Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Update 10/30

Happy Halloween! If you're on Long Island this Sunday, I'll hope you'll find your way to Molloy College in Rockville Centre at 3 pm. I'm doing an author talk. Free refreshments and still-fresh Halloween candy will be served. Click here for details.

I'm still not in a mindset to post any personal updates, so, for your reading pleasure, here is an eclectic assortment of links I like ...

Betsy Lerner - one of my favorite agent bloggers

The Self-Esteem Companion - My friend Roch is a great hypnotist and an inspirational blogger

Ken Levine - Colorful TV comedy writer (and no, my character Kenny Waxman was not modeled on him)

Hey, I'm Maxthegirl - Kickass recaps of Project Runway and more

Lee Goldberg - Funny, honest, bold novelist/screenwriter

David Carol - Gifted photographer, extraordinary images

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Update 10/23

A few years ago I got a twitch in my eyelid that lasted for months before finally going away.

Today I woke up to discover the twitch is back, which should tell you something about my week. And that's all I'm going to say for now.

Thanks for checking in. Have a great weekend ...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Update 10/16

• This week I didn't do much but work. I finished the new proposal for The Cousins' Club and got stuck on the last couple of paragraphs. I wrote them about a thousand different ways, and it didn't feel right. I knew I would get it eventually--it just took time. And trees. I printed the thing out again and again to read it in hard copy. Of course I made changes every time.

I was looking for something that felt organic but not obvious, satisfying but not hokey. It had to illustrate the main character's arc without sounding punchline-y.

Then at last the characters spoke to me and I got an ending that felt right. So I did one last edit and sent the whole 17,000-word proposal off to my agents. Now I wait to see if they think I nailed it this time.

• I'm still reading THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, but slowly. I'm not even at the halfway point. It's not a book that pulls me in, and I find myself avoiding it much of the time. I don't think it's the book's fault. I think it's me. I'm an odd sort of reader. I have a hard time handling books that are too tense. Clearly, I'm alone in this, because millions of people love thrillers. Page-turners, they call them. But it has the opposite effect on me. When things really heat up I have to put the book down and walk away. Yes, I am that much of a wuss.

I feel a little sheepish admitting this, because some of my best friends are thriller writers. I like and respect these people. If they came to my house, I would even let them use my bathroom. (Sorry. I read a story this morning about a racist judge and that line stuck in my head.)

So now you know. I may be a tad emotionally intense. But I'm getting better. I used to come close to blacking out at movies because I would hold my breath during the tense parts. (My husband learned to gently pat my hand during these scenes and remind me to breathe.) Now I remember to inhale and exhale on my own.

• Any other grownups really excited about seeing WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE?

• I spent much of the day yesterday glued to the television worrying about balloon boy. Now some people are whispering that the whole thing may have been a hoax. The fact that his father is a bit of a media hound is fueling this. I don't know, but there is one thing about the story that's bugging me. There were cameras following that balloon for hours, and we got a very good view of it. We didn't know how the thing was constructed, and assumed it was possible for someone to be inside. But the part of the craft that could hold people was not attached, and that had to be completely obvious to the parents. Why were the authorities never alerted to the fact that there was no way the boy could inside that enclosed section of the craft? I'm just saying.

• Thanks to Ellis Weiner and The New Yorker for the funniest thing I have read in a long, long time.

• Reminder: I'm giving a talk at Molloy College in Rockville Centre. Free refreshments and lots of leftover Halloween candy. It's on Sunday, November 1, at 3 pm. Click here for details.

• One sad and heartbreaking note. My beloved creative writing professor from SUNY Buffalo, Raymond Federman, passed away this week. He was a writer, poet, scholar and holocaust survivor who had a significant impact on me and many others, I'm sure. Rest in peace, Ray.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


By Marilyn Brant

To be filed under Better Late than Never, my blog post about ACCORDING TO JANE, a bright and inventive debut from Girlfriends Cyber Circuit author Marilyn Brant. For a Jane Austen fan like me, this sounds like a delicious read. Here's the press release summary:

It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett's teacher is assigning Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet "tsk" of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who's teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author's ghost has taken up residence in Ellie's mind, and seems determined to stay there.

Jane's wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go--sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane's counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.

Still, everyone has something to learn about love--perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie's head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. . .

Marilyn was good enough to answer some interview questions for me, so here goes ...

Tell us about ACCORDING TO JANE and the inspiration behind it.
My debut novel, According to Jane, is the story of a modern woman who--for almost two decades--has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice. I first read Pride & Prejudice as a high-school freshman. Like my heroine Ellie, I raced through the novel way ahead of the reading assignments. I loved both the story and Austen’s writing style immediately. Her books changed the way I perceived the behavior of everyone around me, and I spent the rest of freshman year trying to figure out which Austen character each of my friends and family members most resembled! Also like Ellie, I had a few (okay, a lot) of less-than-wonderful boyfriends, and I would have loved to have been given romantic advice from the author I most respected and the one who’d written one of my all-time favorite love stories.

Which scene in ACCORDING TO JANE did you love writing?
One scene I had a lot of fun with was the bar scene in the first chapter where my main character runs into her ex-high-school boyfriend for the first time in four years. It was a situation I had never experienced personally, but I could imagine the comical possibilities so clearly and feel and the frustration of my heroine as if I’d been the one standing there, facing the jerk and his latest girlfriend, while Jane Austen ranted about how “insufferable” he was.

Do you have a sample chapter posted?
Yes! On my website I have a segment of Chapter One available for anyone interested in reading. Also, if you go to the Amazon page for According to Jane “Search Inside This Book” feature, and people can read samples from scenes throughout the novel.

Any great fan/fan mail stories you care to share?
The book was just released on September 29th, so first impressions are still coming in, but I’ve gotten some truly wonderful emails from people who read the ARCs this summer. One of my favorites is from a woman who won a copy of the book in a contest and emailed me to say that she’d finished the book in a day and was on an emotional high from reading it. She added, “Sometimes I go through phase where I'm so blase about reading fiction and focus mainly on non-fiction (my usual staple), but once in a blue moon, a book grips me and makes me fall in love with fiction again. Thank you. A very grateful reader.” I will always, always love that message!

Do read books on the craft of writing, and do you have any favorites to recommend?
I’m a BIG fan of craft books, so I have more than one! I used Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT! almost religiously in the plotting of my past several books. I’m still very sad that he’s no longer with us. As far as a great reference guide, Robert McKee’s STORY is incredible. It has more information about writing craft than I can ever internalize. Also, whenever I need a more emotional pick-me-up, I grab the Ralph Keyes book THE COURAGE TO WRITE. I recommend it to everyone.

What’s next for you, Marilyn?
I get to visit a number of book clubs that chose my debut novel, According to Jane, as their monthly book pick--wildly fun!--while also starting the production/promotion process all over again for my next women’s fiction project. That second book is done, but we’re still working on finding the right title. It’s a modern fairytale about three suburban moms who shake up their marriages and their lives when one woman asks her friends a somewhat shocking question… That comes out in October 2010.

Thanks so much, Marilyn!

To purchase ACCORDING TO JANE, visit your local chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Marilyn's website at

Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday Update, 10/9

Yikes. I'm really behind in my blogging, and owe a post to the wonderful Marilyn Brant, which I promise to do next week, if not sooner. Meanwhile, if you're in a bookstore this weekend, please keep an eye out for her glorious and sizzling hot debut, ACCORDING TO JANE.

This week was mostly about work for me, and I'm very close to having my new proposal completed. I got within spitting distance of the finish line today when I realized I just needed a little bit of mental space to figure out how to finesse the ending. So I'm letting the girls in the attic (or the boys in the basement, as Stephen King would say) do their thing. In other words, I'm walking away long enough for my subconscious to work on it without me. My hope is that the next time I sit down to type the answers will be obvious.

One surreal bit of irritation this week. The Federal Trade Commission announced that bloggers who review books must make it clear if they received a review copy for free. Apparently, the FTC considers a free book "compensation," and think there's an implicit compact between publisher and reviewer. That's right. They think publishers are "buying" good reviews by sending out free copies, and consumers need to know this. It's completely absurd, especially since they only make this requirement of bloggers and not reviewers in other media. Click here to read more about it.

Can you believe this horseshit? As if the publishing industry wasn't beleaguered enough. I am livid.

Meanwhile, the dimwits at the FTC can sleep soundly at night knowing that Janet in Portland will be protected from buying a copy of the new Dan Brown book her sister-in-law recommended on her blog.

To protest this lunacy, call Richard T. Cleland at the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 202-326-3088.

Lastly, if you work at Kensington, I have a special plea: DO NOT, under any circumstances, send me a copy of According to Jane. Just the mention I made above could get me fined.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday Update 10/2

Today I'm writing to you from my car in front of my local Borders Bookstore. I had intended to work from a nearby coffee shop, but it was unexplainably closed. So I headed to the bookstore, which also has free wi-fi. Alas, I got here before it opened, so I'm in the parking lot mooching wireless service.

Meanwhile, is it really Friday already? This week went by in about 3 seconds.

Partly it's because it was a short school week. Here on Long Island, schools were closed on Monday for the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur. We hosted "Break the Fast" at our house, which is my favorite meal of the year ... to serve and to eat. For those who don't know, it's tradition to break the fast with bagels, lox and other smoked fish. Oof! This stuff could make a believer out of anyone.

And it's a great holiday to host, because it's so very easy to impress starving people. Also, there's very little cooking and cleaning involved. What could be better?

This year, I was very happy to have friends as well as family. A special treat!

Other good news this week is that I got a happy message from my agents. I had sent them an email with some thoughts on the new direction I want to go in with The Cousins' Club, my work-in-progress. Also included was a new prologue I felt great about. Turns out my agents loved it all--the idea as well as the prologue. They may even have used the word "brilliant." So yay! After two false starts I'm off and running.

Looks like the store is opening now, so I'm going to grab a cup of Awake tea and work on the novel. Thanks for checking in ... and have a great weekend.

EDITED TO ADD: I'm in Borders now, where I went straight to the magazine rack and found a special edition of Writer's Digest called NOVEL WRITING. It contains several articles by my pal Jordan Rosenfeld, one of which mentions yours truly. There's actually tons of great stuff in this issue and I plan to read it cover-to-cover. You should, too. Either click this link for a digital version or pick up a copy at your local bookstore.

And finally ... my brother, Stephen Meister, was on TV again this week, talking to Neil Cavuto about the real estate bail-out. This time it was on Fox News rather than Fox Business News. Take a look ...