Friday, August 29, 2008

Blackberry vs. Apple iPhone 3G

So I've decided to join the 21st Century and get a decent phone. For the past two years, I've had a Virgin Mobile, pay as you go phone, which has been okay, but its kind of crappy. I resisted jumping on to the cell phone bandwagon as long as I could until the day I had to cave in because it is impossible to find a pay phone in this city, and I hate to be running late and not be able to call the person who might be waiting for me. So I did it, I bought a cell phone, but I'm cheap and I knew that I wasn't going to be using the phone to talk to anyone (I personally find it rude when people walk down the street yakking on their cell phones and don't get me started on people who use them on the bus or the subway!)

But now, I really need to be able to check my personal email and my yahoo loops while I'm at work, which I can't do because my company has cut off all access to any outside email or anything that smacks of email, like yahoo loops.

Which brings me to one of the most important decisions of my life: Blackberry or Apple iPhone 3G?

In terms of cost, they both are pretty much the same. The Apple iPhone 3G is $199.00 plus the two year AT&T contract. The Blackberry is a little cheaper but once you add on the unlimited texting and the internet usage, it comes to about the same. My company has a deals with AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, as well as Apple, so it's going to cost even less. However, I just don't know which one I want!

With the Apple iPhone, I can also use it as a mp-3 player, and I can download fairly easily off of i-Tunes and the screen is bigger in terms of reading emails vs. the Blackberry. I'm figuring that in order to pay for the monthly charges, no matter which one I buy, I'm going to cancel my home phone service. That will be hard since I've had the same home phone number since I arrived on this planet (apart from college and the times I lived in London).

I seriously think this decision is harder than the one I made about which college to go to!

Sigh! I know I'm going to chew and mull this over for a few weeks. And then I'm going to have to start cutting out all the extraneous stuff out of my life to pay for it, like US Weekly, People and bubble tea.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What Are They Thinking?

I just read this yesterday in The New York Post:

"THOSE crazy Dutch TV mak ers are at it again - this time they're pushing a show that hooks women up with ex-cons.

The catch?

On "Prisoner of Love," women go on blind dates with newly-released criminals and have to guess what crime they were jailed for.

Dutch television has long been known for its envelope-pushing TV show formats.
Among some of its more notable efforts is the original "Big Brother."
A few years ago, one Dutch TV station followed a "Big Brother" contestant's pregnancy, then aired the birth. - "

Seriously? What woman in her right mind would go on a blind-date with a guy she knew going in was a criminal? And then she has to guess what his crime was? Are women that desperate in Holland?

It's news items like this that make me wonder just how crazy the world is going to get. Is it possible to hit a new low of craziness?


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A New Way To Pay Old Debts

I subscribe to British Heritage Magazine, and I was particularly struck by this tiny article in the most recent issue called Settling a 17th Century Score. However this is from the San Francisco Gate newspaper:

"Prince Charles has paid off a royal debt from the 17th century, but showed modern-day fiscal prudence by declining to pay the accumulated interest, which would have been substantial after more than 350 years.

Charles made the payment of 453 pounds and 3 shillings — about $900 — during a visit Tuesday to Worcester with his wife, Camilla. The debt was incurred in 1651 when King Charles II — at the time recognized only as the king of Scotland — was preparing for the Battle of Worcester.

He had asked the Clothiers Company of Worcester to prepare uniforms for his soldiers and pledged to pay afterward. But his forces were defeated and Charles fled to mainland Europe, leaving behind the unpaid bill.

Charles II never got around to paying it after he returned from exile in 1660 to claim his throne as king of England.

For the last 15 years, Worcester businessmen have tried to collect payment. Prince Charles decided to pay it as "a gesture of good will," according to a statement released by his office.
The prince handed the payment — enclosed in a 1650s-style gaming purse made by the Royal Shakespeare Company — to Andrew Grant, master of the Clothiers Company. Charles received a receipt for his payment after the brief ceremony at the Commandery, which served as the royal headquarters during the Battle of Worcester.

"We are very grateful to the Prince of Wales for repaying the debt to the Worcester Clothiers Company," Grant said.

The Clothiers Company, founded in the 13th century, is one the last of the medieval-era guilds still active in the area. Prince Charles said he was happy to take care of the debt, but said he would not be paying the interest because "I was not born yesterday." With interest, the bill would have exceeded 47,000 pounds ($94,000), according to the British Broadcasting Corp.

What I love about this article is a) in a 25 year reign, Charles II didn't find the time to pay his debts but he did find time to spend lavish huge amounts on his various mistresses and waging war against the Dutch. And b) no British monarch, including the current Queen, bothered to pay back the debt. Oh, and the guild has tried for the last 15 years to get someone in the Royal family to pay back the debt but only Prince Charles decided to do it.

Not that he's exactly broke, which is why I have to laugh at him not wanting to pay the accumulated interest on a 350 year old debt. He apparently made $70 million dollars last year from his Duchy of Cornwall and its assorted products.

The Royal family, they is cheap.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Interview with Hope Tarr

Being President of RWA NYC has been a great honor and privilege for me, and I was so pleased when author Hope Tarr joined our chapter when she moved to New York several months ago. I recently asked Hope if she would sit down and answer some questions in honor of her new Harlequin Blaze release, a historical called BOUND TO PLEASE which was awarded 4 1/2 stars and called 'a not-to-be-missed book' by Romantic Times.

He's not going to take this treatment lying down. At least, not for long…Fifteenth-century Scotland is a tough place to be a woman in charge. Brianna MacLeod, new laird of her clan, needs a child to establish her position. And the best way to do that is to demand the sexual services of her sworn—and very sexy—enemy! Ewan Fraser never foresaw being kidnapped, tied up and expected to perform stud service. Yet being bound for the delicious Brianna's pleasure isn't all bad. In fact, the more time he spends in her bed, the more he's determined she'll be the one who ends up enslaved….

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and how long have you been writing before you were published.
Ever think how much smarter we were as kids before all the should-do’s and must-do’s fogged the crystal clarity of our perfectly formed brains and completely open hearts? As a child I didn’t only want to be a writer when I grew up; I knew I was a writer. Flash forward to my freshman year of college and a surly English Composition professor, who read my impromptu essay aloud to the class and had the ballocks to announce, “You, Miss Tarr, will never be a writer.”

In your face, George!

I went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Education only to ultimately make peace with the fact that I wasn’t really interested in analyzing people or teaching them, at least not in a classroom setting. What I wanted—longed—to do was write about them. In 1993 on a week’s break between consulting assignments, I wandered into a mall bookstore and meandered over to the Reference Section where my gaze snagged the spine of a small pink paperback shoved onto the very top shelf. It was Kathryn Falk's 1989 edition of “How to Write a Romance Novel and Get It Published.” I bought Kathryn’s book, wrote my first book, and then wrote a second.

That second manuscript, a Regency-set historical ultimately titled A ROGUE’S PLEASURE, was my first sale—to Berkley as one of the launch books for their Seduction romance line. It took me six years to achieve publication but it was well worth it. Fifteen years and a dozen or so books later, I’m still here, still writing the stories I love and that I hope readers will love, too.

Q: Tell us about when you got “the call”
I’m going to skip this one if that’s okay. It feels so long ago, *I* almost don’t remember. ;)

Q. Your latest book is entitled BOUND TO PLEASE and is the first Harlequin Blaze historical! What sparked the story idea?
The short and completely true answer is my wonderful editor at Harleqion, Brenda Chin. The idea for bringing the historical to Blaze is Brenda’s brainchild entirely. When she rang me up and offered me the opportunity to write the first book, I didn’t hesitate. I said yes on the spot. I don’t think I stopped smiling for the next twenty-four hours. When I woke up the next morning, my face hurt!

Being invited to be the launch was and is heady stuff but after twenty-four hours of floating on air, it was time to come back to earth—and get down to business, namely coming up with a story concept. Because the book would still be a Blaze, historic or not, there were certain elements of characterization and plot that were musts. The Blaze heroine is, to put it mildly, no one’s fool. She’s strong, goal-directed, and in-touch with both her sexuality and the world. At the same time, I wanted to make certain that the book didn’t become a costume drama with modern people wearing period clothes.

The Scottish Medieval setting was a no-brainer for me. The raw beauty of the landscape, the tumultuous history, the sense that the regular rules of society don’t quite apply there—all filled the bill for infusing what would be a relatively short book with an epic historical sensibility.

Bride abduction is a classic romance set-up as well as a Scottish courtship ritual that survived into the 1920’s in custom if not actual practice. But somehow having my Blaze heroine abducted, even if the book was set in the Scottish Highlands, didn’t feel right. Then it hit me: take the abduction theme but twist it so that it’s not the heroine but the hero who’s snaffled away! And while I was at it, since the book is a Blaze, why not make the heroine the laird, the Scottish Medieval equivalent of being the CEO of her firm. And the rest is well…history. ;)

Q. Is there anything about this period that constrained your story? What did you like least about it?
No constraints really, quite the opposite in point. Because of the time period, I had a lot more freedom with the erotic aspects of the story, notably the um…chain. ((blushing)) In all seriousness, the abducted hero, the binding to the bed and so forth would simply not play in a contemporary set romance, no matter how steamy. In pure erotica perhaps but even then there would be consequences for any actions not consensual.

Q. What kind of major research did you have to do for this book?
BOUND TO PLEASE is set in the 1460’s, so it’s Medieval but only about thirty years from the Renaissance. I did quite a bit of research, much of it on personal and family life, including hygiene because no matter how many leagues or slippery turret steps the washing water must be carried, By God, my main characters would be clean!

I’d read somewhere that Medieval people weren’t really as dirty as we make them out to be and the research I did on hygiene certainly bore that out. The wealthy practiced a fairly impressive level of personal care. Online as well as in books I found fascinating and very practical recipes for tooth powders and soaps and shampoos, many of which I’ve included in the book. It was also fascinating to learn about the items that served as tooth brushes and primitive dental floss/tooth picks. Historically accurate and minty fresh—can’t beat that. ;)

Q. You are known for putting animals in your story, particularly cats, and you are also involved in feline rescue as well as The Pet Overpopulation STAMP OUT campaign. How did you first get involved with the cause?
My signature “thing” is to put one of my rescued cats in each of my books. I broke with that tradition in UNTAMED where I featured a horse instead but otherwise I’ve held true. On my website at, the Best Friends page provides a photo and brief bio for each feline muse along with links to animal welfare resources.

As for how I got into advocacy, I come from a family of “animal lovers” and I’ve always had an enormous affection for the four-legged “Little People of God,” cats especially. Added to that I’m a Libra, so when I see what I believe to be suffering and injustice, I have a tendency to swoop in and try to balance the scales, so to speak.

Pet overpopulation is a national problem in this country and by rights it should be a national embarrassment. It isn’t. There have been enormous strides made over the past decade in reducing both the population and euthanasia rates, still literally millions of healthy and otherwise adoptable dogs and cats are killed each year—at taxpayer expense.

The good news, though, is that unlike so many crises pet overpopulation is completely preventable. As pet owners, all we need do is spay or neuter our pets to prevent unwanted births. Pretty simple, yes?

For years there had been attempts to win issuance of a US postage stamp to raise the public’s awareness of the problem but more importantly, the solution. I launched the Pet Overpopulation STAMP OUT Campaign as a national grassroots effort in 1996 with zero budget, zero supporters, and zero infrastructure beyond a closet-sized spare bedroom and my personal pc. Initially there also wasn’t much encouragement from the big nonprofit animal welfare organizations, many of whom had run sporadic letter writing campaigns in the past only to meet with defeat.

But unlike those organizations, which have multiple missions, I would focus on this campaign exclusively. In the course of six years, exactly the same time it took to publish that first book, our support base grew to include several hundred animal welfare and veterinary medical organizations. Not only animal welfare folks but also veterinarians, celebrities (Bob Barker, Mary Tyler Moore, Alex Baldwin, Kim Bassinger, Betty White etc.), politician from both major parties and yes, breeders came on board. Senior citizens on fixed incomes stood outside grocery stores passing out copies of our form letter to the Postal Service, photocopied at their expense. Elementary school classes sent letters and suggested artwork to the Postal Service’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, showing that kids really do care. In the course of the campaign, the Postal Service received more than 200,000 pieces of mail (snail mail, not email) requesting that a Spay/Neuter stamp be issued. The outpouring of positive spirit and action was—and—is mind blowing.

In late 2001 the US Postal Service announced it would issue Spay/Neuter. The artwork would feature a soulful photograph of an actual shelter kitten and puppy. Even better, Postal officials allowed us to include the web site and toll-free English/Spanish telephone number for Pets 911, so that pet owners throughout the US could access low-cost spay/neuter programs in their local areas. Long-time animal advocate, Bob Barker, introduced the stamps to the American public on his nationally televised game show, “The Price is Right.” The First Day of Issuance ceremony took place in September 2002 in Denver with the new Benji officiating as emcee. J

Released to 38,000 post offices nationwide, Spay/Neuter proved to be a record sell-out. The humane educational stamp, which sold out its 100 MILLION print run, is one of the top-selling social awareness stamps in U.S. postal history. Talk about a storybook…beginning.

Given the state of the world today, it’s easy to become jaded, even pessimistic. Sometimes the temptation to throw our hands up in the air and walk away feels almost beyond resisting. And yet not even the worst economic or political situation can rob us of our free will, not unless we let it. No one and nothing can take our power from us unless we give it away. Whoever we are and wherever we come from, we all share equally in the Universe-given choice: to do good, to do evil, or to do nothing.
Q: You write both single title historicals for Medallion and shorter, sexy books for Harlequin Blaze. Do you work on more than book at a time? How easy is it to move from the historical world to contemporary?
Yes, I started my writing career doing single-title historical romances, and my “Men of Roxbury House” trilogy came out with Medallion Press. These are long historicals set in 1890’s England except for UNTAMED which is also set in Scotland.

I generally work on about two books at once, three if you count the edits on previously turned in works. It’s how I imagine juggling must be but you know, I find I’m actually more productive working on multiple projects than I was back in the day when it was one book at a time. Go figure.

As for moving back-and-forth from historical to contemporary, I thought it would be really hard but frankly it’s a cakewalk. I find writing the short contemporaries energizes me for the more intense, formal prose of the historicals and vice versa.
Q: What do you think is the most effective way for a writer to promote his/her books?

My first book, A ROGUE’s PLEASURE, came out in 2000 and I did a lot to promote it, including b0ook signings and related events, sometimes two to three a week. It was a lot but fortunately I loved it. Even though I appreciate solitude, I am a hands-down people person.

Today, I rarely do book signings unless, like the recent Romance Writers of America Literacy Autographing in San Francisco last month, it’s a well-orchestrated, well publicized event. Where I do put my time and promotional dollars is my web site at Fortunately the wonderful staff at Wax Creative Design manages the content for me and to anyone looking to either launch a new site or revamp an existing one I can’t recommend them highly enough.

I also do what started out as a “Semi-Blog” and now has morphed into a twice weekly regular blog, nothing “semi” about it. Until someone offers me a column like Carrie Bradshaw’s fictional “Sex and the City” (*hint, hint), my blog is my chance to pull out my inner Single Girl in the Big City and let her strut her stuff, three plus inch platforms and all! Since I moved to Manhattan last winter, I’ve had a fair amount of…material shall we say, and I write about anything from cool museums and restaurants and clubs I’ve visited to quirky conversations I’ve had with characters on the streets, to well, you guessed it, shoes!

I also do a fair bit of guest blogging—thank you Elizabeth—which is a really fun and time effective way to broaden my reach and connect with different interest groups within the romance publishing world.

“They” say that the Internet undergoes a major shift about every two years. For sure “social networking” has seen a boom. Online communities like aren’t just for kids anymore. I like Facebook a lot because it enables me to reach not only friends and colleagues but potential readers who might not otherwise find their way to my web site. At the moment, I have a pretty active presence there, sometimes so active I have to remind myself it’s past time to leave. In point, I just posted vacation photos from my trip to Ireland and yes, you can expect to see the Emerald Isle featured in future Hope Tarr books.
Q. What/Who do you like to read?
The short answer is “everything” and the easier question to answer would be what don’t I like to read. The answer to the latter: not much. That said, I read mostly fiction but I used to be very keen on biographies of historical figures especially. These days, I don’t read as much of anything as I would like. I finally broke down and read EAT, PRAY, LOVE. Emotionally raw, unsparingly honest, and wryly witty, Elizabeth Gilbert is just…well, just brilliant. I can’t praise this book enough. I also recently read Claire Cook’s charming MUST LOVE DOGS, a fictionalized but no less true account of a forty-something starting life over post-divorce. I like to mix things up, so who’s to say what I’ll pull out of my to-be-read bin next.

Q. What is your writing process? Do you plot extensively first or do you tend to “fly in the mist?” Has your process changed over time? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

I think of myself as a hybrid, not a plotter or pantser but what another author, someone cleverer than I, coined a “puzzler.” As a puzzler, I start out with a pretty detailed outline or synopsis, which I think of as my road map. That said, once it’s written—and don’t hate me, but I love writing synopses, really I do—I rarely look at it again.

But it gets even better…

Once I start writing, I write the book completely out of order. The dialogue comes to me most strongly and so I will write whole scenes with no notion of where they fit or even if ultimately they fit at all. This is where the “puzzler” part of me really takes over.

The last two weeks of a book are this mad time where thanks to the miracle of word processing, I’m cutting and pasting my little heart out, meshing and melding scenes, tossing some out that don’t fit, writing new ones to fill the self-imposed holes until finally it all comes together into a close-to-perfect fit. Once it does, I pretty much hit “Send” and go to bed.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

I do, and the best part is it only takes three words. Write your book. Seriously, just “write your book.”

I’ve been in this business for coming on fifteen years, the first six as an aspirant, and I’ve seen a lot. One of the things I’ve noticed is that writers and especially new writers love to talk about writing. They love to attend workshops, conferences, and yes, chapter meetings. They love to read how-to book after how-to-book about process and craft and yes, marketing—especially marketing. Some in fact spend so much time working out the marketing plan for their first book that they never get around to writing it.

Before anyone gets excited, let me back track and say there’s nothing wrong with attending meetings and workshops or educating yourself about the market. I’ve done and continue to do all of those things, including reading the occasional advice book. But what I see happen all too frequently is that these activities push their way to front and center and the actually writing takes—you guessed it—the backseat.

Writing a book, writing anything, is scary stuff. To do it even close to well requires putting yourself out there on that proverbial limb while the rest of us waive and sometimes jeer at you from the safety of the ground. Writing a book means exposing your hopes and fears and fantasies, your worldview which will not be everyone’s worldview, your light and yes, your shadow side to not a few trusted confidantes or special friends but to virtually everyone. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. I think bestseller Jennifer Crusie put it best when she said, “To write is to dance naked on the page.” But if you want to be a writer, you have to be willing to go there, to boogie in your booty, to look ahead, not back and never ever down.

So, in keeping with the three-word them, Get a room--and then sit down and write in it!

Q. There was a recent article called "Harm in reading romance novels," Do you think romance novels harm or empower women?
Empower women, definitely. That article must have been written by a man—or a woman desperately in need of a good…romance novel. ;)

Q: Romance has garnered the biggest market share in genre fiction, yet it gets the least respect in popular and literary culture. Do you have any thoughts on why that is? Do you find this prejudice changing?
Well, if I may pontificate for a moment, the romance genre involves largely if not exclusively women writers and historically female-dominated professions have never been respected or rewarded by society. And women writers have always taken a hit, the criticisms ranging from personal attacks that the very act of writing made them unnatural and unfeminine to professional i.e., their work was illogical and “emotional.” Women like George Elliot and George Sands (what was it with those Georges) didn’t take male pseudonyms for the fun of it. They did so to have a shot at their works being evaluated fairly. Finally, post-modern society is so sadly jaded on so many levels that books celebrating love and happiness and self-worth and yes, perfect union make an easy target.

Q. What are you planning to work on next?
Oh, I’m so glad you asked! Next on the um…horizon for me is EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE, a contemporary Blaze due out January 1st. Set in Manhattan where I live now and Belize (where I now aspire to vacation), it’s a second-chance-at love story, my personal favorite. Former FBI special agent turned private bodyguard Cole Whittaker steps inside his new client’s Manhattan office suite and finds himself face-to-face with his “principal”—Alex Kendell, the woman he was forced to abandon at the airport five years ago whom he’s never gotten out of his head or his heart.

Two more Blazes are set to follow, a paranormal coming out in October 2009 in time for Halloween and a Blaze historical coming out in 2010. I’m not sure what the historical will be but enough readers have written asking for a sequel to BOUND TO PLEASE that I’m strongly considering giving Alys and Callum a sexy romp of their own.

Thanks so much for having me, Elizabeth.

You can purchase BOUND TO PLEASE at eHarlequin or at and Barnes &

Monday, August 25, 2008

Too Much Sun!

Ouch! I totally got too much sun this weekend when I went to the beach. Do they make sunscreen that's waterproof? Because I had put on spf30, but it must have washed off when I went splashing in the ocean. My shoulders are now sore and a little tight and you can tell a got a little too much sun my face. Still it was a nice day at the beach which was not too crowded for a Saturday. I think that a lot of people are off on vacation other places.

My friend Lucia and I took the water taxi from the Wall Street pier which was a steal at $12.00 round trip. Not only did we get to see the waterfalls installation (which was not that impressive) but we got to see all of Brooklyn (God Brooklyn is one long borough). I love the water and it was really cool to stand on the top deck of the boat as we breezed on past Governor's Island and the Statue of Liberty.

After we got back to Manhattan, we stopped off at the Heartland Brewery for a drink because god forbid we should get back on the subway sober. While sipping our drinks, the drunk dude sitting next to me complimented me by saying that I was incredibly beautiful and a ray of sunshine.

Awww! Thanks drunk dude!
Seriously, at my age I take my compliments where I can get them.

Sunday, I met the lovely Leanna at the Met to see the J.M.W. Turner exhibit. Unfortunately we spent too much time yakking over coffee at the Met closed before we could see the entire exhibit, which just means that I will have to go back again to finish seeing it. Afterwards, we headed over to the Loeb Boathouse for wine in little plastic bottles and food. We discussed our plans for world domination and then went our seperate ways.

All in all, a pretty good weekend. Too bad its Monday!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

Yes, it's soon to be another cycle of America's Next Top Model, and this time, there is a transgender model instead of a plus-size! And then there's Dancing with the Stars, with Erica Kane herself, Susan Lucci as one of the contestants (Although it hasn't been confirmed yet, Tony Dovolani was at the dance studio I go to with Susan Lucci filming. Shh!). Chloris Leachman is also rumored which frightens me greatly. I'm not sure octogenarians should compete on reality TV shows. That's not ageist, I'm just worried about her breaking a hip. Brooke Burke and Kim Kardashian are total eye candy. Edyta is going to have some competition in the skimpy costume stakes.

But that's in the future. My current guilty pleasure resides on CMT. Yes, Country Music Television has two of the best reality shows on TV, Gone Country and Outsiders Inn.

The first series of Gone Country came on earlier this year. The premise is take a bunch of celebrities, put them up in a house in Nashville, have them work on a song, and then John Rich of Big & Rich will produce the winner. Carnie Wilson (is there a reality show she hasn't been on?), Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, Bobby Brown, Sisqo, Diana DeGarmo, Maureen McCormick and Julio Iglesias Jr. were the celebrities and it was hilarious. From Bobby Brown's sleepwalking pee fests to Dee Snider and his coffee fixation, this show was Must See TV. Although I'm a little puzzled as to how Julio Iglesias Jr. won apart from the whole trying to court the Latino community aspect. His song wasn't country at all.

Now we are on to Season 2, and it's a pisser. Sebastian Bach, Chris Kirkpatrick from NYSYNC (Bach hilariously had no idea who Chris was when they met at the airport. Lance Bass he knew, Chris no), Irene Cara (who skips out I think after tonight's episode), American Idol reject Mikalah Gordon, Jermaine Jackson, Lorenzo Lamas, and drumroll please, that hot tranny mess herself Sean Young. Already in episode 1, Sean proved she was a car wreck waiting to happen. The kicker was Jermaine Jackson telling John Rich that the Jackson 5 were trying to be country singers before they went to R&B! (Can you just see Michael Jackson at the Grand Ole Opry?).

After that 1/2 of merriment, we get the Outsiders Inn, where Maureen McCormick, Bobby Brown and Carnie Wilson try to run the worst bed & breakfast inn in Cocke County, TN. Already, they've picked Larry, Darryl and his other brother Darryl as handymen. Bobby had his first taste of moonshine, and Maureen shook her finger at Bobby in the kitchen for bringing home guests for dinner without telling her. All's well that ends well, when the uninvited guests sang the favorite song of the old married couple who were staying at the inn.

I cannot wait to watch tonight's episodes.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Listen to Tim Gunn!

Ah Daniel, so talented and so clueless! One has to wonder after watching last night's episode whether or not he'd ever seen an episode of Project Runway. From day one, he never seemed to be able to move out from his comfort zone of cocktail dresses and couture, to deal with the challenges that were presented.

Two weeks ago, he created a cocktail dress for an athelete to wear in the Opening ceremonies of the Olympics, last night he created an evening gown for a drag queen sans sequins or any other accoutrement. It was pretty but it looked like an orangey/yellow version of the dress that Annida Greenkard already had.

There was no creativity, no va-va voom to it. It was just a rather blah dress that you could find at any Forever 21 or Charlotte Russe store. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that half the girls in this country wore something similar to their prom. What Annida Greenkard needed was something ala Carmen Miranda. Now there was a drag queen, and she was actually a woman!

thing over the top, but I'm afraid Daniel doesn't understand that concept. Is it just me or was he the most boring personality ever on a reality TV show? And so incredibly defensive which is a no-no particularly with these judges. Tim Gunn warned him that his dress was rather blah but Daniel decided to ignore him, which as anyone who has watched this show, knows is a big mistake. If Tim Gunn gives you advice, listen to him, and mull it over before you reject it out of hand. Most of the time, actually 99%, he's right and he was right this time.

Now for the winner. Joe created a perfect outfit for Varla Jean Merman. Even though Varla Jean showed up wearing a cute 1950's sundress, she and Joe both decided that her outfit should be Ann Margaret on The Love Boat. Ah The Love Boat, how I have fond memories of watching that show as a kid. It had always had old time movie stars as guests like Ann Miller and Mickey Rooney.

Now that I think about it, today's reality shows perform the same function that shows like The Love Boat and Fantasy Island did, a place for former TV and movie stars can go to revive their careers.

Joe, who never fails to remind the viewer that he is the only heterosexual male on the show, was out of his comfort zone, but look what he came up with! It looked adorable on Varla Jean, and she loved it. And really, I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't something that Ann-Margret wore in the 1970's in Vegas or on The Love Boat.

This was exactly what the judges were looking for, and although I really liked Terri's Kabuki inspired outfit that made RuPaul declare that it looked like Kiss and Diana Ross had a love child, I wasn't unhappy that Joe won.

I'm still not sure how Stella is still in the game. She is so lucky that Keith (who inspired the best quote of the night when RuPaul doing an Australian accent asked him if 'the dingo ate his baby' when he came up with his excuses for his tired ass black and white dangly fabric dress). Stella's dress looked like a bad Vivienne Westwood imitation.

Can I just say that I am so ready for her or Blaine to go home?

Apart from Terri (who has been so close to winning every week but never does. You could tell she was pissed that Joe won over her design) and Korto, none of these designers are doing it for me. No one is popping the way that Christian or even Chris did last season.

Oh and Daniel, Rahmi has impeccable taste. You don't.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

For Richard Lovers Everywhere

Just found this interesting article on with Richard Armitage.
I don't know how I missed it except I was in San Fran for RWA.
Back to the regularly scheduled blog tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How Do Get Publicity Without Really Trying

I know it seem's like I pimp out Francis Levy's book every week (and I'm not even getting paid for it), but he managed to get a lot of free publicity last week when The New York Observer wrote an article about the fact that both his book and Susan Squires features the same photo of two bonobos having sex on the cove. Now we in Romancelandia (as I've heard it referred to) are used to seeing the same stock images on historical fiction and romance covers. It's not a shock, but apparently in the literary fiction world, it was shocking enough for the newspaper to actually cover it. Oh, and the same author Daphne Merkin, blurbed both books! Which is actually even funnier.

Francis explained in another post on the Observer web-site that it was a simple mistake. The scientist Frans de Waal, who took the photo had agreed to let Mr. Levy use the photo, as long as he was given the appropriate credit, a copy of the book and allowed to write a short informational paragraph about the bonobos in the front of the book. At the same time Ms. Squire contacted Mr. de Waal for permission, and Mr. de Waal didn't realize that it was totally unrelated to Mr. Levy's book and gave her the go-ahead as well! Simple comedy of errors.

As for the Merkin blurbs, it turns out that was a coincidence as well. But heck it worked out in favor of both books because they were both featured in two articles. Since Francis Levy's book is published by a small independent press, Two Dollar Radio, it gives a boost to his book. My favorite comment though is when the Observer asked Ms. Merkin about how the photos of the bonobos could fit both books, one which is an erotic romance and the other a cultural history of marriage.

"One is about the consequences of unfettered lust, and the threat it would
impose to the established order," Ms. Merkin said. "The other is about the
pleasures of unfettered lust versus the gratification of individualized desire,
or something like that, if that makes any sense."

So there you go, if you want free press, just make sure you use the same photo as another author and get the same author to blurb both books!

Thanks to the Smart Bitches for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Movie Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

This weekend, I decided to go out and actually see a movie, and no I didn't go see Tropic Thunder or The Dark Knight Returns. No, I went to see Woody Allen's new flick, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. And wonders never cease, I not only thoroughly enjoyed it, I really really want to go to Barcelona now.

The movie is about two women in their early twenties, Vicky and Cristina, who spent two months in Barcelona. Vicky is working on her thesis on Catalan culture while Cristina is a free spirit who is just along for the ride. Lucky for Vicky she has a relative who lives in a huge gorgeous apartment with her husband (this place even has a small, outdoor, pool!). Vicky is practical, serious and engaged to Doug, who has a job that lets him work from Europe whenever he wants. Cristina, the free spirit, hops from relationship to relationship, and has no clear career path, she just wants to do something artistic. She's written, directed and starred in a 12 minute movie about love. Both women's lives change when they meet Juan Antonio played by the delicious Javier Bardem who has ditched the awful Prince Valient hairdo the Coen brother's forced him to wear in No Country For Old Men. I don't want to spoil the movie but Penelope Cruz plays Juan Antonio's crazy ex-wife. And can I say I never realized just how beautiful she was until this movie?

What did I like about this movie? Well for one thing, Woody Allen wasn't in it, and 2) Woody Allen wasn't in it. I don't know about other people, but I was getting tired of his existential shtick, and the fact that all of his leading ladies were younger than me. Seriously, Helena Bonham Carter and Mia Sorvino from Mighty Aphrodite? Younger than me, and the Woodman? Old enough to be my grandfather (well okay my father, but you know what I mean.). This movie was about making choices, and whether or not one should take the risk on something unfamiliar and scary, or stick with the safe. Which is not exactly a new idea with Woody but it came across as charming in this movie.

I'm still not sure if Scarlett Johanssen can act or if she just looks pretty, but Rebecca Hall (the daughter of English director Sir Peter Hall) can and well. Even Penelope Cruz impressed me enough that I might have to take Volver out of the library and some of her other Spanish language films.

And as I said, I'm dying to go to Barcelona. Perhaps in March?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Real Estate Porn - International Edition

I found this delightful little property on The Country Life magazine web-site. It's in Cheshire, and selling for 2.4 million pounds (translates to about $5M), which when you think about is quit the steal. Particularly when you consider that two bedroom apartments go for more than in New York! The web-site describes it as "An exceptional country house in extensive private grounds on the outskirts of Chester. There is also an excellent converted Coach House and a range of traditional outbuildings available in addition."

The house has 8 bedrooms, and 3 bathrooms, plus 3 reception rooms. From the pictures on the web-site the kitchen is gorgeous but small. There aren't a lot of pictures, mainly of two of the reception rooms. Apparently, the original part of the Field House is believed to have been built by the Earl of Shrewsbury in the first half of the 17th Century, so this house is pretty old. In the 1890's it was redeveloped by a renowned Victorian architect John Douglas.

I could easily see living in this house with say, my new husband, James Purefoy (I bet you thought I was going to say Richard Armitage!). He can take some of that money he made on Rome to buy the house. We would, of course, only there on the weekends, keeping our house in London. I would have a lovely writing room on the second floor, where I would write meticulously researched romance novels about the American "Dollar Princesses" who married into the English aristocracy, while hubby swanned off to make movies and television series.
Perhaps we would even develop one about Beau Brummel as a detective based on the series of novels. After all this is a fantasy right? Or I would adapt one of Georgette Heyer's books so that he could star (anything to get him into those Regency tight pants), since all of the Jane Austen novels have been adapted for television.
Sigh, I so need to win Mega Millions!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Author Interview: Francis Levy

Recently, I posted a review of a new novel called Erotomania: A Romance. I was so intrigued by the book that I had to interview the author, Francis Levy, to find out how he came up with the idea for the novel.

Erotomania is an absurdist portrait of a modern-day romance. It follows James and Monica from their early days as couple that is forced to move into a nuclear fall-out bunker so their explosive sex life doesn't physically harm their neighbors, down the long journey to marriage counseling.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and how did you come to writing?

I was an English major at Columbia and always wanted to write. Actually trash that, I went to Columbia and felt like shit, just hated myself, felt inferior, undesirable, my long time girlfriend had left me, I then went to Yale Drama School, in a program they had in critical writing and continued to feel like shit. I constantly wanted to be top man on the totem pole. At Yale I began my long career oedipalizing reality. I constantly wanted what everyone else had. There is an expression you've got to want what you have. It took me about thirty years to learn that. I started writing for all the wrong reasons basically as a way of looking for attention. I think all writers do this to some extent and I'n ending my career with the same base motives. You will never hear a heartening word from these lips. I look at writing as an animalistic activity, a delving into an unconscious instinctual world; this is where the addictive power of writing comes from. This is a world that psychotics inhabit unwillingly and that writers are free to come and go from as they please. There is a deceptive veneer of humanism to the enterprise, but essentially it has to do with the will to power. Who used that expression? When I first came to NY after my years in New Haven, I got a job in publishing. I expected the literary world to be kind of cult of sensiblility, EM Forster had talked about "the aristocracy of he heart." It was nothing like that.

Q. How long did it take you to write the book and find a publisher?

It's a short book, but it took a couple of years since it was rewrirtten a lot. I had published a lot of short fiction, essays, humor, criticism in a wide variety of places including The Village Voice, The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly and so on, but I had never published a book. I have written other books which I tried to publish unsuccessfully and I was a little wary of the situation. So I actually didn't really do much submitting. I think I queried a few places and maybe sent some sample chapters out, but I didn't seriously set out to get published in the way I had in the past. I work with a very good editor named Maggie Paley and she showed it to her agent at the time Jane Gelfman. Jane liked it, but wasn't going to handle a first novel whose only destination was going to be Morgan Entrekin at Grove. He is the one that everyone thinks off when they have an edgy book. You have to remember that the situation in publishing is particularly bad now. It really sucks. I think one of her authors someone with a big track record had spoken highly of a small publisher in the midwest called Two Dollar Radio. That's how I heard of it. I went on line, looked up their submission guidelines then submitted, sight unseen. I heard back from Eric Obenauf the publisher. He liked what I had shown him and wanted to see more. I sent the rest and he offer me a contract.

Q. Your first release is entitled Erotomania: A Romance. How did you come up with the idea? From your blog, you specifically state that the book is not autobiographical in any way!

The original title of the novel had been Savage Fuck, then Savage Kiss, but the publisher wasn't hot on it. So my wife Hallie said, why don't you call it Erotomania. It's a word I frequently bandy about. The significance of the title for me really is that Erotomania is a pathology and pathology is a form of consciousness. My two characters start as animals. they are really walking ids and they they develop personality and consciousness. It's what allows them to get to know each other and it;s the thing that always draws them apart. The romance part came because from the first my publisher regarded it as a love story. I think his acceptance letter said somethinng like "you have reinvented the love story."

Q. I have to say that even though I’ve read a great deal of erotic romance and erotic, I found myself blushing at the sexual nature of the book. Was that something that you were concerned about all? Did you find yourself ever pulling back during the writing?

Never, not once. I don't regard it as pornographic or sexually stimulating either. I just wrote. You have to understand the language the thinking is all a little like Bunuel and Dali's Chien Andalou, a mixture of humor, sexuality and agrgression. It's not the language of reality, rather that of dreams. if you look at the sexuality in that context you will hopefully see it in another way. By the way I have nothing against pornography or writing that is sexually stimulating. One of my favorite books is DH Lawrences's The Rainbow--which is wonderfully sexy.

Q. The book is not set in a specific place, although the characters travel quite a bit going to various museums, and Jim travels for work. Was there a reason why you didn’t set the book, say in New York, or Chicago?

Again, this isn't reality. It's more of a dreamscape and hence I wasn;t concerned with that kind of verisimilitude.

Q. Although this book is written solely from the male point of view, we get a strong sense of Monica’s character. Did you find it a challenge getting into Monica’s head?

Not really, I have always been fascinated by women. One of my jokes which has some truth in it is that I have a lesbian sensiblity. That is, I have the sensibiity of a woman who loves other women. I don't think sexual consciousness need be defined by sexual orientation or biology. I can be a woman in a man's body for instance while not being a transexual, who desires a sex change operation. I love being a man, but I also love thinking about what it is to be a sexual or even non sexual woman.

Q. Not to spoil it for everyone, but both Monica and Jim have suffered a similar experience with a parent, was this a conscious decision on your part? And I noticed that it wasn’t really addressed during the counseling sessions?

There was nothing consciously addressed with regard to the creation of Monica or Jim's back stories. They just evolved. However, I am a great believer in the significance of manifest content. In other words if you spot a relationship then there is a signifance to it. I am still seeing things in the novel that I hadn't consciously noticed when I wrote it. I'm a very regimented person. I work on a strict schedule the same time everyday etc, but when I actually get into the act of writing I'm in a rather manic state. It's like a good therapy session that is painful at the same time. I delve into area I might not have been aware of ideationally, then I wake up from my dreaming, only to return to the wet dream or nightmare the next day.

Q. The character of the relationship counselor, is almost the anti- Dr. Phil. Is he based on someone you know or a completely fictional creation?

It's a total fictional creation, as is the whole novel. I will say this however. I have had lots of experience with psychoanalysis, and marriage counselling both and let me add I only satirize or caricature that which I love. I actually have an article in the current issue of the psychoanalytic journaol Contemporary Psychoanalysis entitled "Catricide, Matriciide and Magic: the Artist as Chimera."

Q. Food also plays a major part in the book, particularly Chinese food. You live in New York, what are your favorite Chinese food restaurants?

I used to eat in a place called Jade Mountain. It was between 12th and 13th on Second. It was the old combination plate kind of deal with the naugahyde booths and linoleum tables, a staticky oldies station playing in the background. I always ordered the Number #1` chow main, egg roll, fried rice and wanton soup. The Chow Mein sign is still up there on the building if you pass by. Now it's a bar. It was run by a guy named Reggie Chan. He was chief cook and bottle washer. There was a delivery guy, but Reggie made deliveries sometimes too. One day the delivery guy didn't make it to work I guess and Reggie got hit by a flat bed truck while making a delivery. That was the end of Jade Mountain and a whole period of my life. My kids grew up there. When I got my black belt we had my party there.

Q. Monica and Jim spend a great deal of time watching TV. Are there any shows that are must see TV for you?

I watch no TV. I am not against it. I just watch no TV I don't have the time.

Q. What are some novels that you could read again and again?

War and Peace, The Brothers K, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Great Expectations, The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq

Q. Who do you admire and why?

I admire mostly dead people, Chekhov, Freud, I loved Bergman more than my own life. He is the Shakespeare of film. I hate being entertained and I hate beauty which I find alienating, but I love art and artists whose currency is human pain. That is something I identify with. It's not the pain of living that is so difficult. It is being alone in it that has always been the problem for me. I don't find a movie like Through a Glass Darkly disturbing in the least for instance. I find I solace in it. When I first saw the great Bergman films I was overwhelmed with the feeling of consolation.

Q. What is your writing process? Do you plot extensively first or do you tend to “fly in the mist?” Has your process changed over time? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

No plotting. I write as I go, I try not to think. Ideation is the enemy of invention for me. I never say I have an idea for something. A line or succession of lines occurs and I'm off to the races.

Q. You work out seven days a week, you manage your family’s real estate holdings as well as a homeless program called Safe Haven, and you’re in analysis, when do you find time to write?

I write at the same time every day for starters. I write and weight lift in the mornings. then I go to karate or spinning or I jump rope, then I go to my analytic appointment, then I write some more. In the afternoons I write again and rewrite. I am usually working on three different things at the same time. For instance I recently completed a long essay on my analysis called "Pscyhoanalysis:The Patient's Cure."

Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

As I have said before writing is an irrational activity; that is where the power comes from, but to deal with the huge amount of irrationality unleashed, a firm regimen is necessary. The discipline, the regimen is everything. It's what allows the process to take place. I no more think about feeling like writing than I do feeling like working out. I just do it , the same time everyday. I rarely feel like working out. Who does? Do you know anyone who wants to do something that is difficult and exhausting?I feel the same way about writing.

Q. You are also the co-director of The Philoctetes Center here in New York. Can you talk a little bit about the Center and what it does?

The Philoctetes Center is psychoanalysis, neuroscience and humanitires. We run roundtables and are now running an increasingly ambitious research program. We have a poetry series and a jazz improv series and we have a collaboration with Film Forum where we preview films of theirs that have artistic or psychological resonances. We ran a whole series on creative process showing films about Kiki Smith, Chuck Close, Louise Bourgeois etc. Chuck Close and Kiki Smith came to talk about these film. The center began as a discussion about imagination. Imagination being the palette of psychoanalysis we were interesed in what creative people who have a particular intense connection to unconscious life could tell about analysis and conversely what analysis could tell us about the process of creativity.

Q. What are you planning to work on next?

Two things. I have a collection of interrelated short stories, really fables called The Kafka Studies Department. I term these "emotional mysteries." They are illustrated by my wife Hallie Cohen , who is a painter and chair of the art departmen at Marymount Manhattan College. My next novel is nearing completion. It's called "Seven Days in Rio" and concerns a sex tourist who gets waylaid at a psychoanalytic convention.

Dali Don't

I'm slowly getting into Project Runway this season but I'm telling you if Suede doesn't stop referring to himself in the third person, to misquote Dorothy Parker, constant viewer will frow up. Nor does tanorexic Blaine do it for me. Love Stella but when are the judges going to realize that she only designs outfits for people going to a Ramones concert in 1982? But what really cracked me up about this season was Auf'd designer Jennifer (that's her to the left) claiming that her designs were inspired by the Surrealist painters.

Um, sure, if by Surreal you mean the designers at Banana Republic!

To the right is the design that Jennifer got Auf'd for. It was supposed to be an outfit for the female US Olympic Athletic team to wear in the opening ceremonies. Now I thought this was adorable but it would only look good on the gymnastics team if they were having afternoon tea with who ever is the head of the government in Beijing or Laura Bush. And there is nothing surrealist about this design whatsoever. The blogger over at TV Guide wrote that someone must have told her that surrealism meant pretty, feminine clothes and she never bothered to look up the word.

On the left is a painting by Salvador Dali, one of the leading surrealists in the 20th century. Does Jennifer's outfit look anything like that? I think not.
When Jennifer got Auf'd, she sat in her mini-exit interview that they didn't understand her surrealism. I think the real explanation is that she doesn't understand what surrealism means. Far be it from me to criticize but neither Frida Kahlo's paintings or Magritte's suggest to me clothes I can find at Club Monaco.
Here's hoping that Ralph Lauren was watching and he offered Jennifer, Jillian's job, since she quit after Project Runway 4.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Weekend Update

I'm still gathering my thoughts and getting over the jet lag from the Conference (yes, I know it was a week ago, but I'm getting old). I've been working on two non-fiction proposals, trying to find the disk that has my novella on it, and doing research my historical YA. Oh and slowly easing back into my ballroom dancing classes.

Saturday was our monthly RWA meeting. This month we concentrated on critiques, primarily because its August and there is typically no one around at the meetings. About 6 people read at the meeting which was great, but in the future, I think we are going to have to tell people that they have about 20 minutes tops so that we can get everyone in and give them the attention that they need. People in the chapter are writing some really groovy stuff that I can't wait to hear more of which I think is fabulous.

Sunday, I met Liz Maverick and Stacey Agdern at Starbucks to do a little writing before we headed over to the movie theater to meet Leanna to see Bottle Shock. Liz and I discussed the fact that movies in New York now are $12.00, which we both felt was obscene particularly when watching an independent movie that cost $1,000,000 and couldn't get a deal after Sundance. We decided that there should be a sliding scale of movie prices. Blockbusters should be $12.00, but foreign films, and independent films should be cheaper. If the movie was made in someone's backyard with one camera, I shouldn't have to pay $12.00 to see it.

So how was Bottle Shock? Eh, it was okay. Alan Rickman was wonderful as usual. Chris Pine's hair though was so Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High that it bugged the heck out of me. And I had a real problem with the love interest banging both Chris Pine and Freddy Rodriguez, who I thought was by far the cooler dude. It did however make me want to drink a glass of wine, which Leanna, Stacey and I did after the movie. We went to this wine bar Wine and Roses. The Upper West Side is lousy with wine bars and Wine & Roses I have to say is one of the priciest of the bunch. Good wine though and I really liked my smoked salmon appetizer, but I could have bought the bottle of wine for what they charged for a glass.

I was intrigued by one of the previews, The Women, which is a remake of an old 1939 movie with Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell and Paulette Goddard, which in itself was based on the Broadway play by Clare Boothe Luce. I've seen the original film and I saw the Broadway revival a few years ago with Cynthia Nixon. What struck me about the preview was how contemporary the story seemed. You know that old saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same? Well men still cheat, and women still need their friends, even the ones who comfort you and then stab you in the back.

The dude with the long hair and the attitude is the actor Toby Stephens as Rochester in the most recent version of Jane Eyre. Interesting that they darkened his hair for the role, since I suppose a ginger Rochester wouldn't fly. Anywho, he is now going to be playing Prince John in the next series of Robin Hood, clearly an attempt to get more women to watch this show since Robin Hood himself is clearly not a draw. I don't think I've met a woman who watches this show for anyone other than Richard Armitage as Sir Guy of Gisbourne or Keith Allen as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Now that Toby is going joining the show, I might actually have to watch this, particularly now that they've gotten rid of the most annoying Maid Marian on the planet. Seriously how many times did RA as Sir Guy sexily tell her to stay put, because he was trying to save her, only to have her run off and do something stupid? Like running off to join Robin Hood?

Come on, hot guy in leather pants, or wimpy guy who can barely grow a beard and lives in the forest? I don't know about anyone else, but my choice would have been Sir Guy, which is the whole problem with this series. When you want Robin Hood to disappear, and evil to win, the writers might have to go back to the drawing board (or hire a new actor to play Robin.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Interview with CJ Lyons

I had the chance to pick up a copy of CJ Lyon's book at the Berkley signing in San Franciso and devoured it on the plane on the way home. I immediately emailed her and asked to interview her for the blog. Thankfully she said yes! I am very happy to welcome new author CJ Lyons to Got it Goin On. Now if only blogger would let me post pictures!

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a national bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller." The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, is due out January, 2009. Contact her at

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and how long have you been writing before you were published.

I've been telling stories ever since I can remember—this blurring of fact and fiction used to get me into a lot of trouble, I was in time out constantly, but of course that just gave me time to make up more stories! Imagine my delight when I learned to read and write and discovered that there were others out there with voices in their heads and that if you wrote them down they were no longer "fibs" but stories people wanted to read.

I'm trained in pediatric emergency medicine and began to seriously consider writing for publication in 2003. Then, after seventeen years of practicing medicine, I took a leap of faith two years ago and left my practice to pursue my dream-come-true of writing.

So far the gamble has paid off!

Q. Tell us about when you got “the call”?

My publishing career is a bit backwards compared to most. Berkley read an unpublished manuscript of mine and they actually called me and asked me to create a new medical suspense series for them. They wanted something new, something fresh and different—a medical thriller told from the point of view of the women.

Other than that, I could do anything I wanted with the books—imagine the freedom of creating a whole new world, reflecting my experiences as a pediatric ER doc! Of course I jumped at the chance! It was a huge challenge but also fun and exciting.

Q. Your first release LIFELINESfrom Berkley features three women doctors from diverse backgrounds at different stages of their careers in medicine. How did you come up with the idea? Any behind the scenes stories that you’d like to share?

In LIFELINES I wanted to share the experience of being the new kid on the block—that frightening feeling of people putting their lives in your hands. So I began LIFELINES on the most dangerous day of the year: July 1st—Transition Day.

You see, for teaching hospitals, our calendar starts on July 1st. That's when the new interns—yes, the bumbling fools who were mere medical students on June 30th—hit the hospitals and start taking care of patients.

I remembered my own Transition Day. Brand new, still not unpacked or moved in, barely finding the hospital parking lot (it was two blocks away in a gang-riddled, not-so-nice neighborhood) much less figuring out my way around the hospital and I'm suddenly on call, responsible for three floors worth of very sick kids!

No one died that night, not on my watch….for which I've forever been eternally grateful. I don't take credit for it—I think it was more likely because of the always-excellent nurses who were well aware of the dangers July 1st posed their tiny patients.

Of course, in LIFELINES, things don't go quite so well for my main character. She loses a patient—the wrong patient, the Chief of Surgery's son. And she has no idea why he died….

Q. I know that you are a physician but was there anything that you had to research for this book that you didn’t know? Not to reveal too much of the plot, but your story involves a fictitious group that promotes white supremacy. What kind of research did you have to do on that?

Actually, the two things I knew when I started writing LIFELINES were that it would take place on the most dangerous day of the year, Transition Day, and that it would somehow involve hate crimes.

The hate crimes part came to me because years ago I saw this photo in LIFE magazine that I couldn't get out of my head—I actually clipped it out and kept it, knowing that someday it would get into a story.

In the photo there is an elderly man dressed in a soldier's uniform with a VFW cap and tons of medals and decorations. He is standing at a protest, holding a sign that reads: Freedom IS the right to Hate.

The dichotomy of that photo tore at me. Here was a man, a hero, someone who had the courage to fight and bleed and risk his life for people like me, for my country….and yet he espoused values that were the very opposite of everything I thought America stood for—except that in a democracy, ideas are as equal as people, so how could I condemn him for having the courage of his convictions?

You see what a paradox it is. I began researching groups that espoused any kind of extreme philosophy—right wing, left wing, religious, political—simply to learn how people thought, why they felt the way they did, where they found these rock-hard, never wavering convictions. Part of that research included learning about militias and extreme religions and I used that knowledge to create my own fictional group in LIFELINES.

Q. Your book is a medical suspense thriller but there are elements of romance in the book. Is that something that you planned from the beginning?

Yes. To me, any thriller or suspense novel is heightened by characters and their relationships more than plot twists and action. Characters learning to trust themselves, trust those around them, and eventually trusting in love—these are very primal issues that resonate with any reader.

I'm a firm believer that it's not medicine that saves lives but people. I think that's what readers want, to have a vicarious experience with characters who are a lot like them, trying to find the courage to get involved and make a difference.

And there's nothing that requires more courage than falling in love.

Q. Since you are a physician, how authentic would you say hospital shows like Grey’s Anatomy, House and ER are compared to the real thing?

LOL! Don't get me started! If you're looking for true medical accuracy, then of the main medical shows--Grey's, ER, and House--I'd have to say that ER most accurately portrays the essence of chaos that inhabits any urban ER. And I know in the early years (I stopped watching after George Clooney left—for obvious reasons!) they did have an 800 number where we used to fax interesting cases from our own ER.

Grey's isn't about the medicine at all—it's about the people, the characters. The medical setting is simply a crucible to test them in. And House is really a classic Sherlock Holmes detective story—the man's supposed to be a genius (hence, the oft repeated phrase: he's the best doctor we have) but he fails three times before he gets it right! And, thank goodness, no hospital on the planet runs as badly as his does!

Q. What/Who do you like to read?

I'm pretty eclectic—tons of thriller/suspense novels, also literary ones, some YA and women's fiction as well. Just looking across the room at my stack of books (I tend to either totally immerse myself in nothing but reading, taking a day off just to read a good book or I'll read five at once and have them scattered around the house) I see: Carol O'Connell, Stephanie Meyer, John Hart, Harlan Coben, Toni McGee Causey, Susan Wiggs, Michael Chabon, Katherine Neville, Debra Webb, and Ariana Franklin.

Q. What is your writing process? Do you plot extensively first or do you tend to “fly in the mist?” Has your process changed over time? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

Don't do what I do! I'm a terribly undisciplined writer—all those years of being forced to adhere to a schedule, get to the hospital by 7am, churn through patients, etc, have made me rebel against any kind of strict routine, lol!

I'm a seat of the pants writer. I start knowing my characters—what they want, what they need, their greatest fears—and usually I'll know if they're going to win or lose in the end (I'm not writing literary fiction so they usually win, but there's always a cost to pay). I have no idea exactly how they'll win out in the end or if maybe they lose what they want but win what they really need (I do that a lot—love to play on subconscious desires), so I start writing to find out.
That first draft is very selfish and usually written very quickly—it's for me and me alone, to tell the story my way, and explore my characters. Then, my second draft is much harder, it's my slice and dice draft where I try my best to remove myself from the equation and focus on the reader—what would make it a more enjoyable story for them? What would they expect at this juncture, how can I make it more surprising?

Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

I think success in this business boils down to three things:

1. Vision—know what you're writing, know your goal (is it to get published, just to finish the book, maybe just to explore this character and learn more about yourself in the process), know your audience.

2. Passion—know why you write, why you're driven to write this book, what inspires you about this story, and how can you translate that to your audience.

3. Commitment—this job is not easy (although it is fun!). Writing for publication means time stolen from your family, from your hobbies, it's a job. And like any job, you need to pay your dues, take time to learn the trade, and keep on working.

Two quotes that stick with me are the line Tim Allen had in Galaxy Quest, "Never surrender, never give up" and something Jeffrey Deaver once said, "The reader is God."

Q. You offer a short story on your web-site that is a prequel to LIFELINES. More and more authors are offering little extras like this. Do you find that it is an effective marketing tool?

I have no idea! I was actually asked to write that story for a wonderful website called AuthorLink—it's available for free down loads (that's where the link on my site takes you to) to computers and, this is what was cool to me, cell phones.

Short stories are hard—writing a novel is in many ways much easier for me! But they are so much fun to try and I love a challenge, so I've found myself continuing to write them in between bigger projects.

Q. There was a recent article called "Harm in reading romance novels," Do you think romance novels harm or empower women?

I didn't read the article, but the premise sounds just plain silly. After all, why do we write fiction, tell stories, to start with?

It's to explore ideas in a non-threatening, safe environment. The first cavemen quickly found that telling the young ones, "don't go there, you'll get eaten by a sabretooth" wasn't as effective as engaging their audience with a tale, complete with characters just like them who learned the hard way of the dangers of the world. Not only did storytelling do a better job of making their point, it was more memorable so the lessons got passed down through generations.

So now, we're so evolved that someone thinks stories, any kind of stories, are harmful? And stories that reflect the one thing any society needs more of: committing, caring relationships could be dangerous???

That's like saying science fiction stories impede the growth of science or that fantasy stifles imagination or crime fiction encourages crime….

I think people bring to a story what they'll get out of it. For some fiction is pure escapism, for others it provides essential role models—characters that embody the essence of what we would like to see for ourselves and our world.

How could that possibly take away a person's power? Readers are drawn to the types of fiction they need at that moment in time—they chose the book, not the other way around.

Q: Romance has garnered the biggest market share in genre fiction, yet it gets the least respect in popular and literary culture. Do you have any thoughts on why that is? Do you find this prejudice changing?

First of all, I guess it depends on your definition of "respect." I'm sure Nora Roberts laughs all the way to the bank—as do her publishers, booksellers who stock her books, and the millions of readers who have found what they need in her stories.

What greater respect could there be than in serving the needs of millions of people around the world?

I think you give too much power to others when you depend on their definition of what deserves respect and what doesn't. Every reader chooses the books, authors, genres that appeal to them.

If someone disagrees, it should open doors to discussion, not prejudice.

Q. What are you planning to work on next?

The second book in the Angels of Mercy series, WARNING SIGNS, is due out January 27, 2009.

In it, a medical student investigates the mysterious deaths of patients but then begins to experience the same deadly symptoms herself.

In the meantime, I'm working on a standalone medical thriller and a new romantic suspense series as well as the next installment for the Angels of Mercy series.

Thanks CJ for visiting the blog. LIFELINES is out now from Barnes & Noble and

Monday, August 04, 2008

I'm Back!

Well, I'm back from San Francisco and RWA's National Conference and not only am I suffering from conference fatigue and estrogen overload but blogger is giving me fits! It won't let me post any photos, so I'll have to wait and link to other bloggers who have groovy pics from the conference.

Instead, I'll just do a quick run down of the good and bad things about this year's conference.

1) San Francisco. What a cool city! I love the hills and the Victorian houses, even loved Haight-Ashbury.

2) Fisherman's Wharf. As cheesy and touristy as it was, I still had a great time, including touring the Boudin Bakery.

3) The Hotel Milano. I didn't stay at the conference hotel because I didn't have a roommate and couldn't afford $225 a night, so I stayed 3 blocks away at the Hotel Milano (which looked a lot closer in the Access Guide to San Francisco). Not only was my hotel surrounded by the Westfield Shopping Mall (yeah Nordstroms!) but I had a great room. Yes, the hotel was no frills (only one stairmaster in the gym) but the front desk clerks were great.

4) Meeting so many of my on-line friends including Kelly Parra (2-time RITA finalist), Keira Soleore, and Gabrielle Luthy (Diary of an Adult Runaway). And reconnecting with past friends from conferences like Cathy Yardley, Eileen Rendahl and Eileen Cook.

5) Books! Not only did we receive a big bag of books when we registered, but there was the Literary Signing, and the free publisher book signings!

6) The food. I don't think I had a bad meal while I was in San Francisco (the Friday lunch was an aberration I'm convinced).

7) Hanging out with my chapter mates Megan, Kwana, Hope Tarr and Barbara Daly. As well as friends from the New England (Pam) and New Jersey Chapter (Charity Scordato/Pineiro).

8) Having breakfast with the Risky Regencies.

9) Getting to see Marley Gibson sign her first two books at the Literacy Signing. Can't wait until next year for Ghost Huntress!

10) Watching Nora Roberts get down on the dance floor at the Harlequin party.

11) Heading over to the Smart Bitches get together at the Thirsty Bear (although I think that Sarah from Smart Bitches thinks I'm stalking her. Seriously, I'm not, its just that we kept running into each other including in the airport on the way back to New York!).

12) Getting a tattoo at Mom's Body Shop in Haight-Ashbury with Megan, Keira and Carolyn Jewel.

13) Had a great meeting with lovely agent that gave me many ideas that I'm in the process of implementing.

14) Going to the NAL and Harlequin parties.

15) Seeing the Frida Kahlo and Lee Miller exhibits at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art which is a seriously cool museum.

16) San Francisco airport which is amazingly well run (Continental check-in took about a half-hour less than it did in New York).

17) The RITA awards which just seemed to fly by this year. I swear to God I thought they were done in an hour, that's how fast it went by.

18) The dessert buffet after the RITAs.

Bad Things

1) The hotel was freezing, I mean seriously freezing. My table at the Friday lunch was so cold that we had to leave during Connie Brockaway's speech because we couldn't take it any more.

2) Too small rooms for the workshops. Not only did I miss the Lisa Gardner workshop and the Creating Characters workshop because they were so full they had to close the doors, but most of the workshops that I did go to, I couldn't see the speakers at the front of the room. Just disembodied voices. Seriously, I could have just skipped the conference and bought the CD-ROMS.

3) Having the workshops on too many floors. The conference workshops were spread out among 4 different floors. Yes, I said 4 floors, which meant going up and down in the elevator all day long and trying to find your way through the maze of hallways to find the rooms.

4) Too many books! I managed to keep a level head (plus I missed 4 book signings because I was getting a tattoo) and get all the books into my suitcase, but I know people who sent back 2 and 3 boxes of books.

5) I have no idea what the dessert was at Friday's lunch. Was it chocolate pudding that hadn't had enough time to set, pot au feu, chocolate creme brulee, it's a mystery to me.

6) I cut in front of Megan Crane at the bar at the Chick-lit party and now she hates me (or at least thinks I'm an idiot). I so apologize Megan! (who looked lovely by the way at the conference).

7) Dancing for 3 hours in 3 1/2 inch heels at the Harlequin Party. My dogs were killing me afterwards.

8) Not having more time to see San Francisco.

9) Trying to stalk Suzanne Brockmann to see if she can still pick up her award for the Golden Apples and missing her each time.

So that's my conference experience in a nutshell. Now on to next year in Washington, DC!