Monday, December 29, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas

Wishing all my friends and readers a joyous and healthy holiday.

You won't be getting a recycled fruitcake from me, but here is a recycled poem ...

"The Raving"
A Mother's Chilling Post-Holiday Tale

By Ellen Meister

Once upon an evening dreary, while I toiled, weak and weary
Over many a desperate dirty dishrag and forgotten chore,
While I leaned down limply lugging toys from off the carpet rugging
Suddenly there came a tugging, tugging at the skirt I wore.
"'Tis some little kid," I muttered, smoothing out the skirt I wore,
"Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
Action dolls not yet dismembered lay across the playroom floor.
Each new toy was still unbroken, yet the child still was pokin'
And the only word there spoken was the whining more, "S'more."
This he whispered then his sister murmured back the word, "S'more."
Only this they did implore.

Then the silly, sad, incessant clangor of the season's presents
Chilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now to still the beating of my heart I stood repeating,
"Darling children, I am pleading, let's return some to the store--
Darling children, I'm entreating, let us give some to the poor."
Still they said, "We want s'more."

"You still want more?" I blurted feeling slightly dizzy, my head reeling,
"Get thee back into the playroom where your playthings line the floor!
Go before I need to yank you! Go before I want to spank you!
Leave my kitchen and I'll thank you not to ask for any more.
Take thy sighs from out my sight and thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the child, "I want more."

And the child, so demanding, still is standing, still is standing
Near a portion of my pantry just beside the kitchen door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming
Sights of toys and trinkets gleaming on the shelves of every store.
Unaffected with respect to his demands for even more,
Quoth I, the mother, "Never more!"

Monday, December 22, 2008

SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY

By Melissa Clark

Today I'm blogging about an exciting writer, Melissa Clark. Though she's new to the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit and is promoting her debut novel, SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY, Melissa is no neophyte to the writing world. In fact, she has pretty glam and impressive credentials. But I'll let you hear it straight from her. My interview with Melissa follows ...



Hi, Melissa. SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY looks terrific, and I'm so impressed with the reviews it gets on Amazon. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind this beloved story?

SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY is a novel about Sasha Salter, who wakes up one day to find she is pregnant. Only problem is she hasn't had sex in over 2 years. The doctor's diagnosis is that Sasha's body has been harboring a 'lazy sperm'. Sasha must now open up the Pandora's box of her past loves to figure out which of her exes is the father - and what the future holds in store.

The idea was born because I was having lunch with a friend and overate. I lifted my shirt to expose my bloated belly and the friend said, half joking, "Are you sure you're not pregnant?" and I said, "Yeah, right, from a lazy sperm." I went home that night and started outlining the idea for a movie. I decided, eventually, to write it as a novel instead.

If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation, who gets the call?

Natalie Portman gets the first call. I think she could bring depth and humor to the character. If she's busy making another movie or doing something wonderfully humanitarian we give Jennifer Gardner a jingle. She's likable, vulnerable. If she's having a baby then we try Drew Barrymore because she has nailed these roles in the past. There are lots of male parts in this movie, too. I'd love to see Emile Hirsch do a romantic comedy.


You have such an interesting writing background. Can you give my blog readers a short summary?

My dad is a writer, so I was always playing on his typewriter and writing on legal steno pads. I wrote short stories from the time that I could write. I studied writing and literature in both college and graduate school. In my 20's to mid-30's I worked as a writer in television. I created a kid's show called "Braceface" which ran for 5 seasons. I loved that experience, but really wanted to write a novel, so I quit my own show and set out to write SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY. It was the best risk I've ever taken!


What is one of the nicest compliments that you have ever received about SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY?

"I read it in one sitting." Since it took a year and three months to write, I am amazed and flattered when someone tells me they zipped through it.


Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?

I was actually very disappointed with the cover at first. I was under the false impression that I had a say in the cover. I suggested a few ideas and then showed them a piece of art I saw at the Venice Art Walk. They were all received with a lukewarm attitude. Once day I got an email titled, "Cover!!!!!!" There were so many exclamation points that I knew I was in trouble. When the cover downloaded, I broke out in tears. A girl blowing bubbles was NOT how I saw my cover. Who was that girl, anyway? Why was she blowing bubbles? After calming down, I phoned the editor and explained my dismay. They made some compromises, like removing the almost-exposed breast and some other things that irked me. Clearly I have not made peace with the cover yet, however, I do think it pops and people have told me that they bought the book BECAUSE of the cover, so I'm humbled by that.


What's next for you?

I JUST completed a draft of a new novel, "Imperfect". It is another medical anomaly type of story, but very different than "Swimming..." This one is more of a coming-of-age story. I sent it to my agent last week and am now on pins and needles waiting for her response.

Good luck with it, Melissa! Hope your agent loves it ... and thanks so much for answering these questions.

Please look for SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY the next time you visit your local chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Melissa's website at melissaclark.org.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Update



* I'm doing two signings for THE SMART ONE this weekend. On Saturday, I'll be at Syosset Borders from 2-4, and on Sunday I'll be at the Waldenbooks in the Walt Whitman Mall from 1-3. If you're around, stop by and say hi.

* Pretty jammed week here, though nothing exciting or glamorous to report. Darling daughter got sick over the weekend with a bad cold and fever, and stayed home Monday and Tuesday. She's not quite well yet, but is on the mend. Fortunately, she was well for her 11th birthday, which was last Friday. (She shares the date with Frank Sinatra.)

* Got my business holiday gifts packaged and shipped. I sent apple pies from the Jericho Cider Mill, which I'm pretty sure are the most delicious apple pies on the planet. I hope they were enjoyed.

* Made some excellent progress with the novel. I'm on page 260 and have passed the 60,000-word mark. A huge milestone and I feel great about it!

* Cooked an awesome dinner last night inspired by Rachael Ray, who I've been watching while I run  on the treadmill. I adore her.

* I just started reading Michael Palmer's THE SECOND OPINION.  It's not out yet but I was lucky enough to score an ARC. So far I'm enthralled. I'm not only grabbed by the plot, but by the main character, a woman doctor with Asperger's syndrome.  You're going to want to read this one!

* This week I spent way too much time on Facebook. Also, I joined Twitter, but I haven't posted a single thing yet. If you want to friend me on either of these sites, please do!

* Am I the only one struck by the fact that Bernie Madoff's last name is pronounced made-off, as in he made off with all your money?

* Okay, I'm off to Target. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DATING DA VINCI

By Malena Lott

My friends, here's a great book to add to your holiday list. It's DATING DA VINCI by Malena Lott, a wonderful writer who recently joined our GCC group.


Malena had some charming and colorful answers to my interview questions, so here goes ...



What's the premise of your exciting new book, Malena?
DATING DA VINCI is a Texas-based Under the Tuscan Sun meets How Stella Got Her Groove Back. A young widow, 36-year-old Ramona Griffen, searches for joy with the help of a handsome younger Italian immigrant named Leonardo da Vinci. Her humorous and heartwarming journey takes her on some unexpected adventures of body, mind and spirit as she learns to let go of her grief to make room for a wholly new life.

How did you get the title DATING DA VINCI?
The title came pretty quickly, early on. I love alliteration and really wanted to incorporate da Vinci since he's the catalyst that starts Ramona's renaissance. Since publishers have final say, I don't get too attached to my working title. I do like getting credit for this one, though! Of course the book isn't just about da Vinci and romance is only a part of the story, but I think it's catchy and hopefully it will catch people's eye to learn more about the book.

What pulled you into this story, and as a writer made you think 'I have to write this'?
Women, especially mothers, tend to put themselves last on the list. I wanted to share the story of someone who has lost the love of her life and has focused on just "getting by" each day, but is ready to find a way to be joyful again, even through the pain. The heart of the story really is, is there love after death, and the courage it takes to not only survive but to build a great life again.

If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of DATING DA VINCI who gets the call?
I did envision the book as a movie as I was writing it. It helps if you can find actors that you can draw from. I imagine Kate Winslet (in her plumper roles) as Ramona, a sexy unknown Italian for da Vinci, Greg Kinnear for handsome, charming doctor Cortland, Jane Krakowski for her egotistical sister, and Sandra Oh for her best friend Anh. I'd only want a bit part. Perhaps the barista at Starbucks? Or be the bed salesperson when Ramona is shopping to replace her marital bed Lumpy. (I do a mean rolling of the eyes.)

Do you have a sample chapter posted?
You can read the first chapter at http://web.mac.com/malenalott/iWeb/Malena%20Lott/Excerpt.html.

Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so, has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance?
I use Google Alerts so I'm kind of like Santa. I know when people have said naughty or nice things about my book! Fortunately, reviewers have enjoyed Dating da Vinci, so that's a thrill when you click that link and get to read what people are saying about your "baby." I've selected some of my favorite quotes on http://www.malenalott.com/.

Thanks so much, Malena!
DATING DA VINCI is available at your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Malena's website at malenalott.com.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Update

Pretty quiet week here. I'm not even going to post a bullet list of my activities, as all I did was read, write, edit, parent, waste time on Facebook and watch, in horror, as the publishing world collapsed. And ugh ... my AstrologyZone horoscope for December sucks. I know I shouldn't let that get to me but it does.

It was a swell week for fan mail, though, and that felt good. Also, some Iranian guy on Goodreads thinks I'm nice and cute and wants to make friendship with me. I'm considering a cyber affair, though I wonder if he'll email me in the morning.

I'm up to page 231 on the work-in-progress, but hit a bit of a brick wall in the story. May take me a few days to get back on track.

Tacky reminder of the day: If you want to give someone an autographed copy of THE SMART ONE for the holidays, drop me a line and I'll mail you a signed, personalized bookplate, gratis. It's self-adhesive (tacky, get it?) and goes right into the front of the book. You'll need to tell me who to make it out to and where it send it.

While I'm promoting, here's a cheesy video of me reading from my first book, SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA:



Motto of the day:
"Give love. Give time. Give joy. Give books."

Have a great weekend ...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Buy a book today!

If you're on my mailing list, you already got an email from me asking you to please put books on your holiday gift list this year. I'm writing about this in my blog now because the situation in publishing has reached even more dire proportions. Indeed, the news today has been grim, with massive layoffs, historic losses, frightening consolidations and even bankruptcies.

And trust me, there aren't going to be any government bailouts for publishing companies.

So if you think books are important, please buy one today or tomorrow. Doesn't matter where. You can buy online or at your favorite bookstore. You can go to Target or Walmart or Costco. You can even pick up a paperback at the supermarket. Just do it.

I do, of course, have some recommendations for you. I have so many favorite books it's hard to narrow it down to a one-size-fits-all list, so I've limited my selection to books I've read (and loved) over the last few months. But if there's someone specific on your list and you need a recommendation, post a comment or drop me a line, and I'll do my best to come up with something.

So here some current choices that I think are absolutely outstanding. These are all novels:

THE UNDERSTORY by Pamela Erens - Haunting, intense story about loneliness and obsession that seems to get nominated for every literary award. Well-deserved.

GOING DOWN SOUTH by Bonnie Glover – A tender and absorbing story about the complicated relationships between three generations of African American Women. Gorgeous writing.

THE THIRD ANGEL by Alice Hoffman – Luminous. Hoffman's gift for magical realism woven into a tale of three fascinating women. I loved this book.

MURDER AT THE BAD GIRL'S BAR & GRILL by N.M. Kelby – A smart, funny, rollicking mystery that Carl Hiaassen fans will eat with a spoon. Critics have been swooning over it.

THE SOUND OF BUTTERFLIES by Rachael King - Stunning novel that takes place at the turn-of-the-20th-Century. This one really stayed with me.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee – Still one of the best books ever written, imo

THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy - Post-apocalyptic story that strips love down to its barest essentials. This book will change you.

THE SMART ONE by Ellen Meister – Self-serving, I know, but I couldn't leave myself out. To read an excerpt, click here. To read an excerpt from SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA, click here.

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger – This came out a few years ago but I only just read it and wow. It's brilliant and absorbing.

THE FIRST PATIENT by Michael Palmer – For thriller lovers, it doesn't get any better. Michael Palmer kicks ass.

THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER by Tom Perrotta – The secular left and religious right clash ... sometimes inside a single soul. Funny, tender, real. Perrotta makes it look so easy.

DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD by Saralee Rosenberg – Absolutely hilarious ... but also layered and poignant. I loved this story about an unlikely friendship between two warring neighbors.

BRIDGE OF SIGHS by Richard Russo – Considered literary fiction, but very accessible. No one creates characters like Richard Russo. My favorite living author.

Here are some books my kids recommend:
THE ALEX RIDER SERIES by Anthony Horowitz (adventure)
DAUGHTERS OF THE MOON SERIES by Lynne Ewing
THE GIVER by Lois Lowry
JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE by Wendy Mass
WAKE by Lisa McMann
HARRY POTTER SERIES by J.K. Rowling
ELSEWHERE by Garbrielle Zevin

I hope you'll buy a book or two today! And if you want to go the extra mile, here's an idea: spread the word by sending a list of book recommendations to all your email friends. Feel free to copy my list ... or make one of your own.

Thanks, friends.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

THE FIDELITY FILES

by Jessica Brody

Today I'm thrilled to blog about one of the newest members of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, Jessica Brody. Her debut novel, THE FIDELITY FILES, has a killer hook, a kickass video, and is a national bestseller.

And, um ... Jessica is 29.

The book is getting outstanding reviews, was a USA Today Hot Summer Reads Pick and is being published in seven other countries.

Have I mentioned that Jessica is 29?

Anyway, she's as charming as she is talented, and I'm pleased to present you with the following interview ...


Tell us about THE FIDELITY FILES and the inspiration behind it.

The Fidelity Files is the story of a beautiful, L.A. woman who works as an undercover “fidelity inspector,” hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the faithfulness of the men in their lives. Except no one in her life knows what she does. Her friends and family all think she works for an investment bank.

Before I became a full-time writer, I worked in a very corporate environment. And like all corporate jobs, there were a certain number of “alcohol-related” events that I was expected to attend. I would often find myself at work happy hour functions in nearby bars, observing the interactions between single and non-single co-workers as their behaviors gradually declined from professional to something else entirely. Something hardly capable of being described as “appropriate.”

Witnessing these “indiscretions” upset me on a profound level. I secretly wished that someone would tell the “conveniently” absent significant others about what their husbands/wives/boyfriends/ girlfriends/fianc├ęs really did while attending these “obligatory” and supposedly “uneventful” work functions. But I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to do it. I was brave enough to think it…but not exactly brave enough to go knocking on people’s doors with bad news. You know what people tend to do to “the messenger.”

So instead I created a character whose job and purpose in life was to do just that. To reveal the truth to anyone who wanted to know. To knock on all the doors that I never had the courage to knock on. An invincible superhero-esque woman whose quest is to fight against the evils of infidelity. But of course, she soon finds out…she’s not as invincible as she once thought.


If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of THE FIDELITY FILES, who gets the call?

I’ve always struggled with this question because I’ve never really had one person in mind for the role of Jennifer/Ashlyn. She would have to be beautiful and sexy so that the men in the movie would fall for her but she would also has to come off as sympathetic and a little vulnerable so that audience would relate to her. I would love to see Rachel McAdams in the role because I think she could pull it off. Also Natalie Portman, Jessica Biel, Scarlett Johansson or Keira Knightley would be great casts.

As for Jamie, the love interest, Patrick Dempsey is an obvious cast for me. I think he has that distinguished mature look that’s described in the book and he also comes off as very sweet and genuine. That’s the kind of guy Jamie is in my head.


Do you have a sample chapter posted?




Do you write from a character or from a plot idea?

I’m definitely more driven by character. I like thinking up interesting characters with intriguing back stories and then forming a world around them. Like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a story about a woman who tests men’s fidelity for a living?” Then I go forward from there. “What would her life be like?” And “What kind of interesting things would happen to someone like that?”


Do you have a favorite character in THE FIDELITY FILES?


My favorite character is definitely Jen’s gay friend, John. Every scene he’s in was always the most fun to write. And the easiest. He’s definitely the comic relief of the book. I don’t know where some of his lines come from. They just kind of emerge as if I’m channeling a flamboyant and sometimes annoying gay man from another dimension. I would be writing a scene with him and he’d respond with a line that was so him and I would just stare back at it on the page, laugh and say, “Where did that come from?” Needless to say, he was one of my favorite characters to return to in the sequel.


Thanks so much, Jessica!


I think THE FIDELITY FILES would make a great holiday gift, so I hope you'll put it on your list. It's available in trade paperback at your local chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com or any cyber bookseller. For more information--and to see that amazing video--visit Jessica's website at thefidelityfiles.com.