literally bumped into this cute boy. Our books and papers went flying. As we gathered up our things from the floor, I noticed he had Journey lyrics and logos written all over his notebooks, just like me. And he had scribbles of writing and poetry on scraps of paper, just like me. Out of embarrassment he tried to hide his, and I tried to hide mine, but we both knew what we had seen. Later, ‘the music man’ and I started talking about our mutual love of Journey and writing, and the rest as they say, is history.

Yes, for the next few years, I was more than a little obsessed with Steve Perry, Journey and my 'music man'. But it was a fun and harmless obsession that still makes me smile every time I here that song.

Friday, September 29, 2017

I Crush Your Head (Brian Katcher)

There was a time I would have rather have thrown myself on a grenade than face the terror of talking to a real life human female. I was thirteen when I first asked out a girl (she said no). I didn't have the nerve to try again for two years.

But during those rough junior high years, I did have my teen fantasy women. After watching The Day After, it occurred to me that I really stood a chance with any woman in the world, provided we were the last two people on earth.

 In no particular order:

Image result for molly ringwald

Molly Ringwald

I think a lot of guys shared this crush with me. While she was never a huge sex symbol, I think that was part of her draw. She looked like someone you might have gone to high school with. Cute, but not totally out of one's league.

Image result for cybill shepherd

Cybil Shepherd

Star of TVs Moonlighting along with Bruce Willis, she was a former beauty queen who once dated Elvis. I remember calculating our age differences and deciding that when I was 18 and she was 42, it could totally work.

Image result for simply irresistible video 

 The chicks from the 'Simply Irresistible' video

Completely interchangeable gorgeous women. Yep, that's how I viewed females in 7th grade.

Image result for kelly lebrock 

Kelly LeBrock

Beautiful in her own right, she was the star of Weird Science, a movie about a couple of nerds who create a virtual woman to be their personal plaything. I think I was intrigued by the science and moral implications of the film.

Others: Brooke Shields,  Erin Grey, Suzanne Somers, Melanie Griffith, Christina Applegate, Kim Bassinger and Vanna White.

 I've matured considerably over the past few decades. As a boy, I judged women solely on their looks. As I matured, I realized that the only women worth pursuing are those who are intelligent, kind, and exist in real life.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Crushing on Beirut, Lebanon by Dean Gloster

In my early twenties, I got a crush on an Idea.
I decided I would go to Beirut, Lebanon to write The Great American (Expatriate) Novel about the U.S. press corps and the then-raging Lebanese civil war.
I had it all worked out. I’d buy a tan shirt with lots of pockets, set up some freelance writing assignments, and then tag along with the working press through the armed checkpoints choking that city. In the presence of the colorful backdrop of a civil war, I was pretty sure, the novel would practically assemble itself, as the Muse murmured it to me in chunks, chapter by chapter, over the motivational soundtrack of Mediterranean surf and desultory rifle fire.

It’s possible I’d read too much Hemingway.
It’s possible I was willing to go to extreme lengths to put off a legal career.
It’s also possible I was somewhat out of my mind—my mother had just finished drinking herself to death, and I had a touch of PTSD from a difficult childhood. Like some--but only a minority of--people with PTSD, mine manifested through a counter-phobic mechanism that left me with an instinct to move toward danger, in an effort to master fear and to avoid feeling vulnerable.
I was in a one-year clerkship with a federal judge in Washington D.C., saving up money for the trip. Two nights a week after a long day’s work, I’d scuttle over to the Department of Agriculture for beginning Arabic classes. (Although I never did get the necessary fluency for that Berlitz favorite, “Please pass the clotting sponge, as I have a severed artery.”)
Like many youthful crushes, it was a terrible idea.
At the time, I had no idea how to write a novel, and my most impressive writing credit was a 1200-word article for the magazine California Highway Patrolman. Except for enthusiasm and excessive confidence, I was ridiculously unprepared. And flying to Beirut was a leap in exactly the wrong direction from becoming a novelist.

Instead of doing the sometimes painful self-examination of my life and my emotional landscape to see what story I had to tell, I’d planned to pick through rubble of a war half a world away, searching for someone else’s story with the goal of packaging that pain into a narrative arc. And, in the process, possibly get blown up.
I was saved from that folly—and from one Earnest but Very Unpublishable Novel Manuscript—when the U.S. sent Marines to Beirut. In response, the locals—especially Hezbollah—began kidnapping U.S. reporters. The press scene I was going to write about evaporated, and getting around a city at war became not just ridiculous, but impossible.
            I ended up feeling a little lost.
            But, as one does, I got a rebound crush.
I finished my clerkship, and with the money I’d saved, I traveled through Asia as a freelance writer, ending up in Peshawar, Pakistan. This was the mid-1980s, and Peshawar was the center of the armed opposition to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. There were seven resistance groups in town, separately fighting the Soviets—and, occasionally, each other. There were even two rival Afghan Information Institutes vying to educate journalists. The directors of the competing institutes spent much of their time explaining how the other guy was an idiot. In fairness, one of them was pretty out there: He’d been evicted from his prior house after his landlord found out he was storing live Soviet munitions to show journalists—including a 155mm howitzer round, which could have sent bits of his ceiling into low earth orbit. His standard method of testing visiting writers—which he used on me—was to fling a deactivated Soviet butterfly mine in greeting. I stoically let it bounce off my chest, having been warned to expect it.

Peshawar was a wild place, in a Wild West time, with bearded, bandoliered, shotgun-wielding guys guarding the banks. The nearby town in the tribal area, Darra Adam Khel, was filled with local arms craftsmen and a teeming arms bazaar. It was an NRA lobbyist’s wet dream, where you could buy weapons from everywhere on the planet and then use them, just a few miles away, to actually deter expansionist Russian Communism. (If Chinese anti-tank mines are outlawed, only outlaws will have Chinese anti-tank mines…)

            There was so much local color that it would drop out of the sky in ballistic arcs, bullets shot into the air by an AK-47 to celebrate a wedding, gunfire you could hear (tup-pup-pup-pup) over the genteel thwock of a tennis ball hit on the grass courts of the Peshawar Club.
            I was invited to join a sketchy mujahedeen resupply trek across the steep brown hillsides into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, but wisely demurred.

            By then, I was over my war zone crush. I’d figured out that there was nothing especially ennobling about terror for my physical safety. The possibility of getting blasted into bone chips by a helicopter gunship, it turned out, wasn’t that romantic. Even for someone who’d read too much Hemingway and who’d planned to write about it in short sentences.

            I didn’t get a novel out of the trip. But I did get amazing experiences: Traveling through Asia with the help of a magic business card that said “Freelance Writer” meant that I paid attention, asked questions, and took notes everywhere. I’m an introvert, and because of the existence of that little card, I made calls, set up meetings, and went places I otherwise wouldn’t. On visiting day, I wandered up to the gates of Chang Mai prison in Thailand and asked if they had any English-speaking prisoners who wanted to talk to a writer. That led to the most harrowing 50-minute conversation of my life. (The takeaway: Don’t go to a country where there’s no presumption of innocence, and don’t go with a traveling companion who decides to buy heroin. From the nephew of the police chief.)
            These days, I try to look closer to home for the subjects of my novels. Still, like other crushes, sometimes hearing an old song will bring a recollection of my first. Whenever I hear snippets of the eighties Genesis song, “Home by the Sea” I think about Beirut, Lebanon, and my unrequited crush on a Really Bad Idea. And I shake my head, with a slightly goofy, wistful smile.

 Dean Gloster is a former stand-up comedian and former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. He lives in Berkeley, California where he writes novels for young adults. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out now from Merit Press/Simon Pulse.
School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story … will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” He's less crazy than he used to be.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The ups and downs of crushes (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

It’s been fun to revisit my celebrity crushes of years past—because many of mine were shared by my fellow YAOTL authors. The celebrity crush is probably a teen/pre-teen rite of passage, a way to explore the first stirrings of attraction at a safe distance, with someone there’s little risk of meeting, let alone having a relationship with. It’s exciting and fun because it’s built on dreams; it’s a learning experience, a practice run.

Ideally, we then progress to having crushes on real people in our vicinity, and eventually break through superficial infatuations to learn about real relationships. With a celebrity crush, a smoldering stare or a dimpled grin or soulful song lyrics are enough to inspire devotion—for a time, anyway. And when we first start noticing the people around us that way, we may rely on the same shallow signifiers. At first.

I wish I’d been quicker to make the transition from superficial crushes to real relationships. My teen years would have been happier if I’d learned that actual romance is built on personality and compatibility—and while physical chemistry is part of it, the best chemistry grows out of that special click when two people realize they look at certain things the same way; they understand each other on a level they haven’t experienced with many other people. That they laugh at the same things, that they’re excited for one another’s successes. Their differences provide spice, but overall it’s about connection.

Then again, the teen years are for learning, for figuring things out, for discovering our deal-breakers and must-haves. For realizing that a feverish crush can cool into, “What’d I ever see in that person?” Some YA books that helped me along were Beverly Cleary’s Jean and Johnny (in which Jean finally realizes that Johnny is kind of a narcissistic jerk) and Lois Duncan’s Killing Mr. Griffin (it’s really bad when your crush lures you into a kidnapping/murder plot!). More recently, characters have struggled with crushes on people who were not all they seemed to be in Tanya Lee Stone’s A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, Margo Rabb’s Kissing in America, Leila Sales’s Tonight The Streets Are Ours, and (most drastically) in Sarah Darer Littman’s Want to Go Private? I’d actually like to see this topic explored more in YA lit—because another rite of passage is discovering that some of our crushes turn out to be more frog than prince (or princess). And that’s okay; we move on.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dead People and Fictional Characters

I'm such a nerd, you guys.

I mean, I don't even know how to explain my crush life except by telling you that I only get crushes on dead people and fictional characters.

My husband, when asked how he fits into this reality, responds, "I'm like a fictional character."

Which is true. He is Johnny Tremain made over, except perhaps he's now more of a mature Johnny Tremain who figured out how to survive the war and claim the Lyte property. Because you know Johnny did that. None of this dying in glory for him.

Yet another case in which I wonder if the person designing the cover had actually read the book, since the inciting incident (in which Johnny burns his hand on molten silver) leaves him unable to hold a gun or much of anything else and there are multiple conversations about this throughout. Is it too much to ask that you read the book, cover designers? Also, weird floating house being threatened by giant redcoat.

Johnny and I have been together since I was in third grade, so...still my favorite book. Don't hate. (And also, don't watch the Disney movie, which is terrible and has nothing to do with the book. Writers, if you do nothing else, look up the scene where Johnny and Cilla close up the Lytes' country house as war overtakes the countryside. It is masterful. That book has always had something of value to say to me, even in this past terrible year for our country.)

I digress.

If I had given birth to a boy, which I did not, I was going to name him after the granddaddy of all YA love interests, Nathaniel Eaton from The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

There are no covers of this book with Nat Eaton on them; he's played in my head by Johnny Tremain.

My major real-boy crush in high school was inspired purely by the fact that I occasionally observed this boy reading books, so I decided it was safe to assume he was literate. I know the exact same amount about him now, as we went on three dates and he said the same number of words to me the entire time. Perhaps he was smarter than I gave him credit for and had figured out that the safest way to date a writer was to tell her nothing, and the easiest way to hold her interest was to give her imagination a blank canvas.

Do you want to know whose pictures I had on my wall as a tween? Now we get to the truly embarrassing part. Why couldn't I have gone JTT or N-Sync like everyone else?

Because they did not interest me, and I must be interested.

I had prints of oil paintings of Daniel Morgan and Banastre Tarleton, antagonists of the Battle of Cowpens, over my bed. Now there were interesting men. I got them at Cowpens, which is where one gets such things.

Daniel Morgan. I did not, alas, have a crush on him, despite his tactical brilliance. I just thought it was cool to have him with Tarleton, whom I did have a crush on. I have some strange ideas about what is cool.

Admit it--you want that on your wall. The fact that green is my favorite color plays heavily into this crush. Green Dragoons! What sounds cooler than Green Dragoons?

Sorry, 'Merica, but the fact is that a British officer will always beat a frontiersman in my crush books, but  I feel slightly guilty about that, which is perhaps why I tried to have it both ways in The Last Sister.

I couldn't watch the season finale of Turn: Season 3 for the longest time (that show is terrible from a historical perspective, but so fun--#guiltypleasure) because I knew what was going to happen! Let's just say you know what you did, George Washington.

This was where TURN suddenly decided to go all historically accurate? RIP John Andre'.

Now tell me: which dead people and fictional characters are you crushing on?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Higher Purpose of a Crush

The Higher Purpose of a Crush
By Christine Gunderson
My first crush was wildly inappropriate. I was in fourth grade. He was in his thirties. I was a naïve North Dakota farm girl. He was a Confederate blockade-runner with a sardonic sense of humor.
But the biggest obstacle to our love was the fact that he wasn’t real. Rhett Butler existed exclusively in my mind and in the pages of Gone with the Wind. I became lost inside that book the moment I opened it and I didn’t return to the real world until it ended with those terrible words. “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”
He didn’t mean it of course. How could he leave Her/Me with our emerald eyes and passion for life? But as I got older and a less little naïve, I began to wonder if a man who ran off to visit Belle Watling every time he got into a fight with his wife was really an ideal hero. And that’s when I developed the crush that would inform my outlook on members of the opposite sex, both real and imagined, for the rest of my life.
Mr. Darcy would never visit a house of ill repute. He would never leave Scarlett on the road to Tara with a sick woman and a baby in the middle of a war zone. If Scarlett dressed up in curtains and came looking for money, Mr. Darcy would gently take her hand and say, “Madame, I cannot bear to see you abase yourself in this distressing manner. Go and live at my estate at Pemberley until reconstruction and your financial misfortunes have ended.”
Mr. Darcy was the crush to end all crushes. If you’re a parent, and you don’t want your daughter to date, ever, give her a copy of Pride and Prejudice. She will reject every boy who crosses her path for the next decade. No fifteen-year-old boy can compete with Mr. Darcy.
Let’s face it. Few grown men can compete with Mr. Darcy.
Mr. Darcy stayed inside my head for a long time. Colin Firth eventually came along and gave him more concrete facial features. But it was his character and his values, rather than his outward appearance, that inspired my love. He was trustworthy, honorable, and perhaps most importantly, able to admit it when he was wrong.
I married someone with the same admirable qualities. Maybe that’s the purpose of a crush. They’re romantic breadcrumbs on the trail of love, leading us onward, from youth, to maturity, to our final destination; happily ever after with the right person.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Crushes Past and Present by Patty Blount

I think one of the biggest reaons I'm so drawn to young adult fiction is The Crush...which -- not so coincidentally, is the theme this month. I adore stories about first love -- that time in a teen's life when the person you really, really like miraculously really, really likes you back. There's nothing else like it.

Maybe it's also why I find myself, in my fifties, still enjoying crushes on various celebrities. Like Kimberly Sabatini, it started with The Hardy Boys and Shaun Cassidy when I was about twelve. From there, I moved to Tom Selleck as Magnum. Simon LeBon in Duran Duran.

As I aged, I noticed my crushes did, too. For a very long time, I was enamored with Fox Mulder -- not so much David Duchovny, the actor who portrays him, but the character. I admired his unwavering determination to believe something, or in something, that couldn't be proved. I respected how not even almost universal ridicule could deter him from that mission. As someone who's never had many friends, it impressed me how he didn't mind going it alone -- even preferred it.

I like to think my Fox Mulder crush developed because I had grown up. When I was twelve, it was all about a great smile or amazing hair and in Tom Selleck's case, dimples. But now, it's entirely about character. In fact, a good number of my crushes today are on fictional characters like Levi Cooper from Kristan Higgins' The Best Man, Noah Hutchins from Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits, and -- don't judge -- Avery Cates from Jeff Somers' The Electric Church. Hey, he's a hit man with a personal code of honor.

But every once in a while, there's a photo or video that catches my eyes, puts a little gasp in my breathing. These days, it's Gilles Marini and Sam Heughan. Sam has the great honor of portraying a famous character, that of Jamie Fraser (Outlander). No small feat, as Jamie is the King of Men.

And Gilles?


My interest in Gilles was born in fiction. Before I published my debut novel, SEND, I was writing contemporary romance. I have an unpublished manuscript called Borderlines that features a British investigative reporter named Thomas. Developing characters is my favorite part of the writing process. Naming them, uncovering who they are, what they want, what they fear... it's kind of like playing God. Thomas is a very real person to me. I know what kind of cologne he wears, how he takes his coffee, what size shoes he wears and what sends shivers down his spine. I suspect it's like this for all authors. Our imaginations are pretty vivid.

Yet actually seeing your character, alive, in 3D, talking, moving and breathing? That packs a shock. And that's what happened to me. I found Gilles on Dancing With the Stars and couldn't take my eyes off him. He was my Thomas right down to the shape of his mouth. Two big differences? Thomas has light brown eyes, almost gold and a British accent. Gilles' eyes are deep brown and he's French.

(One of the very best things about fiction is nothing's carved in stone. Thomas already happens to speak fluent French. I can easily change those two characteristics....)

Anyway, I followed Gilles for years and then got to meet him in person when he appeared here on Long Island. If you'd like the details, click here. When you're twelve, you dream of getting to meet your favorite celebrity some day but deep down, you know it'll never happen.

But when you're fifty? You know it could but you also know it could change everything. Because yes... most of the fun of a crush is in assigning all of these imaginary traits and characteristics to the object of your affection. If you discover that boy with the perfect smile and glorious hair is allergic to dogs and hates chocolate, you're done. Finished. Nothing to see here...  move along to the next crush. Meeting a crush in person removes all elements of fantasy.

Yet that didn't happen when I met Gilles. He is every bit as amazing and wonderful and yes, swoon-inducing as the character I made up.

My crush on him has not waned.

Not one bit.

*sighs again*

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Okay, so crush is defined as: a brief but intense infatuation for someone, especially someone unattainable or inappropriate.

Man, oh, man, do I love this definition.  

Mostly, I love it because my favorite movie is HAROLD AND MAUDE. I don’t think there’s ever been a better onscreen couple. 

Or, in many ways, a more inappropriate one.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s a ‘70s cult classic, so, yeah, it’s completely weird, but it’s also just so dang lovable. Harold’s a young man—in his 20s, and Maude is about to turn 80. 

And, yes, they have a love affair.

(The above is a great scene in which Harold’s priest offers a few thoughts on his wishes to marry Maude.)
I saw the movie for the first time when I was 15 (why I’m counting it as my teen crush), and in so many ways, I really think it shaped what I like to see most in love stories: opposites attract, the kind of relationship in which just being in it changes you for the better (Maude teaches Harold to love life), and a couple who just plain should never work at all…

And yet, they do.

Really, I’m a sucker for a love story in which love persists despite everything. Including the fact that the outside world thinks it’s just plain nuts. I’m infatuated with the idea of a love that’s so strong, there’s just plain no talking the two out of it. It exists, and there’s no, well, crushing it.