Thursday, June 28, 2007

the write address

I am looking for a new apartment. My own place, for the first time ever. It's both terrifying and exhilarating. For the past three years, I've lived in a cozy three-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side with two terrific roomies. Before that, I lived with one of my current roomies in a one-bedroom (we made it work) on the East Side, and before THAT there was my parents' place and college. So me -- alone, with no one to kill bugs or help me with the can opener or chat with me when I walk in the door ( and also with no one to jump in the shower before me, no one to blast the TV when I want to sleep, no one to weigh in on my decorating choices...) -- is going to feel VERY new.

In New York City, looking for an apartment is like a full-time job. Prices are insane. There's always a catch. You want it all -- good light, safety, space, maybe a park within reach -- but the universe, or perhaps the real estate gods, merely laugh. It's a constant uphill battle to find the right place. And for a writer, I think, it's even more difficult.

Even though I've developed a taste for writing in Starbucks and libraries over the years, I still like to write at home when I can. So whenever I see an apartment for the first time, I invariably think "Can I write here?" Is there room for my desk, is the light good enough, will the traffic below inspire me or annoy me? Of course there is no way to tell until you have really moved in. But I'm rather obsessive about these qualities in an apartment. What I would truly love is a space that would allow me my own bedroom, living room, and separate writing office. I dream about this the way some people dream about winning the Lottery (and in New York,unfortunately, the two are pretty much linked).

Do other writers feel this way? Do you think where you live affects the way you write? Am I just being overly neurotic?

I will keep you posted if--and when--I find the (nearly) perfect place!

Until then, happy summer...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

All things crappie

In a little intro to How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year, Cameron talks about what is and isn't true in her book. In that spirit, I thought I'd clue you in on a few things that are and aren't true in THE BOYS NEXT DOOR.

I grew up on a beautiful lake in Alabama, but there is no Crappie Festival on Lake Martin. There is, however, an Interstate Mullet Toss at the Flora-Bama Lounge down at the beach. People try to throw a mullet across the Alabama/Florida state line. I have never been to the Interstate Mullet Toss myself. My first job after college was as a copyeditor for the Montgomery newspaper. My boss was a very low-key person, so I was surprised when she came in looking sort of bedraggled one day. In fact, she looked like someone who had spent the weekend in the sun, throwing fish across the state line. I've been waiting to put the Interstate Mullet Toss in a book ever since.

The town where I grew up also had a huge cotton mill with an outlet store where you could get all sorts of designs put on T-shirts. Hunting and fishing are important activities in this town, so the store had lots of deer designs and fish designs. They offered a picture of a fish that said "Bass!" and a picture of a fish that said "Catfish!" and a picture of a fish that said "Crappie!" Well, that's just funny. I gave my best friend a crappie T-shirt for her birthday, and after we graduated from high school she wore it around Boston University.

The bryozoa is 100% real and I have accidentally touched it more times than I can count. *shudder* (The link goes to a Wikipedia article that I'm considering updating because it's incomplete. It does not contain the terms slimy or ugh.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Let's hear it for Alice Cooper. This time of year all I can think about is that song! The whole tempo and temperament around our house changes completely once finals and regents come to an end, and there's nothing for weeks except those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer. (Yeah, I know, I'm quoting another old song, but I just can't help it--I'm married to a musician, song quoting is just something we do around here). If the kids are happy, mom's happy.

And I am happy. Mostly because I have plenty of work to keep me busy. I don't know if anyone else gets really cranky if they don't write something every day, but I know I do. I need that release of losing myself in a world of my own making for at least a few hours every day.

Anyhow, I gotta go now. I have a camp trunk to pack, as Ian leaves for his 7 1/2 weeks of camp next Tuesday. As for Amanda, for the first time in six years, she spending the summer here. She's going to experience the feeling of hot town, summer in the city. back of my neck getting dirty and gritty. (Uh oh! There I go again!) But somehow I think she's going to love it. There really isn't any place as fun as New York City in the summer. Come to think of it, I can't think of any place as fun as New York City during any time of the year. (Relax, I'm not going to break into a chorus of New York, New York on the blog!)

Anyway, no matter where you're spending your summer, or what you do, I hope it will be memorable. And let's hope that as the temperatures rise, cooler heads prevail, and we get some peace on this planet soon.



Still a Kid at Heart


My family just got back from a road trip to S. California. We had the most amazing time at Disneyland and Sea World. I loved watching my 3 boys' reactions to the various animals, characters, and shows, and screaming with them on roller coasters.
But the thing that amazed me the most was the way I felt when the Disney characters paraded down Main Street. It was like I was a little girl again, vying for Snow White's attention, laughing at Goofy's antics, hoping that Mickey himself would be in the last float. At Sea World, when I got to pet the bat rays and dolphins and hold starfish, I was transported back to when I was a kid, wondering what the sea animals would feel like and what they'd do when I held them.
Which experiences from your past spark memories that you like to share with loved ones?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

5 Islands in 7 Days

Okay, the islands were all fairly close together, but I had only been to one of them before. These isles run along the Georgia/Northern Florida coast, and they come in all phases of development and charm. My younger brother got married on Jekyll Island at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, the former yacht playground of J.P. Morgan and the Rockefellers. The outdoor wedding got rained out but still turned out lovely, and the wedding party had its own mansion for the weekend. Jekyll is very kickback and under strict anti-development rules, so it's a nice place for a quiet vacation with almost deserted beaches.

Following two nights there, it was on to Hilton Head Island off the coast of Georgia. We used to go to Hilton Head when I was a kid, and it has changed from a sleepy backwater to a fully developed city with championship golf courses. No more crabbing for dinner off a rickety dock, but on to a first-class restaurant. There's a spooky old pre-civil war cemetery on Hilton Head, which I used in my book, THE WITCHING WELL, but even it's been cleaned up and gardened. Spoilsports! Savannah is close by for an added plus.

San Simon Island is also civilized but less snooty than Hilton Head. Seems to attract a younger, more beachy crowd, and has numerous bed-and-breakfasts instead of swank resorts. We really liked it there, and we saw a lot of vacation rentals. We also like Amelia Island, Florida, where we stayed in an aged motel right on the beach. Amelia Island is very charming and old-school, with ancient beach bungalows built to resemble lighthouses (see pic) and rickety outdoor bars with live music.

Last but not least, Anastasia Island. This is off the coast of Florida and houses most of the beaches for San Augustin, longest inhabited city (by Europeans) in the USA. Great history there and beautiful beaches. Don't miss the Gator Farm and the old Spanish quarter. It was a joy to have all the family together for my brother's wedding, especially all the female cousins. And their boyfriends! Yikes! Who's gonna foot the next one?


Monday, June 18, 2007

No parking on the dance floor

Last weekend my husband and I attended our high school class reunion. The party was held at a lodge overlooking the lake where The Boys Next Door is set, in sight of the bridge that figures prominently in the book. I took this as a good omen that the book will do well when it's released a week from tomorrow (it's already in stock at the online bookstores).

I channeled my inner Lori, the heroine of the book, by being a dork and dancing the night away to 80's music though I can't dance. If you're not going to do the robot to "Freakazoid" at your high school reunion, when are you going to do it?

I also caught up with my classmates. Like Adam in the book, so many of them were smart and talented even though the school said they weren't. It was wonderful to find out how successful they've been, outshining any prediction of the standardized tests. The older I get, the more I realize there are lots of definitions of "success" and lots of ways to be happy.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Required reading

So, I guess I must have blinked or something back in March, because all of a sudden, my first semester of grad school is over. This is astonishing. Astonishing, I tell you!

Despite a few small hiccups during the transitional period (ie: I needed to search deep inside of myself to find motivation to change out of my pajamas in the morning), I can honestly say that I love my new lifestyle. As much as editing used to be wonderful gratification, these days I am truly relishing the opportunity to save my creative energies for my own work. Pretty selfish, huh? But what can you do?

Another semi-unexpected byproduct of the Vermont program is how much I'm reading again! This past semester, I read about 50 books for my coursework, which means I finally got around to folks like Carolyn Mackler, Sarah Dessen, Blake Nelson, and others that I'd managed to avoid until now. Of the bajillion titles that I've "discovered" since January, here's my top five:

1. Rachel Cohn, "Gingerbread"
2. Julia Bell, "Massive"
3. Gene Luen Yang, "American Born Chinese"
4. Natasha Friend, "Perfect"
5. Marilyn Sachs, "The Fat Girl"

My caveat, of course, is that 5/50ths of a reading list is really just the tip of the iceberg. There is a staggering amount of fabulous work out there. Now that I've got a month off from school, I'm diving into the extracurricular stacks. First will be "Tips on Having a Gay (Ex)Boyfriend, by Vermont College's own Carrie Jones, followed closely by Niki's "Goddess Games," which looks, as Nicole Ritchie would say, "a-MAH-zing."

What's on your summer reading list?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Techno-savvy. Really!

At Niki's suggestion, I have added a link on the right to an RSS feed of the blog. Or, if you're a LiveJournal user, you can subscribe to the blog at sprocoms--it's just like adding us as a friend. I'm sorry about the weird name. Sprocoms! I wanted it to be Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies, duh, but LiveJournal said that was too long. So I shortened it to SPRoComs and it came out sprocoms, which sounds like a Japanese seaweed snack. Mmmmm, I love sprocoms and Diet Pepsi.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Attention, please!

You know how some things demand your undivided attention? And how, often, more than one of those things happen at the same time, which means your attention is, well, DIVIDED? That's what the last couple weeks have been like at Casa Niki.

First--my newest book, Goddess Games, hit the shelves (happy, happy, joy, joy!) If you click on the title, you can read an excerpt. As you might guess, I'm thrilled to see it in stores!

Second--and even more exciting--I got a new puppy!! She's a poodle, and her name is Tipper. She's still pretty small (you can check out how she compares to a large Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee) and has two speeds: running and exhausted.

Needless to say, she needs a TON of attention, or she eats the houseplants or has accidents (she's only two months old, so we're still working on housetraining!)

So, of course, with all this going on (requiring pretty much all my attention), I headed off to NYC and BookExpo. BookExpo is this monster event for booksellers, publishers, librarians, authors, and pretty much anyone whose job has something to do with books. I spent a couple days working in the Romance Writers of America booth, where I got to see author Geralyn Dawson (left) being interviewed by Eloisa James for Romance Novel TV.

Then I hopped into the hot seat for an interview with Romance Novel TV, which will be posted to their site in the near future. (In the meantime, check out the great interviews with other authors, including Nora Roberts and Janet Evanovich.)

BookExpo is also the place to get autographed copies of the latest books. There's a main autographing area consisting of thirty-two tables, each of which is occupied by a different author every hour (and sometimes every half-hour!) signing copies of their newest release. I signed a TON of copies of Goddess Games at table thirty-one. While I was signing, guess who was next to me at table thirty?

If you can't read the's Ridley Pearson! Not only does he write fabulous suspense novels, but he also co-writes the Peter Pan prequels with Dave Barry (they're phenomenal books--I highly recommend 'em to everyone!)

Needless to say, BookExpo had me going in two speeds, running and exhausted! When I came home to Tipper (who was delightfully happy to see me!), I made certain to give her my undivided attention. Now off to walk the dog....

Sunday, June 10, 2007

a hidden gem, a summer party

Up until this weekend, I'd never been to Governor's Island. It's a hidden gem, a small stretch of green, lovely land, located in the middle of New York Harbor, between Brooklyn, Ellis, and Liberty Islands. Up until 1996, it was used as a military base, so it's full of old forts and beautiful, sprawling homes in which the officers lived with their families.

My boyfriend's friend told us about an annual summer bash held on the island -- a Great Gatsby-themed swing dance/picnic, so naturally we were on board. We caught the ferry down at the tip of Manhattan (Whitehall/South Ferry) and rode it a mere seven or so minutes (perfect for me, because I'm not a fan of long boat rides!), enjoying the wind on our faces and admiring the view of Lady Liberty. Once on the island, we weaved through stately homes, tree-lined roads, and grassy stretches along the river to reach the picnic grounds, all the while feeling that we'd fallen into some sort of other world, a dream-place. The island is basically deserted (my boyfriend and I went exploring in one of the beautiful houses, and it was absolutely empty -- not even a stray piece of furniture), which makes it feel even more surreal...but enchanting. The feeling of we're-not-really-in-2007-New-York-anymore got stronger when we reached the bandstand and saw people dressed to the hilt in flapper garb doing the Charleston while guys in straw boat hats strolled alongside ladies with parasols. We hadn't dressed up in costume, but we still felt quite fabulous in our summer clothes as we lunched on cheese, crackers, lox, olives, and watermelon on our blanket.

We learned that Governor's Island is open to the public (for free) on Saturdays and Sundays this summer. Now that I'm taking some MUCH-needed time-off from writing (at least until the fall), I'm planning on doing some more picnicking out there -- forget overcrowded, overrated Central Park! If you're in the NYC area, please come out and explore this little secret nook of splendor on the harbor.

Introducing the Next Steven Spielberg...

...or not. He'd prefer to be known as the bassist from the next big heavy metal band.


Congratulations, Brendan! You made it through thirteen years of lower education. Now, on to higher ed and that director's chair I know is waiting for you out there (even if it is just directing your latest music video).

And congratulations to all the other high school (and, heck, college, too) graduates out there. Whether you got there top of your class and having won every award known to mankind, or whether you got there by closing your eyes, gritting your teeth and chanting 'only one more year, one more month, one more week, one more day', you got there.

The world is your oyster (be careful of the sand, though, it's a bit gritty in the mouth).

Now -- a word for the moms of the graduates: congratulations! You made it. Whether you made it with a bragging rights list for the next decade, or a sense that this next part of your grad's life has got to be better for them, you made it!

For me, this young man represents my third and final precious child to push through lower ed. It is the end of my days of permission slips and marking school holidays on my calendar.

I have looked forward to this day for a long time (long story, with lots of bitter twists and moments of grace -- I'll spare you). I did not know how it would affect me. I usually post on the 5th of the month, and I had a picture of my son in his gown ready to go on that date. But...he wasn't graduated. And so superstition stayed my typing fingers until today. Which means I can tell you I had tears in my eyes as his Class of 2007 marched into the gymnasium. My throat had a lump.

I watched the pairs of no-longer children march to the front of the crowd as they had practiced all week. I thought of this group of kids when they were in kindergarten and I'd bring cupcakes (you could still do that back then) for birthdays and school parties. I thought of their faces when I volunteered classroom time and there was this quaint system of turning over a cup on the edge of the desk to indicate they needed help. Some kids never turned that cup over, and I'd have to watch for the signs they were struggling and then ask, "Did you want to turn your cup over?" I've forgotten which kids they were now. All I remember are cups on edges of desks and impossibly young faces.

My advice to the new graduates for the future: don't forget to turn your cup over when you need help -- none of us make it on our own in lower ed, in higher ed, or in life. When you're sitting in the audience of parents and grandparents and friends and family and teachers and coaches and fellow students in cap and gown the truth of that shines through even through the tears of pride and joy...and profound relief.

A cheer of joy and hope to all members of the Class of 2007, wherever you are!!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Come on over to the par-TAY!

The release of THE BOYS NEXT DOOR is only three weeks away on June 26! To celebrate, the heroine, Lori McGillicuddy, is throwing a virtual book release party! She is a little socially challenged, so it would mean a lot to her if you went over to say hi (but DON'T tell her I said that about her because she will FREAK).

Friday, June 01, 2007

Ideas Aren't Always Easy...


The ideas/proposals I was working on for a new romantic comedy didn't fly with my editor. Bummer. I am still developing some other ideas, and am working on a few other projects (not romantic comedy stuff), but I'm pretty sad that I probably won't spend this summer writing my next Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy. You see, I wrote both Dancing Queen and Prom Crashers over the summer months (in 2005 and 2006), and I was sort of looking forward to making it an annual tradition. Who knows? Maybe something will spark and I'll get my next Ro Com going...but until then, I have to turn my writing time to other stuff.

I just wanted to share this not-as-great news, since it seems like a lot of my author buddies on this blog and I tend to share exciting, positive updates on our writing lives. But I wanted to bring in the other side of the story and make sure it's clear that it's not always as easy as it might sound. We go through ideas and ideas and ideas, then drafts and drafts and drafts, and sometimes nothing comes of it. What our fine readers out there eventually buy is just one tiny piece of the stuff we writers are working on. There are a million behind-the-scenes hours of work before we even get to the fun part of writing the book that will someday be published.

So if you're an aspiring writer, remember to keep plugging away, even when it seems like nothing will ever happen. We all have tons of failures, and eventually (with luck) all those rejections and lame ideas and bad drafts will end with a shining success. And that's what makes it worth the work. So, of course, my head is still spinning with more and more ideas, and hopefully in the next few weeks or months or ... whenever ... I'll come up with a fun new idea and will get to start working on my next romantic comedy. Stay tuned.

One quick note of good news before I sign off: I just found out that Prom Crashers went into a fourth printing after only a few months on shelves. So, Readers, you rock! Thanks for buying the book!