Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday already?

Wouldn't seem right to post this weekly update without acknowledging the loss of two cultural icons I practically grew up with.

I don't think I watched Charlie's Angels much, but Farrah Fawcett was a ubiquitous presence. This poster was everywhere, and while the boys were focused on her body, us girls were transfixed by that hair. We didn't try to copy it--that would have been futile. But it defined beauty for us.

For all that beauty and fame, I don't know if she had a happy life. But she sure had a terrible death. Peace to Farrah and her loved ones.

There's just no way I can sum up Michael Jackson in a few paragraphs, so I'll just wish him peace as well, and post this--the first moon walk performance I ever saw. I know it sounds corny to say this, but we knew we were watching history being made. There was never a performer like this before.

And now my weekly update ...

• My parents are staying with us for the week, which means that at least once a day there's a mad hunt to find his glasses. We need to implant a Lojack in his frames.

• One week, two graduations!! Congrats to Ethan on graduating from middle school and to Emma on graduating from elementary! I'm immensely proud of you kids. Superstars!

• Speaking of superstars, congrats to both Max and Ethan on their regents scores. (I don't know what we did right, but we sure grow 'em smart.)

• Writing news isn't quite as happy as the personal news. I'm in the midst of having long conversations with my agent about my work-in-progress and it's been downright depressing.

• On the other hand, I've been getting some lovely blurbs on my completed-yet-untitled novel. So that keeps me from going over the edge.

• Every week I think I'm going to have a final title or a pub date, but still no word on that. Driving me quite insane.

• Good news from some of my writer pals. Joshilyn Jackson's new book, THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING, has made the New York Times bestseller list. (Go Joshilyn!) Ron Currie's new novel, EVERYTHING MATTERS!, has the critics swooning. I read the first chapter online and it's astounding.

• Last but certainly not least, I hope you'll pack up your lawn chair and head down to the Schoolhouse Green in Oceanside on Monday evening. I'll be joining Saralee Rosenberg, Carol Hoenig and Brenda Janowitz for a casual outdoor reading, moderated by Debbi Honorof, at the Summer Gazebo Reading Series. Click here for more info ... and pray for clear skies!

Monday, June 22, 2009


By Sheila Curran

I'm not sure I love anything more than a powerful, moving novel about the unbreakable bonds between women, so today I'm thrilled to be blogging about EVERYONE SHE LOVED by fellow Girlfriends Cyber Circuit author Sheila Curran.

The book has a great premise about a woman getting her husband and closest friends to sign a very unusual pact that will, ultimately, change their lives forever. To read more about it, click here.

Sheila was good enough to answer my interview questions, so here goes ...

How would you describe the genre of EVERYONE SHE LOVED, and what pulled you toward it?
I’d guess ‘women’s fiction’ but to me, genre is so hard to define, especially when one’s writing combines elements of many. For example, it’s a mystery, it’s a love story, it’s suspenseful, it’s a southern novel in the tradition of Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment. There are no spies, so I guess we can rule out espionage.

Please tell us about the genesis of the idea for this book.

For the full story, readers should go to my website and click on Backstory. But the short version is this: in some states, if a parent hasn’t named a guardian in an official will, their children can be taken into foster care if the parents die. I was talking to a friend about how difficult it is to make the choice of who, among my siblings and friends would be the best replacements for my husband and I. Suddenly, I said, “Oooh. You know what would be worse? What if I died and John fell in love with someone who was just awful?” I thought for a minute more and said, “I know. What if he couldn’t remarry unless my sisters and best friends approved?”

I knew, deep down, that whatever happened, as long as my friends and family approved of the new wife, then she’d be good for my kids. So I began to imagine a character like me, except she’s really rich, has had even more reasons in her life to become a bit of a control freak than have I and she is so charming in her ridiculous catastrophizing that her husband and friends finally say, “Enough, already! You’re not going anywhere, but if it makes you feel better, we’ll sign the damn thing.” So begins the premise for my novel, the plot of which is set into action by my character’s codicil. It’s about motherhood, wifehood, childhood, and most of all, the sisterhood of great friends who’ve come of age together.

If your protagonist could change one thing about herself, what would it be?

I think she’d wish she weren’t so attracted to her late best friend’s husband, I think she’d wish she knew more about helping his daughters recover from the loss of their mom, and I think she’d like to be more disciplined about what she eats.

What do you love most about EVERYONE SHE LOVED?

I love the way the ending pulls together so many of the loose ends that presented themselves to me and demanded to be put on the page, only to make me wrack my brain over what in the world they meant and how in the world I would solve the problems they created. I also love how these women band together, how much they want to protect their lost friend’s children and husbands, and how they make each other laugh.

Is there a story behind the title?

I had submitted it under the title of LUCY VARGAS IS COMING AROUND, thinking maybe it would sort of ‘brand’ me, since my first title was Diana Lively is Falling Down. My editor, the brilliant Emily Bestler, wanted something less coy, more poignant and serious. We must have gone back and forth with a million tries until she emailed one day and said, I’ve got it! EVERYONE SHE LOVED is perfect since the action in the novel is driven by Penelope’s love for her family, and her assurance that she could trust her friends to protect them if something were to happen to them.

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

You know, all I ever heard from other writers was how little power they’d gotten over their covers. Given that my editor has so many superstar clients (Jodi Picoult, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Jennifer Weiner) and that I was – well, the opposite of a superstar – I figured I would have to go with whatever image she and her team chose. They sent the cover, and it was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, it disturbed me in a way I couldn’t articulate. I almost said nothing, because I know these people are much smarter than I about book covers. Still, I couldn’t help but say it made me think something bad was going to happen. Not only did Emily listen to my commentary but by the time we chose the cover, they’d gone through several versions. I felt so honored, and I realized that Ms. Bestler is one of those powerful people who still treats people as she herself would wish to be treated. You can’t do a whole lot better than that, in my humble opinion.

What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?

I’ve listed several of my quirks in the About the Author section of Diana Lively's website but I guess they’d be most surprised at the fact that when it all comes down to it, what matters most to me is my family, my friends and living a life that adds value to the world. In my case, I figure my novels can give people a few hours to escape and enjoy themselves, and in a world like ours, that’s a very helpful thing. When I got sick last January, I was able to experience first-hand how very true this was.

Can you share some particularly memorable fan mail you've received?

Every bit of fan mail is memorable. It makes my day to hear that I touched someone. I have heard from old ladies named Wilma and Bernice that I made them laugh, from strangers who begged me to hurry up and write another book, and from nationally-recognized professors who said my first novel about an academic husband who’s just the slightest bit egomaniacal, was ‘brilliant.’ Since I’m not an academic and have never thought of myself as smart, I was so pleased to hear they thought the book was clever, funny and innovative.

Do you pay attention to book reviews?

I do, but it’s really hard, as you know, with diminished review spaces in newspapers, to get a review.

Has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance?

I got a ‘starred review” from BOOKLIST. (I’m still not sure exactly what it means, but everyone said it’s really good.) Here’s part of what the review wrote:

Rich with exceptional characterization …Curran's novel gently reminds readers that fantasy has a place in everyone's life, and dreams can come true. Uniquely uplifting and never didactic, this is a gem.

Thanks so much, Shelia!

has just been released and is available at chain and independent bookstores everywhere. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber retailer. For more information, visit Sheila's website at

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Update

A bit of progress to report ...

• Yesterday I emailed my agents about 50+ pages of my work-in-progress, The Cousins' Club. I haven't told them a single thing about the story, so I have no idea what their reaction will be. Fingers crossed ...

• Still waiting to hear on a pub date and final title for my third novel. I'm more anxious about the pub date. There was a chance it would wind up on the spring 2010 schedule, but that didn't happen. So now I wait for a date on the summer calendar, which goes from May to August, and pray I don't get August again. I know a lot of people think that's a good month for books, but I disagree. I think the reason bookstore sales are high in August is because college stores are included in the mix. August is bad for me. No one is around. Promotion is nearly impossible. I can't get arrested in August. I rest my case. (Except for one thing ... if my book gets pushed off until fall I will slit my wrists.)

I'm visualizing May. May May May.

• Last Sunday was the first ever BOOKS NJ festival. Saralee Rosenberg was our designated driver for the day, taking Brenda Janowitz and me to Paramus. While waiting for my chariot I turned on the radio and heard that the George Washington Bridge was closed all morning for a walkathon. As if that wasn't bad enough, there was a massive accident on the Cross Bronx and all lanes were closed. Wait, there's more. Sunday was the Puerto Rican Day Parade, which meant that 5th Avenue in Manhattan was closed, making through-traffic impossible. Think it can't get any worse? There was a Yankees game.

Can someone please remind me why I don't live in Wyoming or something?

Anyway, as the pictures below attest, we did actually make it. (Went north to the Tappan Zee Bridge.) So glad we did, because the festival was extraordinary. It was so well-organized it's hard to believe this was their maiden voyage. Way to go, New Jersey! Kudos to Arlene Sahraie and the rest of the gang for pulling off the impossible. Special thanks, too, to Mary Riskind, Director of the Bergenfield Public Library, for doing such a great job moderating our panel.

Our panel, Women Are Characters, was at 3.

My panel, left to right: Saralee Rosenberg, Ellen Meister, Carol Hoenig, Brenda Janowitz (with guest)

Saralee, yours truly, Carol, Brenda and author Debra Borden

Chillin' before the panel

With Mary Riskind, our trusty moderator

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Friday Update ... of sorts

Hard to figure out what to say for a week that seemed to go by in five minutes. I did a lot of writing on this new project, The Cousins' Club. I'm still at sea in terms of how the story is going to play out, but have been getting lots of exciting ideas and I might actually show my agent something soon. I just feel like I need some feedback around now.

Meanwhile, I've been going to the gym. Not just running on the treadmill, but pumping iron using a routine my husband mapped out for me. And I'm actually seeing results. You know that obnoxious thing guys do when they flex their arms in front of the mirror? I did that today and guess what I saw? Something resembling bicep muscles.

You probably think that shouldn't shock me, but understand that I'm not genetically prone to muscle definition. We are a soft people. (I guess survival of the fittest in the remote shtels of the Ukraine depended more on layering on fat than any athleticism. "Yacov, how will we get through the winter? There is no food." "No food? Why, just last month when the goat died I emptied the contents of its stomach and got almost a whole bowl of half-digested grass! My shana Mindel, you can make enough schav for the whole village!")

That's about it, but if you're anywhere near Paramus, New Jersey, please set Sunday aside for the first ever NEW JERSEY BOOK FESTIVAL. It's going to be huge, with tons of authors, readings and panels. I'll be presenting at 3:00 pm, with Saralee Rosenberg, Carol Hoenig and Brenda Janowitz. Our panel is called "Women are Characters: Exploring Heroines Who Matter." Click here for more info.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Saturday update

This past week was mostly spent writing rather obsessively. I also finished a freelance editing job I was working on. Here are a couple other highlights ...

• Wonderful event at the Highline Ballroom last weekend, where I got to hear some stellar readers, comics and singers. I also got to join a group of 6-word memoirists on stage and read my life story ("Not as blond as I look").

I kind of got to meet Neil Gaiman, who was at the event that night. My friend Robin Slick had met him before was supposed to introduce him to our pal Susan Henderson, who had interviewed him on her fabulous website, Litpark. Neil was standing right next to Robin and, bless her big gorgeous tender heart, she couldn't muster the courage to tap him on the shoulder. So me and my Long Island chutzpah stepped in to tap Neil, point out that Robin was right next to him, and introduce Sue. I never told him my own name. Oh, well.

Upshot is that it was a fun night, though I can't honestly say it was worth the price of a mortgage payment, which is pretty close to what the night cost me. (Don't ask.)

• Speaking of Neil Gaiman, two out of my three kids read THE GRAVEYARD BOOK and said it was the best book they ever read. No small compliment from these two, trust me.

• Shout-out to my oldest pal, Linda Kitay, for the fun lunch on Tuesday at Fanatico.

• Yesterday I called my mom to tell her her aol account had been hijacked by a phishing scam going by the name "Desktop Dating," and that she had to change her password right away. So she passed the phone to my dad and ran to the computer.

I heard Dad talking to mom and then nothing but the TV in the background. (If you call my parents and don't hear the TV in the background, you've got the wrong number.) Dad clearly had no idea I was holding for him. I tried shouting, singing, whistling. But he didn't hear me. So I called his cellphone from my cellphone.

ME: Dad? Do you have the landline telephone on your lap?
DAD: How did you know?
ME: Pick it up and say hello to me.

My parents and phones. The fun never stops.

Saralee Rosenberg and I went to see Alice Hoffman at Book Revue last night. She read from her new novel, THE STORY SISTERS, and I was knocked right out. You really have to get this book.

Ran into fellow author and Facebook pal Debra Markowitz at the event, which really rounded out the night.

Here's a picture of Alice Hoffman and me from last year, when I interviewed her on stage at an Author's Tea ...
• Went to the Borders in Syosset yesterday and signed a great big stack of THE SMART ONE. It was really swell of them to place such a large order, so I hope you'll consider stopping in if you're thinking about end-of-the-year teacher gifts.

• Kudos to the NSSA folks and everyone else who participated in the Jack's Run fundraiser today!

Friday, June 05, 2009


By Judi Fennell

What a fitting title to be blogging about today, since that's exactly how I feel. Apologies, my friends. I've been so consumed with this new novel I'm working on that I've been neglecting my poor blog. I should have posted about Judi's book day's ago. And so now I'm putting off my usual Friday update because I really want you to know about this exciting new title.

Here's the quick plot summary:

When Erica Peck, one terrified-of-the-ocean marina owner, finds herself at the bottom of the sea conversing with a Mer man named Reel, she thinks she's died and gone to her own version of Hell.

When the Oceanic Council demands she and Reel retrieve a lost cache of diamonds from the resident sea monster in return for their lives, she knows she's died and gone to Hell.
When they escape the monster and end up on a deserted island, she amends her opinion - she's died and gone to Heaven.

But when Reel sacrifices himself to allow her to return to her world, she realizes that, Heaven or Hell, with Reel, she's In Over Her Head.

Darling Judi was good enough to answer some interview questions, so here goes ...

How would you describe the genre of IN OVER HER HEAD, and what pulled you toward it?

In Over Her Head is a tongue-in-cheek, light-headed paranormal. I loved I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched growing up and I tried to capture that funny, something-else-is-going-on-other-than-what's-on-the-surface feeling those shows had. Plus, I got to make sea creatures talk. That was fun.

What can you tell us about the genesis of the idea for this book?

I'd been writing a series that was a twist on fairy tales: Bauty and The Best, Cinda Bella, and Fairest of Them All, and I wanted to do a twist on The Little Mermaid. The easiest way to twist it was to make him the Mer. Once I had that idea, the story just flowed (pun fully intended).

Is there a story behind the title?

I love manipulating language: puns, double entendres, plays-on-words, cliches, etc. and this saying just fit the bill on all accounts. Erica is In Over Her Head, both in the water, fighting against the sea monster and falling in love with a merman. I couldn't pass it up.

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

They did ask me about the story and what I envisioned. That being said, the cover is nothing like what I envisioned but I absolutely love it. The font that's wavy, HIM, the ocean, the color, the placement of the quote... It's superb. They did an amazing job on the cover, as well as the ones for the next two books (Wild Blue Under, November 2009 and Catch of a Lifetime, February 2010)

Can you share some particularly memorable fan mail you received about this or previous books?

I recently had a book seller email me. She isn't a romance reader but had a friend who liked paranormal romance and picked my book up for her. Since the friend was out of town, she opened my book to see if it could hold her interest. Not only did it hold her interest, but she said she read it in one sitting and couldn't put it down. And that she'd be buying the rest of my books. As for her friend, well, she's going to have to buy her own copy of In Over Her Head. That was a great email to receive.

Thanks so much, Judi! The book sounds terrific.

You can buy IN OVER HER HEAD at your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To purchase online, visit,, or any cyber retailer. For more information--or to learn about the exciting romantic beach getaway Judi is raffling off--visit her website at