Writer’s Block – Experiment

I try to write a blog a week and since it’s been almost a week since I posted my last one, it’s about that time.  Only problem is, I’m suffering from a bout of writer’s block. 

When others complain about this particular ailment, I usually suggest they sit in front of the computer and just write whatever pops into their heads.  Since I don’t usually get writer’s block, I have no idea if my suggestion is a good one or if it just plain sucks.  I figured I’d test it out.  Disclaimer:  My thoughts are often fleeting and usually random so apologies in advance.

Despite feeling under the weather physically for the past couple of days, I’m in pleasant spirits today.  I attended a very productive meeting this morning at my job and some concerns I had about transitioning trademark records from my old firm’s management system into my current firm’s system have been appeased.  But you probably don’t want to read about trademarks.  If you do, email me separately.  In lieu of payment, in exchange for my trademark wisdom, you can buy my book.  If you already own a copy, you can buy another one.   That’s the deal – take it or leave it.

I attended my weekly writer’s group last night and, not only wrote about three more pages of my second book (a lot for me), but also created a loose outline of everything I want to happen in the remaining pages.  I think I’ll finish my first draft within the next two months. I started this book in 2009 so it’s about time.

I had another book blogger/reviewer reach out to me and offer to review and promote my book on her blog.  I’m pretty happy about it even though I’ll undoubtedly fear that she’ll hate it.  I have two other bloggers currently reading it and so at least it’s a familiar fear.  I love the story I told in Just Friends With Benefits and many people have told me they loved it.  A few told me they’ve actually read it more than once, which makes me beam with happiness.  But there are other people I know personally who told me they bought the book and never mentioned it again.  This could be because I’m not the center of their universe (crazy, right?) and it just hasn’t occurred to them to praise me via email, text, phone or face-to-face. (FYI, I prefer email so I can save it and look at it when I feel bad about myself as a writer which happens every other hour).  But it could also be that the book wasn’t for them and they’d prefer not to express a negative opinion to me.  That’s fine.  From organizing a book club and stalking reviews of other books, I know that even best selling books aren’t loved by all and it would be unreasonable for me to expect that everyone would love my book either.  I don’t have the thickest skin but it’s getting thicker all of the time.  I don’t mean that in the literal sense, although I’ve been eating way too much lately and it might come to that if I’m not careful.

What else?  The raisin bread at Zarros is so good.  I get two pieces with my salad for lunch.  I usually eat one and save the other for a mid-afternoon snack.  I’m going to need an alternative mid-afternoon snack today.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not feeling too hot.  I have a headache, a mild sore throat and just less energy than usual.  I had the same symptoms last week, behaved myself for a couple of days and was fine by the weekend.  I cancelled drink plans with a friend tonight and so if I don’t get better as a result of being lame and watching Grey’s Anatomy in bed, I’ll be pissed! 

I see that I have been spewing my random thoughts onto the page for about an hour now.  I only spent a little more than that writing my second book last night.  Since I don’t think it’s fair to my novel in progress to give more attention to the blog, I must, regrettably, conclude this experiment.  

Despite evil writer’s block lurking, I sat at my computer screen, wrote whatever came into my head and, poof, a blog was born. Experiment was a success! 

Damn, I give good advice.

Book Club review – The Ten Best Days of My Life

Besides being a writer, a trademark paralegal, a New York Yankees fan (with or without a good pitching rotation) and a runner, I am also the organizer of a book club through www.meetup.com, dedicated to the genre of ‘chick-lit’.  At each meeting, we discuss the book of the month (among other girl’s-night-out appropriate topics) over a beverage or two and snacks.  It’s a blast and I look forward to it every month.  Each month, I post a poll with four or five possible book choices and the book with the most votes wins. 

I’ve decided, moving forward, to review the book of the month on my blog.  While the review will be written by me, it will include the comments and opinions of the book club as a whole.  This past month, the winner was “The Ten Best Days of My Life” by Adena Halpern and the book club met this past Wednesday.

Without further ado, here’s our Review of “The Ten Best Days of My Life”

Synopsis – The hereafter is happier than ever in Halpern’s debut novel. After Alex Dorenfield and her dog, Peaches, get smashed by a car, they wind up in heaven, where bubbly 29-year-old Alex is floored by how hip the digs are—especially Seventh Heaven, where Alex’s dreams (of, for instance, designer clothes, an awesome house and eating without gaining weight) come true. The icing on the cake is her reunion with a few deceased family members and meeting a dreamy prospective soul mate. Only problem? She must pass an entrance exam to stay in Seventh Heaven and not be demoted to the fourth level, where she would have to live in a condo, wear last year’s clothes and lose Peaches (all dogs stay in Seventh Heaven). So Alex gets to work on an essay to prove she led a worthwhile and fulfilling life. This simple little story is syrupy sweet throughout; readers into the heavenly have another bonbon to savor.

The general consensus was that the book was very light but highly entertaining.  The book did not tackle any serious issues and was kind of fluffy, however, this was the reason many of us enjoyed it so much.  Although while reading, most of us considered our own ten best days and whether we’d likely be accepted into Seventh Heaven, the novel was a perfect escape from the stress of our own lives.  Some people said it was a perfect beach read and I concur, having devoured it while vacationing on the Norwegian Epic.  And, finally, some members said they read it directly after finishing a deep, thought provoking novel and welcomed the change of pace. 

While many of us enjoyed the book specifically because it was such a light read, a few members of the club did not enjoy the book for just that reason.  One said it was like a “Little Debbie’s Snack Cake” – too syrupy sweep – and she couldn’t even bring herself to finish. Another member enjoyed it, but described it as ‘hoakey’.  One universal negative was that we didn’t buy the connection between Alex and her prospective soul mate, Adam.  Adam didn’t have much of a personality and there was no evidence to suggest that he belonged in Seventh Heaven either, aside from looking adorable in a baseball cap (and most guys do).

But the ending left most of us teary eyed, in a good way.  The last few chapters were very powerful.  

Finally, we all agreed that in order to enjoy this book, you need to suspend reality, not think too much and just go with the flow!  Since I read it on vacation, I had no problem with this but many attendees on Wednesday had questions.  For instance, when Alex lands in heaven, she spends most of her time with her grandparents and her uncle.  But her grandparents never mentioned their own parents and grandparents and wouldn’t you think they’d want to spend time with them too?  This never crossed my mind while reading the book but, then again, I was on vacation and one of my first rules of thumb while vacationing: don’t think so much! 

In sum, the majority of the attendees really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining, light, beach-like read.

http://www.amazon.com/Ten-Best-Days-My-Life/dp/0452289408

 
    

movies we ♥

Valentine’s Day is less than a week away and so it’s no surprise that many bloggers are posting about all things ‘love’.  Since all the cool people are doing it, so will I. 

Today, I’m blogging about my favorite movies in the romance/love story/romantic comedy genre and to tie my post into writing, my favorite lines from each.  I’ve tried to include my favorite quote relating to the “love” theme, but in some cases, my favorite line from the movie is not at all romantic but just plain funny.  And in some cases, it was too hard to choose just one quote and so I didn’t:

 Bridget Jone’s Diary

 “I don’t think you’re an idiot at all. I mean, there are elements of the ridiculous about you. Your mother’s pretty interesting. And you really are an appallingly bad public speaker. And, um, you tend to let whatever’s in your head come out of your mouth without much consideration of the consequences… But the thing is, um, what I’m trying to say, very inarticulately, is that, um, in fact, perhaps despite appearances, I like you, very much. Just as you are” – Mark Darcy to Bridget Jones

 When Harry Met Sally 

 “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible” – Harry Burns to Sally Albright

 ‘Cause someday, believe it or not, you’ll go 15 rounds over who’s gonna get this coffee table. This stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale COFFEE TABLE.”  – Harry Burns ( My sister and I have had many laughs over this one through the years!)

 The Way We Were

 “If I push too hard it’s because I want things to be better, I want us to be better, I want you to be better. Sure I make waves you have I mean you have to. And I’ll keep making them till your everything you should be and will be. You’ll never find anyone as good for you as I am, to believe in you as much as I do or to love you as much” – Katie Morosky to Hubbell Gardiner (My favorite love story EVER except each time I read it, I say an unanswered prayer for a different ending)

  Love Actually

 “With any luck, by next year – I’ll be going out with one of these girls. But for now, let me say – Without hope or agenda – Just because it’s Christmas – And at Christmas you tell the truth – To me, you are perfect – And my wasted heart will love you – Until you look like this Merry Christmas” – Mark to Juliet

  

Jamie: You learned English?
Aurelia: Just in cases.

 (Just makes me giggle…)

 Jerry Maguire 

 “On the surface, everything seems fine. I’ve got this great guy. And he loves my kid. And he sure does like me a lot. And I can’t live like that. It’s not the way I’m built” – Dorothy to Jerry.

 “All right. I shoplifted the pootie” – Jerry to Rod. (Again, just makes me giggle.) 

Gone With the Wind 

“There’s one thing I do know… and that is that I love you, Scarlett. In spite of you and me and the whole silly world going to pieces around us, I love you. Because we’re alike. Bad lots, both of us. Selfish and shrewd. But able to look things in the eyes as we call them by their right names” – Rhett to Scarlett.

You’ve Got Mail

“Yeah. I would have asked for your number, and I wouldn’t have been able to wait twenty-four hours before calling you and saying, “Hey, how about… oh, how about some coffee or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie… for as long as we both shall live?” – Joe Fox to Kathleen Kelly 

“Well, let me ask you something. How can you forgive this guy for standing you up and not forgive me for this tiny little thing of… of putting you out of business?” – Joe Fox to Kathleen Kelly 

Spendor in the Grass 

“Deanie – You’re a nice girl” – Bud

“I’m not. I’m not a nice girl.” – Wilma Dean

Another movie that usually results in the depletion of all of the tissues, napkins, paper towels and any other printed matter I have in my apartment from the tears I shed agonizing over the ending. 

13 Going on 30 

“Hey! You got arm hair!” – Jenna

“Never got quite that reaction before.” – Matt

Clueless 

“You look like Pippi Longstocking.” – Josh 

“Well you look like Forrest Gump. Who’s Pippi Longstocking?” – Cher

“Someone Mel Gibson never played.” – Josh

“Cher, I don’t want to do this anymore. And my buns: they don’t feel nothin’ like steel” – Tai to Cher.

“Why do you care what *he* thinks, Murray? I’m the one who has to look at you! What am I gonna do with you now? And right before the yearbook pictures? What am I gonna tell my grandchildren? You know what? That’s it…”  Dionne to Murray 

 “He’s a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket-holding friend of Dorothy, know what I’m saying?” – Murray to Cher and Dionne 

I could go on and on and on…

The Sure Thing 

 “Yeah, Nick. Nick’s a real name. Nick’s your buddy. Nick’s the kind of guy you can trust, the kind of guy you can drink a beer with, the kind of guy who doesn’t mind if you puke in his car, Nick!” – Walter (“Gib”) Gibson

 “You know, junk food doesn’t deserve the bad rap that it gets. Take these pork rinds for example. This particular brand contains two percent of the R.D.A. – that’s Recommended Daily Allowance – of riboflavin.” – Gib

“What the hell’s wrong with being stupid once in awhile? Does everything you do always have to be sensible? Haven’t you ever thrown waterballoons off a roof? When you were a little kid didn’t you ever sprinkle Ivory flakes on the living room floor ’cause you wanted to make it snow in July? Didn’t you ever get really shitfaced and maybe make a complete fool of yourself and still have an excellent time?” – Gib 

 “Oh. It’s not easy getting rides. Do you know what I mean? I mean most people are real afraid to pick up hitchhikers. I mean you never know who you might pick up. I mean I could be some crazed slime ball. I mean a real deranged, violent psycho. You know what I mean? I mean a guy who would rip out your heart and eat it – just for pleasure.” – Gib

 That Gib is one funny dude.  But seriously, The Sure Thing might be one of the most underrated romantic comedies ever.  I watched it again recently and it never gets old. 

Can’t Buy Me Love 

 “I need to talk to you. Every time I call you’re either taking a bath, washing your hair or you’re out of the country. That was a good one, by the way”. – Ronald Miller to Cindy Mancini

 “I mean, he went from totally geek, to totally chic!” – Patty

“We were all friends then, remember? And now you want to end his life because he’s talking to Patty on your side of the cafeteria. Oh man, that’s stupid. I know cuz that’s where I wanted to be. On your side, with your crowd. But I messed up. See, I tried to buy my way in. But Kenneth, he’s not trying to buy anybody. He’s just trying to make friends *being* *himself*. Cools, Nerds, your side, my side, man it’s all bullshit. It’s just tough enough to be yourself.” – Ronald Miller 

And there you have it – a list of my favorite “chick” movies and some of the lines that helped them make the list.  

With Valentines Day approaching, what are your top love stories/romantic comedies and most memorable quotes?  

 

my first interview!

Interviews are often held under scary/uncertain circumstances, most notably job interviews!  But I was not sweating my interview with Jen Daiker at all.  It was my first official interview as a published author and while I was not offered a job (or new publishing contract) at the end, I’m hoping it will lead to more sales of my book.  Even if one more person decides to buy the book as a result of this interview, I will consider it a success.  So, thanks to Goodreads for introducing me to Jen and a special thanks to Jen for asking me to appear on her blog!  I hope someday to return the favor 🙂

 http://jennifer-daiker.blogspot.com/

constructive(?) criticism

Back in the 8th grade, I made the consequential decision to cut my cute bob-style hairdo into a bi-level (read: female mullet).  I knew I’d made a mistake as soon as Donald (my hair stylist at the time) cut that first side of hair over my ear.  But my grandma (“Nanny Tessie”) drove the point home when I returned to my house that afternoon.  She looked me dead in the eyes and said, “it’s not very flattering.”  

My Nanny Tessie did not sugarcoat when it came to vanity and as soon as the words came out of her mouth, I flew up the stairs into my room, slammed the door, climbed into bed and cried (and cried and cried…)  If your Jewish grandmother doesn’t say you are a ‘shaineh maidel’ (pretty girl), you know you’re in trouble.

I share this story to illustrate my point that sometimes criticism serves no purpose.  By the time Nanny Tessie saw my new and severely worsened coif, the damage was already done and there was no need to tell me it didn’t look good.  She didn’t need to lie, but she could have remained silent. 

When I started writing Just Friends With Benefits, I asked my sister Marjorie (my biggest fan and most honest critic) to read the first sixty or so pages.  While she was vacationing in Key West, I was chewing my fingernails waiting for her thoughts since she promised to read the book on the plane and by the pool.  Eventually, she sent a text saying she LOVED it so far, BUT thought things seemed too perfect in my main character’s life. I was pleased that she LOVED it so far and shrugged off the criticism since I knew I’d be throwing my main character some serious curve balls later into the story.  

I had registered for a novel writing class at a writer’s workshop around the same time I asked for my sister’s comments.  The gist of the workshop was reading each other’s works in progress and providing feedback, both good and bad.  I was terrified to hear what my fellow classmates thought about my writing.  I was afraid all of the other students were writing the “Great American Novel” and would laugh at my attempt at romantic comedy/chick-lit.  And I was afraid they would tell me, in not so many words, that I had zero talent.  

On the bright side, they did neither of those things.  The students in my class were incredibly diverse and among us, we were writing literary fiction, science fiction, young adult, dark comedy and general fiction and there was no judgment or snobbery.  And the students had many nice things to say about my writing.  They thought I had an easy-breezy writing style, a strong voice and they really liked my main character.  

But not all of the news was good. 

In my first critique session, the general consensus was that my novel read too much like a memoir; there was not enough action.  And, like my sister, they thought I wrapped things up too nicely at the end of the chapter and were concerned that my story lacked sufficient conflict to keep readers turning the pages.   

I know from organizing a book-club that, in general, opinions tend to differ as to whether a book is great, horrible or just “meh”.  For instance, we read Beginner’s Greek by James Collins a couple of months ago and some members found it so boring, they could not get past the first 100 pages while others devoured it in one or two sittings.  In that case, there was no “right” or “wrong”; it was simply a matter of opinion.  However, when twelve out of twelve people, plus my sister, tell me I need to add more conflict and roadblocks throughout my story to keep it engaging, I cannot dismiss it as merely subjective.  And thankfully I didn’t. 

I started revising my book the following day to increase the tension.  I also took paragraphs of narrative and turned them into dialogue in order to increase the action and make it less memoir-like.  When I turned in my second submission, my teacher and classmates were blown away by the improvements I had made.  But there were still some issues.  For instance, I wrote a scene between my main character (Stephanie) and her love interest (Craig) and a subsequent scene where Stephanie dishes to her best friend (Suzanne) about Craig.  In the original version, Stephanie gave Suzanne a full account of what went down with Craig.  But my teacher and classmates had already read the scene between Stephanie and Craig and didn’t need to read about it twice.  I knew they were right and revised the scene.  I sent the next set of pages to my sister and my class at the same time.  My sister sent me a text “These were my favorite pages yet.  I LOVE IT!”  And my teacher and classmates had NO constructive criticism to offer.  One went as far as to say I must have had divine intervention because the pages were perfect.  We were only talking ten or so pages but I could not remove the smile from my face for about 24 hours. 

I share the above to illustrate that sometimes criticism does serve a purpose.  I don’t take every negative comment as seriously as others because I trust my own instincts and, as mentioned earlier, much of what works/doesn’t work in a book is subjective.  But accepting and learning from constructive criticism helped me write a better first book, is helping me write a better second book and is making me a better writer in general.  I still twirl my hair, chew my fingernails and bite my lower lip while waiting for someone else’s thoughts but I know how important they are.  I also know that if someone is honest with me about what she doesn’t love, it is likely she is also being honest when she tells me what she does love.