Friday, February 27, 2009
• Speaking of quotes, have you ever seen the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks? Pretty hilarious, especially if you're a punctuation nerd like me.
• Hugs, kisses, thanks and rose petals thrown at the feet of my darling friend Myfanwy Collins, who read every page of my manuscript and gave me such great advice. (And incidentally, she also introduced to the hilarious blog link above!)
• Still no great Aha! moment on my title, despite the dozens of pages of ideas I write down every day.
• Last week I finally screwed up the courage to get on the scale. I knew I had put back a little of the weight I lost, but was shocked at how much I had put back. I haven't eaten since. I'm not even kidding. I'm definitely losing weight (starvation will do that), but am gun-shy about getting back on the scale.
• My husband and daughter are going to be in our temple's Purim play. So cute seeing them rehearse together.
• The freelance project I was working on for the past few weeks is done. You can see my handiwork here.
• In April, Lisa Kudrow is going to be in a new TV show called Who Do You Think You Are. It's a genealogy program and I have more than a passing interest in learning about her roots, as we share a branch of the family tree. Read more about it here.
• A long time ago I came up with the idea for the two main characters I want to explore in my next book. I have a strong sense of who they and what their relationship is like. But I had no story, no through-line, no hook. It's been driving me crazy, because it makes me anxious to finish one book and not have another idea waiting in the wings. But around 5:00 this morning I was making notes and think I finally hit on it.
• Special shout-out to my pal Saralee Rosenberg who dropped everything to meet me for lunch this week and brainstorm on title ideas!
• Here's a YouTube video that's been making the rounds lately, and for good reason. Check out Louis C.K. talking to Conan O'Brien:
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
1. They're both written by pals
2. They hit the bookstores today
3. They're being slobbered over by critics and readers alike
PRECIOUS is the debut novel of Sandra Novack. I haven't read it yet, but it looks like the kind of book that will capture me completely. Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about it:
Novack's lyrical and finely crafted first novel is set in a small, idyllic Pennsylvania town circa 1978 and charts the crumbling of two families. At the center of the novel is the Kisch family, sisters Sissy and Eva and parents Frank and Natalia. Nine-year-old Sissy is introverted and impressionable, while older Eva is having an affair with Peter, her high school English teacher. Her parents' marriage, too, is rapidly deteriorating, and soon Natalia takes off for Italy with her lover, leaving Frank to try to deal with the remnants of their family. A few houses away, 10-year-old Vicki Anderson (whose relationship to Sissy is troubled), has gone missing, leaving her mother, Ginny, panicked and grief-stricken. Unhappiness, it seems, dwells everywhere, though there may be a dash of hard-won hope as Natalia returns home and the Kisches recalibrate. Ginny, meanwhile, fails to receive any good news about her missing daughter. The graceful prose and bleak atmosphere underscore the loneliness of each character. Novack takes the massive distance between friends, husbands and wives, and makes it her home. (Feb.)
PRECIOUS can be found on the new fiction table at your local bookstore. Of course, you can buy it online at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Sandy's website at sandranovack.com.
THE SECOND OPINION by Michael Palmer is a medical thriller I was lucky enough to read before it came out. I didn't even know I liked thrillers until I started reading his work. What I discovered is that it's possible to write breathless and gripping plots with characters as layered, complex and fascinating as any you'll find. This book, in particular, grabbed me with its protagonist--a brilliant woman doctor with Asperger's Syndrome. Here's what the reviewer at Booklist had to say about it:
Palmer, a medical-thriller writer who has been producing A-list-quality novels for years, turns in another excellent performance with this story of a physician who uncovers a deadly conspiracy. Dr. Thea Sperelakis’ father is the victim of a hit-and-run; now in a coma, he communicates only with his daughter and only by moving one of his eyes. Slowly, Thea pieces together the truth behind her father’s accident, and behind a series of suspicious deaths, but exposing the villains could mean exposing her to certain death. As usual, the novel is fluidly written—as a stylist, Palmer is head and shoulders above his more famous competitor, Robin Cook—and very suspenseful. Thea, in particular, is a most intriguing character: she has Asperger syndrome, which gives her an obsession with details, a near-encyclopedic memory, and a rather charming awkwardness in social settings. The novel is not merely a thriller but also an exploration of its central character’s unique gifts and her determination to communicate with her comatose father despite overwhelming odds. Another winner from a consistently fine writer.
Friday, February 13, 2009
• Emma, my 11-year-old, auditioned for JEOPARDY! KIDS on Saturday. We spent the whole day in Manhattan and had a blast. My biggest surprise was that people came from up and down the Eastern seaboard for this. Anyway, the parents were separated from the kids, so I didn't get to see any of it and have no idea how she did. We'll find if she made it next month. Only 15 kids are chosen (out of hundreds) so the odds are tough. But no matter what happens, it was a memorable adventure for both of us. (Shout-out to the cool parents I got to hang out with during the long wait! A terrific bunch ...)
• At the end of the long day, we took the Long Island Rail Road home from the city. As we neared our station, Emma got a little bored and started softly singing some Beatles' songs. I didn't think anybody heard, but when we got off the train, a man turned to her and said he worked for Q104.3, a rock radio station, and loved her singing. Then he said he would give her a shout-out the next day!
We actually listen to that station and so Emma was thrilled. When we got home, we went to the website just to make sure the guy wasn't pulling our legs. Sure enough, we found his picture--he's Gerry Martire, one of the weekend DJs. And oh, the shout-out he gave Emma! He went on and on about how great it was to meet her and how well she sang. It was the perfect end to an exciting weekend!
• The other big event this weekend was Max's 17th birthday on Sunday. Poor kid woke up sick that day, but wanted to celebrate anyway. We tried to keep it mellow, though. Took the family and one of his friends to see Coraline, and then had pizza and chocolate cake, Max's two favorite foods in the whole world.
• Been editing and proofreading my manuscript this week. I thought I was very close to sending it off to my editor, but I've been toying with the idea of adding some scenes. I dunno. I can't stop torturing myself.
• My 14-year-old, Ethan, is going to see that Friday the 13th movie today with his gang. I have never understood the fascination with entertainment designed to terrify. You couldn't pay me enough to sit through that.
• Kudos to Ethan and Max for the excellent report cards!!!
• This week I'm reading (and LOVING) the ARC of a forthcoming book, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, by Samantha Wilde. Remember that name. She's a debut author and she is going to be hot. Not easy to make me laugh out loud when I'm reading, but boy ... she has me in stitches.
• I did 50+ minutes on the treadmill today. Am I skinny yet? God, middle age sucks ...
At any rate, I'll get my weekly update posted later, as I don't want to waste another minute ... today's GCC book is a winner and deserves your attention.
SCANDAL by Carolyn Jewel is a historical romance the critics are going crazy over. I first read about it about over on agent Kristin's blog (if you're a writer and you're not already following this blog, bookmark it immediately--it's one of the best for lit agent insights). She linked to a glowing review at Smart Bitches, a site that has some of the toughest critics around. Here's a little snippet:
I’ve recommended this book to both Jane and KatieBabs, and both of them seemed to be as caught by the story as I was. If you like meaty, thought-provoking historical romance with enigmatic characters and a use of history that illuminates the time period in a new and often difficult way, this is a book for you. This is not light, frilly, lace and ruffles romance set in the Regency; this book is marvelously real. It’s sometimes cold and harsh, and at times sad, but there’s a richness and a poignancy that elevates the entire book to a whole other level of “good.” read more ...
In case you're not inclined to read it all the way to the end, know that the last line of the review is "This book took my breath away." Doesn't get better than, my friends!
And now you get to meet this talented and colorful writer via my interview with her. Here goes ...
Hi, Carolyn. Tell me a little about what inspired SCANDAL?
Terror. I'm only partly kidding. Just about all my books are inspired by the terror of believing it isn't working and that, working or not, I won't be able to finish on time. More seriously, Scandal is set during the English Regency period (which was 1811-1820) and I very deliberately drew on my grad school research on a woman who wrote during this time period. Women of the English upper classes had few resources if the men in their lives did not, for whatever reason, fulfill their cultural obligation to take care of their female relatives. Writing novels was one of the few things a woman could do, openly or secretly, to make money. I was astonished to discover that the money a novelist could expect to make in 1815 isn't much different than it is today. The chief difference between then and now lies in the copyright. In 1815, publishers bought the copyright outright. The author was paid once and that was it. Today, authors typically retain the copyright to their work.
Did you have any input on that sexy cover, and are you happy with the finished product?
My editor at Berkley, Kate Seaver, sent me some cover art by someone she was thinking of using to see what I thought of his style. She also asked me for my ideas and for samples of covers I liked. As it happens, I am completely clueless about what makes a good cover (aside from knowing a good one when I see it attached to somebody else's book). My samples were all fairly dreadful. They were great for books that were not mine, though. The people whose business it is to create covers that sell books ignored me, thank goodness, and came up with a very passionate cover that conveys the emotion between my hero and heroine. I love my cover and I am really, truly grateful for the talented people who worked to make it come together so wonderfully.
What's the main thing you hope people take away from SCANDAL?
A burning and insatiable desire to buy my backlist and everything else I ever write for the rest of my life. And to tell everyone they know to do the same thing. OK, seriously, I just hope they enjoy the heck out of the story.
For the writers reading this, what is your process of getting out a first whole draft? How long might it take?
I print out drafts from time to time because the words look different on paper. I rarely have a complete draft. I just have more and more words that make up a mess that needs constant and massive fixing which I do constantly until somehow the story isn't a mess any more. And then it's done.
What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
In June, 2009, Grand Central Publishing will release My Forbidden Desire, the second of an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance set in a world that includes mages and demons. Indiscreet will be an October 2009 historical from Berkley Sensation.
Congrats, Carolyn! And thanks so much.
To buy SCANDAL, visit your favorite bookstore today. To purchase online, visit amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Carolyn's website at carolynjewel.com.