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20 posts from December 2005

December 29, 2005

Eat Your Heart Out, Martha Stewart

by Nancy

By the time you read this I will be on an airplane. Go to fullsize image

In my family, we’ve stopped giving Christmas gifts because the stress of shopping is just too much for everyone.  And really, we all have absolutely everything we want or need.  Most of us live in places where one more item might make our closets explode, so we’ve abandoned the gift-giving in favor of a book exchange, which has transformed our holiday for the better. 

We draw names, and each person receives one book on Christmas morning.  It’s a book that’s been well-considered, fully researched, carefully wrapped (hey, if you’re only wrapping one gift, you can make it look magnificent!) and wonderfully appreciated---half because you didn’t have to race to the mall on Christmas eve because you realized Aunt Becky’s gift looks a little meager and you need to get her just one more thing—and half because the choice reflects the taste of both the giver and the recipient.  We all love books.  They’re the ideal gift.

Otherwise, we don’t shop.  (Although I have just heard a wonderful gift idea:  My friend Ramona reports that her sister in


sent Ramona’s twin teenagers a gift of leftover MREs, which I think is a brilliant gift for teenaged boys.  They loved them, and are agonizing about whether or not the MREs should be eaten or saved as souvenirs of Katrina.)

But I’ve come to think my family doesn’t shop so we can focus on the food instead. Go to fullsize image

The family came to my house this year.  And stayed for five days.  I cooked turkey, a ham, an entire filet of beef, a pot of soup, seventeen dozen sandwiches, two escalloped potato casseroles, a blackberry cobbler, two dishes of tiramisu, chicken satay, ham and pineapple skewers, four shrimp cocktail rings and twelve hundred and ninety seven cookies.  (Okay, I’m lying.  I didn’t roast the turkey myself.  My local grocery store has just started doing rotisserie turkey breasts along with the rotisserie chickens and rotisserie hams, which have saved my family from starvation lo, these many years, and the turkey breasts are equally fabulous.)  We played Balderdash and were enthralled by my sister’s photos and stories about her trip to the

Galapagos Islands

. We read all the Christmas letters our friends sent.  (Hey, be critical if you like, but I love ‘em.  I write one every year, too.  What’s worse than getting a card from a friend you haven’t seen in twenty years and it’s signed simply, “Merry Christmas, Joan.”  So a form letter with a little hand-written note at the bottom is delightful, if you ask me.) My in-laws came for dinner and a football game. My mother and sister took an afternoon to tour a museum.  They took  my aunt to the movies, too.  Me, I cooked.  Or washed dishes.  Or laundered table cloths.

Because the house was relatively clean, I decided to have a cocktail party for our friends and neighbors on Friday night, too.  (Hey, you seize the night if your house is clean, right?)  I figured they’d stay for an hour of cocktails & go home to wrap presents. But they stayed for 4 hours, and we had a blast.  I played Diana Krall, Manheim Steamroller, the soundtrack to Chocolat and a CD of downloads I put together myself. The chicken satay was a big hit.

Last year, my daughter got married on New Year’s Day, so we took it easy on Christmas because we were working on the wedding.  I think we spent Christmas eve putting together the gift bags for out-of-town guests. The gift bags included noise-makers, party hats, water bottles, snacks, a weekend itinerary (hey, it wasn’t just a wedding.  We had a New Year’s Eve party right alongside the river where the city fireworks were launched.  Plus a pizza party for the college girlfriends, and a football-watching party for the menfolk and a farewell breakfast for the extended family) and a home-made brochure of things to do in the city—all of which we researched and printed ourselves. 

You’d think a wedding would be more…well, work than Christmas for the family. But the wedding included a wedding planner (all part of the Renaissance hotel service, which has endeared us forever to the whole Marriott brand of hotels) who essentially became my employee, my right hand, my crisis manager.  (“The violinist just cancelled.”  “What?!!  THE WEDDING IS TWO DAYS AWAY!!!”  “Oh, it's no problem,


. Let me take care of this.”  “Oh.  Okay. Thanks, Yvonne.”)  But this year’s Christmas was way more work than the wedding.

I enjoyed it, though. Really.  I like to entertain, but because I’m a writer who never stops writing, I don’t often make the time for parties anymore.  So the holiday season is sort of enforced partying for me, if that makes any sense.  I get out all the silver and crystal, and open those cookbooks that seem awfully dusty these days.  I make a few phone calls to invite extra guests just because we don’t see enough of our friends. I bought flowers and arranged them myself because I enjoy doing it.  I like to cook for special events. (I’m just not that great when it comes to making dinner while my brain is still working on which suspect has the better motive for murder.) Being with the family was a pleasure.  Seeing friends was delightful. Seizing the night felt great.

My husband and I don’t really exchange gifts either.  We buy each other a trip instead.  This year we’re taking our younger daughter along just because she’s great on a vacation.  (We have a Camper of the Day award, and she nearly always wins.)  Unfortunately, we didn’t get around to making the travel arrangements early enough this year, so we were kinda stuck for a destination that suited everyone.

So . . . we’re going to Disney World.

Not my favorite place on the planet.  I figure, if you want adventure, go on a real adventure, not a sanitized one.  But my husband loves it, and Sarah’s up for anything.  I’m packing a suitcase full of books and plan to loll around the Marriott pool. Okay, I must admit I'm looking forward to seeing the new zoo at Disney, too.

No doubt by the end of next week I’ll be ready to see the backs of my family, and I’ll be itching to write again, re-connect with the Tarts and my new online friends here at TLC.  Creating this new community has been wonderful, don't you think?  I'm looking forward to more of the same.

See you next year.

December 28, 2005

Holiday Hangover

Holiday Hangover

by Susan, Still Recovering

I've had post-holiday deadlines for the past three years, so Christmas always seems a bit of a blur.  I haven't put out decorations in quite awhile (surprise, surprise), have missed a lot of holiday celebrations, haven't sent out cards since God knows when, and yet I somehow manage to find the spirit of Christmas just in time for the Big Day.  Like Sarah, I'm mulling over the highlights of this year's family gathering and figure I'll share some of the most memorable--okay, quirky--things.

Like my mother calling on Christmas Eve day (we do our big family dinner that night) to tell me while she was listening to the gorgeous voices on the IL DIVO holiday CD I'd given her early and baking a pecan pie, she'd burst into tears, saying to herself, "How lucky am I?"  Ah, mothers.  That is so sweet.

Listening to my sister tell a story about a blind date the night before (it was the cute salesguy, Dan, from REI who'd given me a thumbs-up on the things I'd picked out for Ed...and I couldn't help but get his name and number because I thought he and Molly would hit it off).  Needless to say, she had a great time, and apparently so did Dan, at one point putting his hands against his cheeks and proclaiming, "My face hurts from smiling."  Upon hearing her recount that part, my brother turned to her and remarked, "Was he high?"  Much hilarity ensued as Jimmy did a great imitation of face-clutching and moaning, "Oooooh, my cheeks hurt...I need some munchies...ooooh."  I know, a true Kodak moment.

Playing "Compatibility" with the clan (if y'all don't have that game, you should get it!) and being allowed to cheat a bit so Ed and I could catch up--and surpass-everyone else.  Who said cheaters never prosper?

My mom's famous Christmas morning Cowboy Coffee Cake turning out as flat as a pancake, and her saying, "Maybe I forgot something," and going through the ingredients only to realize she left out the baking soda.  We dubbed it "Unleavened Coffee Cake," and she threatened to clobber us and/or take back our presents.  Neither happened.

Everyone getting along and seeming to truly appreciate the thought that went into every gift exchanged.  No one did any, "Can I return this?"  No one made those fake "I love it, but I really hate it" faces. Amazing.

All in all, a very nice holiday, one that seemed to come at me in a rush (like my looming deadline).  And I feel like my mom, dwelling on all the good that's in my life--maybe more these days than ever--and thinking, "How lucky am I?"

Pretty damned lucky, I'd guess.



December 27, 2005

Love, Actually

By Sarah

First let me just state for Nancy's sake that this is not a post. It's a Mini Post, which kind of sounds like a cereal. It's a post about post-Christmas musings. Such as....

* I don't get this Lazy Sunday, SNL video short craze. Does that mean I'm old and out of it? Who knew that "chronic" was yet another euphemism for marijuana? It sounds so much more depressing than the carefree marijuana euphemisms of yesteryear. Mary Jane. A happy, cheerful girl. Weed, almost like Wheee! But chronic? Ugh. Great Aunt Millie, a chronic pain in the neck. Here's a link to the video. http://youtube.com/watch.php?v=IggTu7kV7No&search=lazy+sunday+snl

* Love, Actually. I watch it every Christmas and now I watch it with my 14-year-old daughter who first got hold of the script because Hollywood sent it to me. This is part of the deal as a member of the script-writers union. They used to send whole DVDs, in the good ole days. Despite the porn star scene she and I watch it with teary eyes, though I attempt, and fail, to fast forward through the naughty bits. I feel my mother's ghost shaking her finger at me reprovingly. Anyway, Love, Actually has a great message and sappy humor. Oh, who am I kidding, it has Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth - my three faves. (Aside from Owen Wilson.) I love Colin Firth even if his "story line" is antifeminist, at least according to Maureen Dowd.

* Best gift I got this year? Bolivian felted slippers. OH...MY...God. Like walking on air.

* Best discovery? Marcona Almonds. I needed them for a toffee recipe and finally found them at Gesine's Confectionary in Montpelier, aka Sandra Bullock's sister's cafe. We have no idea why Gesine opened a small cafe down by the river at the edge of town here. Sandy_2 (And let me ask you this - one girl is named Gesine, one Sandy - what were Mr and Mrs. Bullock thinking?) But Sandra came to help her open it last summer, then insisted no one take her photo and that her being there was about Gesine though, I mean, what's the point of her being there if not to draw crowds? Anyway, Toby  from the AP did.  And to our family it will always be Sandra Bullock's Sister's Cafe, where they sell Marcona almonds for $5/4 oz.

*Worst magazine advice? From Parenting, advising parents to beat the post-holiday blues by having your children wrap up the leftovers on Friday and take them to a local senior citizen. Okay, it's Friday - one whole week practically after Christmas. Do you know how stale those old Christmas cookies are? And besides, you just know those aren't the good ones. The good ones were eaten right off. These are like the fruit squares and rum balls.

* Best Christmas song that most embodies the kind of writing I've been doing lately? Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas. Happy. Energetic. A bit Zen. (Don't ask. It's hard to explain.) I'm addicted to it, especially since it was also in Love, Actually. Which brings me back to the beginning. Good.

Hope all of you enjoy the last week of the year with happy hearts. We won't discuss Visa bills or taxes or any of that yucky stuff. No, not yet. For now, let the spirit of the holidays keep on!



December 26, 2005


It's 3:57 a.m. in Los Angeles. I awakened from a dead sleep, thinking, "I FORGOT TO BLOG." Yes, the phenomenon of Christmas/Chanukah falling on the same day knocked it right out of my head. I think it's A Sign I'm to take the week off. Plus, my in-laws are coming in about three hours and my husband informed me six hours ago that they're not going to like the present we got them. I wonder what time Bloomingdales opens.

Happy Monday!

Sleepless in Topanga . . .

December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah from the Book Tarts!

(Is any of that politically incorrect?  Oops.  You know how we Tarts hate not being PC.) Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday, eating, drinking, cracking open gifts, and, best of all, spending time with friends and family. 

Continue with the merriment and have fun at all the sales tomorrow!  Two of our favorite words here at TLC are "charge it!"  Oh, and "thank you," of course, which also comes in handy.

December 22, 2005

A Christmas Wish

by Nancy, World's Worst Poet   Go to fullsize image

‘Tis the week before Christmas here at TLC.

Margie’s zonked in reception—too much Long Island iced tea.

Our editors are hung up by a bad transit strike,

Which leaves all the Tarts to do just as we like!

Sarah’s strapped on her snowshoes,

Harley’s sneaking a nap.

Susan’s heading off shopping,

And I’m writing this…crap. (Hey, it scans!)

But wait, let us pause, shake one from her snooze.

Let’s think of next year ‘fore we break out the booze.Go to fullsize image

It’s thinking of ‘06, we all have in mind.

When we wake up in spring, just what will we find?

Those visions of sugar plums aren’t what we dream.

It’s making the lists. “Bestsellers!” we scream.

Now, Harlan and Connelly, Parker, Lehane,

We love you, yet envy the cache of your names.

Oh, Stasio, Montgomery, Whatsername at The Post,

We wish you’d review us more often than most.

We write about girls, though, not to your taste.

Just once will you consider a slight change of pace?

Susan’s Deb is a sweetie, Harley’s Dead Men’s a hoot.

Sarah’s Secret Lives might appear at first as a goof.

My Blackbirds make readers both laugh and to cry.

Won’t you open our pages, give us all just one try?

Readers really do like us, they “get” what we do.

Write about women, not dumb derring do.

We don’t save the world, we cope with the kids,

And laundry, the family, occasionally cook squid.

No guns or explosions, no kidnapping either.

We give Harrison Ford a much needed breather.

We spoke not a word, well, not until now,

When we blog and confab and furrow our brows.

It’s attention we want, and respect, yes, that too.

And print runs and co-op, oh, please, Wal-Mart, do!

Please buy us in bulk, in airports we fancy

Some space on the shelves ‘longside Mr. Clancy.

Resolutions for all, that’s just what we’re thinking.

(We’d type up a list, but Margie got stinking.)

To the Dotties we say, let's chat with less venom!

Who needs bad reviews, to be told you’re a lemon?

As for B’con, oh, dear, just where do we start?

Don’t cram us on Thursday, we’re really quite smart.

At Malice we hope to the future they’ll look.

It’s time to try more than Dame Christie’s last book.

New writers, we say, need coddling and tea.

Not hidden in corners as if smelling like brie.

Get the sales staff excited, we wish in New York.

Don’t sell us all like the same cut of pork.

We’re new and we’re fresh, with just enough bite

To live up to some, if you’ll just give us the hype.

Please, no shoes on our covers, we beg for our due.

We’re each so unique, and need something quite new.

To bloggers we say, all that snark’s getting tired.

Write something more clever, get us all jazzed and wired.

With ideas of your own, some heart and less scolding.

We find you so smug, junior-high-style controlling.

As for us, well, the Tarts will try to be good.

We’ll write all this winter like novelists should

And emerge in the spring to tour the nation.

(This year I'll have an escort meet me at the station!)

To our readers we say, “Love you! Keep it comin’!”

(Did you see Sarah at Malice? Cigarettes she was bummin’!)

We love you, dear readers, and hope we can meet you

In person, not cyberspace, it’s a pleasure to greet you.

Harley’s spoke not a word, but went straight back to bed.

Susan’s gone off to shop, credit card bills to dread.

Sarah sprang to the carpool, to her kids gave a whistle.

And I think I sat on a very sharp thistle.

Away I must fly after posting this blog

To buy last minute gifts and brew up the nog.

But we all do exclaim, ere we drive out of sight:

Merry Christmas to all!  Read a good book tonight!

December 21, 2005

There Are No Rules

There Are No Rules

by Susan, Giving You the Gift of Writing Freedom This Holiday Season

I taught a month-long online workshop in November to 65 students.  The topic was “Making Mysteries Memorable,” so I focused on choosing your protagonist, casting your secondary characters, dialogue, setting, plotting and pacing.  We covered a lot of turf, but most of the questions I got had nothing to do with any of those things, not really. 

They had to do with the arbitrary “rules of mystery writing” that abound.  As in:

“When should the body be found?”

“How many suspects must I have?”

“Can I combine an historical mystery with something vaguely paranormal and still get published?”

“How long should my manuscript be?”

“What kind of quirky job must my protagonist have in order to carve a niche in the traditional mystery market?”

To every one of those questions, I replied:  THERE ARE NO RULES.

Look, the Big Guy might’ve scribbled His Ten Commandments on stone tablets.  Our government constantly writes and rewrites laws pertaining to every aspect of our lives so that the only recourse seems to be to sue to get what we want, making the “land of the free” more like the “land of the litigated.” 

But—and listen closely—there is no one person in the publishing business who has laid down any rules for how a novel must be written (save for format and presentation, though I’m not talking about that here). If you're under contract, you probably have a word count you need to try to fall within, but I've exceeded mine and my editor didn't slap a penalty on me. And, yes, if you write a series, you must stay faithful to your characters; but no one said you had to keep writing the same story over and over again (which some readers might find comforting but, as an author, would put me to sleep at the keyboard). Cookie cutter books = Snoresville. Did I mention that flexing your literary muscles is a good thing? Oh, yeah, and that THERE ARE NO RULES. 

Did you get that? 

No one is God or governor of your novel but you.

Sure, Elmore Leonard has his rules, and many are good ones.  They come from his experience as a writer and a reader.  And good for him. 

I’ve heard other writers speak, laying down their rules, acting like they’re gospel, telling aspiring authors everything from a particular word count to acceptable number of suspects to what kind of first sentence you must have and precisely when the body should be found.

When you try to analyze books and why some hit and some don't, nothing makes sense sometimes. No one knows the magic formula to creating a best-seller (the James Patterson Book Machine notwithstanding). Many authors whom I've heard speak about "how to" aren’t exactly at the top of the NYT list, so what qualifies them to preach? Talking about experience is one thing. Telling authors "this is the way to do it or else" is another.   I wonder if they realize how narrow-minded their rules are, how limiting.  How utterly uncreative.  If everyone followed these writing commandments, we’d all be composing identical novels.  How boring would that be?

My point:   writing is creative.  It’s telling stories, using your imagination, going boldly where no writer has gone before.  You don’t want to be like everyone else.  Think of books that really hit it big in recent years, or at least captured a good deal of attention from readers (and critics):





All the freaking HARRY POTTER books

What makes them stand out?

They’re stories that can't be pigeonholed.  They’re unique.  They express a fresh point of view on subjects that maybe have been done endlessly.  They don’t limit their audience.

And, best of all, they don’t follow rules.

Here’s another place where rules don’t count:  how long it takes you to get published, if you really love to write and can never imagine not writing.

I was just visiting an author’s web site where advice is given very clearly on the subject.  Pretty much, if you can’t cut the mustard within a handful of years, you’re advised to drop out of the game.

If someone—anyone—feeding you arbitrary guidelines (THEIR guidelines) is enough to convince you to quit then, by God, quit.  Because you’re not tough enough to make it.  This business will eat you up and spit you out if you let it.  It’s competitive, it’s rough, it’s unpredictable.  If you can’t hack it—and if that’s all you want, getting published, as opposed to needing to write because it’s in your blood—cut yourself a break and do it as a hobby.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

If you’re in this for real, the same way I was (and, like I’ve said before, many times, it took a decade for me to break in…and I’m doing just fine now, thank you very much), you will do it for AS LONG AS IT TAKES. 

Did you get that?

If you must write, you will not quit.

My words of wisdom for aspiring authors:

Stop listening to other people tell you what to do.  Write the book you need to write.  Use whatever the hell it takes to lay down your story.  Nobody can do it for you.  No one can instruct you on what’s best for your novel.  Listen to your heart and your gut.  Nothing else counts.

Get it?  Got it? 


Oh, and my best wishes for a Happy Chanukah, a very Merry Christmas, a Killer Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate.

Cheers, Susan

December 20, 2005

The Best Gift You'll Get This Year is Not a Grumpy Lithuanian

By Sarah

The best gift you'll get this year...

...is the one you'll buy yourself. At least if you're a middle-aged woman.

I may be wrong and I don't like to issue blanket statements (though I do it all the time), but my objective analysis of the holiday situation is that once you've stepped into the role as Wife and Mother you are, ipso facto, the imaginative gift provider. It is your duty - that is if you want your children to be happy and your relatives to be pleased and your husband to be satisfied - to think of, find, purchase and wrap the ideal gifts. If you're REALLY good, you'll remember something someone said back in May - "Oh, I've broken all my Orrefors. I have no good wine glasses left" - and provide them with a set of, okay, not Orrefors but something close, for Christmas.

Which brings me to the Wives and Mothers. If we're in charge of thinking up the ideal gifts, then where does that leave us? I'll tell you where that leaves us, with a charge card in one hand and our Ideal Gift in the other, grinning at the sales clerk. Better yet, we don't have to wrap it or write a thank-you note. And we can approach the holiday season resentment free.

It's a win, win for everyone.

Now I should clarify that my husband is extremely generous and thoughtful. Every morning I wake to a cup of steaming hot coffee by my bed. He has given me beautiful pearls, lovely earrings, hiking shoes and, for some reason, numerous dark green shirts. He wants to give me the perfect gift but even he will be the first to admit that the retail world is both overwhelming to him and gross. He'd much prefer to show his love and appreciation by taking me skiing or hiking in a snowy woods or doing other things to me that I can't mention here - anything other than circling the parking lot outside Circuit City.

And I'm cool with that. I'd rather he be true to himself than do what my father did which was to present my mother with the exact same four gifts every Christmas. They were: a bottle of Chanel #5 cologne, a pair of suede boots (with a can of spray-on suede protectant), a piece of pretty awful jewelry and a AAA membership, boxed and wrapped. To each my mother would exclaim and sigh as though all her life she'd hoped and dreamed of a AAA membership. We kids would give her crappy stuff we made in school or stuff we thought she wanted (An orange sewing kit? What was I thinking?). All except for my brother, John, the sensitive artist in the family, who along with giving me my first Barbie Dream House and Barbie Corvette (I love you, John!) would manage to present my mother with something amazing - like her first pair of cross country skiis.

Because my mother was on "an allowance" I don't think she had the resources to do what I, as an independent income earner do, which is to buy myself what I really want, sometimes before Christmas, occasionally after. Instead my mother gathered the wrapping paper and began spreading out the elaborate Christmas brunch to be followed by the elaborate Christmas dinner with the "Strohmeyer" side of the family - think frowning, grumpy Lithuanians sitting on couches in lumps, complaining about hippies, while my mother bustled back and forth with rib roast and steamed pudding. A far cry from her own childhood of gathering around the piano singing Christmas carols and hoisting cups of rum-laced eggnog after sledding on the golf course.

This might explain why one Christmas dinner my mother tripped on the stairs, dumped her black-bottom chiffon pie and broke into tears. A sure case of Christmas resentmentment if there ever was one. If I remember correctly, one of the Lithuanians grabbed his coat and grumbled about there not being any pie. That was when I vowed to take a different path in life, perferably a path unchartered by grumpy Lithuanians.

This year I told everyone in my family I wanted an iPod photo, which I got for my birthday on Saturday. I'd already purchased the attachment which allows me to recharge my iPod while it plays through my stereo and even shows the photos in a slide show on the television. I've also bought myself a copy of Kristin Lavansdatter by Sigrid Undset, an updated version of Scattergories and a new stereo receiver. I'm set.

I think I've given everyone wonderful gifts that they'll really enjoy playing with, thereby making me deliriously happy. As the rib roast cooks, we'll put together jigsaw puzzles while listening to my iPod broadcasting everything from Elvis's Merry Christmas, Baby to Ella Fitzgerald's Baby It's Cold Outside. Out of homage to my dear departed mother, I will serve eggnog and sing Christmas carols after sledding. I will not make black bottom pie. I will enjoy wearing the 15th dark green shirt my husband is sure to buy me.

Most importantly, I will feel extraordinarly grateful, not only because I'm not trapped in my mother's world of indentured slavery, but also because - knock on wood - I will have my family around me for another Christmas. If there's anything I've learned in my forty-three years it's that you never know what unexpected tragedy lies in wait around the corner. So I will spend Christmas dinner misty eyed, hoping and praying with all my might that these same people be at the same table next year and the year after that and the year after that...

And laughing about how my mother thirty years ago would have wished for just the opposite.

Have a great holiday!



December 19, 2005

Audrey Hepburn's Neck

By Harley

The ugly truth about blogs?

People get exploited. I began with noble intentions, but now, months later, I don’t care who I use. Loved ones are pawns in my game, cogs in The Lipstick Chronicles machine. You walk through my life, you’re material. Especially if you walk through on a Saturday.

I exploit my children, who can’t yet read. I exploit the dogs, who can read, but aren’t interested unless it’s about cats or skunks or leftovers. I exploit my husband, who’s so buried in the Newmarket v. Icon arbitration that I live in expectation of the day he looks at me and says, “And you are—?”

We all do it. Sarah and Nancy do it with a lot more at stake, as their children are literate. Susan is utterly shameless and will describe in exquisite, salacious detail guys who—no, wait. Those weren’t blogs, those were personal e-mails. Never mind.

My blog hasn’t destroyed any friendships. That I know of. But the thing is, unless you alert me to the fact that “I’m not speaking to you; you’re Dead to me” I’m not likely to pick up on it. Subtle social cues don’t work. I’m nearsighted and distracted and may already be confusing you with your brother.

But once in awhile I have a Monday morning quarterback moment. I think, “maybe So and So would prefer me not to put words in their mouth, words they might’ve said, but didn’t say with the expectation of having them published, for a bunch of strangers to comment on.

So recently I e-mailed my agent. “Renée,” I said. “I’m not sure you ever use the word ‘fabulous’ in conversation, like you did in my blog. Possibly you say ‘great’ or ‘terrific.’ Shall I print a retraction?”

Renée wrote back, assuring me that she was willing to show up in TLC saying “fabulous” but was shocked that I hadn’t mentioned the resemblance between her and Audrey Hepburn. Especially as regards their long, swanlike necks.

You know, I’m blessed. Not only do I have an agent who returns calls and answers e-mails within SECONDS, who works tirelessly on my behalf, even when I’m ill-advised enough to sign fly-by-night contracts without running them by her first, who agonizes with me over spelling discrepancies and character arcs, who knows the names of my children, husband and dogs, and keeps track of which one is throwing up all over her car seat that week, not only does this amazing, intelligent, sensitive, and yes—fabulous—person send me designer chocolates, but when the FedEx truck drops the box in the driveway, and then backs over it while driving away, smashing the chocolates flat (I ate them anyway) she phones in the Damaged Package/Your Driver Is An Idiot report, all while looking EXACTLY LIKE AUDREY HEPBURN. Is it that long, swanlike neck? Yes.

And now, having used people for my nefarious purposes for the last half-year, I’d like to use the blog to say goodbye to six people who will be spending their holidays this year in the Great Beyond: Mario Misci, who was kind to my husband all through college. Kayo Hatta, writer/director of PICTURE BRIDE, who inspired me to think bigger. Ossie Davis, a legend in his own time. Wendie Jo Sperber, whose presence on a set made it a good day to show up at work. John Spencer, who kept me sober one week. Dan Reinehr, who kept me laughing for 33 years.

You are loved. You are missed. You are not replaceable.

Happy Monday . . .


December 17, 2005

The Things I Do for Rob

The Things I Do for Rob

by Susan, Caving 'Cuz it's Christmastime

Okay, I normally wouldn't do this, but I can't say "no" to Rob Gregory Browne a second time.  He is one determined guy, and I figure this'll be my Christmas gift to him:  answering his tag.  So here goes, and I promise I'm not tagging anyone else.  But these were kinda fun questions anyway, and I'm giving them a shot:

Seven Things to Do Before I Die:

  1. Take my mother to Vegas and give her a wad to blow on the slot machines
  2. Get a house with some property so I have can friends visit comfortably and so I can rescue stray critters and keep 'em in a renovated barn
  3. Write all the books I have in my head and not leave any story untold
  4. Enjoy every minute I can with the people I love most and ignore those who don't matter at all
  5. Read the oodles of books in my library that I haven't had time to crack open
  6. Have enough moola to do things for my family and friends, whenever and wherever
  7. Stay as happy as I am right now

Seven Things I Cannot Do:

  1. Eat cucumbers, mushrooms, or jalapeno peppers
  2. Deal with people who lie and blame others for their problems
  3. Watch movies where animals get hurt 
  4. Sing on key
  5. Skydive or bungee jump
  6. Play headgames
  7. "Crank out" a book

Seven Things That Attract Me to My Guy:

  1. His brain
  2. His sense of humor, which is a lot like mine
  3. How he gets what I do for a living and thinks it's great
  4. His eyes
  5. His smile
  6. How happy he is and how much he enjoys life
  7. The way he makes me feel when I'm with him

Seven Things I Say (or Write) Most Often:

  1. Actually
  2. No way!
  3. Hey
  4. Yipes
  5. Cheers
  6. Dude
  7. Yes (when I should say "no")

Seven Books I Love:

  1. LYING AWAKE by Mark Salzman
  2. EVA MOVES THE FURNITURE by Margo Livesey
  3. SHADOW BABY by Alison McGhee
  4. ON WRITING by Stephen King
  5. REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier
  6. GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
  7. SHUTTER ISLAND by Dennis Lehane

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again:

  1. The Sixth Sense
  2. Gone With the Wind
  3. Last of the Mohicans
  4. Any Harry Potter film
  5. Rebecca
  6. A Christmas Story
  7. It's A Wonderful Life

So there you go!  Merry Christmas, Rob...and Happy Holidays to everyone else.  Have y'all got all your shopping done???  (If so, come to St. Louis and finish mine, please.)