Thursday, September 27, 2007

The GOOD Girls of Hollywood

In my upcoming Ro Com, LOVE, HOLLYWOOD STYLE, the main character, Tracy, has an encounter with the newest Hollywood “It Girl,” a fictional actress named Christy Caldwell. When I wrote Christy I made it clear that, while she certainly has a rebellious streak, she is most definitely not a party girl celebrity like so many of those lost souls we hear about all the time on the news ... particularly on the news in Los Angeles. (Seriously. Lead story on the local news almost nightly. Unless we get a rainstorm, which the reporters here react to in much the same way East Coast newsies report on a blizzard. I once heard a reporter warn, “It’s raining hard enough to make puddles!” But I digress.)

The most annoying thing is that these stories are usually about four very specific young women. Hardly anybody seems to talk about all the many other fine young actresses/entertainers out there, so I thought it might be nice to give a few of them some mention here. (This is only the tip of the Hollywood iceberg, mind you. And please forgive me if I reference someone with her own scandal. I can only be up on so much Hollywood gossip at one time.)

First, my personal fave ... Mandy Moore. I didn’t consciously base Christy Caldwell on Mandy Moore, but every time I picture the character in my head, I see Mandy playing her. Ms. Moore darn near broke my heart in A Walk to Remember, but I will always love her for her hysterical villainous performances in The Princess Diaries and Saved! (And speaking of The Princess Diaries, Anne Hathaway is seriously poised to be the next major Hollywood player. Agree? Disagree? Abstain?)

She might not always choose the best movie roles to showcase her talent, but Amanda Bynes is making a pretty impressive transition from TV to film. As many people have said, she was a total standout in Hairspray this summer. The best part is she’s a comic actress not afraid to look silly ... a trait she has in common with another standout, the Emmy award winning America Ferrera from Ugly Betty. And I don’t mean the bushy eyebrows and braces make Ms. Ferrera look silly. They actually make her look normal. It’s the poncho, the butterfly costume, and the constant walking into glass walls that are the comic gems.

Jennifer Hudson’s journey from American Idol castoff to Oscar winner has got to be one of the strangest career paths in Hollywood history. I was never a fan of Sex and the City (Okay, you can get off the floor now), but I may go to the movie just to see what she does next as Sarah Jessica Parker’s assistant. And kudos to Ms. Parker for transitioning from Young Hollywood Starlet to A-List Adult with a minimum of E! True Hollywood Story episodes along the way.

I think I’ll wrap this up with a reality star just to prove that not every young woman who lives her life out on TV is evil. How about that Lo from Laguna Beach and The Hills? She may only be a part time reality star—and maybe that’s why she seems the most down to earth—but she’s got brains, beauty, and sarcasm ... a dangerous combination.



Wednesday, September 26, 2007


In honor of the blog’s first birthday, here are the Simon Pulse Ro-Com authors’ fave lines from their books. What are some of yours?

Niki Burnham

"Exactly two weeks, one day, and ten hours ago, my mother completely ruined my life."

"He gave me a half-hour lecture on the risks of fracturing my molars with the stud (doesn't "fracture my molar with a stud" sound vaguely kinky?), though he did stop short of reaching into my mouth to remove it."

"Nothing beats a butt-ugly feather dress--which the entertainment reporters are bound to note costs the equivalent of a year's college tuition--for getting guy frustration out of my system."

"Who ends a relationship of two and a half years in an airport over scrambled eggs and French toast?"

Jennifer Echols

“And that’s how I came to be riding back from Gadsden late Saturday evening with Mom, Allison’s mom, Allison, and a pageant trophy the size of a refrigerator.” (p. 196)

“Strange that the lips were so soft in such an edgy boy.” (p. 213)

Aimee Friedman

"Boys are boys, and books are books, and sometimes, it's best to have a little bit of both." (p. 234)

Kelly McClymer

"Who knew that Shakespeare knew all about crushes gone wrong way back in the Dark Ages?" (p. 202)

P.J. Ruditis

Tracy and her best friend, Liz, talking about ro-com movie cliches:
"A lot of the time the women in these movies are klutzes. Amanda Bynes can hardly take two steps without falling over something. Usually herself."
"That's because most romantic comedies are written by men who don't understand women enough to give them actual flaws to reflect the three-dimensional beings that we are," Liz said.
"And because watching people fall down is funny," I added.

Wendy Toliver

“Unless my life has been one big Scooby-Doo cartoon and I've been wearing a band geek disguise for sixteen years, then maybe ... possibly ... perhaps there's a grain of truth to this whole Siren thing.”

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Back to Brooklyn!

I was born in Brooklyn.

I tend to wear that like a badge of honor, proud to be part of a place with such a rich heritage (and strange accent!). But the truth is, I haven't lived in Brooklyn since I was nine, and that was more years ago than I care to post on this blog. In fact, I've lived in my Upper West Side Manhattan apartment longer than I've lived anywhere else in my life.

But I still don't claim to be a Manhatanite. That kind of sophistication--knowing just what accessories go with which little black dress or black slacks, or black skirt and jacket (people wear a lot of black in Manhattan)-- just isn't where I'm at. In fact, right now I'm in a pair or ripped cargo pants and a Grateful Dead concert shirt, which I actually dared to wear to the flea market across the street! I guess the fact that both my parents still don't have any idea where to put the Rs in words (somehow soda still comes out soder, while car still sounds like cah), or the fact that our favorite family book is called When Brooklyn was the World, keeps me attached to that outer borough. Is it any wonder that I drag my kids to Brighton Beach for real Russian food, or insist they ride the rickety old Cyclone every summer? (Alas, Coney Island is changing fast, and the ride may soon be a thing of the past, but that's another story for another blog).

All of this explains why I was so thrilled to be asked to speak at the Brooklyn Museum's Book Fair on November 17. I speak all over the country, at schools, book festivals, and conventions, but this one is kind of special. Let me tell you, my folks were really excited. Even though they don't live in Brooklyn any more, like me, they still have that umbilical cord firmly attached to our little house in Mill Basin, or the old apartment on Ocean Parkway. So if you're in the New York are on that autumn day, (and who doesn't love Autumn in New York), come on out and say hello.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

When it Rains ...

I was feeling pretty good about myself earlier today. I was tending two little boys (so I had 5 boys in all, ages 7, 5, 4, 2, and 1) and they were all eating PB&J lunches. Then I happened to look outside, where my usually red and light yellow dogs were now dark brown and black, prancing around in a mysterious liquid that was splattered all over the deck.


We're having some stucco repairs done and the stucco guys left the paint out. Yes, they are fully aware we have dogs.

So of course by now my baby is fussing for more noodles, and the other kids' faces and hands are covered with cupcake frosting (from a birthday party yesterday), and every second my deck and railing are being stamped by more dog prints and tail-whips.

I put the dogs in their kennel, called the contractor to tell him what was happening, then scrambled around scrubbing faces, scooping noodles, and wiping up paint footprints on the tile ( My 4 year old "didn't hear" me say to stay inside.)

In five minutes, two men were here to scrub. I'm still waiting for the deck to dry, but I think they got it all. All's well that ends well, right? Guess I can cross "scrub down deck" off my to-do list!

Getting Out More

I'm in rehearsal for play here in Tucson, my second thespian endeavor in the last few years if you count my stint at Old Tucson Studios in 2005. It's a really adult play, and I portray a bisexual character who is everyone else's psychiatrist. The director keeps trying to convince all the actors, most of whom are a lot younger than me, to go for the nudity in the script. But I'm only down to my bathrobe. I'm also doing stand-up comedy and as many speaking engagements as I can muster, since deciding to come out of Novelist Hermit mode. It helps that the kids are just about raised -- got to get the youngest one to age of 18 in December and at least out of high school.

If any of you happen to be in Tucson this weekend, I'm speaking at a couple of public libraries with SF author Timothy Zahn. (I know I should get these in sooner.)

Timothy Zahn and John Vornholt
Saturday, Sept. 22, noon - 4 pm
Dusenberry-River Branch Library
5605 E. River Rd.
Sunday, Sept. 23, 1 - 5 pm
Joel D. Valdez Main Library
101 N. Stone Ave.

As usual, you can catch me doing karaoke all over town.



It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Some holidays, they leave me cold, ye hearties. But Old Salty Echols'll always save a place in me heart for Talk Like a Pirate Day. On this day last year, Old Echols started writin' The Boys Next Door in earnest. That's why Adam be wearing' a skull-and-crossbones necklace. (Look close at the cover, mateys, and you'll see that thar booty.) And THAT be leadin' to Adam bein' the swashbuckler he is. Savvy?

Yo to the ho to the ho!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Please and thank you

You can take the girl out of Jersey...
Wait, scratch that.
Apparently, you really *can't*.
Today my brother and I attended the second annual Princeton Children's Book Festival, sponsored by the Princeton Public Library. Although I'm mostly known for my teen writing, this was a proper children's book fair, in that most participating authors write and/or illustrate picture books or chapter books. So while I brought and displayed all of my ro coms, of course, I was really there to shill the etiquette book I wrote last fall, MIND YOUR MANNERS, DICK & JANE.

Actually, most parents I met were more familiar with Dick and Jane than their children were, since they grew up learning to read with Dick, Jane, Sally, and Spot. But in the past few years, Grosset & Dunlap (also the home of the original Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys) has revived the property, reissuing old favorites and creating new content for a whole new generation of readers. While MANNERS contains a bunch of practical advice for being on one's best behavior, it's very tongue in cheek and intentionally irreverent. So I was THRILLED to find that my reading (wherein I was graciously assisted by brother Dave in a cheeky call-and-response format) was a huge success.

Most parents I spoke to today told me that MANNERS was a book that their kids really need! But when Dave and I launched into "Do's and Don't's for a Happy Household (DO: Share your toys, DON'T: Share your toothbrush), we were met with laughter from an audience of all-ages.

Good humor--and good manners--have no expiration date, huh?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spectators Behaving Badly

School's back in! School's back in! Yay, school!

(Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know that made you want to retch. I NEVER felt that way about school starting!)

One of the most annoying things about the first weeks back school, to me, occurs when teachers and administrators present you with a list of (presumably self-evident) don'ts for school. Things you've heard for years, such as, "Don't leave the building without stopping by the office" or "Don't steal books from the library." Since the first day of school often coincides with the first big sporting events of the year, I thought I'd devote today's blog to a more useful back-to-school topic: The Don'ts of Watching Sports. (Not that you'd ever engage in annoying sports-watching behavior, of course.)

These suggestions are meant to help you from becoming a social pariah while watching your favorite sports teams win games this fall. (And if YOU have suggestions that are missing from this list, post 'em!)

Niki's Don't List:

1) Don't do the cell phone wave. You've probably seen this behavior during televised games. There's one guy standing in the middle of the bleachers while everyone else is seated, talking on his cell phone and waving to the camera, presumably to show his friends (who are watching at home) that he's cool enough to be at the game. This happens at least once during every single game I watch, whether it's a high school football game on my local cable network or a major league baseball game on Fox Sports. Here's the thing: the friends you're calling think it's goofy rather than cool. That's why they're egging you on, not because they think you're impressive on screen. It's their job to laugh at you and this is a prime opportunity. Everyone else finds it annoying. Sit down and pocket the phone.

2) Don't confuse bleachers with your living room and/or automobile. Private conversations are best held in private places, like your home, your car, or when you're out on a walk and know for an absolute fact there's no one else within hearing range. When you're sitting at a sports event, the people around you can hear everything you say. For instance: if you're a lawyer (or possibly a law student) and your name starts with A., and you were sitting in section 142 at the Red Sox/Orioles game in Fenway a couple weeks ago, the entire section wants to warn your boyfriend M. to run away. They know exactly what you think of him. So does most of section 143. They discussed it while you and your BFF went to get more beer. While your conversation would have been perfectly appropriate for the car ride home (hey, these are the things friends share), it is not something you probably wanted to broadcast.

3) Don't assume you know who's nearby. This is closely related to #2. When you're watching a game, you have no idea who may have slipped into the row behind you when you were focused on the ball moving down the field. Sports, by their nature, involve crowds and noise. That means it's very easy for someone to sit down behind you, where they can hear every word you say, without you even being aware of the fact. Exercise caution.

4) Don't pretend to understand the game if you're clueless. Now, it's perfectly acceptable to attend a game even if you're not an expert on that particular sport. (I love going to soccer games, but I can't figure out all the ways someone gets offsides, despite having it explained to me and pointed out in games more times than I can count.) If you're in the stands and confused, take a clue from the folks around you and cheer when they cheer. Quietly ask a knowledgeable friend to explain things you don't understand. But don't fake knowledge. The girl who talks loudly about how it was awesome when the quarterback kicked the ball through the uprights for a touchdown is going to regret it later. Trust me on this.

5) Don't forget to have fun. Sports fans can get intense. But do you really need any more stress in your life? Enjoy yourself! (Besides, if your team gets crushed, there's always next year.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Princeton Children's Book Festival

Prizes and books and swag, oh my! Come hear myself and thirty other children's book authors and illustrators read at the Princeton Children's Book Festival this Saturday. A sneak peek of TRIBE will be available, as will the chance to meet and schmooze with brother Dave.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Greetings and Salutations!

Hi. My name is P.J. Ruditis and I’m a write-aholic. I’d like to thank Jenn for bringing this community together. I am thrilled to join this group in anticipation of the release of my Ro Com, LOVE, HOLLYWOOD STYLE (Premiering in January 2008). It’s the story of a movie studio tour guide who thinks she’s found the perfect formula for romance, but quickly realizes that true love doesn’t always follow a script.

Since I’m introducing myself, I might as well explain how I got here. I started out working in licensed publishing for a major motion picture and TV studio that shall remain nameless (because I feel that discretion is of paramount importance). This was when I first had the chance to work with the amazing editors at Simon & Schuster from the other side of the book process. It was my job to oversee the development of movie novelizations as well as the book series for TV shows like Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. And, really, who can ask for a better job than one that combines books with television?! But no matter how fun it was, it was still a job. Several years ago, I decided to leave the corporate drudgery to pursue my passion for writing and those same editors at S&S—to whom I will always be indebted—were the first to hire me.

I should also mention that, while I did oversee the Sabrina, The Teenage Witch book line—and the spin off, Salem’s Tails—I was introduced to the work of some really great authors, including a few that are part of this very blog. (Yes, Ms. Krulik, I’m talking about you. And you too ... um ... Ms. Goode.) And, of course, I had the opportunity to get to know some wonderful editors who became equally wonderful authors and amazingly wonderful friends (Hi, Micol!). So, around here, I may be the new kid on the block (Dance Break! Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh ... the right stuff) but I feel like I’m already familiar with the neighborhood.

But enough about me (and washed up eighties boy bands). Since so much of my past work has been related to television, let’s talk some more about that fun subject. (Because what better place to talk about TV than in a blog devoted to books!) With the fall TV season almost upon us—and we’ve sadly lost the likes of the Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars from our season passes (not that I have TiVo, but I like to pretend I’m current)—what new shows are you all most looking forward to use as an excuse for a work or homework break?

For me, the top of the list has to be Chuck. Not because the show was created by Josh Schwartz, the man who taught us the way they do things in The O.C. And not because it has a great premise and a talented leading man. No. I’m into this one because the lead character works at a place that is an unabashed homage to a huge electronics chain store, which they’re calling ... wait for it ... Buy More! Is that not the most perfect name for a store ... ever?

So, how about all of you? What shows are you anxiously awaiting?

Thursday, September 06, 2007


My first book for Simon Pulse (GETTING TO THIRD DATE, pictured) was about a young woman who was trying to adjust to a whole new world of college life. This was a natural topic for me as I've literally never left the university life since I was dropped off at my dorm room in Dickinson Hall of the University of Delaware by my mom and dad (who said, "Don't come home on the weekends. Talk to people." ...very wise advice, btw). So I went to school for my BA in English, went back for a BA in Biology (which I did not earn, due to circumstances outside of my control -- my dh got a job teaching at a different state university), dabbled with grad school while working at said different state university, watched my oldest get her psych degree at same, am watching my middle work his way through same, and....ta da...dropped my youngest off at his (still local, but private) college last Saturday (those dorm rooms are *small*).

He hasn't had a lot of luck with school (dyslexia is a certified pain in the brain, he can attest). But this school, I hope, will be different. Not just because it is hands-on learning in a field he loves. Not just because the other students will be interested in and value the same things as my son. But because there are certain times in our lives when we get new chances to embrace big change and demand more of ourselves. College is one of those times.

There are two things that reminded me how much change is headed his way: (1) the warning about how expensive the equipment he is about to get his hands on actually is (ye gods, boy of mine, you better not break *anything*); and the fact that they say his name correctly (it isn't a hard name, but it is similar to a more popular name). His former school district couldn't get his name thirteen years. I stopped trying to correct them after a while. I figured they all, collectively, had a hearing discrimination issue and I try to respect other people's frailties (I, myself, can't remember faces very well at all, which is very embarrassing at times).

I'm not sure my son quite realizes how much his life is about to change (the teachers warned us to give them all three weeks to adjust). He's a 'dip a toe in the water to test it out' kind of kid. When he was little, he was afraid of our steep narrow dark stairs. He would not go down without holding onto my hand, or else he would drop to his bottom on the floor about three feet from the stairs and then scoot to the edge of the stairway, and inch his way down by sitting firmly on each stair (bounce, bounce, bounce, you'd be surprised how fast a toddler can get at that :-). And then, one day, without warning, he started running down stairs. That's what change is like for him. So, as his mom, I'm waiting for the familiar "I can handle this!" look on his face. I know it will come out of nowhere. I know I'll say something about it, the first time I see it, and he'll look at me and grin that same grin he gave me when I praised him for learning to handle our stairs like a big kid. And I'll grin back with that "I knew you could do it!" grin. Just like we have done through so many changes.

I know there are lots of people making changes, and wondering if they are good. So...change is hard, but one sign that it may be change for the better is when they get your name right without any prompting at all.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Everyone's favorite four-letter word

Want copies of Major Crush and The Boys Next Door for FREE? You have five chances to win in September, and lots more chances to win other YA books. Just send The Genius an e-mail at the Teens Read Too book review site!