Valerie Frankel's
Palace of Love

1/06 - 11/05

January 30, 2006

The playwright Wendy Wasserstein died of lymphoma today. I met her a few times in the late 1980s, which turned out to be her writing prime (I actually attended a preview of The Heidi Chronicles before it appeared on Broadway). She was a columnist for New York Woman magazine. It was my first job. I was a fact-checker, and had to talk to Wendy (as well as Merrill Markoe, Marcelle Clements and Barbara Ehrenreich) routinely and ask questions like, "Is it true that your dog farts?" Swear to god.

Wendy was incredibly sweet. She spoke with a high squeaky voice like a little girl, and was always patient and generous with peons like me. Which is more than I can say for other famous writers for that magazine. None of those I mentioned above; they're all great. Marcelle blurbed my first chick-lit novel. When I called Merrill Markoe years later to ask her to write for Mademoiselle, she pretended like she remembered me. Incidentally, I read The Psycho Ex Game, and gobbed it up.

Anyway, that time of MY life, aside from meeting writers I didn't have the experience or smarts to revere as much as I should have, was not the best. I was chronically single. I hated fact-checking and wanted to write my OWN column. My frustration was evident to one and all. When I got fired, I was told that I was too big for my breeches. I thought my direct boss said I was too big for those bitches (meaning the top of the masthead editors). She was fucking right. My breeches got a lot bigger, as the years passed, and fit more comfortably now.

I'm sad Wendy Wasserstein got sick and died. She was a genuinely good person who deserved all her gifts and successes. I vow to take care of myself, treasure every day, and encourage others to do so.

BTW, does anyone know: Why is it playwright, and not playwriter?

January 26, 2006

Must write about the eviseration on Oprah today. The poor bastard! James Frey could barely speak! His blood and guts were strewn about the stage. It was painful to watch. The essential question: Why did he embellish gratuitously?As I've mentioned before, simple exaggeration (an ex-boyfriend was gorgeous; you drank ten Cosmos last night) is par for the course. But changing facts as he did, to what end? Maggie said, "Better to write a truthful boring book than a sensational pack of lies." If Frey had cut all the lies out of the book, would Nan Talese have bought it? Would Oprah have picked it for her book club? James Frey did what he felt he needed to do to get published, which makes him the literary version of trailer park morons who'll do anything to get on the Jerry Springer show. Comparing James Frey to Holocaust deniers, that doesn't sit quite right with me. But, as one of Oprah's pundits said, I don't know much about addiction and the hard road to recovery. Upholding the truth in a memoir might be as crucial to an addict as the Holocaust is to world history. I hope not.

I couldn't help but feel sorry for the guy. Brings to mind something I heard at lunch the other day. An editor at a large women's magazine mentioned a survey they'd done, asking "If a genie appeared and said he'd grant you either a ten pound weight loss, or $10,000, which would you choose?" Most women took the weight loss. I wouldn't take either. You know how these things work. If you picked weight loss, you'd wake up with a chronic wasting disease. If you picked the money, you'd learn your parent died and left you an inheretance. Best not to wish for anything. Or to be careful what you wish for. I'm sure, when James Frey learned he'd been chosen by Oprah, it was the best day of his life. And now?

January 25, 2006

I have discovered Ryan Adams. Any other fans out there? My friend and fellow author Dave Kushner has been recommending him for years, and I finally decided to get some of his stuff on iTunes. I am so very glad I did. Not good for the treadmill. Green Day still takes the prize there. I don't have any concerts lined up for the new year so far, but next time Ryan Adams is in New York, I won't miss it. You hear that, Kush? Use your Rolling Stone connections and get us tix!

I've noticed that, on other author websites, there is usually a page alerting fans to upcoming appearances. Thought I'd do the same:

On Wednesday, January 25, at 4 PM, I'll be appearing at the Key Foods supermarket on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, New York, in the cat food aisle, where I will read excerpts from my new novel, Hex and the Single Girl, and purchase a large bag of Iams. There should be time at the end to sign books and take Q&A (suggested questions: "Aren't you going to pay for that?" and "Where are the Depends?"). Hope to see you later at Key Foods! Further updates on whenever I leave my apartment as they arise.

File under "I Heart My Marriage:" This Saturday, Lucy has a sleepover party to go to. Maggie will spend the night at her friend's house. Steve and I will be A-LONE. Other couples would probably take advantage of their freedom by making dinner reservations, or going to a show, or seeing another couple. Not us. We're going to buy a bottle of champagne, a Duraflame log (I prefer the "crackling sounds" to the "blue flame" ones), and have a little party for two by the fire. We are each other's cheap date. As the five people who read this blog know, if it's cheap, I just love it!

January 21, 2006

Catching up on some Zeitgeist reading lately, starting with two of the biggest books of last year:
"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseine.
"Case Histories" by Kate Atkinson.

I'm sorry to report, gentle readers of this blog (all five of you), that both books are about child rape. When not dealing directly or indirectly with that sunny plotline, both books swerve back to old fashion, garden variety rape and violence against adult women.

God, I am SO tired of plots that depend on child torture. And I'm continually mystified how, again and again, stories of incest, rape, mutilation, and torment (physical and emotional) of kids find snug solid spots in best seller lists. Honestly, is this the material YOU want to choose for peaceful nighttime reading?

Help me understand why these books are so popular. PLEASE! Anyone?

I'm halfway through Ian McEwan's "Saturday" now, another "must read" literary tour de force (reviews heeped praise). An untimely violent death has been foreshadowed since page one, so I'm waiting cynically to see who won't live to see the last page—naturally, it'll be either the main character's son or daughter. Because dead children make a point. They're sacrificial lambs in literature. Wives, girlfriends, and children. Expendible.

People have asked me if I'll ever write a "serious" novel. If writing a "serious" novel means killing or raping female and child characters, FORGET IT. Will never happen. Not my thing. Even when I wrote mystery novels in the early '90s (the Wanda Mallory P.I. series from Pocket Books—all are out of print now, but you can still find them used), I hardly ever killed female characters. Only in "A Deadline For Murder," my first, and I killed off a bitchy boss who had it coming (and bore no resemblance to my own bitchy boss at the time—I swear). Men got killed in my mysteries, and a woman solved the crimes. I liked that just fine.

Resolution for 2006: No books about rape and torture of women and children. I'm taking recommendations.

January 17, 2006

Last night, my friend Judy McGuire came over for dinner. Judy writes a sex advice column for the Seattle Weekly, and formerly for the New York Press until they replaced her a few months ago with a stripper/​hooker who was willing to pose in her underwear. Is that what it takes, to get a newspaper column? Another woman got her current newspaper column after writing a memoir about her fifteen plastic surgeries and pathetic string of drug-fueled meaningless affairs with losers.

This is why writers resort to exaggeration in memoirs. Unless the narrative reveals the author at his or her most disgusting, readers won't be impressed by the crawling and scrapping out of the hole. Memoirs used to be about when horrible things happened to decent people. Nowadays, they're about the despicable behavior of revolting people.

The James Frey fray has brought to light not only the veracity of first-person non-fiction, but also its content. Judy and I were talking about writing a fictional "memoir", as Anonymous, about our narrator's unsavory past as a teenage junky alcoholic plastic-surgery addicted sexually-abused daughter of a bigamist who lap-danced and whored her way through college. That's got best-seller written all over it!

Despite it all, I do feel sorry for Frey. If there's anything that'll drive him back into a heroin addiction, it's the abuse he's taking now. When news that some of his story was fabricated, hardly anyone in publishing was surprised. Liberties are taken all the time. I spoke at an NYU J-school undergrad class on Personal Essay writing. A student asked if you could lie. I said, "A little bit." A little bit of creative help could be called Prosetic License—crunching timelines, making yourself more articulate, etc. Making up the "fact" that you killed someone, or ran over a cop, well, that's just lying.

Here's the link to Judy's brilliant blog. She's always on the lookout for people to interview for her column, so if you don't mind divulging details about your sex life, Judy would be grateful to know.

Judy McGuire's Bad Advice
Friday The Thirteenth

Today is the first morning in weeks that Steve didn't have to go to a rehearsal or matinee, so we spent all of it in bed. He deserves it (his performance last night as the judge in Trial By Jury had the audience at City Center rolling in the aisles; as much as eighty-year-olds in suits can roll, anyway). The NYT, in their Mikado review yesterday, described Steve's Ko-Ko as "light of foot and voice, agreeably bent on scene stealing." The review was overall glowing. My only complaint is that it didn't mention Maggie's brilliant turn as the axe girl. Ah, well. She'll have to wait a bit longer for her first Times review.

As usual, in the new year, I freak out about money. Next week, I'm having dinner or lunch with three (count 'em) magazine editors. I am taking on water—I mean, WORK—and am ready to pitch.

My week of working out: Monday and Tuesday, YES. Wednesday, NO. Thursday, YES. Today, NO. Saturday, I'll workout while my kids are in their swim classes at the gym. Sunday happens to be MY BIRTHDAY. Steve has his last matinee that day, so I'd have to run in the morning, which I generally find jarring, but I'll make myself do it. Therefore, if all goes according to plan, I'll aerobicize five out of seven days. I'll weigh in on Sunday. Watch this space for the results of my experiment.

My birthday: I will be 41. My teen audience probably won't like to hear that (fortunately, none of the five people who read this website are that young). I can be 41, however, and still think like a 16 year old—and I often do. I'm not expecting much for the day. My daughters usually produce crayoned cards which are sweet (but, let's face it, hardly diamond earrings), and give me breakfast in bed (although they make a huge mess in the kitchen which I usually clean up; B-in-B is actually a zero sum gain). Steve, talented and handsome though he may be, is not a creative gift-giver. He usually looks to me for ideas. I'm stumped on my own behalf. I'd like a renovated bathroom (and a finished deck), but you can't wrap that in a box.

If he gives me an hour-long backrub, washes my hair, and then does a few . . . ACTS, I'll be quite satified (heh, heh, she said SATISFIED).

January 10, 2006

Fringe Girl news: Along with my essay and a promotional signed-book giveaway in CosmoGIRL!, Teen magazine will review the book in their April issue. Yippee! Thanks to Michele at NAL for keeping me informed, and doing the hard work of getting a book moved to the top of the pile.

As an experiment, I've decided to exercise at the gym every day this week. On dieting alone, I was losing WAY TOO SLOWLY. Two days down, five to go. Will I last? Well, I nearly blew off the gym today, and Steve, my beloved, said, "You said every day this week."

I replied, "Are you giving me shit?"

"Do what you want. Just don't whine to me later about your guilt."

Which was all he needed to say. I went to the fucking gym, and I had a pounding, thrashing wrestle with the treadmill.

Tomorrow, I suspect, I'll have to convince myself all over again. Or just have Steve do it, since he is clearly gifted at tugging the guilt strings, despite his non-Jewish upbringing.

January 9, 2006

This time of year—post-holiday, pre-birthday, only weeks before a new book comes out—I am a ping-pong ball of emotions. Fear, dread, excitement, anticipation, confusion, etc. Each new book brings a whole new cycle of expectation and reality. Sometimes, expectations are met, or exceeded. Sometimes, uh, not. Whatever happens will happen. I can count on that. And only that. Anyway, the lyrics below—courtesy of Billie Joe Armstrong—spoke to me today on the treadmill.


I've been waiting a long time
For this moment to come.
I'm destined
For anything at all.
Downtown, lights will be shining
On me, like a new diamond
Ring out under the midnight hour.
No one can touch me now
And I can't turn my back.
It's too late—ready or not at all.

I'm so much closer than
I have ever known—
Wake up

Dawning of a new era
Calling don't let it catch you.
Falling—ready or not at all.
So close enough to taste it
Almost, I can embrace this
Feeling on the tip of my tongue.

I'm so much closer than
I have ever known—
Wake up.

I've been waiting a lifetime
For this moment to come.
I'm destined for anything at all.

Color me stupid.
Good luck—
You're gonna need it.
Where I'm going—if I get there at all.

January 8, 2006

In her dressing room

With wig and makeup

My husband, Steve, is the patter baritone guy for the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, the "best G&S troupe in America" says the NYT. As far as I can see, Steve is the best thing about NYGASP. Except, perhaps, this season's axe girl in the production of Mikado, currently showing at Carnegie Hall's City Center Theater. (See NYGASP link below for info.) She just so happens to be my daughter, Maggie, who made her off-Broadway debut last night. She had a few sight gags, including one that upstaged Steve as Ko-Ko. She sang in the chorus and did a fan dance. I was so fucking proud! This is a girl who, two years ago, refused to be in the camp musical because she was too shy. To see her cavorting and gamboling on stage in front of thousands of people (who'd paid $80 a ticket), well, Maggie has come a long way. She was confident, brave, smiley, charming, amazing, stupendous.

BTW, Steve was also very good.

January 4, 2006

Had to comment on Lindsay Lohan's binge-and-purge. Frightening that, to be thin enough, even naturally slender teenagers have to use drugs or willfully depend on the slimming miracle of an eating disorder. Kate Moss: At least her cocaine use was motivated by honest, straight up drug addiction and not by weight loss (but then again, what woman, when leaning over the mirror with a rolled up twenty in her hands, doesn't have the fleeting thought, "Plus I won't be hungry for hours!").

In other slenderizing news: My diet was put on hold for the week before Christmas, and the week after. Plus a few days after that for bad measure. But I am back on the horse. I've been good for two days. Right this second, as I type, I can tell you with all sincerity that I am quite hungry and unsatisfied by my roast turkey and salad dinner. Ah, the gnawling, ache of accomplishment!

If Lindsay Lohan is so desperate to be fat-free, why didn't she just schedule weekly liposuction? She can afford it, and it's probably better for her overall health than driving the porcelain bus. What a picture: the star of Herbie Fully Loaded in one of her slutty gold lame numbers, kneeling in the bathroom at the Delado Hotel. Ick.

January 2, 2006



We are back from the Bahamas, and I dare say, I have a bit of a tan. The sailing trip was awesome. Seven days in a catamaran with ten people did not undo the clan Frankel bonds. We'd only just sailed out of Marsh Harbor when we ran aground in shallow waters and had to wait for high tide to get free around midnight. In the pitch black, we motored to an anchorage, but dropped our anchor poorly and drifted a hundred yards while sleeping. The only thing that stopped us from crashing into the rocky shore of Fowl Island was getting stuck on a sandbar. We managed to motor free in the afternoon tide, only to be slammed by a sudden squall that made us all think of A Perfect Storm (a book that was edited by the same guy who worked on my sister's upcoming non-fiction tome, Double Eagle). In the pouring rain and freezing wind, we successfully motored to Guana Cay, only to lose our boat hook when we tried to moor, got another mooring line coiled around a propellor, which caused a seal to break loose and flood the engine cubby, which made the bilge pump run continually, draining the ship's generator, so we had no electric power for hot water, lights, or galley appliances.

All this in the first 24-hours.

Our ship's name, by the way, was Rash Decision.

Fortunately, our blunder streak ended there. Howie and Dan (dad and brother-in-law) overcame their initial incompetence (steep learning curve, I'd say), corrected all their mistakes, and expertly sailed the ocean blue for the remaining six days. Naturally, that first shakey day will become the stuff of family legend and provide us with laughter aplenty in the years to come. As Alison (sister) remarked, when problems works out, it's comedy. If my dad had fallen overboard in the storm (as I feared he would, since he had to take off his glasses in the pelting rain), it would've been tragedy.

We ate a lot of conch, snorkled at glorious reefs, hoisted the main, tightened the jib, came about, etc. The girls loved it all (including the squall). Maggie puked over the side only once. So did niece Lily. More photos on Pix page.

December 23, 2005

Last post before we leave. This title idea from fan and writer Michele Cagan:

I Take This Man

What think? I love it, actually.

Title: I Take This Man

Subtitle: ... whether he likes it or not

Edgy, sexy, funny. Yes? Anyone? My book editor occassionally checks in to the blog. Carrie, can you hear me? Can I help to cheer you?

December 21, 2005

Please explain to me why anyone would be offended by the phrase Merry Christmas. It IS Christmas. The time of year baby Jesus was born. Are people who aren't Jesus worshippers so sensitive, is their emotional fortitude so weak, that they feel excluded and somehow damaged by the existence of some other religion's observance? It's not like the gentiles feel all wounded and left out at Passover. You're no less of a Jew, for example, because Mary shat out Jesus this month. Think of the Druids! Winter solstice is completely overshadowed by Christmas—and Hanukah (which we all know isn't REALLY a significant holiday for my people; we just puffed it up out of sheer competitiveness). Let the christians have their Christmas! Jesus H. Christ! (The H. does not stand for Happy or Holidays.)

On the other hand, anyone who protests Wal-Mart because of their "Happy Holidays" in-store greeting is insane and should be locked up in a mental institution. I am sick of religion (and controversy about religion) being crammed down my throat. Especially as this, the most wonderful time of the year.

I'm getting the hell out of town. To the Bahamas, actually, on Christmas eve. The clan Frankel (mom, dad, sister and her peeps, me and my peeps) will be sailing a catamaran (sleeps 10) around the islands for a week. My Dad is an accomplished sailor (or so he says), as is my sister and her husband. I am not. I don't know anything more than I gleaned watching Pirates of the Caribbean. Last night, I had a nightmare that the catamaran capsized, and I had to decide in a split second which of my children to save from drowning. Valerie's Choice. I woke up before I made the call, thank God. Cap'n Howie (that's Dad) says the boat has Global Positioning Something, and that we'll always be in sight of land. And that pirate attacks are unlikely. I'm stocking up on Dramamine and sunblock. So, apart from drowning, sea sickness and pirates, it'll be great. Seven days of sailing, snorkeling, and sun-soaking.

The guy who's building my deck, the talented carpenter Ian Ross, will live in my apartment while we're gone. His Mom and sister will join him here, and are excited for a long stay in the city. They'll cat-sit. Ian tells me his mom used to work in an animal shelter, so the cats' continuing good health is all but guaranteed. And the best part: When we get back, the deck might be finished!

Finally, and here comes the heavy, wet, dragging sigh of relief (wait for it) . . . I have completed draft number one of The Kept Man. Still thinking about titles, though. Does anyone like:

Aisle Be Seeing You

The Husband Trap

The Bludgeoned Bridegroom


December 18, 2005

1. Kong. We saw it on Friday after school. I felt compelled to cover Lucy's eyes only three or four times. Be warned: The cannibals of Skull Island are truly terrifying. Their scenes, especially when they first attack, reminded me, appropriately, of some scary Orc encounters in LOTR movies. A few other scenes have warrented places in my all-time horror image memory. The actor Andy Serkis, who was Gollum and is Kong (using facial sensors, etc.) also plays the ship's cook. He meets his demise in the mouths of giant leech creatures that resemble uncircumized horse penises at flagrant erection, with circular rows of sharp teeth. Not that any horses are circumsized (Palominowitz?). Picture a flaccid ten-foot-tall horse penis, that then sprouts a hairless pink hardon, with razor white fangs. Not pretty. Anyway, the movie was great. Three hours of spills, chills and thrills. My only complaint is that Naomi Watts, as Ann Darrow, had about a thousand extreme close ups of her gazing vacantly, vapidly, into space, as if she hadn't a single thought in her pretty head. In fact, there were many moments I wondered if her Ann Darrow was supposed to be borderline retarted, that's how incredibly moronic were her wide-eyed no-one's-home dim-bulb staring contests with thin air seemed. Adrian Brody. I liked him. A departure from his role in The Pianist, but that's a relief.

2. Clorox kitchen/​bathroom wipes. They're bleach free, so you can use them with impunity, as I do, a dozen times a day, to disinfect and clean the counters, sinks, toilets, etc. I haven't fallen in love with a product like this since my Swiffer. If any of the five readers out there has a special revulsion (as I do) for sticky stovetops (I'm talking to you, Judy Frankel), try these miracle wipes. You will NOT regret it.

December 15, 2005

Winnowed Love Birds
Okay, I have to say "I told you so." On my November 29th post on this blog, I wrote of the obvious sexual tension between The Biggest Loser's Suzy and Matt. Well, guess what, diet fans: They are an official item. Check out the link above, sent to me by a fan (thank again, Crystal!). Maggie, my daughter, who'd been hoping those crazy kids would get together since the show's early days, will be thrilled! Can't wait for her to get home from school to tell her.

Philosophical query: Does my excitement about Suzy and Matt, two complete strangers, suggest that my own life is boring and empty? Fuck, no! I've got weight loss (5lbs and counting) and romance of my own, god damn it. I want EVERYONE to slim down and have sex! Hmmmmm. Slim Down and Have Sex. Maybe that should be the title of my new book. Anyone?

December 13, 2005

Once again, I'm honored and humbled by the fact that anyone responded to my cry for help. That so many of you did, well, let me just say that I'm using both hands to hold back the flood of grateful tears. THANK YOU!!!

The top title condenders are:

The Kept Man

What A Catch

Incidentally, these were my two original title choices when I pitched the outline to my editor. Also:

The Keeper

On to other subjects. My lice woes are finally over, and now there are moths in Maggie's closet. I don't know how they got there. I heard a horror story today about a woman who had moths, and had to have all her clothes dry cleaned, and her closet fumigated to the ear-popping tune of $20,000. This will not happen to me. I will sooner throw away all of Maggie's clothes and repaint myself than submit to the will of an exterminator.

I have to wonder, in this holy (shit) time of year: God, have I done something to offend you? Was it my essay in The Worst Noel that mocked gentile Jesus love? Why have you sent a plague of lice and moths into my house? What's next? Frogs and locusts? (Actually, that's Passover hell, which I'll look forward to in spring.)

Stephen Quint, my beloved, opera star of the Gilbert & Sullivan universe (weird, I know), has started an online journal of his own. The photo he posted—the one where he appears to be a blood-thirsty maniac—is supposed to be funny. He sent it to me when we were courting via email. Frankly, I found it sexy, in a twisted kind of way (which might cast my taste into aspersion). Here's the link:

Steve's blog
December 11, 2005

Desperate for titles on the new book, the kidnapping comedy. Here are some ideas:


Groom Catchers

Man Catchers

To Catch a Husband

What a Catch

The Kept Man

Wedding March Madness (nope; too much like a Wheel of Fortune "before and after" answer)

The Wedding That Wasn't

PLEASE weigh in. I'm begging here. The story is, in short, a groom calls off the wedding, the bride's mother kidnaps him and locks him in a secret room in her mansion, the bride discovers him there and pretends to be her mother to make him talk...hilarity, mother-daughter bonding and nature-of-love discovery ensues.

Besides wracking my brain over titles, I'm trying to finish a draft before we head to the Bahamas for Xmas. Now that the lice scourge is over finally (I didn't bother reporting in about round two), and the non-fiction proposal is off my desk and on those of a dozen book editors', I can focus completely on Book Without A Title.

December 8, 2005

Don't know why I'm still thinking about The Biggest Loser. One last thought: The women's team was at an unfair disadvantage because of period related water retention. As anyone who went to camp knows, when women live in close proximity, their periods synchronize. When the Biggest Loser women started to get their monthly visits at the same time—and the resulting two and six lbs of water retention; and pre-menstrual pig-outs—how could they possibly match the men on weight loss? I'm only talking about that one week. The following week, when the water drained out, they had a slight advantage. I guess. But still. UNfair.

I got the two to six pound range from an article I wrote a few years ago on bloat for Allure. Some women retain more.

I am not retaining today, thanks for asking. According to my scale, I lost 3.5 lbs this week. I credit my hybrid diet plan, working out three times, three ways (yoga, stationary bike, treadmill), and the good loving Steve provides nearly every night.

December 6, 2005

Three quick notes:

1. Yesterday, I had lunch with my non-fiction book co-author, Dr. Jane Greer, celebrity shrink, marriage counselor to the stars, at the Friar's Club where she is a member. In case you didn't know, the Friar's Club, the original spot for "roasts," is a private joint for comics, comedians, humor writers, actors, singers, basically, anyone who has ever had anything to do with the Catskills-brand of comedy. We ate in the "Frank Sinatra" room, just down the lobby from the "Billy Crystal" room. I had a chopped chef's salad. It was de-lish. Naturally, since we were at the epicenter of Jewish comic stylings, I spotted a famous Jewish comedic stylist. I recognized him immediately, having watched George Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind only six months ago. I'm talking about Chuck Barris, Mr. Gong Show, of course. I stared (rudely, forgive me), and since I was the youngest person there by 20 years, he stared back, possibly suspicious that I was an agent for a hostile spy ring plotting his destruction.

2. News from of the University of Wisconsin: According to the results of a recent study, dieters who step on the scale daily lose twice as much weight as those who don't. Glad I bought my new lithium-powered beauty at Target last week. I've been stepping on every other day, and have lost (drum roll) two lbs in the five days since purchase! (Maybe if I'd weighed myself every single day, I'd've lost three.) I started my 50 day diet just 19 days ago (with three days off at Thanksgiving). My jeans are looser; my cheekbones are reemerging. As usual, when my weight goes down, my spirits rise.

3. Since Steve has officially moved in, and he is (used to be, anyway) a person of the Catholic persuasion, we decided that it wouldn't be completely sacrilegious to have an Xmas tree in our apartment. The kids (and cats) love it. Wish you could see the globe lights better. Man, do they glow.

Note Ollie underneath

December 4, 2005

What a week it's been. First, we had a lice outbreak. I wish I were kidding. I'd just finished the final revises on my non-fiction book proposal, and the phone rang. It was the school nurse with the bad news. Steve and I spent the entire day vacuuming and washing sheets and pillow cases, sticking all throw pillows and stuffed animals in plastic bags (where they will remain for two weeks). I bought $100 worth to Nix products (hair rinse, spray bottles for furniture, combs etc.). After school, I applied the Nix killer cream rinse as instructed on all of our heads. I pulled six lice from Lucy; one from Maggie (still alive; GROSS). None from me or Steve.

I was sure we'd done it. Conquered the little pests. Lucy would have to be checked by the school nurse before returning to class. I was confident, cocky. The nurse put Lucy under the magnifying light, and started searching. After approximately two seconds, she said, "Oh, here's a patch of nits. And some more here." She said Nix does NOT kill the eggs. Only the bugs. She recommended going to Ocean Parkway and see "The Lice Lady," an orthodox Jew who removes nits hair-by-hair. We drove out to see this expert nitpicker—Abigail Rosenfeld—who spent two hours removing eggs from Lucy (over a hundred), Maggie (16) and me (3).

How many other authors will admit on their website to having had three nits? In my never ending quest to remove the stigma of lice...lice can strike even the cleanest gift of honesty to you, the six people who read this sight. You don't have to thank me. Really.

Anyway, we had to rewash EVERYTHING, and finished right in time for nine 1st grade girls to arrive for a sleepover (the parents were informed of our minor infestation; a lot of these kids had already been de-loused this year already).

We entertained the kids with pizza, cake, makeup (thank you Maggie, Grace and Marissa), The Spongebob Movie, junk food out the ears, couch jumping, etc. No injuries, accidents, fighting, weeping or bleeding. The party was a huge success. Lucy was a good little hostess, except she didn't want to share her Barbie guitar—at first. I convinced her to see the error in her ways, and she relented.

Now, because of the lice and the party, I am 10 pages behind schedule on The Kept Man, a matter I will attempt to fix today. What? Write 10 pages in a single day? Impossible, you say? I completely agree. The thing about setting unrealistic goals for yourself? You always give yourself a break.

November 29, 2005

The Biggest Loser finale. Maggie and I watched the show, hinge jawed at the incredible transformations. One guy lost 185 pounds. He was half the man he used to be. It's schmaltz of the thickest, but this show is damned inspiring. I cried. Several times.

Matt won. I was pulling for him. I was afraid he'd flood the stage if he lost. Maggie and I had been calling him a crybaby for weeks. I felt instant shame for doing so when his moron bar friend said something about it. That drunk simpleton was the biggest loser! Not our Matt of the rich inner life. As a boyfriend (seriously, he's doable now), he'd be complicated. Just a friendly warning to his future dates.

Glad Suzy lost. She looked great, but she makes me nervous. Maggie was rooting for Suzy and Matt to have a hot and heavy ranch-side fling. There did seem to be a bit of sexual tension when they greeted each other at the finale. Glad to see last year's contestant Gary kept the weight off.

Steve and my diet endures. Day 12 ends. Only 38 to go. I've decided to break down and buy a scale tomorrow.

Lucy turned seven today. We did cupcakes at school. On Friday, she's having a sleep over party. Seven 1st grade girls are spending the night. If I survive it, I'll report back.

November 27, 2005

Well, the suspense is over. Did I stick to my hybrid diet during Thanksgiving? Was I able to curb my appetite? Resist temptation?

In a word, nofuckingway. I gave in to stuffing, gravy, string bean casserole, yams in brown sugar, pie (five kinds), ice cream, rolls, booze (lots of that; as I mentioned, we went to Steve's family's in Maine).

I got to Maine on Wednesday, day 9. Today, Sunday, I'm at day 10 of my diet. Only lost three days to pigging out. And that was some heavy duty pigging out.

Oh, well. I knew it would happen, even if I hoped it wouldn't. And isn't that just the story of my dieting life.

The Kept Man (kidnapping comedy; new title ideas always welcomed) is weighing in a 215 pages so far. (Even if I didn't stick to my diet over Thanksgiving weekend, I did manage to keep to my page count schedule.) My goal is to finish a draft by Xmas. I'll be rough. My first drafts always are.

The Quints, Steve's family, are all excellent fun. We played cards, hot tubbed and bowled. I got a strike. Once. Otherwise, I posted the not too pathetic scores of 54 for the first game, and 56 for the second. At least I'm consistent.

November 21, 2005

I have two regular dinner groups. The Not Bitter Magazine Hacks meet every few months at one of our houses for a homecooked meal (everyone else brings wine). The See You Next Tuesday group—all Mademoiselle alumni—meet at restaurants in our various neighborhoods. Last Friday, we hooked up at All State on West 72nd Street (Daryl Chen and Laurel Purcell's nabe). Jeanie Pyun came all the way uptown from the Village, and I drove from Brooklyn. Anyway, we tackled our various problems in short order, and then started laughing and screaming way too loudly (which forced us to, as usual, look around and see if anyone was staring at us). Some of the discuss was about Halloween fireman rapist/​writer Peter Braunstein. We have one degree of seperation from him; he once dated a woman we know. Since he was allegedly spotted (not confirmed) on Rebecca Johnson's corner (she's a Mademoiselle alum, too), we had to read the Post account of his movements.

Anyway, I was good at the dinner. Spinach salad and a cup of chili. I'm doing a South Beach/​Zone/​Atkins hybrid diet for 50 days. Today is Day 6. I'm trying to drop the 15 pounds I've put on in the last couple of years. From South Beach: no alcohol. From Zone: cheese, fruit, meat and nuts. From Atkins: no bread, rice, pasta, potatoes under any circumstances.

Jeanie said that she'd become the sixth person to read this blog if I started to post my diet progress. I bow to you, Jeanie.

The players on The Biggest Loser (which Maggie and I watch every Tuesday night) regularly shed 10, 15, 20 pounds in a single week! Everyone knows that the more weight you have to lose, the easier it is to post the big drops. When you get down to the last 20 pounds, you have to scrape and dig for a mere pound or two a week. NBC should do a show called The Littlest Loser, for the majority of women in the unrelenting struggle of losing 10 to 20 pounds. It's be a much more competitive show.

My goal is to fit comfortably into my size 8 pants. I am now wearing my 10s. I drift between the two sizes, and when the 10s get tight (as they are now), I check myself, rein it in. I use a pair of black leather jeans as the benchmark, and can guess my weight within three pounds by how they fit. As of this morning, I can button them no problem, but I wouldn't be comfortable wearing them all day long, certainly not sitting at the computer for hours. In the last six days, I've probably lost a couple of pounds. (And, no, I'm not ready to weight myself. I only step on a scale if I feel reasonably sure that I won't be horrified by the number.)

Steve is doing the Hybrid, too. He's going to take a one day break on Thanksgiving. I'm undecided. I know from past dieting efforts, one day off can turn into ten. He just wants to drink, since we'll be at his childhoood home in Maine and his family likes their cocktails. I'll post from Maine for my own moral support.

November 18, 2005

Re: Yesterday's Rapist Alert. Turned out to be a false alarm. The person who called in the tip about Braunstein was wrong. He was NOT in my neighborhood, NOT holing up next door to Rebecca Johnson's house, NOT on the verge of being pelted by smoke bombs and bullets (hmm, "Smoke Bombs and Bullets"—could be a cute book title).

In other, less dramatic news, The Worst Noel reading at the Strand last night was fantastic. There were real live people in the audience. Some weren't friends and family of the authors! First up, John Marchese (pronounced Mar-chay-zee). The woman from the Strand introduced him as Mar-cheesy. He corrected her and read his funny story about Xmas with born-again Texans.

Next up, me. I killed. Steve said so, but what's he going to say? The crowd laughed at all my joke lines, and I got a satisfying gasp at exactly the right spot in the story. Steve said the audience was with me all the way. Whew. I didn't suck! Yea!

Mike Albo, who is adorable BTW (sorry ladies: he's gay), was charmingly jittery, and read only half his piece. It was a sex-drenched, and I could see why he'd stop when he did (there were kids in the audience).

Cynthia Kaplan, a writer I've been wanting to meet for many years, was so fucking funny! A woman in the audience nearly choked laughing so hard. Her story "Donner Is Dead" was about killing a deer on Xmas Eve (with her car).

I was glad and relieved Cynthia is a warm and witty person. Not too long ago, I was introduced to a famous romance novelist whose work I have read and admired. I said, "It's so great to meet you; I love your books." She looked at me like I had the plague, ignored my outstretched hand, grinned fakely with just her lips and nodded as if taking compliments was such an utter BORE that she could barely tolerate the strain. I haven't read any of her books since, and doubt I will again.

FYI: The writer I found MOST satisfying to meet was James Ellroy. This was in the early '90s, back when I wrote P.I. novels and went to mystery conventions and awards ceremonies. James Ellroy was standing with a group of men (middle aged, kissing his ass). I said, "Excuse me, Mr. Ellroy. I'm a big fan." He turned around, got a look at 26-year-old me in a tight miniskirt, smiled big and said, "Hello there! I'd much rather talk to you." And he did. He blew off the guys, and gave me his full attention for ten minutes. We talked about his books (and mine). He was engaging, manic, a little bit scary (what you'd want him to be). He flirted but never made me feel uncomfortable. I glowed for hours after.

Anyway, my point is that Cynthia Kaplan was a pleasure to meet. She wasn't bitchy or scary. She's a regular person, like you and me, and quite possibly (but not assuredly), James Ellroy.

November 17, 2005

News flash!
Halloween "fireman" rapist Peter Braunstein is on the loose in my neighborhood!
Rebecca Johnson just called and said, "There are five police helicopters, a SWAT team and three news vans on my block! Peter Braunstein is holed up in a building on my corner."
I wanted to run out and see, but I had a roast in the oven.
She called back five minute later and said, "A cop just told me to go inside, and stay inside. He said, 'We're going to do what we have to do, so things are going to start flying.'"
I said, "He means bullets?"
"Smoke bombs, bullets. Maybe they'll throw pigs through the windows."
I can hear the helicopters still, so they must not have shot at the building yet.
Updates from Rebecca as I get them...

November 16, 2005

Things I have to do before we leave for Maine:

1. Finish proposal for juicy book with a certain marriage counselor to the stars. I only hope that, should the need ever arise, that some free therapy will be in this for me.

2. Write forty pages of The Kept Man, formerly titled What A Catch, formerly titled Mad Love. This is the kidnapping comedy I've mentioned before. The challenge with this book is that I have one main character locked in a room. Well, he deserves to be there.

3. Reading tomorrow night (Thursday) at The Strand Bookstore, for The Worst Noel anthology. I'll be appearing with three other authors: Cynthia Kaplan, Mike Albo and John Marchese. Two Jewish women, a gay guy and a straight guy. The anthology was reviewed in Marie Claire (same issue, December, that included an excerpt about the ever-lovin' clitoris from The Best You'll Ever Have, my sex book with Shannon Mullen), Glamour and (gasp) an upcoming NYTBR. Althought I've written book reviews and Styles pieces for the Times, none of my books have been reviewed. It'll probably be in the Chronicle page in a roundup of holiday books, and won't mention more than two or three contributors by name (the smart money is on Ann Patchet and Stanley Bing). Anyway, the reading is at 6:30 at The Strand, just off Union Square, in case anyone wants to come hear me read, and gawk at my new black, leather three-inch heeled ankle boots.

November 11, 2005

After reading the pro-life Democrat article in the New Yorker, I have to say that this problem gets stickier and stupider. The obvious solution to the quagmire: Over-the-counter morning after pills at a reasonable price, say $2/​dose. Many pro-life advocates support OTC morning after pills. The sticklers object, calling the pill an "abortion drug," that destroys a fertilized egg on the way to becoming an embryo. But the truth of the matter is: After only one day (hence, morning after), the sperm hasn't reached the egg yet! It's not even fertilized. This pill would be the salvation (word used intentionally) for women (and teens) who can't get access to or afford a surgical abortion. I don't see how fervent pro-lifers can object, since the one-celled egg is not a conscious thing that feels pain. Of course, some surgical abortions would be necessary, even if OTC morning after pills could be purchased at $10 a handful at 7-11 (and, honestly, wouldn't that be okay???), but they'd be rare, by medical necessity.

November 10, 2005

I bought four rugs at the ABC Carpet going-out-of-business warehouse sale in DUMBO. The bargains! I was so excited, I almost had an accident. My bedroom floor now resembles that of a Persian harem.

Crazy busy on a new non-fiction book proposal. I'm co-authoring with a certain marriage counselor to the stars. Juicy subject matter, but I can't discuss yet. As soon as the proposal goes out, I'll divulge.

In the meantime, I've posted first chapters of both Hex and the Single Girl and Fringe Girl (click on the corresponding pages to the right).

One more thing: An article in the new New Yorker reported that Judge Alito has written five MILLION words in his decisions in the last dozen years. Jeez. And I thought I was prolific.

November 7, 2005

Last year, I had a November book (The Best You'll Ever Have). Although, as an Xmas gift idea, it had limited range. The anthologies above, however, would be perfect little somethings for grandma, grandpa, the cousins in Azusa, your batty neighbor Gertie, the former coworker who insists on sending you a present even though you haven't seen her in years.

The Worst Noel includes my "witty and sharp" and "brave and intelligent" story about being a Jew who celebrates Xmas.

The Oprah anthology features my essay about the psychological soundness of a two apartment marriage (originally published in O magazine last year).

In other news, I'm still recovering from the Halloween candy orgy. My complexion is proof of the mountains of chocolate I consumed.

In still other news: After a blissful newlywed year (and after the two-apartment marriage article mentioned above), Steve, my darling husband, has moved in! Yippee yah!

Yes, I'm happy about it. I know I wrote that I was happy to have seperate places. I was being honest then. And I'm being honest now. I just changed my mind. Happens.

November 2, 2005

From AP:

"Residents of Denver have voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults. Authorities, however, can still file state drug charges against offenders.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, 54 percent, or 56,001 voters, cast ballots for the ordinance, while 46 percent, or 48,632 voters, voted against it.

Under the measure, residents over 21 years old could possess up to an ounce of marijuana in Denver, which is nicknamed the Mile High City for its elevation."

For Your Amusement

Four women who'd otherwise have nothing to do with each other, join for a bogus 'Diversity Committee" school meeting, and wind up playing poker. Instead of playing for money, they play for secrets. Before long, these four women know EVERYTHING about each other's lives, and strong—not always smooth—friendships are formed. "Instantly addicting," RT Book Reviews. "Engrossing!"—Publishers Weekly. "Friggin' awesome!"—Snooki (she does say that a lot Not about this book, but WHATEVER)
Book #4 in the Fringe Girl series
Book #3 in the Fringe Girl series
Adora Benet is back. In the second of the series, true love doesn't runs smooth for Dora and Noel. Hurdles: a seductive substitute teacher, jealousy, a hot college boy.
A bride, a groom, her mother, and his father. Sex, kidnapping, wedding cake and a cabana with a towel warmer. Who could ask for anything more?
Adora Benet is on the fringe until she leads a revolution that turns her school's social hierarchy upside down.
Emma Hutch has the sexth sense. She sees naked people. Not that she minds...
"Wickedly entertaining."—People "Draws laughs."—EW First chapter, reviews, reading group questions
Three sisters, as many romantic plights
Stacy has a week to get laid or she becomes a virgin again. CAN SHE DO IT?
Smart sister, pretty sister, a murder mystery, a few hot guys, lots of caffeinated humor, and recipes
NEW!! CLICK FOR READERS GROUP GUIDE (Subversive Version) and AUTHOR Q&A Chronicle of my efforts to "get the hate out." Warning: If you love snobby neighbors, NYT bestselling debut novelists, loud cell phone talkers, social butterflies, scary doctors, bratty kids on airplanes, this memoir will OFFEND YOU with its OBNOXIOUS DENUNCIATIONS AND CONSTANT CURSING. Don't say I didn't warn you. "Refreshing! Entertaining! Funny! Warm!"—PW "Hilarious! Helpful, hard-won insight!"—Kirkus
The story of my life as a diet addict, and how I eventually overcame my compulsion to count carbs. People magazine: "Funny! Satisfying!" Kirkus: "Witty! Candid!"
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