Monday, December 27, 2010

Stuck in the snow

Argh! Stupid blizzard. Instead of shushing down the slopes in Colorado -- and regular blog readers know how much I love to ski (Not. It scares the hell out of me.) -- we are victims of the East Coast Snowmageddon and unable to leave our fair city.

Luckily, we were able to find some fun sledding this morning and a reporter from was there to snap the evidence. Look, I'm actually smiling! In the snow! Amazing. Read all about it here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On turning 40

Although my grandmother wouldn't find it very "ladylike" to announce my age to everyone on the internet, this particular milestone has taken up a lot of space in my brain lately, so I'm going to go ahead an (over?)share. Besides, it's not like information is private anymore. It would take someone all of 4.2 seconds to find out what I ate for dinner last night, never mind my DOB. (I'll save you the trouble. Pizza.)

My husband threw a little shindig for me this past weekend and I have to admit, it did soften the blow of such a, uh, grown up birthday. Forty. Four to the zero. The big 4-oh. Yikes. I really can't pretend to be just a kid anymore, can I?

As much as I'm going to hate no longer being thirty-something, it's an excellent time to recount where I am in life, and where I want to be. I couldn't be more happy about my husband and friends. Truly. And my girls...oh, did I mention that they wrote and recited poetry in my honor in front of a room full of people? No? Allow me just that one brag.

But my career. Well. That area needs some work. I admit I'd hoped to have a book published before The Great Day of Reckoning. That would've made the day perfect. Instead, I'm still trudging along. Making progress, yes, and not giving up, but continuing to swim slowly through a vast ocean of publishing molasses.

Still. I'm determined to get there. My craft has improved, and I'm more confident about how to go about actually finishing 300 pages of fiction in a somewhat organized fashion. I started a new project after weeks of hemming and hawing (my agent refers to this as "percolating" which sounds much more productive) and I'm excited to be working on a novel again.

The goalpost might've been moved, but I can still see it.

How about you? Any goals for the upcoming year?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The ebook smackdown

Now that I've owned my Kindle for almost a year, I thought it might be interesting to tally up the war between paper vs. ebooks. I've mentioned my love of paper books before, and I'll admit I came to the ereader world with much reluctance and consternation (it was a gift.)

The takeaway? As much as I love to hold a book in my hand, I clearly buy more books on my Kindle. It's just too easy. I'll finish a book in bed and still be wide awake, so zipzapzoop, I'll buy and start another one. I carry my Kindle in my (ridiculously giant) purse, so I'm reading more on average. I finished a book last night waiting to pick up my daughter from fencing. The lesson ran long, so I bought another novel.

In the last 11 months, I bought 26 ebooks and 15 (more or less, I don't keep the best records) real and true physical books, mostly from indie bookstores. I wouldn't have predicted those results last December.

So, what do you think? If other people are anything like me, is this bad or good news for authors?

Monday, November 1, 2010

MWF seeks BNI

No, I'm not placing an ad for a Brawny Nude Intern, as interesting as that sounds. Rather, I'm a married writing female searching for a brand new idea. For another novel. Got one?

In the past couple of weeks I've thought of six: two turned out to be short stories now sitting on my hard drive. The other four, well, they have potential. But they need to prove themselves to the judge. So this week I'm working on pitches.

I would guess most people write pitches under duress, with the goal of finding an agent or publisher. I'm writing four this week with the intention to pitch...myself. Perhaps that makes me masochistic. I don't know.

See, I'm a planner. I just HAD to know both my kids' genders before they were born. I research vacation destinations for months and months before making a single reservation, mulling over all possible scenarios. I like to know where I'm going before I start. Plans can change, of course, but I'd rather punch in a GPS destination and have it re-route than just get in the car and drive.

My four contestants will rehearse and make themselves pretty for my own personal American Idol: New Novel Edition. They must be nervous. I'm much more like Simon than Paula.

How do you vet new ideas? Do you just jump in?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No journalists from Kansas

Last week, as I sat nearly comatose in a waiting (and waiting) room, I rifled through a stack of weeks-old magazines. Brides--no thanks. Golf Digest--bleh. I finally found a tattered Newsweek and flipped it open. Inside was short article about the Kansas Department of Education cutting all funding for high school journalism classes.

"Earlier this month, the state’s Department of Education decided to stop funding high-school instruction in the subject. Schools are free to raise their own money, but that’s not a path officials would recommend."

Um, what? How is this not all over the news? It seems the Sunflower State has deemed journalism a "dying industry unfit for public funds." Maybe they are partly right: headlines about the profitability of newspapers and magazines aren't exactly full of good cheer. But won't we always need professional journalists to report accurate information? Or are we okay with relying on bloggers to tell us what's going on? (For heaven's sake, don't rely on ME.)

Disclosure: I was a journalism dork in high school, and although I went into advertising instead of reporting the news, my experience on the yearbook and newspaper staff helped me define myself. I was a writer. My words made it into print. Peers read my articles, and commented. Journalism was the one class that made the biggest impact on me; I'm a news junkie to this day. Two of my fellow editors *did* go onto J-school at MU and make their living as journalists even now.

I get that money is tight and institutions are pressured to cut where they can. Believe me, I sit on the board of a non-profit and witness good programs getting axed. It stinks. However, I'm guessing they still have plenty of bucks lying around for their football team and other sports programs. And wow, I can see how *that* is a booming industry for most graduates. I mean, really, if I had a dime for every professional football player who came from my high school, why, I'd dimes.

Priorities, though, right?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm weird when I'm writing

My goal this year is to try not to be so odd.

Let me explain. When I'm deep in a writing project, working out the details of a story can be all-consuming. So much so that tasks in the life outside my head get sacrificed. Like errands. And housework. Feeding the dog. And, once, I'm ashamed to admit, picking up the kids. I've stepped into traffic because I was writing dialogue in my thoughts. I've looked directly at people I recognize on the street and never have it register because a plot point was taking up all the space in my brain. Compartmentalizing is not my strong point.

And when I'm forced to interact with anyone after hours of writing? Forget about it. I'm sure there's a sizable contingency of moms in my daughter's class who think I'm brain addled. Conversations frequently go like this:

Normal person: "Hi, Wendy. What's going on?"

Me: (Blank stare.) I really either need to kill that character off or give him more of a purpose. I like him, though. Okay. I'll go with purpose. Wait, someone's giving me a funny look. Wake up. "Oh. What? Hi."

NP: "Um. I said, 'What's going on?' You know. 'How are you?'"

Me: "Yes. Sorry. Er, I'm okay." But what can he do? That's like a whole other subplot, and I'm probably long on subplots anyway. Hello? Why is she still looking at me? I guess I need to say something. "Oh. And how've you been?"

NP: "Fine." (Looks around for polite escape.)

This is not good.

So. I'm focusing on interpersonal skills this fall. You know, that talent that used to come so easily? I was the girl in school who had to be moved all around the classroom for chatting. A teacher once even remarked, "I'd move you next to the wall, but you'd probably talk to that, too."

I joined a writing group (in person!) I'm becoming more involved in community service (with people!) I signed up as a tour guide at my kids' school (45 whole minutes of talking per tour!)

Hopefully I can become a people-person again. At least, when I need to be.

How about you? Do you often live inside your head?

Monday, September 20, 2010

My dog needs a shrink

My poor dog. Ever since we returned to Manhattan, Truman has spent every day slumped on the floor, looking very much like a old pot roast someone dropped and left behind. You see, he lived in a yard all summer, hanging out with my parent's yapping terror. I always thought he found their dog annoying, biting his ears and running in circles and all that, but it seems he misses Miss ADHD.

He gazes at the wall, lost in despair. I've been throwing the tennis ball. Nothing. Dangling his favorite smelly sock in front of his face. Not even an eye flick. How about a treat? Meh. When I take him out of a walk (drag), he's not even interested in sniffing a single butt.

Help! I don't know what else to do! He used to love being a city dog, what with all the smells and activity. I guess he secretly longs for the suburbs.

We'll be visiting my parents soon, but it's not like I can reason with Truman in the interim.

Any advice?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Warning: blog hijacked by middle schooler

Hi! My name is Naomi and I'm hijacking my mom's blog to talk about NIGHTSHADE CITY by Hilary Wagner. My mom is friends with the author and got me an advance copy. So cool! But now anyone can buy it. Here's my review:

NIGHTSHADE CITY is a fast-paced and intriguing story about a once-peaceful, underground city of rats that are very intelligent. High Minister Killdeer and is loyal helper Billycan are murderers who command respect from all the other rats. But there are some rats that are starting to fight back.

Three young rats named Clover, Vincent (my dad’s name!), and Victor must team up with the rebels to bring every rat to the new Nightshade City and away from Killdeer forever.

I think the best thing about NIGHTSHADE CITY are the characters. You start out thinking of them only as rats but eventually they become like humans. NIGHTSHADE CITY has some adventurous themes like rebellion and redemption, plus some quieter, more unexpected themes like love.

If anyone says this is a book for only boys, they are wrong! Without the heroines in the book, nothing would be as fascinating or as exciting. NIGHTSHADE CITY truly is a good book!

Blog owner's note: tomorrow, stop by Dorothy's blog to visit the next stop on the tour.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hurricane Earl excitement

We went out to the beach before high tide today to check out the waves. These were taken at 2:00 pm in Water Mill, NY.
Lost a couple of steps already.

Splashing up to the dunes. The beach has been wide this year. Until today.

Watch out, photographers.

We left when the waves hit the top step. Time to go!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Climbing Mont-Metaphor

We took a trip last week to visit friends in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, who were nice enough to host all four Cebulas for a few days. I, being not at all outdoorsy nor terribly athletic, decided it would be such the great idea to climb the mountain while were there. I even went out an bought new (cute!) hiking shoes.

"You sure?" said my very outdoorsy and athletic friend. "It's a pretty good climb."

Of course! Can't let a good shoe go to waste. 4 miles straight to the top? That's like walking from the Upper East Side to, what, Soho? Totally doable. Except, like, up.

But what the hell, I'd set the treadmill elevation to 10 before, and I didn't die. Surely I could do this. Plus, you know, the shoes! They were cute and sporty and made me feel official.

Standing at the base of the mountain, my friend pointed to a teeny tiny observation deck at the summit. It was like an ant house. "That's where we're going," she said. That was a loooooong way up a steep incline.

"Don't worry," she said, heading up the trail, "there's only one part that's scary*, right at the top."

Well, blog friends, I did pretty well most of the way up. My husband and youngest daughter came, too, and we took it in small steps. I tried not to think about how far I had to go. Just up to that ridge, just across that little stream, we'll take a break at the rock. Much like when tackling a new novel. I'm a slow writer, and if I think too much about how many pages I have to go, forget about it. I freeze. Surely I don't have the chops to write 300 effing pages of story? I'm a short form person, not a novelist--that's too much work. Turns out I can if I just chug along.

And that's what I did.
We made it!

So, how about you? Have you accomplished anything great or small lately?

*OMG. Scary. I almost cried!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


My daughters and I are reading the book SHABANU by Suzanne Fisher Staples. It's been around a while--about 10 years now. It's about an 11-year-old girl growing up in the Cholistan desert in Pakistan. I'm not sure why my daughter picked it out at the bookstore, but it couldn't have come at a better time.

I'm sure you've heard about a little neighborhood issue we are having here in Manhattan? Certainly lots of people have chimed in. I was pregnant with my second daughter on 9/11, and I'm not going to go into the whole experience of living through that day. I'll only say that it took many New Yorkers into a dark, dark place for a long time.

We read the newspaper every morning, and my 8-year-old always has strong opinions. I generally have to issue a mass apology to the other mothers in her class for some of the death-and-destruction stories she brings in. She seems to think it's her job to corrupt young minds. Yesterday, I was discussing the mosque issue with my dad and things got heated (with most of the heat coming from me, to be honest.) Later, in the car, my daughter and I had this conversation:

Daughter: But, why are people mad about the mosque?
Me: They think it's disrespectful to build it so close to where all those people died.
D: Like (redacted)'s dad?
M: Yes. Where he died.
D: Is (redacted) mad about the mosque?
M: I don't know. I'd rather you not ask her. It might get her upset. Okay?
D: Okay. (pause) But what does that have to do with a mosque?
M: Well, the men who hijacked the plane were Muslims, and Muslims worship at a mosque, and some people think it's wrong to worship there.
D: But they were bad guys.
M: Yes. And not all Muslims are bad guys. Most are living their lives, just like anyone else.
D: Like Mrs (redacted).
M: Uh huh. And grandpa's doctor you met last month. And daddy's friend from L.A. And Shabanu, from the book.
D: She's not real.
M: I know.
D: I still don't get why people are mad that they want to pray there. They didn't do anything wrong.
M: I don't know, honey. I don't agree with those people.
D: You don't agree with Grandpa.
M: I don't. But he still loves me.

I think I'll close this one for comments. No offense, regular blog readers.

ETA: Since posting, my dad has come around to my way of thinking, sort of. He still sees it as insensitive, but he does NOT agree with the other side's bullying, ugly, bigoted tactics to get them to move.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Life has a strange habit of getting in the way

My dad hasn't been well lately, thus the long period of blog silence. It's tough to feel all lighthearted and writerly when you are shuffling around a hospital all day, prodding your very stubborn dad to do his therapy. (He's much better now, thank goodness, and out picking tomatoes in the garden.)

The post-op floor has a habit of stripping away all the non-essentials (Should I sign my daughter up for dance class? I'd really like to re-tile the deck.) Its inhabitants were forced to focus on what's important in life. Some families were joyous and others somber, but everyone there was facing mankind's greatest fear: death, and the avoidance thereof.

I can't stop thinking about the 33-year-old mother with 3 months to live and what her family must be going through.

Anyway. I didn't get much writing done, but perhaps the next project I tackle will be all the richer for it.

Jeez, that was a downer.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Things I learned in Alabama

You'll find pretty things down country roads.

Someone told me to "drive up there on a HEEL (hill?) and look daauuwn (down?)"
So I did.

Fried pickles (yum), fried okra, fried chicken, and deep fried peanuts "so good, you can eat 'em SHELL-N'ALL."

Piggly Wiggly!

Five New York girls and two New York boys will have a fantastic time at SPACE CAMP.

Two moms will drink a lot.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I haven't died

Just drowning under pages of revisions (which I actually like to tackle. I know! Weirdo.) and dealing with kid and life commitments. In the meantime, check out Lisa Brackmann's NYT Book Review! I've recently started reading ROCK PAPER TIGER and it's great so far. I hope you sell piles and piles of books, Lisa!

Any good/bad news on your end?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tiny dogs, pot pipes, and body art

...Otherwise known as "research." While the books I write aren't research intensive like historical fiction, I still like to get things right. Sometimes the research is dry, like reading all I can about the California gubernatorial election process. A bit of a yawn, but necessary.

Other times, it's much more fun. A quick glance at my laptop's history folder would reveal some interesting searches:

--Sailing / pirate terminology (Arr!)

--What breed of dog might fit inside a trench coat pocket?

--Jim Jones/ Kool-Aid/ Hale-Bopp comet cult

--Narcissistic personality, symptoms of. (No, not me.)

--Tattoo parlors in Venice, CA. (There are lots.)

--Is it possible to make a bong out of a kazoo? (Answer: yes, and this young man will demonstrate.)

Ah, I love the internet.

Have you run across any weird facts while researching a project?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Revision Cafe, table for one

My agent has given me a lot to chew on with regards to my shiny new manuscript, and Moonrat's recent post on the importance of the first page is a good reminder as I re-work my opening.

Anyone care to babysit? The (wonderful! supportive!) hubs has taken the girls out all day*, but since he can't exactly leave his job that pays, yanno, actual bills, I foresee a bit of Wii in my kids' future.

How's your writing these days?

*Related aside: I've been sitting here revising for so long, I fear my butt is square.

Monday, June 21, 2010

We have a winner!

If your name is Vicki Lane and you entered the query contest with the entry below CONGRATS to you! You will be contacted by someone who is not me shortly.

Vicki said...
I'd love to be entered in this contest. Congrats on your book and your query
is awesome!!

And a huge THANK YOU to everyone who entered!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A crisis of hair

Remember way back in March when I cheated on my hairdresser and paid a dear price? To recap, an emergency cut before a big party resulted in stylish bangs like these:

The back was too long as well, and it looked almost...almost...mullet-y. Zut alors!

It took me until June to work up the courage, and the length, to go back and admit my transgression to my regular stylist, B.

B was not amused, blog friends. Not one little bit.

B: "Ah, I zhe how you ahhre. You come in wits zhis mess and you want B to fix, yes?" (B is from Aix-en-Provence, and if my rendition of his (very awesome) accent is off, well, it's zhe best I could do.)

Moi: "Yes. (bows head) I'm sorry. If if makes you feel any better, I had to go to a black-tie event with terrible hair, so I've learned my lesson."

B: "It does NAUGHT. (picks up strands) Ugh. She cut zhis wits a RAAZORRRRE, didn't she? Your HAAAIIIIRREE is too FIIIIINE for zhat! I 'ave told you!"

Moi: (weeps) I don't remember if she used a razor.

B: (crosses arms) She did. I can see. I 'ave eyyes.

Moi: Maybe you are right.

B: Of causse I am. (takes my head in his hands) No more! No more of zhat! Oh-kay?

Moi: Never.

B: Oh-kay zhen. I will fix.

Whew! So we are back together. And we didn't even need a counselor. I love B -- he can sure dish it out, but he can also take it. Plus, I look like myself again.

How about you? Have you had to admit a mistake lately?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Camp Mom

Ahh, summertime. No school, no alarm clocks, no commitments, no...time to write.

That's right. My kids are out of school now and, although they are doing a couple of planned activities here and there (most notably a week of Space Camp), most of the summer will be a lot of hanging out. And we all know what that means:

"Mooooo-ooom, what are we going to do today?"

Oh, I dunno, you can watch me write?

Yeah, they aren't so excited about that one.

Luckily, my manuscript is in wait mode at the moment, so I have loads of time to dedicate to my two little preciouses. Let's just review what we've done since school ended, shall we?

Strawberry picking
A Dave & Busters headache inducing lunch and arcade-ing
Times Square-tourist-dodging
Sag Harbor pier fried-clam-eating
Big Olaf ice cream-consuming while enormous yacht-watching
Beach frisbee-throwing and frigid wave-jumping
Lame, girly football-tossing
Nature center-hiking
Shorts and t-shirt-shopping
Chase-around-the-yard-with-a-garden-hose spraying

Whew! I'm tired already. Did you notice any "time for mom" on that list? No, no, you did not. Oh well. Don't get me wrong--I'm not complaining.

How's your summer going? Any big plans?

Friday, June 11, 2010

A rant about the Gulf Coast

The STAY query critique contest has been extended for another week! Allie's being linked in some other blogs and we agreed to keep 'er open. Thanks for your patience, entrants. Mwah! More exposure for STAY = good.

Now, I don't know about you, but I can't seem to pry my eyes away from the oil depress-a-thon that is the Gulf coast. Just ask my husband--I won't shut up about it. Gawd. How awful/frustrating/infuriating/horrifying. I think the worst part is that, with a few exceptions, we all seem to be a bit underutilized, waiting for BP to do what's right. And they just won't.

I even got disgusted enough to email the White House and all the state volunteer registration sites. I told to them I'm *very* good at organizing volunteers, and I can work down there all summer, for free. I've organized for many a benefit and I would love, LOVE to do it for something non-fancy-party related. If they take me up on it, I'll let you know. I'll totally go! It would at least give me some new and exciting blog topics.

I bet I'm not the only person with something to give. Maybe not weeks of free labor, but something, right?

I know not everyone can take off work and fly down to the coast, but if you could do something, what would you do? Wash that bird up there? Hold a fundraiser for oystermen? Lay some boom?

Are you as pissed off as I am?

Monday, June 7, 2010



Listen up! STAY by Allie Larkin is coming out this week! How cute is that cover? Love.

To honor this momentous event, we've strongarmed amazing agent Rebecca Strauss of McIntosh & Otis into a query contest! (Actually, she was happy to do it.) Wondering of you have an effective query? Allie will choose one winner at random for a private critique by Rebecca. Just leave a comment below and let me know if you'd like to be entered. To up your chances, you can also visit Allie and Corinne Bowen (one comment per blog, please.)

ETA: The winner will be selected by Allie FRIDAY at NOON and contacted shortly thereafter.

Here's a little about Rebecca:

An Agent at McIntosh & Otis, Inc., Rebecca is eager to work with both debut and established authors. She is looking to add to her list of diverse and compelling projects and is particularly seeking non-fiction, literary and commercial fiction, women's fiction, mysteries, memoirs, humor and pop culture. As the Director of Subsidiary Rights, she continues to build on her prior experience with Trident Media Group, as well as her time at Sony Pictures where she was a book scout and development assistant. Rebecca earned her degree in English Literature from Duke University.

So what's this STAY all about?

From PW: Twenty-something Van Leone, fresh from serving as maid of honor at the wedding of her childhood best friend and the man Van's been in love with since college, impulsively buys a German shepherd puppy on the Internet while drowning her sorrows in vodka and a late-night Rin Tin Tin marathon. Van's surprised to discover, however, that the little ball of fuzz she's expecting is an enormous Slovakian police dog that she names Joe.

Sounds like something I might've done in my 20s.

Lucky me, I already have my copy and I can tell you that it's great--so witty and funny. Allie was nice enough to answer a few questions for us:

I know you have 2 dogs--one of which made the cover of your novel. What's the craziest thing your dogs have done?

They are both German Shepherds, so they play hard. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a nature documentary. They bark and growl and roll around on the ground together (sometimes in the yard and sometimes in the living room).Their teeth gnash, but their tales wag the whole time. They play until they are completely exhausted. Sometimes, Argo lets Stella tackle him, and it’s hysterical. Stella is small for a German Shepherd, and Argo has about 35 pounds on her, but he’ll throw himself on the ground like she’s knocked him over, when she clearly doesn’t have the heft to.He’s very dramatic.

How did you find your agent?

I found Rebecca Strauss’s listing on and thought she might be a good fit for my book. I sent her a query letter, sample pages, and a synopsis, and she picked my query out of the slush pile. I know a lot of writers fear that things like that don’t happen and it’s all about who you know. I had a few contacts who were generous with their help, but ultimately what worked for me was sending a query through the traditional submission lines.Rebecca and I had no previous connections.

Who would you cast in the movie version of STAY, if you had a choice?

J and I joke about casting choices all the time. I'm on a Buffy/Angel kick right now, so the current joke is James Marsters in every role.

What led you to writing?

When I started college, I was a theatre major. I loved my acting classes. We worked on developing characters, taking apart scenes, and figuring out the intentions behind the characters in the scenes. I was less enthralled with that whole getting up and performing on stage part of things, which is not really ideal when you’re a theatre major. I dropped out of school for several years. When I finally went back, as a Communications major, I had a few professors who really made a point of letting me know that writing was something I should consider pursuing. I am so thankful for that. I added some creative writing classes to my course schedule in future semesters. When I started writing fiction, I felt like things began to click for me.

Under what circumstances are you at your most creative?

I come up with a lot of story ideas and solve a lot of issues that are holding me up in a story when I’m doing something active. I realized Van needed a dog while I was raking leaves in the backyard. I worked out some difficult Van/Peter dialogue while hiking with Argo. So much of my creative process happens while I’m not writing, and then when I sit down to write, I know what I need to do.

What sort of themes do you find come up in your writing?

I’m very interested in how complex friendships can be. Some are both delicate and durable at the same time. And even though there is a simplicity to some aspects of love, the way we love people and the reasons we love people are not simple concepts.

Thanks, Allie!

Well, what are you waiting for? Leave a comment and go visit Allie and Corinne!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Using Quotes

I'm usually not a lover of famous quotes as a chapter opener. In fact, if the quote is too long, I've been known to skip right over it (shhh, don't tell the author) and get right in to the meat of the story. But a few months ago, I stumbled across the world's most appropriate quote for my current manuscript. I'm obsessed with it! Could not be more perfect!

Apparently there are all sorts of legal wranglings for using quotes in your novel. It has to fall under "fair use" and there are rules about determining if that's the case. I know I'm getting ahead of myself here, as usual, but I guess I'm just wondering if it's even worth pursuing. (I realize there are people who deal with this sort of thing--I'm just taking a poll.)

What do you all think about famous quotes in novels. And by "quotes," I don't mean, "As Julius Caesar once said, "Et tu, Brute?" but something more like this:

Chapter 1

Blah blah blah blah. Blah!
--Willie Nelson

Tell me. Do you read them? Are you impressed by the author's mad quoting skillz? Or do you skim and skip?

Friday, May 28, 2010

I can't stop reading this book

Thanks to everyone who recommended books! I have so many I need to buy now, I may need to start a fund.

In the meantime, I found a un-put-downable book I feel I need to share -- LITTLE BEE by Chris Cleave. I haven't finished yet, but so far, it's the kind of book that makes me both so in love and so very jealous. His writing is...stunning. I'll go back to reading the second I finish this blog post. I'm completely sucked in, but fair warning: at times, it's pretty graphic.

Now, I know this book isn't new. Honestly? I picked it up in the bookstore several times because of the gorgeous cover reminiscent of Kara Walker's work (some is NSFW.) The jacket copy, though, was coy, and I generally don't have time to read the first few pages while browsing/kid wrangling in the bookstore. If I had, I would've bought it a long time ago.

That said, I get why they gave almost nothing about the story away, so neither will I. It involves a Nigerian orphan and a well-to-do British woman and that's all I'm saying. The flap of the book reads:

We don't want to tell you WHAT HAPPENS in this book.

It is a truly SPECIAL STORY and we don't want to spoil it.

NEVERTHELESS, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this:

This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again - the story starts there ...

Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.

If you, like me, read this and thought, "Ugh, just tell me what happens already," don't worry about it. Just start reading. You'll be up late.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I need a book

Yes, I'm crowdsourcing again. I stopped by my local B&N and nothing was speaking to me. Maybe because Fiction is right next to the children's section and it was utter chaos in there, as usual, and I lost my mojo. (Seriously, I don't understand why people think it's okay to use the bookstore as an indoor playground / snacking area. I mean, picking out new books with junior is great, but I see people meeting up there for group playdates. *Large* group playdates. Which, I suppose is fine, whatever, but come on, don't let your kids rip the books and spill applesauce all over the carpet. Also? Maybe once in a while buy something. Despite the crowds, the register is typically line-free.)

Anyway! Where was I? Oh yes, books. I just finished THE RED THREAD by Ann Hood which was about six couples trying to adopt daughters from China and the woman who runs the agency. I enjoyed it. It does, however, violate my friend's No Dead Babies rule. Still, excellent. I was also carrying around some selected short stories from Raymond Carver in my purse and I finished that up, too.

My daughter is reading THE HUNGER GAMES for the fourth consecutive time. I asked her if she was getting bored of it and she said, "I love it so much I don't want it to end!"

I want to feel that way! You guys are always great with suggestions. What have you read recently that you loved?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'm not going *there*

Browsing in a bookstore with my lurky friend the other day, I picked up a book (I can't even remember which one) and recommended it to her. "Oh!" I said, "This one's good."

She scanned the jacket flap and placed it back on the shelf. "Nope. Can't read it. I don't do dead babies."

Hmm. I get that. Although dead babies are okay by me (in FICTION. Fiction!) as with all sorts of violent acts. Rapes, murders, beheadings (I'm looking at you, Anne Boleyn) -- all good. It's not like I seek out gore, but I can deal with it. I read a lot of Joyce Carol Oates, so yeah. She goes there.

Still, there are probably some places where JCO won't go. I don't know this for certain. It's not like we're buds. But I can imagine. Even I, reader of savage and dispicable acts, have my limits.

Here's one: I don't do 9/11. I'm sure there are a great many wonderful books written about the human drama in the aftermath, Uh-uh. It's still too raw, and frankly, I don't think I'll ever be able to go there. While I didn't personally see the towers go down (I live uptown), just living in the city in the weeks that followed was quite enough for me, thanks. No need to revisit.

My youngest daughter likes animal books, but she doesn't do dead dogs. No Old Yeller, no Where the Red Fern Grows. Nosireebob. Dead people? Sure! Just not dogs.

How about you? Where won't you go?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I can't get

I met a friend for lunch yesterday in the very suburban-mall-esque Time Warner Center. She told me she she'd been working on a novel (hooray! another soul joins the ranks of the insane!) and asked me how I keep myself motivated to finish such a ginormous project.

I wish I had a secret potion, or a little robot overlord to thwack my knuckles when I start to slack off, but the truth is, it's always been a struggle.

A few years ago, when the hubs and I were faced with the super-fun task of finding a New York City kindergarten for our then-four-year-old, we toured a fabulous school with amazing resources and facilities. Our guide kept repeating the mantra "We ADORE SELF-MOTIVATED KIDS!"

Um, okay, great. Was my preschooler self-motivated? She was certainly motivated to get me out of bed before dawn or harass me for a dollar when we passed the guy selling flavored ices from a cart. But overall? Who the hell knew. If she was anything like her mother, I guessed not.

Deadlines work well for me, but they are tough to keep when they are only self-imposed. The tried and true Butt In Chair method is the way to go, provided you don't cheat (guilty.)

I wasn't quite sure what advice to give.

Do you have any methods to share? She lurks (hi!), so she'll benefit from your sage advice.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Lone Sock never dies

It will surprise no one to hear I was a journalism dork in high school. That's right, I was going to be the next Sam Donaldson (well, in a bra and an armful of rubber bracelets.) My h.s. newspaper, The Parkviewer, gave me my very own monthly column. I could name it whatever I like, and choose any subject I wanted.

Oh, the power! And the importance of selecting just the right title. What should it be? It needed to draw readers in, of course, and also reflect something about me. I pondered this many a night, sitting under my Duran Duran poster. Oh, Simon, tell me the answer! And then it came to was...brilliant! THE LONE SOCK!

Yes! A bit of rebelliousness mixed with the angsty lonely teenage-y feeling of being left out, discarded, not quite fitting with the rest. SO FREAKING PERFECT!

Except that no one got it. "You wanna call it what?" my journo teacher asked. "Well...okay."

Then the reviews came in:

"I liked your article, but, um, what's the title mean?"
"I thought it would be about laundry."
"Do you have some sort of sock problem? I see you're wearing two today."

Yeah. Oh well. Maybe it wasn't so perfect.

Strangely enough, my daughter's school asked me to write some articles for their parent newsletter next year. They are meant to be light in tone--like a column. I told my husband this and he said, "Just like the Lone Sock! It lives!"

I promise I won't give it that title.

How about you? Did you ever have a brilliant idea fall flat?

Monday, May 3, 2010

TMI, honey.

I've been pondering a blog post for the last few days. One that you've probably read if you are the reading-publishing-blogs type. Agent Jessica Faust wrote about how getting too TMI or political on the internet can hurt your career. And I agree.

Hmm. Some of what she said probably pertains to me. Although I keep most of my political leanings to myself (I will, however, post a feminist diatribe when provoked), I do get personal sometimes. Okay...frequently. If you don't believe me, see this post about my butt. I'd say writing about one's own backside is about as personal as it gets, wouldn't you? Jeez, I *hope* I'm not hurting my career! What she said has been making me think, that's for sure.

There are some blogs I read solely to garner the information within. Galleycat is one. Gawker and Jezebel have interesting stories, with their own (snarky) spin.

But some of my favorites I read because they are entertaining or make me laugh. Dooce comes to mind. If you are going the personal route, ya gotta do one (or more) of the following:

Have an angle
Melanie Avila wrote a blog about her experience as an American living in Mexico, and dealing with a her fish-out-of-water life and her husband's immigration status. It was interesting, especially when the drug violence began to heat up all around her. Now she's back in the states and I'm hooked on her story.

Bring the funny
I LOVE funny blogs. You can write about *anything* if you make it funny and I'm so there. I recently followed Tawna Fenske's hilarious tweets to her hilarious blog. You should do so, too. Debra Schubert and Colby Marshall are among the funny ranks as well. (Plus, Colby owns one of those naked cats. Naked cats = funny.)

Make it poignant
Janna over at Something She Wrote has the gift of noticing the little things in life, and how they relate to the big. Her blog has great insights.

All of those are pretty personal, and that's what make them great.

If you have a blog, what is it about? Or, if you're a reader, what kind of blogs keep you coming back?

Feel free to pimp your blog with a link in the comments.

Friday, April 30, 2010

I. Love. This.

Be safe out there, guys.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I like (writing) bad boys

I've never been a fan of the bad boys. They never call, they dog around, and they leave you lonely on a Saturday night. Nuh-uh. No, thank you. Most of the time, even when I was young and stupid, I chose the nice guys. Sure, some of them might've not *looked* so nice, like the guy with the mohawk and Circle Jerks t-shirt, but I promise, he was much more teddy bear than Sid Vicious.

Except for when I'm writing. Then--oh boy. The bad boys just bubble right up. The husband in my last manuscript wasn't nice. He was central to the conflict, so he had to be the bad guy. Sure, he had some good qualities, but overall: jackass.

I wanted my current WIP to be different. I didn't want the ol' woman-wisens-up plotline. This husband was going to be cool. Supportive. ...Nice!

I finished up my draft, sent it off to betas, and guess what? NO ONE LIKES HIM. "He did this, he did that, your MC should leave him!" I went back through the manuscript and OMG. They were right! He's an ass!

What the? I like nice guys! I know tons of nice guys! I'm married to a nice guy! Observe:

Cute, right? Nice, too!

Sure, I wanted the husband to be nuanced. Imperfect. I guess I went a little overboard on that. Now I'm going back, chapter by chapter, and taking another look why he's so misunderstood.

What's my problem? Is this some sort of Freudian thing?

Have you ever had a character give you fits like this? Or, have you ever been misjudged?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sir Mix-A-Lot, and my butt

Apropos of my Soundtrack post, I was dallying around on the internet the other day and ran across this question:

What song or musician has most influenced your life?

Hmm, I thought. None of them? I like music and all, but I've always considered books, or even movies, to influence me more. To Kill a Mockingbird. Gatsby. A Wrinkle in Time. Hell, even Flowers in the Attic had a more profound effect on what I wanted to do with my life. (Umm, because the story drew me in, not...well, never mind.) The question stuck with me, though, and I wanted the answer to be something profound. Dylan! Billie Holiday! Beethoven's Ode to Joy!

Alas, I'm not so deep. If I'm honest with myself, I'll have to admit it. Here lies the song that most influences my thoughts...

Oh my God, Becky! Why does this song haunt me so? Ever since 1992! I walk down the sidewalk and catch a glimpse of my reflection in a shop window--and it starts up in my head. I LIKE BIG BUTTS AND I CANNOT LIE!

Noooo! I don't even have *that* big of a butt. Still, I look into the next window, pivoting to see if it looks ROUND and BIG. And is this a good thing? Did he really like big butts? It's like Sir Mix-A-Lot is my personal insecurity fairy, whispering in my ear.

I wish it weren't so. I'd like to remove that particular song completely from memory, because no good comes of it.

Do you have a song like that, the bad penny that keeps coming back? I hope not!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What's the soundtrack of your life?

Ahh, springtime. Days beautiful enough to fling open the windows and let the fresh(ish) air blow in. Watching the buds bloom on the ginkgo tree outside my window. Hearing the sounds of birds chirping (well, cooing), children playing, and JACKHAMMERS DRILLING INTO MY BRAIN!

Oh, that's right. I forgot. Now that the weather is nice, time for all the street fixing/structure demolishing/building maintenance(ing?) to commence! How wonderful, now that I'm rushing to get a new manuscript off to my agent.

Close the window, you say? I've been doing that, and it helps with the noise, but an open window is the closest thing I have to actual outside time at the moment. Sadly, I'm beginning to resemble a naked mole rat wearing yoga pants and an old Ramones t-shirt.

How about drowning out the noise with music? Maybe so! I haven't found just the right style conducive to writing. Let's see: I run in the park blasting Lady Gaga (don't judge), I make dinner to The Rolling Stones, and take a shower to, well, NPR. Writing, however, has been silent so far.

What might you suggest?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for not sending me back when I was bad

Last week I ordered a dress online, and when it came, it wasn't quite right. A little tight across the back, and the neckline made me look like a nun. Bummer. I returned it for a refund.

You know what I wouldn't send back? A child. Lately, I've been hearing so much about these evil Russian children adoptive parents just *have* to return. Or send to Bad Kid Camps, which is a much better option, but still, sad. I feel so awful for these kids, especially being an adopted child myself. CNN seems to disagree with me. (I was looking for the first half of this clip, but I couldn't find it online. It was heavily slanted in favor of adoptive parents, IMO, and failed to mention the 15 kids who died from U.S. parental abuse.)

Look, I know. I wasn't there. These parents didn't sign up for a troubled kid, and troubled kids are tough. Maybe every one of these kids really were psycho (though I haven't yet read about any arson aside from burning papers in a garbage can or any real injuries--only threats--but I'll reserve judgment until the facts come out.) If my kid drew pictures of our house burning down, yep, it would be a problem. Possibly shrink time.

Once, my then three-year-old daughter became so enraged at her older sister she screamed like a wildcat, jumped on her sister, and shoved a harmonica down her throat.* She went nuts. Beet-faced, bug-eyed, I'm-going-to-kill-someone nuts. It took forever for her to calm down.

And I was mad. MAD mad. She choked her sister! The naughty chair was well-utilized that day, my friends.


I wouldn't send her away. Because she's my daughter. When you adopt a kid, he's yours. Just like he popped out of your own uterus.

At least that's what my parents told me (they didn't actually say "uterus," but, you know.) I might've been better behaved as a child if I thought there was a return policy. At 5, I scratched my name on the lid of my parent's piano with a safety pin and let's not even speak of the many, many tween and teenage mistakes I made. No, let's not.

Many of these kids suffered a history of abuse, both from bio moms and from the orphanages from whence they came. Is it so shocking when anger issues arise? Everyone seems so surprised! This most recent adoptive mother only gave her new son seven months until she flew the seven-year-old back to Russia and hired a stranger from the internet to pick him up from the airport. Didn't even bother to accompany him herself. Disgusting. Even if she was misled about his mental health, there is no excuse for this. At the very least, get him there safely.

What do you think? Maybe the answer is to better set expectations, not stop all Russian adoption completely. Dissenters welcome, as always.

*Seriously, don't piss her off.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Emily Post would not approve

Blog friends, what *is* proper etiquette after spilling one's peachtini down the side of one's own dress and onto some poor man's shoes? Is said spiller supposed to grab a cocktail napkin, get on all fours and dab away? Personally, I opted for the slurred-but-heartfelt apology approach. Thank goodness he wasn't mad.

So yes, I went to my fancypants party last night, bangs still not quite grown out, but presentable. I had a drink, (okay, two. Maybe three. But no more than that.) chatted with friends I hadn't seen in a while, and might've actually taken to the dance floor when they played the Stray Cats.

Luckily for my writing, I'm revising a chapter that takes place at a fancypants party similar to this one. I took particular notice of everything going on around me, and indeed had an epiphany for my climactic scene, which, as of now, has MAKE THIS FUNNIER scrawled in the margins. Hooray!

Sadly, I drank too much to remember what it was. I've been pondering it all day. I even tried pulling my dress out of the dry cleaning bag and smelling it, in the hopes the scent of peaches would bring it all back to me.

What tricks do you do to jog your memory?

(And remember, kids: wide-lipped martini glasses and constantly refilled tasty fruity drinks don't mix.)
UPDATE: Here's the NYTimes coverage of the party. Shockingly, I'm not mentioned.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New York Housewife

Given that I have the truly original handle of "WendyNYC" over on AbsoluteWrite, I've had a few people ask me about the Real Housewives show. Ya' know. Since I live in New York and all. Did I know any of them? (No.) Are women in New York really like that? (No. Well, some.) Would I ever try out for the show? (NO. Nononono. And again, no.)

So what with all the interest, I thought I would outline a few differences between me and the RHONYC ladies.

First off, yep, we have a few similarities:

1. I live on the Upper East Side. I know, I know. Snobsville. Velvet headband city. What's the difference between an Upper East Sider and Upper West Sider? The Eastsider brags about the size of her closet and the Westsider brags about the size of her bookshelves.
I like my Carnegie Hill neighborhood okay, but if we didn't have kids, we'd probably be cool downtown loft people.

2. I spend time in the Hamptons. Quite a bit, actually. My parents live there.

3. I have attended a fashion show. Regular blog readers know how well that went.

4. I'm not originally from Manhattan. I don't think any of them are, either.

But there are some key differences, aside from the whole not-really-wanting-to-be-on-a-reality-show thing. This includes, but is not limited to:

1. I am, indeed, an actual housewife. Even though the term makes me want to don my pearls and vacuum the living room, I am not working outside of the home. I hawk neither baubles nor skinny margaritas, fabrics nor cosmetics I cook up in my tub. I write, obviously, but most of the time? Hausfrau, baby.

1. My friends (I have some! Really!) and I enjoy each other's company. If there is someone I don't care for, I choose to avoid her without making a huge stink.

2. When I am not invited to a party, I tend not to freak out about it. Sometimes people I know have different circles of friends. Shocking!

3. No one writes a script for what I say and do. I mean, really. The cameras just happen to be rolling when Bethenny calls Jill to make up and Countess Whoever just happens to be there at that exact moment so they can put her on speakerphone and laugh? Wow, lucky timing.

4. I stay home most nights and watch TV. Which they are clearly not doing. At least they aren't watching Bravo make asses of them.

So there you have it.

My husband gives me such trouble when I watch this show. Mostly I don't care and will watch anyway, but I have to admit, my interest has waned this season.

Do you have any crappy shows you watch?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bad reputation

Okay people. I did a bad thing. Karma bit me in the butt about it, too. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I...I cheated on my hairdresser.

I know! Terrible! But my long bangs had gone from "stylish" to "sheepdog" and I was away from the New York AND I have this Big FancyPants Party to go to next week and I just couldn't get to him in time. So just a trim from someone new would be okay, right? Follow the lines that are already there? How hard could it be?

This would be awesome if it were 1981.

Actually, it's way worse that ol' Joan's hair here. Picture the bangs much shorter. Nearly Mamie Eisenhower short, but with the all-over layers that look just amazing with my fine, flat hair. Yeah.

This is probably more accurate.
Bring it, Mrs. Brady.

So what do I do with this now? Curl it? Own it? Rock it?

What do you do with a bad situation?

Monday, March 22, 2010

In which I explain my undying love of paper books

I critiqued the opening to a friend's novel the other day, and during a little back-and-forth via email, she referenced the first two paragraphs of Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner. That's not right, I thought, her book starts out much more global--I'm going to look that up. So I head over to my trusty bookshelves to prove her wrong*:

Only it wasn't there. Oh, that's right. I read Best Friends Forever on my Kindle. I powered her up and flipped through my 3 pages of book choices and until found the title.

That got me thinking. What's my plan, here? Am I going to have my whole library stored in a little device?

Sure, e-readers are convenient. My library branch smells like old shoes and body odor, so I'm disinclined to borrow books. And the Kindle is especially great for traveling. No lugging suitcases that weigh like they are filled with rocks. I can zap a couple of books for the trip and I'm good to go. The screen reads nicely, and I love the built-in dictionary, especially for reading The Road. (What the hell is a "travois?" Click. Oh.)

But for regular use, for me, it's just too ephemeral. How long do I plan to keep those books there? Forever? I have books on my shelf I bought in high school. It's been a while since I read Animal Farm, but in case I feel the need, there it is. My old Norton Anthology of Poetry sits on my shelf, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" still highlighted in pink (always pink!)

And what's my other choice--to have the Kindle books vanish into the ether?

I dunno. I'm just not loving it as much as I thought. What do you think? Do you have an e-reader? Do you want one?

*She was right.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yeah, um, about that main character...

I do quite a lot of reading and critiquing other writer's manuscripts--sometimes online, for real-life friends, or for my Most Awesome Critique Group. I like reading for others and it's essential for my own work to hear the opinion of trusted fellow writers to tell me what works, what's dragging, and if my main character is coming across as clever and witty (good!), or just a bitch (not so much good.)

I've critiqued Middle Grade, Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Paranormal, Poetry, Short Stories (many) Thriller, literary fiction, and LOADS of women's fiction. I'm genre-promiscuous. The one thing I have a tougher time ripping apart so the author can put it back together is memoir, or thinly-veiled fiction about the author.

Now, most of the time I can do it. I can find issues with pacing, or characterization, or whatever.

But this one time.

This one time, I just did NOT like the main character at all. At ALL.* She was vain and mean! And did terrible things other people's expense! And didn't change a whit throughout the story! And it was So. Clearly. Her.

Gawd. What do you do then? "Hey, the story was fine, but I didn't really like,"

I gave her kind of a half-assed critique, but was too chicken to come right out and say what I was thinking. I know--to each her own. Other people might dig it.

What would you do? Tell her your real thoughts? Or dance all around it?

*If I've critted for you and you are reading this thinking OMG SHE'S TALKING ABOUT ME, don't worry, I'm not. I guarantee the author doesn't read this blog.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

At the risk of sounding like a Puritan...

I consider myself fairly internet savvy. I mean, I have a blog, I tweet, I Facebook, all that stuff. I know about Nigerian princes and have a good idea of how people act when they are anonymous (dreadfully.)

My kids' school held an internet safety seminar last week held by the good people at Let's just say I'm now ready to move my family to a yurt in rural Nepal.

My kids are not online yet. They've played a few games, but mostly screen time is limited to weekends, and between fencing and tournaments and blah blah blah, our weekends are overscheduled (which is a completely different problem.) But. See it, right there on the horizon? It's coming.

Popular with the tween set is Addicting Games, I can see why. Hundreds of games from which to choose, and all free! And it's run by Nickelodeon, so great, right? Sure! Unless you walk in the room and, what's this? Cartoon naked ladies? Why, it's Perry the Perv! A hero for all young lads! Here's a description:

"There are some luscious landscapes to view, but don't get caught or it's a fist in the mouth. Can you help this pervert catch some lurid looks at the ladies?"

Oh nice. Thanks Nickelodeon, where a kid can be a kid. Or a perv. Whatever.

Also on a few fun gaming sites are banner ads for Chatroulette, which is, of course, entirely kid friendly, what with the penises and all. Come on in to my home! Check out my kid!

For research purposes, of course I had to check it out. And, well, I was curious. Unsolicited advice for those wondering about Chatroulette: don't. Just...don't. Here are the Cliff's Notes version, so you don't need to have these images taking up space in your brain. Ew.

Things I saw on Chatroulette:

--Boobs (Big ones!)
--Hairy moobs*
--A person of questionable gender wearing a Mardi Gras mask.
--Men diddling with their pants off (several.)
--A tween girl (Where are your parents, young lady?)
--More boobs.
--Couples making out (again, several. What the hey?)
--A skinhead with a rebel flag behind him, flipping me the bird.


Not my thing.

So now I'm trying to come up with some ground rules for my daughters. Rules I know they will break and see all this stuff anyway. Oh boy.

What are your thoughts on all this? If you have kids, are they online? How do you handle it in your house? And, is it possible to get a manicure in Kathmandu?

*Click on the pronunciation button to hear someone who sounds very much like Colin Firth saying "moobs." I giggle at this stuff because I am immature.

ETA: @PauloCamposInk forwarded me Jon Stewart's take on Chatroulette. Yep, that's about it!