April 30, 2012

Fruit Crisp

Yum! You need to make this. It's easy and delicious.
4 servings
2-1/2 cups fresh berries
2-1/2 cups plums or other fruit, chopped
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled cut oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the fruit in a mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt, and toss to coat. Pile the fruit mixture into a casserole dish.

Before - the 'after' is much more appetizing.
Combine the flour, brown sugar, oats and salt in a large mixing bowl. Next, cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two forks, making sure that the butter stays chilled so you end up with a crumbly texture. Mix in the chopped pecans and spread evenly over the fruit.

Bake until crisp and golden brown, 25 minutes. Allow the crisp to cool 20 minutes, then serve with gelato or frozen yogurt.
And when you're finished let your cat lick the bowl. (She only likes the gelato part - Sophie Tucker's not a fruit eater.)

April 28, 2012

The Case For Carbs

OMG, how can we ever possibly know what to eat and what not to eat? Whatever's good for you today will almost certainly ravage you with cancer tomorrow. Carb-free, gluten-free, grapefruit diet, Atkins, watercress soup diet (I bet that's really satisfying)...and then there's the air diet where you put food on your plate and pretend to put it in your mouth and pretend to chew. Yeah, that'll work.
Or you could try the Alicia Silverstone diet. Chew the food but don't swallow it. Instead, spit it into your baby's mouth. Don't have a baby? I have a new business: Rent-a-Carb-Receptive-Baby.
All I know is carbs are my favorite food group. There are supposedly carbs in toothpaste. Okay, I'll give up toothpaste. But bread? Wine? Chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies? No ma'am.
Anyway, after you watch the creepy "pre-masticating" video (I shudder to think what's next) read Molly Campbell's very funny post about carbs (below).

In Praise of Carbs by Molly Campbell
For those of you who are regular readers of my blog (and I think there are at least ten of you), you know that I am not to be taken seriously. Occasionally, I am semi-serious. So before you go any further, please take note of this. Nutritionists, scientists, Stephen Hawking, and Dr. Oz, if you are going to read any further, I really don’t solicit comments from you and your colleagues.
That said, I want to tell you about some research I have noticed on the web recently. According to many health and diet gurus who are desperately concerned about the morbidly obese, oh, and I guess the rest of us schlubs, the reason we all have spare tires and worse is due to carbohydrates. For those of you in my group of ten faithful readers who need a definition, a carb (we are very chummy, so I can abbreviate) is anything that converts to sugar in your bloodstream. This means that a carb is basically anything worth eating.
Read the rest of Molly's very funny post

April 26, 2012

That's Why I Write

I'm reading an article in The Writer's Chronicle - it's an interview with Bonnie Jo Campbell who has won many awards for her writing and has written two novels, the latest of which has "received rave reviews" according to the article. I haven't yet read her work (I will) but am always happy for another writer's success. Mostly she's very humble in her responses but at one point she says, "...when a book receives a lot of attention it can be unsettling, even when most of the attention is praise, because something that used to private...is now public and open to scrutiny." And all I have to say is three words: Oh, shut up.
I'm sure Bonnie's a very nice person but really, isn't that why you write - so the public will read your words? Open to scrutiny? Great! Your work is now public? Hooray!
I know there will be people who'll read my book and say, "I write better than this - how the hell did she get published?" but there will be others who will relate to the characters and find some meaning in the story. It's all good. If Bonnie Jo Campbell doesn't want the attention or scrutiny then give it to me! I'll take it all; good, bad, indifferent, praising, slamming...
If my book receives a lot of attention will I be unsettled? Yes...with exultation! Unsettle me. THAT'S why I write.

April 23, 2012

15 Ways To Stay Married For 15 Years

Well, you know I didn't write this cuz what do I know about staying married? I could write an article about getting married but I don't dispense advice about staying that way. All my marriages put together don't add up to 15 years. Where was Lydia Netzer when I needed her (besides not born yet)?
Watch for my next article: 15 Ways To Stay Single Even Tho You Get Married Again and Again and Again. 

15 Ways to Stay Married for 15 Years
by Lydia Netzer
Today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary. I really love Dan, and I am proud of how awesome our marriage is. We certainly haven’t killed each other yet. Hell, we haven’t even maimed each other. We have not always been perfect, but we have made two cool kids, and we have always kept it interesting. For two people as weird and intense as Dan and I are, staying together this long is a big accomplishment. I know some people are surprised.

Her first tip (love this):

1. Go to bed mad.
The old maxim that you shouldn’t go to bed mad is stupid. Sometimes you need to just go to freakin’ bed. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath” is prefaced in the Bible by the phrase “Be angry and sin not.” So, who’s to say it doesn’t mean “Stay angry, bitches. Don’t let the sun go down on that awesome fierce wrath of yours.” Seriously. Whoever interpreted this to mean that you should stay up after midnight, tear-stained and petulant, trying to iron out some kind of overtired and breathy accord -- was stupid. Shut up, go to bed, let your husband get some sleep. In the morning, eat some pancakes. Everything will seem better, I swear.

Read the rest of Lydia's article.

April 20, 2012

Cut To The Chase

I've been to some wonderful writers conferences over the years and this year I came to the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop in Dayton, Ohio. Okay, it's not quite as picturesque as the one in Santa Barbara last year, but it's a lot more laughs. There are many people here who think they're funny, and then there are those who really are: Alan Zweibel, Connie Schultz, Bruce Cameron, Adriana Trigiani...
And then there are the people who ask questions of the presenters. Someone puts a mic in their hand and they think it's they're shot for Broadway. Why do they need to tell their life history (or worse, blow their own horn) before they get to the question? Like the guy this afternoon who says, "What if you have a blog where you write witty repartee and you have over a thousand followers and you get great comments on your work and..." Oh shut up. Cut to the chase, for crissakes! Ask your question and sit the hell down.
Wendi Aarons obviously has ADD like I do. (Or is it impatience? Intolerance?)  
She says, "If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people who take forever to tell a story. You sit there and sit there and listen to them rambling on for what feels like hours and then, nine times out of 10, there’s no real pay-off. Like the woman at my gym who breathlessly greets us every morning with, “You’ll never believe what happened to me last night!” and then twenty minutes later, we find out she stubbed her toe on a garden rake. Whoohoo. Thanks for the pot boiler there, Agatha Christie."

April 17, 2012

What Not To Wear When You're Over 50

Maybe Jane Fonda can get away with wearing ripped-up jeans, an off-the-shoulder blouse and a funky fedora, at 72. Can she? You be the judge. Here's my vote: NO! There are certain clothes that are too young for anyone over 30, let alone 72, and shredded jeans are on the list. She's gorgeous, no question, and in great shape. But the jeans just look stupid.
And even if you think she looks great the fact is most women of a certain age shouldn't wear that kind of stuff. So what to wear when you're over 50?
If you look good in it and you're comfortable, wear it. Great advice, right? The only problem with that is some older women think they look good in things like leggings and short skirts. Obviously they don't own a full-length mirror, which I completely understand - the older I get the less I want to look in a mirror. 
But you need to look, ladies. And here's a little free advice: be sure to look at yourself from behind. If you're over 50, chances are good your ass isn't where you remember it and if you're wearing something clingy the whole world will know it.
Even if you're thin, things happen to your body after 50; parts droop, rolls appear, skin sags, spots show up...believe me it's endless and ugly. And thank god for clothes. The right clothes hide a multitude of sins and make us look fit and youthful and appealing, no matter what's underneath. So what are the right clothes?
Well, I'm no arbiter of fashion but here's my short list of what not to wear if you're over 50:
1. Leggings, even with a butt-covering top
2. Mini-skirts
4. Short shorts
4. Low-cut blouses (who wants to look at wrinkled cleavage?)
5. Anything that exposes your belly (I mean, really...what are you thinking?) 
So what's left, you might ask. Shirtwaist and pearls, anyone?  

April 14, 2012

Naming Your Baby

I'm inspired by a post from The Romaniacs (don't you love that name? It's a group of romance writers - perfect, right?) about book and character titles, and I'm reminded of the evolution of my title, What More Could You Wish For. Naming your book and your characters is like naming your babies. How do you ever know if it's the right name?
My book's first title was Classmates.com, because it was a story about a woman who reconnects with her high school sweetheart on that website. And, in fact, I actually had reconnected with a high school boyfriend that way. Ah, the inspiration for the story. Just so you know, though, nothing that happens in the book happened in real life. Well...not very much of it.
Anyway, after I finished it (I'm using the term 'finished' loosely since it went through many more drafts) and was trying to find an agent I had the bright idea of contacting Classmates.com to see if they would be interested in co-publishing and promoting it on their website. Brilliant, right? Well, they didn't think so. And they asked me to cease and desist using their name for my title or they would sic their lawyers on me. Well, okay, they didn't put it that way but that was the gist.
So then I changed it to What More Could You Want  which is what Sophie asks Libby when Libby says she's not sure she wants to marry Michael (who was originally Kevin in the first draft).
And then somewhere along the way I changed it to Mr. Right-Enough, which I thought was a memorable and titillating title, although some people thought it sounded like a self-help book. I never thought it described the story but I thought it would draw attention so I self-published it under that title.
Then, when I got the book deal from St. Martin's Press (yay!!!) my editor wanted to change the title. I'm not sure if it was because she didn't like it or if she wanted to differentiate it from the self-published version but I was okay with that. I told her that one of my working titles was What More Could You Want and she liked it. So that's what it became.
But...somewhere along the way it turned into What More Could You Wish For. Why? I don't know. Who changed it? I don't know that either. Was I happy about that? I can't say that I was.
I campaigned for changing it back to What More Could You Want. I lost.
Fortunately the title has grown on me. I would have liked to be in the meeting where it was decided, just to know what the thinking was. In the end, though, I have to defer to the publisher's expertise. They want to sell this book as much as I do and if this title is what will do it, well, alrighty then.

April 10, 2012

Sophie Tucker, the Magic Cat

My cat's a magician. She made her bed disappear.

April 5, 2012

Random Observations from Lynn Crawford

Chivalry isn't dead, says my friend Lynn. That's nice to know, isn't it? Check out Lynn's blog post and be sure to look around while you're there - the tagline to her blog is Random thoughts on life through the eyes of a cynical observer.
She's very clever, though not nearly as cynical as I am.
Also, her posts are People Magazine-length, which I love!

Here's one to get you started:
After leaving a breathtaking and mostly perfect Aida at the Lyric, we jumped on the #20 bus to Michigan Avenue. The crowd at the bus stop was bigger than usual. The bus, which is usually empty, was packed. The crowd on the curb waiting for the bus were geezers with Aida programs. The packed masses on the bus were 20 somethings from all races, ethnic groups and fashion groups. Some were coming from the Hawks game, some probably from work or other activities.

April 3, 2012

Women's Fiction - Top Shelf or Bottom?

If someone asks what I write I tell them contemporary fiction. If you ask my publisher I'm pretty sure they classify it as women's fiction. Is there a difference and what does that mean? Does the term women's fiction mean it's less serious? Or does it simply mean that men are not the targeted audience?
I know my book What More Could You Wish For is not one a man would pick up off the shelf - the cover's all pastel-y and light, kind of fluffy, and certainly doesn't denote any car chases or intrigue or high body counts.
I've heard from a few men who read it in its self-published version which had a more 'serious' cover (but an even less man-attracting title, Mr. Right-Enough) and they've all said that although it's not the kind of book they'd ordinarily read they couldn't put it down. Nice reviews, all, but how do I get men to read my book if they're not related to me? Maybe I could provide them with a fake cover wrap with an AK-47 on it so they wouldn't be embarrassed to read it on the CTA.

Interesting article in the New York Times about women's fiction.

The Second Shelf
On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women

Published: March 30, 2012

If “The Marriage Plot,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, had been written by a woman yet still had the same title and wedding ring on its cover, would it have received a great deal of serious literary attention? Or would this novel (which I loved) have been relegated to “Women’s Fiction,” that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated? Certainly “The Marriage Plot,” Eugenides’s first novel since his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex,” was poised to receive tremendous literary interest regardless of subject matter, but the presence of a female protagonist, the gracefulness, the sometimes nostalgic tone and the relationship-heavy nature of the book only highlight the fact that many first-rate books by women and about women’s lives never find a way to escape “Women’s Fiction” and make the leap onto the upper shelf where certain books, most of them written by men (and, yes, some women — more about them later), are prominently displayed and admired. 
Read the rest of the article.