Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Update, 9/25

• I don't like to use my blog to whine, but to be perfectly honest it wasn't the best of weeks. I started out trying to lick the last remnants of the flu as I waited for my agent to get back to me on my second submission of my work-in-progress, THE COUSINS' CLUB.

Understand that it was something like my twentieth draft and I'd been working like a dog. I know I'm onto something incredibly special here and was hoping my agent would say that I nailed it.

Alas, it wasn't the conversation I had been hoping for. She agrees that there's something there--something unique and fresh and breathtaking--but I haven't found the doorway inside. Pretty hard to put into words how devastated I was. Normally I handle these things better, but it's bad timing for me, as I didn't have the emotional, physical or financial resources to cope with the news.

Also, I blame some of this moodiness on the fact that I've been unable to exercise. I got pretty accustomed to those endorphins.

• I attended Back to School night at the high school and middle school this week. It was good to meet the kids' teachers, but hard for me because these were evening events and my body was reminding me that I'm still recovering and should be spending my nights under the covers with a cup of tea.

• Took a little me time this week and met my friend Saralee Rosenberg at an excellent and inspiring book talk by the author of 50 IS THE NEW FIFTY, Suzanne Braun Levine. If you don't know who she is, think Ms. Magazine. She was a founding editor, and is currently a speaker on women and family issues, as well as contributing editor of More Magazine. The talk was moderated by my friend Debbi Honorof, and sponsored by The Transition Network.

Ellen Meister, Suzanne Braun Levine, Saralee Rosenberg

• No joke--I got myself a staple gun and some fabric and am reupholstering my dining room chairs. I may be dangerous.

• Just finished reading THE BOOK OF JOE by Jonathan Tropper. Wonderful novel--funny and warm and smart. I'm dying to read his new book, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU. My reading pile is insane but I'll get around to it one of these days/weeks/months.

• My brother, Stephen Meister, was on the Bulls and Bears show at Fox Business News again, discussing the real estate market. He's like Donald Trump with honest hair. Take a look:

• Looking forward to having family and friends over for Break the Fast on Monday night. Meanwhile, I wish all my Jewish friends a sweet New Year, an easy fast and all good things. Peace.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


By Hank Phillippi Ryan

You would think that blogging isn't the kind of thing that gets put off when you're sick. After all, how much energy does it take to type up a few paragraphs?

Clearly, more energy than I had with this damned flu, which is why I'm late blogging about a wonderful new book from the beautiful and talented Hank Phillippi Ryan, who's not only an author, but an on-air reporter for NBC in Boston.

She's touring now to talk about the latest in her breathless Charlotte McNally mystery series, AIR TIME.

Check out some of the buzz this book is getting:

"Sassy, fast-paced, and appealing. This is first-class entertainment."
—Sue Grafton

"The most fun I've had reading in a long time. Hank Phillippi Ryan has given us one of the best heroines to emerge in a long while, and her stories zip along as fast as news bulletins. AIR TIME is a fun, fast read with a heroine who's sexy, stylish, and smart. I loved it."
—Nancy Pickard

"Loved it! Smart, funny, fresh, intriguing and thoroughly entertaining—I highly recommend this series."
—Suzanne Brockmann

"AIR TIME is a thrill ride from the first page to the last. This story will tickle your funnybone and to uch your heart. Hank Phillippi Ryan is a fabulous new talent."
—Susan Wiggs

"Excellent! Hank Phillippi Ryan knows how to create characters that come to life and capture your heart. Don't miss this engrossing story."
—Brenda Novak

"Hank had me from the first line. In her latest addictive page-turner AIR TIME, real-life TV reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan once again thrills us with her terrific counterpart, investigative reporter Charlotte McNally. AIR TIME isn't only exciting and sexy and even funny—it's also damned well written."
—David Morrell, Founding co-president International Thriller Writers

"Ripped straight from the newsroom! Hank Phillippi Ryan dishes up the inside scoop—the deadlines, the duplicity, and the danger. AIR TIME is authentic, full of intrigue, and great fun—truly a page-turner."
—Kelly Lange, TV News Anchor-Reporter, Mystery Author

And now here's Hank to answer some questions ...

How did you come up with the idea for AIR TIME?

Imagine the research I had to do into the world of designer purses! It was tough, but someone had to dive in…

Actually, Charlie’s investigation into the world of counterfeit couture cames straight from been there-done that. In my day job as a TV reporter, my producer (not Franklin!) and I have done several in-depth investigations into the world of knock-offs—not only purses and scarves, but blue jeans and watches and DVDs and videos.

We went undercover and with a hidden camera—like Charlie does—into various back-alley stores where counterfeit merchandise was being sold, and also into some suburban purse parties where women—certainly knowing they were fake and thinking was fine—were scooping up piles of counterfeit Burberrys and Chanels.

You should know— law enforcement tells us, it’s not illegal to buy the purses—unless you’re buying large amounts that are obviously for resale. The illegality is in the copying and manufacture and sale of what’s clearly a trademarked and proprietary item. (As the elegant fashion exec Zuzu Mazny-Latos tells Charlie in AIR TIME—it’s like taking Gone with the Wind—and putting your name on the cover.)

Anyway—lots of AIR TIME is based on research and reality—besides the undercover work, and the research, I’ve done many interviews with the federal agencies in charge of battling counterfeiting, the attorneys who help big companies protest their products, and even the private investigators the designers hire to scout out counterfeits.

Are you more driven by plot or by character?

Ah, it's both. I start with one little germ of a plot twist--and then figure out how Charlie is going to figure it out! So I know what I know--and she knows what she knows. And then she has to solve the mystery--based on what I let her know.

Who's your favorite character in AIR TIME and why?

Oh, I can't possibly answer that. Charlie McNally is dear to my heart of course. When my husband talks about Charlie, he calls her “you.” As in: when “you” get chased by the bad guys, or when “you” get held at gunpoint. And I have to remind him, “Sweetheart, it’s fiction.” But Charlie can say things I can’t say about the reality of television, and because she’s fictional, she can go places I can’t go. And say things I can’t say!

And the very sweet 8-year-old Penny, I must say, touches me every time I write about her And I get so many letters from readers, concerned about her, and asking about her, and who I based her on. But really? She’s right out of my imagination. (She’s the character who sometimes makes readers cry...along with Charlie’s mother. I guess family relationships are sometimes—universal.)

And in AIR TIME there’s a new character --a gorgeous FBI agent named Keresey Stone. She’s amazing. And unpredictable. But I wonder what you’ll think about her?

Your double-duty career must be difficult. What's your writing process/writing environment like?

I’ve been a television reporter since 19, um, 75. I’m still on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate, and still at work as an investigative reporter. (And I’m always hoping my best story ever is just around the corner.) So I come to work at Channel 7 every morning—tracking down clues, doing research, hoping for justice and looking for a great story that will change people’s lives. (Hmm..sounds a lot like mystery writing!)

Then at night we go back home—and when I’m in writing mode, I write til about ten pm, in a wonderful study that’s lined with bookshelves. I admit—I have a cluttered desk, and no real filing system, except for “piles.” But I know where everything is. I like it to be quiet.. At the TV station, it’s chaotic and loud, with three TV’s blasting all the time—and I can work fine there! But at home, with the books—quiet.

Because my schedule is so tight, I keep track of my words. If I know I have to write 90,000 words by the deadline, I literally divide that number by the number of days I have—and then set that as a goal. I try to write maybe—to pages a day. And on weekends, more. If I can do that, I’m thrilled.

I push my way through a first draft. I say to myself—just get the story down. Just do it. And you can fix it later.

Then I cook dinner, and my husband and I have a very late dinner together! You can imagine how patient he is!

I used to be a pretty good cook, and diligent about exercise. My husband and I gave dinner parties and went to movies and went on vacation. Sigh. That’s all pretty much over. I have a full time job as reporter, a full time job as a mystery author, and a full time job as a wife (with two step-children and two step-grandchildren!) That doesn’t leave much time for much else.

What's your favorite part of writing?

Revision, no question. I love that. You have this whole first draft, and you get to go back and see what you really have. I often have wonderful revelations when I read over the first draft—there are themes and rhythms and even clues that I didn’t realize were there! It’s always so rewarding.

And after 30 years in TV, I know how valuable editing is—so I look at it as a real treat. To get to polish, and tweak, and rearrange, and make it all shine—oh, it’s great fun.

The other favorite part—when readers love the books. I can’t tell you how often I’m out on a story, for instance, and a stranger will come up to me , and pull the book out of a purse or briefcase, and ask me to sign it. I can barely resist bursting into tears. It somehow completes the writing, you know? when someone reads it.

What's the best piece of advice you ever got about writing?

There’s a plaque on my bulletin board with the question: “What would you attempt to do if you know you could not fail?” That gives me a lot of courage.

Thanks so much, Hank!

To purchase AIR TIME or the other books in this riveting series, visit your local chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber retailer. For more information, visit Hank's website at

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Update 9/18

I have the flu. Swine? Something else? Doesn't matter. I'll be fine either way. But too tired for updates right now.

L'shana tova. Have a sweet New Year.

Monday, September 07, 2009


By Joanne Rendell

Apologies for getting so behind on my blogging. I never posted my Friday update last week, but that's not the worst of it--I'm late in telling you about this wonderful new book from an outstanding GCC writer, Joanne Rendell.

CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE sounds like a perfect book club read. Nicola Kraus, co-author of The Nanny Diaries, called it "A charming, witty, and cerebral novel." Here's the description:

Across Washington Square live two very different women …with their very different love of books.

Some women follow their hearts; others follow their minds. In this second novel from the acclaimed author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club, we return to Manhattan University, where two strong-willed women are compelled to unite their senses and sensibilities.

Professor Diana Monroe is a highly respected scholar of Sylvia Plath. Serious and aloof, she steadfastly keeps her mind on track. Professor Rachel Grey is young and impulsive, with a penchant for teaching popular women’s fiction like Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Devil Wears Prada, and for wearing her heart on her sleeve.

The two conflicting personalities meet head to heart when Carson McEvoy, a handsome and brilliant professor visiting from Harvard, sets his eyes on both women and creates even more tension between them. Now Diana and Rachel are slated to accompany an undergraduate trip to London, where an almost life-threatening experience with a student celebrity will force them to change their minds and heal their hearts…together.

Joanne was good enough to answer some of interview questions, so please give her charming answers a read ...

What's the basic premise of CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE?

Crossing Washington Square is a story of two very different women and their very different love of books. Rachel Grey
and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds and when a brilliant and handsome professor from Harvard comes to town and sets his sights on both women, sparks really fly!

What was the inspiration behind it?

The idea for Crossing Washington Square evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I'm married to a professor at NYU), I've always loved books about the university - novels like Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys, Richard Russo's The Straight Man, Zadie Smith's On Beauty, and Francine Prose's Blue Angel. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith's novels focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting - instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!

Is there a scene in the book you're especially proud of?

Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds. Rachel is young, emotional, and impulsive. She wrote a book about women's book groups which got her a slot on Oprah and she uses "chick lit" in her classes. Diana is aloof, icy, and controlled. She's also a scholar of Sylvia Plath who thinks "beach" fiction is an easy ride for students. My favorite scene is where these two women face-off in a department meeting. Neither of the professors is a shrinking violet and thus sparks really fly! The scene was such fun to write.

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

Crossing Washington Square loosely echoes Austen's Sense and Sensibility - with one professor being led by her sense, the other by her sensibility. I love the Ang Lee adaptation of Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet playing the two very different Dashwood sisters. I'd love Emma and Kate to play my professors too!

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

I received the first draft of the cover via email. I opened it and instantly fell in love! I really had no suggestions to make it better. I thought it was perfect and really captured the spirit of the book. It kind of looks like a Penguin classic (with the square title box and the particular typeface), but it is coupled with the very modern photo of the girl. This juxtaposition really captures what the book is about. In other words, how some people love classical books, other like modern, popular books, but how all books - whatever kind - can unite people in the end.

Actually, I recently contacted Melody Cassen who designed the cover for Crossing Washington Square and the cover of my first book The Professors' Wives' Club. I told her how much I loved her work. She was so pleased and said that she rarely hears feedback from authors about their covers. So, tip of the day for authors, if you like your cover, drop the designer a line and tell them!

What's next for you?

I'm working on final edits for my third novel (which was bought by Penguin last fall). The novel tells the story of a woman who thinks she might be related to the nineteenth century writer, Mary Shelley. On her journey to seek the truth and to discover if there really is a link between her own family and the creator of Frankenstein, Clara unearths surprising facts about people much closer to home - including some shocking secrets about the ambitious scientist she is engaged to. The book is told in alternating points of view between Clara and the young Mary Shelley who is preparing to write Frankenstein.

Thanks, Joanne!

CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE is available in trade paperback at your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber bookseller. For more information visit Joanne's website at