Shock, Horror, Disgrace
November 5, 2013
I'm sickened. Literally bent over a toilet right now. Five months since my last post? I've taken delinquency to a new level, peops. My five blog readers have COMPLETELY forgotten about me by now. Shout out to Mom and Dad! Still here! Still typing!
I fully intend to do twitteresque reviews of the 40 books I've read since my last update. And that will be epic. But for now, I'm going to bypass a lot of grousing and do a lightening round about the highlight of each of the last five months.
June: Gay wedding in Maine. Congrats to Nancy and Kelly!
July: Incredible two weeks in Thailand with Maggie. She was recognized in the airport, and in every city we visited. Her concert in Bangkok was mind-blowing. A singular thrill as a parent. I would love to go back to Chiang Mai, but I will never ride an elephant bareback again.
August: Packing Maggie's possessions and dropping her at college. Sad, monumental, nerve-wracking—for her. I tried to downplay my feelings, until I blubbered in the car afterwards. I blogged about it for HuffPo.
September: Eleven days in Fiji. I wrote about that glorious trip for DuJour.com.
October: Golden Nugget Atlantic City weekend for Melissa Gorga's big signing. I danced at a VIP table, swilled champagne and played blackjack with Joe Gorga, drunk, at 3 AM.
Currently, I'm relaxing with some light magazine work. A reported story for a new magazine (what? a new magazine? can it be true?) with the awkward name Dr. Oz The Good Life. Also, a reported piece for the Good Housekeepers, and (hopefully) an essay for Self. A few book projects are in the suckling stage. I can't say what (or who) yet, but I will spill all over your many, many asses as soon as I can.
Whiny Parents: College Drop-Off Is Not About You
Fiji State of Mind
June 6, 2013
Been busy. As I learned today at Arianna Huffington's conference on The Third Metric, "busy" is the new shame. We need more naps in our lives, people! Naps, massages, nannies, secretaries, assistants, Whole Foods and yoga. I'm WAY down (facing dog) for the yoga, and the massages. And I would dearly love to have an assistant and a nap, not at the same time. But such things are not for everyone, alas. I got a photo with Arianna and Suzie Essman from Curbed Your Enthusiasm, was within visible pore distance from Ed Norton, met some great women, and had two liters of coconut water and a chocolate ball. An excellent day, even for someone as cynical about WPP as I am.
I went to the conference hoping to be inspired, and to give my card to one particularly inspiring woman—and succeeded. Coincidentally, she was waiting for her car on the street when I walked out. I told her, "I came here to meet you. If you want to write a book, please call me." Hope I said "please."
Attn: S.K. I have worked with by every major publisher in New York (S&S, Random House, St. Martin's HarperCollins, etc) with 30+ books, including a couple of bestsellers, to my credit. I've written for dozens of magazines, and have been a journalist for 25 years. Do not judge me on Snooki alone. I have worked with a wide range of authors—in age, reputation, intellect and agenda. Not all of them are mentioned on this website, because privacy, which I respect and uphold. The only thing you need to know about me: I get shit done. Ask anyone. I can give you many, many references. If you work with me, your book will happen, and it'll be BIG. Give me ten minutes on the phone to pitch myself and my ideas about the book we'd write.
Whew. Never prostrated myself to a potential client before. But I think she'd agree: It's the things we don't do that we regret in business.
Much more to say. Maggie is going to Hampshire College in the fall. We're thrilled for her. For her graduation gift, I'm taking her (or she's taking me) to Thailand for two weeks. She is a bona fide pop star there now (nearly 600,000 hits on "I Don't Speak Thai" on YouTube—beyond cray-cray) and we are expecting to be mobbed by her fans where ever we go. Sort of!
Lucy is graduating middle school next week, and will be back at Packer for high school. We've all made our peace with paying tuition. I guess I was the only one freaked out about it. So, yeah, only I had to wrestle my stress to the ground. Maybe I should have taken a nap and had a massage.
So much reading! I'll do my reviews later this week. I just wanted to put something up quickly, in case S.K. actually does look me up.
March 3, 2013
Six months between posts. How the holy fuck did that happen? I've been busy, yo. Back in September when I last updated, I was writing three book proposals, a couple magazine articles, and sweating it out with Maggie and Lucy over their respective college and high school applications. Of the three proposals, two of them got contracts. The last of the three, a novel proposal, is slowly evolving. My coauthor, an extremely smart and handsome man (gay), and I are getting there.
Since I'm reasonably assure that even my five blog readers have fled this site for authors who actually post once in a while, I'm going to reveal my collaborator on Book 1: The lovely and talented Melissa Gorga. I'm "out" as her ghostwriter. She thanked me on Twitter, and some Real Housewives fan website blogged about what a reality TV writerwhore I am. In the words of Lena Dunham, "So . . . yeah." Melissa is a doll, and a dream to work with. She has a clear message, is accessible, and made me a tuna sandwich when I was hungry. And it was tasty. Not too much mayo.
The other book deal is also a collab with a reality TV star. It's not public yet. I can say it's with a co-author I have worked with before, for whom I have a very soft spot. She took a chance on me, and we both benefited from the result. I'll write pamphlets under her name if she so wishes. I will say more when I can.
Stacy London's The Truth About Style came out in October, and stayed on the NYT bestseller list for three weeks. Congrats to Stacy!! Very thrilled and honored to have been a part of a magnificent book.
Big Ang's Bigger Is Better also came out in October. I loved meeting Ang and her fam in Staten Island. There is NOTHING like hanging out with a big, loud, often drunk Italian family. What a crew!
Magazines? They're more or less dead to me. Dead to the world. I did an article for Martha Stewart Whole Living this summer, thinking I'd have a new outlet for work. A week after I turned in my piece, the magazine folded. My article appeared in the farewell issue. My editor at Self got fired. Good Housekeeping has decided to turn every feature into a "charticle." More and more mags use the hateful "pay on pub" model, which means the writer reports and writes the article, but doesn't get her money until it's been published. If it sits in inventory, she won't see a penny for maybe years. Mags used to be "pay on acceptance." The good ones still are, but they are dwindling. I have no idea how young writers can make a living. I'm grateful for every writing job I get, and thank Allah, Jesus, Buddha, and any other God/diety out there that I can still scratch out a living and pay the bills.
Which brings me to COLLEGE. Maggie was accepted at UVM, Wooster, Bennington and Hampshire. Each college awarded her a merit scholarship in the five figures, the most coming from Bennington at $60,000 ($15,000/year). Yes. You read that correctly. They are GIVING IT AWAY at Bennington. Our family entered the college campaign terrified and stressed out. Personally, I was freakin'. My advice to Ms&Ds: In the words of Douglas Adams, DON'T PANIC. DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE. Take a few weeks to go on a college tour. Read profiles and websites about each college to find the best fit. Invest in SAT course and tutors. Put in the hours editing essays and perfecting supplements. If your kid is applying to the right schools for his/her abilities and interests, the app and scores are solid, then you have nothing to freak about.
Attn: two blog readers. If you had to choose, UVM or Hampshire? Maggie can't decide. I'm seeing pros and cons of both. Please e if you have thoughts.
Waiting to hear about Lucy about two NYC specialty high schools.
Steve is on a southern swing for two weeks. See link below for the NYGASP tumblr tour blog. Steve is one of three rotating bloggers.
Fall/Winter reading list (that I can remember):
Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsche. Some twisted shit right here. B
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Marie Stemple. Funny, heartfelt, modern. A-
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. Worthwhile look at fame and failure. A-
Still Life by Louise Penny. Satisfying Quebecois who-done-it. A
Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky. Excellent behind the scenes hotelier memoir. A
Days of Blood and Starlight/Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor. Inventive YA fantasy thriller series. A bit overwrought by book two. B+
The Racketeer by John Grisham. Go ahead and hate. Love me a low-brow thriller. A
Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe. He's still go it, sort of. Miami satire. A-
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg. Excellent novel about overweight, overbearing mother to dysfunction Jewish family. A
One Good Earl Deserves Another by Sarah McLean. Regency romance set in a gambling hell. I WILL meet her one day. Love her stuff. A
The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore. Contemporary family drama. Humorless and stuffy. C+
What Remains by Carole Radziwill. Nicely done cancer wife memoir by Real Housewife of NYC. Self-consciously "writerly" at times. B
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. Master work. A+
Dead In Red by L.L. Bartlett. Forgetable ebook orig mystery. ??
The Twelve by Justin Cronin. A total geek for this series about post-apoc vamps. A++
Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone. Behind-scenes of magician world. Fun. B+
Prince of Beers by Alex Berenson. Kindle single about Budweiser family saga. B
What I Did For a Duke by Julie Anne Long. No clue. Can't remember a word of it. ??
Snatched by Karin Slaughter. Kindle single by reliable thriller author. B+
My Seinfeld Year by Fred Stoller. Only for fans. Otherwise, yawn. B
Broken Harbor by Tana French. Genius British literary mystery. A
Wild by Cheryl Stayed. Wholely inspiring and entertaining. A
I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch. I'll go through my piles...
NYGASP TOUR BLOG
Husband Steve's adventures in the South
September 10, 2012
Holy crap on a cracker. I haven't posted since the end of May? That is an inexcusable offense. I wouldn't blame any of my five blog readers for never reading this page again! I'd better quickly do SOMETHING to drive traffic here. Let's see...
HOT GIRL ON GIRL ACTION WHIPPED CREAM BIKINI GOLDEN SHOWER GIANT HOOTERS!!
There. That should wake up the googlers on a stark Monday morning.
So I've been off, in the real world, doing stuff. The summer was busy, as always, with travel, college tours, family visits, some shore time. I read a lot. Didn't see too many movies, so my cultural notes (below) are book heavy. A few memorable adventures:
1. Taking the waters in Saratoga. Steve had a gig there, and we went to an old fashion mineral bath. The healing waters were high in sulfur, sodium and carbon. I bobbed, and fizzed. The shit worked, though. The rash I'd had forever? Gone the next day.
2. 25th College Reunion. Fascinating. Some people were exactly the same. Some radically different. Some the same but pretending to be different. Some different but pretending to be the same. I loved spending time with Kelley, Ted, James, Laura and Brian. Star of the reunion: My old pal Ricki Stern, documentary filmmaker. I'm going to see her new one, "Knuckleball," in a couple of weeks.
3. Demolition Derby, Skowhegan State Fair. Never seen intentional vehicular destruction before. I thought I'd hate the senseless violence and mayhem. But all that smashing and crashing was . . . exciting. Got the blood pumping.
4. Whale watch, Bar Harbor. Best whale watch ever. We saw a pod of three humpbacks swimming and diving together into the golden beam of the sunset on the horizon.
5. Ohio road trip. Four colleges in five days. Just me and Maggie. Lots of bonding ("don't say that, you ruin it," according to her). Thanks to Eva and Michael for putting us up in Pittsburgh for the night.
6. Sling Shot/Sky Coaster. Did these rides. Dana and I did the Sling Shot at Coney Island, and I was terrorized and amused (title of my next memoir?). Then the fam went to Seaside for the day. Steve wanted to do it, too, so I rode the Sling Shot AGAIN, only a week after swearing not to dare. We also did the Sky Coaster, a 200 feet high superman style ride that sent us soaring right out over the beach and ocean.
Non literary cultural notes:
1. Group Love at Webster Hall. Awesome concert. Daryl and I went with Maggie and her friend Anna. They ditched up as soon as we got inside. Much singing along was had by all. Prediction: Group Love will be bigger than Elvis.
2. Joan Jett at Coney Island. Went with Lucy to a free concert at the beach. Joan looked and sounded like she did when I was Lucy's age: just bad ass cool, but sweet. I'd never seen her growing up. Felt like checking something off a long, old list.
3. Wilco at Prospect Park. Outdoor concert with Ann and friends. My favorite band in my hometown, with fab people. First time I've heard Wilco do "I Must Be High." Appropriately.
4. "One Man, Two Guvenors" on Broadway. Funny, slapsticky British import farse. Highly amusing and nice afternoon.
Now for my summer reading list. It's kinda long and in no particular order (as I remember them). I'll just do one line reviews.
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Brilliant. A
2. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Also brilliant. Many similar themes. A-
3. Gold by Chris Cleave. Novel with Olympics backdrop in time for the London games. Solid as usual. A
4. The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James. Can do no wrong. A
5. Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy. For research (not personal). Funny, but VERY short. Suprised it got published at this length. B
6. I Hate Everyone . . . Starting With Me by Joan Rivers. Joan! Gotta love her and everything she does. A
7. The Tools: Transform Your Problems Into Courage, Confidence and Creativity by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels. Pop psych, also for research. Interesting scientifically backed up approach to wishful problem solving. B
8. Kill Smartie Breedlove by Joni Rodgers. Love Joni and this gritty but funny who done it delivers. A
9. Victims by Jonathan Kellerman. Solid thriller. B
10. Criminal by Karin Slaughter. Solid thriller. B
11. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. YA novel about holodeck universe. Highly entertaining for kids and adults. A
12. The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Philips. Crowd-pleasing women's fiction with a cool underground lesbian subplot. B+
13. Most Talkative by Andy Cohen. Lively and funny memoir about a career in TV. A
14. Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand. Loved it. High quality beach read. A
15. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. Also loved. A
16. And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman. Classy thrill about a reluctant suburban prostitute/madam. Another hooks-in read from Laura. A
17. A Wanted Man by Lee Child. Jack Reacher saves the world again, this time, in the guise of a hitchhiker. A hair less fantastic than others. B+
18. Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen. Okay. Is this series getting stale? B
19. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. Debut literary novel about WASPs on an island. Let's leave them all there. Funny, biting, true, but didn't much care how it played out. B+
20. Year Zero by Rob Reid. Hitchhiker's Guide for the current literary climate. Funny and totally clever. A
21. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst. Ebook original bestseller. Meh. B
22. The Last Victim by Karen Robards. Gritty serial killer thriller cum paranormal romance. Interesting hybrid. B
May 24, 2012
Been a long time since I last blogged that it's been a long time since I blogged. Time and blogs are collapsing into a space vacuum around here. What the FUCK is that about? I've been working hard, as always, on two books, both to be released this fall.
My five blog readers know that I've been helping Stacy London on her inspirational manifesto/memoir "The Truth About Style." Since the proposal stage, it's been over a year of pulling the pieces and hundreds of moving parts together to get this book into shape. The end result—in sight—will be worth the hard work of producing it.
The other book is a "crash," meaning, I had a sphincter tight deadline, and the edict to go from zero to 50,000 words (or thereabouts) in six weeks. I'm on week five, and I'll need every day remaining to snap the manuscript together. On the plus side, I've got a hard girl crush on the celebrity author. She is the sweetest, liveliest woman, and stepping into her loud, crazy busy life, meeting her friends and family, and eating her stuffed artichokes and gravy has been my pleasure.
Okay. A few hints. The celeb is Big, and just getting bigger. She's connected. The hearing impaired could probably read her lips FROM SPACE.
It would give me the untold joy to post the covers of both of these books. I will ASAP. Stacy's book is available for pre-order. Go forth, fashion friends, and do so! The press release for book two will go out on Wednesday, and I'm bracing for the reaction. It will probably be met with as much astonishment and disgust as the novels by Snooki. HOPE SO!
Gorilla Beach, meanwhile, is out in a big way. When A Shore Thing came out, the publicity was more saturated. I guess Nicole is too busy being preggers to hawk like I know she can. I suspect MTV would prefer it if she waited until June, when her new show with JWoWW premieres, to make a major PR push. I'm just guessing here. I am not in the loop, as far as the post-release prioritizing goes. It's a bit surreal to watch Extra, and see Nicole come on holding a copy of her new "fiction novel," as Mario Lopez described it. I turned to my daughter and said, "Look. Snooki's talking about the book on TV." Lucy said, "Yeah, whatever. What's for dinner?" My kids could not care less about my ghostwriting life. I suspect their friends think I'm a cool mom. But my daughters know better.
When I finish these two projects, I'm writing a proposal for another memoir, and resstarting the novel I've been laboring over, with four (count em) false starts by now. THIS TIME, though, I have sifted through all the wrong material, and know exactly how to begin the right way. Thus far, I haven't felt as certain about the direction until this idea sprang forth. I heard a great description about writing fiction once, that it's like rowing to the middle of a lake every day, and hoping lightening will strike.
Truncated cultural notes (lightening round). This is what I can remember I've seen and read in the last little while. It's all a blur:
Peter and the Star Catcher. Charming Peter Pan origins story by Dave Barry. A
The Avengers. Overheated, static yet explosive, entertaining but zero emotional response. B
One For the Money: So great on the page, so LAME On Demand. C
Iron Lady: Two-hour steep in Streep. A
Three Stooges: Funny, mindless, puts the stick in slap. Larry David as a nun worth the price of admission. B
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Excellent cold war English intrigue. A
In the Woods by Tana French. Excellent English detective story with dark secrets from the past come to light. A-
Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. WhatEVER. B
Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by Andrew Shaffer. Funny parody by Evil Wylie blogger. B+
This Is How by Augusten Burroughs. Enlightening and thought provoking self-help by legendary memoirist. A
Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris. Sookie rides again. Always fun. B
Mob Daughter by Karen Gravano. Good effort by ghostwriter Lisa Pulitzer to make Karen sympathetic and not just horrible. B
The Spoiler by Annalena McAfee. London newspaper novel about compromised values, lies, yellow journalism, ambition and Fleet Street. Great for insiders. For outsiders? Probably a bit dull. B+
Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. I just love Sir Moore. He can do no wrong, although this isn't as funny as Fool or Lamb. Still better than 99 percent of all other books. A
Pocket Kings by Ted Heller. Brilliant satirist. Just so good. Funny and biting. A-
Discovery of Witches/Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. Genius time travel/vampire/witch saga. A
First You Write by Joni Rodgers. Kindle single by veteran novelist/ghostwriter on making a living as a writer. A
Portland Book Review on IHNTHY
Reads 4 Pleasure FOAK review
Thanks, Anon Reviewer!
Jersey Girl Mag FOAK review
Great Thoughts Memorial Day reading list
FOAK is on it! Thanks!
Good Housekeeping article
How to Talk to Kids About Life's Sticky Situations
Free Book Friday QA about FOAK
HuffPo rant "Damn You, College Board!"
March 30, 2012
This is what happens when I barely look up from my computer for a month. I get all sentimental. Yuck.
Many links to post re: Four of a Kind, a couple for IHNTHY, and even one or two for TITNH, along with many cultural notes. I'll devote an afternoon to that next week. All I have to offer you today, my dear five blog readers (so . .. tired) is a first look at the cover for the upcoming Gorilla Beach, by Snookster, release date May 15th. I LOVE IT!!! Enjoy.
March 2, 2012
Chick Lit Is Not Dead
5 Things I'd Tell My Teen Self guest blog for FOAK. Thanks a fuckton, Lisa!
RT Book Reviews blog
Feature about FOAK. Thanks, Morgan!
March 1, 2012
Holy crap, this has been a crazy couple of weeks. Meshugah busy on new ghostwriting job for my fashionable friend. Honest to God, this woman is brilliant, and if she knew how to type, I would be out of a job. Thank God she's too busy to do her own book. Okay, fine, it's Stacy London. And, yes, I do feel a bit anxious about what to wear for our meetings.
So FOAK has been OUT for three weeks, and seems to be doing pretty well. FOAK, yeah. See reviews, QAs and guest blog links below, if you're not otherwise occupied playing Angry Birds.
Other than writing and reading, I've been to the movies, a show on Bway, and a couple of Brooklyn's finer eating establishments. Next week, I'll do a full roundup of cultural notes.
Sorry to be so brief, but I have to check in with my girl Snooks, and see if I can detect her future, alleged baby bump. If Nicole is indeed preggers (love it that I've gotten calls/emails from a dozen people asking me if it's true; HOW THE HELL WOULD I KNOW? I JUST WRITE HER BOOKS, I DON'T FUCK HER BOYFRIEND!), MTV could call her new show "Tan Mom."
Have a great weekend, my five blog readers!
Guest blog for women and alcohol blog. Thanks for the opp, Caren!
FOAK review. Thanks, Anon!
Chick Lit Central
FOAK review. Thanks, Melissa!
FOAK review. Thanks, Alexandra!
QA about FOAK. Thanks a mil, Caroline!
RT Book Review Mag
FOAK review. Thanks, Sarah!
FOAK review. Thanks, David!
FOAK review. Thanks, Jocelyn!
Dreamworld Book Reviews
FOAK review. Thanks, Dreamweaver!
QA about FOAK. Thanks, Belinda!
February 7, 2012
From the back cover: Once a month, four New York City moms forget about shaky marriages, rebellious children, and rocky careers—;and place a bet on friendship. Besides the fact that their kids all attend the same fashionable Brooklyn Heights private school, Bess, Robin, Carla, and Alicia have little in common. Thrown together on the tony school's Diversity Committee, the women impulsively turn their awkward first meeting into a boisterous game of poker. Instead of betting with chips or pocket change, however, they play for intimate secrets about their lives. Soon enough, virtual strangers are transformed into close confidantes. As the Diversity Committee meetings become a highly anticipated monthly ritual, the new friends reveal more with each game. Appearances deceive. Picture-perfect housewife Bess struggles to relate to her surly teenage daughter and judgmental mother. Robin, a bohemian single mom, grapples with the truth concerning her child's real father. Carla, an ambitious African American doctor, attempts to balance the colossal demands of her family with her dream of owning her own private practice. And to distract herself from her troubled marriage, shy copywriter Alicia fantasizes about an attractive younger colleague. Putting all their cards on the table, the four women grow to rely on one another, bracing for one final showdown.
February 1, 2012
Publishers Weekly review of Four of a Kind
In this engaging novel, seasoned author Frankel (It’s Hard Not to Hate You) creates four compelling female characters who lead wildly different lives but have one thing in common: their children all attend the same New York private school. Under the pretense of creating a Diversity Committee, blonde beauty Bess Steeple invites the three other women—Robin, Carla, and Alicia—over to her Brooklyn townhouse for a meeting. To break the ice, the women engage in a poker game where the betting currency isn’t money but secrets. As the game progresses, it’s revealed that Alicia’s in a sex-starved marriage; Robin’s daughter is the result of a one-night stand; Carla’s uptight husband is the source of endless stress; and Bess’s mother is a famous feminist. The meeting turns into a monthly poker game, where the women forge a strong bond while struggling, individually, with life’s challenges. The fresh dialogue, three-dimensional characters, and fast-moving plot lines are solidly entertaining.
“Addicting from the get-go, FOUR OF A KIND contains a marvelous combination of wit, love and inspiring relationships among friends and family that every reader can relate to. The narrative is told from each woman’s point of view and readers will be drawn into their woes and accomplishments. A sincere, honest and endearing novel, it will immensely please women and mothers of all ages.” – Sarah Eisenbraun, Romantic Times, 4 ½ Stars
So it's been, like, six weeks since I last posted. A lot has happened. Instead of rehashing it all, I'm going to refer my five blog readers to Dad's blog for his thorough and beautiful account of our ten day trip to the Galapagos Islands over Xmas. Also, boobie fans—and who isn't, really?—can go to my facebook photo album for sexy pix.
Lightening round of cultural notes:
1. Downton Abbey: Ridiculously addicted. Love the hauty tone. "I'm afraid you're a cripple. Would you fancy some tea?"
2. Enchanted Island. Loved this opera at the Met. Baroque music, costumes, Placido Domingo, comedy dressed up as high culture, with sprites, trolls, witches, Gods, mortals, magic, FUN.
3. Other Desert Cities. Broadway drama with Rachel "Six Feet Under" Griffith and Stockard Channing about a novelist who pisses off her mother by writing a family memoir. I can relate! Excellent drama, acting, twist at the end. Not as thrilling as August: Osage County, but in the same class, for sure.
4. Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George. Does anyone do contemporary creepy English mystery better? A page turner about identity, secrets, lies and dreams. Grade A.
5. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe. I squirmed with delight listening to this audiobook. Lowe does great impressions of boldface names he's met/fucked/worked with. Took me back to the eighties, aka, My Time. Grade A-.
6. The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James. Anther winner. How does she do it? So consistently great. A.
7. Speak of the Devil by Aaron Gell. Kindle single about Halloween Fireman would-be rapist, cum fugitive cum convict Peter Blaustein from his confessor, a NYO reporter. Nice inside perspective on the making of a monster. Grade B+
8. Violets of March by Sarah Jio. Satisfying commericial fiction about a woman who revisits her past, and forges a way to a better future. Grade B+
9. The Marriage Plot by Jeff Eugenides. Engrossing literary fiction about a triangle of college students in the early '80s who use each other as a means to self-awareness. Grade B+
Garden Daily, aka Howie Frankel's blog
December 21, 2011
I'm going off-grid until 2012. I'll have much to report upon my return. In the meantime, some links to remember me by...
QA by Rachel Kramer Bussell, aka The Hottest Bitch in Brooklyn
New article about eating around the world
Chick Lit Is Not Dead
2011 Best Books by the incredible Lisa Steinke. IHNTHY is ON IT!! Thanks, Lisa!
B&N Books Blog
Cover Stories QA with the fabtastic Melissa Walker. Thanks, Melissa!
December 20, 2011
Happy holidays to all, and to all a hand job! I mean it!
Dispatch from my brother-in-law, Doug, purveyor of Big Gay Ice Cream:
This Friday, December 23, will be our shop’s last day open during 2011. We’re going to end the year with two days of Festivus celebrations and we'll raise money for one of our favorite local organizations, New York Cares. All donations and proceeds raised by the sale of our Festivus Miracle Cone (see below) Thursday and Friday of this week (12/22 and 12/23) will benefit New York Cares winter programming including their Winter Wishes toy drive and 23rd annual Coat Drive.
For the two days we are introducing our Festivus Miracle Cone. Don’t get too crazy now, it’s really just vanilla ice cream dyed green and covered with red sprinkles. After all, Frank Constanza would certainly find rainbow sprinkles “distracting,” so we’re simplifying things in his honor. All proceeds from the sale of the Festivus Miracle Cone over both days will go to New York Cares.
In addition, we will have a tip jar/donation pot, so bring your spare change by and dump it with us. We’ll gladly count it up - along with all tips collected - and write a check to New York Cares for the total. (We understand that many of you might be disappointed that we’re not donating to George Constanza’s charity-of-choice, The Human Fund. Sorry.)
I got a lot of problems with you people!
The Airing of Grievances should be an enormous part of any Festivus celebration. The BGICTV webcam will be up and running Friday afternoon and evening. Everyone is welcome in front of our webcam. Let you friends and family know, via www.biggayicecream.com/bgictv, how they disappointed you during 2011. We have invited some peculiar people to air their grievances on our cam, so watch from home. It could be quite disturbing.
If you’d rather not air your dirty laundry for the masses, you may also elect to show yourself off with some Feats of Strength. Please don’t break anything in the shop during the process.
We look forward to lots of Festivus fun as well as your generosity as we raise money for New York Cares and the important things they do here in New York City. See you soon!
Festivus at the BGIC Store
Save/Take the Gay/Straight Date: December 23, 2011
December 14, 2011
Good news, peops! Target stores have decided to make "Four of a Kind" a featured book on their Emerging Authors rack. Fans (the few, the filthy) might remember that "Thin Is the New Happy" was also selected for Emerge-ency. That was nonfiction. FOAK is a novel. So I'm Re-Emerging but Debuting kinda sorta at the same time. Anyhuz, books will be available on February 7th at your neighborhood Target store. Thanks to the people at Ballantine and Target for making this happen! Humbled! Amazed! And, ya know, worried...
The photo above, of the lovely and adorable Nicole Polizzi, was taken at the photo shoot for "Gorilla Beach," aka The Friggin' Snequel, coming out in May. I'm so grateful that Snooki helped me pimp my memoir. She is an absolute sweetie pie!
See link below for my latest article from Good Housekeeping on what the fuck to do when your kid brings home a fucking little brat who curses all the fucking time, and other unsavory child friend nightmares.
Good Housekeeping article on Kids' Toxic Friendships
Doling out the parenting advice again...
December 5, 2011
Gawd! It's truly a HORROR that I haven't posted in six weeks. I disgust myself. The offensiveness is repellent! Small creatures shrink and shrivel in my presence. I don't blame them! What could I have been doing that's more important than blogging?
Absolutely nothing! Just hawking my wares, reading, writing, driving, EATING.
But wait. Before I get into Thanksgiving, cultural notes, etc, I have fresh blurbs for your delectation. Having flogged "It's Hard Not to Hate You" with demonic enthusiasm since mid-Sept, I'm moving on to the next book release. "Four of a Kind," or FOAK, or 4OAK (I prefer FOAK because it's so close to . . . you know) will be released on March 6, 2012. Here are some nuggets of what my editors call "advanced praise:"
“Valerie Frankel’s writing is smart, witty and satisfying. In Four of a Kind, four women, who seem to have little in common, become enmeshed in each other’s lives. I wanted to pull up a chair, shuffle the cards, and share my own secrets.” –Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author of Heart of the Matter
"The perfect antidote for today's harried mother: while making me laugh on every page, Valerie Frankel's insightful novel introduced me to four wonderful new friends I'll never forget." –Beth Harbison, New York Times bestselling author of Always Something There to Remind Me
“Valerie Frankel is one of a kind. Her novel Four of a Kind is by turns moving and hilarious –- a great read.” –Nancy Thayer, New York Times bestselling author of Heat Wave
Two of the above blurbers, Emily Giffin and Beth Harbison, are members of the exclusive club I mentioned in IHNTHY, of authors whose first novels were blurbed by me, and became runnaway NYTimes bestsellers. Also in IHNTHY, I told the story of how I once begged another member of this club, on bended freakin' knee, for a few kind words about my then upcoming novel "Hex and the Single Girl." That author blew me off, thoroughly, repeatedly, and I thought, bitchily. So it is with particular, hearty gratitude that I thank Beth and Emily for coming through for me, returning the favor, and being all-around great generous wonderful talented fantastic authors. I am your cheerleader for life! Nancy Thayer: You had me at Hot Flash Club. I'd have blurbed you a thousand times if you ever asked. I'm so humbled and grateful for your kind words.
Thanksgiving was awesome. Maggie had been at Chewonki since September, and it was wonderful to see her. She looks and sounds fantastic. A season in Maine has knocked a bit of the Brooklyn out of her. And that's . . . okay. I'm down with it. I see composting in our future when she returns. Thank you Sue, Rich, Mary, Nancy and Kelly for hosting us during the holidays. We had a blast, especially snowmobiling (yes, we have eight inches of snow in Pittsfield, ME), and, for Lucy, firing a rifle for the first time. She hit her targets, too (a plate and a can of Coke).
I've been doing a shitload of radio shows in support of IHNTHY during the last few weeks. Many thanks to Stefanie and Brian at Planned TV Arts Publicity, How it worked: I paid a flat fee. The publicists sent out a press release to stations, and followed-up to schedule spots. I was guaranteed 20 interviews on prime drive-time shows, and wound up doing 30, all in major markets with big audience including WCBS in NYC, The Mancow Show (which was odd) and three NPR stations, including Los Angeles. I strongly recommend to fellow authors calling Brian at PTA Publicity. Link below.
In other work news:
"Gorilla Beach" by Snooki is DONE and in production. Fans of "A Shore Thing" will be thrilled. I like this one even better because the characters have moved out of the roman a clef mode, into wholy imagined experiences. It's still Snooki's world, but fresher. And tanner.
My new book in progress is a collaboration with Stacy "What Not to Wear" London called "Style By Fire." It's part style service, part memoir, and all fabulous. Very excited and happy to do a book on overcoming emotional obstacles via personal style.
Dana will be happy to know that work on my new novel (under my name) is progressing. This is my third attempt starting this one. Some novels are like that. You have to write 100 pages of shit to throw out before you can write a single page worth keeping. Yikes. Glad this doesn't happen often.
Two essays for Self coming up. One on low-level worry. Another called "Where're the Men At?" about living in an all female's world (except for Steve and Howie).
1. Breaking Dawn. Loved it. Emo horror and gooey making out. More satisfying emotionally than the previous movies, and great special effects as Bella's body transformed during her ghastly pregnancy.
2. Harold and Kumar's Very 3D Xmas: I laughed, like, a lot. Kal Penn is my not-so-secret crush. Funny, but only bother if you can see it in 3D.
3. Damned by Chuck Palahnuik. Story of a 12-year-old murder victim who finds herself in Hell. As a setting, Hell is as good as it gets. The sea of vomit, Toe Nail Mountain, lake of mucus. Demons who eat damned teens for breakfast. As sick and creepy as it is, Damned is soft-core YA from the usually super violent (up) Chuck. I loved it. Funny, thought provoking and all around gross.
4. The Dovekeeprs by Alice Hoffman. A major work. It's set in 70 CE Judea, Jews rebelling against Romans for their survival. The story has a historical context: the Jew stronghold of Masada finally yielding to their destroyers after a long stand off. The plot is carried by four women, the stronghold's dove keepers who harvest the dropping for fertilizer and eggs for food. The women would make modern day feminists jealousy for their ferocity: a witch, a warrior, a vengeful murderess, and an empathy who speaks to animals. Fascinating. I closed the book (kindle file) and thought, "Now THAT'S a novel." Great storytelling, research, setting, wisdom, history, language, sex scenes. All around, a marvel.
5. Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher. A disappointment. Way too short. Dashed off for a holiday release. Only seven chapters in the whole book, most about her famous family and friends. Only two chapters were spared the taint of celebrity (and no completely): Fisher's experience with ECT therapy and her fascinating weight gain story. Much of the material about her parents came from the Wishful Drinking one-woman show. I was entertained by the take-down of two prominent Democratic senators, her Xmas with Michael Jackson and pool party with Elizabeth Taylor. But for my money, I wanted three or four more chapters about Carrie's personal life to make this seem like a balanced memoir and not just a diary of every dead celeb she's had drinks with.
6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Well, the imagery is beautiful. The characters and story? Kind of thin, sadly. The hype was too big to be believable. Honestly, the only over superhyped books to exceed expectation in recent memory was Harry Potter 4 and 7. The lengthy descriptive sections were slow. Slow and frustrating, like being in dream, trying to run but your legs won't work. The characters' motivations were nonsensical and confusing. A competition they didn't know why they were participating, and what the rules were? I got bored, and wanted it to end already. It did. With a whimper.
7. Dirty! Dirty! Dirty! by Mike Edison. Story of "men's magazines," as told through the four horsemen of pornocalype: Hef, Gooch, Flynt and Goldstein. What I loved was Mike's history was how well he put modern porn in a sociological, historical context. Just incredible reporting, lively prose, exciting scenes and a feminist sex-positive stand on the point, pleasure and pain of porn on the lives of its makers and audience.
Planned Television Arts Publicity—WORTH IT!
Thanks again, Brian Feinblum and Stefanie Rosenblum
October 20, 2011
BN.com Book Club Unabashedly Bookish
QA with my NBF Lisa Steinke. Thanks again, Lisa!
Occupy Wall Street: Hate Is Good
Chick Lit Is Not Dead
5 Loves and a Dud guest blog. MANY thanks to Lisa Steinke and Liz Fenton!
Never Say Diet blog at ivillage
Interview about Fat Talk with the lovely and talented Virginia Sole-Smith
Again, from Virginia. You rock, V!
October 18, 2011
Apologies for not posting in the last week and a half. Despite book release pluggin' and chuggin', I insanely accepted a rush assignment from Health magazine about healthy foreign cuisines vs. American gluttony. Since the subject matter touches on the main "Thin Is the New Happy" theme (the not-diet), I took the job. Fascinating stuff. I'll link when the story runs in their Jan/Feb issue. Also coming up, an article on TMI parenting the Good Houekeepers, and couple of essays for Self.
When I could have been posting, I've been reading. Book notes:
1. The Possibility of You, by Pamela Redmond Satran. Old friend, great book. The story of three women in different time periods, their connection to each other and historical figures of the time. It hit all the right notes, funny, sad, nostalgia, romantic longing, personal regret. Compulsively readable with smart, sympathetic characters, even a scene at The Hanover Inn! Grade A
2. The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta. Just love him. He's one of the most original novelists out there. This is a high concept plot. You can see how it'd play brilliantly in a pitch meeting. What if the rapture (or something like it) actually happened and 10 percent of the world vaporized in an instant? How would the rest of us carry on? What does it mean about religion, salvation, the whole point of existence? Perrotta's usual themes of faith, gender politics, troubled children and soul grasping are present. His pitch perfect tone is the envy of any contemporary fiction author. Grade A-.
3. The List, by JA Kornath and Jack Kilborn. My first from the ebook original star. A cloning thriller, The Boys from Brazil plot times ten, minus Ira Levin's intrigue and gravity. I enjoyed the thriller just fine. My complaint: The plot lurched from one fight/chase to the next. It read like a movie script. The authors didn't infuse genuine depth into their characters. A insubstantial yet satisfying time passer. Grade B-.
4. The Affair, by Lee Child. On the other side of the thriller spectrum, we have Lee Child's incredible Jack Reacher. Fights, intrigue, corrupt government, familiar elements, but handled with sincerity, historical perspective, honesty and super sex appeal. Male readers want to be Reacher, and female readers wish they could have dreamed him up in their wildest fantasies. He is the ultimate fighter, thinking and fucker. I met Mr. Child once at a book festival, and he was a sweetheart. Grade A.
5. Viscount Breckenridge, by Stephanie Laurens. Hate to say it, but Laurens is losing it. I read this a week ago, and I can't remember for the life of me what the plot was. Oh, yeah, a rake meets a hot blooded virgin. Sorry, Stephanie, but other romance writers (Loretta Chase, for example) work a lot harder to invent original characters and plots that are more meaningful than tired sex scenes strung together. Grade C.
6. Dairy of a Mad Fat Girl, by Stephanie McAfee. The ebook original NYT bestseller is coming out in trade paperback. I read for blurb. Thoroughly enjoyed this southern fried comedy. McAfee is a talent to watch. Grade A-.
Other stuff happened. I went to the NYC ballet with Dana I. and loved. Steve, Lucy and I went to the NY Film Festival to see Chapin's Gold Rush with a live orchestra (celebrity sighting: SI Newhouse!!!). I went to dinner at Fanelli's with Judy McG and Dan Zevin, Millburn High School alums and great writers. Both have books in the spring, and I will plug sufficiently then.
Watch this space in the next week. Lots of fun stuff coming up. Radio, guest blogs, exciting book news.
Book Marketing Buzz Blog
QA with Brian Feinblum, PR Book Pro and cool dude
October 7, 2011
October 6, 2011
Washington Independent Review of Books loves IHNTHY
Thanks, Sarah Pessin!
5 Minutes for Books review and giveaway
"Amusing, down-to-earth, and relatable." Thanks, Elizabeth
NY Daily News reviews "Hard"
"A series of biting but funny essays from a writer who had previously cultivated an easygoing demeanor then decided to start telling the truth. Nasty neighbors, more successful writers and alarmist doctors, among others, get theirs. Not to worry. They had it coming."—Sherryl Connelly
October 1, 2011
Girlfriends Book Club QA with the amazing Melissa Senate
Thanks, Melissa! I've Got a Crush On You, Too!
HuffPo "Hard" Excerpt No. 2
Female Friendship Styles
MASSIVE Book Club Giveaway!
Five book clubs can win copies of "It's Hard." Sign up at bookmovement.com FOR FREE to enter contest!
Review of "It's Hard" by Alexandra Bowie
Campaign for the American Reader
Some rock "Hard" coverage
Book Reporter review
"Hard" gets props from Terry Miller Shannon
September 19, 2011
Good Housekeeping “Book Pick” for October 2011
"To inspire you... IT’S HARD NOT TO HATE YOU by Valerie Frankel. A worrisome diagnosis leads Frankel, a self-described grouch, to consider the surprisingly positive implications of a negative personality. Frank, funny, and full of zingy insights."
Daily Beast's Excerpt of IHNTHY
Why I Hate NYT Debut Novelists—Except Snooki
So "It's Hard Not to Hate You" has been out for a week, and only now can I lift my head from the computer and see the larger world around me. This is what happens, the tunnel vision. It's a relief to see the light at the end. Not to say I'm not still trying to sell this baby. That won't ever end. But the intensity of release week is behind me. Now, I can turn my head to other things: A novel revise (one more round with the shopping ladies), an article for Coastal Living about Seaside Heights, and article for Good Housekeeping about age appropriate answers to kids about life's sticky questions. As always, I'm looking for anecdotes! E-me if you have a hilarious story about telling your toddler about Aunt Bertha's messy divorce.
1. Contagion. Didn't quite infect me. I liked it. Entertaining, interesting. The problem with ensemble casts is that you don't get to spend enough time with any one character to make a profound connection. The virus was the star of the movie, and it wasn't very charismatic. Jennifer Ehle: Great to see her again. She'll always be Liz Bennet to me. B+
2. Thor. Saw this on pay per view. Acts One and Two, very fun, visually compelling and amusing. Act Three? So many movies fall apart at the end, including this one. Aliens come, they go, there's fighting, but no one dies. There's kissing, but the romance is abandoned. For a mindless time killer, I give it a B.
3. The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman. My five blog readers know Laura is one of my fave authors. Once again, I'm amazed how much depth she wrings out of her characters while telling a page-turning thriller. The central themes are parent/child relationships, and the formative friendships of youth. Five teens play in the woods, meet a homeless man, and make horrible mistakes which shape, either drastically or subtly, the rest of their lives. This is a "between Tess" book, but fans of Laura's series character will get a pleasant surprise in Dangerous Thing. Baltimore is Tiny Town, and you never know who you'll run into. Grade A.
4. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. Literary stories with pink frosting and a champagne cocktail. I'd classify this is as ambitious chick lit. The tone: slightly detached, wry, unsentimental, which I like. The stories were frustratingly single-minded, about twentysomething girls' pursuit of men and marriage. I understand that's the title and theme. But some relief from "does he like me?" "Do I like him?" would have been nice. The humor came from witty dialogue. Many good lines throughout. I can't say I fell in love with the clique of characters, or any particular one. But I did want to know what happened as they progressed from college grads to "fully grown women," as she described.
September 15, 2011
Announcement: I'll be "appearing" on Martha Stewart Radio's "Whole Living" show, found at Sirius XM 110, tomorrow, Friday, Sept 16th, at 9:40 AM.
Caller hotline: 866-675-6675
Twitter @MarthaRadio, @wholeliving and @territ.
The Incredible Rachel Kramer Bussel, the most generous, naughty writer I know, recommmends IHNTHY
"Frankel's book is funny but extremely memorable and tackles questions like how many friends should you have/do you need, what to do about professional jealousy (you can play "figure out the chick lit author she's talking about;" it only takes a wee bit of Googling) and bitchy neighbors and more."
Emotional Housekeeping: Bring Out Your Grudge
self.com blog featuring IHNTHY
Bitchy Is the New Happy??
Allure mag's coverage of IHNTHY. Thanks, Sarah Wexler!
Minor Hates: The Slideshow
New HuffPo blog about the impatience triggers that kill
Manic Mommy giveaway contest!
Click to enter! Thanks, Stephanie E. for running this show
Devourer of Books IHNTHY giveaway!
Only one available, so hurry
IHNTHY Giveaway at Bellas Novella
Plus review by superfan Ashley
September 13, 2011
Ooops. Did I write "full release?" I meant "fall release." My new memoir, It's Hard Not to Hate You is officially "out" today. Here's some info:
From the author of THIN IS THE NEW HAPPY comes a hilarious new memoir about embracing your Inner Hater. In the midst of a health and career crisis, Valerie uncorks years of pent up rage, and discovers you don't have to be happy to be happy. You don’t have to love everyone else to like yourself. And that your Bitchy Twin might just be your funniest, most valuable and honest ally.
“The hate in you has got to come out.” After being advised to reduce stress by her doctor, humorist Valerie Frankel realized the biggest source of pressure in her life was maintaining an unflappable easing-going persona. After years of glossing over the negative, Frankel goes on a mission of emotional honesty, vowing to let herself feel and express all the toxic emotions she’d long suppressed or denied: jealousy, rage, greed, envy, impatience, regret. Frankel reveals her personal History of Hate, from mean girls in junior high, selfish boyfriends in her twenties and old professional rivals. Hate stomps through her current life, too, with snobby neighbors, rude cell phone talkers, scary doctors and helicopter moms. Regarding her husband, she asks, “How Do I Hate You? Let Me Count the Ways.” (FYI: There are three.) By the end of her authentic emotional experience, Frankel concludes that toxic emotions are actually good for you. The positive thinkers, aka, The Secret crowd, have it backwards. Trying to ward off negativity was what’d been causing Frankel’s career stagnation, as well as her health and personal problems. With the guidance of celebrity friends like Joan Rivers and psychic Mary T. Browne, Frankel now uses anger, jealousy and impatience as tools to be a better, balanced and deeper person. IT'S HARD NOT TO HATE YOU sends the message that there are no wrong emotions, only wrong ways of dealing with them.
"It's refreshing to read as Frankel realizes that anger can be cathartic, even entertaining, when expressed, and makes for a fuller, fun life. Fans of her recent memoir, her novels, or her collaborations with Joan Rivers and Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi will especially enjoy learning what makes the funny, warm Frankel tick."--PW
"Told by a doctor that she must reduce stress, Frankel decides: "The hate in me just has to come out." Fortunately, it comes out fast and funny, tart and taut, in your face and genuinely helpful for anyone who's felt tense, fat, overmanaged, underloved, or just plain human."--Library Journal
"Funny girl Frankel dishes about what there is to love about hatred. The resulting string of essays on negativity and its pursuits includes a number of hilarious moments alongside helpful, hard-won insight."--Kirkus
"Valerie Frankel is one of the bravest, boldest, funniest writers on the planet. Her new memoir, It's Hard Not To Hate You, carries a kind of startlingly fresh honesty. Every page feels as if you are sitting across a cafe with her, having coffee, and spilling your soul."--Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You
*Book of the Week* "Funny, personal . . . By letting her hater flag fly, Frankel realizes that releasing the aggression is her own recipe for happiness. This lively and entertaining book should be embraced for its honesty and wit."--Jessica Grose, Slate
"It's Hard Not to Hate You is so good that I asked if I could blurb it without being asked to blurb it. The blurb ship had sailed, but trust me: It's a great folllow-up to Thin Is the New Happy."—the amazing Laura Lippman
Should you care to click thru to amazon, please do. If you are a closeted hater, one bad day away from social meltdown, you'd better hurry!
Thanks so much. Please feel free to forward this message to the closet haters in your life!
September 9, 2011
Some new reviews of "It's Hard Not to Hate You."
Slate Double X
*Book of the Week!* "By letting her hater flag fly, Frankel realizes that releasing the aggression is her own recipe for happiness. She might not be the most popular lady on the block, and she might burn a few bridges along the way, but as she says, "Better to know your enemies than twist into a pretzel trying to please all of the people all of the time." This lively and entertaining book may not please all of the people, but it should be embraced by more than a few for its honesty and wit."
Barnes & Noble in-house review
"In this self-help age, people write lists of personal affirmations, keep weekly journals of gratitude, and even offer hugs to strangers. Humorist Valerie Frankel had heard all the talk about toxic emotions, but when she was hit by health problems and a career crisis, she knew that she had had enough. With feelings of rage coming to a boil, she decided to express all the negative emotions that she had been working so hard (and so ineffectively) to suppress. Out came the emotions; jealousy, envy, impatience, greed, unbridled hate. It's Hard Not to Hate You might not cure you of all the bad things in your life, but it should make you less uptight about dealing with them."
Feathered Quill book reviews
"Funny stuff within these pages, and your heart will also go out to the author as she’s faced with some very difficult life decisions. Like the great Bombeck, many readers will connect with some of these stories because most of them happen to us all. Quill Says: You’ll discover your own “inner hater” but, in the end, we all learn that we need to be true to ourselves and let the chips fall where they may"
The lovely and talented Caroline Leavitt's blog
Caroline was gracious and generous as always. "Valerie Frankel is one of the bravest, boldest, funniest writers on the planet. I loved her last book, Thin is the New Happy, and her new one, It's Hard Not To Hate You carries the same kind of startlingly fresh honesty (you can read my review in Shoptopia.com this month!). Every page feels as if you are sitting across a cafe with her, having coffee, and spilling your soul."
August 28, 2011
Sunday's NYT Vows Column
Congrats Paula and Randy!
New article in Self
"Dont Take It Personally"
Much has happened in August. Workwise, I turned in The Friggin' Snequel, on deadline and exactly one day before I took four teenage girls to Seaside Heights, NJ, the very setting I'd been writing about, for Maggie's Sweet Sixteen party. A girl after my own heart (and ovum), she didn't want a thing, like a piece of jewelry. She wanted to host her best friends at the beach for the weekend. We rented a cheap apt. near the beach. Fried food, henna tattoos, feather hair extensions, tans, burns, sand, surf, rides, etc. They had a bitchin' friggin' freakin' time. The sixteen-year-olds wanted nothing to do with a tag-along ancient hag (although they were all too polite to say so; I could take a hint), so I spend much of the weekend under my super-umbrella, reading "The Search" by Nora Roberts.
On Sunday morning, I drove back to Brooklyn to unload Maggie's friends. Then we picked up Lucy, Steve, and Anabella (Lucy's pal), and went right back down the Shore for the second half of our week-long stay. More fun was had. That day, Sunday, Aug 21st, was my seven year anniversary with Steve, and nearly the seven year anniversary of this blog. Steve and I, and the blog, are still going strong.
Thanks to Maggie and Lucy's friends Mollie, Anna, Mikey and Anabella for being fabulous guests!
During the downpour, we lost TV reception. Thus prized from the Weather Channel, we put our phasers on stun, got our geek on, and watched, in order, Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, aka "Whales in Space." For refreshments, Steve and I enjoyed White Russians, or, as Lebowski would say in the singular, "a Caucasian" or "a beverage here." We had several. If another hurricane comes to Brooklyn, I won't mind a bit.
August 2, 2011
July 27, 2011
Back from summer vakay. I'm tan. Snooki would be proud. We enjoyed fresh air, warm hospitality and loads of great eats in Maine and Vermont. Thanks Mary, Sue, Judy and Howie for hosting! Congrats again to newlyweds Lauren and Charlie!
I spend the morning at the Atlantic Center's DMV to register the Subaru, transfer my plates, pay my NYS sales tax. I got up early to arrive as they opened their doors, thinking I'd breeze in and out. About 200 other people had the same bright idea. All in all, it was not horrible. Total wait time on two different lines: 70 minutes. Could've been a lot worse.
The E! "True Hollywood Story: Snooki" airs tonight at 10 PM. I taped for this, but have no idea if I made the final cut OR if I will look like shit. I was told to arrive "camera ready," which means "do your own frickin' hair and makeup." Needless to say, my skills are lacking in those departments. I'm kind of hoping my commentary was cut entirely. But, then again, it'd be fun to be included, for posterity.
"It's Hard Not to Hate You" amazon reviews continue to roll in. Nineteen so far, most 4 or 5 stars. Click widget left to read them. Kirkus has weighed in, too:
'Prolific chick-lit novelist and funny girl Frankel (Thin Is the New Happy, etc.) dishes about what there is to love about hatred.
In her latest, the author explores the more unseemly side of her nature. The resulting string of essays on negativity and its pursuits includes a number of hilarious moments alongside helpful, hard-won insights into parenting and the nature of complaining. When presented with the grim news that she and most of her family are genetically predisposed to a variety of abdominal cancers, Frankel opted to look within to see whether a change of attitude might improve her state: “My doctor told me the hate in me just had to come out. I followed his orders, fessing up to jealousy, phoniness, coldness, bitterness, insecurity, envy, distrust, impatience, revulsion, pettiness, bitchiness. Name the hate, I let it out. The big question: Was I happier for it?” Answer: not entirely. “I’d say that I was generally more ‘er’ about all of my emotions,” writes Frankel, “which (bonus) made me deeper.”
With humor, Frankel shrewdly probes her darkly shallow places.'
The blurb worthy parts are "funny girl Frankel," "hilarious," "helpful, hard-won insight," and "unseemly." I might legally change my name to "Valerie Unseemly Frankel." The line "shrewdly probes her darkly shallow places" is a bit of false advertising. Despite the claim, there are, actually, no masturbation scenes in the entire memoir.
July 14, 2011
I leave Brooklyn tomorrow for parts north. A wedding in Maine, a visit with old pal Kelley in NH, and then to parents' weekend at Lucy's camp in VT. The annual New England crawl.
On the eve of our travels, Anderson Cooper broke the biggest story of his career on Wednesday night: Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi will be coming out with a sequel to her NYT bestselling novel, A Shore Thing.
Thank you, Anderson Cooper for playing your part as another cog in the Snooki machine.
The book will be called Gorilla Beach. Unlike Anderson Cooper, I am not at liberty to blather publicly about the Friggin' Snequel whenever I damn well please. But, I will say this: The Friggin' Snequel is every bit as dirty, funny and sexy as The Friggin' Novel (Snovel?). It goes places A Shore Thing didn't dare. Fans will love it. Gorilla Beach will come out in May 2012, aka, when the Mayans believe the world would come to a catastrophic end. Coincidence? I wonder...
1. Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. Loved this memoir about improving memory using mnemonic techniques. I've been building memory palaces to recall my to-do list, phone and hotel room numbers. The shit works! Fascinating insight into the working of the human mind. Foer's writing is facile and smart. Grade A.
2. Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward. Cool idea, to have two writers double team a mystery novel. She wrote the odd chapters; he wrote the even chapters. Is the total of their effort greater than the sum of their parts? Let me say first that I love Lutz's Spellman mystery series. She's my cup of coffee, funny, Jewishy, suspenseful. In this effort, the conceit, however clever and satisfying in an of itself, cannibalized the novel as whole. Think of a snake eating its own tail. For style points, I'd give it a B.
3. One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell. Not a laugh in this heavy NYC set novel. As social satire in the spirit of Tom Wolfe, it does NOT live up to the hype. But as a gripping page-turning saga about rich white people, it flies. I read it in a day and was highly entertained. B+/A-
The amazon reviews keep rolling in for It's Hard Not to Hate You. As usual, the range in reaction is broad, although generally positive. It's still two months before publication, so there's a lot of time yet to fret. I'm hoping my vakay will put me in the right mind space to focus on the work at hand (The Snequel), and put aside anxiety about It's Hard Not to Hate You, and Four of A Kind, my new novel coming out in March 2012, which will, ironically, compete directly with Gorilla Beach. I wonder who will sell more books—Snooki or me?
July 5, 2011
See the photo of our brand new 2011 Subaru Forester in metallic sage green. I financed it to the hilt, but can afford the monthly payments (whew). We drove it home from camp drop-off, and loved it! The Forester is only the third car I've owned. I forgot how clean and cool a new ride is. So, yeah, I've made a major purchase without having a nervous breakdown. Miracle of freakin' miracles.
We are back in Brooklyn, enjoying child-free summer daze. Saw Midnight in Paris. Very pretty and cute. Not gripping storytelling, but high style and witty. You could say worse for a Woody Allen movie of late (last decade or so). It's worth seeing.
"It's Hard Not to Hate You," aka The New Memoir, is coming out in mid-September, but thanks to Amazon's Vine program (of sending out books early to generate pre-pub buzz), I'm been watching the reviews roll in. Nine so far. All very nice. Even the three star reviews were pretty good. Check out the link below, or widget left.
Amazon customer reviews of IHNTHY
So far, so good!
June 24, 2011
The fam is splitting up. In two days, Maggie goes to Thailand on her Experiment in International Living. Lucy goes to Vermont to camp two days after that. I'm starting to feel the separation anxiety. That usually fades 24-hours later after some alone time with Steve.
Work is good, chuggin' along. I've been in contact with my collaborator on The Friggin' Snequel, who has proven herself, again, to be an inspiration, full of great, funny ideas and in perfect understanding of her audience and message.
I've also had a pair of excellent lunches this week. Jane Greer, aka Dr. Jane of radio/book/blogging fame (link below), took me to the Friar's Club for our annual catching-up lunch. She's got a new book out, called "What About Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship" and is now blogging regularly at Psychology Today about celeb scandals. She looks as adorable and blinged out as ever. I've been using Jane as a source in magazine articles for 20 years, and she always give great quote. So glad I've got the doc on call!
My other lunch was with filmmaker, author and blogger Tracey Jackson (link below). The kids, Steve and I watched her recent movie "Lucky Ducks," a first person 2010 documentary about squeezing the brat out of her entitled fifteen-year old daughter. Unflinching in her honesty, Tracey showed herself and her daughter in many unflattering moments of frustration, anger, in-and-out of makeup. The result: fascinating storytelling. Anyway, I quoted her in an Allure article, and we decided to meet in real life. Her new memoir, "Between a Rock and a Hot Place: Why 50 Is Not the New 30" is out and in its fourth printing already! Congrats, Tracey and thanks for a great 2.5 hour lunch!
Currently reading: Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. Review TK.
Lucky Ducks and more
Tracey Jackson's site
The Doctor is In
Jane Greer's site
June 19, 2011
The review is in: PW on It's Hard Not to Hate You
Frankel: Fun, Warm, Out of the Oven Poppin' FRESHNESS
Greetings, peops! Only two week since my last post. That ain't bad. First and foremost, RIP Clarence Clemons. I've seen the original Mr. Big (aka, The Big Man) in concert only once, but that night left an indelible impression of Clarence's immense gift. What a musician, performer, philanthropist, kind, generous man. The world, and Jersey, will miss you.
I was down the Shore, actually, in Atlantic City, when news came of Clemons' stroke. My pal Ann came with with me, for a 24-hour whirlwind tour of the boardwalk, shops, ocean, casinos and bars. A lot of the bars. My head still hurts. The trip was for pleasure and work. I needed to do a little research for the current novel-in-progress, what I've been referring to in closed circles as The Friggin' Snequel. Let it be known that I lost my entire gambling allowance in approximately 25 seconds. A paltry $15. One spin of the roulette wheel cured me of champagne wishes and caviar dreams. I've never won at gambling. I'll happily settle for lucky in love.
The photo above: We had a $50 credit at Caesar's Palace Pier shops (they lure you down to the hotel with discounts and credits, hoping you'll lose your live savings in the casino). We wandered into a furrier, and tried on some stuff. The mink shawl I'm wearing cost $600. I almost bought it. My resolved was weak; we'd been drinking margaritas since noon. But then I regained sanity, and kept my Visa card tucked safely in my wallet.
What I bought with my $50: A leopard print robe from Victoria's Secret. That seemed to be a more appropriate purchase, given the purpose of the trip. If I could have bought faux leopard fur covered sunglasses, or leopard print thigh-high boots for a mere $50, maybe I would've.
Besides the overnight in AC, I've been dealing with end-of-school, preparing-for-summer-trips chores. The girls both clear out in a week or so. Steve and I will have our precious few weeks of debauchery/alone time. We usually walk around the apartment naked. This year, I'll wear my tacky new robe.
I've been writing about 1,200 words/day, and reading a lot. Some capsule reviews:
1. 2030 by Albert Brooks. What you might not have expected: Brooks is such a political egghead. The novel describes what the USA will be like in 20 years, predicting earthshaking natural disaster, debt devastation and the first (half) Jewish president. The near future isn't pretty. But it is funny in the hands of Brooks, who could do the Holocaust as comedy. Highly recommended.
2. Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn. Eh. A Regency romance about the perils of life before antibiotics. Sounds sexy, right? The hero gets a cut, and nearly dies from the resulting infection. The heroine nurses him back to health, and falls in love with the incapacitated hero. I am a huge Quinn fan. But this one was a bit of a yawn, with hardly ANY love scenes. For loyal fans. Newbies might want to go to her backlist.
3. Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Basheres. Part five of the Traveling Pants series, which started as YA, and, in this volume, has grown up. The characters are in their late twenties now, full of regret, longing, confusion and the familiar ache for each other's friendship. The tone is sentimental and SAD, since (spoiler alert, but not really), one of the four main characters dies early on. The plot device—someone must die so the others can live to the fullest—was rote yet satisfying. No humor at all in this long novel about grief. Although . . . I laughed out loud when, at the end, one character, an actress, auditions for a comedy role in a big movie, and blows it because she's too busy crying. That pretty much sums up Sisterhood Everlasting. Lots of crying; no laughing. That said, I read it in a day. Fans will love as a 350 page epilogue to the teen series. New readers will wonder what all the fuss is about.
4. Miss Wonderful and Lord of Scoundrels by Lorette Chase. Naughty romances. I'd never read Chase before, but I had a hunger for something R-rated after the PG disappointment of Quinn's latest. Both novels were bawdy fun, especially Lord of Scoundrels. Highly recommended.
5. I Have Fun Everywhere I Go by Mike Edison. I got back in touch with old friend Mike when I did his radio show a couple of weeks ago. He's the same sharp, funny, hellraiser he was twenty years prior. His memoir is a fab chronicle of career in the underbelly of the publishing world—writing twenty porn novels as Anonymous, editing at High Society, High Times, the Beer Quarterly—and his years playing drums in a series of punk bands. The setting—the grimy fin de siècle New York City, when punk ruled, beer and pot were cheap, and no one had a blog to hawk—really took me back to my yute, pre-kids, pre-mortgage, when I went out every night. Great job, great life, Mike! Highly recommended.
It's Father's Day, and Steve wants to got to Pier One at Brooklyn Bridge Park for a lobster roll. We're off.
June 2, 2011
Mike & Judy Show
Doing the radio, on Sunday
Breaking! Stop the Friggin' Presses!
NYT: Celebs Use Ghostwriters!
It's been six weeks since my last post, and I suck royal eggs. For once, I have decent excuses. A lot of magazine revises fell on me at the same time I got pneumonia, when Steve was on a California tour, when the book proposal for Fashionable Lady was due, when original magazine pieces were due. I was overwhelmed, body and mind. I had to cancel some fun things—the annual Central Park Hat Lunch with the Shopping Ladies, taking Lucy to an All-Time Low concert (didn't mind missing that one) and two cafe-side interviews with Arthur Phillips and Rachel Kramer Bussel (separately) for the Brooklyn Bugle. I intend to reschedule both, soon. Anyway, the decks are cleared. I'm back on top of my health and workload.
Read a lot lately:
1. A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block. I've loved Block for years, and it's great to see him back on top with this AA 12x12 inspired novel. Moving and fast paced. A mystery soaked in coffee, but stinking nostalgically of bourbon. Highly recommended.
2. Friendship Bread by Darian Gee. Sentimental story of three women connecting over problems and bread starter, set in suburb of Chicago. Humorless, it does tug the heart strings. I wasn't inspired to try the bread recipe, though, which says a lot.
3. Pictures of You, by Caroline Leavitt. I've known the author since she wrote for Mademoiselle many years ago. She has a big hit with this novel about two women, both leaving unhappy marriages, and colliding in a tragic moment that can't be changed. The idea of photographs, a captured instant that's laden with meaning, runs throughout the story. The reader can't help but think about all the moments that go by unnoticed and unappreciated, as well as those few major moments that define your life while you're looking in the rear view window. Congrats, Caroline! Highly recommended.
4. The Tragedy of Arthur, by Arthur Phillips. Phillips writes a faux memoir, about being the son of a jailbird swindler/Shakespeare expert, who grows up unhappy, adrift, and resentful of his family, including his twin sister, a lesbian Shakespearean actor. The second half is an actual "lost" Shakespeare play, about King Arthur. Mad genius. Simply amazing. How can some people be so freakin' smart? Highly recommended.
5. Dead Reckoning, by Charlaine Harris. Felt like an in-the-middle part in the series, connecting books on either side, but not a very significant plot in the overall scheme. Still, better than most popular fiction. Recommended.
6. Lethal People, by John Locke. My first e-book original purchase (and last from this author). The Donovan Creek mystery series sells an ebook every seven seconds all over the world, according to the author. Very sensational story about a sociopath/government assassin who kills without conscience but cares deeply for burn victims and battered women. Lots of macho humor, graphic violence and cardboard females.
7. Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart, by Sarah Maclean. She's on my Brooklyn Bugle interviews wish list. A satisfying Regency romp. Lots of great "ton" scenes and visits from characters in previous novesl in the series (I heart that). Not as much sex as her previous, though. Recommended.
8. If You Were Here, by Jen Lancaster. Story of Chicago couple buying a fantasy house that turns into a money pit. I love Jen. Gloriously witty, she is unapologetic about going for laughs first and foremost. She's my kind of writer! Congrats on another hit! Highly recommended.
9. Heat Wave, by Nancy Thayer. Warm story set on Nantucket about a widow who rebuilds her house, family and romantic life after the untimely death of her husband. Thayer's novels get me in the soft spot every time. Nothing too hard to take, nothing outlandish to have to swallow. Just a very readable story about likeable characters you want to come out okay. Recommended.
In other news, my kids plays are done. Lucy pondered the cosmos as The Little Prince. Maggie rocked in Bye Bye Birdie. They're nearly done with school for the year, which means sleeping in (which we all need). My annual container garden is kicking floral ass. I'll take pix and post soon.
I'm going to be a guest on Mike "I Have Fun Eveywhere I Go" Edison and Judy "How Not To Date" McGuire's radio program called, aptly, The Mike & Judy Show. I went to high school with Judy, and wrote porn for Mike when he was an editor at Climax. Should be fun! Link to the facebook page above.
The New York Times published an article by Julie Bosman today about celebrities hiring ghostwriters for their novels. An article about ghostwriters, but Bosman didn't interview or name any? A weird oversight, or is she part of the alleged conspiracy of silence?
April 18, 2011
Almost midnight. Although I'm reading two great novels ("Game of Thrones" and "The Silent Girl" by Tess Gerritsen) I'm just not ready to get in bed yet. Much has happened in the weeks since my last blog. A few important bits of news:
1. I'm going to start contributing regularly to the Brooklyn Bugle website, run by my Brooklyn Heights Blog bud Homer Fink. Check out the link above. Brooklyn authors: In need of plugs? E-me! I'll hook you up. (Talking to you, MICHAEL MALICE.) Seriously, I am the opposite of a literary snob. I won't judge, and don't say no. Haven't since college...
2. I did a taping for the E! Channel's "True Hollywood Story: Snooki" The hour-long bio will include my witty observations and quality bon mots. I'll post air dates when appropriate. Watch for it later this spring.
3. It's time to dangle more deets about my next ghostwriting gig. The celeb in question is a Brooklynite. She is glamorous and smart, already a close friend. I hope to get at least one new outfit in this deal. That should be plenty for my five blog readers to chew on.
4. I have had a breakthrough re: my own novel, and have been chugging along for the last couple of weeks. It's pretty funny so far. I'll have to put it to the side for a while to work on my hired jobs—the fashionable celeb book, and . . . does anyone smell Snequel? Or is that just a margarita and some bronzer?
Steve is home after much traveling. His most recent gig was Mikado in Portland, Maine, performing for his home-state crowd that included his mom and brother Dave.
Well, now, I'm sleeply. Signing off...
April 7, 2011
Ack, it's been way too long since my past post. So sorry! I was very busy watching episodes of "Archer" on FX. If you aren't aware of this show, Netflix immediately and tune in on Thursdays at 10 (no longer a conflict with Jersey Shore, whew!). Oh, shit. I just realized "The Real Housewives of New York" debuts tonight—against "Archer." Fuck.
Spring break happened. I went to Vermont with Lucy, caught a stomach flu and puked my guts up for two days instead of skiing. I also read a couple books.
1. Laura Lippman's Girl in the Green Rain Coat. I don't know why this happens, but Laura's books always seem to land on the top of my TBR pile (or Kindle queue) when I get a bad cold/flu/bug. Once again, I bow in gratitude to Laura for keeping me well entertained between mad dashes to the bathroom. In this "Rear Window" story, Tess watches dog walkers from her porch while on bed rest due to a high risk pregnancy. She notices her favorite dog running through the park, sans its walker, the woman in the green trench. Armed with a computer, Tess stirs up plenty of muck, and eventually brings witnesses, evidence and the killer to her door. Great read. Fun, on the lighter side for Laura, and fast.
2. Ego and Hubris: The Michael Malice Story by Harvey Pekar. I read this graphic biography because I had drinks with the subject himself (a fix-up of ghostwriters by our mutual bud Judy McGuire, who moderated the drinks sesh). When Michael mentioned that the legendary Pekar once wrote an entire book about his life, I was gobsmacked, and purchased it as soon as I got home. The graphic bio format is new to me. But Ego and Hubris has to be a great example. Pekar interviewed Michael, edited the transcripts into episodes. The illustrator arranged them into panels. Michael comes off as a brilliant bastard with high ideals, integrity and the inability to compromise. In many ways, it's an immigrant story—Michael was born in Russia and arrived in Brooklyn as a baby—about the American version of success in one's own terms. Highly recommended.
Meanwhile, I've been reading a lot of my own stuff lately. The copy edits of both "It's Hard Not to Hate You" (memoir, St. Martin's, pub date Sept '11) and "Four of a Kind" (novel, Ballantine, pub date March '12) came at me in the last few weeks. Strange to see how the personal revelations discovered while writing the memoir turn up as plot ideas and character development in the novel. I love both these books, and am damn proud of them.
Er, what else? Jersey Shore season three ended. Snooki presented her platform for her upcoming presidential campaign ("tan, party, smush"). I'm down. Top Chef All-Stars wrapped up with Richard Blaise the big winner. As usual, the person I was rooting for lost (Carla and/or Antonia).
Hard at work on my new novel. This time around, I had to write about fifty pages before I realized I'd started in the wrong place and that my structure sucked. So, I started over, and moved the scrapped 50 into a file called "notes." Some of it might get reincorporated into the book. Most won't. But it was necessary work, figuring out the MC's personal history. Now I can move forward knowing her better.
March 16, 2011
Another week, another diaper shit storm about bad mothering. First, the "Tiger Mother" bragged about calling her daughters "garbage" and denying them food, friends and fun. Last week, the "Hiroshima in the Morning" author went on TV to talk about relinquishing custody of her sons to her husband because being a mother, as it turned out, was hard and mind numbing. Yesterday, a babble.com blogger confessed to favoring one child over another, and wrote that, given the choice, she'd prefer it if her difficult daughter died rather than her affectionate son.
The defense of all this TMIing: It's honest. It takes guts to tell uncomfortable truths. By pulling back the baby blanket to reveal the dark side of Mommyhood—the loneliness, boredom and burden of raising whelps—other parents will rejoice in shared misery. Judging by the comments in various forums, about half the readers applaud the essays, and half are appalled by them. The main criticism, especially about the favortist mother? Her daughter won't feel as cathartically unburdened to read the post as her mother did by writing it.
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless parent.
Mommies? Honestly? Next time the need strikes to unload about how much you hate your life, stay your typing hand. Feel unappreciated, unloved and resentful, and want to tell the whole world? Freeze. Step away from the computer.
Instead? In the few spare minutes between diaper changing and bottle washing, turn toward a pursuit that will make you feel better about yourself, bring color to your cheeks, and improve your attitude. It won't scar your kids emotionally or bring social services to your door.
Go into the bedroom, lock the door, and rub one off. A big O might satisfy the other masturbatory urge to jerk off on the computer. Expend pent up frustration in a way that won't make you hated by the internets. Even better (here's a rad idea): have sex with the husband, if you can still stand the sight of him. Then tell him to cook his own damn dinner. You will feel MARVELOUS, I swear it.
Kate Tietje prefers son to daughter
Oversharing in a babble blog
Rahna Reiko interview on the View
Hiroshima in the Morning author give up custody of her kids
Amy Chua, Tiger Mom
The original excerpt from the Wall Street Journal
March 15, 2011
Brooklyn Heights Blog
profile of yours truly by the talented Julie Kanfer! Thanks, Julie! You rock! Fist pump!
March 13, 2011
March 11, 2011
Hello, peops! It's been a while, I know. I blame myself. I mean, who the fuck ELSE would be to blame for my not posting? Maybe I should accuse my mother. Judy: It's YOUR fault!
There. I feel better.
So, a few things.
1. New jobs! I am not yet at liberty to discuss. One is in the negotiation stage, but will be resolved fairly quickly. Another is a done deal, and I'll find out today when I'm sanctioned to tell you, my five blog readers. I will say this: Signs of the apocalypse keep getting clearer.
2. My (own) new novel is progressing slowly. I'm doing more thinking than actual writing on it. But it's nice to be able to meditate on a story and characters instead of thrashing them out.
3. I'll issue another plea to e-me if you hate your kid's friends. I need "real" people sources for a Good Housekeeping article. Your rants will be anonymous, and strictly confidential.
Some lighting round cultural notes:
1. Gabrielle Hamilton's "Blood, Bones and Butter": I'd give it a B+. WAY too many slow and sentimental chapters spent visiting her husband's family in Italy, with page after page about shelling beans. The best parts were about her hardscrabble childhood, difficult relationships with her parents, romantic life, seasons in MFA hell, and starting her own restaurant in New York. Definitely worth reading, but skim the Italy parts.
2. Lay the Favorite by Beth Raymer. I felt a stab of jealousy when I read this memoir about sports booking and betting in Vegas will be made into movie starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. But it's certainly visual, with wacky, seedy, sleazy characters, the Strip backdrop, Nevada shimmering heat and a leggy, young heroine. Funny (at times), informative, both jaded and innocent, the book is a window into a rarefied oddball world of professional gamblers. I'll say B+.
3. Book of Mormon. See link below.
Finally, some great news, re: the brats. Lucy has been cast in the title roll of her middle school's production of "The Little Prince." She will cross dress, prance and soliloquize on stage in May. Maggie has been cast in the Heights Players' (Brooklyn-based semi-professional community theater group) production of "Bye, Bye Birdie" as one of the Teen Trio, a coven of girls who will sing and scream whenever Conrad Birdie appears. Maggie's turn will also be in May. Congrats to my hammy daughters! I can't wait to kvell in the dark!
"Book of Mormon" Review
My latest HuffPo blog on Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Broadway musical
March 2, 2011
I should be working on an article for Allure called "Secrets of Skinny Women." You might not know this, but skinny women's brains don't function like normal people. They have magical powers. Like they're on a drug. It's called Skinny Sheen. They have tiger blood and are bipolar witches. Also, being thin? It's called WINNING. Like Rock Stars from Mars.
Seriously, the piece is due on Friday, and I should be slaving over a hot .doc, not flitting away the hours on twitter, facebook and my blog. I have to say, all this commenting and posting has made me SICK OF MYSELF. It's too much narcissism, even for me.
Speaking of me, all of my four mysteries from the early '90s are now available for the fabulous Kindle. Also, two of my YA series (the rest soon). Widgets left!
Last, reading "Bone, Blood and Butter" by Gabrielle Hamilton, the book of the moment. It's pretty great, with a surprise cameo from Mark Bittman. I'll do a full review when I finish.
February 23, 2011
Greetings peops. In case you (like so many others) have stopped reading the NYTimes, you might have missed the article about the decline of blogging in favor of facebook status updating and tweeting. I have fallen into the spell of twitter recently myself (@valfrankel). My twitter following is about the size of a single grain of rice. A small, tiny, microscopic subset of gullible rubes who have agreed to read about my inconsequential preferences and snack choices.
Eating almonds. I love almonds. Maybe later, an apple.
That's tweet worthy! Don't believe me? Have you been on twitter?
As an experiment, I'm going to start tweeting obnoxious statements of the obvious. Such as: "Charlie Sheen is a pig." See if that expands my twittage.
I'd like to start of social network called "Twatter," for all the people who need to share with "friends" their vaginal preferences. Brazilian? Maxi or mini pad? OB or Kotex? Twatters want to know.
We had a lazy President's Day weekend. Lots of movies and fun reading:
1. Splice. I love Adrian Brody, and will watch him for 90 minutes in anything, even this crapola movie about a hamster/eagle/scorpion/chicken/human needy horny female thing. It was supposed to be a horror movie, but it was actually a Taylor Swift video. A confused nerd OMG girl just wanted to hook up with the hottie next door. But in this case, the nerd didn't have glasses; she had claws, a stringer and wings. The hottie was a geneticist with goth hair and a weepy disposition. Like I said, MAGIC.
2. Greenberg. Ben Stiller is as dear to me as my own pancreas. Why oh why, Ben, did you take on such a repellent, disturbed, and totally unsympathetic character? Even you couldn't save this depressing slog through a stagnant swamp. No heart. No soul. Study of a narcissist loser. A slice of pathetic dysfunction. The purpose of this story? No bloody clue. I'm sorry to the film makers, including talented Jennifer Jason Leigh and Noah Baumbach, but you missed your target (whatever it was) big time.
3. Hot Tub Time Machine. My pal Nancy Jo Netflixed this, and we thought we'd relax a little, and have some good ol' fashion 1980s flashback fun. The movie is set in 1986, which was OUR TIME. I wanted to laugh until I puked popcorn (snack choice! twitter alert!). But, sadly, although Lizzy Caplan played a small part, HTTM was a disappointment. Big hair, "Talk Dirty to Me," leg warmers, John Cusack and red leather jackets just weren't '80s enough. Time travel plots are always hard to swallow, even in over-the-top comedy. It was vulgar, and crass—which I appreciate—but lacked any wit.
4. No Strings Attached. Natalie Portman, aka, the World's Most Beautiful Jew, did all right for herself in this rom com. Ashton Kutcher is charming. As a whole, NSA was exactly what you'd expect. Predictable, decent cast, beautiful settings and clothes, entertaining, thinly. I laughed a few times, which was good enough. Wait for the Netflix.
5. Eloisa James' When Beauty Tamed the Beast. Quality regency romance novel. The hero was based on Hugh Laurie's House character, which was fun. James is a pro, the reigning queen of romance. Props to her. This one was dedicated to Carrie Feron, James' long time editor. Props to you, too, Carrie!
6. Jon Kellerman's The Clinic. Vintage Kellerman, dating back to the mid-'90s. The guy is consistent as hell. Just doesn't miss. I'll read anything with his name on it.
In other news, my out of print mysteries and teen novels continue to roll out of NYLP, my agent's e-publishing venture. Now available for Kindle, two of the Wanda Mallory mysteries—"A Deadline for Murder" and "Murder on Wheels"—circa 1991 and 1992. See widgets left. I read "Deadline" last week, and had completely forgotten huge parts in my own novel. I vividly recalled typing some of the dialogue, and the moment I thought of some plot points. But I didn't remember who the killer was. Had to read to find out. Weird. I wonder if this happens to Jonathan Kellerman.
February 20, 2011
Click away for my new HuffPo blog
Called "Lady Gaga: (Not) Born to Express Yourself This Way
February 18, 2011
My idea of heaven:
February 16, 2011
Better photos of SJP, with a weirdly gushing short piece
The entire scene consisted of SJP walking out of the brownstone with the pumpkins, saying maybe three lines of dialogue to a child actor, walking down the stoop (in very high heels), and "CUT." SJP was then escorted five yards to a waiting big black SUV (the headlight and bumper are visible in the lower left corner of the photo), handed into it (like a real lady), flanked on either side by handlers. The driver sped in reverse down the block to her trailer parked on another block.
For these 30 seconds of film time, the entire neighborhood has been taken over. Plows were out yesterday removing the snow piles. Cars were towed from five or six blocks last night (pity the drivers who didn't heed the warnings) to make space for some fifty production vehicles, including gigantic trailers and catering trucks. About 150 security guys, cops, PAs and technicians are swarming a four block radius.
Lots of movies and TV shows are filmed around here. Law & Order is in Brooklyn Heights every week; Gossip Girl is filmed at my kids' school. My block gets a lot of action. But I've never seen anything this massive, not even when Scorsese filmed a scene with Leo here. Not when GEORGE CLOONEY and BRAD PITT were on State Street. OR when Robert Pattenson was around the corner. We were told by a security guy that SJP does NOT sign autographs, hang out on set, or acknowledge her fans in any way. Her SUV was parked right in front of Lucy and I, and SJP didn't glance in our direction, despite Lucy's energetic waving. Lucy was disappointed; she wants an autograph. She going to give it another try when SJP returns after they set up another shot. I told her not to hold her breath.
UPDATE: Lucy got pretty close, but no fan interaction. Night fell, and the lights were still bright. Maggie, our neighbor Erica and I took a look, and watched SJP and Greg Kinnear do a take of walking up the stoop together about five or six times. Each take, we said to each other, "I really felt it that time." The PA in charge of spectator control said, "They'll do ten takes, and probably won't use it in the final cut." Meanwhile, fifty support/security/service/shooting people are milling. Each person is in change of one thing, like a single spot light, or a single dolly. This is why it takes MILLIONS to film a romantic comedy.
February 14, 2011
It's Valentine's Day, peops! Historically, not my fave holiday. But lately? Can't help but love it. Three years ago today, Steve's adoption of Maggie and Lucy became final. It was a crazy day after a severe snow storm. Steve had to travel back to Brooklyn from Maine, from his father's funeral, to keep our long scheduled date with the family court judge. We had sushi to celebrate and declared it a tradition.
In past years, we've gone to East for conveyor belt sushi. Tonight, a school night, we're keeping it local. Our spot is called Mitoushi, which we call My Tushie (naturally) on Atlantic Ave. After that, if I can rally the kids, we'll walk down Court Street to the Chocolate Shop and have chocolate fondue. Ahhh. My heart pounds. Still later on, after the kids are asleep, Steve and I will probably have some red hot . . . reading next to each other in bed before we kiss goodnight, turn out the light and pass out. Yeah, Married Valentine's Day isn't as sexy as Dating Valentine's Day. Whaddaya want? We're TIRED. Sushi always wears me out (or is it sake?).
Some things I love, on VD:
1. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Great book of connected short stories set largely in the music biz. Interesting how Egan and Franzen's fall books both shared the major themes of selling out in rock and roll, late career comebacks and off-the-grid guitar players getting their just rewards. Freaky coincidence, or did they called each other on the Literary Fiction Hotline? I'm going to hear Mr. Freedom speak at Queens College tomorrow night, and might have to ask him.
2. Jennifer Hudson's incredible new look. She was sublime before. Now she's magnificent. For her talent, class and survivor instinct, Hudson supplies serious inspiration for anyone. Although, tragedy diets don't always last. I hope, now that she's at her happy weight, she'll practice the Not-Diet, stop worrying and star in great new movie.
3. Lady Gaga's Born This Way at the Grammy Awards. The tune? Eh. Reminded me, almost to the point of plaigarism, of Madonna's Express Yourself. Her look? Those crazy shoulder pointy alien bone extensions? Rad. No one else could put that off. The world needs Lady Gaga.
4. Spread of democracy in the Arab world. Um, hate to say this, but didn't GWB predicted domino democracy in the Middle East? Not HIM, of course. His advisers, who moved his mouth like a sock puppet. He thought Afghanistan would bring sweeping change, not Tunisia, though.
5. My dinner last week with college pals Tomas and Ricki. I promised Tomas I wouldn't blog about it (he's weirdly private about what he says when he's shared three bottles of wine). So all I'll say is that, as few friends as I've got (left), I'm glad Tomas and Ricki are still in my life after 25 years. Love you guys!
February 11, 2011
February 10, 2011
"A Shore Thing" "by" Snooki is NOT clinging to the New York Times Bestseller list (hardcover fiction). IT IS CLIMBING! Fourth week on the list, The Friggin' Novel is sitting at its highest spot yet, at #23.
Of course, the important question, the one on all of your minds: What does this mean—for me? No, not "you." Me.
Well, it means that I bask in glory, although in the shadows (which is just fine). I take enormous satisfaction in knowing that Snooki's fans are reading the book, obviously enjoying and recommending it (or else it would have fallen off a cliff by now).
The Friggin' Sequel? Will this happen? I freakin' hope so! Watch this space for details.
Meanwhile, magazine work continues to sustain and inspire. I finished the "Help Kids Find Their Passion" revise for the Good Housekeepers, and sent in the "Don't Talk to Strangers" rant for Self (tittered lustily while writing this one). Next up: an article about weight maintenance for Allure. Shout out to old friend Sadie van Gelder: Thanks for the assignment! It's been a while since I wrote for Allure, around six or seven years. Glad to be back.
February 8, 2011
A new first. Not my horrendous insomnia, that strikes when I need it least. This is the first time I've blogged during a particularly heinous episode. It's 2 AM in Brooklyn. The radiators are humming with vexing irregularity. My husband is snoring vengefully (why vengefully? NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!!). The cats rampage with sadistic joy at night, damn nocturnal demons. I'm hoping writing this blog will put me to sleep, as surely as it'll put you, my five readers, into a mini-coma.
Anyway, my blog about Eastern Mommery is finally up at the HuffPoAOLContentAggregateMegaMonsterThingie. Link below.
Read my new HuffPo blog, re: Western Motherhood
The original title was "Plaintive Whine of the LOLCatz Mother"
February 3, 2011
The ebook revolution continues. Starting this Sunday, the NYTimes will have an ebook bestseller list, a combined print and ebook list, and the traditional print-only list. Makes perfect sense. Ebooks now outsell paperbacks and hardcovers. Ignoring all of those digital sales just ain't right. Five million ebook devices were sold in the last holiday shopping season alone. I'm guessing those five million hardcore readers (myself included) will never go back to print, having fallen madly in love with their kindles, nooks, etc.
My agent, the lovely and talented Nancy Yost, and her associate Natanya Wheeler, have been working very hard rounding up the necessary paperwork for all of their clients' out-of-print books, converting them to digital format, and putting them up for sale on amazon as ebooks. For authors, we're getting a fantastic chance to find readers a second time around. I'll have seven NYLA ebooks for sale shortly. ("Fringe Girl" is already up; see widget to the left). Below, the new artwork for three (out of four) in the mystery series I wrote in the early '90s. As soon as they go live on amazon, I'll sound the alarm. All five of you can then stampede to amazon to purchase. I'd sell them for 99 cents, but NYLA wants to charge $2.99. If they sell one copy each, it's better than nothing! Out with the old! In with the Jew!
January 31, 2011
January 26, 2011
The tidal wave of curious visitors to this blog has peaked. Traffic has slowed. It's just me and my five blog readers again. Back to that small intimate tone that has been the norm here for seven years of blogging. Whew.
That was crazy for a few weeks there, wasn't it?
So I signed up for a twitter account. Some people tweet about every thought that bursts, anuerysm-like, in their head. Why? Why would anyone think out loud and/or expect others to care? It's one thing to live tweet American Idol, say, or Top Chef (which I might do, to the annoyance of my 58 twitter followers). But why tweet random brain spasms about snack and shoe choices, every trip you make to the bathroom, or some lame jokes that 100 others have already retweeted? Nick Denton of Gawker Media said that the internet provided an almost unbearable amount of feedback. He was referring to the subject of internet scrutiny (say, Snooki). But a self-referential supplier of tweets becomes his or her own object of unbearable internet feedback. It's like staring into a mirror all day, and expecting thousands of people looking over your shoulder to cheer. That'd be destructive for anyone's psyche. Even Gwenyth Paltrow's.
Meanwhile, love this Obama loving Harvard "Dock of the Bay" singer on American Idol right now. I also love Steven Tyler and JLo. I haven't watched Idol for five years, but I'm down for this season.
I'm working on a new essay for Self. Working title: "Don't Talk to Strangers," an essay about how annoying it is when strangers start chatting with you on a plane, or in a doc's waiting room, etc. My mom is one of those people. Maybe that's why I hate it (no offense, Judy!). It goes to the same twitter-ambivalent privacy impulse that might seem paradoxical for a memoirist. Time and a place for everything, including making low-level human connections. And it's rarely while waiting on line at Trader Joe's.
January 19, 2011
UPDATE: Also PW bestseller, Hardcover Fiction, #23. Also USA Today bestseller, #142 on their Top 150.
UPDATE: Shout out to my uncle Ken, who made me laugh when he emailed: "I'm very disappointed in America's reading taste. Thought it'd debut at #1."
"A Shore Thing" is a NYTimes Bestseller! Number 24 on the Hardcover Fiction bestseller list for 1/30/2011!
Incidentally, The Friggin' Novel is the 24th book I've had something to do with (not counting anthologies and collections). And it's number 24 on the list. And I found out a few days after my 46th birthday. Numerologists? Deeper meaning? Anyone?
Love what Nicole wrote on her twitter #snOOki: "OMG! I'm a NYTimes Bestselling author."
OMFG! LMFAO! I mean, SHIT!
Hate all you want. I don't care. This feels freakin' GREAT.
January 18, 2011
It's been a ridiculously long time since my last post, and I beg forgiveness, as usual. I've been busy. Got a deadline for the Good Housekeepers, and those crazy broads mean BIZ-NATCH. If my article is one day late, and they'll come after me with sharpened spatulas.
Do not mess with women's magazine editors. They will cut you. Seriously. I'm sending in 3,000 words, and it'll run at 2,000.
The article is quite current, given the Tiger Mom controversy. It's called "The Passion Problem: How to Help Your Child Find His Spark." Unlike Amy Chau, I do not enforced extra-curricular piano and violin, although both my kids took piano for seven years (shout out to Debbie Deane!), and Lucy has been sawing away at the violin for three (long) years now. My aim is to make sure my daughters are proficient at basic life skills (hitting a tennis ball, skiing, reading music, speaking a foreign language, etc.), and to find their particular passion organically, via trial and error. If anyone wishes to share wisdom on this subject, you have three hours and counting until I send in the piece.
1. The King's Speech. As the English would say, "Brilliant!" Truly, a visceral movie experience. Re-reconfirming mad love for Colin "Mr. Darcy" Firth.
2. The Fighter. The boxing scenes were difficult to watch, and listen to. When I wasn't covering my face and ears, I was enthralled. Lots of flashy Acting, which I love almost as much as I hate boxing.
3. Re-reading Wuthering Heights/Jane Eyre in anticipation of the new J.E. movie and catching up with the new BBC production of W.H., that I've missed most of, but will get on demand. New appreciation for W.H., in how hard it must have been for Bronte to tell a story through an unreliable narrator in hindsight, and still keep the scenes "showy" vs. "telly." The action of the first half of the book is an old woman gossiping with a man who's sick in bed. It's a novel about telling a story. This style is too passive for modern readers, and a challenge for any writer. I'd love to write a novel about four women having dinner, telling their stories, and then going home. Maybe I WILL.
4. Andrew Shaffer's Great Philosophers Who Failed At Love. Very fun collection of short bios of big brains with puny hearts. The megaminds of history were all horribly blighted lovers, spouses and boyfriends. Lots of pervs and cheaters among the mental elite. Alas, only a few females are included. Not Shaffer's fault. Back in the day, women philosophers got no respect.
My last post, I asked blog readers to send in their fantasy ghostwriting gigs. Here're the responses:
Julia Roberts (I actually had a dream about working with her)
James Franco (who does his own writing, sadly)
Big names, all of them. None of these people were on my list (which I can't jinx by revealing). My ultimate fantasy job, which I know will never happen: Joan Jett. I heard she's been approached by many hopeful editors and writers over the years, but always refuses. If you're reading this Joan, reconsider! The world needs to hear your story. Memoir, fiction, small, big, doesn't matter. If you want to write a book about how much you love pizza and cats, I'd be ALL OVER THAT. Call me...
January 8, 2011
It's been only a few days since Snooki unleashed "A Shore Thing" on an unsuspecting planet. Never in a million years would I have thought Ellen DeGeneres, Morgan Freeman and Anderson Cooper would read aloud from a book I had something to do with. Making fun? You bet your badonk! Isn't that the point of LIFE?
Pre-The Friggin' Novel, this blog had been visited by 74 countries, mainly by pervs who were cruising for "naked middle-aged hotties." Post-TFN drop, the ranks have puffed to 85 countries, nearly half the countries on earth. Plan for world domination, inching closer to completion!
Thinking about my next collaboration job. Personally, I'd love to work with . . . well, if I wrote it down, it won't happen. I do have someone in mind, for a non-fiction idea.
ATTN five blog readers: What is your dream celeb collaborator job? E-me! I'll post next week.
In non-Snooki news, my daughter Maggie, 15, got her braces off this week, and she looks absolutely amazing. Big moment for her, but not so much for the orthodontist who snapped the metal out, fit the retainer, and sent her on her way. A nice perspective lesson: One person's life changing event is another person's day at the office. I got photos, none of which Maggie will let me post (NOW she's modest??).
A few cultural notes:
1. Lisa Kleypas. At a recent important meeting (tequila top of the agenda) with my editor at St. Martin's (the lovely and talented Jen Enderlin), and a few groovy broads from the marketing dept, we were complaining how many Regency romance authors held back on the heat. Jen recommended Kleypas. I purchased Married By Morning on the Kindle (bleeding me dry; it's do damn EASY to buy). Read it. Loved it. Bought a few more in the series and gobbled like bonbons. I can see why romance novels are the fastest growing market for ebook sales. You can read your smut, half the price of a hardcover, and no one knows of your dirty little secret. My husband had no idea I spend a few days drooling over slick English rogues. So much mocking, spared. Thanks, Jen, for the hot tip. Thanks Ms. Kleypas for the purple (throbbing) prose.
2. The Craigslist Killer movie on Lifetime. Watched it. Was horrified and yet compelled. Read a piece by a sex worked on The Daily Beast, complaining that the victims weren't portrayed as fully fleshed out characters, and that the made-for-TV movie dissed prostitutes by giving the duped fiancee the true "victim" status in the narrative. Interesting perspective. BUT—the killer himself didn't think of his victims as people with lives, hopes and dreams. The story was told from Philip Markoff's POV, after all. He was a psychopath, not sympathetic to hookers, girlfriends, mothers, anyone.
3. Sarah Palin's "Alaska" CANCELED after one season. Glad to see TLC came to its senses and took the animal killer's reality/propaganda show off the air. Now that her TV career is over, as I predicted months ago in the HuffPo, Palin should be announcing her candidacy right around . . . now.
January 4, 2011
Welcome book lovers, critics and bloggers. Today was certainly interesting—and a bit harrowing, to be completely honest. Never thought a lighthearted comedy could be so enraging. Strange.
My message to Snooki fans: Now would be a good time to prove certain factions WRONG, and get a copy of A SHORE THING. Show 'em you CAN read! If you can spend $25 dollars on a pouf wig and leopard print dress for Halloween, you can drop $16 to buy the book on amazon (widget left). You will read it, and laugh until you puke Ron Ron Juice. And then you'll be thin enough to squeeze into a Lycra tube dress for a night of clubbing. Friggin' seriously!
My message to Snooki haters (and I mean the bitter, rabid scarily savage ones—not you, Anderson Cooper): Lacking a sense of humor is not something I'd advertise. You might want to seek help about the depth of your rancor. It's not healthy. Just saying...
January 2, 2011
Forgive me, peops, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last blog post. I need penance, but not sure what that means. I'll talk to my lapsed Catholic husband about it later. In the meantime, I'll just mutter a few "Hail, Snookis."
So. The holidays happened. For Xmas, we drove to Pittsfield, Maine, and had a festive holiday time with the Quints. Thanks again, Mary, Sue, Rich, Dave, Pat and Tom for hosting and making us comfortable. Highlights of the trip:
1. Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper. We got the audiobook of this memoir for the 900 miles round trip. The story of a girl and her blind cat (named after the Greek poet Homer: also blind; author of the Illiad and Odyssey) kept us entertained and amazed for hours. Our hearts were sufficiently warmed by Cooper and Homer's adventures. Like most pet memoirs, the animal represented a fleshy and furry metaphor for what was missing in the author's life—in this case, the courage to make daring, blind leaps of faith. Homer and Cooper took turns saving each other throughout the book, most touchingly in the 9/11 chapters. Cooper's harrowing account of rescuing her cats from her Red Zone apartment made us cry as we drove on I-95, heading toward New York, our battle-scared home city. I told the girls my own 9/11 story, which overlapped briefly with Cooper's (in Brooklyn Heights, where else?).
2. Walking across Sibley Pond. Calling it a "pond" is deceiving. Sibley is a huge body of water, large lake size by my standards. In the summer, we swim and fish there. This winter, for the first time since we'd been going to Maine, we walked across the frozen expanse, from Sue and Tom's cabin to Eagle Island a quarter mile away. I was terrified we'd fall in, but Rich, a Mainer to the bottom of his Bean boots, assured us it was safe. When we returned, we warmed our feet by the roaring fire Sue built on the bank. I felt like a real country girl, even in my faux fur scarf and black everything else.
3. The food. There was much of it, all good, especially Nancy Quint's homemade candy.
4. The company. The Quints are a massive family. Scores of them, several generations, cycled in and out of Mary's house all week. Coming from the comparably small clan Frankel, the variety and depth of the clan Quint is always impressive.
5. Xmas morning. Yeah, we spoiled the kids rotten. Rotten! They were appreciative beasts, though.
6. The blizzard. We drove back to New York on Sunday. Yes, the day of blizzard. Wisely, I made a precautionary reservations at a hotel in Hartford, Connecticut (two rooms; one for Steve and I, one for the girls), just in case the driving got really bad. The storm hit us around noon, in the middle of Massachusetts. An hour and a half of white knuckle driving later, we pulled into the underground garage at the Hartford Crown Regal off I-91, relieved and grateful to get off the road. Nice hotel, btw. The girls and I made use of the gym. We had dinner and drinks at the bar with other stranded travelers. As the snow piled out outside (our room on the 15th floor had glorious views of four highways, which, on this snowy night, was beautiful), we hunkered down safely, happily, with the heat cranked.
On New Year's Eve, the girls and I partied like it was 2009! Daryl Chen, Maggie, Lucy and I began the night at Queen, a local Italian place. A real hidden treasure, Queen is located on Court Street between a McDonald's and a Popeye's. On the outside, it looks like nothing. But inside—starched table clothes, black vested waiters, a serious eater vibe. Viva Italia! I had linguine with a white clam sauce that nearly brought tears to my eyes.
Stuffed and happy, we rolled to the movie theater a block away to see Tron Legacy 3D. I can watch Jeff "The Dude" Bridges for two hours, no problem. He played a dual role: as he appears today, and a digitally remastered version, circa twenty years ago. The movie was visually compelling, if plot anemic. I'd give it a B+.
Apres flick, we had champagne at our place before quickly heading back outside to the Promenade to see the midnight fireworks show over the Statue of Liberty. A great night of food and fun, spend with a dear friend and my cool daughters. It could have been better only if Steve were with us. Alas, he always works on New Year's Eve. By union rules, it's the best paid night of the year of musicians and actors. He can't turn down the money, and I wouldn't want him to disappoint all those Gilbert and Sullivan freaks who come out year after year. Why they want to sit through Mikada—again!—amazes me. God bless the freaks, though. They keep us in Ramen and polyester.
December 16, 2010
Bad blogger! It's been over a week since my last post. Sorry, faithful boob lovers. Not much to report, alas. A few cultural notes:
1. The Help. Finally read it. A bit slow, but that is the Southern way. Funny to think The Help and Mad Men share a time frame. Mad Men doesn't tackle race head on, though. I remember reading Matthew Weiner defend the sidestep, saying the issue wasn't prevalent in the ad culture at the time. The black nanny was treated appallingly by Betty Draper, but she wasn't a glorified slave either. Anyway, not a great sign that I kept reflecting on Mad Men while paging through The Help. But I'm glad I read it. Glad to process it and join the conversation.
2. Black Swan. Lots of reviewers have made comparisons to other ballet movies or horror pix. The central theme reminded me of Fight Club. A mentally-created alter ego/"bad" self that beats up on the repressed, sexless impotent "good" self, without the conscious awareness on the part of the real personality. Definitely worth seeing for Portman's performance. I would call it "total commitment as an actress," a comment I often reserve for Ann Margaret's in Tommy. What a joy to see Barbara Hershey on screen again. She was sorely missed, and is a wonder in all her ballet mom creepiness here.
3. A Shore Thing, aka The Friggin' Novel, aka, the Snooki novel. I have my very own hot-off-the presses first-run edition right here, staring at me on my desk. Personally, I think it's the funniest, sweetest and liveliest chick lit novel to be released in the last ten years. But maybe I'm prejudice. You'll have to read it and judge for yourself.
Winter break starts tomorrow, thank God. I have been running every day in anticipation for holiday feasts. An article in the NYTimes today reported that a pre-breakfast run, or a fasting run, is the best defense against Xmas weight gain. I'm shifting my workouts to from the afternoons to the mornings, just in case this is actually true.
December 8, 2010
Okay! Some improvements on the site. Note on the bar above, a new page option called "Store." Please click, and see my under construction store of, at the moment, just my books. I plan to build widgets for recommended books, stuff, music, products, etc. Also, on the left, I'm replacing book covers with widgets. A good thing? Crassly commercial and you hate? Let me know! Last, links to facebook and twitter on the left. Please follow and/or friend me! THANKS!
December 6, 2010
I have had my annual early winter cold, peops. And I've made a significant discover, re: feeling better faster. The important finding, you read it here first: Do NOT drink tea. Tea does you no good. Especially herbal and/or green. Just take the tea pot your grandmother gave you, and throw it out the window. Did it do your grandmother any good? I mean, not to be harsh, but she's dead. I drank pot after pot of tea of many favors, and felt worse and worse with each acidic cup. I could have floated to China and back for all the tea I drank. Despite this, I spent three days in bed, chafing my delicate nasal membranes and coughing up lung bits.
But this morning, I got off the tea-t. I made a strong pot of COFFEE, my usual hot beverage of choice, and drank it, all four cups. The pot is empty, and I feel fucking GREAT. I feel like I can actually DO something today, besides sleep and produce mucus. I will never turn my back on coffee again. Never.
And, no, I'm not making a extended Tea Party metaphor here. Although, heh, yeah, I won't even bother. No need.
The one thing that sustained me during my illness: The Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn. Incredible as it might seem to my five readers, although I am a big fan of the Regency romance (and who isn't, I ask ye), I have never read Ms. Quinn's novels before. Now that I have a fantastic Kindle, I downloaded "The Duke and I," for $8, read it, loved it, and proceeded to download the next three in the series, which I read between sips of infernal TEA. Although Quinn's novels aren't as steamy as most period romances, the dialogue is as clever and sophisticated as any literary comedy. Swear. Also unlike most in the genre, Quinn spares the reader fifteen "hrrumps" on each page. In one book, she even eludes to the overuse of the word "insufferable" when describing a roguish, rakish hero in other romances. That made me laugh out loud. Anyway, thank you Ms. Quinn, for getting me through my cold.
I also managed to lift my head to watch two indie movies, both very impressive.
1. Me and Orson Wells. Richard "Slackers" Linklater's charming behind the scenes look at Well's groundbreaking modern-day-dress 1937 production of "Julius Caesar" through the eyes of a 17-year old wannabe actor, played by Zac Efron. Before, I thought Efron was a pretty boy, no chops, flash in the pan. But now? He's simply irresistible! And talented! I'd like to adopt him. Anyone would love his movie, old, young, theater fans or newbies. It's period fun, with a somber end note. The young lovers look out on a pre-war New York, and tell each other how excited they are to be young, at the beginning of things. An innocent, optimistic moment, a hovering pause in history, right before WWII changed the world. The Efron character, in four years time, might've gone to war and died. But at least he had his one glorious moment to shine.
2. Lovely and Amazing. I'd long wanted to see Nicole Holofcener's movie about sisters, mothers and daughters. An alternate title could have been "Lost in Los Angeles." Each character was as hopelessly vane, neurotic and needy as the next. Catherine Keener's character was so desperate to cling to her youth, she spend her days on arts and crafts projects, watching cartoons, and finally, having a fling with a high school boy, played by an almost unrecognizably young Jake Gyllenhaal. Emily Mortimer was an aspiring starlet/dognapper, who was obsessed with her weight and appearance. The mother, Brenda Blythe, was so lonely, she adopted a crack baby and had liposuction because she wanted to date the plastic surgeon. Distasteful characters, and yet, fascinating relationships and neurosis. Not a single likable person the entire movie. I couldn't look away.
So that's what a pot of coffee gets you. A VERY long post. And now, off to the supermarket for the first time in a week.
December 2, 2010
This is so cute, especially the kitteh at the end.
November 28, 2010
My shout-out to North and South Dakota has been heard. This blog has been read by citizens of every state in America and the District of Columbia. I am coast to mother fucking coast, peops. Although, to be honest, some readers have found themselves here by way of kooky google searches. Would the person who searched "breast pressed against shower glass" please . . . just . . . go masturbate somewhere else. There is NOTHING for you here, I swear it. Same thing for whomever searched "cute naked big boobed girls." I mean, I'm flattered and all. But totes skeeved out.
God as my witness, I'll never type BIG BOOBS again. Even if it drives traffic from North and South Dakota.
So. Thanksgiving happened. We had a little pre-party here the weekend before. Lovely co-hosts Daryl Chen and Jeanie Pyun and I roasted a 25-pound turducken (boneless chicken crammed into a boneless duck inserted into a boneless turkey, with rice stuffing between each layer), and served it to several dozen hungry guests. I made gravy—from scratch—with the pan drippings. Nary a feather was leftover. The vodka flowed like wine. The wine flowed like beer. I got a bit drunky at my own party. So did everyone else, so my stumbling wasn't noticed or remarked on (to my face). Nothing broke, for which I am very thankful.
Howie and Judy hosted the official Turkey Day, and put on a heckuva dinner. I ate non stop for days. Gross. The person who googled "cliff notes thin is the new happy" will be disappointed to learn that (1) there are no Cliff Notes for my memoir, and (2) I am restricting my eating, officially. Not a diet per se. I'm never dieting again. But for the weeks until Xmas, I'm cutting way back on sugar, and upping my gym visits. Has to be done. The Not Diet allows for judicious, emotionally-stable scaling back when clothes feel tight.
Last night the entire fam went to Fiorello's for dinner (beyond delicious), followed by the Saturday evening performance of Mozart's "Cosi fan Tutte" at the Metropolitan Opera House. It's a good opera for kids, with slapstick double takes, ridiculous mistaken identity, flirty dimwits and a bawdy chambermaid. Musically, it's lighthearted and boucy, with a couple soaring arias. The girls and I got super dressed up. I wore the mink cape Mary Quint gave me (sup, Mary!), and felt like a red hot mama. FYI: I would never buy fur. But since the minks that gave their lives for this particular cape died twenty years before I was born, I can't see the harm in giving their sacrifice meaning by, er, wearing them. Lucy sported the matching pillbox hat. She looked rad. Thanks for the tix, H&J!
Thankful for an excellent holiday weekend, fam and friends. Thankful I slept until noon today. Thankful, naturally, for my loyal (honestly, why?) readers. Thankful my colonoscopy of last week was clear. Thankful for new work opportunities (a couple of assignments from the Good Housekeepers—both parenting stories I desperately NEED to research and report). Loathe to say "all is well" for fear of the evil eye. So I'll say "things suck so hard," and be safe.
November 19, 2010
Now I know how to reach readers in Wyoming, New Mexico, Nebraska and Montana: Write about Sarah Palin. According to Google Analytics, this website got hits from residents of the above mentioned states in the two days since my "Alaska" review went up on the HuffPo. I'd waited six weeks for them. I could have written fifteen blogs about Hillary Clinton, and nothing. One cheap little paragraph about Sarah Palin, and look what happens. So. Telling. I welcome my friends from the great North and South West. We're not divided here! We're united!
Only two states left, until I have readers nationwide: North and South Dakota. My fear is that, among the ten people who live in those states, only two of them can read. And only one of them likes comedy, or books about woman who aren't whores, don't blow shit up and/or kill animals for fun. Am I wrong? Please correct me. Shout out to anyone in the Dakotas! If you can read these words without moving your lips, if you own a computer, email me and tell me to FUCK OFF! I long to hear from you.
Meanwhile, George Bush is a plagiarist. Have you heard that one? His memoir, which was cobbled together by researchers and "collaborators" included lifted passages from books by his advisers. See, I don't believe that Bush knowingly stole quotes without acknowledging the work of others. I'd bet my five-strong readership that he never read any of the books by his advisers. I'd bet he never read HIS OWN MEMOIR. He can plead ignorance, and not a single citizen in this world would doubt it.
Most recently read novels:
1. Freedom by Jon Franzen.
2. The Privileges by Jon Dee.
3. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris.
4. The Ask by Sam Lipsyte.
Four literary novels by male authors, all of them received blow jobs and kudos from critics. I'll go out on a limb and guess that all of these authors are Jewish (except Dee), upper middle class, raise in suburban wastelands. The common themes were barely functional families, white man's guilt, disillusionment, loneliness, self-doubt, alienation, searching for something that can't be found. Etc. Downers, basically.
Freedom was an accomplishment, highly readable, except I skimmed a lot of the overpopulation/bird watching parts.
The Ask was clever, and funny, which is rare in a literary novel.
The Privileges: Not sure why the reader should care about the ups and ups of a charmed super rich, physically blessed couple and their perfectly gorgeous children. It was perplexingly devoid of conflict. A lot of near misses, actually. Almost conflicts. Is an almost bad event in a life of grand luxury and privilege supposed to be suspenseful? I don't get this book at all.
The Unnamed: Another exercise in bafflement. The plot—a man starts walking and can't stop—was a giant Kafkaesque metaphor. If you like it, great. If not, you're out of luck for the entire story. I was irritated by the daughter. In literary books by men, if you want to dramatize that a young female character is troubled, just make her fat. And goth.
The brightest spot in my run of books by men: Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. Not a literary novel, but a down and dirty memoir about food, filth and finding yourself. Loved it.
But enough by men. I'm heading back into cozy mysteries, juicy romances, sexy thrillers and weepy women's fiction until further notice.
November 16, 2010
The plan for world domination continues. In the last six weeks, this blog has been visited by citizens of 60 countries, and every continent (except Antarctica) and 46 states (as well as the District of Columbia). What this proves: My five blog readers do a heck of a lot of traveling. Dang, you guys get around. Thanks to one and all. I appreciate the hits.
Colonscopy tomorrow. That's probably TMI already, so I'll quit while I'm behind.
November 9, 2010
Congrats to Sarah and Paul for running the NYC Marathon! You are both amazing and gorgeous.
Halfway through "Freedom," on my brand new Kindle (an early b-day gift from my thoughtful husband). So far, it's brill. I'll review on the blog shortly.
My horoscope today said I was entering an introverted period. Which made me wonder: What what was I in BEFORE? I mean, I barely leave my apartment. I will be making a personal appearance later today, though. You can find me, around 2PM, at the Y on Atlantic Avenue. I will be jogging on the treadmill, listening to the pod, and trying to ignore the sweaty people around me. If you bring a book, I will sign it.
He-ah! Just imagining someone tapping me on the shoulder at the gym to sign a book makes me donkey snort.
My piece on Sexual Dry Spells is done. While writing it—for many months on and off—it felt like I was in an inspiration dry spell. Not every assignment is from the heart. I'm glad this one is finally finished, and that I can move on to something that really matters to me. Not sure what that will be just yet. Depends on which of my pitches (several are circulating to the usual suspects) gets approved. Rest assured, whatever the subject matter, I will care about it—deeply!
Today, I caught up on personal/family biz-natch (bills, appt's, etc). Tomorrow, I am starting A New Novel. I thought I'd try to match the whirlwind pace of my summer ghostwriting job, aka "The Friggin' Novel." I had a very tight deadline and managed to produce 1600 words per day, every day, until done, followed by a few weeks of ten-hour-days editing. Living, breathing, eating and shitting TFN for, lo, those many weeks was intense. I'd never tried to write a novel that way before—and I liked it.
So. The New Novel. I have a title and the inspiration (thanks to Dana Isaacson, as always, lovely and talented). It's a strange feeling, opening a new file to start a project that might take months to complete. It'll be a relief, too. I don't feel quite right if I'm not working on a book. If you think this post today is a procrastination, you are fucking RIGHT. But no excuses for tomorrow. Unless, you know, something comes up...
November 4, 2010
God, I love this.
November 3, 2010
Today is the 10th anniversary of my first husband Glenn's death. It's always a difficult day. This year, sandwiched between Halloween and my colonoscopy (gross), it's especially strange. Ten years is a long time, but I remember the night well, in a seared into my brain way. We honor Glenn tonight. Candles, etc. A drive to the grave on Sunday. For all of us, life goes by pretty fast. For some, even faster. Deathiversaries tap the brakes. I slow down, and remember to remember.
In other news, I am very disappointed with California. First you blow Prop 8 (you fixed that mistake, but still). Now you reject Prop 19. If America can't count on California to do the groovy thing, we, as a nation, are fucked. Andrew Cuomo, I voted for you. I wasn't so thrilled by your vow to keep pot illegal in New York. Think of your legacy, man! Don't you want to be remembered for doing something big? Then again, gay marriage should come first. (Still quite ashamed of New York for voting down that initiative.) Maybe next year.
November 2, 2010
Election day. Please vote. Vote with your intellect, your heart, but not your anger and fear. I'd be a hypocrite if I said, "Don't be a hater." My new memoir is called "It's Hard Not to Hate You." I strongly support righteous anger and hate. But ignorance? No. Just, no. I've been astonished by the ignorance of political hotheads (Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, for examples). They're loud and proud about their own damn ignorance. Why is it a positive quality in American politics, that the educated and informed are trashed for being "elitist?" I WANT our elected officials to be smarter and better educated than I am. I want our politicians to be the smartest people in the room. Celebrating stupidity might be the American way of life, which is fine for reality TV and rom-coms. Stupidity in entertainment is GREAT. But not in politics.
In other news, Vermont has finally found its way here (must have been lost in the foilage). Yay! My fan in the Green Mountain State hasn't emailed her address for a free book. I hope she does, whomever she is. The only states unshaded on my map: Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming. Consider yourself warned, peops. I'm COMING FOR YOU!
November 1, 2010
A great Halloween on our block, as usual. We gave out 2500 pieces of candy, one at a time, in two hours. And we probably could have doled out another 2500 if we had 'em. Thanks, Howie and Judy, for coming in, and eating my lasagna (one meat, one veggie). Howie will probably post some shots on his blog (see my perma links below, right). Here's a picture of Lucy as Madonna, taken at a holiday party by Ann Billingsley, friend and brill photog.
October 29, 2010
My five bloggers know why this photo of Joan in costume with Snooks gave me a particular thrill, as I sat around in my bathrobe today, hungover, barely able to open my friggin' eyes. Penelope Green—I blame you! Thanks for dinner last night with "the loud women," as P's daughter calls us.
October 26, 2010
October 25, 2010
UPDATE: I was so impressed by the NYTimes profile, and I needed more sources for my "Thriving During a Sexual Dry Spell" article for Self, I called Patti Stanger for an interview.
She replied personally to my email. She answered her own phone. No star tripping from her (although she named-dropped her best friend Jenny McCarthy, like, five times). Any-hoo, I told her I was from Short Hills, too. We went to the same elementary school. She was a reg at Don's, a diner/bakery, the first job I was ever fired from. Patti loves and cherishes Millburn Deli joes as we all do (Judy McG: talking to you!). Spoiler alert: The Millburn Deli will actually appear in an upcoming Millionaire Matchmaker show. Well now!
She had a lot to say about sexual dry spells, too. If you're stuck in one, "pluck your eyebrows, straighten your hair and trim your bush," she advised. Once face/head/body hair is thwacked into submission, you will send out sexual vibes potent enough to tweak a nipple on the top of Ol' Smokey. Soon enough, you'll get all the wood you can chop in a thousand lifetimes, says Patti.
The power of plucking. Who knew it was so intense?
Fun interview. Thank you, new BFF Patti Stanger. Next time I munch a joe, I'll think about trimming my bush.
October 23, 2010
If any of my New Jersey blog readers do remember Patti from MHS, e-me! I'll post the stories. I can almost see Patti walking the hallways of MHS in a self-conscious tall-teen girl crouch. Her type of female—loud, strong-willed, balls-to-the-wall, quick, sharp, aggressive, etc.—would not make her popular with the princes of Short Hills. They tended to like their girls tiny, meek, servile and stupid—or the blank-eyed appearance of stupidity. If Patti was anything like me, she failed miserably to find dates/mates on high school. But failure is where the learning happens. She might not be a professional match-maker today if she were a popular blond cutie way back when. Six degrees of Stanger: In a future episode, she'll attempt to mate Judith Regan (ex mistress of convict Bernie Kerik). I have friends who worked for Ms. Regan, known in publishing as certifiably batshit crazy, who will take tremendous joy watching the "How I Did It" OJ Simpson editor humbled under Patti's ruthless advice. Heh! Now that's good TV.
Other famous Short Hills/Millburn natives who must have done MUCH BETTER as adolescent daters:
October 18, 2010
Welcome MSNBC readers. I just learned that my piece in Self has been reprinted on the MSN network. I'll take this opportunity to thank all the readers who've sent email already, some expressing concern for my health. I'm absolutely fine. I have a colonoscopy next month, which I am dreading, naturally. I don't miss getting my period, AT ALL. It's almost like being a man—but in a good way.
In non-health related news, the fam and I did the Atlantic Tunnel tour yesterday. The world's oldest subway tunnel was allegedly filled in and buried in 1861 (the same year my brownstone was built). In 1981, urban explorer Bob Diamond found a secret entrance, broke through a brick wall, and found the ghost tunnel. Reportedly, it is inhabited . . . by ghosts. And vampires. And zombies. It is close to Halloween, after all. We didn't see any scary creatures during our tour, but being four stories underneath Atlantic Avenue was pretty creepy. Sadly, my photos suck. The pix on the tour website are eerie and cool. Link below.
My fan base is now spread to 35 countries and 40 states. I am holding a candlelight vigil for Vermont. Or, better yet, a contest: The first person to email me from Vermont gets a signed copy of any of my books. Second prize? Two of my books! But seriously. Wake up and smell the Green Mountain coffee, Vermont!
October 12, 2010
How can it be, that my five blog readers now span 25 countries and 35 states, but none of them are from VERMONT??? I mean, dang. I consider the cheddar state to be my second home. I live in Thetford each summer. Granted, the 14th colony is among the puniest of states, population wise. As they say, more cows live there than people. And none of the cows read my blog, that much I'm sure of. Perhaps Vermonters are still mad at me for The Girlfriend Curse. Or my NYTimes article about the oxymoronic concept of "Vermont Style." Maybe I'm just a city slicker flatlander, and will never earn the respect of organic yogurt mawing hippy farmers, from Brattleboro to St. Johnsbury.
I expect Alaska to dis me. And North Dakota. But VT? Really?
Go ahead, Vermont. Ignore me. Or fling maple syrup acid in my face. No matter. I still love you!
Maryland? You can go fuck yourself.
Kidding! I kid Maryland. Love the crab cakes, seriously.
Is Rhode Island even a state?
This weekend, the fam took in the sights in Lyndhurst, NEW JERSEY (I have many fans in my natal state! Yay, NJ!), inside the Medieval Times castle for some mead, hearty fare and jousting. Watching a joust was on Lucy's list of things to do before she died. Now she can check that off, and move on to getting her first kiss. The show was pretty cute, including a narrative about a kidnapped prince, a long suffering princess, a betrayed king and evil knight of the realm. We sat in a small stadium, at "tables" (like in any dinner/theater/cabaret), and were served by wenches and serfs. The wench who poured our mead called us Lord, Lady and Princesses. Maggie was dragged. As badly as Lucy wanted to go, Maggie (aka The Teen) didn't. She'll never admit it, but I this she was impressed by the spectacle, highly choreographed combat (with sparks when the swords clashed). Go to goldstar.com for half-off tix, if you have a healthy dose dork in you (as I do).
October 7, 2010
Google analytic continues to define my humble, often pathetic existence. Yesterday, my blog readers spread to 15 countries in 25 states.
Thank you. Glad you've come. My plan for world domination continues unabated. Just one question, though, for my fan (just the one) in India (a nation of 1,000,000,000 people): How did you get here? And why, pray tell, have you come???
I can only assume you arrived by mistake. Although, since you are here, I dare you to ask three friends to visit this site, just for shits and giggles. I'll see you on my map. And I will hoot. Yes, I will hoot like a drunk lesbian in a bowling alley, with excitement (shout out to Nancy and Kelly).
Come on India! Love the curry! I have a statue of Ganesh on my mantel. As well as a the Buddha (with the head of a cat, but whatevs). If three more people from India read this blog within the next week, I am going to Amin on Montague Street for dinner, and guzzling a huge bottle on Taj Mahal beer to celebrate.
Since this is the only thing I've got going on lately (apart from editing old stuff and slogging through parents' nights at school), I'm desperate for some excitement. Watching the global map turn green, territory by territory is pretty cool. Fun with graphics! Better than masturbating!
I really need to get out more.
October 5, 2010
I just signed up for google analytics for this blog. I highly recommend it to anyone (talking to you, Howie!). Now I know my five blog readers come from eight different countries, and ten different states. Apparently, I have many fans in Minnesota, and they can't all be Laura Billings! Shout out to Minnesota! Whoo, hoo! Go, er, Vikings??? And my peops in Croatia? You rock!
It's rainy and disgusting today, so I'm feeling GREAT.
Good celeb sighting last week (forgot to mention): Oliver Platt, at my daughter Lucy's soccer game. His kid was on the opposing team. He's taller than you'd think, but seemed cool, cheering , and cringing cutely when his daughter's team lost.
Back to the grindstone.
October 3, 2010
On Monday at ten on channel 7 (in New York), check out my brother-in-law Doug "Big Gay Ice Cream Truck" Quint on The Rachael Ray Show. Apparently, the girls and I are in the video package segment for approximately half a second. But! My kitchen (aka, the disco kitchen) gets a decent chunk of screen time. Congrats to Doug and Brian, for taking their ice creamy goodness to a national audience!
We have been very busy in Brooklyn Heights lately. Steve, Lucy and I took advantage of last weekend's free-all-day Water Taxi service. First, we ferried from Pier 6 (about three blocks from our door) to Governor's Island, where we stumbled upon the Vendy Awards. Doug and Brian were nominated again this year. Like last year, we forgot to get tix before they sold out (the event: all the best food/dessert trucks citywide served their best dishes to foodies all day long). We managed to sneak in. We ate. We drank. It was very (ful)filling. Big Gay Ice Cream didn't win the dessert category. Some organic slushie truck took top honors (fuckers). Doug did not walk away empty handed. He was awarded "Ms. Congenealtiy." An ironic title. For a sample taste of Doug's sass, watch Rachael Ray tomorrow. (If you're counting, Doug, that's TWO plugs in one post.)
After the Vendies, we ferried to the South Street Seaport, where Lucy stocked up on Madonna gear at Claire's (fingerless lace gloves, a big bow for her hair) for her Halloween costume. We ferried back to Pier 6 and vowed to "travel by water more often." I don't spend nearly enough time on the East or Hudson Rivers. That's going to change!
The Atlantic Antic was the very next day. Best ever street fair, organized by Karen Auster, a mom from the nabe and brilliant events planner. Congrats, Karen, on another job well done!
Early last week, a certain book announcement raised a ruckus all over THE WORLD. Lost two days reading blog posts/news entries about it. Honestly, it was a friggin' blast! Just saying...
This weekend, the girls and I applauded pal Stacy London's last performance in off-Broadway's "Love, Loss and What I Wore." The girls and I laughed, cried, the whole magilla. Stacy's run is over, but the show goes on. If you love clothes, or your mother, or your sister, go see this show! Discount tix available at the theater-goers bestie, www.theatermania.com.
Very tired. I'll have to rally to stay awake for Mad Men.
Thanks everyone, for your well wishes, re: my health. As I wrote in the Self article, I'm fine. Really. Not missing my uterus hardly at all. FYI: Even if you take estrogen, you will still get hot flashes. Little ones. Hot sparks. Just something to file away for future use.
September 17, 2010
Hello, peops! I'm back from the ghostwriting bubble, and can happily say that the job is, for the most part, done. Next up, work wise, I will do the final, final, final revises on the shopping novel (another ghost project), and then a couple mag articles for Self.
And then . . . what? A break from the keyboard? HA!! My five blog readers know that there is no rest in the mercurial world of mag/book publishing. The writer's life is a desperate one. We must chase our tails, our next jobs, the next idea, or perish in an anonymous void. Must push ON. And, for those of us lucky enough to have something to push ON to, we're grateful, as always, for the opportunity.
Tomorrow, Saturday, my brother-in-law Doug Quint, aka creator and purveyor of The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, will arrive here, in tornado tossled Brooklyn Heights, with a film crew from the Rachel Ray Show. He and his partner Brian will be featured on the cooking cutie's program. For B roll, the producers wanted to shoot Doug and Brian making ice cream recipes. Their kitchen is on the eensy side, so I have made the disco kitchen here available for their use. The fun part: Part of the B roll footage will be of me, Steve and the girls sampling the gay ice cream. Yum. I'll get some photos of the shoot and post.
Shout out to my sister, Alison, nesting in tornado tossed Sea Cliff. Hope you feel good, sistah, and are making Dan do EVERYTHING.
August 11, 2010
Wow! Over six weeks since my last blog. Well, this is hardly unusual during the summer. Last year, I went for two solid months without posting, much to my shame, and (surely) the relief of my five blog readers who are quite sick of reading about my plants, cats and recipes.
So, you can thank me for not boring you to death for six weeks. You're very welcome.
Got a new gig. I'm ghostwriting a novel in collaboration with a celebrity. As of yet, I am not at liberty to reveal who said celeb is—although I'm DYING to. Here's one hint, and only one:
I'm ghostwriting a novel, BITCH!
There. You can make your little guesses, and conject your little conjectures all you want. I will neither confirm nor deny, but feel free to send me an email with your crazy cottonpicking notions and you might get a second clue.
This job landed in my lap, and has a very short deadline. I said "yes" immediately, knowing that my relaxed summer vacation would be hardworking instead. While Anna catsat (THANKS AGAIN!) here in Brooklyn, the kids and hubbie hiked/shopped/swam in Vermont (thanks, Howie and Judy!) and fished/swam/kayaked in Maine (muchas gracias, Mary, Sue, Tom and Rich!). I pecked away at the keyboard inside, straining my brain, blocking my carpal tunnels. I did manage to catch a few fish myself, and ran a lot.
Actually, so far, this project has been an absolute BLAST. I've had some memorable and amusing phone chats with the celeb. He, She or It is full of ideas, which have been totes inspiring. I have found that, as I do more ghostwriting and collaborative jobs, I really enjoy working and plotting with others. It's just more fun to feel like part of a team than to strive and thrash away on my lonesome.
The kids are great. Maggie and Lucy loved camp, and are currently learning to draw and paint at Parsons. The cats are fine. Steve is great, doing a few quintets and runouts this month, as well as doing the lion's share of household duties while I try to make my deadline. He's a fucking PEACH, I swear it.
I promise to post again this week, and won't be a douche and disappear again for too long. I'm basically chained to the computer until mid-September, and will need to vent. And now, I go. Top Chef is starting in five, four, three . . .
June 29, 2010
Okay, here we go. Drunk blogging, for the first time ever. I expect to leave a trail of typos and grammatical errors behind me. So, the good news: The kids are at camp! Which explains why I'm hammered at 6PM on a Tuesday night. I worked out (yes, post surgery, I'm back to my gym compulsion; good thing, since I gained some weight while lulling in post-surgical sloth). I interviewed a source for my upcoming article for Self about THRIVING DURING A SEXUAL DRY SPELL (anyone who had ANY sight on the subject, I'm BEGGING you to email me right now), and then Steve and I decided to have lunch at Pete's, our local bar. Two hours later, here I blog, shit faced on vodka tonics (three!). No kids to pester me for dinner. No deadlines crushing. Just my handsome hubbie, four cats, a hot night, and a swimmy brain.
I love summer.
The source for the article: Hephzibah Anderson (say that ten times fast), a London-based journalist and author of the memoir "Chastened," about her one year self sanctioned celibacy. She was a decent interview. It went well. I need more sources, though. Seriously, five blog readers (except my parents): Send me emails about how you took yourself to new thrills and chills during a libidinous drought. I've learned, in my years on Earth, to ask for help when needed. I NEED HELP! Sexual droughts, for me, have been low points, not a time to learn and grow, not a golden opportunity to figure out the deeper meaning of desire. Sex is the deeper meaning of desire! But that might just be me. I am, by all accounts, and on the record, as very shallow.
Besides drinking in the middle of the afternoon, I have been immersing myself in inspiration, that is to say, reading, watching movies and going to shows. Some cultural reviews:
New Janet Evanovich: I don't even know what number she's up to. Sixteen? It's okay. Better than the last few, but still not as great and hilarious as back in the day (numbers 5 through 10) which were comic gold. Not to spoil the plot, but I'd like at least one decent sexy scene in 250+ pages from Evanovich, a romance novelist, instead of one set piece after another about about Stephanie Plum's reluctant bad-assness. I mean, in Plum books gone by, she gave us four or five sex scenes, with both Ranger and Morelli, within a single novel. The last few? We're lucky to get a kiss.
New Stieg Lawson, Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Genius, of course. Nora Ephron wrote a funny parady in the current New Yorker, about the Swedish names and places, how Lisbeth never smiles or emotes. Funny. I'd post the link if I had the technical know-how. The novel starts slow, but picks up fast. It's a great series, if sadistic, depressing, miserable, sad, fucked up and generally down-lifting.
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti: YA (what? you don't read YA books for fun? What kind of adult are you??). I absolutely loved this novel. Dickenisian, about an orphan who goes on a fabulous, if gritty, adventure to discover his true identity. The best character introduction of the year: A man who'd been been dug up by grave robbers, and turned out to have been buried alive. I mean, can you get more creative? It's brilliant! I heard from friends that Trini lives in my neighborhood. If you're reading this, Hannah: E-me! Let's lunch! Two cocktails! On me! (An offer to buy someone lunch? Proof I'm drunk.)
American Idiot on Broadway: Went with the kids and Daryl Chen before camp. So much fun. The most remarkable aspect: Hearing the songs I know so well sung by FEMALE characters. I loved it! Punk rock musical! A whole new animal for Bway, which could use some fresh ideas. It'll run for years and years (you heard it here last).
Race by David Mamet: Great play. We saw the new cast, with Eddie Izzard in the lead role. Typical Mamet, with blustering male leads and women who seduce/betray them. Funny, smart, provocative, compelling. The topic of race in America is dangerous, huge, emotional. The character could have gone on all night, and the audience would have been captivated. Great show. Go see.
Sondheim on Sondheim: A review of the legend and his work. We saw the very last performance, actually, so I can't send you out to see. Great to see the old songs sung by virtuoso voices, including the original Marion the Librarian, Barbara Cook. A nice night in the theater, but not as exciting intellectually as Race.
W.C. Fields' It's A Gift/The Bank Job: Steve has been educating me on the classics of comedy. I have to say, this broad slapstick stuff holds up. In "Gift," the marriage portrayed is, perhaps, the original put-upon husband, battle-ax wife act in comedy. I've decided to use that as the inspiration for my new novel, the one I started yesterday. It's just so FUNNY, how the wife nagged and ranted incessantly at her brow-beaten spouse. Don't know why it's so funny, but it just is. There's some vodka insight for you.
Big Lebowski: A movie I've seen about ten times now, and I notice new lines and jokes every single viewing. Good to watch every few years, for a fresher.
Escape From New York: Kurt Russell in his prime. Not very good, but he sure was cute!
That is all for now. I think I might need another drink to freshen my buzz. Steve, oh Steve!? Darling?! Fix me a drink, dear, and I'll blow you.
I hear him in the kitchen. He's such a good husband.
June 6, 2010
We've been bracing for thunder storms for three days now, but they don't come. It's been like holding your breath, except the air in your lungs is 90 degrees and thick as soup. Not to complain! I love hazy, horrible heat. It's my very favorite type of weather.
The kids get out of school next week, which means Steve and I can sleep late every morning. As I do every year, I'm looking forward to dropping the kids at camp, and having 3.5 blissful weeks of child-free debauchery with my sexy husband, especially so since he got a haircut last week.
Like women all over the world, I sent Steve to the barber with a downloaded image of George Clooney from "Up In the Air" (a good, not great, movie; best thing about it was GC's HAIRCUT). Steve dutifully handed it to the barber, who said, "You're the third guy to walk in with a George Clooney picture this week." As soon as I get batteries for my camera, I'm shooting and posting so you can see for yourself the beautiful end result. What have I ever done right, to be blessed with a husband who makes George Clooney look like the dog's dinner? Steve makes Daniel Craig look like the class dork.
The Passage by Justin Cronin: Satisfying. Inventive, chilling and engrossing. Compared to Stephen King's The Stand (which is inevitable), The Passage lacks an visceral connection to the characters. I didn't feel an emotional connection with any of them, although I wanted to know what happened next. B+
Sex and the City 2: Like a two and a half hour TV ad. But what a beautiful ad! I agree with the criticisms—thin plot, few laughs, crassly commerical—but I enjoyed it anyway. For fans of the show only. B-
Real Housewives of New York: I had an Ambien dream that I WAS Bethenny Frankel (no relation). I felt it all, the tension, stress, indignity, suffocation. What a relief it was, I thought after jerking awake, to be me. And I like Bethenny. She's my favorite RHONY. Imagine the nightmare of dreaming I'd turned into Jill Zarin! I might die in my sleep. Fascinating TV, of course. Of all of Kelly Bensimone's incredible comments, I was most mystified by her insistence that expressing emotion was "So 1979." People haven't had feelings for the last 31 years?? Meanwhile, the words "hate" "unhappy" and "hurt" roll off her tongue with ease. Doesn't she realize saying "I hate Bethenny" is expressing a FEELING? A+
Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunnant: I have LOVED Dunnant's previous novels (Company of the Courtesan, Birth of Venus), but this one, about a young woman forced into an Italian nunnery circa 1500, didn't get its hooks into me. I read half of it, skimmed the rest. A disappointment. Not Dunnant's fault. She wrote with lyrical beauty, raw emotion, fascinating period detail. I just couldn't get into the characters or setting as much as I wanted to. Oh, well. C+ (as a personal reading experience), A (for literary effort)
May 20, 2010
Two weeks to the day of my surgery. I feel pretty good. Honestly, the pain was bad for two or three days only. I kept taking the Oxycodone, though, for a full week, just for fun. The worst part of recovery has been abdominal swelling, what I've learned to call "swelly belly." Considering that my belly was already swelly BEFORE I went under the knife, the additional bloat means no jeans for the foreseeable future. My doc says it'll go away—eventually. Could be months! All the way through bathing suit season. Eh, who cares about a little sloshing? Not me! I'll let my belly slosh all over town if I want to. Hopefully, it won't come to that. But if it does, consider yourself warned.
I worked this week. The shopping novel (ghost project) is officially DONE. I've finished the final, final first draft edits. Next up, round two edits of "It's Hard Not to Hate You," the memoir. Then round two edits of "Four of a Kind," formerly knowns as "Poker Playing Mamas," my novel for Ballantine (release date: July 11, 2011). Then a few magazine article revises for Self and Good Housekeeping. And ONLY THEN, sometime in mid-June, can I work on something TOTALLY new, whatever that might be. I have a good idea (for a novel), and am looking forward to getting to it.
The container garden is AWESOME! I will post a very boring video shortly, that my sister can mock at her pleasure.
Special shout out to my friends and family: Mom, Dad, Alison, Dan, Rebecca, Daryl, Nancy, Dana, Judy McG, Paula. You made me feel loved and cared for before, during and after the surgery, which, despite my glib tone, was not fun in the least. I am so grateful for all of you.
Steve: You are a supreme human being, endlessly patient, sweet and adoring, and I do NOT deserve you, at all. Not even close. I'll try to make you remember why you married me soon, in a few weeks, when I've been given the go-ahead by my doctor.
May 5 2010
On a serious note, I've never had an operation before and don't have too much up close and personal experience with physical pain (other than running). From a writer's perspective, having some agony can only be a good thing. Expect to see me on the Pulitzer short list, but quick.
I'm caught up, book/mag wise. The memoir: one tiny revise from done. The ghostwriting novel: same thing. Article for Good Housekeeping on how to make teenagers share/care: submitted. Having a light post-cut work schedule helps, too.
Recovery book selection: The Passage, by Justin Cronin. Daryl Chen has secured a copy of what is touted to be the Big Book for summer 2010, and beyond. It's 800 pages of post-apoc vampire novel, and perfect for a week in bed. Thanks, Daryl!
Anyway, next time I post, I promise/threaten to include many photos of my rhododendron and clematis. Just try and stop me!
April 27, 2010
Joan goes from career highs, to lows, to highs again, in the course of the film. People come and go. Jobs appear and disappear. The constants: daughter Melissa, and their sweet-yet-codependent relationhip, and Joan's relentless professional ambition. It's described by at least one friend as an addiction. Fame hunting is the driving force of her life, the ultimate endurance test. Her need for $$$ is one explanation. Another, truer one: the longing to stay culturally relevant for one more year, year after year (forty of them, and counting). The story is sad, and triumphant and funny as hell. Joan is a pioneer and a survivor, and Ricki did a brilliant job of telling her story.
Go, Ricki! Go, Joan! Go SEE THE MOVIE!!!
April 15, 2010
Political note: For the first time since I went freelance in 1998, I am getting a tax refund. The ONLY reason, according to Curtis, my lovely and talented accountant, is the Obama tax cuts. My quarterly estimates, income and deductions were nearly identical to last years. And yet, for 2009, I will find relief (spelled C-H-E-C-K) in my mailbox soon.
So that's some good news! By now, my five blog readers have figured out: I am NOT among the nation's top ten percent earners. Ooops. Must have slipped my mind on the way to 45. Got married. Had kids. Bought an apartment. Published a book. Made my fortune?? Not yet. But that'll give me something to look forward to in my old age.
My mother complained about my bad blogger behavior. Okay, Mom. I'm SORRY! I've been BUSY, scraping and clawing to make my meager, bottom 90 percent earner income. I finished the revise of "It's Hard Not to Hate You." As usual, editorial comments always make a manuscript better. Thanks, Jen, for your guidance! I'm am humble and grateful, and finding it hard not to LOVE you! The ghost novel is on the very edge of being completed. And then, I'm going to take a break, relax with some magazine writing only for a while.
I'm having surgery in early May (I'll blog about that another time; not in the mood now), and have been warned not to expect to do much of anything for at least two weeks after. Honestly, I'm kind of looking forward to forced down time on pain meds, chilling, not working out or working at all. My friends are already forming a line for drug samples. They say that want to "help," bring me dinners, entertain the kids, but I know what they're really after! I might have to sleep with my vial of pills in my underwear.
Container garden: Nearly all my perennials came back, except one coreopsis. Jasmine, salvia, lavendar, clematis, pansies, daisies, there've all returned, despite a dry Spring and many sprays of cat urine. Damn that Ed. He's been a very naughty role model for Bunny, who has been digging in my planters all week. If they weren't so adorable, I might have a stern conversation with them.