Tuesday, September 29, 2009

RELEASE DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Release Day for ACCORDING TO JANE is finally here! (Yes, I'm having an O.M.G. moment. ;)

I'm celebrating by attempting to be everywhere in the Blogosphere at once. In a "Where's Waldo?" kind of way, you'll find me bopping all over the place today...and tomorrow...and Thursday. And well into October, too. Here are some links to get you started. (And I'll probably update these throughout the day, if only so I can help myself remember all the tour stops...)

First, I'm the 007 Bond Sister on call today at "Nobody Writes It Better" with a post up about perseverance. It's mostly not about me but about someone I dearly love... And there's a 2 book + 2 VIA™ packet giveaway in progress there, too, so if you have a chance to stop by, please do!

I'm also visiting my lovely friend Eliza at Eliza Writes, who's hosting a giveaway, too; I have an interview up with Margay Leah Justice at Pop Syndicate's Book Addict (and she did a delightful review, as well); and I'm again the subject of the hilarious Pamela Cayne in Day 7 of her "Marilyn Brant Week"!

And thanks to the thoughtful reviews of both Lainey and Robin, I've made a new online friend! Edie from Magical Musings kindly gave me a shout out today on her blog. My darling friend Pamala added her good wishes, too. And the always wonderful Bunco Babe, Maria Geraci, mentioned my debut on her blog also. You ladies ROCK!!

Finally, because Starbucks VIA™ and I are both launching something we love throughout the U.S. and Canada today, I made the coffee cake I was threatening you all with yesterday--LOL! In truth, this turned out to be my absolute favorite of my VIA™ recipes so far. Even more than the chocolate stuff, and you know how I love chocolate. (Although I have this chocolate-cake/chocolate-pudding idea I still haven't tried...give me time.)

"VIA™ Streusel *COFFEE* Cake"
1 package cinnamon quick bread mix (I used Betty Crocker Cinnamon Streusel and LOVED it--it included both a batter packet and a streusel packet in the box)
2 eggs
2/3 cup water
1/2 packet of VIA™ (I chose the Colombia)
2 Tbsp. cinnamon applesauce (which I used in place of vegetable oil)
a handful of chopped pecans (or walnuts...or nothing)
cooking spray
For the glaze:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. milk
1/2 packet of VIA™ (the rest of the packet from above)
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray bottom of a 9x5-inch loaf pan. In a bowl, combine quick bread mix (batter), applesauce, eggs and water. Mix until blended. Pour half of the batter into the pan. Sprinkle half the streusel packet on top. Sprinkle the 1/2 packet of VIA™ on top of that. Add half of your handful of pecans. Then pour the remaining batter over the top of this. Spread carefully. Sprinkle with remaining streusel and press gently. Top with rest of pecans and bake for approximately 40 minutes. (If you use a different brand of quick bread mix, check the cooking times suggested on the box.)
Let the cake cool completely before making the glaze. When you're ready, mix the powdered sugar, the 1/2 packet of VIA™ and the milk together, stirring until the mixture is smooth and thin enough to drizzle over the cake. After that, have a piece with me!

ETA: The GCC tour continues to with stops at the blogs of Judy Larsen, Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, Karin Gillespie, Megan Crane and Brenda Janowitz (contest there!). And my agent, the wonderful Nephele Tempest, has a post up about my release of Jane and Shannon Butcher's new one!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Debut Author's Guide to Getting Her Recommended Daily Dose of Caffeine

Okay. Let me explain something. My debut novel, According to Jane, is coming out TOMORROW! Yes, within 24 hours it'll be on the shelves (fingers crossed!) in every major bookstore in the country. To say that I'm going into my book launch as a well-rested and relaxed citizen of the greater Chicago area would be a more blatant act of fiction than the stuff I've been writing. Truly, I don't think I've gotten a good night's sleep since sometime in June--and I credit that one restful night to the cold medicine I was taking at the time.

However, I have tools. And, as incredible good fortune would have it, I received an extra-large supply of them because I was asked to be a Starbucks VIA™ Ready Brew "Beta Tester" a few weeks ago. One thing the company asked us to do was to try to come up with recipes that used the new instant coffee. Well, c'mon! I love recipes. On my own, back in the summer, I came up with my favorite VIA™ beverage variation and asked blog visitors to do the same--just for fun! The other day, I made my fave brew again:

"Marilyn's Mocha"
1 packet of the Colombia VIA™ coffee
1/2 packet of hot cocoa mix (like Swiss Miss or Nestlé)
4 oz. water
4 oz. skim milk
Pour the water and the milk into a mug, microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, add the coffee and the cocoa mix. Stir well. Top with a couple swirls of whipped cream, if desired. For me, that's always desired, and I added a few cinnamon sprinkles, too! (**pictured below with pancakes**)

But a writer can't live on coffee drinks alone--although I'm proof that, really, she can try. So, I decided to round out my breakfast with coffee-chocolate-chip pancakes. Because I'm always pressed for time in the morning, I used a quick mix (all I needed to do was add water to prepare the batter--it was fast!) and a handful of chocolate chips...plus my Colombia VIA™, of course. Here was the result:

"Choco-VIA™-Chip Pancakes"
1 package pancake mix (I used Hungry Jacks Easy Packs Complete Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle Mix)
2/3 cup water, heated
1 VIA™ packet
1/2 cup chocolate chips
A few swirls of whipped cream
2-3 tsp. butter (Hungry Jacks recommends Crisco, but I didn't have that in the house)
Add coffee to the heated water and let it cool. Empty it into a bowl containing the pancake mix and stir until the large lumps disappear. Add in the chocolate chips and mix gently. Heat lightly buttered skillet (medium-high) and pour about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook about one minute on each side or until done. On a plate, place the pancakes and top them with whipped cream and a few extra chocolate chips. Dig in!!

But, THEN, I decided I needed to get more creative. On one of the sites I visited, someone had used the VIA™ in a chicken recipe. Hmm, I thought. That's really interesting. I hadn't yet considered "caffeine + protein," but I liked the out-of-the-box aspect to it. What would happen if I tried "VIA™ + tofu"? Think about it... Tofu tends to take on the flavoring of whatever is added to it. Combine a coffee packet with some soy sauce, a dash of maple syrup, some brown sugar, perhaps, and we'd end up with a coffee-maple glaze, wouldn't we? Stir-fry some firm tofu, then sauté a handful of portobello mushrooms. Add a little glaze to both. Put the tofu and mushrooms over rice or noodles with the VIA™-soy-maple sauce on top and...voilà! A healthy and ever-so-slightly caffeinated vegetarian meal! Later in the day, I tried that, too:

"Tofu-Mushroom VIA™ Stir-Fry"
1 19-oz. package firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 package of your favorite noodles (I used extra-wide egg noodles)
1 8-oz. package Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup water, heated
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 VIA™ packet (I used the Italian Roast this time)
Sauté the tofu cubes in the olive oil until lightly golden, add in the sliced portobello mushrooms and stir-fry them together until tender. Cook the noodles in a separate saucepan. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir the VIA™ into the heated water until it's dissolved. Then add in the soy sauce, the maple syrup and the brown sugar until you have a smooth glaze. Dip a sautéed tofu cube into the glaze and taste it. If it's too thick for you, add a bit more water. Too sweet, adjust with a little more soy sauce, perhaps. Not sweet enough...well, another spoonful of maple syrup or brown sugar should do it. Pour the glaze over the tofu-mushroom mixture and stir until evenly coated. Serve warm over egg noodles. Enjoy!

Anyway, it was fun to experiment, and I couldn't help but think I should make some celebratory treat for tomorrow morning...like, oh, Coffee Cake. Hee, hee! Get it? COFFEE Cake... Well, yeah, okay, I know, I know. Obvious joke. I mentioned I haven't been getting much sleep, right? I'm tempted to do it, though, and invite you all to have a piece with me :-).

BTW, if you happen to be surfing the Internet in search of fabulous places to visit, Lainey Bancroft's wonderful review of my book had me sighing in delight. And Laurel Ann's lovely review at Austenprose today made my heart sing. And then Robin Bielman astounded me with her generous giveaway, as well as her tremendously kind heart. And in the GCC, the talented Carolyn Jewel is hosting me today, too, and there's a giveaway involved with that as well, so please stop by!

Exhaustion aside, as far as having wonderful people in my corner as I approach The Big Day...I've been feeling really, really fortunate. Thank you all so much.

Kate Duffy

I have another post--a long one--that I've been working on. One that was intended to go up this morning, but I haven't been able to finish it yet because I heard some very sad news today. Kate Duffy, beloved longtime editor at Kensington, has passed away, due to complications with the cancer she was battling.

I don't know many details and, to me, they aren't the significant part of the story anyway... But here's what is: Kate was an incredible force in the publishing industry--one of the first editors I ever met, back in 2003. She was knowledgeable, funny and really skilled at her work. And she'll be missed tremendously by all who knew her.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Tour Begins...

I've been a proud member of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit for a year and a half now, and I've had the privilege of getting to host lots of wonderful authors as they toured their novels. What a pleasure that's been! But, now, it's my turn to tour and, I can tell you, I feel as though I've already been around the world and back :).

There will be about 25 stops just on the GCC tour, in addition to fun visits at a number of awesome blogs this week. In between popping into bookstores to stare at my novel on display (TUESDAY!!), making new recipes with Starbucks VIA™ coffee and trying to get the prep work done for the events I have scheduled over the next two weeks...I'll be posting the sites I'm visiting. I will, in fact, be posting a LOT this week, just so I can be sure to let you know where all the cool happenings will be. And every time I post a new link with an interview, book review, guest post or tour visit, I'll add it to the Online Book Tour list on the right sidebar.

So, a few GCC posts about According to Jane are already up and, in a couple of cases, there are accompanying interviews, too. (With more tidbits about my life than anyone ever wanted to know, I suspect.) If you'd like to visit me at the blog homes of my fellow GCC'ers, here are the first three:

Hank Phillippi Ryan
Deborah LeBlanc
Judi Fennell

Be back tomorrow with more!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Giveaways and Goings On Around the Blogosphere

Happy Friday!!

Today on Austenprose, there is a wonderful slideshow of the Regency Costume Promenade at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath (currently in progress). Definitely take a peek, if you have a chance.

Also, Book Junkie's contest ends today; NovelWhore's contest ends tonight at midnight; and The Book Girl's contest runs until Saturday at midnight. So, if you haven't yet entered these and would like to, you've got a teeny bit more time. Thanks, ladies, for the great book reviews and for hosting these giveaways! (BTW, for those of you on GoodReads, my giveaway there ends just before midnight on Sunday. :)

And, finally, Her Most Awesomeness, Pamela Cayne, has detoured briefly from her recounting of the wild rock-n-roll tales featuring a tight-jean-wearing Jon Bon Jovi (but I'm seriously hoping I can get her to return to that thread soon) in order to interview me on her blog today. Please visit us here and see what kind of EVIL questions some people will ask in the name of friendship!!

Coming up this weekend: Some new Starbucks VIA™ Ready Brew recipes and a lot of deep breathing...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Austen Week...and a Walk into the Unknown

In the past few days, mostly to aid my strained memory, I've compiled a list of places involved so far in my Online Book Tour. (And, FYI: quite a few more links will be added soon...) I've posted them in the right sidebar. So, if you've missed an interview, book review, guest post, article or giveaway--and you're curious about any of these--that's the one-stop spot for everything.

Today, there are a couple of very exciting, week-long events in the Blogsphere, and I'm thrilled to be a part of them both. The Book Girl has a giveaway going on today--with three ARCs of According to Jane up for grabs as part of her "Austen Week"! Please check out her review; comment, if you'd like a chance to win an ARC; and, for you fellow Austen lovers, don't forget to take a peek at some of her special Austen offerings, too. The Grand Prize package she has available for one lucky visitor is delightful (see it here)!

In the western spiral of the galaxy, where some rather cool people live, the humorous and truly wonderful Pamela Cayne has an actual "Marilyn Brant Week" (!!!) that starts today. Aside from the interview questions she asked me, I'll admit to not really knowing the details of this week. And, if I didn't trust her implicitly, I'd feel a few stirrings of apprehension... (Hey, she mentions there'll be, and I quote: "thrills, chills, star sightings, and even a possible murder.") I'm holding out hope for a Star Trooper, too. So, please visit Pam's site, not only for my "week" there, but for all weeks beyond. The lady is unpredictable. She makes meandering into the unknown fun.

Release Day is in ONE WEEK!! (Ahhhh!!!!) More to come!

p.s. I just got the happy news that According to Jane is going to be a Fresh Fiction "Fresh Pick" next month (review coming soon). Made me smile :-).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Week of Happy Surprises

It's starting to get very exciting around here...and not *only* because we celebrated my latest trip around the sun with lots and lots of chocolate cake and orange chocolate-chip ice cream! (And, no, I'm not saying exactly when that was or exactly how old I am. Some of you already know the answer to both... :)

However, I have a few other fun tidbits to share and will happily spill every detail: I've been interviewed for two wonderful sites by two lovely people, and both interviews just went up today!

Leah at Chicklit Club posted the first one earlier in the day. Please check it out!

And Brande at Book Junkie posted the second one there. PLUS, Brande and I are having a giveaway! One commenter on her site (name to be drawn on September 25th) will receive an advanced reading copy of According to Jane and a 3-pack of Starbucks VIA™ Ready Brew. Why, you ask, is more coffee being given away? Were there extra packets left over from the taste test or something??

Ahhhh...this is the next fun thing! Remember Jason and the surprise Starbucks coffee samples he sent me? (If not, that story and the taste-test adventure that followed is here.) Turns out, Jason, a fellow Chicagoan, has a colleague named Evan, who's based in Seattle... And Evan emailed me recently to ask if I'd consider being part of the Starbucks VIA™ "Beta Tester" program. Since I was already completely sold on the product, this was a blissfully easy decision. "OF COURSE!!" I typed with great enthusiasm.

So, my "Taster's Toolbox" arrived last night, packed with coffee and cool things--it was like a birthday present! I am totally psyched to get to be a part of this project and thrilled to report that the coffee is going to be distributed everywhere in the U.S. and Canada as of September 29th. Again, those who were visiting my blog over the summer know I was already a bit of a VIA™ evangelist, but the North American release of BOTH my debut book AND my favorite coffee-to-go ON THE SAME DAY is just pure awesomeness!

Therefore, everyone who wins a book of mine here in the next month will also get a coffee accompaniment, as will the winners on some of the guest interview sites. I'm planning to give away individual packets at book signings and speaking engagements, too, for as long as my supplies last. For me, it's a pleasure to get to share the coffee with readers and, hey, in a pinch, the little packets work well as bookmarks!

Incidentally, the characters in my first two novels are cheering wildly over this news. A number of them are fanatical coffee drinkers who firmly believe there's no such thing as either too much coffee or too much chocolate. Particularly the three women inhabiting my second book...

Which leads me to the last morsel of good news: Although we are STILL puzzling over the title, I'm happy to say that my editor just approved the final version of the second novel, and it's heading into production!! YAY! (Look for it on 10-01-10. :) It's the first time I wrote a book on a deadline, and it posed a whole new set of writing challenges. But, while the premise and narrative style is rather different from my debut, Book Two's personality is--I believe--a strong and vibrant one. And I'm so, so excited I'll get to share that story with you all next year...

ETA: The fantabulous Lydia Hirt--contributing writer at Beneath the Cover, marketing coordinator for the Penguin Group , and an all-around wonderful person (who also writes funny tweets and has great publishing-industry insight)--surprised me by putting up a review of my book today AND hosting another giveaway... This one with 2 ARCs! So, stop by her blog NovelWhore for a chance to win one!

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Little AIR TIME with Hank Phillippi Ryan

It's my pleasure to have fabulous mystery writer and GCC pal Hank Phillippi Ryan here today! She's an award-winning investigative reporter, currently on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, where she's broken big stories for the past 22 years. Along with her 26 Emmys (WOW!!), Hank has also won dozens of other journalism honors, including 10 Edward R. Murrow Awards, and highest honors from Investigative Reporters and Editors and The National Association of Science Writers. Hank’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate, and in a two-year stint in Rolling Stone Magazine's Washington Bureau, worked on the political column "Capitol Chatter" and organized presidential campaign coverage for Hunter S. Thompson. She began her TV career in 1975, anchoring and reporting the news for TV stations in Indianapolis and then Atlanta. She and her husband, a nationally renowned criminal defense and civil rights attorney, live just outside Boston.

All of this AND praise from Suzanne Brockmann, who says of Hank's books, "I love this series!" (Marilyn adds, "I second that!")

Welcome, Hank!! You know I loved getting to guest blog on your group site Jungle Red Writers a couple of weeks ago, so it's especially wonderful to have you here today :-).

AIR TIME is the third book in the series. Could you give us a summary of this story? Sure. Star reporter Charlotte (Charlie) McNally enters the glamorous and high-stakes world of high fashion...and soon discovers when the purses are fake, the danger is real. To break her latest big-money blockbuster, Charlotte must go undercover--but what if the bad guys recognize her? This savvy TV journalist must face more than her fear of flying when her inside scoop on designer duplicates suddenly turns deadly.

Carrying a hidden camera and dressing to deceive, Charlie finds she's not the only one disguising her identity. Nothing--and no one--is what they seem. And that means nothing--and no one--can be trusted. In her high-risk job and in her suddenly steamy love life, how can she tell the real thing? Charlie is forced to make some life-changing--and life and death--decisions. With only a split-second to act and with her own life in the balance, Charlie knows if she chooses wrong it will be the last decision she ever makes.

This sounds great! And I *love* that line about the fake purses and the real danger--LOL! Charlotte (Charlie) McNally is an investigative TV reporter, and so are you. What qualities do you share with Charlie, and how are you different? When my husband talks about Charlie, he calls her “you.” As in—when “you” are held at gunpoint, when you track down the bad guys, when you solve the mystery...and I have to remind him, “Sweetheart, it’s fiction. It didn’t really happen.”

But a couple of things: I’ve been a TV reporter for more than 30 years. (Yes, really.) And so it would be silly, in writing a mystery about TV, not to use my own experiences. Think about it--as a TV reporter, you can never be wrong! Never be one minute late. Never choose the wrong word or miscalculate. You can never have a bad hair day, because it’ll be seen by millions of people! It’s high-stakes and high-stress--literally, people’s lives at stake--and I really wanted to convey that in the books. And everything that TV people do and say in the books is authentic and genuine. (Of course, Charlie can say things I can’t say, and reveal things I can’t reveal.) We’re both devoted journalists, and over-focused on our jobs.

But Charlotte McNally is different, too. She’s single--I’m happily married. She’s ten years younger than I am, and so is facing different choices and dilemmas. She’s braver than I am, certainly. Funnier. And a much better driver.

Charlie has some exciting adventures in your mystery series--going undercover, confronting some really bad guys. could you tell us about some of your adventures as an investigative reporter? There’s a huge been-there-done-that element to the books--I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, confronted corrupt politicians, chased down criminals...been in disguise, been stalked, and threatened and had many a door slammed in my face. I’ve had people confess to murder, and others, from prison, insist they were innocent. So when that happens to Charlie, it’s fair to imagine me. Although the plots are completely from my imagination, those are real-life experiences.

Your job sounds very demanding. How (and when) do you find the time to write? Do you ever take a vacation, and, if so, what do you do with your time off? Short answer--no. I don’t take vacations anymore. We used to! We love Nevis, a tiny island in the Caribbean with empty white beaches and nothing to do. We love to go to western Massachusetts, to Tanglewood, to go to plays and the symphony and museums. We love to go to Cape Cod, to Truro, to sit on the beach with pals and read, then go out to wonderful dinners. All in the past. Now, I write. And Jonathan lounges in the backyard. Luckily, we have a lovely yard, with a pool and beautiful gardens.

You have won 26 Emmys and 10 Edward R. Murrow Awards. Could you tell us about the stories that won a couple of these distinguished awards for you? Here’s a list! We proved the state’s 911 system was sending emergency responders to the wrong addresses. We found there was not one person of color on the federal jury pools in parts of Massachusetts. We discovered why thousand of people were never called for jury duty. We found there were thousands of warrants for peoples’ arrests that were never served . We found people convicted of drunk driving who were still on the road. We found unsafe big rig trucks on the highways and found they were illegally ignoring the weight limits on the state’s bridges, thereby causing expensive and dangerous damage. We found school buses with massive mechanical problems. We found the unit pricing in stores was completely incorrect. We found unscrupulous mortgage companies luring people into foreclosure. At least four—maybe five?—laws have changed as a result of our stories and people have gotten literally millions in refunds and restitution.

Were you always a public person, comfortable in front of the camera and with a microphone in your hand? Or is this a skill you had to develop? How early did you know you wanted to be a TV journalist? When did you have your first inkling you wanted to be an author? You know, I have a funny juxtaposition of desire to be in the spotlight--and sheer terror of being in the spotlight. I love my job in TV--and have to go live and unrehearsed all the time. Confession: I’m still terrified every time. I want to be perfect, and when you’re on live, you can’t possibly be. That’s one reason why I love investigative reporting--there’s more time to work, and dig, and polish, and produce. It’s like making a little movie, and I can make it as perfect as possible.

My sisters and I used to create shows when we were all young and perform for our parents in our backyard. I did acting in high school and college. I wanted to be a DJ on the radio for a long time! My mother says she always knew I would be a television reporter--but I think that was just her way of rationalizing that all I did as a pre-teen and teenager was read books and watch TV.

I knew from my first Nancy Drew that I loved mysteries. Nancy was my first best friend--I was a geeky unpopular kid, and it was such a relief to go home and hang out with Nancy. She was smart and made it be okay to be smart. She was confident and inquisitive and resourceful. I loved that.

I got into TV by chance. I had worked as a radio reporter (hired because, as I informed the radio station, they didn’t have any women working there! Hey. It was the seventies.) But after a few years working in Washington D.C. (on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide and then for Rolling Stone Magazine), Rolling Stone closed its Washington office, and I needed a new job. I went back home to Indianapolis and applied for a job as a TV reporter. It was 1975. I had covered politics in Washington, and the news director of the station figured he could teach me to be a TV reporter. (This was incredibly risky--I had never taken journalism and didn’t know one thing about TV. But I wasn’t afraid--and knew I could do it.)

Problem was, I should have been afraid! I quickly learned I had no idea what I was doing. I went home every night for the first two weeks--sobbing. Because I thought I would never understand it. Soon after--it hit me--oh, I get it! And I have adored it ever since. When I do seminars and classes, students ask me how I got started. I tell them, I’ll tell you the story, but it won’t work that way anymore!

What is your work in progress? Balancing my life! Okay, really--I’m working on two other ideas for series...but my first love is Charlotte McNally. Will there be more Charlie stories? That depends on you readers! What do you think? Let me know, okay?

FYI: Hank’s giving away five ARC’s of PRIME TIME (the first book in the series) to readers! To enter the drawing contact her through her website and put "PRIME TIME ARC" in the subject line. Good luck!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Everything Austen: "Pride & Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy"

Over at GoodReads last week, in the Jane Austen group, we were talking about this movie. I'd heard about it for several years (it came out in 2003) but just hadn't gotten around to seeing it. Well, as part of my plan to (1) complete my Everything Austen Challenges and (2) step away from my endless hours at the computer for awhile, I rented it and made my husband watch it with me.

One-minute analysis? We thought it was cute. It was faithful in many ways to the original, although updated to feature a group of Mormon college girls at Brigham Young University (proof yet again of Austen's genius in the creation of characters who are both universal and timeless). The Darcy in this story has a British accent and is a book publisher (perfect since Elizabeth is an aspiring novelist, yes?!); he also plays a mean game of tennis. And while I didn't entirely agree with the endorsement on the DVD cover that said the film would "...doubtless be compared to Clueless and Bridget Jones's Diary, but it's wittier than both," I did think there were quite a few funny scenes and that it was a sweet rendition of the story. The goings-on in Las Vegas were especially comical and, oh! Bingley's "Classics for Canines" infomercial is not to be missed :).

Does it hold up to a production with Colin, Matthew or even Sir Lawrence?? Well, no. But it is, as Jane might say, "diverting," and I was much amused during the 104 minutes. Also, kudos to the independent filmmakers who produced "Pride & Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy" on a shoestring budget of only $350,000. Hard to fault them on that.

We also watched Zac Efron and Matthew Perry in "17 Again," just because I was really in need of some pop culture. I didn't have overly high expectations, but I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would and found the best friend's secondary love story surprisingly funny...

Anyone else have impressions/thoughts on either of these movies? Any really good DVDs out there that you'd recommend renting?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Visit with Joanne Rendell

It's an absolute pleasure to have fellow women's fiction author and Girlfriends Cyber Circuit pal Joanne Rendell here today, and to celebrate the release of her second novel, Crossing Washington Square (NAL trade, September 2009). Joanne was born and raised in the UK, but she now lives in New York City with her family. She also writes fabulous articles for The Huffington Post. (Here is a link to one of my faves. ;)

Of the new novel, Booklist said: “Rendell’s second novel is thoughtful and open, with plenty of interesting academic debate for truly bookish readers.” And, in one of my favorite quotes for this book, Nicola Kraus, NYT bestselling author of The Nanny Diaries wrote: "For every reader who has ever wondered why nineteenth century novels about women are called ‘the canon’, but contemporary novels about women are called ‘chick-lit’ comes a charming, witty and cerebral novel about Rachel Grey, an Austen-worth heroine fighting for love and respect in the academic shark tank."

Wonderful to have you here, Joanne!

New readers want to know about your book. Can you tell us the basic premise? Crossing Washington Square is a story of two very different women and their very different love of books. Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds and when a brilliant and handsome professor from Harvard comes to town and sets his sights on both women, sparks really fly!

Any fan/fan mail stories you care to share? My first novel was The Professors’ Wives’ Club. A couple of months after its release, a woman contacted me and said she’d read and enjoyed the book. She told me she was a professor’s wife and after a few emails, she revealed that she was the wife of a very distinguished professor of cultural studies whose work I’d read, who I’d seen giving keynotes talks at conferences, and whose work greatly influenced the writing of Crossing Washington Square. Not really a “rock star” moment, but still exciting to know the wives of influential professors (professors I really dig!) read my book.

Where do you write? I write at my desk at the front of our apartment. We live on a very busy street in Manhattan so my writing is “lulled” by taxis honking, firetrucks hooting, and jackhammers pounding. With all this practice, I could probably keep writing through a asteroid shower! (LOL!! And I stay up late, late at night so I can finally have some peace and quiet... I'm impressed by your concentration!)

What was your inspiration behind your latest novel? The idea for Crossing Washington Square evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I’m married to a professor at NYU), I’ve always loved books about the university – novels like Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, Richard Russo’s The Straight Man, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Francine Prose’s Blue Angel. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith’s novels focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting – instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!

What line or section of your novel are you most proud of? Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds. Rachel is young, emotional, and impulsive. She wrote a book about women’s book groups which got her a slot on Oprah and she uses “chick lit” in her classes. Diana is aloof, icy, and controlled. She’s also a scholar of Sylvia Plath who thinks “beach” fiction is an easy ride for students. My favorite scene is where these two women face-off in a department meeting. Neither of the professors is a shrinking violet and thus sparks really fly! The scene was such fun to write.

If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book,
who gets the call?
Crossing Washington Square loosely echoes Austen’s Sense and Sensibilty – with one professor being led by her sense, the other by her sensibility. I love the Ang Lee adaptation of "Sense and Sensibility" with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet playing the two very different Dashwood sisters. I’d love Emma and Kate to play my professors too! (Yes!! And I'd be first in line to buy a ticket for a film based on your book! Loved that adaptation of S&S, too. :)

Is writing your main job? If not, what do you do for your real source of income and how does it impact your writing? When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my six year old son who is homeschooled. Although, “homeschool” is somewhat of a misnomer as we spend a relatively small amount of time schooling at “home.” We live in New York so are lucky enough to have an amazing array of fun and educational places on our doorstep. Benny and I, together with his homeschooled friends, are always out on trips to the Met, the Natural History Museum, aquariums, zoos, galleries, libraries, and parks. When we’re not out and about, Benny and I love to read – either together or separately. I’m so thankful he loves books like I do!

What’s next for you? I’m working on final edits for my third novel (which was bought by Penguin last fall). The novel tells the story of a woman who thinks she might be related to the nineteenth century writer, Mary Shelley. On her journey to seek the truth and to discover if there really is a link between her own family and the creator of Frankenstein, Clara unearths surprising facts about people much closer to home – including some shocking secrets about the ambitious scientist she is engaged to. The book is told in alternating points of view between Clara and the young Mary Shelley who is preparing to write Frankenstein. (Sounds fascinating.)

For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author? Settling down to write. Once I get going, I love it. But there’s just that hurdle of getting going which is so hard -- especially these days when there are so many demands on authors to go online and promote our books. It is wonderful to meet people and connect and learn through the internet, but the web is also a huge procrastination vortex! I sometimes kid myself I’m doing promo work, but really I’m just wasting time snooping around on Facebook or reading other people’s tweets about what they ate for breakfast! (I wish I could say I had no idea what you meant...ha!)

Thanks so much for being here, Joanne, and congrats again on the release. I know it's on my TBR list already!! Everyone, if you're in the U.S., I hope you have a fabulous Labor Day Weekend. When you have a chance, I'd love to hear about anything fun you have planned. I have a family BBQ on Sunday and a date with my son to go to B&N together. Food and books! What's not to love about that? :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Everything Austen and The Seekers

I'm happy to say, I finally got to enjoy a few "Everything Austen Challenges" in the past week! I'd wanted to watch (again, but it's been a while) the Keira & Matthew movie version of "Pride & Prejudice" from 2005. Love the energy! That was something I'd noticed the first time I saw the film: the cast and the director really captured the energy and youthfulness of Darcy, Elizabeth and all the characters in the book. Much as I adore the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version, that was a more sedate production and, sometimes, it's nice to see a bunch of young people acting their age...

Also, I've been waiting for just the right time--which turned out to be this week--to sit down and enjoy all five issues of the Marvel Comics P&P limited-edition series. What fun! (And *Mwah!* once again to the fabulous Pamela Cayne for introducing these to me.) While it wasn't at all the same reading experience as getting cozy with an Austen novel, my first serious foray into the world of comics proved utterly delightful... And my husband (Batman fan) and my son (Spiderman-obsessed child) found it ceaselessly entertaining this summer that I was the one always asking to stop at the comic book stores in our area so I could collect the full set.

To flesh out my week's trio of Austen-esque activities, I did one thing that was NOT on my original "Challenge" list: I ordered some items, for the first time, from The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England. None of these items were overly extravagant, even coming from across The Pond: one back issue of Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine, one small book entitled Jane Austen's England and one dark-green tote bag with the P&P (1894) "Peacock Edition" cover on the front. I'm not an avid shopper at all, so it's incredibly rare for me to come across a MUST-HAVE purchase, but that bag was one of them... For a mere 11.99 in British pounds (about $19) + shipping, it was mine! It arrived 2 days ago, and I've been happily putting it to use ever since. :-)

Finally, I'm honored to be a guest of the wonderful Tina Russo today on her group blog "The Seekers." Tina, a fellow 007 Bond Sister, asked me to talk a little about the Women's Fiction genre and how I define it. So, if you're interested, please stop by Seekerville! I'll also be giving away an advanced reading copy of According to Jane to one of the day's commenters over there... :)